fitness · walking

Walking vs. biking in a new place

This weekend and half of next week find me in sunny and warm southern California– San Diego, to be precise. This is my first visit here. I’m in town for the American Public Health Association meetings, which is a humongous conference (more than 12,000 attendees). I’m giving a talk on health promotion metrics and values (I wrote a preview blog post about this topic a couple of weeks ago here).

One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to stay in an Airbnb or some such in an interesting neighborhood and check out the local sights on foot.  I’ve done just that, and set out today to see what I could see, which included some lovely flora:

As I was walking along, though, I saw a bunch of dockless rental bikes and scooters (those were electric, I was informed) parked every which way on the sidewalks. I was tempted to throw my leg over a Lime Bike (person-powered) and pedal off towards the sunset (that is, toward the beach). However, I’m planning to rent a bike the old-fashioned way from a bike shop, where I can get a lock, a helmet, and a slightly fancier bike.

Here’s the thing, though: today I just didn’t feel like cycling.  I wanted to see the world on foot.  So I did.  I meandered in my neighborhood, went downtown, met some friends, and we wandered around a bit to do touristy shopping and then have dinner.

The thing about traveling on foot for sightseeing and exploring a new place is that it is 1) slow; 2) results in covering less ground; and 3) is not as comfortable for someone recovering (as I am) from a sprained ankle. On a bike you get to 1) see sights at as brisk a pace as you like, but still in leisurely fashion; 2) don’t have to worry about parking; 3) get around efficiently and cheaply if walking is a problem.

Today, though, my pace of life felt like a walking one. So walk I did. San Diego seems to agree with my ankle, as I felt much less pain and more ease than the few days before.


Tomorrow, I am headed to a local bike shop to get kitted out for tooling around town on two wheels. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the area, but at the moment I’m enjoying the slower pace of walking.

This made me wonder: is it okay to go really slow sometimes?

(voice in my head): What a silly non-question, Catherine.  Of course it’s okay!

(me): You don’t have to be hostile about it. I’m just wondering how to balance my desires for both slow and faster modes of self-propulsion around town.

Please excuse the interruption of some inner dialogue here.  Back to the blog post now.

Don’t get me wrong:  I love love love seeing the world from the handlebars of a bike.  Especially fun is exploring a new city by riding.  I’ve done this dozens of times while traveling.  However, some cities seem to beckon me to slow down and check them out while strolling.  I felt this way when I was in Sydney, Australia.  I took hundreds of photos of plants and flowers and birds and trees, which were much easier to do on foot. San Diego is grabbing me this way, too.

I’ll probably end up cycling some, but I’m finding I want a more up close and personal physical experience of moving around here. We shall see what happens, and I’ll report back.

Readers, what are your preferences about sightseeing or exploring a new place?  Walking or biking?  Or some other mode?  How much speed do you need as a tourist? I’d love to hear from you.



7 thoughts on “Walking vs. biking in a new place

  1. I love biking in a new place—I somehow feel more integrated into the flow of life and less touristy. Walking is grand, but sore on the legs. I’m not sure why but running is less taxing. All though are wonderful ways to explore!

  2. Love both. Biking can be tricky in terms of logistics. Walking is too slow to see as much as I usually want to see. Also these days with the bum knee I can’t walk as far as I’d like. My 25k steps days are behind me, I think

    1. Yes, me too. I thought I would have to bike in order to get around bc of bum ankle, but I seem to be doing much better (YAY!). Also, with DVT I can’t ride a dockless bike bc I did’t bring helmet from home. I hope to ride on Coronado Island and around a bit before leaving.

  3. Sam and Catherine, send me your San Diego cycling recommendations! I’ll be there (in La Jolla, precisely) this coming weekend.

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