Tuesday, July 3, 2012

[LOABkw] - Life On A Bike in KW

Life On A Bike in KW is a series of posts about Chris' attempt to get as much done as possible on two wheels, while Erin takes the car out of town to observe birds. How cycle-friendly is KW?


I'd like to welcome you to something new. A blog within a blog, if you will: Life On A Bike in KW.

Riding bikes in this town is nothing new for me. I have been a part-time cycle commuter during the warmer months for over a decade, regarding that ride as an easy way to get exercise. I have put over seven thousand kilometres on a Jamis Explorer mountain bike, wearing through a set of panniers and an entire transmission in the process. With helmets and reflective jackets and purpose-designed bike clothes, I regarded myself as "part of the cycling subculture" willing to take on any road to get where I need to.
Me with a spaceship on my head, ca. 2010

But there has been a sea change in my thinking this year: I realized that I don't want to be some kind of counter-culture hero. I just want to be a regular guy, on a bike. I want to treat cycling as a natural way to get around this city. And I want others to see me as a regular guy on bike they can identify with, instead than a spandex-clad road warrior. Because more than anything else, I want other people out there on bikes with me.

Also, I look terrible in spandex.

The Story So Far

The Region of Waterloo has come a long way since I bought that Jamis in 2000. At the time, virtually no road had bike lanes. There was no formal statement at any level about growing cycling as a transportation mode. The Iron Horse Trail had been established only a few years before. If I saw another person on a bike, it was almost always a student of a university or high school. (Of course, my route at the time usually went through UW campus, so this shouldn't be surprising.)

Contrast our current situation in 2012. The region and the cities all have master plans for cycling. The city of Waterloo has even won an award for its progress. Bike lanes and pathways don't quite form a continuous network yet, but the gaps are much smaller. Despite occasional signs of waivering conviction (the region's backpedalling-- no pun intended-- in Conestogo, the city of Waterloo failing to pull the trigger on Lexington, and penny-pinching budgets by all governments), I can attest personally to the improved bike friendliness of Kitchener and Waterloo.

We have reached the point at which a minimal level of continuous cycling infrastructure is within reach. The region has established Walk Cycle Waterloo Region to look at the situation holistically, and they are painting a picture of how to build a more mature network of cycleways. The outcome has been a gradually growing number of people for whom cycling is within their comfort zone.

Have you noticed how many bikes there are out there right now? I know the weather has been great, but there's more going on than that.

The Opportunity

This year, I have been biking more than I ever have before. There are a number of reasons for this, which I will discuss in time. But I have been presented with an opportunity to live effectively car-free for the rest of the summer: my partner and occasional co-blogger Erin will be spending ten weeks in a provincial park, as a bird observer. And she will be taking the car.

I'm pretty well equipped to deal with the absence of the car (though the absence of Erin is another matter.) I have access to transit, and I've picked up a Grand River Carshare "simple" membership just in case. And of course, there's always my own two feet.

But more than anything else, I look to my bike to make this work: now for more than just commuting, it will be my primary mode of transport.

And it's not the Jamis anymore. I have a new bike. Which I'll talk more about in another post.

Brodie Section 7, loaded for bear (and to bear)

The Journey

The idea of this series will be to show how a regular guy in KW can make cycling as primary transportation work. Also, to show where our governments are getting it right, and wrong, on cycling, what barriers need to be bridged (*cough* Expressway *cough*) and any other discoveries along the way.

I hope you'll read along.


  1. Is there a way to get these posts by email? I am looking at the mobile version of the site and not seeing any way to sign up.
    Update: now that I clicked on "Post a Comment - I think I see a previously hidden link to subscribe. But I think it only subscribes me to comments on this one post, not your whole blog.

    1. After a bit of fiddling I have added a "follow by email" gadget to the right hand side. If it doesn't work, please let me know. I don't know if it is capable of showing full posts... I had to crank my feed down to 400 chars per post to get feedburner to accept it, and I needed feedburner to make that gadget work. Shrug.

      As for mobile version, it should pick up automatically. If not, try http://waterloons.blogspot.ca/?m=1

      Hope that helps!

  2. Yes! I'll be looking forward to reading this series. Montreal has terrific bike infrastructure now, and I hope we can become somewhat like that.

  3. As someone who has done this by choice (though I have to admit, I relied heavily on the carshare), I'm really looking forward to your perspective.

  4. Looking forward to this series. Great idea and I love the perspective moving from a vehicular cyclist type to joe blow cyclist :)