How I Fell in Love with Biking British Columbia

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Even the auto mall road has a bike lane in Surrey BC.
Even the auto mall has a bike lane.

I’ll do my best to avoid over-romanticizing my joy of cycling in British Columbia, but it’s no comparison to my home state of Connecticut, whose unofficial motto is “bike at your own risk.” While I only traveled about 60 miles through this Canadian province, mostly in the metropolitan Vancouver and Victoria regions, I was absolutely blown away by the bike-friendly green signs and painted lanes that greeted me nearly everywhere, through downtown streets, outlying suburbs, rural farm roads, and on the ramp up to the ferry. Even the busy commercial highway alongside the auto mall in Surrey BC had a designated bike lane.

As you’d expect, I saw far more bike riders here in British Columbia than back home in Connecticut, but what surprised me were the demographics. No hard data here, and my impressions could be shaped by times and locations where I rode, but BC women bikers appeared to outnumber men in my travels, both in urban commuter lanes and recreational trails. This pattern differs from the predominantly male riders I see around Hartford, Connecticut. Back home, I commonly hear women (and some men) say that they would ride their bikes more often around West Hartford if they felt safer around traffic. This experience makes me wonder about what could be possible. If anyone has read any studies on whether the gender composition of riders changes when local governments create bike-friendly routes, please tell us more by posting a comment.

A 3-tier BC water fountain.
A 3-tier water fountain.

In addition to my love affair with BC bike lanes, allow me to babble on for a moment about water fountains. I’m a thirsty rider who’s always on the lookout for a cold (and free) drink, so I tend to spot water bubblers, mentally note their location, and admire the better-quality models. But this was the first time that I’ve encountered a 3-tier fountain for refillable bottles, regular drinking, and a dog dish. Several of these models stood out along the Lochside regional bike trail in Victoria. Now I’m jealous of those Canadians (and you should be, too). Why don’t we have water fountains like these in Connecticut’s public parks or shopping areas like Blue Back Square? As State Senator Beth Bye reminds us, we waste a lot of money on shipping and purchasing bottled water. Sometimes you need to travel outside your hometown to reflect on how things could be different.

Not everything in British Columbia is beautiful. I intentionally took some photos of the ugliest scenes on my two-days of biking through the province. It seems that Canada has just as many billboards (or more) than the States, which makes some sections of the Lochside regional trail a bit unpleasant on the eyes.

Ugly billboards along Lochside bike trail and adjacent highway.
Ugly billboards along Lochside bike trail and adjacent highway.

And this truck I spotted outside a fancy home in BC is just wrong on so many levels. I’ll definitely be coming back to Connecticut soon.

How does a company with this logo stay in business?
How does a company with this name and tagline stay in business?

 

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Jack Dougherty

Jack Dougherty writes about cycling adventures, advocacy, and his growing appetite at JackBikes.org.

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