Walkers and Cycles and Scooters, Oh My!

This time of year always brings the fair weather cyclists like me out into the fresh air for a spin. Having been e-bike enthusiasts since our retirement a couple of years ago, my husband and I have enjoyed a lot of the trails and try to get out for a good ride at least once a week.

The pedestrians and dog walkers are out in big numbers at this time of year too. It’s getting crowded out there, and that leads to the occasional “situation”.

It was no surprise to me when I saw the story about an accident between a pedestrian and a cyclist on the E&N Rail Trail recently. We’ve witnessed a few incidents on the bike trails that could have lead to more serious consequences.

When my husband and I ride up behind a walker or a slower cyclist, we ring our bike bells to let them know we’re coming. Just common courtesy. When cyclists who are a lot faster than us quickly come up behind us, many of them will say “coming up on your left”, or something like that, so that we are forewarned. (I’m guessing they think bicycle bells are for babies.)

I always thank them for warning me. Although sometimes they’re going so fast, they might not hear my reply.

But then there are those who don’t have any sense of courtesy. Or even common sense.

I have a rear view mirror on my bike and I do keep my eye on it. But sometimes I’m coming around a bend and can’t possibly see them approaching from behind.

I’ve been startled a few times. How do they know I won’t suddenly swerve to miss a pot hole or a branch or something else? Or lose control of my bike? I’m not exactly 20 any more. Or even 30.

The truth is that they don’t know. They just carry on at their unbelievable speeds, heads down, elbows back, eyes straight ahead, trying to outdo themselves or something. I’d like to have some kind of radar unit to measure exactly how fast they’re going.

Their exercise apps might love them for their speed, but I don’t. As the cliché goes, it’s an accident waiting to happen. And of course, it has.

I also like to walk twice a day 4 or 5 days a week, and have experienced not only speeding cyclists but also scurrying scooterists (is that a word?) whizzing past me. Stand up scooters, called LSM’s, are supposed to be licensed but sometimes I wonder if they are. Some models are capable of reaching speeds of up to 145kmh.

They seem to be mostly driven by young males with the need for speed. And no helmet. What drives me nuts is when I see them riding on the sidewalk, trying to skirt traffic.

Then there are those electric unicycles. They’re not as common as the other modes of transport, but they go insanely fast. There used to be a fellow in my neighbourhood who I regularly saw riding an electric unicycle. He didn’t have a helmet on, which didn’t surprise me. But one day I saw him carrying his little girl in his arms while riding it. She didn’t have a helmet either.

That should be an absolute no-no.

One of the trickiest parts of being a cyclist can be interacting with vehicles. I would say that MOST drivers are careful and courteous, but every now and then…

I’m a driver too, so I know how difficult it can be to navigate around cyclists in some places. The new rule is that there should be at least 1.5 meters between us, but if a cyclist decides to ride in the middle of a lane, then it can get contentious.

Let’s face it, we all have to find ways to live with and respect each other on the roads and trails. In July a campaign begins where park rangers, bylaw officers and police will be out in force on the trails keeping an eye out. I’ll be happy to see them.

Otherwise, forget lions and tigers and bears…it’s walkers and cycles and scooters we’ve got to worry about. Okay, maybe a couple of bears.


It’s Like Riding A Bike

Remember all of the fuss people made when bike lanes started showing up all over the city, taking over car lanes, or at least impeding upon them? I have to admit, I wasn’t all the pleased to see them myself. And my husband was especially unhappy.

Suddenly you had to pay attention to things like new cycle-only lights and rules about right turns. Not only that, but lots of regular parking spots disappeared. For those of us who’ve been behind the wheel for a long time, it was like driving in a foreign country.

Judging by the comments in local media and online, we were not alone. A lot of people were miffed. And, according to most angry types, including my husband, it was all Mayor Lisa Helps’ fault.

Imagine my surprise then, when my newly retired, anti-bike lane partner pulled out his dusty, rusty old bicycle one day and started pumping up the tires. And, even more surprising, he got right on it and started hobbling down the street. I thought he was nuts.

But he insisted that he wanted to see if he could still do it and I had to admit that I admired his tenacity. He decided he might even like to try an e-bike one day and wondered if I might like to try one too.

Me? On a bike? I wasn’t so sure.

And then something interesting happened. My good friends and I were planning a wine tasting tour in Oliver, and one of the tours was supposed to be on e-bikes. I’d never heard of that before.

So now I felt obligated to pull out my own steed of rusted steel to see if I could manage it.

Holy expletive.

I was pretty shaky at first. It felt familiar, but not familiar enough. Not only that but my once 18-speed bicycle now had only one working gear. Thank goodness the brakes still worked.

For my first ride, I went about 5 blocks and then came right back. The legs were definitely feeling it, and I knew I was going to have to get more comfortable with cycling again before our trip. And after a few short practice rides and only one near spill, I was feeling a little better. A little.

The e-bike was a whole different experience. For those of you who haven’t tried one, I won’t go into all of the technical details. The bikes we rode were German-made CUBEs, and had the usual mechanical gears and then 4 e-gears, going from “eco” to “turbo”.

You can also ride the bike without the e-support, but I’m pretty sure I had it on “eco” for most of our 27 kilometer tour. When the e-gear kicked in, it just felt lighter and smoother. On long stretches uphill, I’d use the “turbo” setting and that helped considerably.

And the wine helped too.

When we got back from our trip, my husband was excited to hear all about it. I have to admit that by then, I was also convinced to get an e-bike of my own.

As it turns out, we found two used ones of the same make, CUBE, on Facebook Marketplace. I guess it was meant to be.

Now it was my husband’s turn to get used to the e-bike, but it didn’t take long. Little by little we ventured further, warming up to the idea of cycling in the city instead of driving.

One day, we went from our house in the Oaklands area all the way to Willows Beach. And on another, we pointed ourselves south and made it through Beacon Hill Park to Dallas Road.

Suddenly we were very grateful for those cycle lanes and signal crosswalks, and the CRD cycle maps. It has become another very different way of experiencing and exploring beautiful Victoria.

We are e-sold. And we’re old enough that we should have learned the old “don’t knock it before you’ve tried it” adage by now.

Apologies, Lisa.