Bike to Work Stories

Bike to Work Week celebrates commuter cycling with existing commuter cyclists, and encourages new people to try biking to work for the first time. Our program is fueled by the feedback we hear from you.

Peter Kubota

I got fed up with rush hour traffic and paying for a tank of gas and parking every week. I work downtown and live about 9 km away from work. A coworker told me about riding a bike to work and parking in a secure bike cage. It has been 3 years of riding now and we have gone from being a 2 car family to a one car family. We save on insurance, maintenance and care depreciation as well. I work out at a gym 5 days per week but I am getting older and smarter – I need cardio workouts as well to keep my heart and health in check. Who wants to ride a bike or do cardio inside? Who is going to push me when I do not feel like it? Now I ride to and from work – rain or shine and I love it. Yes, some days I really feel like riding and some days I feel less like riding but I have no choice now and I always feel better after I finish my ride. My blood pressure, body fat and cholesterol blood levels have all come down and I have saved tons of money.I can ride to work just as fast as driving in rush hour and with no stress or traffic headaches. My wife has started to ride to work as well this year and we are saving even more. We have bikes for all 6 of us in the family (4 kids in elementary school) and we ride all the time.

What else can you do as a family virtually for free and have fun as a family getting exercise and fresh air? We have a bike trailer and a trail-a-bike and training wheels that will be sold soon as we can all 2 wheel it now. Lesson learned: I only take transit in icy conditions (fell a few times on ice!) Bike to Work Week has allowed me to meet and mingle with like minded great people and share stories, good tips and ideas.

– Peter Kubota

Liane

As a busy single mom working full-time, bicycling to work is the only way I can fit exercise into my day, since I have to spend the time commuting anyway. I feel invigorated when I get home to my three little ones, instead of grumpy and stressed. Bike to Work Week kick-started my initial efforts to commute by bike on a regular basis, and I’m glad of it.

Thank you everyone who makes this event such a big deal,

– Liane

Al Lens

I am a 45 year old guy who always wished he worked close enough to home to ride his bike to work. Well, neither my work nor my home status changed … I just decided I would ride to my workplace one weekend to see how long it would take.

Motivated by an extra 30 pounds of fat on my body and no time to workout, I discovered that it was just over an hour (now less than an hour). At first, I thought that two hours of travel by bike compared to an hour to an hour and a half (depending on traffic) by car was more time than I had to spare. Not to mention that I had to stop a few times to get up some of the hills along the way.

I decided that I would give it a shot, anyway. When I got to work, I realized I needed to find somewhere to park my bike. It wasn’t a very expensive bike at all, but still didn’t want it to get stolen. Working on the “better to ask forgiveness than for permission” philosophy, I found an out-of-the-way place inside. To my pleasant surprise, nobody said anything about me parking my bike in the office. Instead, they were amazed that I rode all the way to work (about 22 km).

It didn’t take long for the pounds to start falling off and for me to be able to cycle up the hills without stopping. Instead of getting home frustrated by traffic, I am now getting home rejuvenated from the exercise, and stress-free as I have time to think about stuff. My eating habits haven’t changed (not for the better, anyway), but my body looks and feels better than ever. My commute is very predictable … if I need to shorten the time, I pedal faster (still without risk of a speeding ticket!). If I’m not in a hurry, I often stop to take photos along the scenic route that I like to take.

About a year after I started riding, the lease came up on our second vehicle. I found myself rarely wanting to drive anywhere, so we took the vehicle back and we are saving on the gas, car payments, and insurance… about $750 a month. Not to mention that I don’t have to pay for a fitness club.
Many of my friends and co-workers were pretty convinced that I would return to driving once the weather turned to rain. I actually find it enjoyable to cycle in the rain. With fairly inexpensive rain gear, I am kept warm and dry. When it rains, traffic is heavier and I often get to work faster than colleagues who drive a similar route.

The first winter I rode, there were a couple weeks in total that I wasn’t able to ride because of snow.  That motivated me to research the availability of snow tires for bicycles. They not only exist, but they work very well. Last year, for the first time I was able to pass cars going uphill! While they spun their tires, my studded snow tires provided incredible grip. Cycling has now extended into my vacation plans.

This past summer, one of my daughters and I went on a cycling trip from Port Coquitlam to Denman Island. It was a very enjoyable trip and a great time to bond with my daughter. It is a rare occasion that I am in a car, now. I never planned it that way, but like many cyclist, once I got started I was addicted!

