ONE of the unexpected joys of retirement is having time to bike in North Vancouver, where I was born.
Until five years ago, I hadn't been on a bike for maybe 50 years when I used to bike to school. At schools today, we don't see bike racks full of bikes anymore, but streets full of SUVs at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
I remember biking up the two-lane Lynn Valley Road to the Cedar V Theatre with seldom a car in sight and continuous deep forests on both sides broken by the Mollie Nye House.
Not only am I more fit today than I have ever been, my carbon footprint is being minimized as I do shopping and errands on decent days by bike. It is amazing what will fit in a backpack, but you may have to make more frequent trips. It is so easy to stop, smile and talk with people and really take in the wondrous beauty of our unique landscape, or pause to be inspired by the beauty of a private or public garden. I commend all the gardeners and particularly those of the City of North Vancouver. It is noticed.
At first, biking again was daunting with any traffic, but I have learned the grid of bike-friendly paths and roadways and am amazed where I can actually get to without too much effort. While they may take a bit longer (although a few pathways are actually faster than you can drive), they circumvent the steep hills and intimidating traffic and are a refreshing change from the so familiar commuter corridors, and for exercise, more inspiring than a gym. Looking back these last few years, it is amazing what used to tire me out and scare me and now does not.
However, as a senior, there is no way I can manage the hills between the waterfront and central and quite flat levels of North Vancouver. When I need to go to Lower Lonsdale, I secure the bike around a pole in Victoria Park (there are no bike stands there), and walk down and back up. I am delighted the ways bikers are being more and more accommodated all along the lower areas of the North Shore, but I have to put my bike in my Vibe to get down there. It would be grand to have some way (even just a couple of times a day) of getting the bike up the hill without having to take the car. I realize some buses are equipped to do it. But it keeps so many people waiting, while the idling bus probably more than offsets any carbon benefit of my not using my car. Having a Whistler-type bike chairlift somewhere on the North Shore from a lower to a central level could really brand North Vancouver as the biking mecca it has become. It would become a great tourist attraction making biking more readily available to those who can't make or afford the trek to Whistler and enticing people into the fun of local biking.
The other thing I have noticed in the many times I have walked up and down Lonsdale Avenue below Victoria Park is that in each block on both sides on the steep incline between Esplanade and Fourth there are a couple of bike stands in front of stores. Never have I seen a bike in any of them, but on the flat east-west roads off Lonsdale, where there are stands, I have seen lots of bikes in them.
Biking has given me new energy to do other activities. However, when I bike to play tennis at Grand Boulevard or bike to Silver Harbour I have to secure the bike to a pole or fence. It is interesting to see where bike stands are and are not.
I appreciate all the bike stands on central Lonsdale but I will not bike on Lonsdale Avenue itself. Not only is the traffic too heavy, the constant possibility of doors flying open terrifies me.
It is illegal to ride a bike on sidewalks. Seldom do I see anyone pushing their bikes on them. However, sometimes I will ride slowly and considerately having a foot touching the ground and pedestrians don't seem bothered. I find it best to mainly use bike stands at corners, or just off Lonsdale (but there are not many of those) and then enjoy a walk. But maybe a part of wide sidewalks could be designated for bikes like on the Stanley Park Seawall. I have noticed some seniors on scooters can be just as dangerous for pedestrians as bikes.
I have also been disappointed that so many sidewalks have been adjusted recently to stick out at corners and into the road. This now makes many too narrow for two cars to pass along side a bike. I now need to check by mirror to make sure it is safe to go through them and on occasions have to stop. Such intersections are now more dangerous for bikers and, while some of these roads were good bikeways before, I prefer to find alternate routes.
I am most appreciative of how North Vancouver continues to make it easier for seniors to cycle and hope more take it up and enjoy our no-place-like-it-in-the-world community.
There's no need to break the bank, there are many
inexpensive bikes that will do all that a senior needs. My wife gave one to me five Christmases ago. It was very much on sale and cost just $200, the best present ever, although at the time I was shocked to get it and thought I would never ride it. It has the name "Infinity" on it and I look forward, each day, weather permitting, for a ride to see where Infinity will take me. It sure breaks up the days where I have to do a lot of sitting and wonderfully gets the circulation going. The wind in your face is cool on warm days and I come back refreshed; able to sit and read another book.
Be prepared though. On the North Shore there will always be cool downhills and warm uphills. You don't have to go far or long for a good workout if you want it. It is always easy to shed layers of clothing in a backpack.
Biking in North Van is never boring with so much to be just present to, in the now, and right at hand. Such a great place to retire.