I Love Riding in the City – Thomas Connolley
Where do you live and what’s it like riding in your city?
I live in Wantage, a small town about 13 miles south of Oxford, England.
Wantage is compact and most places I need to go, apart from work, are within a 10 minute walk or bike ride. There is one bicycle shop, several reasonable cafés and there are good mountain biking and road biking routes. Wantage is close to the Ridgeway National Trail, which is open to cyclists and follows a route that has been used by humans for thousands of years. The town also has a branch of the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) who organise various rides and tours.
I mainly use my bike to commute to work, 8 miles away. I have a choice of routes, either a busy main road, or a beautiful cross-country route using back roads and tracks. I’ll take the main road if it is icy or in really wet weather. The back country route can get very muddy. It’s not a route for a road bike, and I think it’s important for cyclists to assert their right to be on the main roads as well. There’s an active bicycle users group on the site where I work who campaign for cyclists’ rights and better infrastructure. There are several towns and large employment sites in the area which are within a half hour ride of each other, if only the infrastructure was better. Most people commute by car.
What was your favorite city to ride in, and why?
Probably Canberra, the capital of Australia. It is well planned, with good cycling routes to get around town and good places to ride at the weekend, for both roadies and mountain bikers.
The one drawback are the swooping magpies! Some male birds get very territorial and aggressive in the spring, and will swoop on pedestrians and cyclists. Aussie readers will know what I mean!
Why do you love riding in the city?
Bicycles are like the fairytale “seven league boots”. You can get so much further for no more effort than walking. I’ve always used a bike as a means of transport, for getting to work, running errands or just going for a ride. I love moving through places and landscapes at bike pace. Unlike a car or bus, there are no barriers between you and the world. Even the fickle English weather feels good! I’ve got a fairly demanding job and the half hour rides morning and evening are such a good way to relax and balance the mind and body. If I’ve been working on a technical problem during the day, the answer will often come to me on the ride home.
Or just say whatever you want about riding in the city… Poetry anyone?
Ride clean. The only thing you need to be “on” is your bike.