One of the many attractive features of moving back to town was the opportunity to bike everywhere: to the farmer’s market, to the grocery store, to the library. This city has a wonderful mixed-use trail network plus a lot of bike lanes, and, for the most part, drivers, used to hordes of university students on bikes, are watchful for and respectful of bikes.
It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get my biking muscles up to speed, but for the last week or so I’ve been biking frequently. (The good weather helps, too.) I have a set of panniers that fit over my rear wheel, in which I can stuff my straw hat, a book, my laptop, shopping bags, water bottle, or whatever else I need to take, depending on my destination. My bike is a 21-speed ‘hybrid’: not quite a mountain bike, but sturdier and wider-tired than a road bike, with front shocks, perfect for the gravel trails as well as the roads.
Saturday morning I biked to the farmers’ market downtown. I kept the panniers empty except for a shopping bag or two, and ventured off down what is a new route for me: the bike lane down the major thoroughfare that leads downtown. Before the bike lane, which is relatively new, this was far too dangerous, and I’m still not sure I’d want to do it at a busier time. But fairly early on a Saturday morning, I felt it was safe enough.
It’s downhill most of the way, and a fairly steep downhill. I kept my speed slow, and enjoyed not having to pedal while keeping a close eye on the traffic. But there were no issues, and I reached the market in about fifteen minutes. I locked the bike and my helmet up, took my bag, and did my regular shopping, potatoes and peppers, kamut wraps, asparagus and cherries, greens. Then I stowed them all neatly in the panniers, bought a glass of freshly-squeezed (extracted?) carrot/orange juice, and considered my ride home.
I wasn’t going to tackle riding up the hill, so going back the way I came was out of the question. Basically, my choices were ride either west or east along the river trail, and then head south. I chose to ride east, which brings me out to a short-but-steep hill (I walked my bike) and then takes me into the Arboretum, and a short ride through its trails to our residential development and home. The whole trip – about 12 km – took me less than an hour, including the time shopping.
Today I biked on quiet residential streets over to the butcher’s (with a small insulated bag and ice pack stowed in the panniers), and then on to Staples to get a document bound, a quick 10 km trip. Tomorrow it will be back downtown, to my Monday morning writer’s group, and then a loop home along the river, westward this time, and up the trail, back to Staples to pick up the document I took in today, a ride of about 14 or 15 km. I’m still challenged by some of the city’s hills, but I’m also old enough not to be discouraged (or embarrassed) by having to get off and walk occasionally.
BD bought a new bike last week, replacing his road bike with one similar to mine: a couple of trips on the trail system convinced him this was necessary. Older bones need a softer ride! He’s out every day, riding downtown to the library, or around the trails to new birding spots. Our gasoline use, even with BD going to check on the other house every second day, has dropped by half, and likely to drop more as we both bike for errands rather than drive. I’m seriously wondering how long we’ll keep two cars, although we certainly won’t make that decision until we see how we manage in colder, wetter weather. There are times when driving is still preferable: I’ve got a couple of evening events coming up, and I don’t want to bike in the dark (or even in the dusk), but the reasons for having two cars are rapidly disappearing. And there is a good bus system here, if we needed a back-up.
I’m very glad that one of my theoretical reasons for moving has rapidly become a viable reality. It’s a strong reinforcer that this was the right move, and the right time to make it.