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The bicycle diaries: five things I learned on day one of Bike to Work Week

Yours truly, arriving at Metrotown for work.

Yours truly, arriving at Metrotown for work.

It’s Bike to Work Week this week! And as today is the first time I’ve biked to work, I thought I’d share five lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. Check the weather before you go!

Knowing the forecast helps you equip yourself appropriately for your ride. For example, I saw it wasn’t supposed to rain much today, so I could wear some water-resistant boots for my ride.

2. Dressing in layers really helps.

Boy, does your body temperature fluctuate throughout your journey. You’re freezing when you start out, but as you keep pedaling, you get warmer and warmer—and if you hit a hill, you’re burning up! So if you wear layers that you can take off as your ride progresses, this can help you stay at a comfortable temperature.

3. Really, you don’t have to bike on main roads to get where you’re going.

Me on the 10th Ave route. I took off that jacket as I got much warmer.

Me on the 10th Ave route. I took off that jacket as I got much warmer.

There’s a really strong network of bike routes throughout the municipalities, many in parallel to main roads like Broadway or Granville.

These bike routes are on low-traffic streets or are entirely off street completely separated from cars. Plus, lots of them are beautiful to ride on.

I took the 10th Ave route this morning—just look at those trees. The B.C. Parkway along the Expo Line route also takes you through Trout Lake, which is just gorgeous.

Check out for a planning tool that figures out your trip using these off-street routes. Also, TransLink has map resources that document all the bike routes in the region.

4. I am apparently burning over 800 calories biking to and from work today.

My stats from the Bike to Work Week trip logger.

My stats from the Bike to Work Week trip logger.

Your experience may certainly vary on this one, but the Bike to Work Week calculator says I’m going to burn 871 calories on my bike ride to and from work today! Woop: time to eat some junk food!

As a side note, it’s taking me roughly an hour and 15 minutes to bike from Vancouver to Metrotown in Burnaby, while it normally takes about 45 minutes by transit.

But the extra hour on the round trip is time I’d often spend exercising anyway, so in the future I could accomplish my workout by just biking to work a few times a week. Hmmm…

5. Biking to work doesn’t mean you end up looking like a mess.

Before actually biking to work, I was expecting to arrive at my destination drenched in sweat and completely unpresentable. Which didn’t happen at all. (Your mileage may vary with this based on your specific ride, of course.)

What I found was that the cold fall wind and dressing in layers really helped me stay reasonably cool throughout my ride. I brought a brush to fix my helmet hair, but after that I was basically good to go straight into work. I didn’t even have to change my clothes. Who knew?

(Of course, I haven’t yet been riding in the rain yet… so we’ll see how that goes! Also, many thanks to Michelle Candido for riding with me this morning and taking the photos you see above.)


  • By daniel, November 2, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

    took me the same time as u to school then bike back home! all in all very exciting. oh and when are the buttons coming?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, November 2, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

    I’ll put them in the mail today.

  • By Steve Hillman, November 2, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

    Another tip: throw your bike clothes in the dryer a few minutes before you leave. You may be able avoid an extra layer of clothes

    And be ready for the inevitable increase in appetite. You’ll soon find that even on days when you don’t ride, you’re eating more!

    Lastly, if you keep it up, you’ll probably be able to beat Transit times. I now can :)

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, November 2, 2009 @ 5:25 pm

    Thanks for the dryer tip, Steve! This cycling thing is all so new and exciting. I kind of can’t wait to eat more — I guess as long as I keep the cycling up, it’ll all balance out :)

  • By Sungsu, November 2, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

    “These bike routes are on low-traffic streets…”

    Unfortunately, too many bike routes have sections with very high motor vehicle traffic. Examples: 10th Avenue between Cambie and Oak, 37th Avenue between Blenheim and Arbutus/West Boulevard, Cypress Street between Cornwall and Broadway.

  • By Roland Tanglao, November 2, 2009 @ 8:45 pm

    great to see you finally :-) bicycling. please post a map of your route if you could (obviously don’t show your home! i.e. start the map a few hundred metres away)

    anyways, here’s my route map:

    Change your life, ride a bike :-) !

  • By LisaB, November 2, 2009 @ 9:15 pm

    slightly related:
    10th ave between yukon and cambie is getting fancy pants new bike lanes installed!

  • By Jason, November 2, 2009 @ 9:33 pm

    Looks like your CO2 meter is acting up. Your bicycle trip would have produced roughly 0.26kg of CO2 emissions. Good discussion here:

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, November 3, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    Sungsu: really? I didn’t find 10th to be super busy between Cambie and Oak.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, November 3, 2009 @ 10:33 am

    Jason: The CO2 rating is actually supposed to show how much CO2 you’ve saved — since I typically ride transit to work, I haven’t saved anything. Or I’ve produced .26 kg? Well, it’s small, anyway.

    Roland: I do cycle around my neighbourhood, just never to work before! I’m not sure if I need to post a map: my route is basically 10th avenue eastbound and then the B.C. Parkway to Metrotown. And back!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, November 3, 2009 @ 10:36 am

    Yay for new bike lanes!

