November 09, 2010

For Bicycle Commuters Variety is Not the Spice of Life.

While browsing around last week I clicked on a link to an article entitled "10 Rules for Urban Commuting".  I didn't think I'd learn anything new, but its always wise to compare notes with other bicycle commuters so I read on.

I've been growing bored with my commute recently and have been toying with the idea of mixing it up a little by changing routes every now and again.  After all, it couldn't hurt to add some variety could it?  That is when I read this piece of advice:

Variety is not the spice of life. Save the mixing it up for whatever else you like to do for fun.  You’re riding a bike to and from work for chrissakes, isn’t that fun enough.  You don’t need to alter your route just to add variety.  Knowing your route – every pothole, blind right turn and nasty intersection of it – is critical to riding safely.  Be predictable in your riding and your route.  Get a tattoo or something if your route isn’t exciting enough.

Odd, that a blog article should bring up the very issue I was contemplating only moments before reading.  (Changing route, not getting a tattoo.) Initially I brushed this rule off, but eventually it got me thinking. Just how well do I know my current route?  Surely I don't know the location of every pothole, does anyone, do I?

To my surprise it turns out that I actually do.

After reading the article I paid attention to my riding style and realized that for years I've been veering left here to avoid a pothole, right there to avoid another, even lifting the weight off my front wheel to go over one particularly nasty one too wide to safely go around.

Its not just potholes.   I know the traffic light sequences.  I know if one light is red when I arrive then the flowing two will be also.  I know traffic conditions at different times of the day, different days of the week.  I know which intersections cars like to sneak across on the orange light.  I know where it is narrow and cars will give you a fright by overtaking too close for comfort. I know where taxis are likely stop suddenly without warning.  I know the location of a gravel yard around which you find numerous large trucks and concrete mixers.

Without being consciously aware, I have intimate knowledge of the smallest details of my route.  At first I doubted the statement that you know every pothole on your commute, but if you've cycled the same route for any period of time chances are that you do, you're just not aware of it any more.

Have a think what "local knowledge" you have of your commuting route and share it here, you'll be surprised at all the details you recall.

Lovely cycling weather in Tokyo recently.  Enjoy!

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