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Monday, February 28, 2011

Winter Cycling

The weather this past weekend with rain and snow was not conducive to cycling.  My wife, daughter and I went to support a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament some friends were competing in on Saturday. On Sunday, we shoveled snow and watched the Academy Awards while feasting on some takeout sushi to close the weekend.

Before falling asleep on Sunday evening, I hoped that Monday would present an opportunity to commute to work from my home in west Richmond to downtown Vancouver - a roundtrip ride of 40 km.  Waking up on Monday morning, I rushed to fix breakfast for my daughter before heading out the door.

Crappy cellphone picture
As you can see from the picture, the streets were mixture of dry and wet with the odd bit of snow loitering on curb lanes.  I am still dialing in the bicycle fit and feel relatively comfortable on this bike which I plan to use for the ride from Vancouver to Seattle in June.  I felt slower climbing the hill on Cambie Street from Kent Ave to 41st today but that is probably due to rider rust from irregular riding during the winter season.

Cycling has many benefits. I appreciate the mental clarity it brings: every turn of the pedal is an effort on my part which brings me closer to my destination. It focuses my attention and forges my body to align with my will to meet an objective. 

Cycling as a form of transport benefits the individual and society as a whole. The individual obtains health benefits from the exercise which lowers that person's consumption of health care services.  In a universal healthcare system, this is not a trivial matter.

Since road construction and maintenance are paid for through property taxes and NOT insurance premiums and vehicle licensing fees as many mistakenly believe, one could argue that cycling subsidizes the true cost of driving. (Gasoline taxes go to the government's general revenue and are not specifically designated for transportation).

Every bicycle on the road means one less car to contribute to rush hour gridlock, one less car competing for parking spots and one less car likely to hurt another human in the event of an accident. Bicycles don't contribute to the wear and tear of roadways as much as heavier vehicles. When I cycle to work, it means there is one less person to take a seat on the Canada Line and feeder bus thereby freeing up space for other commuters. Cycling also emits less green house gases. 

Having said that, please do not for a moment think that I am an anti-car extremist.  I embrace all forms of transportation.  I carpool with my father some mornings to spend time with him, I take public transit via the CanadaLine and cycle to work on other days.  Different commuting modalities do not have to war against each other for us to have a sustainable city which continues to be one of the most desirable places in the world to live.

Don't be a couch potato!  Stay active. 


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