  • By Sungsu, November 3, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

    You must have hit that section early, before it gets congested by motorists trying to avoid Broadway.

  • By Cliff, November 3, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

    Everyone always assumes that riding a bicycle will save X amount of CO2. That may be true if one is riding on residential street. How much extra CO2 does one indirectly expend riding down Granville and having cars stack up behind as they wait to pass?

    Sticking to bike routes for as much of the route as necessary increases bicyclist safety and reduces motorist bicyclist conflicts.

    As a motorist, I see cycling as a double edged sword. Those same people that were taking up road space are now on bicycles and likely using residential side streets. This is a good thing. The other side of this is that cyclists are not known for obeying traffic rules. Cyclists must obey all portions of the BC MVA; they are not exempt just because their vehicle is now two feet wide and five feet long.

    1. Running stop signs and red lights. Movements on these may indeed be legal depending on where you are. But everyone, including cyclists, has to make a full stop first.

    2. Passing on the right. I can’t believe how many cyclists do it. It’s unbelievably dangerous. If you don’t have your own lane, then you must pass on the left. Passing parked cars in their own lane is fine as you would be in another lane and passing said cars on the left.

    3. Wear a helmet. Sooner or later, you’re going to get yourself in a spot of trouble. Everyone does. It may happen tomorrow, it may not happen for ten years. But it will happen. It may be fatal. Wear a helmet.

    4. Signal, signal, signal. As a motorist, if I see a cyclist signalling, I am more likely to help you with where you have to go. I will slow down and let you in. If you have the courtesy to signal, I have the courtesy to make room for you. Do not assume I’m going to let you in because there’s a parked car ahead.

    5. Do not be pedestrians of convenience. As much as I don’t like when cyclists use the sidewalk, I understand that it’s often safer for them to do so. But also understand, I’ll be treating you like a pedestrian. I’ll be expecting you to use that crosswalk and I will yield to you if you do. If the light turns red and you decide to use the crosswalk to cross, it’s not only rude, it’s very dangerous. Disembark and walk your bicycle. I don’t drive on to the sidewalk with my truck to dodge a red light, you shouldn’t either.

  • By Sungsu, November 3, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

    I see many more motorists breaking the law than bicyclists, just different ones.

  • By Paul Albrighton, November 3, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

    This is definitely the most healthy way to travel green. Thanks for all your tips on route finding and calorie-burn counting! This article is a great way to inspire more Vancouverites to do what is best for the environment and themselves.

  • By Cliff, November 3, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

    I’ve found that motorists around here tend to break the law more due to stupidity rather then intentionally. It’s one of those weird things about driving out here, I suppose.

    Motorists here are very oblivious. It’s unfortunate. I’ve only seen about two other cars turn left on a red onto a one way street here. I’ve only seen ONE other car proceed on the red after stopping at a mid block pedestrian light.

    I’m in agreement with you, motorists here are absolute idiots and completely oblivious the to the rules and the road around them. When I was learning to drive, I was always told to drive assuming everyone around you is an idiot. In Vancouver it’s true!

    So with this in mind, it’s in a cyclist’s best interest to follow the laws and stay off the main streets.

    By the way, have you ever met a cyclist who regularly stops for stop signs?

  • By ???, November 3, 2009 @ 3:07 pm


    I’m feeling less safe around the Canada Line Brighouse station. More and more cyclists are riding fast on the crowded sidewalks (helmetless) as bus riders wait for their buses to come. Even though there is clearly a dedicated bike lane for them on No 3.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, November 3, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

    Sort of related to this discussion: in his book Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt describes a concept called “modal bias,” which means that basically, whatever mode of travel you’re using, that’s the one you’re biased in favour of as you’re travelling. So if you’re a cyclist, pedestrians and cars all seem crazy, or if you’re a driver, pedestrians and cyclists all seem like irritating obstacles, and for pedestrians, cars and cyclists are completely inconsiderate. (Hmmm… now what if you’re on a Segway?)

  • By Cliff, November 3, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

    Guilty as charged, Jhenifer. And I’ll definitely be checking out that book! The only difference though, is that I think EVERYONE seems crazy. I don’t need to go through my roundabout spiel again, do I? :p

    But that’s not to say that what I said wasn’t true. When I say stay off the main roads, I mean use another street nearby where possible. For Marine use Kent or 57th, for Granville use Angus. For Cambie use Columbia.

    And when I refer to cyclists using sidewalks, I generally mean old folks and the like. A 70 year old gentleman on Main Street is a fish out of water and would likely be going at a walking pace.

    I just have a big gripe between switching. You just can’t use the sidewalk because it’s less congested, then jump out onto the road when you gain enough speed. A cyclist doing that is unpredictable and a danger to other road users.

    And if a busy street like No. 3 road has a bike lane, then by all means use it. It’s the law and it’s where bikes belong when one is available.

