Interview with James Schwartz of The Urban Country

James Schwartz of The Urban Country

There are a lot of great cycling blogs out there with a lot of interesting information for both beginner cyclists and experienced cyclists.  So, Cycling For Beginners will be featuring interviews with some of the cycling bloggers that we like to follow.  One of those bloggers is James Schwartz.

James Schwartz is the Editor of James lives in Toronto, Canada and advocates for using bicycles for daily transportation in North America by highlighting how other cities around the world have built their urban bicycling cultures.

CFB: Tell me a little about your riding history?

Schwartz: I have been riding on two wheels since I was 3-years-old. When I was 12 years old, living in a small town in Ontario, I would bicycle 5km to school on nice days, and prior to turning 16 I would use my bicycle as transportation to get to baseball practices and to visit friends in the city. When I moved to Toronto in 2002 I started using my bicycle again for transportation and have used a bicycle for transportation off and on for the last 8 years.

CFB: What kind of riding do you do now?

Schwartz: I ride a bicycle for every-day year-round transportation using an upright hybrid Trek cruiser that I have outfitted with a large basket and fenders. I also own a K2 racing bicycle to compete in the odd triathlon, but I don’t own any lycra gear and you’ll rarely see me on the racing bike.

CFB: How do you train to improve your riding?

Schwartz: I have never trained to improve my riding. I believe I ride just fine, and I’m rarely in a particular hurry to get places, so improving my speed is not a factor for me. Incorporating bicycling into my daily routine helps to keep me fit, and it helps me to clear my mind from the stresses of daily life.

CFB: What is it about cycling that you find exiting these days?

Schwartz: I am particularly excited about the amount of attention that bicycling for transportation has been receiving lately both in the mainstream media and online. In the Toronto mayoral election, bicycle infrastructure was a hot topic of debate between the candidates, so this is a positive sign that bikes are an important part of our city and political process. I’m also excited that people in North America are starting to view utilitarian bicycling as something that can be done in regular clothing instead of the historic view that bicycles are for recreation and require pretentious clothing and gear.

CFB: What advice would you give to a beginner cyclist who is just getting into (or getting back into) riding a bike?

Schwartz: My first recommendation to a beginner commuter cyclist would be to take your time, enjoy the ride, and be safe. Choose comfort over performance, and use a bicycle that can be ridden in your regular clothes (chain guards, fenders, baskets all contribute to add more comfort). Plan your routes to avoid more dangerous streets, and be courteous and obey the laws that make sense. I would also recommend you become a member of an advocacy group to help fight for better infrastructure in your city. Lastly, tell your friends how much you enjoy your ride and encourage them to do the same. This will help make things better for your friends, yourself, and everybody else who chooses the best mode of transportation on earth – the bicycle.

Our thanks to James for taking the time for this interview!  Be sure to check out his blog, The Urban Country.

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