Saturday, May 31, 2014

Commuting - Racing or Relaxing?

From user Landahlauts via Creative Commons in Flickr

In Paris for a week, I commuted about 3-4 kilometers back and forth to the National Library every day from the hotel to attend a conference. I would wear the clothes I would be in all day and didn't take a helmet to Paris, so no helmet. I mostly rode at a much more leisurely pace than I do at home but then the bikeshare bikes don't support much in the way of speed (or braking either, so perhaps that's good).

In my Arlington-Washington commute, I spend most of the time on trails and wear bicycling garb (ie, lyrca etc.) and try to maintain a high rate of speed - I work up a sweat. I shower and change at work. But then the distance is more like 17 kilometers one way. And I wear a helmet.

Parke Davis employees of 1899 leaving work, many on bicycles

Before cars become popular and extremely inexpensive, bicycles were briefly used by some for commuting much like Parisians do now, or so evidence like this short film clip seem to suggest.

I have given some thought about the similarity and differences between the commuting I did in Paris, which is less of a production (in the sense of not wearing special clothes, helmets, etc.) and what I do at home. I have concluded that the similarities (it is still biking) are more important than the differences. I regard Capital Bikeshare riders here as fellow travelers, so to speak, in a real sense.

Something unusual - an abandoned (unlocked) Capital Bikeshare bike

One thing I really enjoy about bikeshare biking, which I have done in Paris several times and in Boston, is that I immediately lose any concern with my rate of travel - unlike when I am on a road bike and I sometimes have to fight a desire to go fast (or as fast as I can, anyway). A typical bikeshare bike immediately says to me as I sit on it something about the improbability of going fast (I guess) so I don't think of the experience in terms of speed, but simply of pleasing forward motion. Since my misguided competitive urge that appears while sitting on a road bike disappears, the experience seems better than riding a road bike! (But I may be reading too much into this since I have done most of my bikeshare biking in Paris, and being in Paris may have something to do with this.)

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