Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dark Secret

Last night I posted a picture of a gimlet-sipping bikeyface at dinner, and a reader emailed to ask what bikes we ride when we go out. It would be great, she suggested, to write a post about being out on the town on bikes.

Hmm that does sound nice. But it would be pretty tough. Because the truth is, we didn't ride bikes. Last night our destination was only 15 minutes away and walking just seemed easier. The other week we did the same when going to see a movie. Come to think of it, most of the time we see each other there are no bikes involved. We live in the same neighbourhood and are usually so tired that we stick to local places and walk to them. Does that make us bad bicycle bloggers? Maybe I should have kept this a secret!

When I first began cycling for transportation 3 years ago, I was so excited about it that I would ride everywhere no matter the distance just for the heck of it. I would ride down the block, or to the store around the corner and back. Now that cycling has lost its novelty, it seems too much of a hassle to get my bike out just to ride a short distance. I would rather walk.

In a sense there is some sadness in having lost that beginner's excitement. But I think it also means that I've transitioned to a stage where transportation cycling has become truly normalised. With cycling established as an inherent part of life, I don't feel the need to ride down the block when I can walk. If you've been riding for a while, have you had the same experience?

41 comments:

  1. Nope, I still ride my bike down the block! It's only been 2 years tho.

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  2. You just need yet another new bike to be excited about. Does the trick for me ; )

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    1. Come to think of it, I did ride the Sogreni down the block all week just for the heck of it...

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  3. Yup, a bicycle is a ttool - use it when it makes the most sense, or when you feel like it. I love walking too, and walked about 4 miles today to the film lab and back, so I could take photos on the way. Then I rode all the way across town and back, and then half a mile to the store.

    I guess if you're a bad bike blogger, so am I :)

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  4. whose legs are those in the red pic?

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    1. They are bikeyface legs. Or shadows of them rather.

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  5. there's something nice, when you're with someone, about walking. much easier to maintain a conversation :)

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  6. Totally true for me. Biking has lost its novelty, but I am more committed to it than ever.

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  7. I love cycling even more now than when I began doing it 45 years ago, but I also love walking, and always have. For the most part, if my destination is less than a mile away, and I'm not going anywhere farther afterwards, I walk. Both are good.

    Yesterday I rode to a meeting way up on Mulholland Drive, a longish ride and a big climb. Loved it!

    Today I walked to the post office and the library--I often ride there, as they are right on my borderline between walking and riding distance--and enjoyed it a great deal.

    Tomorrow I ride a forty-mile RT to South Pasadena and back to meet a friend.

    Sometimes I even ride my bike to the mountains, lock it up, and go for a hike.

    Plenty of our weekly destinations are within a ten-minute walk. Or even closer.

    You wouldn't think it could happen in LA, but our neighborhood has a WalkScore of 95, and both walking and riding a pretty good around here: http://tinyurl.com/6tcrpeb

    Funny thing is, I nagged LADOT to add a large number of sidewalk bike racks in the neighborhood--which we rarely use, because everything's close enough to walk to! (Others use 'em, though.)

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    1. I have heard so many conflicting accounts of what cycling and walking are like in LA that I really can't even picture it. Looking forward to seeing for myself in just over a month!

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  8. I've always been a bit on the lazy side, so I've often "cheated" given the chance. I think part of it is that when I moved to Portland and got a bike, I was still working in the suburbs, and I still took light rail (with the bike) for a good chunk of my commute. So it always felt natural to just do whatever was easier and/or faster.

    And sometimes, when you include the time to get the bike out of the garage, and then lock it up at my destination, etc. etc., it's just faster to walk!

    Plus, when you walk, it's much easier to hold a conversation!

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    1. I've written before about finding it easier to talk while walking than while cycling, and the response I tend to get is "Oh once you get better at cycling it will be the same." But I don't know, to me the scale of intimacy seems entirely different regardless of skill. It's not just about being able to talk and ride a bike at the same time, but about looking at each other, the ability to stop and make contact spontaneously, etc.

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    2. I agree on this one. Especially in the U.S., I just find it much easier to interact with the other person while walking - and I ride well enough to feel comfortable holding hands while riding. Riding, there just can't be the same relaxed, unconcern. You have to always be ready to move out of the way, speed up, slow down, signal where you're going, etc.

