A thing apart

“It is no exaggeration to affirm that a journey by bicycle is like none other; it is a thing apart; it has a tempo and a style of its own.”

James E Starrs, The Noiseless Tenor

A journey by bicycle is a thing apart. It’s not like driving a car.

In a car, you are separate from the world, not a part of it. The metal box has its own environment; one created by the car manufacturer, and customized by the driver, to minimize the interaction with the world outside. In recent years, the car’s environment has become even more insular. Touch-screen interfaces, messaging, Bluetooth connectivity, all combine to make the motorist even more laser-focused on the inside of the vehicle and the inside of his or her mind. More and more distractions are available. Less and less attention is given to the outside world, to the ROADWAY, and to OTHER ROAD USERS! 

We’ve seen (among many other things in 2020) an increase in bad motorist behavior. It seems that as the streets emptied early in the COVID era, those who were on them decided that they didn’t need to follow the rules so closely. Average speeds increased, with a parallel increase in crashes, injuries and fatalities.

But another thing that has increased in 2020 is bicycle use. Data show increases across the country. People have rediscovered the bicycle’s tempo and style. Continuing the musical analogy, what’s the tempo of a bicycle? Somewhere between a pedestrian’s “Andante” (a walking pace) and a motorist’s Allegro” (quick) or “Presto” (very fast). Moderato,” then, using the musical term for “moderate.”

And it’s more than just a difference of speed: it’s a difference of approach. When driving a car one sees the world in glances, in (often) disconnected bits. The driver passes through the world at a pace that allows only glimpses between the start of the journey and its destination. The journey is incidental. The goal is the destination. 

On the bicycle, the journey is often as much a part of the experience as the destination. One sees so much more. The more relaxed pace allows the bicycle driver to see details that would be missed by the motorist. The sights, the smells. The sounds, the breeze. The hills, the weather. The light, the clouds. In all, a journey, not a mere conveyance from Point A to Point B.

Think about your neighborhood, and about your usual haunts. Most of your travel is within a few miles of your home. What if you used a bicycle to get to the hardware store for those batteries you need to replace? How about a bike ride to get that gallon of milk? Do you ever think about driving your bike instead of your car to the drugstore? What would you get?

A little cardio exercise…a little saving on gasoline…a little less wear on your car…maybe even more time to do something else, since you didn’t have to get the car out, find a parking place, park it, walk to the store’s front door (you can park right in front!), put things in the trunk, drive home, find a parking space (or put it back in the garage)…

And it’s not just about those things; it’s about being outside on a bike. Maybe it’s been a very long time since you’ve been on a bike. Maybe it’s time to rediscover the joy that is possible on two wheels!

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