Thursday, April 20, 2017

Kids Learn to Bike Safely with HUB Cycling

Have you seen the Junior Streetwise courses that HUB Cycling is offering this summer? The program is quite affordable--$18. Please share with anyone you know who might be interested!

Our urban riding course for juniors!

This beginner course, taught by trained instructors through HUB Cycling will introduce your rider to basic cycling skills such as steering, straight-line riding, and signalling, while covering some basic traffic safety concepts in a simulated environment free from traffic. Participants must have prior riding experience, and the ability to balance, pedal and brake prior to taking the course.

This course will take place over 3 weeks: Sunday April 30, May 7, May 14

There are two course registrations depending on the age of the child. All registrations are happening through Trout Lake Community Centre.

9:30am -10:30am 6-8 yrs - Register online here.

11:00am-12:00pm 9-12 yrs - Register online here.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Let's #UnGapTheMap to Make Metro Vancouver Better

Have you ever been riding somewhere, along a lovely separated bike route, then gotten dumped onto a busy highway or narrow footpath? Or had a bike lane just disappear into thin air as you reach a big intersection? Unfortunately, despite the fact that over 40% of Metro Vancouver residents want to cycle more often, they don't because of gaps in cycling infrastructure like this. While the number of people cycling in Metro Vancouver has increased rapidly in recent years, the bike network remains fragmented with tons of gaps across the region preventing people from cycling more often, particularly for transportation, not just recreation.

HUB Cycling--the non profit that I work for teaching cycling education to kids & adults--is working hard to solve this problem. Their UnGapTheMap campaign is focused on identifying, prioritizing & fixing the gaps that--if solved--would increase safety, creating a more connected bike network across Metro Vancouver, getting people to places they need to go.

HUB Cycling’s local committees (click here to learn more & join yours!) have already identified over 300 gaps across Metro Vancouver which are stopping more people cycling. The gaps range from minor ‘spot improvements’, such as adding signage or bike crossings, to building new bike lanes in areas of high ridership like along Powell Street in Vancouver.

In addition to identifying the routes in need of improvement, HUB Cycling is working with municipalities, the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure, plus TransLink to highlight the priority gaps & encourage government to implement solutions that will help more people bike, more safely.

One of the solutions that HUB Cycling is championing is cycle highways: continuous paved, lit paths, separated from pedestrians & motor vehicles, suitable for people of all ages & abilities. Cycle highways have proved extremely successful in Europe & could work well on routes such as Vancouver to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal (getting there by bike is a ridiculously epic journey--read my posts on our Galiano bike camping trip for more on that) & HUB Cycling is asking MLAs to support the introduction of them in Metro Vancouver.

People make over 131,000 trips by bike in Metro Vancouver each day but creating safe, connected routes would help many more people to get on their bikes. Just imagine how increasing that could change our cities: less air pollution, fewer cars stuck in traffic, healthier people getting exercise every day, less vehicle noise through our neighbourhoods...

So what can you do to help ungap the map? Adopt one of HUB Cycling’s identified gaps and explain how that gap is stopping you from cycling.

To find out more visit

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Bronte 3.7

Somebody is old enough to need her own Science World Membership card now.

It took some convincing, but B allowed a full checkup & her first cleaning at the dentist

"I'm a monkey!"

Checking out the castle carved into the stone at Lumberman's Arch water park.

All ready for Mini Micro Footie!

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rainy Spring Break? Come to Playdome!

After a long, cold, and snowier-than-usual winter here on the west coast, I was hoping for a nice, warm spring break. Well, we know how that turned out. Just a few days left of our school break, but we've got something really fun to do today: Playdome!

From the top of the ferris wheel in Playdome
Playdome is Western Canada’s largest indoor carnival, happening at BC Place from Wednesday, March 22 – Sunday, March 26, 2017. PlayDome features more than 45 rides and attractions, plus the usual guilty pleasure carnival snacks like mini doughnuts and cotton candy, plus games, all in one big warm, dry stadium.

I started going to Playdome with my students years ago when I taught ESL, and I've continued the tradition with my own kids in the last few years. We're pretty excited this year because both kids are now old enough and even three-year-old B is tall enough to go on many of the rides! (Check out the height restrictions for each ride here) No matter what the ages of your kids, if they like carnival rides, there's something for just about everybody at Playdome.

Playdome is open every day from 10:30am-9:00pm daily, except til 6:00pm on Sunday. Tickets are available at the door and online: $29 for a single-day Dome Pass; $49 for the 5-day Ultimate Pass, $8 for a Guest Pass (for parents or caregivers who don't want to go on the rides). Children under 2 years old admitted free (for safety reasons, they are not permitted to ride).

Find more information at or phone 604-669-2300.

If you want to share your experiences at Playdome, Follow BC Place on Facebook and tweet @BCPlace using the hashtag #PlayDome. Watch my Instagram feed for our adventures at Playdome this year: head over & follow Spokesmama there if you haven't already. :)

Disclaimer: our family received complimentary admission to Playdome as part of the media event. 

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bye Bye Baby Seat

Bye Peanut Shell, thanks for the memories!
This week I finally got around to something I'd meant to do for ages: removing the last baby seat from the Yuba Mundo. We bought our Yuba Mundo longtail at the Bike Doctor almost three years ago. At the time, we had one Peanut Shell seat on it for each kid. We soon realized Linnaeus didn't really need a child seat, being well past the stage of napping on the bike & fully able to hold on himself without being strapped in. So around his fourth birthday, we swapped the seat for a seat cushion, foot pegs & his own set of handlebars to hang onto.

