Sunday, October 25, 2015

I Avoid Cars


For paths and trails away from the noise and power of cars

Some rides, I set out to avoid cars. To evade the noise, the grinding, the stopping and starting, the glare of the sun off the glass, the glint of metal, the rushing to the red light, the cut-offs, the inattention, the constant unacknowledged nearness of the possibility of death and mayhem. Some rides, I just want to spin along in a peaceful bike revery. It's not typical, it's not commuting, it's what I seek when I want quiet and calm.

When I set the bike down on the grass to rest a moment, this was the spot. The dull drone of traffic was still audible from across the way, but here, it was just me, the ducks, the quiet, and a few passing cyclists on the path. 

I don't mind commuting with traffic. Through it, across it, with it, in it. Even seeking out back streets and quieter routes, commuting several miles through Phoenix is going to involve engagement with traffic. So I ride defensively and alertly, studiously observe the traffic laws, take every intersection as if someone is going to run the light and have the chance to kill me. I try to stay reasonable in each encounter, for example, not standing hard and fast on the rule that I won't ride ahead through a traffic circle when a driver stops in the middle of their circuit to wave me through when they see me waiting: on the one hand, it's not a safe or normal operation of a traffic circle to do that, but on the other hand, it's a nice gesture and I don't want to seem like a jerk. This happened to me twice in one day on Friday, and I took it both times. They see me waiting at the yield line, stopped in the circle and waved me through, and although it runs directly against my "You're not doing it right" reaction, it's a sweet and humanizing gesture, so I waved back and rode ahead.

But sometimes, particularly on relaxing non-commute rides, I avoid cars. With a purpose. To get away from all that riding a bicycle around traffic involves. Even if I am OK with traffic, I can't say that I feel that riding in, through, across and around it for hours is my first choice. My first choice, when the option is open and I follow my bicycling heart, is something like the photo above, quiet paths around still lakes with trees and ducks.

Indian School Road in Scottsdale has a bike lane and stoplights. The lights are timed such that on a Saturday morning, in traffic, a determined cyclist can usually stay ahead of the traffic between lights since the bike lane enables passing up to the front of the stopped mass at each light. Timing it right and riding hard, I pack more cars into the mass that builds up behind me. It's fun, kind of, but the best part of the ride begins when I can veer off the bike lane onto the path. The tension slips away, and I just ride.

Indian School Road is just through the trees there to the right

From this spot onwards, it's all path, trees, shade, water and desert, almost, if you're familiar with the area, as far as you could possibly want to ride. By connecting with other paths from here, you can spend the better part of the day in places like the one in the picture above. Even though just before entering the path I passed a Lamborghini close enough to reach out and touch and added it to the mass of cars stopping and starting behind me, which is kind of cool, I prefer the quiet path bike ride life. If it's quiet enough to hear the wingbeats of ducks and herons as they take off from the water's edge, it's quiet enough for me for me to ride far and peacefully on a calm Fall day.  

8 comments:

  1. There IS something to getting away from the motorists every now and then...

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    1. They seemed to have missed me when I went back to them, Steve.

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  2. Shhh... It's a secret. Boring is better. =)

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    1. I'm terrible at keeping secrets like that.

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  3. Give me the quieter path every time.... The fewer vehicles I have to contend with the more enjoyment I get from my rides....
    I recently came up with a nice 25mile training loop on country lanes along which I hardly saw a car at all.... massive enjoyment levels!!

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    1. When you find a path like that and ride it, it's remarkable at the end when you realize how few cars you saw, and how peaceful that was.

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  4. I'll ride almost any path, to avoid being near cars.

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    1. Hopefully one that loops past good coffee and/or bike shops.

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