Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Family Cycling Live Q&A for HUB Go By BIke Week

Tuesday, May 26 I answered questions about family cycling live on Facebook as a part of the HUB Cycling Go By Bike Week. If you caught the livestream, or even if you missed it, I've collected some of the resources I mentioned here, all in one spot.

First off, the best place to start if you're cycling in Vancouver & the Lower Mainland, is the HUB Cycling resources page. You'll find tips on route planning & maps, insurance & theft prevention, buying a bike, rules of the road & safety tips, cycling groups, issues & improvements, bike friendly businesses, plus data on cycling.

A few related videos I've found useful:

Last but not least is the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook group. This is a closed group, so you'll need to request to join & be sure to acknowledge that you've read the group rules so you can become a member. It's a friendly little community with a couple thousand cycling parents who regularly share tips, gear, & help each other find bike, child seats, & advice on anything related to family cycling.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

#Bike365 Challenge for 2020

My Tern GSD on the False Creek Seawall 
A few days into the new year, I was inspired to start another year-long social media challenge. If you've been following me for long on Twitter or Instagram, you probably know I love me a good hashtag challenge. I did #365FeministSelfie in 2014, I have participated in #30DaysOfBiking the last few Aprils, I decided to write a blog post every single day, plus a few others I'm forgetting the names of.

The reasons for these are generally the same: challenge myself to stick with a thing, use social media for both moral support & obligation to "stay honest", promote the thing in a small way by showing how I do it.

The plan this year is to ride every day of 2020: #Bike365. This challenge is, well, actually not terribly challenging for me, in terms of the cycling. I already bike five or six days a week usually. The real challenge is more about consistently writing & photographing my cycling. Biking is to me what water is to fish, & I often take for granted the aspects of it that are really worth sharing.

So if you're interested in following along, or joining in by chronicling your daily rides, please do! I'm mainly sticking to Twitter, though I may post some of my days on Instagram if I manageto get good photos. I've started a thread where I'll collect my daily #Bike365 tweets here, if you'd like to see.

P.S. You can still use the hashtag if you don't actually ride every single day of 2020--it's more about normalizing cycling for transportation than bike fundamentalism!

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Friday, January 3, 2020

#CarFreeFamily 2019: How Much Does it Cost?

It's that time again... time to tot up what we spent on getting around in 2019. I decided to do a Twitter thread on this, so rather than reinventing the wheel, I'll borrow heavily from that & add in a little more context, since I've got a wee bit more space here.

This year's transportation costs include:

  • Modo Car Co-op bookings
  • Poparide trips for Oliver
  • bike maintenance & parts for our fleet
  • Mobi bike share memberships
  • charging my Tern GSD e-cargobike

What I'm not including is:

  • the Modo bookings made & paid for by my employer, HUB Cycling, for work as a cycling instructor
  • transit trips made two & from my work, because this is also covered by HUB
  • all the taxi rides I took because of my broken ankle, which were covered by Worksafe BC
  • the cost of buying my Tern GSD
I suppose I could include depreciation for the bike or something, but honestly, I don't know how long I'm going to use this bike or what I'd get for it if I sold it, etc, so it's really hard to calculate. The Tern GSD S10 cost about $7900 with all the passenger & cargo accessories I got, extra accessories, extra locks, & $818 in taxes.

Carshare, Rideshare, & Bikeshare

Took a Modo car on a dark & rainy night to B's choir concert
We drove about as much as usual, 19 Modo Car Co-op bookings, a bit over 500km, but no rental cars, which is what we often use for out-of-town trips. Our Modo bills totalled $708 for the year. So MUCH less than owning one!

By the way, if you're interested in joining Modo, you can get a $50 driving credit if you sign up with the code SPOKESMAMA.

Oliver took a couple of rideshare trips to the Okanagan via Poparide, one of which straddled New Year's, so I've only included one way. These came out to $136.