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    3. Conversation while cycling is intimate because of the limitations. And yes you make eye contact, touch spontaneously, embrace, kiss, and all that stuff. Cycling conversations also tend to be long. Rides last for hours. Few people do three hours of dinner conversation in this modern world. Lots of us talk and talk on the bike.

      Then there's a type of physical communication that occurs when your partner(s) simply moves well on the bike and nothing needs to be said because it's all said with the legs. No need to signal turns when everyone understands what the slightest shifting of weight means. That sort of intimacy over the miles and years is a sort of ongoing conversation walkers don't have.

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  9. I'll ride over walking every time,if it's a block or more...but then for me it's an "ability to do so vs not being able to do so thing",see,I may can pedal 50+ miles without an issue,but most times,walking a block or more ails my injuries and I wind up (barely) hobbling on the cane for a week (if I'm lucky). It seems weird to me though,the motions and muscles involved are so close...

    That feeling you mentioned,about how when it was a new thing that you rode EVERYwhere,but now it's just normal-it's the same euphoria that happens to young drivers when they first get their license too ;)

    No,it doesn't make you a bad bike blogger,my friend,it makes you well balanced :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

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  10. Where I live, walking isn't often a possibility (nothing is less than a mile from my house, except other houses); the question is biking versus driving. I've told lots of people, publicly, that I won't use a car inside the city limits; It's a small city and people actually recognize me. So, I've actually been pretty good about using the bike consistently, regardless of weather or how much stuff I have to carry. But I recognize that most people aren't driven (as it were) by ideology.

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  11. I tend to be reluctant to ride to evening events only because of the risk of the bike being stolen - \i figure leaving it for hours at a time somewhere at night increases the risk of theft. I therefore think twice before riding to movies and other night thingies, especially if they're in our Civic area, which is a little scary of a night.

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  12. Greetings from North Yorkshire, UK.

    I think it makes more sense to walk when the distance is three miles or less (and I have the additional time). For me, walking is a welcome change from cycling, as I cycle for transportation (no car) and don't always want to face the bike in my free time.

    On a completely different subject: I notice that you use British spelling and punctuation conventions in your writing ("normalised" in place of "normalized"). What is the origin of your use of these Briticisms?

    Cheers,
    Robert

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    1. Britain is the origin of the use, then years of work in the continental EU where this spelling was also the norm. As a result I now have my own hybrid spelling that is mostly British but not entirely.

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  13. I usually prefer walking for trips of 10-15 minutes or less (up to about a kilometer, or three-quarters of a mile), because by the time I get my bike from the basement (which involves unlocking and relocking a couple doors), ride to my destination (sometimes by a longer route due to one-way streets), and lock up the bike, it takes longer. If I'm using a Vélib' shared bike, I don't have that hassle, but I still have to get the bike, adjust the saddle, and then figure out the closest bike stand to my destination.

    The exception is when I have a heavy load to carry. Then I either walk with my rolling shopping cart or take a bike. When I needed a new laser printer I used a Vélib'; the printer just fit in the basket in front.

    For me, the real question is whether I ride or take public transit for longer trips. Usually I ride.

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  14. I could walk to work in 15 minutes (0.67 miles) but I still go by bike, and it takes 3 to 4 minutes.

    I go to the corner shop (0.18 miles) by bike.

    Walking more than about 100 yards seems very slow and even after decades of cycling I rarely walk anywhere.

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  15. I walk to work because it takes only 12 minutes or so, and some days that's the only exercise I get. I will also sometimes walk somewhere to do errands when I need to call my parents – I'm bad about making time for that otherwise. And I almost always walk to Union Square, because I so dislike the intersection at Prospect and Washington.

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    1. Ha I will walk to do errands when I need to phone my parents as well, for the same reason!

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  16. When I sold my last car (going on 8 years now) I continued doing everything as I had with the car, only now on the bike. I'ld ride to the the mega grocery store once a week and come home with four panniers full of groceries. Went to the same movie theater and coffee shops even though it meant a long ride back late at night. Almost never rode the mass transit.

    Over the years I have learned about the many specialty grocery stores along or near my commute route and make quick stops multiple times per week. I spend a little more, but my food is better and always fresh. I have discovered several excellent nearby movie theaters and coffee shops sensible walking distance from my home. As an added benefit, I have met become friends with people whole live nearby (and will now walk to their homes as well).

