I’m sorry to be smug, but I really do win at commuting. Earlier this week I had an especially lovely commute along one of my absolute favorite pathways, the Northern Canal Walkway. The Northern Canal Walkway is a part of the Lowell National Historic Park’s ring of pathways that follow the canals that powered all of Lowell’s textile mills, and it is only officially open from May 15 to October 15 depending on the flow of the Merrimack River. In other words, it’s not accessible very often. It’s also very beautiful and has amazing views of the river, falls, and hydropower plant. It’s also a great place to see progress on the new University Avenue bridge.
That same day, I had a meeting where the first ten or so minutes were spent complaining about commuting, traffic, road construction, etc. I obviously had nothing to add to the conversation but it got me thinking about what I see and experience as a bike commuter.
As a bike commuter, I get to truly engage with the place where I live and work. I can leave early to give myself time to take a more scenic route, or stop and check out some public art or bridge construction progress. When I see friends, neighbors, and colleagues as I travel, I can stop and chat or just smile, wave, and shout “hello!” If I see something interesting, I can easily stop and check it out; I can also decide to take a break from my commute and take a seat on a bench or in a park. I’m outdoors, so I get to see and feel how different places are in different types of weather. I notice more because I am passing things at 10 mph instead of 35 mph.On the flip side, I also don’t get stuck in traffic. I’m also fully aware during the entirety of my commute – there’s no way to zone out to the radio when I ride on city streets.
Bike commuting gives me a sense of complete freedom while also grounding me in place. There’s nothing like that feeling, and I am grateful that I get to experience it daily.