Friday, May 22, 2015

Three Great Family Bike Rides to Celebrate Bike Month

A few days ago, my friend Tonya & I got together to plan out some family bike rides for Bike Month in Vancouver. We'd love it if you'd join us on at least one of them! The rides will be family-paced & fun, sticking to routes appropriate for all ages & abilities.

Trout Lake Family Green Ride
10am May 30

To kick off bike month, we are going to start with a fun ride from False Creek to the heart of East Van: Trout Lake. If your kids are at the runner bike stage still, please bring them along: we plan to have a little bike parade all around the lake. Since it wouldn't be a parade without decorations & outfits, we're hoping you'll join us in wearing green (for bike month!) & decorating your bikes.

More details on the meeting point, route, departure time, etc are available on the Trout Lake Family Green Ride Facebook event page. Please RSVP so we know how many will be riding with us!

Plateau Park Ride
10am May 31

Day two of our Bike Month Kickoff Weekend features a ride from Science World to one of Vancouver's newest & coolest parks: Plateau Park, nestled in between Playland & Empire Field in Hastings Park. This park has some unique features that cater to all ages, from toddlers to teens to adults.

More details on the ride like route, departure time, etc are available on the Plateau Park Ride Facebook event page. We'd love it if you'd RSVP so we know how many will be riding with us!

Heron Ride & Picnic
10am June 13

Have you ever been to North America's largest urban heron colony? No? Well here's your chance! Ride with us along the gorgeous False Creek Seawall to the stand of trees near the Stanley Park tennis courts to watch these amazing birds. Nesting season is in full swing, so be prepared for some noisy squawking & some awkward heron chick antics. Following a little bird watching, we'll head a bit farther west toward Second Beach for a picnic.

More details on the meeting point, route, departure time, etc are available on the Heron Ride & Picnic Facebook event page. Please RSVP so we know how many will be riding with us!




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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

6 Reasons You Should Participate in Bike to Shop Day

 Night #quaxing: ice cream run during #30DaysOfBiking
I'm sure you've heard of Bike to Work Week--we're celebrating it here in Vancouver May 25-29. It seems like there's a lot of emphasis on promoting commuting by bike to work, but this just doesn't work for a lot of people in the Metro Vancouver region, since they often work so far from where they live. My husband Oliver rides 15km to work each way, but this isn't necessarily something everyone wants to commit to.

This is where Bike to Shop Day comes in. Think about how many trips a week you take to run errands--dropping off library books, buying groceries, getting toilet paper, picking up a prescription, buying a birthday present. Quite likely more trips than to work. & probably closer to home than work is. Doable, right?

Bike to Shop Day was started just last year in Silicon Valley, by Janet Lafleur, the product marketing manager for a tech company. An everyday cyclist, Lafleur started the event in 2014 when she realized that many people still thought of shopping by bicycle as odd or even impossible. There's no reason Bike to Shop Day on May 23 has to stay in Silicon Valley--join me here in Vancouver & run an errand or two by bike yourself this Saturday.

Here are a few reasons why you should participate in Bike to Shop Day this year:

  1. Biking is a great way to get some fresh air & experience your neighbourhood with your senses in a way that you just can't by bus or car.
  2. There's no dress code for picking up groceries, comfy clothes you can ride in are perfect.
  3. Though you might be very busy on a Saturday, you don't have to be at the store at a specific time.
  4. It's generally much easier to find parking right by the door (often literally right next to it) when arriving by bicycle.
  5. You can take the scenic route & get in a little extra exercise while biking to shop.
  6. You don't need big cargo bike or even fancy bike bags to participate--you can use a backpack or a bag you can wear cross-body if you're picking up something small. 

Now that I've convinced you, where are you going to bike to shop this Saturday? Post pictures on social media & use the hashtag #quaxing (see my post on that earlier this week if you have no idea what it means) to share it with the world!


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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rock Star Parking for Cyclists Only*

Photo Credit: Canadian Veggie via Compfight cc
Festival season is pretty much here! Which of Vancouver's big events are you planning to go to this year?

Driving to a lot of Vancouver's big summer events is a major hassle--everybody else wants to do the same thing, so traffic is madness, only made worse by the fact that half the people don't usually drive downtown. Then finding parking anywhere near the event? Good luck. Transit is a better option, though for the events that happen on weeknights, you could be on the hook for a lot of bus fare if you're travelling with your whole family.

Biking is a natural solution: free, fun & often faster than transit. The only tricky part about biking to an event like the fireworks, the movies in Stanley Park, or Canada Day, is finding somewhere to lock your ride.

That's where the Bicycle Valet comes in. They provide valet parking for large events like Whitecaps home games at BC Place, the Pride Parade, The Celebration of Light fireworks, & the weekly Food Cart Festival. You just ride up to the enclosed bike parking area, hand off your bicycle to a volunteer, who tags it & gives you the matching claim ticket. No heavy lock needed, no worries about your trailer, your lights, or your seatpost getting ripped off. When you're ready to go home, you just show your ticket to the bike valets again, they go bring your bike & off you go. It's free for you (though donations are welcome), paid for by the event organizers. If you've got more questions, check out their FAQs for cyclists.

The Bicycle Valet is also going to be available for the summer at Pacific Centre (in the plaza at Howe & Georgia) weekdays & some weekends starting June 15, as well as on Granville Island just west of Ocean Concrete, starting in late June. If you want to check out all the events they'll be at to plan your trip better, visit the Bicycle Valet Calendar to see where you can get rock star parking for your bike.

The Bicycle Valet is a social enterprise project of Better Environmentally Sound Transportation. For more information, to book the Bicycle Valet for your event, or to volunteer, please visit thebicyclevalet.ca.

