By Kathy Hughes
It rained in the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7, but the late afternoon and evening were nigh perfect as weather can get, in my estimation. The air was soft and warm — balmy — and the temperature was a perfect 75 degrees, enhanced by a light breeze. The air felt like velvet on my skin, and, being an extremely sensate person, all my tensions, negativity and bad thoughts melted away. Call me a hedonist, but this was true bliss.
I was headed for a bike ride along the Erie Canal, something I haven’t done for about 10 years. I traded in my trusty bike several moves ago, and, in the age of mountain bikes, my sleek, 20- pound racing bike (Peugeot) proved to be irreplaceable and unaffordable. Instead, I took up horseback riding.
Now that “bike sharing “ is provided along the Canal, I was looking forward to a test spin to see if I could still ride a bike; yes, I read about it in the Eagle Bulletin — Hayleigh Gowans’ article about bike sharing on the Erie Canal. Thanks to Onondaga County, and an outfit called Cuse Cycle, bikes are lined up, waiting for riders —like a taxicab queue, at the canal entrance.
Bike sharing is a concept originally developed to encourage commuters and city dwellers to abandon their cars, and take up bike travel instead. Originally, use of the bikes was free, and based on an honor system to return the bike; return could be to any authorized location in the area. Evidently, this turned out to be an expensive system — sadly, there is no honor among bicycle thieves, and at one city, six bikes were found rusting in the canal.
To my sorrow, I did not read the Eagle Bulletin article closely — the newer model for “bike sharing” is high tech, and it is not free; consequently, I showed up for my canal ride empty handed and unprepared. The bikes can only be rented through a phone app, and charged to a credit card. The app is required both to remove and return the two-wheelers from the rack. You must supply your credit card information to register through the app.
I was not to be discouraged, and, thankfully, had thought to bring my phone and wallet in case of some emergency (like falling in the canal). Once you are set up, I don’t imagine most savvy people experience the level of frustration I did in downloading the app and registering.
The rental charge is $5 for half an hour; $25 for all day. I’ll reserve comment, as I realize I’m living with bygone values, but I was stunned, especially since I thought bike sharing meant “free,” I wouldn’t have balked at a returnable deposit, or one or two dollars an hour.
At least the bicycles are not high tech, and they are not bikes likely to tempt a thief. Without knowing the brand, these appeared to be old-fashioned Schwinn bikes, painted orange. There is a wire basket in front, plus a hand-brake and a bell on the handlebars. Pedaling in reverse operates the rear wheel brake, bringing you to a complete stop; the handbrake basically just slows you down
My apprehensions about re-activating the ability to actually ride a bike were somewhat justified. The wobbles set in hysterically anytime I tried to slow down, stop or pass walkers on the path. If it were not for the fact that the path has been enlarged from a narrow towpath to the equivalent of a six-lane highway, and the rough gravel replaced with tarmac, I would have been in danger of toppling over into the murky canal.
Putting the experience into perspective, I had a wonderful ride, enjoying the scenery, chirping insects, and the pure thrilling rush of speed. I stopped to take pictures, to listen to the water, and just drink in a beautiful fall evening. It was worth $5, but I’m going to savor the experience and stow it away before I try it again. An evening like that doesn’t come around very often.
Dec 13, 2017
Dec 13, 2017