HRM Bike Week is here and a coalition of avid cyclists are breaking down the barriers of cycling-the-city and shifting Haligonians’ non-recreational biking habits into gear.
Find the Community Herald story here.
Emily Macdonald hopes to encourage as many commuters as possible to park their cars and cycle, whether it’s getting to the office or simply travelling for a loaf of bread. She’s part of Halifax Cycling Coalition, committed to improving conditions for cyclists in Halifax.
Kitted out with cycling travel, safety and comfort gear, Macdonald spoke at a recent Friday lunch and learn session at Seaport Farmer’s Market.
Lane Farguson attended the lunch and learn, looking for information on how to get biking to work from Tantallon. “If I were to put it on my car and then leave my car on St. Margarets Bay road, there’s a parking lot there.” Farguson (39) says he could then continue cycling to his work at the Port Authority.
Lane says his employer encourages employees to cycle and provides onsite showers and lockers. “That’s not the issue, it’s just getting from Tantallon to here,” says Farguson.
Barriers to biking
Macdonald offers options and solutions for individuals, employers and the city, to help overcome many common barriers of biking to work:
Don’t sweat it: Macdonald says don’t let helmet head deter that ‘clear-your-mind’ ride to the office. She encourages employers to foster healthy and energized employees by offering bike racks and providing a ‘clean-up station’ for employees.
- Employers, she says, could spoil employees with showers and lockers to store extra clothes and ‘clean-up’ gear. She says the 6,000 employees working in Scotia Square can access lockers and showers.
- Macdonald says some local employers keep a bike pump at work in case of a flat and taxi vouchers for emergencies. HRM’s Smart Trip program helps encourage employers to support employees in finding eco-wise ways to commute to work.
Commute too long: Macdonald suggests taking the commute one step at a time.
- Drive part way and when traffic gets congested, park the car and cycle.
- Metro buses have bike racks for cyclists.
- Find a route that best suits individual commuter times and travel conditions. She says cycling is a great way to multi-task a work-out into travel time, maximizing efficiency.
Scary route: Fast cars, narrow roads and too much traffic can all act as barriers. “A lot of time it’s a perceived fear that prevents people from biking. It’s about building up confidence and teaching safe ways to commute,” says Macdonald.
Social Media: Macdonald suggests posting on FaceBook’s Halifax Cycle Chat forum. “Just say, I need a way to get from here-to-here and I’m comfortable on these types of roads.” She says there are hundreds of cyclists on the forum to help get people biking.
Safety tips for cycling in traffic:
- Ride predictably: “If you ride in a predictable way, cars will know where you’re going, if they try to pass you.”
- Be visible! “This means wearing lights and reflectors at night, especially in the rain … lights are required by law for night riding.” Macdonald says the best measure a cyclist can take is to be seen and have good communication with drivers. “Make eye-contact and do frequent shoulder checks even when not changing lanes.”
- “Cars are legally required to give a metre of space in order to pass a cyclist, which includes crossing the yellow line,” says Macdonald. She says sometimes, in areas with potholes, it’s safer to pick a lane to avoid swerving.
- Ride at least one metre from the curb or parked cars. “This will allow you to anticipate and react to obstructions without swerving into traffic.”
- Consider pedestrians’ safety and comfort:
- Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. “Remember, not all pedestrians know how agile you are on your bike. Even if you know you won’t crash into them, respect their space.”
- Use a bell when passing pedestrians on trails.
Build up slowly:
- Newbie cyclists can be too hard on themselves, trying to cycle everyday. Build up slowly starting with once or twice a week.
- “Try a cheap bike at first or borrow … and ride it for a while before investing.”
- Macdonald says biking with a friend is easier than going solo.
Bad weather: “It doesn’t matter what time of year you bike, it’s just the way you dress. I bike all year … it was no problem really,” said Tim Bell. Bell lives on Bayers Road and bikes to work on Chain Lake Dr. While bad weather doesn’t discourage Bell, construction along Chain Lake Trail will prevent him from cycling to work this summer.
Too much to carry: “Drive into work one day and bring in two days of clothes. Then cycle the next two days.”
- Panniers are great to transport a change of clothes, toiletries and other essentials, says Macdonald.
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It pays to cycle:
From shopping, services and dining, during HRM Bike Week, June 6th to June 15th, cyclists get discounts. See www.halifax.ca/bikeweek/Offersforcyclists.php for details.
Check www.iheartbikeshfx.com for city bike routes, recreational cycling maps and connect with cycle-happy folks.