I remember a few years ago, I went to see Roger Geller, the Bicycle Coordinator for the city of Portland speak. Overall it was a fantastic presentation – if you’re curious, the slides can be found here. But one of the subjects he touched on was the idea of risk versus comfort. There are definitely some situations that are more risky to cycle in than others. I remember when I was plotting last year’s route into New York City, one option had us going along the east side of the Hudson river. At one point the directions said very clearly “WALK, DO NOT RIDE ON THIS STRETCH.” The traffic was known for being so dangerous that riding a bike there was risking one’s life. However, there’s also the idea of comfort, or more specifically feeling comfortable in a riding position. For example, in much city traffic, the safest thing to do is to take the entire driving lane. The reason for this is simple: there isn’t enough space for both a bike and car to safely share the lane, taking the entire lane encourages drivers to switch lanes entirely rather than just squeezing to the left enough to get by you. This practice also ensures you’ll be much more visible. But in some traffic that doesn’t feel comfortable. Very often, riding in the centre of the lane feels very vulnerable, in part because you’re right in the middle of the lane, and also in part because of anticipated or actual driver aggression.
Recently with all of the news about gun violence, and an increase in the purchase of guns including assault weapons by folks in the US, I’ve decided that a route through the US is not something I want to take on. Whether this is because of actual risk or “comfort level” as I mentioned above could be the subject of much debate, but in my case, my path forward is pretty clear. Long distance cycling has its inherent risks, as does doing it through relatively desolate areas along with the weather that can be expected in the deep south. I don’t want to add any further risk – perceived or otherwise to this trip.
So while the trip will definitely go forward, it will occur outside of the borders of the United States. At this point an eastbound trek, perhaps to Newfoundland is what seems most likely, but the final route is still to be determined.