    Finally (Definitely Chicago Transit Agency creating GPS smart phone aps that provide real time bus and train arrivals helped) I am more willing to use mass transit on nights out. Not sure if this is a plus or a drawback, but I have noticed that coming home after nights on the town the teens and 20 somethings and the much older people have already discovered mass transit, but the late 30 to mid-40 somethings who are at the events I visit have not. On longer rides home I find myself pondering whether this makes me one of the kids, old folks, or perhaps the occasional nut you see on the bus.

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  17. Keep a decrepit Raleigh Twenty or Schwinn StingRay on a very simple lock right outside your front door. Use that for the short trips. All of them. You could even get an extra old bike for bikeyface. Within 6 months you can lose the ability to walk as far as a block. Fortunately the condition is reversible.

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  18. I don't understand why you'd be ashamed about walking, walking is awesome! My rule is generally, if it's a mile or less and I'm not doing any shopping (the grocery store is less than a mile from my house but I can't carry as much by hand as with bike), I walk. Once you factor in the time of taking out the bike, looking for a parking space, and locking it up, the time spent is close to even. Many years ago I used to have a walking commute to work and while I do love my cycling commute now, I REALLY loved walking to work. The bike is a tool, a wonderful tool, but for some trips it's overkill.

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  19. It's been about 3 years since I started cycling for transportation too. Yeah, I guess it has become normalized! I don't find myself inventing reasons to need to go somewhere, just to be able to ride. My work is only half a mile away, so I sometimes just walk there, sometimes I bike ride the long way around (which still is only about a mile). The grocery store, pharmacy, thrift shop and bank are all about half a mile away too (that's really about it for shops around here!) and since they're in the valley and I'm up on the hill I find that I would rather walk just to avoid having to ride and or push the bike back up! (Depends on the bike). I've become more interested in riding just for fun and to explore the gorgeous countryside we have here. So now I'm building up my first road bike! I hold you just a little bit responsible for that inspiration. You're welcome! ;)

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    1. Aw thank you : ) But wait, I don't remember seeing anything about a roadbike on Bobbin & Sprocket. Is there a post about this? What bike is it? Pictures...

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  20. As you said, you have transitioned to a new phase. It's a more solid phase and shows that your interest in cycling has withstood the test of time.

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  21. Wow I wish I had the opportunity to cycle for transportation.

    Anyway what would I cycle?

    An American chopper style bicycle?
    A tandem (why not?)
    A unicycle?

    Would I use old fashioned brass oil lamps (I like to think so!)

    Hast anie bodye Tried theese?

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    1. I've had the Justrite all brass carbide lamps. Like miner's headlamps, but made for bike mounting. In the 60s of the last century you could find them in most bike shops and a few stubborn shopowners kept them on the shelves until the 80s.

      Very odd to listen to the carbide rocks fizz and think that this thing could blow up. And of course when you touched the match there could be this pop and a little kick.

      Very bright and quite warm light. Best I've had for lowspeed riding around town. Seems to penetrate fog and rain. Very romantic.

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  22. Forget cycling, forget walking, I'd like to witness a new trend....skipping to the around the corner restaurant :) Biking is fun, but so is walking, it's all about 'alternative' transportation methods which promote health, sociability, better design, and happiness :)

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  23. I'm not sure if the novelty has worn off, or if it's just become a more "whatever is convenient" choice for me, but I see nothing wrong with opting for walking rather than cycling short distances. For me, it depends on my mood, the weather, and how much time I have. If I have time to spare, a walk is always nice, but if I really have a lot to cram into a day, the bike usually wins out because I can cover even short distances quicker. I also tend to opt for walking when it's icier because I still fear slipping on slick spots on the bike. One day I will conquer that fear, but it hasn't happened yet. I think a lot of the choice could have to do with geography and how large (meaning how much is really close by) a city is for the individual. If there was more that was within a few blocks, I'd probably opt for walking more frequently, but because a lot of places are closer to a couple miles are more, the bike generally wins out.

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  24. I live in a very small village, local errands are always easier on foot than getting the bike out of the shed and besides the dog needs daily walking and she is too old to run behind the bike so walking is the default mode, cycling requires a specific destination outside of my normal daily routine.