Bronte rode in the remaining Peanut Shell for about two years, counting thousands of kilometres, taking many a nap. Until she decided she was far too big to sit in a baby seat. To be honest, we were really reluctant to let her sit on the deck on her own, unsecured, so we put it off & tried to convince her to submit to being buckled in as long as we could.

Then the Bakfiets sort of fell out of the sky (lucky 'barn find' on Craigslist that we had to do a lot of work to) & that was both kids' ride of choice due to the novelty of sitting in front in their own tiny living room, essentially. After a month or two, the kids started to realize that they could each have a cargo bike to themselves (aside from the parent who was pedalling it, of course) so they started riding on the Yuba again. Gradually, we started letting Bronte ride on the deck on her own, first on off road paths like the seawall, then short rides to preschool, etc.

So it was finally time to remove the last vestige of baby gear from our cargo bikes. I'm actually a bit nostalgic about it. We're at the point where all the baby gear is piling up: crib, baby chair, booster seat, baby toys, bike seats, but we're past the baby stage in our family. We need to pass this stuff along to the next family so it gets used, rather than just collecting dust in our garage.

The Yuba, all stripped down to haul "big" kids
So now, here we are with a sleek looking longtail. Well, sleeker than before, anyway--it's still more of a minivan than a sports car. Now carrying cargo with the bags or strapping things on to the rear deck will be even simpler. Towing bikes--which is one of the main advantages of a longtail bike over a bakfiets--will be much easier now without the legs of the baby seat in the way. Probably the biggest difference will be for carrying an adult passenger--it's a lot easier to hop on the back of the bike without a baby seat to get a leg around.

Another thing I got done today was to plan the next Vancouver Family Biking event. Join us April 16th for our third annual Easter Bonnet Ride & Egg Hunt! We'll be donning our craziest Easter bonnets, decorating bikes with bunnies & riding out to Jericho to find some eggs in the grass & have a picnic. You can find more details on the Facebook event page here. Please RSVP on the Facebook event page so we know how many treats to bring to the egg hunt.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Making Commercial Drive Better for Everyone

Photo Credit: Canadian Veggie Flickr via Compfight cc

A link popped up in one of my social media feeds today to a British Columbia Cycling Coalition page, asking us to write to Vancouver's City Council in support of adding bike lanes to Commercial Drive. I do occasionally email my various elected representatives, when I get around to it, if I've got the time... You know how it goes. But today I wrote a letter to our city council because it was so easy to do on the BCCC site. They've got a form set up that will email all of City Council--no copying & pasting or clicking through various sites.

There has been a lot of very vocal push back from business owners on the Drive who fear that bike lanes are going to somehow decimate their livelihoods, despite all the research that shows drivers make up a very small portion of their customers. Experience in other cities around the world and research on the separated bike lanes that have been added in Vancouver show that they are a great thing for business and make a neighbourhood so much safer for cyclists and pedestrians too. I fear that the people who support the idea of devoting more of the streetscape of The Drive to all the active transportation that's currently the majority of traffic there are not being loud enough. If you would like to see bike lanes on Commercial Drive, write a quick letter to City Council showing your support.

There's a lot more information on BCCC's site here, including the form to easily write a letter to the city.

Here's what I wrote, mostly off the cuff, this morning:

I'm writing in support of adding bike lanes on Commercial Drive and turning it into Vancouver's first proper Complete Street. This is particularly important to me, as I live in East Vancouver, not far from Commercial, plus walking and cycling are my family's primary means of transportation.

We actually don't shop on Commercial Drive very often anymore, though we would like to, because we don't feel that safe biking there since we've had children. We prefer to shop in areas like Commercial Drive because of all the great independent shops, cafes, and for the community feel to the place. We normally have a few stops to make at various businesses, but on Commercial Drive, that is particularly awkward by bike. We don't feel safe riding *on* Commercial Drive from shop to shop, but riding all the way over to the nearest parallel bike route to go north or south a block or two doesn't really make sense. Walking our cargo bike with the kids in it is heavy & very difficult on narrow sidewalks that are as congested as Commercial Drive can get.

Fully separated bike lanes along Commercial would help us feel much safer riding with our children and make it a lot easier for us to go from stop to stop at the various businesses there. I know the bike lanes would also make it safer for us to walk in the area as well, creating more of a buffer between pedestrians and traffic and narrowing the crossing distance when we do have to cross the car lanes.

Even when we leave the bike at home and walk from place to place around Commercial, the sidewalks feel quite crowded and difficult to navigate with a stroller and small children. Crossing the street at most of the intersections feels risky and I've had many close calls with drivers turning into crosswalks or being rude and aggressive.

My letter has focussed on *our* experience as cyclists and pedestrians on The Drive, but I know there are many other families with young children like us in the city who get around on an ever growing fleet of cargo bikes, as well as pulling trailers and toting child seats on their bikes. Cycling and walking are both growing mode shares in the City of Vancouver, as I'm sure you are aware.

I would love to see Commercial Drive--the space from one property line to the other across the street--devoted more equitably to pedestrians and cyclists, reflecting the fact that walking and cycling make up such a large portion of the traffic through that area. I think this is a great opportunity for the City to show leadership and demonstrate how much better the Commercial Drive community can be when it becomes a Complete Street.

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