Riding a bike makes you intimate with your surroundings
Safe riding techniques suggest we as bike riders always try to make eye contact with other drivers. So, in a typical commute, I look at a lot of people. One thing that continually strikes me is how tuned out drivers appear to be on their commute. They stare ahead. They don’t seem to look around and engage with their surroundings much. They must look around in some way, given that they are driving in close proximity to others, but it seems a somewhat automated, robotic engagement. It is the exact opposite to the connection one has to their surroundings while riding a bike.
When I first started commuting by bike several years ago, I was struck by how much of the built and natural environment I missed when driving a car. All stuff I had driven by a thousand times and never seen was suddenly revealed: neat houses, small greenspaces, funky gardens and most of all, interesting people. As I rode by on my bike, usually on high alert, I began to know about more and more of my community (at least, the part I was driving through). I became aware of change over time. I saw more of the richness and diversity of the City as it changed, street by street or even house to house in some places. I began to understand some of the patterns of plenty and of deprivation; of clearly strong neighbourhood community or an apparent lack of any cohesion. The City became more alive and I realised more why I like living here.
As I varied my route and rode in other areas of the city, my understanding broadened. The process of discovery was the main enjoyment. I encountered new neighbourhoods, new streets, new parks and new ways to see the river, the backbone of Peterborough. Not everything was pretty. More than once I sat thinking, “Ew, bad planning there” or “I bet they wish that wasn’t next to them”. The entire Landsdowne and (more lately) Chemong commercial strips are just spiritual wastelands, testament to the intellectual bankruptcy of proponent-driven, OMB supported commercial development. The good thing is that going to these areas can be limited (note I didn’t say eliminated). Give me the downtown or the markets any day.
And that is just the built and physical environment. Meeting people is a whole separate topic.
Discovering the richness of the City and appreciating this place called home more and more has been and will, no doubt, continue to be one of the key benefits of riding a bike.
Why we ride is a regular Friday feature that explains, one reason at a time, why folks in Peterborough like to ride bicycles. It is a crowdsourced list so, tell us why you ride, either as a comment below or, preferably, by email, so we can include it as a “Why We Ride” post. We would love to hear more reasons to ride.