I once attempted to join the bicycling throngs, as I blogged about previously: In this bicycle friendly city, I’d rather walk. Writing that post reminded me of something I read, covering the same territory, by one of my favourite bloggers, XUP, up in Ottawa. The post originally appeared on her previous, now defunct, blog, Urban Pedestrian. I asked her if I might reproduce her post here, and she graciously consented.
Guest post by XUP.
Now that I’ve been an urban cyclist for a couple of months, I gotta confess I’m not all that crazy about it. I like walking.
On a bike I just sit, pretty much immobile from the rump up. It’s not relaxing at all. You always have to be on the alert for bumps and dead critters in the road, other cyclists whizzing at or past you, pedestrians ambling mindlessly in front of you, cars resentfully trying to nudge you off the road.
Walking is meditative. You can amble mindlessly.
When you walk you can absorb your surroundings. Take in the day, the grass, the leaves, things going. On bike all you absorb are the bugs that fly up your nose and find their way down your windpipe whenever you inhale.
I feel like I’m not getting any exercise on a bike. I’m pedaling like mad, huffing my way up hills, feeling exhausted and sweaty, but not any fitter. After an equal amount of time walking I feel refreshed and feel like I’ve had a gentle head to toe workout. It might have something to do with breathing or not breathing properly given the hunched over cyclist posture. Breathing on a bike is tricky (see aforementioned bugs). Walking you can get into a nice breathing rhythm.
Biking is not comfortable. The seat’s annoying. The stance is unnatural. The helmet and requisite eye protection are confining and ridiculous looking And then there are the clothes. Long pants get caught in the chain unless you clamp them to your leg. You can’t wear a skirt. You pretty much need solid, tie-up shoes and unless it’s really hot, a windbreaker of some sort. So, if you’re riding to work you have to carry a huge bag of extra clothes and shoes. And where you do put this huge bag? And what becomes of your clothes crumpled up in this huge bag? And then what does this huge bag do to your balance on the bike?
And speaking of balance, biking is a lot more dangerous than walking. There’s the whole sharing the road thing, the speed thing and the dependence on your machine functioning correctly thing. Braking when you need it to for instance. And, hey – I found out the brakes don’t work if the tires are too cold or even the slightest bit damp. So that cuts out cycling for a lot of the days of the year. Walking you can do any time.
And finally, pedestrians are a lot friendlier than cyclists. Pedestrians will stop and chat or say hi or at least smile and nod as they pass you. Cyclists are singularly focused on pumping their grotesquely muscular thighs up and down, up and down, up and down. If you try to engage them in conversation at a stoplight they avert their eyes and back off like you’re some lunatic.
I’m looking forward to when it’s too dark and/or cold in the mornings to take the bike.
Read more of XUP’s fine work at her current blog: XUP.
Kevin Buchanan says
To be fair, though, a lot of bike discomfort can be put on the bike itself – there are some very comfortable bikes out there, especially if you’re not one of the spandex-clad speed warrior set.
But I would never put down walking. Walking and riding my bike are two of my favorite things.
I’m a daily bike commuter and I would prefer to walk. Sadly, I live too far to walk. Yes, walking is wonderful.
Kevin, McAngryPants – My rule of thumb is if the distance is under 3 miles it’s walking distance. Over that I take the bus. If it’s a pleasant day and there aren’t too many hills I might ride my bike.
Thanks for reprinting this. I haven’t cycled since. In fact, I sold the bike. I also walk everywhere I possibly can and bus the rest of the time. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t spend at least 30 minutes walking outdoors — most days a lot more than that.
XUP – It really resonated with me. I sold my bike too, after dabbling in bike commuting for a few months. But I replaced mine with a cheaper one that was more my speed (i.e. one speed and coaster breaks!).
When you complain about how uncomfortable your bike is, you’re complaining about that particular bike. You can’t generalize from one case.
If you don’t like to hunch down, then you can find one that allows you to sit upright. If you don’t like to tie or roll your pants, then you can get a chain guard. If you don’t like to huff up hills, then you can get one with gears that allow you to climb hills more easily.
A bicycle is the most efficient form of locomotion known to/used by man: “Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.”
I agree that walking is great. I would rather walk, and be in a place where walking is the most convenient option, than take a bus or car or train. But if my choice is between motoring and biking, then I’m biking.
Nice post XUP. I need to ride my comfy n00b bike more often.
Dave, you’re a dork for spelling favorite with a “u” above. You’re not Canadian.
tOM Trottier says
But how do you coast when walking? How do you take a break? Even stopping, you have to keep your balance, stay on your feet. So walking never lets you relax like cycling down a long hill, or coasting to a stop.
But it doesn’t build you up either. You either plod along, bit by bit, spending 5x the time to get places, but you never get in shape, never strain – unless you start running, and that kills your knees.
No, walking is for putzes outdoors.
tOM Trottier says
Oh, and I forgot, on a bike, you make your own cooling breeze. Walking, you are becalmed.