the benefits of bicycling

The Benefits of Bicycling

by Jillian Dickens, Tofino


For a town of our size, it’s a crying shame so many drive oversized cars and trucks, rather than peddle perfectly sized two-wheeled wonders, also known as bicycles. It doesn’t take long to bike from the furthest point to the furthest point in Tofino, yet so many choose to drive, even on sunny days.

Me included.

But some factors do cause me to clean up my act. One is knowing that cycling will stress me out less than driving, especially in the Tofino summers. (At the busiest points in the summer I’ve found it takes almost the same time to drive to the beach as it does to cycle, especially since there’s a multi-use path taking you directly there.) Also, what motivates me to jump from the confines of my car to the open air is lack of funds to pay for insurance and gas, sure, a growing concern with the size of my mid-section, okay, but most of all it’s finding out that if we all keep driving our frickin’ cars we will no longer have any frickin’ clean air to breathe.

So to help get that motivation up for both you and me, I will report certain facts that should relay how blissful bike riding can be, and more importantly, how important bike riding is.

And what better time to report such facts? The month of June plays host to Bike to Work Week (May 30 to June 5) and Clean Air Day (June 5) btww is a provincial campaign for individuals and groups to try cycling to and from work. Some group incentives (fun events, prizes, peer and employer support) convert many participants into regular cycle commuters. The campaign is pro- cycling, not anti-car, and promotes pedal power as a double activity – a way to get around and get in shape. Unfortunately by the time you read this article it will be too late to register to officially take part in the campaign, but you can still participate on an unofficial level by simply cycling to work during the week, and maybe beyond.

As BTWW comes to an end, Clean Air Day — a day set aside to increase public awareness on two key environmental priorities, clean air and climate change — begins. Clean Air Day is also geared to promote activities that nurture our nature and protect our environment. And one such activity is the one I have been flapping my lips to you about — cycling.

As a way to celebrate both BTWW and Clean Air Day, there will be a bike workshop in the Village Green gazebo on June 4th at 10 am. Here, “Bike Mechanic Marc Vezina” will explain all about bikes. He has info on bike buying, bike safety, bike maintenance, and more bike related issues you surely cannot miss. Marc has been, and I quote, “loving and repairing bikes since 1975.” He’s made a career for himself out of bikes, and can be seen at all hours perfecting them in his carport. Aside from that gig, he’s taken up shop at Fiber Options Clothing and Bike Rentals as the bike mechanic for their rental fleet.

According to Environment Canada, transportation is one of the largest sources of air pollution and results in 25 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. A direct, immediate way to reduce your imprint on the earth is to use alternatives to fuel-powered, single occupant vehicles. Walking, running, cycling, carpooling, taking the bus (The Tofino Bus and The Beach Bus are even 25 per cent fuelled by Bio-diesel) are all sustainable forms of transportation. Cycling seems the most likely choice in that list for it can be relatively fast, effortless, and free to boot. I know that sometimes it seems like a pain in the backside to saddle up and ride, especially when the rain is pouring down, you’re tired and late, and your bike isn’t running smoothly. However, if you are prepared, biking can be entirely painless. Plus, it’s better than breathing in smog, that even us Toficians, in our biosphere reserve, are not immune to. After all, the atmosphere connects us all.

Just think of acid rain. Acid rain is caused by two common air pollutants — sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides — that are produced by the burning of fossil fuels mainly through motor vehicles. According to Environment Canada, these pollutants can travel thousands of kilometres in the atmosphere, mix with water vapour, form a solution of sulphuric and nitric acid, and be washed down to the earth through rain, snow, hail and fog. And acid rain can affect anything it touches. For example, if it gets into a lake and lowers it’s acid level, the lake’s diverse species will dwindle. The same goes for forests. Acid rain can even corrode buildings and roads. And if this stuff can cause a side of a building to crumble, think what it can do to human health. Parts of acid rain can react with other chemicals in the air to form tiny sulphate particles that can lodge in the lungs, causing respiratory problems, to say the least.

But again, cycling can be a drag if you aren’t prepared. Below are some tips to making bike commuting easy.

Thanks for listening.

  1. Develop a routine so you know what to expect and can adjust variables (time, weather, how you feel) accordingly. Know what you need, what your schedule is and what your options are.
  2. Put all the items you will need for your commute (jackets of varying warmth, panniers, helmet, raingear, light, spare battery) in one place so you won’t have to hunt for them when it’s time to rush out the door.
  3. Have backups to cycling. If you feel terrible and the weather is worse, set up a carpooling situation, or take a cab. Cycling rather than driving will save you money in the long run anyways. The more backups you have the more comfortable you will be to commit to biking.
  4. Take it slow on the ride so you won’t worry about the way you smell for the rest of the day.
  5. Keep your bike in good, safe condition so it won’t fail, annoy you and lead you to resent biking forever. Marc can give you tips on bike maintenance at the bike workshop on June 4 at 10 p.m.

Jillian Dickens is a female with longish, brown hair and size 8 feet. She also writes for Fiber Options Natural Clothing and Bike Rentals.

Tofino Time Magazine June 2005

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