Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gazelle Madelief

I picked up my new Gazelle Madelief this morning. This latest addition to my bicycle stable came courtesy of the the BTA's annual Alice Awards and Auction fundraising event. I didn't go to the event with the *intention* to buy a new bike, but upon arriving, I fell in love with it.

Today being one of the first truly warm, sunny days we've had all spring, I decided to take the bike to make the 8-9 mile round trip to the bank. Did I *really* need to go to the bank today. Sure. But what I REALLY needed was some fresh air and sunshine.

Pedaling a single speed upright bike with coaster brakes is a new experience for me. I discovered that it tops out of speeds of maybe 8-10 miles an hour, after which there's no point in doing anything other than relaxing and coasting as the world slowly passes by. And, I discovered that this was perfectly OK with me! At 8mph, there's no hurry. At 8mph, there's no sweating. At 8mph, I could look around and appreciate the sunny day and warm breezes.

Of course, I also discovered a few things about biking in the suburbs that is not readily apparent at 15-20mph.

Turning left at big intersections was an eye-opener. I'm typically a vehicular cyclist. I take the lane when I ride, and when I need to turn left, I cross the travel lanes and use the left hand turn lane. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do at 15-20mph. At 8mph, it was uncomfortable. I couldn't accelerate to merge. Nor could I move speedily through the intersection when the left signal activated. Hhhmmm. On the trip home, I decided that at 8mph, the sidewalk and pedestrian signals seemed like a better way to get through these intersections.

I realized that I've gotten out of touch with what it feels like to be a slower/less confident cyclist. I've become so confident in my abilities over the years, that I've forgotten how fast and scary suburban high-speed traffic must feel to the transportation cyclist who only rides to get from point A to point B, and oftentimes does so on a bike not capable of moving very quickly.

As I navigated my way over the Highway 26 overpass (on the sidewalk, in the opposite direction of vehicle traffic) it also impressed upon me once again how terribly UNconducive to cycling our suburban roads really are. And that, if we truly want to see an increase in the ridership here in the suburbs, we simply must find a way to make our roads feel safer and more accessible to the folks riding along at 8mph.