I do not ask this question rhetorically, but as part of my thinking-outloud process: Is 2016 going to be my year of cycling?
I think it might be:
- Translink bus service in Vancouver is on a downhill ride to nowhere. Ever since the residents of Metro Van voted against a tax to support transit (boo!), we have been faced with service cut-backs and a halt to expansion that makes it pretty much impossible to rely on once you’re out of the downtown core. Witness the 135 at Nanaimo and Hastings in the morning – if I attempt to catch it, I may have to wait for up to 4 busses in order to get one that still has room. The #7 from Nanaimo Station to downtown often leaves stops early or doesn’t show up at all (both of these things have happened to me in the past two weeks, more than one time). I try to be zen about it – but I’m weary of transit dependence after the past few months of poor service.
- Busses and skytrains are germ factories in the wintertime. I’m pretty sure that 90% of the colds I get come from being crammed into close proximity with other people every day. Plus other people are super-annoying at close proximity. I am annoying to them also.
- I don’t mind walking to work, but I’m trying to also fit in meditation and start work earlier these days. Going back to walking would mean getting up at 4:30 which is not okay (I currently rise at 5).
- Commute stats for me door-to-door are:
- Bus: 45 minutes (on a good day)
- Walking: 70 minutes
- Bike: 25 minutes.
- Cycling in downtown Vancouver feels way safer since the introduction of protected/separated bike lanes. Plus there are some great bike ways worth exploring like the Central Valley Greenway which connects Vancouver and New West.
- There are bike shops and repair companies in every single neighbourhood now, including mobile services! Fixing a flat is intimidating to me (at the moment) – and I appreciate that I can pay someone to help me with this.
- Being outside and exercise are two things I want more of in my life.
- Autonomous travel is awesome – but driving every day is gross and expensive.
Negatives to me are the following: Losing downtime that I get on the bus, hills and rain. Since I want to be successful at this riding thing (otherwise, why invest in the expense of a bike) – here’s my strategy for each:
Loss of downtime: I get a lot of knitting done on the bus. If I stop taking the bus I’ll have to take my lunch break to compensate for the lost knitting time. Also, cycling cuts my commute time in half so I have more time at home in the morning and evening.
Hills: I really hate hills. Probably the number one reason that I stopped riding to work a few years back is because on the way home I have to tackle the Adanac hill and I seriously hated it every time. Friends tell me that all I need is a better bike/more gears/ etc etc. I don’t actually believe that, I’ve ridden three different bikes previously and none of them made a difference to how hard that was for me. I am prepared, however, to keep an open mind on this. First I’m going to experiment by getting a new bicycle that is more suited to me than those I previously owned and I’m going to start riding as soon as I’m organized to do so in the new year. If I notice that hills are stopping me from riding and a super-miserable experience after a couple of months than I am fully prepared to look into purchasing this type of electric assist which seems to me the most versatile of the bunch.
Rain and cold weather: I’m not prepared to ride on frosty/icy days – that’s beyond my skill level – but since Vancouver gets very few of those in a year mostly what I have to focus on is rain. In previous bouts of riding to work, I was stubborn about not investing in rain gear for cycling. Instead I bought really good (expensive and waterproof) panniers which were a great investment, and then re-purposed camping clothing during inclement weather. For some things that totally works, but I’ve come to realize that I need a decent cycling jacket and some of those things that cover your shoes and keep the rain off them. Probably a pair of cycling tights that slough off water wouldn’t hurt either. Point being, I’ve got to invest in some purpose-built gear that isn’t flappy or baggy (like some of the camping rain pants are) – and that fits me properly. Also, cycling gloves. I hate it when my hands get all wet and slippery.
I suppose the biggest thing that I’m going to do to ensure riding success is purchase a brand new, properly fitted bicycle that is appropriate to the purpose of commuting and otherwise getting around town. While I’ve had some lovely bikes in the past, I have never once gotten one new and with the appropriate sized frame for me. Since I’m on the short-side, that means I’ve mostly ridden bikes that are too big and a bit precarious to get on/off. Also, I like the idea of a mixte frame because I’d like to be able to ride in a skirt from time to time- but I’m aware that might not be what I end up with. I want to get something that is not too heavy (30 pounds or under), and has fenders and the ability to put a pannier rack on the back. According to everyone I know, I also want something with a wide range of gears.
I think I’ll start my search at SideSaddle Bikes which is in my hood (close enough) and which I keep hearing good things about as a woman-focused bike shop, and I’m pretty committed to getting on this purchase as soon as the holidays are over so I can start riding early in the new year (I already know I can ride in good weather – let’s see if I can tough out the worst months).
I’ll let you know how it goes – the purchase, the gear, the beginnings of riding again. This is not my first foray into cycle-commuting of course – but it *is* my most serious. I’m hoping the cash outlay will keep me motivated long enough for it to become an actual habit that I enjoy!