On the Bike
I took my bike to work today. No big deal. A sweet 15-minute ride down through mostly residential streets. The Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood of Montreal is almost 100% ethnic: Pilipino, Caribbean, East Asian. Cycling around town makes you that much more aware of what’s around you. When I drive to work, I try to be attentive and I do notice a lot of the local colour, but on a bike it’s much more magnified.
This morning, for example, the city was shaking itself dry following an intense night of a non-stop deluge. There was a lot of “prana” – energy – in the air which I wouldn’t have enjoyed in the comfort of my car.
Then there’s the exercise: it wasn’t much but it was there nevertheless. When I received my inheritance last summer, one of the first things I bought was a cool “city bike”, meaning possessing upright handlebars and a limited number of gears – seven, as well as medium size tires, not too thin or thick.
I also got a cool leather saddlebag made in Britain that clicked onto the side and could be taken off and worn as a shoulder bag during the day. It tended to fall off when I drove over bumps and so this morning I just threw everything into my usual, larger, shoulder bag and hardly noticed it during my ride.
I’m obviously not a bicycle fanatic, although I enjoy my rides on the bike a lot. After all, it’s June 18th. Half of the population in this city has been on their bikes already. Montreal is a bike-mad city. Even for me, who would expect a bicycle path along an innocuous city street like Barclay? And yet there is one, making it even easier for me to pedal away and take in the little dramas of daily life. Not very long ago, on my way to pick up my cousin visiting from Halifax, I found myself on Laurier East. There were literally more cyclists than cars – hundreds of them – in a short two kilometre stretch. It’s crazy!
What I noticed today: two ladies, one rocking a pram, chatting on the sidewalk. Fathers leaving their apartment buildings with their little kids to drop off to school. A dog (a boxer) jumping onto his master, a thin man wearing shades and a small moustache.
It’s a little thrill to connect to city life on a bicycle. In the car, there’s the radio to distract you, the changing of gears, the watching out for all the little things that makes one a safe driver.
On a bike, there’s the wind in your face, the sweet smell that comes from being on a street with tall shady trees (the difference in air temperature once I hit Decarie Boulevard was impressive). There’s the basic animal satisfaction of exerting oneself a bit with the aim of getting somewhere.
So, although I’m not a fanatic, I should be taking out the bicycle a lot more this summer and, if I’m still at my job, this fall.