I present my observations and impressions about bicycle commuting in the south hills of Pittsburgh PA.
I commuted from my house to my office and back including three side trips to various stores using my 1980’s Cannondale for a full week. I was lucky enough to miss all the heavy rain though I biked in some drizzle. Bicycling around the South Hills of Pittsburgh isn’t the easiest commute. The hills really are something to contend with. I found I either was in my lowest or highest gear almost all the time. Literally only about 25% of the trip could remotely be considered level. Here are my observations:
- The laws of physics simply do not apply:
- Despite what scientists have told us, it is possible to ride uphill in both directions.
- You become invisible to most motorists. Drivers can be looking right at you when you have the right of way. You can make direct eye contact and enter the intersection. They will then begin to turn directly into you. Only then do you become visible again. At that point they will have an involuntary reaction of depressing their horn. For a really long time.
- Humans in Pittsburgh that are somehow able to see you will find you irresistibly annoying. Many people will yell, point at you as if they have never seen a bicycle and then display their middle finger to you. You do not need to actually be doing anything to elicit this response. Your mere existence seems to elicit hate hormones.
- It is possible to avoid almost every major road if you are willing to ride longer and climb more. That was a tradeoff I was happy to make. My drive to work is 1.2 miles but my bicycle commute is 2.2. Even so, my normal commute is 17 minutes and cycling added only 5 minutes onto the time.
- Fenders are mandatory and not an option. On the day of drizzle I was lucky enough to be wearing a rain slicker and that absorbed the worst of the road spray.
I must admit that the experience was an overall positive even despite the caveats above. Most drivers are beyond courteous. They gave me a wide berth and they cheerfully waved me by, even when they didn’t have to. I felt like I saw things I usually miss on the way. I felt more awake both before and after work. I became more mindful of my activities before and after work. I had to plan my trips and minimize unnecessary trips.