– Al Lens

John Burgess

I read somewhere, Albert Einstein got an idea for his theory of relativity while riding his bicycle. I don’t know if it’s true, but it does make a good story.

I like using my bike instead of car or bus for local journeys close to home. The fresh air and exercise relaxes and makes me feel good.It was a small step for me to rent a bike locker at King George station, so I could ride between home and sky train on my daily commute. The bike is secure during the day and I never have a problem parking!

It would be nice to use the bike exclusively and cut out transit altogether, but living in Surrey and working on the west side of Vancouver (and not being an athlete of any kind) I figured this was not feasible. When Bike to Work Week came along I signed up anyway, for a bit of fun and to see how far the bike could take me. In an uncharacteristic stroke of brilliance, I attended the one-day Commuter Skills course run by VACC. The course changed my life. I am a well-seasoned car driver and having cycled daily for some years already, thought I knew all there was to know about road safety. The course challenged my presumptions and brought me to a new level of understanding. I was hooked. I still could not see myself riding all the way, but would try taking the bike on the train and experience riding to work in “the big city” at least once.

BTWW was an adventure and an education. I got up super-early, because bikes are not allowed on the train in the direction of the rush between 7-9am or 4-6pm. If you can’t leave work in time to be at your destination by 4pm you effectively earn a 2-hour penalty, or risk the wrath of the sky train commuting public. Taking a bike on the train puts you in uncomfortable situations sometimes. On a good day, I see these as opportunities for growth! I learned to occupy the smallest possible footprint on the train. By week’s end I decided the bike on the sky train is not a viable option for this commuter. Not until Trans link get serious about physical accommodation for bikes and remove the punitive time restrictions. But I had a better idea! What if I buy a second bike and leave it somewhere in Vancouver? Maybe I could rent a locker at a station in reasonable cycling distance of work. Most Millennium Line stations and six of the Expo Line stations have bike lockers. Main Street is closest to my place of work. There are not many lockers there yet, but one was available for me to rent. I became a “two bike commuter”! Life has changed, a lot. It takes a little planning and ingenuity to keep two bikes on the road. But I have been rewarded with a new sense of freedom. No more scurrying from the train to join a soggy line-up at the bus stop. No more earnestly watching the “Sorry Bus Full” signs go by. No limit on exactly what time I step on or off the train and no hassles. Cycling has opened up Vancouver to me. It is a very satisfying way to explore the city. I feel rejuvenated and my commute time is a few minutes LESS than it was before Bike to Work Week came along.

Thanks Albert, for the inspiration!

– John Burgess

Sarah Gayda

Steven Fitzgerald, the President of Habanero, has been an avid bike commuter for over 20 years; he bikes 20 km per day rain, shine, snow, or sleet. As a result, his green habits have been slowly rubbing off on the rest of our company. With each new Bike to Work Week that our company participates in, we’ve convinced more and more employees to embrace bike commuting. We now have close to 30% of employees biking to work, and all are gearing up for your November event.

I’m actually someone who first tried bike commuting during your May-June 2007 Bike to Work Week, and now I’m a complete convert! I don’t think I would have ever attempted biking to work had it not been for your program. I currently bike from Lynn Valley, North Vancouver to downtown (about 30 km per day) three times a week (I work part-time), and I absolutely love it! As my husband also bike commutes, we were able to give up our second car. Bike commuting has now become a huge part of my life and if for some reason I miss a day, I just don’t feel the same!

Another thing to note is that our company has a change room in the office, which a lot of employees use. The company also offers a yearly employee fitness credit, and some employees (including myself) have purchased bike commuter memberships at the gym across the street.

– Sarah Gayda

Carol Carson

This sunset from the Lions Gate Bridge is just one of the rewards for biking to work. The story of how it all started is explained in my blog. The blog records, among other things, sights and impressions during my daily commutes between Point Grey and North Vancouver.

– Carol Carson

Blaine Jensen

A year ago (last May) Douglas College was challenged by other local colleges to participate in Bike to Work Week. President Susan Witter sent notice to all college employees to join in the challenge. I have never been much of a cyclist. I grew up on a ranch in Alberta and my favorite mode of transportation was my horse. Although I had a bike, cycling was not very practical. I took President Witter’s encouragement to heart and thought I should support it and as a senior administrator set an example.

