My hometown of Minneapolis/St. Paul is regarded as one of the top cities for biking in America, (the Twin Cities and Portland,Oregon seemingly always take top honors) but they’ve got nothing on Geneva. Yes, there are more cars than bikes in this city (I think) but the transportation infrastructure has clearly been designed and constructed with the cyclist as well as the motorist in mind.
Chris and I set out for a ride recently from our apartment in Geneva to a town called Hermance, which is about 20 kilometers up the south shoreline of Lake Geneva, or Lac Genève in French.(Strangely, this lake has two names… The people who don’t live in or near Geneva call it by its more romantic sounding name, Lac Léman.)
The most challenging part of the ride – at least for me – is the first half mile which is through town on the way down to the lake. There is a designated but not separated bike lane, but I suspect it might take me a few more rides before I am totally comfortable speeding alongside the bus and automobile traffic. Chris is a lot more daring than I am, but I am starting to agree with him that you are better off behaving more like a car in the busy stretches, than you are if you are too cautious.
One of the first thing you notice as a cyclist in Europe that I think is rare in most US cities is that there are traffic signals specifically designated for bike riders.
They are just like ordinary traffic signals, except they are lower, smaller, and the stop/go symbol is a bike rider. I have observed that bike riders are more apt to comply with the signal when it would be risky not to, and they tend to ignore the signal if they have a head of steam and they deem the signal to be “inconvenient”.
Once down in the center city, all eyes naturally gravitate to the Jet d’Eau, Geneva’s most photographed landmark, which is located just off the lake’s south shoreline, where we would be riding.
I warned Chris that I was going to be snapping a few pictures for my blog, and that he would have to be patient with me at times, and so I stopped to photograph the Jet d’Eau from the bike path. (I will dedicate more time to the monument itself in a future post, but for now its enough to know that it is a beautiful jet of water that the city even illuminates at night that –depending on wind conditions– shoots a massive stream of white water up to 140 meters into the air. We can see the tip top of it from our south facing balcony all the way from our apartment!)
As one is leaving the city and headed up the lake, the bike path morphs a bit from a dedicated lane to a combination dedicated lane/sidewalk, parking lot. This isn’t too troublesome, because there is still adequate room for a cyclist to get by and because the bike and pedestrian traffic has subsided by this point, but –as the photo illustrates– this feature is an example of cars utilizing existing bike infrastructure, rather than the more typical other way around.
[By the way, it was at about this point in the ride that Chris and I became separated. He’s naturally much faster than I am, and that fact, in combination with my incessant stopping to take pictures, resulted in us losing contact with one another. Even though we did essentially the same ride, we were unable to find one another and finally reunited 20 miles later at the end of our ride back at the apartment. We have vowed not to lose each other from now on.]
From that point on, one rides along with the view of the lake to your left, and picturesque rural scenery to your right. After about five or six kilometeres, the first small town you get to is called Vésenaz.
I could have posted a photo of some beautiful sunflower fields, or century old churches, or any number of more “European” vistas, but as I was riding along, a came upon this cornfield which made me think about our beloved home state of Minnesota, and so to honor our Minnesota roots, that’s what I decided to post!
Now that I’ve learned to incorporate short videos into this blog, from time to time I intend on recording something if I think it might help to give you a better feel for what I am trying to describe with mere words and still photographs. This was the case for this post. I shot the video below on the ride back into Geneva. Even though its a cliché, this video illustrates why I had a hard time shaking the thought from my mind throughout this whole ride: “What a beautiful place to ride your bike!”