  • By David, November 4, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

    Oblivious is a good term for drivers here. I used to drive along 2nd between Cambie and Main a lot. Every single trip I would see someone drive past a left turn lane or past a left turn opportunity (big break in oncoming traffic) and then put on their signal and sit waiting to turn at the next street. Most of the time I’d be out of sight before they managed to turn. Had they thought to turn a block earlier they’d already be parked and out of their car instead of sitting there holding up others.

    I haven’t done much cycling since my university days, but I do take transit and walk a lot more than I did 10 years ago.

    My newest thing is to watch for upcoming breaks in traffic before pressing a pedestrian activated signal. That way the fewest vehicles are held up while I cross the street. I make exceptions for buses and big trucks when they’re too close to make a safe stop. I also tend to wait if I see a cyclist or another pedestrian approaching so there’ll only be one red light instead of two.

    I don’t know what Cliff said about roundabouts, but I hate them. I think they’re terribly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists because drivers (myself included) tend to merely slow down and look for cars coming from other directions. Many of the prettiest ones have lots of vision obscuring greenery planted in the middle making it even more difficult to see anyone else.

    A better solution would be raised intersections. The only examples I’ve seen are in south Langley near the US border. The entire intersection is raised higher than the streets approaching it. This means you have to drive up a miniature speed bump to get into the intersection and down one to get out. It’s not harsh, but does slow traffic and makes anyone in the intersection more visible because they’re up higher. Used in combination with stop signs and crosswalk paint I see raised intersections as a great traffic calming tool for neighbourhoods.

  • By Stephen Rees, November 4, 2009 @ 6:03 pm

    Lesson 3 only really applies in Vancouver. In most other municipalities the suburban streets do not allow for through traffic so you are forced to use arterials – which often have no bike lanes though a few have utterly useless “sharrows”. Vancouver is also much better at signing bike routes. Elsewhere local knowledge – or extensive use of streetsview – is a good way to plan routes.

  • By Cliff, November 6, 2009 @ 12:24 pm


    I mentioned roundabouts in one of my first posts here. Drivers here are absolutely stupid when it comes to their use.

    Left lane goes straight or left, right lane goes right or straight. Signal left if you’re going left, right if you’re going right, signal right when your exit is approaching. This lets people trying to enter the roundabout have a bit of a lead time on the acceleration and using the gap you have just created. The inside lane always has priority over the outside lane in a roundabout. A vehicle going straight in an outside lane MUST yield to a vehicle completing their straight or left turns from the inside lane. This is part of why signalling is so important. If an emergency vehicle approaches a roundabout you’re currently in, proceed to your exit, then pull over once the emergency vehicle would have enough room to get around you.

    ICBC themselves are a little mixed up about how roundabouts work. They say when two vehicles approach a roundabout at the same time that the vehicle on the right has priority, just like a stop sign. This is erroneous because if two vehicles approach at the same time from the south and from the east, the vehicle from the south would enter the roundabout first assuming there is no one to yield to within the roundabout. Then, the vehicle entering from the east would have to yield to the vehicle who just entered from the south. More or less yielding to the left.

    This worked beautifully in Edmonton, somehow the same things that worked there, don’t work here. Nothing has changed except for driver intelligence.

    Studies show that roundabouts are more dangerous for the cyclist. In places where they are places, the pros usually outweigh the cons. Ideally, roundabouts should not be places in places with very high traffic volume or on bicycle routes. If a cyclist should happen on a roundabout where sight lines may be an issue, it may be better for the cyclist to disembark and use the crosswalk.

    The raised intersections you are referring to are known as “speed tables”. There are several located on 0 Avenue as you noted and there are a couple on Union Street in Vancouver just west of Boundary Road. I think they’re fantastic because they accomplish the goal of slowing down vehicles without risk of damaging them like the “sleeping policemen” type speed bumps do. They also encourage motorists to stay on the road instead of attempting to partially drive around speed bumps.

    The thing about speed bumps though is that it’s considered a failure among road designers. A properly designed road should never have to use speed bumps. Speed bumps also have the unfortunate side effect of slowing down emergency vehicles. Some people think that speed bumps may actually take more lives than they save because of the slowdown experienced by emergency vehicles, in particular, ambulances.

    I may be skewed in favour of the motor vehicle but do keep in mind, I have cycled to work in the past. I’m not completely blind to the perils that bicyclists face. I can’t help but think though, if it’s not partially the cyclists fault for their near total disregard for the rules of the road. Above all, however, I think it’s important that ALL road users, motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians follow the rules of the road. There should be no exceptions.

  • By Richard Edge, November 9, 2009 @ 2:04 pm


    Then you haven’t met me. I almost always stop at stop signs. ;-)

    Jehnifer, well done on biking to work. I have found it is a great de-stresser.

  • By Cliff, November 9, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

    I’ll have to keep my eye out for you, then. I’ll know it’s you because you’ll be the only cyclist in the area that does that. I wonder if people look at you in awe.

    I’m a huge fan of critical manners. It’s a little sad that people should be applauded for doing the right and lawful thing. I should get that kind of recognition for driving my vehicle properly. But, nope, I get tailgated for slowing to 30kph for a playground zone. Am I the only person who sees them or something? They exist, right?

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