Our Mobi memberships are also quite low cost--$20 each--because we qualify for their Community Pass program. More details on the Mobi site here.

Our Biking

Tern GSD on the Seawall 
I estimated that the cost to charge my Tern GSD e-bike was about $0.035 per KM, or $37 a year based on the past 5 months. I originally included $15 for this in the transportation costs. HOWEVER, I grossly overestimated this by multiplying the kWh by the time it takes to charge, which is wrong. So ignore what I tweeted, the total should be about six times less, or a bit over $6 a year.

2019 was a good year for bike maintenance too. We didn't have many flats or major issues with our bikes. Total: $559. Less than half 2018's total. Part of that may have been because the new Tern GSD hardly needed any work & it was my main ride for the last five months of the year.

However, we did buy a few things like studded tires for two more bikes, so that bumps it up by $140.

P.S. If you are looking for a good bike mechanic, take your ride in to Clint at Velo Star Cafe.


Transit cost us a measly $102 for the four of us. Other than my work trips, which I mentioned above, we just don't take the bus, Skytrain, or Seabus that much.

Some conclusions

A lot of our savings come from living in an area that has everything we need within walking or biking distance, plus pretty great transit & bike infrastructure. We really don't need to drive for 90-something percent of our trips. I realize it ain't the same in most of the rest of North America, but it doesn't have to stay like this. Also, I recognize that many people can't afford to buy good e-cargo bikes like mine--I couldn't either, to be honest, until I got a settlement from ICBC after I got hit by a car in October of 2018. Here are a few things, let's call them action items, that I push for in my advocacy work:

  • We need rebates for e-bikes & to exempt them from tax so more people can can & will buy them. They're expensive, but research shows they do replace car trips, which can only be a good thing for so many reasons!
  • We need to expand frequent, fast transit & robust carsharing in other cities so more people have better choices than owning vehicles & driving all the time.
  • We need to build a well-connected all ages & abilities cycling network in all our cities to make it safer & more enjoyable for more people including children to cycle for transportation.
  • More employers need to incentivize transit & active travel to work like mine does!

The Total

Photo Credit: damiengabrielson.com Flickr via Compfight cc
Transportation-wise, 2019 was a bit of a weird year. Because of Oliver's new job & my broken ankle, we didn't go on any camping trips or travel anywhere as a family. 2018 was a more typical year, & we spent a bit over double this year's total, which you can read all about here if you're interested.

All right, now that I've made you read through my whole TED talk (drum roll please)... here is the total transportation costs for our family of four in 2019:


Now I know some people might include the cost of buying my Tern GSD e-bike, but even if I had included that, the total would still be less than the average annual car costs in BC!

Now, your turn! What were your transportation costs for 2019? Including travel, all car costs like parking, maintenance, insurance, etc. I'd love to hear about it in the comments below...

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Bike Security: Locking Up a Cargo Bike

Thousands of bikes are stolen every year in the city of Vancouver alone. As cargo bikes become more popular, thieves are learning that they are a valuable target. A question I see a lot in the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook Group is, "How do I lock up my cargo bike?" Once we've invested all that money in the bike, we really want to make sure it doesn't get stolen. Over the years, I've collected a number of tips from my own experience & various other sources, so I though I'd share them all together in one place here with you. While I talk about cargo bikes specifically, most of these tips are applicable to any bike that you want to keep out of the hands of thieves!

