Sunday, July 13, 2008

Beginning to think like a cyclist

Today's route here.

What started out as a purely recreational ride this afternoon--a pleasantly warm day, no urgent place to go, the desire for a bit of fresh air and exercise--resulted in my finding a better route to the nearest full-service grocery store.

I knew that the Little Arkansas bike path runs north of North High School, but I'd not been on it north of 13th Street, so I decided to head up it, just for fun. There is still construction going on at the 13th Street bridge, but there's also a temporary asphalt path running from street level down to the path on the north side of the bridge. The path runs up to 19th Street, where it dead-ends at a small neighborhood park. I'd originally been planning just to turn around and head back home, but I realized I was not far away from 21st and Amidon (where the grocery store is located). I'd not been happy with the first route I'd taken to the store, so I decided to explore the neighborhood for a route to 21st and/or Amidon. Sure enough: I soon found 20th Street, which makes a sharp north turn and turns into Woodward, which intersects 21st directly across from the south end of the store.

When I returned, I calculated the distances of the two routes and discovered that not only was today's route much safer (the only major streets to deal with are 13th and 21st, and those only to cross) and much more aesthetically pleasing (well over half the route is through greenbelts on dedicated bike paths), it's also shorter by half a mile. Not bad, I figured. I wasn't pushing at all hard, and I had made the round trip in under an hour (I was out relaxing, remember).

My mistake with the first route had been thinking about it in terms of the city's grid of major streets. At least in this instance, I saw, it gained me nothing as a cyclist to think that way. There's more to say about some of the implications (beyond time and distance saved) of thinking against the grain of the grid, but I'll leave that for another time. For now, I'll just sum up by saying, Lesson learned.

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