It seems counter-intuitive, but we have found that when traffic is at its worst in cities, bicycling actually feels safer. Traffic speeds are slower and you can easily keep up with gridlocked cars. That’s not to say it is always pleasant. The noise and fumes are nauseating, but you have the time to look at all the buildings and neighborhoods you are riding past. When traffic has come to an unbearable standstill, we will often become pedestrians and just walk on the sidewalk. That is another supreme advantage of riding a bicycle in a city: if you want to walk around, you can simply leave traffic at a moment’s notice, and do so without circling endlessly to find a place to park.
One thing to be keenly aware of, however, is bike theft. Nothing can end and ruin a bicycle trip quite like getting your bike and belongings stolen while you’re doing a quick run to the grocery store or grabbing a coffee. If you’re traveling with a partner, it’s often good practice to take turns going into shops. It’s wise to carry a small U-lock if you plan to leave your bike unattended for any period of time. If you happen to have forgotten yours, some bike shops may be willing to loan or rent you a lock. You might also consider using theft-deterring security skewers for your wheels and saddle. If you’re staying at a motel or hotel, bring your bike with you into your room if possible. Some forward-thinking hotels are even going the extra step and offering rental bikes for guests to use, so you can leave yours at home.
New Urban Frontiers
The new generation of urban cyclists knows that the best way to experience a place is on two wheels. As more people discover the love of bicycling in their own cities, it is a natural progression to want to explore other cities by bicycle as well. Whether you are traveling on business or on vacation, there are more options than ever before to experience your final destination by bicycle. You can bring your own bike or rent one when you get there. You can ride to find the best hamburger in town or ride to take in some local culture and sights. You can ride with a tour group or explore by yourself. Just because you’re going to a strange new city doesn’t mean you have to hang up the helmet. If anything, it’s a unique opportunity to experience a city in a way that will leave you with a deeper sensory impression. Pedal on!
Russ Roca and Laura Crawford sold all their possessions to travel the world by bicycle in 2009 and started PathLessPedaled.com. Traveling on their tiny Bromptons, they’ve explored bicycle cultures and bicycle advocacy groups in various cities.