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The bicycle diaries: five more things learned from biking to work

Me riding on the B.C. Parkway on Monday. Hello!

Me riding on the B.C. Parkway on Monday. Hello!

I’ve been biking to work for three days now! Here’s a few more lessons I’m learning while out there. (I wrote about five other lessons on Monday.)

1. Biking home in the dark isn’t scary, but it is really easy to get lost.

The trail I follow in the morning (the B.C. Parkway) can be very confusing to navigate backward in the dark.

I was lucky to have an experienced cyclist friend bike back with me on the first day, which gave me a strong idea of where to go. But as I ride to work now, I find I’m trying to memorize landmarks on the route so I can better orient myself on the ride back. (“Was that playground on my left when I rode to work? Then it should be on my right now.”)

I’m not sure what other strategies you could use to get around this one, besides asking all the municipalities to post a huge amount of obvious signage. Biking your route over and over seems to be the only way to know the twists and turns so you can stay on the right path at night.

2. Rain sucks, but it doesn’t have to stop you from riding.

While it’s quite unpleasant to start cycling in rain, once you’re out and about, it stops bothering you so much.

It’s all in the attitude, really. If you’re terrified of being wet and you can’t let go of that, it will make your whole rainy ride totally painful. But if you’re willing to accept that it’s raining and that being wet isn’t going to ruin everything, your ride can be just fine.

Not to say that I’m going to start cycling in downpours willy nilly. But a light drizzle or a medium amount of rain doesn’t have to be a setback, unless you let it. This changes how you look at the forecast, too. You don’t necessarily look for whether it’s raining, but how hard it’s going to rain and whether you feel adequately prepared to ride in it.

3. Observation: it feels just horrible to climb a steep hill while another cyclist speeds downhill past you.

The corollary to this: It’s awesome to coast down a hill while everybody else is trying to climb it!

4. Riding the same route over and over again really makes you start to think hard about optimizing your experience.

My particular concern right now is speed and efficiency. I’m trying to avoid all the obvious bumps and head for the straightaways to keep my speed up with the minimum of energy expenditure. But I’m curious about other ways to optimize. Should I keep pedaling as I come down a hill or is that just wasted energy? Is there something out there like hypermiling for cyclists?

5. I am biking the farthest out of anyone at TransLink.

Seriously! I’m way ahead. In three days I’ll have done 87 kilometres. And I feel much less paranoid about catching H1N1, since my bike doesn’t have anyone else but me on it :)


  • By Don, November 4, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

    Good for you with the commuting to work.
    After awhile it becomes 2nd nature.
    Keep it up. I will be watching for your posts.

  • By daniel, November 4, 2009 @ 7:20 pm

    remember the pink whistles? take with ya when you ride in the dark for saftey! oh and did ya get my email with the info on the buttons?

  • By Sungsu, November 4, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

    Maybe you can entreat your colleagues at TransLink to install proper signage when they upgrade the BC Parkway. On the same note, maybe they can also install proper signage on the CVG as well. ;-)

  • By Cliff, November 4, 2009 @ 10:02 pm


    The whistles are a little pathetic. A bear banger pen launcher and a bear banger are much more effective. A $35 investment. For bears and whatnot….

    I too found the 7-11 trail confusing when I rode it. I found there to be a lot of dead ends and places where the trail splits in two and runs parallel to itself then one of them dead ends right near a fenced off section of railway track! Between Royal Oak and Edmonds was the most annoying.

    I personally found the section along Stewardson way to be particularly bad for ones health with all the trucks running through. Breathing particulate like that day in and day out can’t at all be good for oneself.

    The section I liked the most was the area between Nanaimo and 29th Avenue. It’s really tranquil in there, even with the occasional train rushing past.

    The thing about the whole trail system I find a little confusing is that they both run along rapid transit routes that readily accept bicycles during most times. I’m not saying people don’t use them; they obviously do, but it’s a little paradoxical. Especially when downhill bike routes like Ontario Street don’t see as much usage as one would expect.

  • By Chris, November 5, 2009 @ 9:19 am

    I’ve started to memorize the traffic signals on my ride to work, so that I know when it is worth it to bike hard between lights, and when I can just coast. When you’re biking through downtown, knowing the lights can save a few minutes and prevent lots of wasted effort.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, November 5, 2009 @ 9:32 am

    Sungsu: Actually, for both those projects TransLink helps with planning and coordination, but the ultimate responsibility for signage falls to the municipalities we partner with. So yes, we can definitely urge our partners for more signage in, but it ends up really being their decision in the end to get the signs and install them or not! However, this also means that if you want signage, please do send your request to the municipality in question too — it can build a really strong case to show that more bike amenities are needed.

  • By Sungsu, November 5, 2009 @ 10:09 am

    Don’t worry, I’ve e-mailed the municipalities plenty. :-)

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Olympic travel tips: bike travel during the Games — January 22, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

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