Lately I’ve been looking into alternative sources of transportation to get around Wilmington. As I’ve said before, the bus system doesn’t work and taxi fares burn a hole in my pocket. Transport has to be one of the biggest challenges I face every week here, and at times it can be extremely frustrating to organize everything in advance. Living in Dublin, it’s easy to come and go as one pleases.
Aside from the obvious frustrations, the dependency on others means losing independence of controlling the places I want to go to and when. I am sick of having to worry about a taxi meter during grocery shopping—or being dropped off when nothing’s within walking distance, unless I’m downtown or at the beach.
Trying to figure out what else I can do also has its challenges. Someone suggested I invest in a scooter, but I don’t think I’d last a week on Market Street. I need something that doesn’t require a trek on busy roads to risk my life. So, I invested in a bicycle. Fortunately, where I’m living now, it’s within cycling distance to UNCW—my halfway point to work.
“Once you learn to cycle, you never forget”—so the saying goes. For me, one would think I never learned to ride in the first place; I never cycle at home. I think the last time I even owned a bike was when I was 10 years old, maybe younger. Still, I chose a bright Barbie-pink bike, which I somehow thought would make it easier to get to UNCW.
After my purchase, I ventured out to see how long it would take to get to the college grounds, find a place to chain my bike for the day and then hitch a ride with a fellow intern (or catch the bus). Getting there was fine; however, on the way home, I took a wrong turn somewhere along the way. I ended up cycling down numerous roads and cul de sacs, trying to retrace my steps to get back to the college and start over. It felt like I was cycling around a maze and no one was around to assist with directions. Everything looked different but the same. I’ve a useless sense of direction, so the sign posts marking each road didn’t help me either.
Dublin can be difficult to navigate at times, especially in large neighborhoods because all of the houses look identical. Although most houses here look different, I still wandered about aimlessly. Gardens overfilled with autumn leaves disguised any distinctiveness; it seemed I couldn’t pick out anything significant to help me get back.
Eventually, I had a breakthrough. A resident noticed I was lost and set me on the right track to the college. Enormously grateful, because I was knackered (very tired) at this point and just wanted water, I headed once again to the college to retry finding and biking to my house.
One difference between Ireland and Wilmington are the cycle lanes that seem to last only a small distance. When I used to live on Market Street, there was many a time I questioned why cycle lanes would fill half a sidewalk and then just end abruptly in the middle of nowhere. Where exactly did this engineer think a person cycling would go to? I’ve seen it again in a variety of other spots around the city; I just don’t get it.
One good thing about Irish cities: They do their best to promote cycling. Lanes get painted alongside the roads consistently. We also have “rent a bike,” where blue bikes can be rented out and parked at specific racks all over the city, so one can get anywhere within 10 to 15 minutes. And it is inexpensive: a three-day rental would work out as 2 euro ($5).
For a route that only took 10 minutes to get to, it took triple the time for me to get back home. Thank god for my roommate who had some wine handy upon my return; it’s rare to have the spins before drinking.
I think next time I’ll use the Hansel and Gretel trick with the bread crumbs to mark out my path home.