  1. Do not use a cable lock. Please! Cable locks, particularly the ones thinner than your finger, are ridiculously easy to snip through with bolt cutters. Bike thieves often carry foldable bolt cutters around in a backpack. They can whip them out, unfold, snip your cable lock, & ride off in literally less than a minute. If you want to use a cable lock as a secondary lock, along with a sturdy U-lock or heavy chain, that's reasonable, but do not use a single cable lock as the only thing keeping your bike safe.
  2. Use more than one lock. I've heard a good guideline is to spend 10-20% of the value of your bike on locks. Note the plural. All locks are fallible, but if you only use one & a bike thief has the right tool to get through it, they can be riding off with your bike in under a minute. Depending on where I'm locking up & for how long, I use up to four locks of different types. I'm a big fan of frame locks for cargo bikes as a secondary lock, plus a chain to reach those awkward racks that are not very big bike friendly, & a U-lock for solid security. A noisy angle grinder can get through pretty much anything, but the quieter tools like bolt cutters, pneumatic jacks, & other prying devices tend to work on one type of lock, so if you have a few, it may make your bike just unattractive enough that the thief will walk on by. More on the locks in this bike lock roundup post here.
  3. Secure your wheels & your frame. Make sure with whatever combination of locks you use, one goes through each wheel & the frame of the cargo bike. Besides preventing the wheels from being stolen, this immobilizes the wheels, so the thief can't just defeat the lock that attaches to the rack & wheel the bike away, they'll have to carry it, which is not exactly easy with a heavy cargo bike.
  4. Lock your bike to something immobile & check it first. Bike racks are usually a good choice, but make sure the rack is properly bolted to the ground & there are no breaks or cuts in the loop that you attach to. This is a trick I've seen--some thieves cut through the triangle part of the rack so that the lock can be slipped through the gap & the unsuspecting bike owner's ride can be stolen later. If there's no bike rack, parking meters or poles may not be a good choice, as bikes can potentially be slipped up the pole & over--cargo bikes are heavy, but if there are two bike thieves, it's theoretically doable. Sign posts are sometimes just bolted into a base at the ground, & can be easily unbolted & slid out of the lock as well. 
  5. Lock up where the bike is visible. If you're stopping at a cafe, or somewhere with windows to the outside, try to park your bike where you can keep an eye on it if possible. A place with a lot of other people around is generally good too, if you have a choice between a rack in an out of the way place & one near, say a cafe entrance or busy bus stop.
  6. Store your bike out of sight. Sound like I'm contradicting my last tip? What I mean is the places you're keeping your bike for longer periods of time, like all day at work, or overnight at home, particularly places that you keep it on a regular basis. Theoretically, this is where the more organized bike thieves are going to attack--they'll figure out that your valuable cargo bike is usually locked up for eight hours outside this office building weekdays, or generally sits in that back yard every night, then come back when they've got the tools to steal it. If your bike is in a shed or garage or even just in a less visible area of your yard, it's less likely to be spotted & targeted. 
  7. Don't leave any accessories on the bike. I thought a cheap cargo strap wasn't a theft target, so I left one velcroed to the front rack of my cargo bike a month or so ago. Nope. It was gone the second day I had it on there. Not a huge loss, but it was a reminder that thieves will literally take anything that isn't bolted down. If you have a valuable saddle or child seat, consider adding an extra lock to secure it when you leave your bike behind.
  8. Register your bike with Project 529 (or whatever registry is well known in your area). In the event your bike is stolen, you have a much higher likelihood of recovering it if you've registered it. The Vancouver Police Department use Project 529 & if they come across your bike, they will be able to connect it to you with the sticker number or serial number immediately. 

I hope these tips help you keep your cargo bike safe. Do you have any questions or tips to add? Leave them in the comments below!

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Insider Tips for the Vancouver Christmas Market

Browsing the realistic looking fruit soaps at the market
This year is the 20th Anniversary of Vancouver's Christmas Market: can you believe it? The market is has returned to Jack Poole Plaza, bigger & better than ever with more than 80 huts of European sweets, treats, & treasures.

We're pretty much veterans of the Market now, & have been going since the very first year, so I thought I'd share some of our "insider" tips to make your visit more fun!

When to go

Open daily from 11:30am to 9:30pm, (11:30am to 6pm an December 24), the Market really shines from dusk onward. Tuesdays adult admission is just $10 for the 10th Anniversary. If you want to save even more, it's only $8 if you head to the market by 2pm weekdays. Despite being outdoors, it's actually not bad to go in the rain because there are awnings at the huts, umbrellas over the tables in the food area, plus the Alpine Lounge & Wunderbar are also covered & heated.

