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Seeing the Street as a New Cyclist

12:14 PM PDT on June 28, 2010

de Maisonneuve bike path in downtown Montreal, which new cyclist
Michael Shenker now avoids in favor of a different, calmer route.
Photo: Carnotzet via Flickr

It’s no secret that the road looks different over handlebars than it
does over the dashboard. When cycling most city streets, you see your
surroundings differently: at a different speed, from a different
height, more exposed to the sounds of your environment and, of course,
lacking the physical protection an automobile offers.

On member blog On Two Wheels,
Michael Shenker has a post up about making that mental switch; after a
lifetime of driving a car, he’s now riding his bike to work through the
streets of Montreal. The biggest difference for him? The focus
required. Writes Shenker:

During my nearly four decades behind the wheel, I learned the
importance of defensive driving – always be aware of the positions of
the cars around you, anticipate everyone’s next move before they make
it, and even make sure a driver who’s stopped on a cross-street is
looking your way before you pass by. When I drive, especially in urban
areas, I’m at a heightened sense of alert. Call it a constant state of

Never did I imagine the absolute code red required for cycling.
After years in the relative quiet and safety of a car, I wasn’t
prepared for the skill, the reflexes, the 360-degree sensory awareness
and slaloming abilities needed to navigate my way by bike between
Atwater Ave and The Gazette offices on Peel St. I was no longer simply
watching out for traffic or an occasionally inattentive fellow driver.
I was now embedded in a circus. Pedestrians moving at one speed,
cyclists at another and cars at still another, and each of the
performers moving to a different set of rules and in different

Of note, Shenker decided to change his route to avoid the de
Maisonneuve bike path, a two-way protected lane in downtown. Though his
new path lacks the protection of a dedicated bike lane, it’s calmer and
quicker. Whatever works to make riding your bike fun, safe, and speedy.

More from around the network: Urban Velo finds a real estate agency in Boulder, Colorado that takes clients to potential properties by bike. TheWashCycle discovers a space-age two-wheeler roaming the sidewalks of D.C. And Kansas Cyclist reports on how one county, led by the opposition of its school system, nixed plans for a two-state bike path.

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