On Two Wheels

Given the physical and mental health benefits, you can’t afford not to do it

WITH VANCOUVER’S own Bike to Work Week campaign just recently wrapped up and June’s Bike Month just getting started, the propaganda is in full gear to get you spinning some spokes this summer. Now, I know that there’s a lot of fear among the average urban commuter to give up the petroleum-powered steel box that propels you to work and back every day, but perhaps I can help.

I am a dedicated bike commuter, you see, one of those fanatics you’ll find pushing pedals through the downpour pretty much year-round, and, having gone through the cycling learning curve, I can tell you a few things that I hope might lay your fears to rest.

Perhaps the most overwhelming fear among would-be bikers is bodily harm, the idea that cyclists inevitably become sticky statistics smeared out in tire-tread patterns on Broadway. Let me just say that I’ve now biked to work and back 95 per cent of the time for just over two years and have never been in an accident – never been in a situation even threatening to develop into an accident. Biking is really just like driving: it’s extremely safe unless you’re actually bent on being reckless.

Considering the abundance of bike routes in the city (both dedicated paths and traffic-controlled side roads) I rarely have to be adjacent to heavy traffic, and even when I choose busier routes, I’ve never felt unsafe. Sure, the first couple weeks were a bit nervous, but it’s just like learning how to drive: once you’ve become used to your space on the road and get a handle on how and when to assert yourself, it all runs like clockwork.

But reflecting on these last few years in the saddle, the thing that strikes me the most about my chosen mode of transport is how much economic sense it makes. I bike less than 10 kilometres to work each morning, yet I pass a transit boundary. A 2-Zone transit pass used to cost me around $100 a month. Add to that the gym fees I would probably have to be paying by now if I hadn’t decided to get on a bike (I generally dislike exercise for its own sake and loathe gyms). Which means that, even after buying quite a nice bike, some good accessories and very respectable rain gear, I’ll still break even in the span of maybe two years. Not bad for something that handles more than half of my total transportation, eh? And I’m sure most of you could count gas into those savings as well.

And don’t you hate being stuck in traffic? For me it was probably the most frustrating, soul-crushing part of my day. While a bike is certainly slower than a car, you almost never need to come to a full stop; your pace is dependent mostly on your own drive, not some other guy’s driving. And while you’re fulfilling your mandatory commuting time in a more relaxed way, you’re also getting a full dose of daily exercise, which many people are otherwise forced to devote extra time and money towards. Just pack a spare shirt to change into when you get to the office and you’re set.

I started off biking simply because I didn’t like my other commuting options. I hadn’t been on a bike in six or seven years, I wasn’t a hard-core athlete and certainly not any kind of health freak. But I remain simply shocked at how good a decision it’s been – and equally shocked at how few people around my office have tried it.

So why not give it a spin it while the weather’s nice? Who knows, by this fall maybe I’ll see you flying down 10th, all wrapped in Gore-Tex and with a big grin on your face.