It’s confession time.
Montreal is ranked 5th place among world’s the most bicycle-friendly cities, and pretty much everyone here seems to bike from the womb. But I have to confess that I’ve never biked in the six years that I’ve lived here. Not even once. Not until this week anyway.
And… well… It’s not that I don’t know how to bike.
The first non-food material possession that I remember wanting as a child was a bicycle. I was living in southern Iran at the time, and sitting in the window of a shop near our house was a little red bike with shiny streamers hanging from its handles. Thoughts of this bike consumed my days, my nights, my dreams. Though for something I was entirely obsessed with, I don’t actually remember how or if I ever got bike. Maybe I blacked out from the excitement. In any case, a year later when we’d moved, I was definitely in possession of a red bike which I raced the kids in the neighborhood with. Some of the proudest moments of my life included knowing: I was the Lance Armstrong of a group of 5-8 year olds.
However, when I moved to Canada I didn’t really ever own a bike since my schools were always nearby. Halifax was not a bicycling-city anyway. The entire city is marked by rolling hills which can be quite exhausting to tread. My dad had a bike which I tried on occassion, but over time– particularly by high school– I didn’t really bike at all.
When I arrived in Montreal, I realized that the city’s ethos was cycling– which made me determined to jump back on the saddle. Terrible driving is also one of the city’s popular features. Consequently, one of the first things I saw in this city was an accident involving a car and a bicycle. Now, that really shouldn’t have discouraged me– what are college years for if not the potential reckless endangerment of oneself! But I was put off the purchase of a bike. Afterwards, anytime a friend’s bike would get stolen, or they’d break a bone in an accident– I’d justify this choice to myself: this year isn’t good for biking, maybe next year. In the years following, the city began an incredible transformation. More bike racks were installed, 535km of dedicated cycling lanes were drawn, and a public bike sharing system (BIXI) was introduced. But I still awaited that… next year.
Last year while abroad in Taiwan, the group I was with had a little bicycle tour which was sprung on me by surprise. At first, I wanted to opt-out, but then realized that I would really miss out (read: would be left behind, forever alone, etc.), and decided I had sufficient experience as a child Lance Armstrong to get back on the seat. Besides, it’s a universally-known fact that biking is something you never forget. Like cats falling on their four limbs. The thing is, that inherent ability can get a little rusty. I figured this out when my friends biking behind me began inquiring loudly what [the ****] I was doing and whether I was [on a mind-altering substance].
I did manage to get to the destination, and the ride became smoother. Later, while in Beijing, I actually began renting bikes and going around. The city is not particularly bike-friendly, but there is a lot of cyclists. Some of them on heels. It was exciting. My hesitation had vanished. Last year was next year.
In the summer, as soon as I returned to Montreal, I purchased a daily pass for the BIXI and decided in mid-day that I would began my bicycle journey in Montreal. I entered the key, the bike was released, i adjusted it, put on my helmet, and got on the bike. I was a little shaky, but everything was going to be fine. However, as soon as I got on the bike I couldn’t go further than a meter before I decided: Nope. Still not next year.
As I mentioned, my confession is that I’ve never biked in this city.
Until this week that is.
It took a change in setting to shake that mindset off and realize that over the years, for various reasons, I’d grown fearful not of cycling but of cycling in this familiar setting. With that in mind, I knew that I would have to wean myself out of the fear. So I bought myself a yearly BIXI pass. For the past week– in the morning at 6am– when there is no soul to be seen, except for giant delivery trucks, I’ve been biking in the city as slowly and hesitantly as a 90 year-old grandmother with highly fragile hip bones. Frankly, they probably could do circles around me. I may not be winning any cycling races in this neighborhood soon, but I’m quite happy to say that I’ve finally began biking in Montreal– and it’s not even next year!Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi