Getting around is something that a lot of people take for granted. They go out of the driveway, get in their cars, and away they go. In all seasons and weather they are protected by several tons of metal, spewing toxic emissions into the air.
I’m not anti-car. I have been known to occasionally drive, as well as spend lots of time in my friends’ cars. But there are alternatives, which are healthier physically, financially and for the environment. The problem is, they are far less convenient and time-saving as the automobile. In a fast-paced world, priorities are often on getting things done as quickly as possible, in order to get onto the next thing, and the next thing, and so on.
Yet for many, the real priorities are having a healthier world and body – not to mention saving money. I have found that cycling is an inexpensive way to get around, which also contributes to physical fitness. You get the chance to breathe in fresh air, get a good cardio workout, and get to where you are going, all at the same time. Now, a cyclist’s physical health is also dependent upon getting to the intended destination in one piece, fully conscious, and unscathed. A lack of decent bike routes makes this goal difficult. Despite the fact that both cars and bikes are vehicles with the same legal rights and obligations, drivers often treat cyclists as an annoyance when they ride on the same streets. I was riding through Chinatown not too long ago, and a motorist was behind me honking away. What was I to do? There was nowhere for me to go. I was taking up my allotted room in the lane, and just like if I were in a car, the person behind me could either stay there or pass me. Bicycles do not create traffic – we are traffic.
Cyclists always have to be on alert when riding on the road, but it works two ways. When motorists do not pay attention to cyclists, the results can be disastrous. In mid-August I was riding down 102 Avenue, which is a route cyclists use to avoid the high-traffic areas of Jasper Avenue and Stony Plain Road. Someone in a car opened her driver’s side door at the exact split second I was passing by. I collided with the door and was flung sideways onto the pavement. My right bicep became incredibly swollen and turned alternating shades of purple, blue, yellow, green, and black over the next while. And it was all because of carelessness. I consider myself lucky that the results were not worse.
Drivers and cyclists have to share the road. This is especially important as the winter months are around the corner. There are a few brave souls who dare to continue cycling during that time, but I personally do not ride in the winter. When sidewalks and roads get slippery, I can sometimes barely balance on two feet, let alone two wheels.
Trying to live a healthy, environmentally conscious lifestyle has its challenges when it comes to getting around. Proceed with patience, care, and caution. This winter, stay safe, and stay warm!
Paula E. Kirman commutes using a mountain bike. She began wearing a helmet two days prior to her accident. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.