Posted in Writing Life

*Blog Action Day: Bikes and Feet

The theme of this year’s Blog Action Day is climate change. There are many science bloggers who have a lot to say about this a lot more knowledgeably than I can. But my post today isn’t here to warn, admonish, or predict.

I want to talk about bikes and the joy of them. My first bike was a red Raleigh. Its name was Queenie. My best friend’s bike was Bluebell. I was seven and I chose both names. Our bikes were horses and we were accompanied on our adventures by an assortment of imaginary animals. We rode up and down our street and around our suburban neighbourhood. When I was a teenager, I got a second hand blue bike and rode it downtown. Downtown is a misnomer, because in fact it was all uphill as the centre of the city in which I was born was an extinct volcano.

I rode slowly uphill, standing to get more force into my pedaling, and flew all the way back downhill. I didn’t know that I was experiencing the freedom that bikes gave women in the late 19th century. The new woman of that era took to the bicycle and was suddenly free to ride unaccompanied by chaperones. It may even be proposed that the bike was instrumental in making the 19th century woman anew. Tea houses sprang up, catering to women riding out and having their own adventures–just like my best friends and I when I was seven and seventeen.

I wrote the first draft of my first novel in Prince Edward Island. I had no car and so I discovered exactly how far I could go by foot. From the cottage I was renting on the south side of the Hillsborough River to the good coffee shop in Charlottetown (now there are many, but that year there was one and also a really good Middle-Eastern restaurant that made great fallafel) was a fifty minute walk. It was a lovely and contemplative walk over the bridge that ran parallel to the posts of the old bridge where black birds held parliament. It was about a twenty minute bike ride and a seven minute drive. I bought a bike.

But here is my sad confession: I don’t own a bike anymore. I left it in PEI, where, after riding it twice, I chose to walk instead. The reason was that the bike seat hurt my tender parts. I am assured by people I know that there are new high-tech magical seats that do not cause soreness there. And when Toronto gets bike lanes, I am certain that I will get a bike and the type of seat of which they speak.

But here is my happy confession: I don’t own a car. When our twenty year old car finally bit the dust in August of 2008, we decided not to replace it.

I thought I would miss it. I don’t. I walk, take the subway, and have a membership in Autoshare, though I haven’t used it yet.

Maybe….just maybe….I’ll get a bike. Or learn how to go downhill on inline skates without bonking my head. And when I am old, I will wear purple with a red helmet. Perhaps I ought to start practising now.



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

14 thoughts on “*Blog Action Day: Bikes and Feet

  1. I hope you can get a bike. I always feel like a child when I ride mine – free, unencumbered and about to embark on an adventure. Germany is very bike-friendly and you see all ages and shapes on their bikes, from the tiniest kids to the oldest grannies.

  2. Oh I love the thought of a bike named Queenie! My bike at the moment has the most uncomfortable saddle in the world and I refuse to ride it as I spend a great deal of my days sitting down. Cambridge is very bike-friendly but I don’t have to move around it so much these days, and so stick to walking when I’m in town. If you get a new bike, you must promise to let us know what you call it! 🙂

  3. I would adore being able to walk to the places I need to go. Obviously, Detroit and its environs were designed to foster the need for automobiles. I was born and bred in the automotive industry, and I love cars, but I like being able to get places on my own steam too.

    I loved your story about pretending your bikes were horses. Using your imagination from an early age, weren’t you?

  4. Yay for bikes – exactly as Charlotte says, I always feel like a child on mine. It’s exhilarating feeling the rush of the wind on my face. My bike’s name is Daisy and it’s a Townie ‘cruiser’ with an insanely comfortable saddle. Are Townies available in Toronto? Maybe check it out. Man Town is flat and perfect for riding Miss Daisy, but Sydney as a whole is extremely hilly, and culturally not just bike unfriendly but outright hostile. Lilian, I’ve loved every bike I’ve ever owned, and I love this post for reminding me of them so vividly.

  5. Of course I love a good post on riding a bike! I hope when you do get a new bike that you find a comfortable saddle (for me, it’s all about giving myself time to get used to the saddle and making sure I have high quality bike shorts). I also love walking places when I can — I’m very fortunate to live within walking distance of town, so even though I have to drive to work, at least I can walk for some of my errands.

  6. I love this post! I love bikes. I ride mine at least 3 times a week. When it’s warm, I ride it to school. (Can’t do it as much when it gets colder because I force the 2nd grader to ride her own bike, and she rebels at the cold.) And PEI???? Major travel goal. Anne of Green Gables and all. But I was intrigued by the island before I even knew about her.

    Good for you with the walking, etc!

    1. Louise, there’s that, too. In the winter I can still walk. I haven’t been out east since kids, which means 10 years, so I don’t know how it’s changed. But it was a wonderful and odd place out of time. I met so many people from away who had just ended up there and stayed.

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