Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reflections on Bicycle Commuting: Bike to Work Week 2011 in Victoria

During Bike to Work Week 2011 in Victoria, three of the five work days I biked about 12 km from our home in Gordon Head to my office in the Queen’s Printer building just south of the BC Legislature. I did it for the physical challenge rather than out of any “green” motivation. I haven’t really biked since we moved to Victoria, and I just wanted to see if I could do it.

One of the beautiful views off the Galloping Goose Trail in Victoria.

I had to work through a lot of firsts that week: first time on the Galloping Goose Trail, not knowing where I was going; first time cycling in city traffic, trying to judge how aggressively to ride. The first day was exciting and scary; the second day was better in terms of knowing where I was going but hard physically. By the evening of the second day, I had determined that I would work at home the following day so did not bike in. (It was a bit of a relief to make that decision, and I was heartened the next morning to see that it was raining! I had said I wouldn’t ride in the rain.) By the third day of riding, I finally felt comfortable on the trail and in the streets. I took it easier than the first two days even though it meant that more people passed me on the trail. (I have a deeply buried competitive streak that threatens to surface every once in a while.) I was much less sweaty when I got to work that last morning, and I enjoyed the ride a lot more.

I certainly had my share of mini-adventures on the trail. The first day I almost ended up in a four-bike, one-pedestrian pileup due to the aggressive riding of one of the cyclists. As I rode away, I heard the pedestrian cursing at the cyclist -- and no wonder!

That same day I forgot to check over my shoulder before riding around a pedestrian and in doing so almost ran another cyclist off the trail. Oh, boy! The second day I missed a sign that split the pedestrians and cyclists, and I ended up riding on the pedestrian side of the trail to the disgust of both pedestrians and cyclists alike. No wonder the seasoned riders hate Bike to Work Week!

As lovely as they look, I can do without the wooden plank bridges. They're really hard on the butt!

The Galloping Goose Trail, the middle of my ride, is really lovely, with views of lakes and trees, shaded trails, wooden plank bridges and picturesque tunnels. Some areas of the trail really remind me of our experiences in France, especially the tunnels. (Except in France, most of them would stink due to the odd habit of French men peeing in every tunnel they encounter!)

This is such a cool tunnel, with amazing murals all over the walls!

It’s the beginning and end of the ride that are the hardest for me. McKenzie Avenue is very busy, and it has big trucks and some wicked hills! Plus everyone drives like a bat out of hell travelling westward, encouraged by the long sweep of downhill slopes on the road. On the other end of my ride, Government Street isn’t so busy, but on the way home I have to make a left turn in a busy and confusing intersection, and navigating the blue bridge makes my heart pound every time.

I learned a few lessons that week. First of all, I can do it, and it makes me feel good! Biking to work is worth it for the moral superiority you feel as you walk into your office all sweaty, huffing and puffing, bike helmet in hand. On the other hand, biking to work is hard work! I won’t become a cycling convert because I’m just not properly prepared. I don’t have the panniers, the cycling shoes or the toe clips; I don’t have the Gortex jacket and pants or the flashing lights. I miss my early morning workouts at the rec centre too much to give them up. Even though Bike to Work Week didn’t make a hard core bicycle commuter out of me, I’m glad I did it that week, and I’ll probably do it again.

Check out my Bike to Work Week set of photos on Flickr.

No comments: