I wrote about cycling for the commuter challenge and mentioned my wariness about cycling on city streets. A reader responded, challenged my fears and suggested I write a follow-up piece geared towards newbie cyclists: Here it is.
It’s almost July, meaning we’re probably snow-free for a few months and weather is no longer a barrier. Some year-round cyclists would argue that with the right gear, cycling can be an all-season sport.
Many think you need to be in shape to cycle. I’m no athlete and was able ride the 40-kilometre round-trip trek to my office. Mind you, white-haired cyclists were whizzing past me, but if you don’t let your ego get in the way, your level of fitness shouldn’t either.
The city makes it easy to cut your ride short with Park ’N’ Bike sites. And Calgary Transit is merging with cycling, equipping some buses with bike racks, allowing bikes on the LRT during off-peak hours and offering secure bike parking and lockers at most C-Train stations.
If you would rather go the distance with some electrical assistance, an e-bike is a fun way to get from point A to B without breaking a sweat.
Calgary certainly isn’t the cyclist’s playground that Vancouver is, but we do have a fantastic pathway system and our on-street system is certainly cycle-able. The city produces a bicycle pathways and routes map available online and at various city facilities.
The map helped me plan a direct route from my house in Southwood to my office in West Hillhurst without having to battle much traffic at all. It also gives pointers on safety and rules of the road.
Talking about safety, the city publishes a cycling safety handbook. CAN-BIKE offers cycling safety and skill-building courses (popular in many major cities), but doesn’t have any planned here yet this year.
Bicycle maintenance courses are available here though. The University of Calgary’s Outdoor Centre offers workshops as does the Goodlife Community Bike Shop.
The last pointer I’ll offer newbie cyclists is to get the right gear. Panniers are a must-have for commuting to work, as is a basic repair kit, a comfortable seat, a bell, a rearview mirror, water and a change of clothes.
Think of biking to work as an opportunity to fit your workout into your day, blow off some stress, save some emissions and money. Don’t think of the barriers — break them down instead.
Adrienne Beattie is a Calgary-born writer who has covered urban issues since 2001 and has an English degree from the University of Calgary.