September is a transitional time in the city of Peterborough in more ways than one. There’s a great influx of new students to the city, both up here on Campus and all throughout the downtown, and the weather is prone to sudden shifts from unseasonable warmth to dry chills and from sunny skies to thunderclouds and downpours. It’s because of the river, if you were curious. The river changes the direction of the wind, and tugs weather down into the city, which causes the changeability.
As you spend time in this city, you’ll find that the river changes the course of more than just the weather. It divides local politics, and it limits access between different neighbourhoods to just a few bridge crossings.
Our first tip, as you get learn your way around this city, is to always take the river into account when you plan your routes. If you don’t, you’ll often find yourself needing to make significant detours.
Our next tips concern the roads themselves. Peterborough is an old city, and that means she’s got some weird roads. There are a number of one-way streets, especially downtown, and riding a bicycle against the flow of traffic should never be attempted. It’s both highly dangerous and completely illegal.
There are also a number of roads and intersections you’ll want to avoid if possible. Charlotte and Park comes to mind, especially if you’re turning east, because of the blind corner. Charlotte St. turns into Clonsilla, which is way too narrow to pretend to be a four-lane, and which for much of its length has a 60k limit. Drivers have a nasty habit of driving way too fast around hairpin turns, in too-narrow lanes, so cyclists beware. Same goes for Water St., north of Marina. South of Marina isn’t bad, with clear bike lanes and even dividers coming right into downtown, but you’ll still often have to contend with busses pulling right to take on or let off students. Really, if you’re coming to or from Campus, skip Water altogether, and take Armour to the bike path instead. It’s a way nicer ride with better scenery, less traffic, better paving, and clear crossings and signage.
In fact, networked through the city are a number of understated bike paths. They cross main streets regularly enough that you’re never locked in for more than couple of minutes, and they’re a complete joy to ride. Keep an eye out for the local wildlife, especially herons, raccoons, and the carp splashing in the river.
Tip number five is about security. Because of the sheer number of cyclists in this city, there are a lot of bikes, and there’s a decent amount of bike theft. Let’s not beat around it — bike theft happens in this city. On the other hand, with so many hundreds of bikes around, it’s pretty easy to take steps to make sure that your bike isn’t a tempting target. If you can lock it up out of sight, do it. Get a good quality lock, and make sure you’re locking through the frame as well as the front wheel securely. If you’ve got a quick-release wheel or bike seat, make sure you’re taking them with you when you leave your bike or they might walk away on you. Record your bike’s serial number somewhere safe, and file it at the police station as well. There are a half-dozen or so used bicycle stores around town, plus a few pawn shops, so if your bike ever does get stolen, they can blacklist that serial number for you and, hopefully, get it back to you.
Tip number six is a no-brainer (if the reader will forgive the gruesome pun.) Wear a helmet. Period. It’s amazing that I still have to tell people that, but I see a dozen people bike past my window every day without one. Just, don’t do that. Don’t be that guy.
And my last tip is to just cycle as much as you can. It’s good exercise, it’s way more fun that a bus commute, it’s better for the environment, and it cuts down on noisy traffic. Peterborough ploughs those bike paths I mentioned earlier, so, as winter approaches, bundle up and keep pedaling.
I’m contributing this guest article on behalf of Bay Area Bicycle Law. They’re a law firm in California that exclusively represents cyclists, and they’re a major force for bike-related activism. Check them out on Facebook, or check out their blog for more bike-related tips like these.