The biggest recent change I’ve made in my personal life has been a renewed effort to bike more often, especially for my commute to work. D’Arcy was both an inspiration and a guide in this respect… I even got a Kona hybrid commuter something like his, and do love it.
It’s been one of those rare transitions without a downside. My self-propelled commute is actually a little faster than it is by bus, and I can’t express how liberating it feels not to be bound by traffic patterns or an underfunded and degrading transit system. I’m not in peak physical condition yet by any means, but cycling ~35 kms on working days I certainly feel much better on my wheels, enough that the ride is something I look forward to most days — hills are a challenge now, not a source of humiliation.
Vancouver is easily the most cycling-friendly city I’ve lived in. (I still shudder and giggle when I recall the foot-and-fender combat that was biking in downtown Montreal.) There’s a decent network of designated car-limited streets for cyclists, and for the most part drivers are considerate if not always careful. UBC’s Bike Hub is a handy resource to have located in my workplace.
Life has really gotten better for my two-wheeling with the introduction of the Cycling Route Planner. The planner extends basic Google Maps functionality, adding data on routes from Translink (allow me to throw out my first and undoubtedly last shoutout to Translink now – HUZZAH!), elevation data from DMTI Spacial, Landsat ETM+ (Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus) data from the USGS (United States Geological Survey) for vegetation, plus pollution and air quality data and more… So I can select a route that is shortest, with the gentlest hills (no avoiding that bad-ass hill heading up to UBC campus, alas), with the best prospects for shade or reasonably fresh air… whatever. Having used it for a few trips the past week or so, it has already saved me time and hassle in determining routes, especially in unfamiliar areas.
Kudos to the very cool Cycling in Cities project, part of UBC’s Centre for Health and Environmental Research, for applying the mashup concept to a tool that I and others can use to improve the quality of our lives.
Now, I’ll have to comb the site to see if they can help prevent me from wimping out when the weather turns cold and wet…