Exploring Cities

Yesterday night I went and checked out the Bicycle Film Festival here in DC. I only saw one film, Urban Bike Shorts, and I found it to be really well done. I originally sat down to write about the festival, but I didn't feel like there is a lot to say. Instead, I want to touch on my favorite short from the film, "Toyko to Osaka" the story of a group of guys who make a bicycle journey across Japan.

The idea behind the short film is that transportation has too often become a question of two points: the beginning and the end, with everything in the middle just filler. But what happens in the middle doesn't have to be meaningless, it can be a journey, if that's the experience we want.

When it comes to exploring cities, I'm convinced there are few better ways of doing it than on a bike. There is value to exploring as a pedestrian, but by it's very nature, such exploration would take a long time to accomplish.

(from Flickr user adamlerner)

I know that in the past two months I've seen things in DC that longtime residents have never seen; and there is still so much I haven't. Motorists tend to stick to car-friendly streets that allow them to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Pedestrians tend to stick to areas that they feel comfortable walking. But a bike is fast enough that you can see a reasonable amount of the city in a short period of time, but slow enough that it doesn't make it all look like a blur.

In my opinion, it's not just the best way to explore the city you live in, it's the best way to see any city.


    I've been a runner for almost 30 years. In that time I've run in cities of all sizes and types, from Seattle to NYC, from Cape Cod to Ixtapa to London.

    One of the gifts my running has given me is the opportunity to explore places and discover things you miss from the seat of a car. I agree cycling is a great way to discover too. Running has been a fun and exciting way to experience "new" things even in my hometown of Ann Arbor.

    The time it takes to run through a downtown, the time you spend waiting for a light, getting lost on a new route. Each of these contributes to the fabric of one's experience in a place.

    Incidentally, I grew up in the Metro DC area and have experienced it by car, Metro, by bicycle and on foot as a runner. You see so much more out of the confines of a steel machine. The smells, the tastes, the sounds are richer and therefore the experience is more memorable.

    Like you, I've noticed things while running that I surely have missed driving by. I'm thankful for all the miles I've spent discovering my own backyard and thousands of others all over.