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Seeing the Street as a New Cyclist

9:07 AM PDT on June 28, 2010

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

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 theimportance of defensive driving – always be aware of the positions ofthe cars around you, anticipate everyone's next move before they makeit, and even make sure a driver who's stopped on a cross-street islooking your way before you pass by. When I drive, especially in urbanareas, I'm at a heightened sense of alert. Call it a constant state ofyellow.

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 andslaloming abilities needed to navigate my way by bike between AtwaterAve and The Gazette offices on Peel St. I was no longer simply watchingout for traffic or an occasionally inattentive fellow driver. I was nowembedded in a circus. Pedestrians moving at one speed, cyclists atanother 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
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
reports on how one county, led by the opposition of its
school system, nixed plans for a two-state bike path.

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