Thursday, January 17, 2019

Save $50 on Drive Time with Modo Car Sharing

A perk for my Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island, & Okanagan readers: if you are interested in signing up for Modo to start carsharing, you can save $50! 

Picking up the colourful Modo cargo van at Olympic Village Station
Modo is your only local member-owned carshare service with over 700+ cars, SUVs, trucks & hybrids. Carsharing with Modo starts at $5/hour with vehicles located in North Vancouver, UBC, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Richmond, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Victoria, Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Saanich, Sidney, Nanaimo & Kelowna. Modo also has vehicles at Tsawwassen, Swartz Bay, Horseshoe Bay & Departure Bay ferry terminals!

In collaboration with Spokesmama, Modo is offering $50 in driving credit for Spokemama’s followers/blog readers. Use code SPOKESMAMA when signing up as a new Modo member. Promo expires two months after redemption. The credit applies to vehicle usage only. Learn more at

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Friday, January 11, 2019

#CarFreeFamily: How Much Does it Cost?

I love riding my bike & there are so many reasons why. I'm happier & healthier when I ride regularly. I feel more connected to my community & I've gotten to know my city so much better because of biking. But living in such an expensive city, the money we save from using our bikes as our main form of transportation is a big factor.

On Twitter recently, I came across this, which inspired me to open up a spreadsheet & tot up our transportation costs for the year too.

After about an hour of logging into online banking, sifting through my email for Square receipts, checking each of our Compass card usage records, browsing Modo invoices, & calculating ferry fares, I came up with a good picture of our transportation costs for 2018.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc

Here's the summary for you:

Bike repairs, parts, & accessories: $1357
Modo car sharing: $1213
Car rental, insurance, gas: $400
New (used) bike for Linnaeus: $300
Ferries: $238
Poparide ride sharing: $207
Transit: $105

This transportation includes the daily commutes to work & school (when I take transit or use carsharing to work it's paid for by my employer, so that isn't included in the above), all the errands & socializing, appointments, recreation, & whatever else we do around the city. It also includes three camping trips, three trips to the Okanagan to visit family, plus a road trip to Seattle & Portland during Spring break.

*Womp womp* flat tire #2 on the bakfiets
The bike repairs & parts total was higher than I expected, but this is for four different bikes, including paying to get flats fixed four times. I will sometimes fix my own flats, but it just isn't practical a lot of the time. When I'm on the road with the kids, I can't really keep them safe while concentrating on changing a flat. Our cargo bikes are a bit more complicated than a regular bike when it comes to flat fixes. With the bakfiets, we have a dynamo hub & disc brakes on the front, roller brakes & an internal gear hub on the back. If I can just pull the tube out & patch it, it wouldn't be too bad, but we usually need to replace the tube, which means half disassembling the bike.

We spent less than I thought we had on transit--this total represents an average of one round trip each per month. Our Modo bills are a little higher than previous years because used car sharing for two of the road trips, but we spent less on car rentals because of this. Overall, I think we spent less on car travel than previous years, & less than half what we spent per year than we did when we owned a car from 2006-2008.

It's hard to say exactly what our costs would be if we owned a vehicle. I used the CAA car cost calculator, assumed we owned something like the Honda Fit that we often drive from the Modo fleet. Looks like we'd be spending around $5000 annually in payments, gas, maintenance, insurance, parking, etc. However, owning one car wouldn't cover all our transportation needs. I assume we'd still make at least some trips by bike & transit, plus the occasional Modo booking to use larger vehicles or when we need a second car. My guess is we're saving $3000-4000 per year by not owning a car.

Have you ever sat down & calculated every cent of your transportation costs for the year? I highly recommend it--you may be surprised at what you find!

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Holidays from the Spokesfamily!

Happy holidays to you & yours!

Our holiday season got off to a bit of a slow start, with me recovering from a concussion since late October, but we've managed to keep it fun nonetheless.

Here are some pics of what we've been up to as part of our Holidays Activities Advent Calendar this month, in reverse order.

I cannot convince Bronte to do a straight up smiling selfies anymore, so here are some bizarre faces for you after our earlyish family Christmas dinner.

The children are actually starting to LIKE ice skating!

The Secret Lantern Society Winter Solstice Festival was fantastic this year! 
Bronte got really into the countdown this year & would bound into the living room as soon as she woke to put up the number & see what the activity was for the day.

Burnaby Heritage Village Christmas was nice & quiet on a Friday afternoon.

Trimming the tree.

Bringing home the tree by cargobike--for the first time!

The kids love gingerbread house decorating... & then they made one each again at school, so we have a small neighbourhood of them now.

Flyover Canada Christmas was pretty fun.

The Vancouver Christmas Market carousel has become a holiday institution for us.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Vancouver Christmas Market 2018 Tips

Bring a little European flavour to your holiday season at the Vancouver Christmas Market. If you've still got a long way to go on your Christmas list, shopping at the market is so much more enjoyable than the mall. Who wouldn't love being able to sip hot mulled wine--aka Gl├╝hwein or the brandy-spiked version, Feuerzangenbowle--while you peruse the shops??

