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Valley Views: On Two Wheels

Creston Valley is a great location for cycling, with quiet paved back roads, the scenic lake road, the challenging climb to the Summit, and a growing number of mountain bike trails.
Columnist Margaret Miller is a longtime Creston Valley resident. (File photo)

It’s bicycle season again, and that’s a good thing. 

Cycling is great aerobic exercise and kinder to our knees than higher-impact activities like jogging. It’s a clean-air form of transportation. Travelling just one kilometre by bike instead of driving saves over 200g of greenhouse emissions. And, cycling is a relatively inexpensive form of transport for those who can’t afford a vehicle or obtain a driver’s licence.   

And for many of us, cycling is fun. Whether it’s the pre-schooler on a two-wheeler in grassy Centennial Park, the teen or adult manoeuvring down a single track on Goat Mountain, or the senior cruising the Lister back roads on a shiny new e-bike, cycling puts a lot of smiles on a lot of faces. 

Of course, not everyone is drawn to pedal power. Sometimes distance, terrain, or bad weather causes even an avid rider to reach for the car keys instead of their bike helmet. That’s understandable. But in Canada it seems that only a minority of folk who can actually ride a bike, (67 per cent), chose to do so on a regular basis (16 per cent). Bike culture isn’t as strong here as in other parts of the world. 

Cycling is a big hit in some European and Asian countries with the Netherlands, China, and Japan ranking as three of the world’s top cycling nations. And bike commuting is certainly more common in Europe than North America. My youngest sister experienced this when she lived in Switzerland for seven years. Like many others in the city of Basel, she didn’t own a car. When the weather was reasonable, she rode to work and the grocery store, adding a light trailer to haul groceries. Swiss drivers, she claimed, were generally courteous to riders and bike theft didn’t worry her. Most riders safely left their bikes unlocked and unattended for hours every day. 

These days, progressive Canadian cities are expanding the infrastructures needed to encourage bicycle commutes. Calgary, for instance, has a large network of dedicated bike lanes and paths, and some workplaces offer secure bike-lock areas and shower facilities for employees. Some fit and hardy Calgarians choose to ride year-round, pedalling in the winter months when temperatures drop well below zero. 

My son is a year-round Calgary bike commuter. He happily dons a full-face helmet and warm cycle gear for his 10-kilometre winter commute on studded bike tires. Then it’s out of the bike gear and into a warm shower and work clothes before he hits the office. He claims winter riding beats an irritating stop-start bus journey or the frustration of sitting in traffic and paying for expensive parking. He’s not alone it seems. 

Technology has changed how we ride. Electric bikes are increasingly popular, offering the possibility of comfortable riding to those who find longer distances or steeper terrain difficult, or those who prefer a little less huffing and puffing. Recently, I attended a fundraiser at a Creston winery, pleased to see a dozen participants arrive by pedal power – a mix of e-bikes and pedal bikes. 

Recent changes to the BC Motor Vehicle Act set minimum distances for motorists passing vulnerable road users, including cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and those who use electric wheelchairs and scooters. This is a step in the right direction. Of course, cyclists must also do their part to stay safe in traffic, including riding single file with (not against) the traffic and using clear hand signals. 

As cycling enthusiasts know, July is Tour de France time. This year marks the 111th edition of this famous race, with male cyclists racing a whopping 3,498 kilometres over 21 days or stages. That’s an average of 166 kilometres per stage with some closer to 200 kilometres long. The riders show impressive fitness and bike handling skills as they climb high mountain passes or hurtle downhill at mind-boggling speeds. 

Next month the female version of this famous race takes place – the Tour de France Femmes. Now in its third year, the race will see 154 elite female cyclists race 946 kilometres over eight stages. This exciting competition is a positive step in the evolution of women’s professional sports and is long overdue. 
Creston Valley is a great location for cycling, both on and off road. Quiet paved back roads, the scenic lake road, the challenging climb to the Summit, flat or climbing gravel roads, a growing number of mountain bike trails... Take your pick. 

For more information about local cycling reach out to the Creston Valley Cycling Association, a non-profit organization which promotes cycling of all kinds and welcomes riders of all abilities. Check out their Facebook page for more information. 

Happy pedalling!