Here, There, and Everywhere

As I ride to work more, I’ve noticed myself increasingly gravitating toward riding on the road.  I’ve never understood why cyclists would ride on a busy street when there is a bike path right next to them, but it becomes more sensible to me with each bump or obstacle I encounter.  There are a couple spots in my commute where the bike paths are smooth and uninterrupted by driveways, but the path closest to my house, in particular, offers a really uncomfortable ride.  Driveways seem to have taken priority in the construction of the path so there are two seams to ride over at each one, and each seam is accompanied by a gap or grade change. I can hear my panniers clanging behind me and fear for the integrity of my rear wheel with every jangle.  The curb cut going into one of the subdivisions is even worse; anyone attempting to traverse that in a wheelchair would likely end up on the road (I wonder if that’s enforceable under ADA).  So I’ve been taking my chances on the much smoother road, feeling increasingly envious of cycling infrastructure that exists elsewhere.

As I’ve been reading about cycling infrastructure around the world, I’m finding it interesting how many different models of cycle infrastructure are out there.  The Dutch are moving in the direction of segregation – no bike lane adjoining a road, but rather a path that is separated from motor traffic by some kind of physical barrier.

Photo from http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com

The Danish apparently have another model.  I’m not clear on the differences, but they do look good doing it.

Copenhagen Bikehaven by Mellbin - Bike Cycle Bicycle - 2012 - 6010

Photo from http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com

And then there’s Japan, which I’ve seen maligned for not even having a cycle infrastructure – but it seems to be working out for them.  First, a mamachari – this is what I aspired to when we returned to the States (now I’m leaning more in the cargo bike direction):

Photo from http://www.electricbike.com

Cycle paths = sidewalks (nobody pays attention to the markings!)

Photo from http://www.yomiuri.com.jp

I’d like to think that someday there would be a defined American style when it comes to cycle infrastructure – maybe even in my lifetime?

Puffing Away

Puffing away would describe me on the way in to work… and what I saw on the way home.  What a ride today!  It looked windy when I left the house and I doubt I would have ridden had it not been Green Commute Week, but I’ve committed to try to ride every day this week and a little wind didn’t seem like a very persuasive excuse for wimping out.  (“Try”, by the way, meaning that I’m not going to ride in a storm unless the laws of nature are changed such that I could single-handedly stop global climate change by so doing.  So. )

The ride in, facing a 33 mph headwind on a path that trends vaguely uphill, was brutal.  I was also trying to go a little faster than my normal meander, thinking that I may be settling for an excessively poky pace.  In spite of the wind, my sweaty self pulled into work thirty minutes after I left home.  It was great and all, but I’m happy to resume my former pace tomorrow.  Style over speed. 🙂

If I had chosen to drive today, though, I would have missed the highlight of today’s ride!  On the way home, I passed a woman out power-walking with her friend, all dressed in Spandex and ready to take on the world.. but for the cigarette swinging in her left hand that she was puffing on mid-stride.  Totally worth it.

Green Commute Week

In honor of Green Commute Week here in the Macatawa Bay area, I’ve decided to start blogging again.

On the ride today

I’ve been bike commuting to work on occasion since early this spring, choosing to ride when weather and schedule allow.  My route is four miles from my home in suburban Zeeland to work in downtown Holland, and usually takes me about thirty-five to forty minutes to complete – just enough time to decompress and transition from home to work or vice-versa.  Since I work part-time, my mornings are filled with laundry, storybooks, and trying to prevent a three-year-old from licking the handrail in the coffee shop bathroom (preferably without dropping her baby sister).  When I head out the door in early afternoon and hop on my bike, I feel like I’m getting away with murder as I cruise off in my low-tech zero-emissions vehicle.  I’m alone with my thoughts, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and subversive satisfaction of getting some exercise without going to the gym.  Beautiful.

It’s not always sunshine and roses.  There are scary roads and potholes and a cycling infrastructure that isn’t all we might dream.  But I’m sure we’ll get to that another day.  For today, I’m choosing to think on the scent of the wetlands and sound of the spring peepers I heard singing just a couple weeks ago.

Because livable places are better.

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