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.