Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Unexpected Pleasures of Urban Cycling

Anyone who reads this blog will quickly realize I don’t need too much to be delighted. I like to see this as a good quality, though it might just be a fancy version of being rather simplistic. A case in point occurred today, while I was out cycling to visit a parishioner.

One of the unexpected pleasures while out on the road for me is finding curious accommodations for pedestrians or cyclists which make the trip easier or more interesting. While I was cycling my way north through some fairly quiet neighborhoods, the street I was using suddenly veered west, taking me away from my intended destination. I noted that the map on my phone indicated that some sort of passage straight ahead existed. As I approached the turn, I saw that the passage took the form of a one-block pedestrian path, nicely protected from motorists (or from careless, speeding cyclists) by candy-striped barriers.

The pathway allowed me to continue my journey through the neighborhood in a straight line, and also (briefly) afforded me some respite from the motorized traffic in the area. I appreciated the way it allowed people to pass easily on foot (as well as non-motorized wheels) from place-to-place, providing connection between homes and neighborhoods that would otherwise be cut off by the vagaries of housing development history.

I know there are many people who don’t want a public path running by the side of their house, and sometimes for good reason. However, this (and a number of other such accommodations in town) really do a great service of making active transportation more feasible. Where streets don’t follow a regular grid pattern, such connections are vital. They also contribute, I think, to a greater porosity to neighborhoods—making them seem less isolated and car dependent. So, "thank you!" to the folks who border these connector paths. This cyclist, at least, appreciates it. 

When I use these paths, I often see children coming to or from school, seniors taking a walk, or folks who may not have access to a car going to the store or on other such errands. This sort of infrastructure really does contribute to effective movement through town, though it is about as low-key as something can be.

Finally, when I came back this way after my parish visit, I was reminded once more how pleasing Upright Cycling is: sitting up, going at a leisurely pace, taking in neighborhoods, chatting with folks when opportunities present themselves, and getting to know new parts of the city I call home.

Sometimes, the best things come along quietly and remind us of the simple privilege of just getting there.

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