And that’s where this book comes in. As a full-time cycling advocate, I noticed adults getting back on their bikes with only a partial understanding of how to be part of traffic on two wheels instead of four, or no understanding at all if they’d never gotten a driver’s licence. The physical act of riding a bicycle — the balance and muscle movements needed to propel the vehicle forward — do come back quite easily. The part where you ride that bike out into the often fast-paced and shared vehicular roadways of your city is not quite so simple.
Although my first taste of independence was on my bicycle, like many, I felt the next level of freedom behind the wheel of the family car. I’ve been a licenced driver for over 20 years, and I actually quite like driving and can appreciate motor vehicles as the tools they are. I’m certain that being a cyclist first made me a better driver, and that being an occasional driver makes me a better cyclist, because it allows me to understand the roadway from both perspectives. I sold my Toyota Corolla in 2000 and used the money to pay for part of my post-graduate studies. Though I hadn’t ridden much since my commute to and from high school, it didn’t take me long to get back into the rhythm of the ride and realize what I’d been missing. The idea of buying a car hasn’t crossed my mind since, and I’ve built my life in such a way that it shouldn’t ever have to.
Getting back in the saddle allowed me to step back and see driving and car ownership from a whole new perspective. I realized that owning and habitually overusing a car for short trips actually made me and billions of others far more dependent on all the systems required to make, buy, park, insure, repair, and fuel a car, rather than providing the independence I’d originally connected to car ownership. Cars, while useful and essential to some, are also a factor in so many of our societal ills — obesity, stress, diseases related to a sedentary lifestyle, worsening air quality, urban sprawl, and divided communities to name but a few. Cars might be symbols of independence and freedom in advertising and rock anthems, but I’ve come to fully appreciate that bicycles actually provide it, and so much more.
I haven’t written this book to convince you to become a full-time cyclist or give up driving. You are the only person who can make decisions about your daily transportation choices. My goal is to give you the information you need to be a confident rider whenever you choose: on weekends, once or twice a week, rain or shine — totally up to you.
The Urban Cycling Survival Guide: Need-to-Know Skills and Strategies for Biking in the City by Yvonne Bambrick (click image above to purchase)
But in case your conviction is wobbling like your bike on the first ride back, here are a few reminders of why it’s worth braving those often daunting city streets on two wheels.