Seeing the world at bicycle speed

portland river viewIt happens every time. Maybe I’m running late, or have some other reason to drive to work rather than bicycle. And then I regret the decision as soon as I see the first cyclists enjoying the morning ride.

vetch flowersPeople give all sorts of do-gooder reasons to commute by bike. It reduces your carbon footprint. It fights air pollution. It’s healthier. All true. But I suspect that many daily bike commuters are compelled by a more selfish reason: the joy of it.

There’s joy in the movement: whizzing down hills, leaning into turns, feeling invigorated by the blood pumping to your brain. And there is joy in seeing the world at bicycle speed, not freeway speed. One evening this winter, the river I cross on the way home was absolutely still, a gorgeous black mirror. Early one workday morning this spring, I surprised a Canada goose and her brood of fuzzy, just-hatched goslings along the riverside bike path.

brick wall abstract artLast night on the way home, I had to stop a half dozen times to take in the scenery: a scarred brick wall transformed by weathering into a giant abstract painting; the blooms of weeds glowing like neon along a trash-strewn rail line; a scruffy flotilla of boats making a fine contrast with the orderly backdrop of the city skyline. At bicycle speed, you start to notice so much distracting, unplanned beauty.


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