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Two wheel zeal: why biking beats driving

The author and her trusty steed.

I love living in Vancouver.

One of the first things I did when I moved here was sell my car.  Living and working downtown, my once beloved Honda Civic became more of a nuisance than anything – parking’s expensive and hard to come by, the need for maintenance always seemed to arise at the most inconvenient moments (or, not often enough, which may or may not have been the case when I a friend of mine forgot to check my her oil for 6 whole months…), and insurance costs more than twice what it did in my hometown.  I was paying to live in a dense neighbourhood close to amenities, so why would I fork over more cash in order to drive to them?

It’s been 18 months since I reduced my wheel count by 50%, and here are some of the reasons why I’m not going back anytime soon:

  • Biking is cheap.  You can find a road-worthy ride for a few hundred dollars and a good lock for the price of a meal.  That’s about what a month of regular driving would cost, insurance and gas alone.
  • The planet prefers cycling (or walking) to driving, except perhaps if you fuel up exclusively with an all-beef diet…
  • Need a car sometimes?  There’s probably one waiting for you within a few blocks.  I can’t say enough good things about the Vancouver Auto Co-Op: it’s easy to join, your membership fee is actually an investment in co-op shares which you get back when you decide to end your membership, they’ve got a range of new cars and trucks at your disposal ALL OVER the city (there are 7 within 400 metres of my apartment), it’s inexpensive to use (a trip across town for a few hours is usually under $20, which is cheaper than a cab), and the service is incredibly well-organized.
  • The cycling commute is flexible.  Is the road blocked ahead? Hop up on the sidewalk to get around.  Is traffic not moving? Ride between the cars and carry on your way.  Catch a whiff of a fine-smelling rose bush on the side of the road? Cruise up beside it and smell ‘em.  Hot day? Veer onto a side street and ride through a sprinkler.  Want to avoid a busy street? Discover the network of bike routes Vancouver has in place.  For these reasons and more, bikes offer the ability to react to and engage with your commute in ways a car will never allow you to.  One beef I do have is that bikes aren’t allowed to ride through many drive-throughs, although maybe this service is best left to the automobile, anyway.
  • More horsepower doesn’t always equal a shorter trip.  Today I rode across a bridge in about 60 seconds.  Thanks to rush hour traffic, the 40-odd cars I passed probably traveled the same distance in 8-10 minutes.
  • Buns (and other bits) of steel.
  • Cycling feels good, especially those downhill stretches, and (look, mom!) riding with no hands.

The bad news is, with summer officially over Vancouver will soon resume its usual grey, sponge-like state, soaking up the sex appeal that cycling holds on sunny days.

The good news?  No more tandem bikes on the seawall.

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