Why is riding a bike important to you?
I just like riding a bike. Growing up, I was always on a bike.
I used to sit on the 401, going to work in Toronto, day after day, and I would dream of riding my bike to work. Now I get to live that dream.
How does riding change your relationship with your community?
Here are a couple of analogies that help explain how cycling changes my relationship with my community. For, me, it’s like the difference between watching a hockey game in a box and being in the stands. When I ride, I feel more a part of my surroundings. It’s great to say “Hi” to people I know as I pedal by or wait at traffic lights.
Another analogy demonstrating the difference between travelling by car and travelling by bike: Imagine getting somewhere by canoe or by motor boat. In a car, when travelling from A to B, you don’t normally pay attention to the journey. Whether you are paddling or pedalling you notice the wind and what is going on around you. Smelling the trees and flowers along the way is an added bonus.
Where do you go on the bike?
My favourite places to bike are the University and downtown. It’s nice when you can go right to the building you need to get to. When going to the University, I have to go up the Gordon Street hill to get there, and that’s ok.
When do you use the car? What are the factors involved in deciding which to use?
The decision to use the car for me is weather related. It also depends on how much of the city I need to cover in a day. I sometimes have meetings in the north or the west of the city. If the meetings are more than 5 km. away, I will take my car. If I go outside of Guelph, I use Community CarShare because of its efficiency.
What is the hardest thing about using the bike for transportation?
Your body has to be able to handle it. If you’re biking, you have to do other exercise too. You have to stay in shape.
When I lived in Winnipeg, I never let weather get in the way, but here in Guelph, I do. I’m a fair weather biker when it comes to business. My bicycle tires don’t handle lots of rain or snow.
Were there fears you had in the beginning about biking to work that have been disproved?
My fear was that it was going to be too time consuming, but it’s not. I didn’t know if my schedule could handle it, but it works. On a bike, you have to watch your time. You can’t push on the gas to go faster, like you can in a car.
When I first started riding a bike from the Chamber’s old office on Woodlawn Road and Silvercreek Parkway to City Hall, I noticed that it only took an extra 8 minutes of travel, which is less time than I expected. Finding a parking space and walking dropped out of the equation, so the difference in time was negligible.
I learned the importance of having panniers the hard way. Now I carry my files in a Canadian made Arkel panniers from Speed River Cycle.
I have learned to discipline myself to not race on hot days in order to not get sweaty. While having a shower at my destination would be nice, I find that simply riding slower makes a difference.
For evening meetings, I have a safety vest and lights. In the dark, cyclists are invisible and we have to realize that we can see motorists but motorists don’t see us.
What needs to happen in Canada to make the culture, and eventually the roads, more bike friendly?
I think attitudes and habits. We grow up in a certain way. We use the car as our default travel mode and I think people need to try new things. Growing up I rode in difficult traffic conditions, so find I am not intimidated by traffic. For me, it’s not so much about “share the road”; I think that you just have to be more careful.
What kind of bikes do you ride?
I’ve got two bikes. I first put a bike together when I was 10 years old. I used some parts off of my brother’s bike!
Over the years I have ridden used bikes, because I like to put them together myself. Currently, I have a Giant hybrid that is heavy and good for the city. I just bought a Trek Alpha road bike from Speed River Cycle, with an aluminum frame for when I want to ride longer distances, such as 40 or 50 kilometres. I like the extra range of gears and less weight.
What is the best part of your commute?
Riding down Grange hill.
What is the worst part of your commute?
Going up the Grange hill!
What infrastructure change would make your commute better?
I think the last 18 inches before the curb needs to be addressed as it is often in a state of disrepair. Also, the sewer grates aren’t always in good shape. It’s the surprises in the quality of road that get me. You really have to watch where you are going.
What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?
In the case of biking, you have to plan your time and your day a little differently. Once you get into the new habits, Its really not a big deal.
For example, we put solar panels on our roof. We thought it would be expensive, but it turns out that it is cost effective. Cycling is a different habit and any habit change requires time and a plan. It is similar to other changes in habit, such as going to the gym or changing what you eat. It is also good to have a buddy system. For example, my colleague, Chris Tiessen, has been inspiring me to get out and ride.