(photo: Climate change caravan)

La vue à
partir de ma
bicyclette

Alors qu'il est facile
d'ignorer la vue
lorsque l'on voyage
en voiture, lorsque
l’on est perché sur
le siège d’une
bicyclette, c'est tout
à fait impossible.

Sur un vélo, tout ce
que j’ai, c’est la
vue; et il m’est alors
impossible de me
dissocier de mon
environnement.
Débarrassée des
voiles modernes
que sont la vitesse
et l’acier, j'ai été
obligée de passer
mes jours le long
des coupes à blanc
et d’entendre le
silence qui les
accompagne. Je
ne pouvais plus
ignorer l’impact
que le gaspillage
et l’insouciance
avaient causé à
l’environnement,
tout comme je ne
pouvais plus ignorer
l’impact que cet
environnement
avait sur moi. 

J’utilise ma
bicyclette parce
que je crois que
la présence d’un
mode de transport
sain et propre est
d’une importance
cruciale sur les
chemins. 

Je voyage en
bicyclette parce
que j’aime ça.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know now
that the view
is not just
something
to be enjoyed
from scenic
lookouts
spotting the
highway, but
is something
of which we
are a part and
on which we
depend.

The View From My Bicycle


Hillary Lindsay
Blue Green Society
November 2001

 

t is impossible, when perched on the seat of a bicycle, to ignore the view. In a car, it’s easy. In a car, I lean back, cushioned and contained in a temperature-controlled space. Distracted by traffic and music and phone calls, the outside world becomes something simply to be passed through.


(photo: Climate change caravan)

On a bike, all I have is the view. Sitting high on my saddle, arms stretched out in front of me, I lean into the landscape. Detaching myself from the surrounding environment becomes impossible, as I am no longer apart from it. Suddenly vulnerable to nature’s havoc and magic, I cycle on, keeping my head up and my eyes anywhere but the road.

Ever since this summer, as I began to see Canada from behind the handlebars of my bicycle (with a group called the Climate Change Caravan), the view has changed. My views have changed. No longer do I perceive the environment as something to be passed through, but as something I am inside and on which I depend.

I traveled across the country at about a fifth of the speed of an average automobile, so perhaps the main change in the view was that it changed more slowly. Distances normally covered in an hour were a day’s journey. Hills that normally went unnoticed loomed in the distance for miles, and once reached, could take the better part of a morning to climb. The landscape shaped my day. I swam in its lakes and rested under the shade of its trees. The view was not only something to be seen now, but something to be experienced. I could smell the change in the air as I neared the sea and hear the sounds of approaching transport trucks. The direction of the winds could demoralize or uplift me. The sun warmed my back and summer storms left me soggy and shivering. My days were not separate from my surroundings, but bound up in them.

On some days, I wished deeply that I could distance myself from where I was, but on my bike, I lacked the modern shields of speed and steel. Though I had seen clearcuts before, I had never been forced to spend my days with them, and to hear the silence that surrounds them. Though I had seen "roadkill" from a car, it was only as a vague lump, not a creature. I swerved around countless ravens, garter snakes, bear cubs and moose, torn and limp. The view had changed.

From my bike, I could not ignore the impact that carelessness and wastefulness was having on the environment; I also could not ignore the impact that it was having on me. The landscape that used to be something I noticed through the windshield grime of my car window was now something that I felt in my legs, and breathed in my lungs. The abstract threat of climate change became frighteningly clear over a summer where record-breaking temperatures and drought followed me across the country. I cycled through heat that left me dizzy and nauseous and smog that left my throat sore for days. The heat made dehydration something I could not afford to risk. Suddenly, the sign over a faucet in a small town gas station reading, "Water is not safe to drink." was a frightening and even dangerous sight. Suddenly, it had become hazardous to my health to be cycling on a summer’s day.

Cycling day after day, not only put me more in touch with my environment, but with my own body. If I pushed myself too hard or failed to drink enough water, I found myself shaking and delirious at the side of the road. For the first time, I truly understood the very basic need of my body for oxygen, food, and water. Seen from my bicycle, the pollution of the earth, air and lakes seemed impossibly stupid and careless. Without these things, I simply could not go on, and neither could anyone else.

I am back in the city now, but I am still on my bike. Cycling in the city can be stressful and often dangerous. I grip my handlebars tightly on the way to work, always assuming that I’m invisible and never forgetting that there is only a fraction of a second between me and the wheels of a car. But I won’t get off my bike. I do not want to lose sight of what I learned this summer. I know now that the view is not just something to be enjoyed from scenic lookouts spotting the highway, but is something of which we are a part and on which we depend. On my bike, breathing in the fumes of passing automobiles, I cannot forget this. I ride because I believe that the presence of a clean and healthy mode of travel on the road is vitally important. I ride because I love to ride. So, I will cycle through the slush this winter, keeping my eyes on the road, and my bike in full view.