Do you know that Vancouver ranked second as the most bike friendly city in Canada? We have extensive bike-path infrastructure – Bridges have been retrofitted with bike lanes, streets with bike routes, and bike paths that span more than 300km around the lower mainland. With wonderful bike-path infrastructure around the city, Vancouver is a great place to start getting into cycling. In fact, this fall season, “GoByBike week” is a great starting point for new cyclists to join in the community.
What is GoByBike?
GoByBike means quite literally, go by bicycle! Take your bike to work, grocery shopping, and traveling around. The biggest advantage of traveling with your bike is that you can stay active rather than sitting in the car and being stuck in traffic. Plus, you don’t have to pay for gas which is incredibly expensive right now (hopefully we don’t look at this blog a year from now and laugh because prices are even higher…).
The GoByBike week movement originated in Victoria in 1995 with a group of commuter cyclists, aiming to increase awareness of commuter cycling. Now, the event has grown to more than 56,000 participate in 2019.
I’d like to start cycling. How do I start?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to rush out and get the fanciest bike with the fanciest gear to start incorporating more cycling into your life. For example, if your habit is to pick up a library book with by car, get on your bike instead! Shopping for groceries? Side bags (called pannier bags) and a front basket could do the trick *and* limit unnecessary purchases. The carbon footprint from cycling is about 21g of CO2/km, compare that to the average gasoline car, it is about 170g of CO2/km. This is 8x more greenhouse gasses produced to our planet earth!
To participate in annual events like GoByBike week, create an account with this link and start logging your cycling trip. If you don’t know the actual cycling distance of your trip, you can use Google map – it will show you the riding distance for your trip! Also, when you log your cycling trip, you can see how many kilograms of greenhouse gasses you save (It helps save your wallet too!).
Cycling Safety tips
Before you grab your bike and start out on the roads, here are our top 4 safety tips to keep you safe:
- Be aware of the environment around you – follow the rules on the road, shoulder check and hand signal before any turns. While we wish we lived in a world where people didn’t drive distracted, if a driver fails the yield, or is reaching for something, takes their eyes off the road and you happen to be in that space, it could cause serious injuries.
- Do your best to plan routes using bike lanes. Even if it makes your commute 5 or 10 minutes longer, using the designated routes is safer and reduces the risk of injury. Plus, extra calories burned! Win win. Check out this link to find out more about bike lanes in the city of Vancouver.
- NEVER pass a motor vehicle on the right – as you approach an intersection, shoulder check, signal, and reposition yourself to the centre of the lane. Driver might not notice you if you pass them on their right side.
- Practice and know your cycling skills – know how to ride in a straight line, signalling, braking, and quick turns can help you improve confidence while cycling on the road
Do I need special clothes for cycling?
I’m sure you know you will need a helmet, since it protects against direct hits to your skull, but definitely dress for the weather. The commute to work might be short and easy, but no one plans to get caught in inclement weather. Here are some tips to dress appropriately for the varying seasons:
- Wear multiple light layers that help trap heat – Start with a thin polyester layer that can keep your skin dry; add a long-sleeve shirt above
- Top all that off with a windbreaker – it should be water-proof and reflective. If you want extra fancy, look for ones with zippered sides and armpits!
- If you cannot find a windbreaker with reflective details, wear a reflector vest to make you more visible for drivers as they might not see you in foggy or wet conditions
- Biking gloves are a great to have with cooler weather. While you might not need gloves when walking, that extra wind chill during cycling can make your hands get cold, fast! If you’re cycling near dusk and or dawn, look for ones with reflective detail and waterproofing.
What are fitness benefits to cycling?
We’re glad you asked! While we don’t expect you to invest in a $10,000 bike and start cycling up Cypress Mountain, including little bike trips here and there are definitely beneficial to your health and fitness. Here are 5 benefits of regular cycling to our health:
- It’s low impact — compared to running, cycling places less strain on the knees and ankles, while still providing benefits to your cardiovascular system and heart health.
- It helps increase cardiovascular fitness — regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs, and circulation. This can strengthen your heart muscles and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- It can help reduce anxiety and depression — studies have shown that low to moderate intensity exercise can improve mental health. This is because our body will release endorphins, a ‘feel-good’ hormone, which can reduce stress. Cycling can be an independent “let me get away from it all and clear my head” activity or something you can do with friends and a community. We love the variety of it.
What are some easy bike trails around metro Vancouver?
Steveston South Dyke Trails
The Steveston South Dyke Trail is a popular trail in Richmond. It starts from the south of No. 5 Road and travels along the south coast of Richmond. Throughout your ride, you will see the Finn slough, gilbert beach, and all the way to Steveston pier. It is a chill and easy ride which takes around 30 minutes to complete.
This route provides a nice view along the coast of Vancouver, and it is one of the most popular bike routes. Since it is off the road, it is safe for riders for all ages and abilities. Start at Spanish Banks Park, you can ride along the bike lane to Locarno Beach and Jericho Beach. Then riders can head to Point Grey Road that has protected bike lanes that directs you to Kitsilano Beach. This bike trail takes around 20 minutes to complete.
False Creek and Granville Island
This is my personal favourite! It is just right in front of Le Physique’s building with a gorgeous view around the sea wall. This route is safe for riders of all ages and abilities, so grab your friend for a ride! You can start at Yaletown, pass Science World, then all the way to Granville Island. The total distance is around 5km and takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.
I hope this blog helps you kick start with your cycling journey! With more and more traffic on the road, getting around the city by bike will be a nice option, and our weather is never that bad, that it can’t be done. Cycling can keep you strong, active and healthy, while being kind to your joints at the same time.
Keep your eyes open for part two about the best bike routes around the lower mainland!
Author: Andrea Cheung
With a passion for an active and healthy lifestyle (especially swimming), Andrea is pursuing a degree in Kinesiology to with the goal of having a positive impact on people’s health. She is currently working at Le Physique as a Personal Trainer and Jr. Kinesiologist