AT RANDOM: Fun on two wheels

Huge kudos to the City of Vernon for all it has done to encourage people to leave their vehicles at home and ride or walk to work.

Huge kudos to the City of Vernon for all it has done to encourage people to leave their vehicles at home and ride or walk to work.

It is obviously better for our health, for the environment and for our budget. Most days, it’s not practical for me as I need my car to get from one appointment to the next. But I like the idea of leaving the car at home a couple of days a week and cycling to work.

When I was still living in Vancouver, I didn’t own a vehicle. If I couldn’t borrow one from a family member, I spent a lot of time in a Yellow Cab getting from one end of town to the other, used public transportation or rode my bike. I thought nothing of riding over the Lions Gate Bridge (which can be intimidating even on four wheels). And looking back, I probably saved thousands in not having to pay for repairs, insurance and fuel.

Living in a much smaller community for close to 20 years, I’ve used my bicycle less than ever. You’d think it would be easier and more accessible, but for some reason it’s not. My husband had his bike stolen years ago and never replaced it, so we got out of the habit.

But now that our daughter has had the training wheels taken off her bike and discovered the joys of cruising on two wheels, it’s time for our family to get out on the open road together.

On a trip to Calgary this summer, I rediscovered my love for cycling. The city is criss-crossed with kilometre after kilometre of cycling trails, along the river, through parkland, all separated from speeding vehicles.

Biking is in my family’s blood: my brother has done fundraising rides for the Ride to Conquer Cancer and Bike Tour to End MS; my nephew lives, eats and breathes mountain biking; my dad has taken many cycling holidays.

So there we were, spending a joyful afternoon cycling, my brother teaching his niece the finer points of using her brakes, and we realized it was time to start a family cycling tradition.

Once home in Vernon, my husband was given a bike by generous friends, we put air in my tires and it was time to hit the trails.

The problem is that for a novice cyclist like my daughter, there isn’t really anywhere safe to ride outside of the sidewalk.

On Sunday, we loaded up the bikes, drove to a starting point, parked  the car and then hit the road. It’s great having the bike lanes, but to be honest, I was a nervous wreck every time a car drove by. My daughter is eight and small for her age, so she just looked so vulnerable on her bike, as she rode in front of me. For her part, she was loving every second of it, but I couldn’t relax until we got on the side streets.

I would like to start riding to school with her a couple of days a week, after which I’ll proceed to work.

The city’s web site is filled with fantastic information about staying safe, for kids and adults, about how to avoid being hit by a car, bike routes and everything you need to enjoy cycling in the city. The bike routes are well mapped out, but all of them involve busy streets and highways.

The bike lanes are a great start for commuters who are experienced cyclists, but I would feel much happier on a path that is separate from motor vehicles.

I realize that the city can’t start tearing up roads and carving out paths. But for now, the cars are too close for comfort. And until my junior cyclist has developed some proficiency on her bike, I think we’ll stick to the school parking lots for practice.

—Katherine Mortimer is the lifestyles editor for The Morning Star