Adventures of a new cyclist.

Well! It’s suddenly winter again what with the snow and the rain and the windstorms predicted and here I was all ready for spring! And not only spring, but specifically bicycling weather! Not that I consider myself a cyclist yet or anything, but since receiving my birthday-gift bike, I’ve had a few really enjoyable rides that have whetted my appetite and confidence for more riding once I can be assured that I won’t freeze or get soaked (I’m a wuss about such things).

This past weekend was particularly good, despite the fact half of it was taken up by a union meeting. On Saturday I decided that since the forecast was good and I had to go to an awkward part of town for me by bus that I would check out the new separated Dunsmuir Viaduct bike lane and also practice my city-riding on a less busy day (my goal is riding to work, but rush hour freaks me out a little). There was a time many, many years ago when I experimented with riding to work but the gauntlet from the end of the Adanac bikeway to my actual office seemed just a tad too perilous to me…… Now I can literally go door to door on a combination of bikeways, dedicated bike lanes and separated bike lanes which I’ve discovered makes an enormous difference! I’m also really appreciative of the fact that the bike lane on Dunsmuir utilized an existing vehicle lane rather than taking over the pedestrian walkway which is still separated from both bike and vehicle traffic. So, I managed to get too and from my meeting by bicycle without any significantly scary moments and only a minimum of walking my bike (damn you Adanac hill!) and everyone at the meeting was totally impressed! Plus, I made up for a couple of missed workouts earlier in the week which I was jonesing for.

My second good bicycle experience on the weekend happened despite the rain when we loaded the bikes onto my new car and drove out to Fort Langley for the day. One of the activities M. really seems to enjoy is bike-riding so B. and I have been trying to get the bike out more often when she is with us. This past weekend we decided to check out the Fort-to-Fort trail and a bit beyond which follows the banks of the Fraser River through historic fort territory and farmland. The trail itself is almost all flat which made for an easy ride, and we managed to do about twelve km before the rain started down too hard. By the time we got inside for mochas it was full-on raining and we were all feelin pretty good about our little foray along the river. For family cycling I would highly recommend the Fort-to-Fort trail, though our skinny road tires didn’t like the gravel too much!

Turns out there’s all sorts of really great biking opportunities right on our doorstep – and plans for a lot more in the community greenways strategy which really excites me as someone who has always wanted to cycle but been scared off by potential traffic disasters. The more off-road cycling paths, bike lanes, bridge lanes, and designated bike routes that exist the more chance there is that I and the rest of my family will ride our bikes for transportation and recreation purposes. I’m looking forward to commuting by bike this spring and summer as the weather gets more consistent, and planning at least one family biking trip along the galloping goose from Victoria to Sooke too!

6 Comments on “Adventures of a new cyclist.

  1. i am also a relative newcomer to the world of urban cycling (commuting, errands, & pleasure-riding) and what seemed really intimidating in thought is actually turning out to be so much less so in practice. like your basic traffic navigation and such. i don’t even have a driver’s license so ‘the road’ always seemed like a realm of chaos to me, i couldn’t put much of the vehicular carrying-on (both cars and cycles) into context. i find vancouver to be supremely bike friendly though. they are really developing an extensive infrastructure for cyclists, & wow i’m real curious to check out the new viaduct lane…by the way, have you picked up one of those mini portable cycle route maps from any bike shop or the VACC office? so handy!

  2. I have very happy memories of biking with my dad and stepmom (and baby half-sister and older sister too!) on the weekends that we were with them… It was a good activity because we could all be together and yet a little bit in our own heads, and there were few opportunities for competitions and rivalries. I’m impressed by how much the bike infrastructure has grown in Vancouver, and look forward to hearing more about your adventures!

  3. @feral geographer – yes, exactly. it’s the perfect family activity with tween who maybe doesn’t want to hang out with us that much and be forced to converse.

    @hunter – I am so glad our city is finally getting there with bike infrastructure. I really feel like it’s changed so much since I moved here in ’95 which is really due to the rad bike activists getting heard after years of making noise. i have seen the cycling maps and totally need to pick one up soon:)

  4. Wicked. I sometimes despaired that you’d *never* take up riding in a dedicated way. For urban riding, there’s a really good skill to practice: shoulder check while tracking a straight line. Get that one physical skill down, and much about traffic becomes easy.

  5. Good to hear that you’re getting into it. Shoulder checking is essential, but I also advise that you take up your appropriate space on the road when “sharing” the road with cars. The law says that you should ride as close to the right as is safe or practical, so if there are potholes and glass at the side, then you should go right into the middle of the lane and stay there. Also, don’t ride near the area where parked cars can open a door into you. This commonly also means that you have to go right into the middle of the lane.

    Sometimes this means that some idiot will honk at you, but whatever. They’ll pass and you’ll never see them again. Better to be nice and visible in the center of a lane than to get doored at the side. You have a right to be there, it’s your road too 🙂

    Also, I find that a lot of beginner cyclists have a fear of cars hitting them from behind (which is natural, since you can’t see the cars back there), but this is actually only a very tiny fraction of the actual accidents that happen. Like 1% or something tiny like that. The real danger is cars that are coming towards you, and are making a left turn across your lane…or if you ride on the sidewalk, then the danger zone is when you cross any sort of intersection or driveway. Sidewalk riding is extremely dangerous, but again, a lot of people seem to choose it rather than ride safely on the road, because of that fear of cars coming behind them.

    One practical outcome from these beliefs about cars sneaking up behind cyclists to hit them is that a lot of cyclists will always have a blinky red light on the back of their bike, but no light on the front of their bike. This is exactly opposite of what the priorities should be. If, for some reason, you only have one light available when you go out at night, it should always be on the front of your bike to prevent the ~50% of accidents that happen from cars coming towards you, rather than on the back where it might prevent the ~1% of cars hitting you from behind.

    Anyway, through safe cycling practices you can be quite safe on the road. It’s great exercise and a great way to travel too. Starting in June I’ll be off in Germany, riding my bike up to Sweden. Riding and camping is much cheaper than trains and hostels, plus I’ll see more of the small towns 🙂

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