One of the best things about cycling, even in winter, is that it brings you closer to your surroundings than car travel or public transportation. You might wonder how close you want to be to your surroundings in the middle of winter, but here in Boston, it’s been unusually mild and snow-less (and for that matter, rain-less) so far, so you won’t find me complaining. After last winter’s record-setting snowfalls, it’s really nice not to have to deal with lanes narrowed by snow plows, icy streets, and frigid temperatures (wait…I said I wasn’t going to be complaining, right?). And judging from the number of cyclists I still see on the streets every day, a lot of other people are taking advantage of the mild weather too.
But even when the weather’s not ideal, there’s still something to be said for getting out on your bike. Like I said earlier, you get a real appreciation for your environment. You see things and hear things that you miss when you’re in a car with the windows rolled up and the radio on. To quote one of my favourite lines from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore.”
When you’re part of the scene, even the trip in to work can become something of an urban safari. The other day, I encountered a couple of a couple of wild turkeys, apparently residents of a local park, who had wandered out into the street. I had never seen a wild turkey up close before, and let me tell you, they are enormous. I always thought they were kind of like chickens, which don’t come up past my knees. But these things were at least 3 feet tall, and probably came up to my waist, at least. I didn’t want to get close enough to find out though, since the one standing in the street was clucking and eyeing me in a way that made me give it a WIDE berth on the lefthand side (although possibly he was just trying to scare off the oncoming traffic – but then he could have just gotten out of the street).
A couple of days after the turkey incident, I was stopped at a light, and I noticed a flock of pigeons doing laps around an apartment building – I suspect someone is training carrier pigeons. This is definitely something I wouldn’t have seen from a car. I’ve also seen raccoons and possums, as well as all kinds of birds, and the more common cats, dogs, and rats. It’s a daily reminder that people aren’t the only living things in a city.
Of course, sometimes you’re reminded that there are animals living in the city you’d just as soon live without (other than the terrifyingly large turkeys). I have had some close calls with skunks, although I managed to avoid getting sprayed. One time, it was fairly dark out, and I saw something moving near the wheel of a parked car, and I thought to myself, “That’s a weird looking cat,” which was followed almost immediately by “Oh my…that’s no cat!!” Another time, one ran out from behind a car, right in front of me. I had to brake so hard to avoid hitting it that I fell over – luckily there wasn’t any traffic, I was unhurt, and I did miss the skunk (and perhaps more importantly, the skunk missed me).
Do You have any Animal Sightings to Report?
How do you find cycling connects you with your environment? How has your winter weather/riding been so far this year? What animals have you seen on your rides? Have you ever been attacked by a wild turkey?