One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve replaced my car with my bike for many short trips is the hidden beauty of my own neighborhood. Riding less traveled side streets to avoid heavy traffic, I have encountered corners of my own neighborhood I never noticed when driving my car. Delightful side streets, quiet back alleys, charming houses tucked away from the street, a neighbor’s garden flowers in bloom. The sounds of the neighborhood come alive on a bicycle as well. The sounds of birds singing, laughter from a nearby schoolyard, someone practicing piano, or perhaps just a quiet rustling of leaves in the trees, all become apparent when you’re on your bike.
There are probably a number of reasons we miss so much when we drive, including the fact that when we’re in our cars, we usually head straight for main roads, we’re moving too fast to notice the little things, and we’re (understandably) paying close attention to the other cars on the road or (regrettably) paying attention to the dashboard radio and/or cellphone. Often, the windows are rolled up, the air conditioning and the radio are on, and we’re cut off from our surroundings. Indeed, the near complete insulation of the driver from his/her surroundings has become a major selling point for high-end carmakers.
Of course, it’s not all sweetness and light. On busier thoroughfares motor traffic seems noisier and more obnoxious, sirens ear-splittingly loud. But the new things you see on those streets, like the little restaurant or shop you never noticed in your car, more than make up for those passing annoyances. Bottom line: in your car you are isolated from your surroundings, on your bike you discover them.