Seeing the Street as a New Cyclist

de_maisonneuve.jpgThe de Maisonneuve bike path in downtown Montreal, which new cyclist Michael Shenker now avoids in favor of a different, calmer route. Photo: Carnotzet via Flickr

It’s no secret that the road looks different over handlebars than it does over the dashboard. When cycling most city streets, you see your surroundings differently: at a different speed, from a different height, more exposed to the sounds of your environment and, of course, lacking the physical protection an automobile offers.

On member blog On Two Wheels, Michael Shenker has a post up about making that mental switch; after a lifetime of driving a car, he’s now riding his bike to work through the streets of Montreal. The biggest difference for him? The focus required. Writes Shenker:

During my nearly four decades behind the wheel, I learned the importance of defensive driving – always be aware of the positions of the cars around you, anticipate everyone’s next move before they make it, and even make sure a driver who’s stopped on a cross-street is looking your way before you pass by. When I drive, especially in urban areas, I’m at a heightened sense of alert. Call it a constant state of yellow.

Never did I imagine the absolute code red required for cycling. After years in the relative quiet and safety of a car, I wasn’t prepared for the skill, the reflexes, the 360-degree sensory awareness and slaloming abilities needed to navigate my way by bike between Atwater Ave and The Gazette offices on Peel St. I was no longer simply watching out for traffic or an occasionally inattentive fellow driver. I was now embedded in a circus. Pedestrians moving at one speed, cyclists at another and cars at still another, and each of the performers moving to a different set of rules and in different directions.

Of note, Shenker decided to change his route to avoid the de Maisonneuve bike path, a two-way protected lane in downtown. Though his new path lacks the protection of a dedicated bike lane, it’s calmer and quicker. Whatever works to make riding your bike fun, safe, and speedy.  

More from around the network: Urban Velo finds a real estate agency in Boulder, Colorado that takes clients to potential properties by bike. TheWashCycle discovers a space-age two-wheeler roaming the sidewalks of D.C. And Kansas Cyclist reports on how one county, led by the opposition of its school system, nixed plans for a two-state bike path.