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Sunday, 3 January 2010

I want to ride my Bicycle

I've been cycling as a main means of travel since I was seven years old, when the 1973 Oil Crisis pushed the price of petrol in the UK so high that my brothers and I started cycling to school every day instead of being given a lift by car.

One of the reasons Beth and I chose Eugene for our new home is that it rates in the top ten cities in the US for cycling. There are miles of cycle paths, some alongside roads, but also many dedicated paths that take you away from the noise and danger and along creeks and waterways, through parks, and into a more healthy, safe and pleasant environment.



After three weeks in the country I invested in a new road bicycle, as nice as anything I've owned in London, and started to explore. The first area I discovered was the Wet Prarie, a unique environment which is wetland in the rainy season, and prairie in the dry season. Sadly only 0.5% of the original Wet Prairie remains; like the Redwood forests it was almost destroyed by the advance of the white man, but the area that remains is now protected and managed.

I cycled six miles the first day I had my bike, another six the second, and twelve on my third trip. Cycling here is much easier than in London. The paths are wider, so if you come up behind a pedestrian you can go round, not ding madly at your bell and then stop with a squeal of brakes when they fail to react. The paths are smoother, with no obstructing dog dirt and broken glass that make cycling in London such a joy. The hills, at least the ones I currently need to negotiate, are flatter, barely noticeable. We are in a valley, and only entering the South Hills area takes you up any severe incline.

If you are cycling on a bike path beside a road, it isn't constantly blocked by parked cars and traffic lights. My average speed in London was around 8-10 mph. Here it's been 12-15 mph, with no extra effort involved.

In London the cyclist is an outcast. Roads are for cars, and cyclists are squeezed into the gutter, with, if lucky, a thin white line to designate the area they are permitted to try to negotiate their way between buses, parked cars, tree branches, parked cars, car doors being opened by careless or blind drivers, parked cars and pedestrians who like to hover near the road in case they feel a fit of suicidal blues. Too many cyclists are killed every year on London roads, especially female cyclists killed by lorry drivers who do not see them. Oh, and the ever present dog dirt and broken glass, did I mention that? Occasionally one can ride on towpaths, but the pedestrian, and along canals the fisherman with his necessary tangle of rods and paraphernalia, make progress stuttering at best.

Bicycle theft is a problem in Eugene, as it is in London, and as it will be anywhere where bicycles congregate, so I invested about $100 in a big D-lock and cable, and I can chain up my bike anywhere. All stores and Malls have bicycle racks, and they are common along bike paths at places where you might want to pause and take in the scenery. London is improving, but bike racks in London are magnets for bike thieves.

Overall then, I'm enjoying using a bicycle again. It won't be necessary for shopping trips and other chores unless I want to cycle, but it's a nice alternative, and a great way to explore the quieter hidden corners of this city and its environs, and get a little exercise along the way.

2 comments:

  1. It's nice! Glad you got a sturdy lock. I'd still keep it inside if not on a road trip.

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  2. Oh yes, we have a small outside fully enclosed storage locker big enough for the bicycle, and of course when we have a house it'll be in the garage, and probably locked to something too.

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