Discovery and Choices

I’m a “loner” cyclist. To me, cycling has always been an individual adventure. A block of time appears on my calendar… the weather cooperates… and suddenly I’m thinking, “Where can I go on my bike? What excuse do I have to roll around outside for an hour or more?”

Maybe I have an errand to run, and can do it on my bike. If not, I’ll pick a destination in range, or drive to a farther away spot, and plan a route.

Maybe I’ll take a picnic, ride across a bridge to an island then hike around the island.

Much of the day’s pleasure is in anticipating all the possibilities!

The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off.

Henry David Thoreau said this, and it’s a conscious reason why I rarely plan a bike trip with anyone else. Spontaneity rules my rides! I choose the destination, the route, the pace, and the intensity.

Another Choice: Lane Position

Before Cycling Savvy, I didn’t completely understand the option of choosing where to be in the traffic lane. I knew that in Maine I had the right as a cyclist to be given three feet of clearance by passing vehicles. But until taking CyclingSavvy, I didn’t think of my bike as a vehicle.

Cyclists are legally drivers in all 50 states.

A slide from “Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling.” Cyclists were classified as drivers before the rise of the automobile. More than 100 years later, cyclists are legally considered drivers in all 50 states

The course I took here in Portland last summer validated my core sense that I did have a right to travel safely on roadways. I learned about the door zone and reasons to ride clear of traffic lane debris, which is typically pushed to the edge of the road by motor vehicles. I now feel much more comfortable when controlling the lane when needed.

Controlling the traffic lane with authority, assurance and comfort is what Cycling Savvy preaches and teaches. I learned specific information on clothing choices for visibility, and motion and signal cues to alert drivers to my intentions.

In addition to this, I try to practice wisdom, patience, and trust balanced with caution while riding. The final element I now bring to my rides in city traffic is “largeness.” As a small person on a small bike, I consciously aim to enlarge my presence on the road by standing on my pedals, weaving slightly at times to give the impression that I really need the space I’m taking, and keeping my arms out farther from my body, just to be more “seen.”


Mapping Congress St. Portland ME

Analyzing the Congress Street feature of the CyclingSavvy Tour of Portland.

I’ve been a city cyclist for years, obedient to traffic lights and stop signs, and was delighted to learn in my Cycling Savvy class about how to pre-plan a passage through a complicated intersection with dedicated turn lanes. Our class observed the process of planning, then executing several of these in Portland, before we came to the most complex one of the day.

As soon as this particular passage was laid out for us, I asked the instructor’s okay to go for it. He later told me he wasn’t really thinking it through when he absent-mindedly said “yes.” The other instructor was supposed to go first to demonstrate! Before that could happen, I began pedaling away, as all the other students stood watching.

Almost immediately, a skeptical driver passed me on the right and loudly called out to me: “You’re in the left lane!” My reply — totally emboldened by my training — was, “I know!”

I sailed along to complete the upcoming left turn, easily and safely avoiding traffic merging in from the right.

Cyclists on Congress Street Portland ME

Two students begin the Congress Street feature.

SueWall (center)

Sue Wall, smiling big in the center, at the end of the feature

Now, in addition to all the other choices I make when planning a ride, I’m aware of and grateful for my choice to ride freely wherever I need to in the traffic lane.

I choose an approach of appreciation for all my fellow travelers, and of freedom from fear and anxiety. Cycling Savvy training shows everyone how to make these choices!

3 replies
  1. Hōkan
    Hōkan says:

    Like you, I usually prefer lone riding.

    I remember the gradually growing joy when I discovered that I had a rightful place on the road that you describe!


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