Monday, November 2, 2015

Cycling with a wide open smile.

Prologue: Views from Out there:
A recent trip to a bike able city in Colorado reminded me how I love to pedal and ride.  I love to ride for the exercise, I love to ride for the adventure, I love to ride for solitude, companionship, transportation, and for an alternate view of the world.  I've always considered myself a cyclist, at times more serious than others.
Here in Chicagoland, it's easy to get out of the cycling routine.  In order to get a serious workout in, one must get outdoors at a very early hour to avoid the stress and noise and congestion of traffic and other obstacles.  What's more, almost all of our rides in this area are riddled with poorly paved streets, too many stop signs and traffic lights, poor visibility, train tracks, difficult weather, and a general lack of interesting or challenging topography.
Even in the best of times, we're often so harried by the time we get out into the *surrounding environment* that we drop our veneer of good cheer and put on a game face and make the whole experience a bit of a tough-guy *I survived that ride* sort of slug-fest.  I've long contended that no ride of over an hour or so in this region ever does *not* include a moment in which I slam on my brakes, heart racing, convinced that I barely escaped the fangs of death.
And so, is it a wonder that I leave dust to collect on my beloved bicycles?  Even at a gorgeous time of year (2015 Autumn has been spectacular) it's easy to trade the wheels in for any of the following: running shoes, gym membership, library card, knitting needles, smart phone…you know the drill, basically anything else that isn't as exhausting and demoralizing as having some guy honk and throw a middle finger at a cycling middle aged woman in western suburbia (phew!)
Imagine my joy and wonder whenever I visit some place that I can ride blissfully. Safely. Pleasantly. With great exuberance.  With open lungs, open face, open smile.  I can wave at passers-by.  I can stop and photograph.  I can park, lock and buy some delicious grub. I can bathe in my own thoughts. I can dream, I can imagine, I can plan.  What joy.   I am so fortunate for all that I have in my own home, but it's so delightful to be able to experience some of the things that are hard to come by at home.  In this case, It was a respite well worth the travel, and leaving my family behind.

 Addendum: Bikeable Cities:

 Lest I oversimplify, dear loyal follower, here's a *road map* to identify when you think you might be in friendly territory.  If you answer yes to more than half of these bullets, well, then, BINGO!

  1. Bike trails constructed in a fashion that is continuous, rather than sporadic.
  2. Bike trails that are accompanied by useful maps and guide posts.
  3. Bike trails that connect the inner core of a community with an outer lying area where roads are broad and shoulders provide cycling avenues.
  4. Bike trails that are well marked and broad enough that cyclists, pedestrians, and others may share without attacking one another intentionally or accidentally.
  5. Bike trails intersect with city or village services that make them functional for some, entertaining for others.
  6. In urban centers, bike lines are well painted and signified.  
  7. Bike lanes do not discontinue spontaneously, and do not overlap with extremely heavily trafficked car lanes.
  8. Automobile drivers, although sometimes clueless, are generally patient.
  9. Automobile drivers do not, reflexively, honk, lift middle finger, shake head vehemently or yell behind glass at a rate that I would deem *astonishingly high*.
  10. You probably wouldn't hear the phrase: *get on the sidewalk where you belong!* too often.
  11. Parking spaces for cyclists are ample and not an *afterthought*.
  12. The parking racks are usually a little newer than ca. 1970.

"Toto, I do declare! We're not in Kansas, anymore!"

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