It’s a crisp Tuesday morning and the roads are wet after a night of heavy rain. Orange and yellow leaves cover 8th Street and a light fog is just beginning to lift. I’m waiting for Colin Hearne to arrive on his bike, before we cycle together from Kitsilano to UBC.
It’s Bike to Work week in Vancouver and Colin, who works in Health, Wellbeing, and Benefits, has registered to ride for the HR department at UBC. The event happens twice a year to promote exercise and healthy lifestyle choices among Vancouverites.
Despite the morning chill Colin is wearing shorts. Born and raised in Ireland he doesn’t bat an eye when rain clouds are forming overhead.
“Rather than avoiding getting wet,” he tells me, “just get wet, and shower up afterwards.”
We start biking down 8th Street and there are other cyclists humming along side us, on their way to work or school, or just on a morning cruise; some are on road bikes and others are on comfy cruisers.
The morning bike route to UBC is a scenic one. The roads are flanked with tall leafy trees of autumn hues, and the air is fresh and crisp. When we hit the big hill the Burrard Inlet comes into view, the ocean sitting calm and flat at the base of the Coast Mountains. It’s hard to believe a day can start like this.
A stepping stone
Each year – twice a year – Bike to Work week creates a buzz around cycling. “It invites those who don’t normally cycle to give it a try,” said Susanna Mulligan, another member of the HR team, who herself is an avid biker.
To participate one only has to form a team and register. It’s a great way build workplace community and get some exercise in.
“I did it back in May and really enjoyed it, and before that I didn’t cycle much to work, said Colin, “It’s a great stepping stone to encourage people to start cycling.”
Biking is just a good way to stay fit, too.
“It’s a good way to burn calories and keep the muscles toned, said Colin, “and it’s low impact.”
And studies suggest as much. We don’t need to be training for a marathon to be healthy; we just need to be doing some form of exercise, whether it be walking, biking, or even gardening for at least thirty minutes a day.
For Susanna, biking to work offers exercise when it can sometimes be difficult to find the time otherwise. But more importantly, she just enjoys it: “When I ride my bike I’m a happier person, it’s a very simple thing for me,” she said.
Biking in Vancouver
I ask Susanna about the rain, a looming question in the minds of those considering biking. “It’s all in the clothing,” she said, “rain pants, rain jacket – you can be just as dry as in normal weather.” Her philosophy is different from Colin’s, but both seem to have an equally sunny outlook on the topic.
Colin and I reach the top of the hill and it’s smooth sailing from here. It’s cold enough outside that I can see my breath in the air but I’m anything but chilly. I’m wide awake, and in the time it took us to climb the hill the sun has risen a little bit more, trying to pierce through the rapidly disappearing mist. I carry the sights and sounds of the morning with me through the day, lifting me up, and I’m eager to bike – or glide, really – back down 8th Avenue when the day is over
This year UBC won Best Workplace (1000+ employees) and Best in “Higher Education” by number of trips, cycling over 13,000 km during the week. And in total, 220,000 kilometers were cycled by 3300 participants in Vancouver.
Get your wheels ready for Bike to Work Week next year starting May 26th!