Cycling in Vancouver

Cycling in Vancouver

About a month ago, I bought a shiny new hybrid bike! This is mainly because although I really like my new job at UBC, it is waaaay too far to walk to work (even for me!) Since then, I have been slowly exploring the city and getting used to cycling to work. The first time I cycled to work it took just over an hour. I had to keep stopping to catch my breath and to check my map. Now I am more used to it, my commute takes about 45 minutes (or 40 minutes when I am full of energy and the traffic lights are in a good mood!) Before this I had not cycled for several years. So, I thought it might be helpful if I wrote down my experiences for other people that are thinking about cycling in Vancouver!

Good things about Cycling in Vancouver:

  • It is SO FUN! Seriously! I have said “wheeeee” at least once every day since I started!
  • This is such a pretty city! If you’re not in a rush to get home, you can cycle to the beach after work! The routes near the water are really safe and have amazing views.
  • After only a few weeks, I already feel healthier and stronger.
  • There are good cycle maps available for free at City Hall
  • The cycle lanes are really good, when they are not too far away down a hill!
  • The backstreets are a cyclist’s paradise
  • There are cycle buttons next to some crosswalks, so it is easy to get across the main streets. You just have to find the right place to cross.

Bad things about Cycling in Vancouver:

  • The hills! Although I have fun going down the hills, going up them is exhausting!
  • Sometimes the cycle lanes end abruptly, so you might have to cycle on main roads.
  • Although the backstreets are lovely, often it is hard to use them, because you need to stay near places with crossings that are safe for bikes. I’d prefer to stay off the main roads BUT I’ve found my best route to work is all the way along quite a busy road.
  • Some drivers seem to REALLY hate cyclists (especially people who drive range rovers)! I’ve had drivers overtake me, to then turn right in front of me. I’ve had several drivers overtake on the inside lane, so almost knock my off my bike by driving past soooo close at high speeds. Last week I even had a man suddenly scream at me(!) He shouted “this is not a cycle lane” when I was zooming along a perfectly safe, wide section of road where there was plenty of room.
  • You have to be careful near stop signs and roundabouts! I’ve seen cars go the wrong way around roundabouts on backroads(!) and some drivers seem to ignore stop signs if it is a bike rather than a car coming the other way. I’ve learned to be very wary near both!

Buying a bike while female:
One thing I noticed that made me really sad, is that although Vancouver has loads of bike shops, it was really hard to get any staff to help me when I was on my own. I was admittedly pretty clueless, so I really needed to speak to staff to help me choose and fit my new bike. In most shops the men chatted to each other but ignored me completely. It was really strange! When I’d try and catch their eye, they’d all look in different directions so they could avoid helping me. Maybe women in skirts are thought to spend less on bike gear!? Things were a little better when my husband came with me. BUT I shouldn’t have to bring a man in order to be helped! In the end I chose not to buy anything in the shops like that.

The exception to this wereΒ Westside Sporting Goods Company and the Bike Doctor. Both of those shops had incredibly helpful staff that give good advice and are willing to help people who wear skirts.

Helpful things I learned:

  • Originally I was planning to buy a step-through style bike, so that I can go along slowly and wear skirts. I was advised that that style bike is good for a short commute, but that it’d be too heavy and hard work considering the length of my commute. I am really glad they gave me this advice!
  • In the end I bought a hybrid bike. I like to sit up while I cycle, so I didn’t fancy a speedy road bike BUT I do like to zoom along. My bike is light enough for me to cope on the hills and it’s comfy to ride. It’s just not as fast as the specialised road bikes that overtake me every morning.
  • I also bought cycle shorts with padding! I don’t know about other ladies, but I find bike seats can be pretty painful if I cycle for almost 2 hours a day. Padded shorts have made this sooo much better! Now I just change into pretty shoes and dresses once I arrive at work.
  • I also bought a bike seat designed for women. To choose it, I basically sat on several until I found one that felt like my pelvic bones were supported. I felt a bit like an idiot trying so many seats, but it has really helped. If possible, I really recommend getting a seat that suits your body (well, booty) shape!
  • A new bike can be pretty pricey, so before you hand over your hard-earned cash, give them a test ride! I tried several different bikes until I found the one that felt right size-wise that was easy (and smooth) for me to change gears etc.

My next plan is to cover my bike basket with fake flowers! I’ll post a photo once I’ve finished.

So now, I am officially a cyclist! Have you considered swapping your car or bus commute for a bike? Or are you a seasoned cyclist with advice for me!? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

12 thoughts on “Cycling in Vancouver

  1. Best thing you did buying those bike shorts, they are a lifesaver πŸ™‚ The area you are cycling in looks wonderful though a bit dangerous once the cold weather starts. My motto while cycling is too treat everyone as a complete idiot until they prove otherwise! Cycling in Turkey has been interesting especially car drivers who just open their door without looking behind!!

    1. YES! Those shorts are amazing…although they make me waddle a little when I attempt to walk in them!

      I’m not sure what I’ll do once the winter rain starts. I don’t mind getting wet, but if it is REALLY rainy, I have a feeling it won’t be safe with some of the crazy drivers. I might have to find quieter, safer routes even if it takes longer.

      The door thing is always a bit scary isn’t it!

      1. Good to hear you have routes lined up Josy. Maybe I am just too cautious! I am sure you know your limits, eh! Yes, way too many crazy drivers. It was good to see the large cycle lanes. That is one thing that is so lacking in many countries. Enjoy your cycling πŸ™‚

  2. That’s awesome Josy! Loved the pics of your ride. I’m too scared to use my bicycle to commute for the reasons you stated of other aggressive drivers, bikers, etc… I did go biking yesterday though only for a few miles casual ride around the beach area. Do you have a pic / model of your bike? I got a hybrid bicycle a few years ago as well and it’s a shame that I haven’t given it as much love as it deserves. I should look into padded bike shorts though!

    1. I was a bit scared too…until I started riding. There are definitely some people that drive like cockwombles but most people are considerate. I think it’s just you notice the cockwombles more!!

      I should have included a photo of my bike! I was just being lazy as it was downstairs in the underground bikeroom while I wrote the blog…so I didn’t go down to take a piccy. It is a Canadian bike – The brand is called Devinci, and the model is London. I’ll add a photo later. πŸ˜€

  3. Holy cow – sounds like you need to be extra careful out there. Where I used to live in California we had some VERY narrow roads with no shoulder yet cyclists loved to bike there (back roads and all). It was extremely dangerous for both bikers and drivers. At least you’ve got bike lanes. But, be careful.

    Vancouver is lovely. I’ve only been there once, but it was gorgeous. I remember thinking “everywhere you go there’s water and mountains.” Cool.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. Thanks Patricia!

      Yep! I am trying to be careful! I’ll do my best. i don’t want to end up splatted by the side of the road!

      The scenery with both Mountains and sea is lovely isn’t it! I think that is why I love it so much here!!

    1. Yaaay I am glad it helped!
      That is funny. I am planning a trip to NZ early next year. We can swap continents! πŸ˜€

  4. Well done you!! I’m so glad to read your post and wish you well with your cycling. Your best idea was to buy a proper bike seat and padded pants 😊 I love the idea of flowers in your basket, I did that too!!

    1. Thanks Debbie! It’s quite fun to go from being rubbish at something to getting to grips with it again!

      I didn’t actually do the flower-basket thing yet! I might try to today. πŸ˜€

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