Commuting by bike is not as daunting as you think
Bridget Stringer-Holden // Contributor
Since HUB Cycling, a Metro Vancouver cyclist advocacy group, started the Bike to Work Week program in 2008, there have been about 20,000 people who have started commuting via bicycle. According to the HUB database, the majority of them continued cycling as well, with an average of 70 to 75 per cent of new riders still biking two months after the event. Those numbers still don’t account for seasoned cyclists like Michael Begg, an instructor at Capilano University, who began long before Bike to Work Week was established.
“I don’t ever drive, except a couple times a year maybe, if I’m hauling something big up to the office,” said Begg. He originally began cycling in 1991 during his summer co-op job as a UVic student. “I just found it was the best way to get to work, I just loved it, it was my exercise and it woke me up in the morning and then again after work.” When the SeaBus shut down due to the 2011 Stanley Cup riots, Begg learned biking across Lions Gate Bridge was a faster way home. Soon after, he started commuting via bicycle every day – rain or shine. Dry feet are his only requirement for comfort. “It was all upside, no downside.”
To get people cycling more often, HUB cycling started hosting Bike to Work Week every spring and fall. Mobi, a Vancouver bike share program, also has free 24-hour bike rentals throughout Bike to Work Week, which ran from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4 this year. At every HUB station, quick bike maintenance was offered. There were also comment cards where people could write what parts of their bike route they wished to see improved. “Most people that engage in Bike to Work Week do end up cycling continuously after the fact. We use Bike to Work Week as a kind of hook to get new people in, but also to encourage people who normally bike to work to record those stats, so we have that snapshot of cycling at a specific point in time,” said Tom Skinner, the Bike to Work Week manager.
Though Begg was not personally influenced by Bike to Work Week, he encouraged his daughter to ride her bike to school through the program. “She’s in Grade 3, her school is 28 blocks from her house and now she rides fairly often. I see the effect that [the program] has on kids going to her school,” he said. Begg also encourages people to get out there and bike, despite how intimidating or uncomfortable it might appear. “Like everything in life, [cycling every day] takes a bit of initiative to start doing, but once you’re doing it, it’s easy,” he said. “Very quickly, after the first few trips, you secure your route and figure out your gear, it’s what you do, I don’t think about it all. I don’t think about it as a daunting thing, I get up in the morning and I put my son in the chariot and we head off to work.”