I live with my family in Maple Ridge and thought that for the Bike to Work Week I would see if I could make it to our Coquitlam Campus at least once or twice during the week: it is 20 KM one way. With a lot of trepidation I made the attempt. When I did it one day, and enjoyed it I went again that week. I liked it!  As a result I decide to try to keep it up. After a few times of “rubber-legs” my fitness improved. I got some advice from other cyclists and within a month I was hooked. I now cycle to both campuses at least 3 times a week putting on about 150 km per week. By Christmas time last fall I decided to upgrade to a road bike and shaved significant time off my commute. In May of this year I convinced my wife to buy a good bike and we both took the VACC cycling course. She now is working at using it more often. My next project is working on my teenage children!

As the Vice President, Educational Services for Douglas College I have now become the college champion for promoting and improving support cycling for the College employees. There are times when I cannot cycle but I have reduced use of my car by almost 60%. Commuting home is often faster on my bike than through the long traffic lines on the Mary Hill bypass and through the construction of the new Pitt River Bridge.

My initiation into commuting by bicycle has not been without incident. Shortly after getting my new bike I collided with an overhanging tree on a cycling lane in Pitt Meadows that threw me onto the middle of the road just missing the passing cars. It was at night and the tree was at the wrong height so my headlight did not pick it up until it was too late. Aside from bodily injury my bike incurred about $250 of damage and the folks at Pitt Meadows wouldn’t do anything for me. I photographed the tree and it was obviously overhanging for some time (as the tip of the tree had been hit and all the needles stripped off the end) but the municipality of Pitt Meadows wouldn’t take any responsibility. That laid me up for at least 6 weeks for repairs and recovery. That has not deterred me and I am back full force at it now.

My life, my use of my car and my fitness have all changed dramatically because of Bike to Work. Thank you and thank you to President Susan Witter for issuing the challenge.

– Blaine Jensen, Maple Ridge

Annette Spreeuw

I like to travel. A lot. I’m also single, with a mortgage on a downtown loft, so my coworkers are often amazed at my ability to pay for these trips. And a big reason for why I can afford to travel is because I commute to work by bike. I’ve never done the math, but not owning a car for nearly 20 year has enabled me to visit such far-flung places as Australia, Turkey, Honduras, and the Galapagos Islands (and the physical shape cycling has put me in enables me to do a lot of walking once I reach my destination, saving me more money yet on taxis and public transport!). After two decades of downtown living, I can honestly say that I don’t miss having a car at all. My bike is my car.

I was born and raised in Holland, so cycling is in my DNA. And living downtown, getting around on a bike makes a lot more sense than driving. I will admit, though, that I always viewed cycling to work as more of a necessary evil than anything else. I’m not what you’d call a People Person, so the bus got tired pretty quickly. After my ex moved to Alberta, and took his car with him, I unearthed my ten-year old beater from the mothballs and started logging the miles. My butt got firmer, and I was saving money on gym memberships to boot (are you sensing a theme here?). Some mornings, especially the wet ones, I still don’t relish the idea of getting into my rain gear and braving the elements, but even with the sweat I work up it’s still less smelly than public transit! I’m a little envious of those riders who say that cycling to work relaxes them. Riding a bike through downtown traffic is anything but stress-relieving. Though it is gratifying to be able to zip past a traffic snarl — most mornings I beat the bus by a good ten to fifteen minutes on my 4K commute. My employer provides shower facilities and secure bike parking, so unlike some of my colleagues I don’t have to add another ten minutes onto my journey, circling the block for a parking space. Ultimately, my love/hate relationship with bike commuting provides a lot of benefits, to myself and the planet. But to me the biggest benefit will always be the one that enables me to keep exploring the world – whether it’s on two wheels, wings, or feet

– Annette Spreeuw – Vancouver, BC

Judi Wannamaker

I moved from Toronto 3 years ago to work at 2Paths in Gastown. In Toronto, getting to work consisted of taking the subway or battling the traffic to Bay Street and fighting for one of the few, precious downtown parking spots. For those reasons, I had given up on driving in Toronto, and sold my car in favour of a transit pass. And I never looked back….life in the passenger seat was great. Until I moved to Vancouver. The first week in Vancouver, I waited for a bus on Cambie at 12th in the pouring rain. One bus passed by, too packed with commuters to pick her up. Then another bus passed by completely full, and then another. Nervous about arriving at my new job shamefully late, I tried to catch a taxi, but as we all know in Vancouver, this can be a futile activity. After a few days of attempting to leverage the public transportation system to my advantage, I resigned to the fact that driving the short distance (6 km) to the office was going to have to suffice. $8 in parking was a small price to pay for a guaranteed arrival to work. And so it went for the next couple years.

