Ryan Ritskes, the Bread Bandit
I first heard about Ryan from an article in Guelph Today, about a man who delivers artisan bread by bike. Naturally, I thought it was a great combo and promptly signed up our household for a weekly bread drop in our mailbox. I have not been disappointed (the bread is definitely yummy,) and neither have his other customers, as his business is booming. And he delivers all 140 loaves to households and businesses by bike! (To inquire about getting your own loaves, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
I thought Ryan would be a resident expert about cycling in Guelph, since he regularly cycles in Guelph for business, transportation, and pleasure. Here are Ryan’s thoughts on cycling in Guelph.
Hi Ryan, how is it that you can deliver 140 loaves of bread by bike?
The way that Guelph is built certainly helps. I have my bakery downtown, and all of my customers are within a 10-15 minute radius of downtown. So I can get to my customers really fast.
Do you bike in the winter as well?
Yes. Since I’m originally from Victoria, BC, I am used to biking year round, especially in the rain! When I moved to Guelph six years ago, I just continued cycling in the winter. This year, however, I did buy some studded tires, especially after our first bout with freezing rain.
Why is riding a bike important to you?
On a personal level it keeps me active and healthy. On a social level I think cars ruin our culture. You don’t get to interact with people .You value getting from A to B over relationships and your immediate environment. It’s all about speed.
Where do you go on the bike?
Everywhere. I use it for errands or getting to friends places, even going to Kitchener, or for a pleasure ride.
When do you use the car? What are the factors involved in deciding which to use?
I use the car for longer trips. Something that would take longer than an hour on a bike. I also use it when I pick up 500 pounds of flour. Otherwise, I use the car when I’m feeling lazy.
What is the hardest thing about using the bike for transportation?
It’s the getting started. Sometimes the anticipation of working hard when I’m tired makes me reluctant to get on the bike. But once I’m on it I love it.
Do you find yourself trying to convert other people to using bikes as a means of transportation?
I hope I can influence others by example. I hope that I set the example that you can have a business based around the bicycle. If my friends are going somewhere I suggest the bike, but I’m not the preachy type.
How did you come to your current bike set-up? How does it work?
I actually have 7 bikes. I have one for every purpose and every season. My “Bread Bandit” bike is a road bike with a straight bar and a steel frame with a trailer attached. I got that bike for 80 dollars. Of my other bikes, I raced in university but I don’t ride them much now. I prefer my “Bread Bandit” bike.
How would you respond to people who feel a car is just safer?
On a personal level I would say that the car is safer than a bicycle. However, if everyone biked, then riding bikes around the city would be safer.
I’ve had the misfortune of being hit by a car 5 years ago. I was t-boned by a car turning left at the intersection of Woolwich and Oxford by the main library, while I was in the bike lane and got seriously injured. When you are on the bike you have no protection. I have since recovered but it is always in the back of my mind.
What needs to happen in Canada to make the culture, and eventually the roads, more bike friendly?
I was in Ottawa last month and noticed that they did something simple on Wellington street. Instead of bike lanes they painted bicycles in the middle of the road. Bicycles don’t need to be pushed aside. In Ottawa, the bicycle symbols are on a two lane road with low speeds where cars can’t get around you.
In Montreal, last winter, I saw that they have separated bike lanes. I’m not a huge fan of Guelph’s bike lanes (partly because I got hit in one.) Cars don’t expect me to be out of the bike lane. In Vancouver they have parallel streets that are bike friendly, and those streets are great. Imagine living on one of those streets; it would be a great place to raise children.
Name the top 5 five things you think people get out of transportation cycling.
- Regular exercise
- Interactions with people (All the time, people say kind words to me when I’m on my bike. Often they are curious about what I’m carrying!)
- Stronger sense of place in the community
- Get to enjoy the weather, be excited by it.
- Inspire people. I find that little kids are fascinated by people who come regularly to their door. Kids are super fascinated by me, since I come on the bike. I hope I can inspire them, that it’s not about the bread, it’s about the bicycle.
Describe a typical delivery route.
I do a neighbourhood at a time. I do 50 houses. Most places are within a block or 2 of each other. It takes me about 1-2 hours. I deliver 3 days a week. It’s a full time 40-50 hour a week job, of which delivery would be about 5 hours. It takes longer by car. (I tried last winter, and I had to find a parking spot, so I was doing a lot of walking.)
What is the best part of your commute?
The best part is taking little tricks to get to certain spots. From The Guelph Music Centre across the Norfolk bridge, or skirting up a one way street quickly.
I also love it when the sun is shining!
What is the worst part of your commute?
Busy roads with lots of cars, such as Edinburgh, sometimes Woolwich and Norfolk, and Speedvale. Speedvale and Edinburgh are the worst.
What infrastructure change would make your commute better?
Whether separated bike lanes or sharrows, either would be good. And if car drivers weren’t as impatient.
I feel lucky with my trailer, I take up more space than when on a regular bike so people respect me more.
What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?
I usually tell people to not be scared of your right to the road. Make yourself visible.