Bronte loves a good carousel ride
Special Events

Kids Day December 1: Youth 12 & under get in by donation to Children’s Wish Foundation all day, Carousel rides are by donation, snap a photo with Holly & Jolly our gingerbread mascots or your favourite princesses from Enchanted Events Vancouver, & meet Santa Claus

What to do

Obviously, shopping! The Vancouver Christmas Market is a great place to browse for high quality & unique gifts, traditional German holiday decor, & a wide variety of handmade items. However, it's not just about the shopping. There are dozens of options for sweet treats, hot & cold drinks, alcoholic & non, plus some great lunch, dinner, & snack choices. Check out some of my favourites in Eating My Way Through The Vancouver Christmas Market.

Kids can get creative in the free Kinder Kraft Igloo, explore the market and win a prize by completing the Treasure Hunt, & of course there's always the classic carousel to ride on!

Family selfie time!

What to bring

A fully charged phone or camera to be ready for All The Selfies. The market is decorated with Christmas trees everywhere, surrounds the iconic 2010 Olympic torch, & features a massive walk-in Christmas tree with over 36,000 lights.

Reusable shopping bags for the gorgeous tree decorations or other gift items you'll end up buying.

A plastic bag: if you want to keep your souvenir market mugs after you have some Glühwein, you'll want a way to get them home without dripping hot drink remnants into your other bag. Some soft packing material isn't a bad idea to get the ceramic mugs home safely if you're travelling by bike or bus, particularly.

Linny enjoyed the hot apple cider
Warm clothes for wandering outside after dark. A hot mug of Glühwein or a snack in the heated Alpine Lounge tent will help, but you'll want to bundle up nonetheless.

How to get there

Biking is a great way to get to the Market! It's located just off the Seaside Greenway & within a block of the Hornby/Burrard protected bike lane. There are some well lit bike racks & a Mobi station at the Shaw Tower right across the street from the Market entrance. The Market is also a short walk from the #19 bus on Pender street or Burrard Skytrain Station. There is cheap parking next door at the convention centre, $10 for the evening after 6pm.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Review: Hiplok Z Lok Security Tie

First off: the Hiplok Z is NOT a lock that you should use to secure your bike when you leave it for any length of time out of your sight. They don't even really call it a lock, but a "security tie". It's designed as a secondary lock, or one you use when you only need the bare minimum of security to dissuade those opportunistic thieves who don't necessarily have bike lock cracking tools on them.

For the gram-counting roadie types out there, this is a great option, as it's very light, coming in at 20g. (yes, you read that correctly--less than an ounce) The Hiplok is also fairly short, so you may not be able to use it through your front wheel & frame--it doesn't fit around that space on our Yuba Mundo, but it does on my commuter. However, because they're so small, these locks are extremely easy to pop in a pocket or a bag when you're on the go.

Think beyond cycling for a minute--yes, I do occasionally think of things other than bikes, it's surprising, I know--to some other ways you could use a little security for your stuff.

We used one when we were camping on Newcastle Island last year to keep the infamously persistent raccoons out of our food cache box, since the little buggers have figured out how to knock sticks out of the hasp.

Hiplok can provide just a little more security to attach almost anything to a rack or railing--think snowboards, strollers, kayaks at the dock, kids scooters, or skateboards when they're not using them at the playground.

Back to biking, I use it to attach my helmet to my bike & to immobilize my rear wheel. Hiplok can help attach bikes onto car racks, as well as keeping other kids off your kid's bike at the playground.

You can pick these up at your local bike shop, like Velo Star Cafe. $29 for a two-pack

Disclaimer: I received two Hiplok security ties from VeloStar Cafe to review. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. The words & opinions are my own, as always! 

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