Cycling Down the Cyberhighway

When connected to the Internet, my computer screen gives me a Vista (copyright Microsoft) of a vast multi-lane information superhighway stretching out wherever I want to go, and I can go to my favorites and click on the appropriate link and go there lickety-split. Or I can type a key word or phrase in a search engine and jump to a point on the data map laid before me as if I had my own jet plane or, even better, my own teleporter. No one sitting in the back seat asking “Are we there yet?” because we are as soon as we press the button — even if we’re not sure it’s where we wanted to be.

But I enjoy riding a bicycle. Apart from the exercise and the cool breeze on my face, there’s the ease of being able to turn easily down a side road and take a different path just for the fun of it, or just being able to stop wherever you happy to be and look around. Try doing that with a car in the city. You get a different sense of a city when you ride a bicycle. It can sometimes be difficult for a cyclist to give road directions to someone in a car because a car driver will be interested in fastest routes, straighter paths, etc., whereas the cyclist may be looking for paths that avoid traffic altogether, without thinking about street names and traffic lights, as long as s/he is going in the right direction.

You get a different feel for a place on a bicycle, and looking closer at that cyberhighway I notice that it’s jammed with shops and alleyways, so small that I hardly see them when I’m teleporting from place to place. It’s like a weird combination of a barren superhighway and a medieval thoroughfare filled with the sounds and smells of human activity.

Having raced up and down the cyberhighway in my car for years, I’m enjoying the serendipity of cycling on the social networks and being part of the different city that may have been here all the time. It’s cluttered, and the road signs aren’t always accurate, but it’s a collaborative world, and it’s good to be able to stop sometimes and ask where you are. And it’s even better when you find that it’s where you wanted to be all along.

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