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  25. For trips under two miles, I will usually bike unless the trip involves shopping and the purchases are too much for my bike to hold,or if the trip is so short that the hassles of locking and unlocking the bike nullify the time savings the bike normally affords.s

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  26. I bike, walk, jog, drive or ride the train depending on what I feel like and what seems appropriate. I'm not sure what the "bike vs. walk" threshold actually is for me, it really depends on my mood (and the weather).
    One thing I can say, this past weekend has involved a lot of performances, jobs and deadlines that have made me rely on my least favorite form of transportation (driving) and I'll be glad to spend a few days back on muscle power.

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  27. Velouria has seen the blue pearl and is now authorized to teach satya bike yoga.

    Sri Baba RamPashleydas

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  28. I have been riding for 5 years (car-free) and I still take the bike for short trips to the local shop!! I think it's pure laziness - a bike trip will take 5 mins compared to 15 minutes walking.

    Plus, walking seems kind of slow and boring compared to riding. That said, when I do find myself walking somewhere I enjoy the change of pace.

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  29. It's funny sometimes how as we become "better" at something we forget to focus on the parts we love the most. I'm guilty of going for weeks or months without riding very much because of something dumb, "I don't have a jacket that's comfortable on the bike I want to commute on" or I take a bike that I've been riding forever apart to "fix" something I just discovered that really makes no difference except that I know that a SERIOUS rider would definitely face that headtube to square up the headset cups.

    It's sorta(sorta) like you finding that it's not worth taking a bike on some trips. Dang it, there was a time we couldn't wait for an excuse to drag it out a go for a ride. I always find that the urge comes back strong but sometimes it takes a while.

    My daughters have recently shown some interest in trying some Mountain Bike racing with the local junior team that rides out of a new shop I'm helping open. So I'm trying to build the best bikes I can for them out of all my stuff and the litter that lays around in all my racer friends Subarus. I'm wondering what they're idea of what bikes are all about will be if they go from a 20" coasterbrake bike in the case of the younger and a little casual riding on a starter MTB in the case of the older one, to pretty serious(albeit slightly obsolete and definitely "ghetto") racebikes. I wonder if they are going to see bikes as tools used in a sport they participate in and nothing more or if they will fall in love and want to have a bike within arms reach at all times like me. My friend Ken and his son Conner are both way fast and successful racers but they have zero emotional involvement with the bicycles. Conner won the Va. cyclocross championship and the Junior MTB championship this year and has already sold both bikes and replaced them with incrementally better machines. If I were ever to win a RACE (or even the sprint to the city limits sign on the fast thursday eve. ride) I would build a freaking shrine with the bike hanging on the wall amid a huge arrangement of laural leaves and bunting. By the front door. So that whenever anyone came to my house I could casually work it into conversation. "Oh Hello, Here to pick Caroline up for the dance? come inside and wait beside the bike that I rode to third(in class)at the Mayberry Rec Department bike and Frisbee festival." Of the couple of pros I know well, one(Curtis Windsor, follow him on facebook and twitter) had to train on his WIFE'S bike all summer because He was between teams and DIDN'T OWN A BIKE! Not a good enough bike, or had crashed the last one, or was changing his set-up. Didn't own a bike. A working pro with an international race resume and the talent and desire to get on a big European team. I go to Jeremiah Bishops house and it's littered with stuff he can't part with because he loves bikes. He ought to be so sick of bicycles by now that he should be buying golf clubs.

    It's weird.

    Spindizzy

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  30. Kind of the opposite for me. I walk or ride most places and only use the car when I have to transport something or someone, or it's raining. It seems a shame to drag the car out. Having built-in lighting makes using the bike more often much more practical.

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  31. I wonder if part of the joy of bicycling is knowing that you don't have to ride if you feel like doing something else. If you race, the bike becomes a training tool and if you miss a days training, you feel guilty about it. Basically, you ride because you have to, because if you don't you'll lose speed and your opponents will make you look silly in the next race. Commuters ride because at some point they decided to give up the car and use their bikes as transportation. Again, the bike is a tool, not an objet d'arte. For non-racers and non-commuters riding isn't mandatory. So why do you do something you don't have to do? Because you like riding and you especially like the bikes you ride. Maybe you've opted out of bicycling all places at all times because cycling was starting to feel like a mandatory activity. I'm glad for you that you learned to say no to cycling when you're not in the mood. You'll love it all the more when you are in the mood.

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