Then, in the summer of 2008, 3 years after I moved from Toronto to Vancouver, My husband Will and I were enjoying a newly purchased home in North Vancouver, and my employer, 2Paths Solutions, moved the office from Gastown to Granville Island. Driving over the bridges to get to work proved challenging at times, and taking public transit involved at least 3 different buses to get to the office. Then Will’s car died, and the couple decided trying out being a one-car-family might be worthwhile. I started biking from North Vancouver to the Granville Island office. Initially, it was 3 times a week, and then there were some weeks that it was every day, and it began to feel like a really good habit. The new office boasted 2 showers, and my closet of work clothes started migrating to the office. Hairdryers, cosmetics, and creams also found a home at the office. What better way to start the day than riding over the Lion’s Gate Bridge in the morning light, through the trails of Stanley Park to English Bay, and then over the Burrard Street Bridge to wind up at work. Arrival at work meant a clear head from all the fresh air and exercise-meditation.

And then it happened. Daylight Savings. It is now dark at 5:01 pm. And rush-hour drivers are busy doing everything but paying attention to the road. they’re chatting on the phone, puffing on a cigarette, and adjusting the radio station, all whilst adjusting the steering wheel with their knee. How does the expression go? There’s nothing to fear but fear itself? I’m not sure about that one after a few trips in the darkened streets of Vancouver at night.

But, the addiction is already there. The exhilaration of the cool Autumn air rushing through the hair, the thrill of passing the traffic stuck on the causeway, and the feeling of accomplishment upon completing the last hill up to the house in North Vancouver. It’s reminiscent of m days at UBC working for Siegel’s bagels, which was a 20 minute bike ride. At that time, there were no stop signs along west 9th by the School for the Blind, and if the lights were green at Alma, the momentum of the UBC hill would carry me to MacDonald! Yes, the habit has already cemented itself enough to justify a few dollars spent at the local Bike Store, Reckless, which should buy the appropriate gear for weather-proofing and nightproofing, and the winter commuting can continue. An excited (and a little nervous) new commuter is born!

Wish me luck!

– Judi Wannamaker

Paul G. Mendes

I am a “fat guy” who rides to work nearly every day, year round. I started riding during bike to work week 2007 and have not looked back since. I ride 16 k each way from North Van to downtown. Rain, shine, dark, light,hot or cold. The only time i don’t ride is when it’s icy, or if I have a meeting that requires me to drive somewhere.

I have lost some weight, and my Type 2 diabetes has been under control ever since I started riding. My health has really improved. I have also saved a couple of grand in gas and parking to boot.

I love riding to work. If I can do it, anyone can. Really, if you saw me you would say “if that guy can do it, anyone can”.

Most people are amazed that I do it. No one is more amazed than me

– Paul G. Mendes

Shannon Walsh

I participated in the last Bike to Work Week challenge and rode in all the way from Burnaby. I had just joined our departmental wellness group and thought that I really should participate in any wellness initiatives I can. I didn’t have a bike and couldn’t afford one at the time so on a whim, I sent an email around the office asking if anyone could lend me their bike. To my surprise, I got an offer right away! My husband drove me to pick up the bike at my (very generous) colleague’s home a couple of nights later. I mapped out my route and I was ready to go! It was a real challenge but I was able to accumulate 124 km’s biking four days of that week. I really loved the experience of getting outside in the mornings and arrived at work (1 hour later) invigorated and ready for the day!

I generally dreaded the ride home but once on my way, found that it relaxed me and took my mind off the stresses of the office so I was able to have very calm evenings. I felt great! After the Bike to Work Week challenge, sadly, I had to give the bike back and haven’t picked a new one up yet BUT I am going bike shopping this weekend and will be participating in the Bike to Work Week challenge for November. I hope to make bike commuting to work a regular occurrence on two days of the week, a realistic goal for me. The other days I ride the skytrain in. I am very grateful that Bike to Work Week has given me the opportunity to discover how great it is to come and go to and from work on your own steam! It is a part of my wellness routine that I hope will stay with me for years to come!

– Shannon Walsh

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