Back when I drove to campus, I looked at the cyclists I dodged with a mixture of dread and fascination. The spandex-clad racers and the hipsters on fixies seemed content with their pedal-powered lives, but to me, they were either reckless, congesting single-lane traffic, or just dumb-looking. That all changed about this time last year, when I was in the throes of road rage. I was rushing for class and shouting obscenities at the top of my lungs towards every pedestrian in sight. The windows were closed, but I think my face got the message across. After screeching into one of UVic’s increasingly rare parking spots, I resolved to trade four wheels for two, and after a year, I have no desire to go back.
The advantages were overwhelming. I’d save an incredible amount of money, I could get to campus nearly as fast, I would get some exercise, and I wouldn’t have to fight for a parking space. All I needed was a steed.
As a shorter person, most used bikes were too big, so I had to bite the bullet and get a new one. The slender, handsome salesman directed me to the “hybrid” section, mutts that took parts from their mountain, road, and comfort bike siblings. In the end, I was seduced by a light aluminum frame and matte black finish, one that isn’t quite as immaculate anymore.
In the past year, I’ve fallen a few times, but endured nothing more than a minor scrape or bruise. On the plus side, I look pretty damn good in shorts now (paleness notwithstanding), and more importantly, I’ve spent enough time on the saddle to know that drivers and pedestrians can be careless, too. On res move-in day, I narrowly avoided a father who stepped onto the road without looking. One more step and I would have flown over my own handlebars. Cars, particularly Teutonic land yachts, sometimes don’t leave enough room (half a lane would be nice).
Of course, I still borrow a car when I have to look presentable for meetings or travel for long distances, but I can’t say I miss the creature comforts. The fresh air and exercise is actually appealing, even to someone as lazy as myself. The silence gives me time to think, and school zone speeds are actually thrilling instead of snore-inducing. It also allowed me to see another side of urban transportation, one that doesn’t necessarily centre around a car. I’m no longer against those stupid bike lanes eating into precious vehicle lanes. So call me convinced; just don’t expect me to don those spandex shorts anytime soon.