*Did you notice the asterisk in the title? I added that in May 21 because the good folks at The Bicycle Valet let me know that other forms of human-powered transport like skateboards, rollerblades & kick scooters are also welcome to the free valet parking!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

6 Reasons to Take Your Kids to Vancouver Mini Maker Faire

My four-year-old is a fountain of questions these days & he wants to know how everything works. I'm really looking forward to bringing him to the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire this year. It's a huge show & tell put together by people who love to learn how things work & have brought their projects to show off to curious people like my son.

VMMF is happening June 6 & 7 at the PNE Forum. It's Vancouver's biggest event showcasing DIY projects, from robots to quilts, to art bikes. Here's six reasons why you should bring your kids too:





Kids learn better through experiential learning & Maker Faires are designed just for that: to experiment, ask questions, & try out the interesting things that showcase the best of Vancouverites' ingenuity.




VMMF will have a Lego Lounge this year, which will give your little the chance to build to their hearts' content with everybody's favourite plastic bricks.






Get your daughter interested in STEM by meeting makers at VMMF who are more than willing to answer a million questions & show her how much fun science, technology & electronics can be.




Speaking of science, you should visit the Living Lab at VMMF, a research partnership between UBC and Science World. At this exhibit, researchers will showcase methods and studies of child development, providing a hands-on opportunity for children and their caregivers to learn more about social and cognitive development. Visitors can also learn about exciting new research happening in the Living Lab at Science World and our UBC-based Early Development Research Group.




What would a Maker Faire be without funny hats? Drop by Vancouver artist Sjors’ booth to make and decorate a paperbag hat! Tonnes of fun for young and old alike. Be creative, be bold, be colourful, be sparkly, be minimal – it’s all up to you! This is low-tech fun; no app required. Yeah for art! 




Kids age four & under are free. If your kids are older than that, you can get a family pass for just $41 if you buy in advance.

Tickets are available at the front gate June 6 & 7. Kids under five are free, then tickets range from $12-$17, a whole Family for $47. Save a few bucks by getting your tickets in advance on the VMMF website.



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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Quaxing: What It Is & How To Be Awesome At It

A new term in the biking world popped up on my radar recently: quaxing. Have you heard of it too? It's become a social media phenomenon--just search for the hashtag #quaxing on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.

In short, quaxing is just shopping by bike, walking or transit. The unusual term was coined after a New Zealand politician made a snide comment, assuming that shopping by bike is unlikely or impossible. For more details & photos, check out Hilary Angus' story on Momentum, How #quaxing Became a Rallying Call for Everyday Cyclists.

I love that shopping by bike has become a 'thing' & how has a name. It's something I've been doing for ages, more than a decade before I ever got a cargo bike & it's really not all that hard to do. So in case you're new at quaxing, I thought I'd share some tips with you that I've learned in my 15+ years of shopping by bike:


  1. Rack it! You really don't need a whole lot of special gear to shop for a few things by bike. However, a rear rack is a good idea & not expensive. It'll increase your capacity by a lot.
  2. Bungees for the win! Keep a bungee cord or two on your rear rack, that you can use to strap down large items like 15-roll toilet paper packages or bags of kitty litter.
  3. Bags in back. It is possible to hang one or two shopping bags off your handlebars, but unless you're only going a couple blocks on a very quiet street, it'll really affect your steering, so I wouldn't advise it. Tying the bags to your rear rack is a more stable option.
  4. N+1 bags. Always have an extra reusable shopping bag with you, ideally one that has handles long enough for you to slip on your shoulders like a backpack in a pinch. If you end up buying more than you intended to, you can still get your stuff home.
  5. Grab a box. A bungee can also be used to secure a cardboard box to your rear rack if needed. The sturdy fruit boxes that have holes through them in several places are perfect for this & will hold bulky items like milk jugs or bags of potatoes. Most stores have extra boxes in a bin or will give them to you if asked.
  6. Skip the bags. If you do have panniers or baskets, bring them into the store with you & pack your purchases directly into them at the till. Heavy items on the bottom, lighter on the top & take care to keep items with corners away from your fruit to avoid bruising.
  7. Kid control. If you're shopping with young children in tow, plan how you'll keep them from running amok while you load up your bike. If you've got a cargo bike or a child trailer, you're golden! Just load them in first. It's still doable to shop with kids on a regular bike, however. At the grocery store, I always use a shopping cart, even if I only need one or two items, because I can keep the kids in there while I load up the bike so they don't run into the parking lot. Bringing a lightweight carrier can work in stores where you wouldn't have shopping carts, so you can keep a baby or toddler on you until you're ready to strap them into their seat. Sometimes I ask my four-year-old to help me load up or unlock the bike to keep him occupied or just get him to hold onto the bike frame.
  8. Get the word out. Wear your helmet into the store or mention that you're shopping by bike. We need to make sure that business owners realize how many of their customers arrive by bicycle so they'll add racks when needed & support cycling infrastructure improvements around their stores.

Hope these tips are useful for you. Have you got any to add--write them in the comments below--I'd love to hear from you!



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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Join the Vancouver Family Biking Low Tide Ride May 17!

Low Tide at Spanish Banks. Photo Credit: Jeff Werner via Compfight

Are you spending the Victoria Day long weekend in Vancouver? Join the Spokesfamily & a few dozen of our friends for a family-paced bike ride along the seawall to Spanish Banks for one of the lowest tides of the year this Sunday, May 17.

All ages & abilities welcome--we'll ride at a relaxed pace that little kids can keep up with. All the details are on the Low Tide Ride Facebook event page--please RSVP there if you're coming so we know to expect you!


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