Friday, August 3, 2012

The Fool on the Hill.

Moving from Western Australia to Tasmania, I knew hills would become an abundant feature in my life. I considered how this would affect my ability to bicycle and thought I had things covered from the transport perspective with some very low gearing on the Jenny 7 Schwinn. I had seen the town environment before (on foot) and it was bikeable. I thought there would probably be alternative routes to any extreme inclines on my travels. I thought I had seen hills. And then I saw my new driveway.

I am not pregnant, the front of my dress is FALLING FORWARD.

I had been right about most external factors but a variable I had never considered was the dwelling itself and how easy or hard it might be to get a bicycle out of my house before I even began riding. It made me think about all the places I have lived and their varying levels of accessibility. One thing you sometimes notice riding a bike in the suburbs is just how unfriendly the world must be to people who require wheeled assistance. A number of times I have been cycling along the edge of somewhere I want to enter, endlessly looking for a break in the curb that did not force me into a busy driveway and wondering how people on gophers or in wheelchairs navigate such a car-centric environment. In this way, a two wheeled trip can occasionally highlight the more glaring deficiencies in our urban planning. Obviously, I am able-bodied and so can't speak to the experience of people who don't have a choice. There are undoubtedly a lot of other urban flaws I don't notice because they're not woven into the fabric of my everyday life as they would be for somebody with a disability. After all, when I get sick of looking for the ramp I can always lift my bicycle over the curb. In this regard, I know am lucky. At least infrastructure is something we can hope to change. Geography cannot always be helped.

"Does this slope make my butt look b- Wait. Stupid question."
P.S. Photo not even taken from the bottom…of the driveway.
It's much bigger in real life. So is the driveway.

The state of Tasmania is infamous for hills and my North West town is certainly no exception. My current home is at the base of a brutal hill so the pictured driveway is but a taste of the true depravity of the ascent. Fortunately, town is downhill. Physically getting a bicycle out of my house and to the top of the driveway is not too hard. It's getting back in that actually restricts my cycling activity. Bikes cannot be brought through the front door as there are more than 20 steep and curving steps followed by narrow internal stairs. Bicycles must be pushed up the last bit of hill before my house and THEN up the evil driveway. Not even Ginger's road bike made it over the initial obstacle the first few times he tried. Cycling any kind of bicycle up the driveway is physically impossible. Even driving some cars up it is impossible. Walking is a reckless act of adventure when the surface is slippery. So I cannot take the heavier Pashley out alone because I can't get it back up the driveway without spousal assistance. In this way, my cycling life has been impacted by housing choice like never before. Previous residences have had only a few steps up to the entrance, our last house we even stored the bicycles in the bedroom next to the front door for ease of access. Currently, I have to navigate several doorways and avoid scraping multiple walls just to get my bicycle to the appropriate portal. Living in such a restrictive landscape has certainly encouraged me to consider bicycle movement, housing configuration and geography in the future. It's also made me realise that if I really want to recreationally experience Tasmania from the seat of a bicycle (with bicycle touring being the eventual goal), I have to accept more gears and slightly less weight into my bicycle lifestyle.

I have to dip my toe into Roadie waters yet resist infection. Challenge accepted:

More on this mess later.

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