Here are my top tips for this year's Vancouver Christmas Market:

  1. Ich bin ein Berliner! If you're a bit peckish, don't pass by the Berliners at the Schnappsl Kaffee Haus. These beautiful jelly doughnuts are fluffy, not too sweet, but still crammed with a good amount of delicious strawberry or apricot jam so you get a little in every bite. 
  2. Oh the weather outside is frightful... If the weather is a bit wet or cold when you go, remember there's the Alpine Lounge: a large heated & covered area at the north end of the market with benches & tables where you can warm up a bit with hot drinks & a wurst or some raclette.
  3. FREE fun for the whole family. If you're bringing kids with you, bring them to the new heated Kinder Kraft Igloo for them to make snowflakes, decorations & colour to their heart's content, as well as a scavenger hunt activity which earns a free carousel ride if you get all the stamps! 
  4. Selfie your heart out! If you're an Instagram addict, be sure to charge your phone ahead of time--there are tonnes of great spots for photos all throughout the market, inside the huge walk-in Christmas tree & the tunnel of lights. There are lights & decorations everywhere you look--it's honestly hard to find a spot without a cute seasonal backdrop. 
  5. Getting there. I recommend taking transit or biking to the market, though pay parking is easily available in nearby lots. The market is close to Burrard & Waterfront Skytrain stations, as well as bus routes 22, 19 & anything that goes down Granville to Hastings. Biking to the market is easy--the seawall connects with it from the west, or the Hornby protected bike lane from the south (with a jog at Hastings over to the lane on Burrard) There is well-lit bike parking outside the busy lobby of the Shaw Tower across the street from the Vancouver Christmas Market.

The Vancouver Christmas Market is open daily from 11:30am to 9:30pm until December 23, then 11:30am to 6pm on December 24. It's located at Jack Poole Plaza, 1055 Canada Place (home of the Olympic Cauldron) in beautiful downtown Vancouver. Admission is $5-10 per person, which gets you a season's pass, so you can go back again for free!

Disclaimer: I received free admission, drink, & food at the family media night to facilitate this review. I was not otherwise compensated for writing this review.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

12 Holiday Activities to Bike to in Vancouver *2018 Update*

The holiday season is already here! Sadly, this year got a bit derailed by a concussion in October, but I'm recovering well & getting back to normal activities. Here's my update of  12 holiday activities to bike to in Vancouver.

Tall enough for Flyover Canada!
I try to focus on the fun activities & family time when our family celebrates Christmas, & not so much on the gifts. They're also at the age where they're really into Christmas & both still believe in the magic, but I know (le sigh) that won't last for much longer. So I'm determined to make the most of the magic this year & take advantage of the many holiday events right here in our backyard.

While I was compiling a list of activities that we want to go to or have gone to in the past, I thought I'd share it with you too. Since we mainly get around by bike, I have kept this list to places that are within Vancouver city limits, generally less than a 30-minute ride from home for us. Most of these locations also feature rockstar parking for cyclists--there are generally racks right by the front entrance so you don't have to pay for car parking or dodge SUVs in the parking lot as you walk to the event with your small children in tow! Bonus: more than half the events in my list are free to attend!
The kids love the Christmas Market carousel

  1. Scuba Claus at Vancouver Aquarium The aquarium is fun any time of the year, but it's even more exciting during the holidays. Spot Scuba Claus in with the fish & catch an interactive version of the holiday classic, Rudolph, in the 4D theatre. Stanley Park is easy to get to via the seawall & several of the bikeways through downtown.
  2. VanDusen Festival of Lights  get your VanDusen tickets online here to save money & skip the lineup. Bike up Heather or take the 37th Avenue bikeway.
  3. Bright Nights Christmas Train is on for the 20th year, raising money for the Firefighters Burn Fund. If you don't necessarily want to pay & line up to ride the train, you can always just wander around the lights display with some hot roasted chestnuts or popcorn from the vendors there.
  4. Bike the Lights! There are quite a few neighbourhoods in the city that vie for the title of best decorated during the holiday season. Keep an eye out on your travels & plan a route near home that takes you through the twinkling lights. Or check out Family Fun Canada's fairly exhaustive list of locations that have good lights displays. PS: though the Trinity Street Lights Festival officially ended, the neighbourhood still goes all out with their lights & decoration displays. 
  5. Visiting Santa at Oakridge I love looking back at every year's Santa photo & it was something I grew up doing, so we've continued the tradition with our kids. Photo package details & pricing are here. The absolute best Santa is the one at Oakridge Mall. Besides the fact that he's a family friend, he ranks on the lists of best Santas every year from many other families in the city. Oakridge also offers Quiet Days with Santa, a more sensory-friendly event for kids who may get overwhelmed by all the lights & noise.
  6. Vancouver Christmas Market Taste a little bit of Germany, right in the heart of downtown Vancouver, in Jack Poole Plaza. The market has been part of our holiday tradition since its inception--eight years now, I believe. It's easy to bike to along the protected lanes downtown & there are usually racks available at a nearby building. Stay tuned: I'll be writing a more complete review of this year's market soon!
  7. Holiday Heights at Bloedel Conservatory is a fun newish event. The view is fantastic from the ferris wheel there & you can warm up inside the tropical paradise of the dome afterward. It's a bit of a hill to bike up, but if the roads aren't slippery, it's doable.
  8. Robson Square Ice Skating is free, skate rentals are $4. In contrast to my childhood, where I swear I spent several hours a week on ice skates, my children have barely skated. I play to remedy that downtown at Robson Square this year.
  9. Christmas at Flyover Canada. We were finally all tall enough to try this out (kids need to be 40"/102cm tall to ride) & wow, was it exhilarating! If you've been to a 4D theatre before, this is one step further, with seats that are lifted off the floor & move around during the show. Plus, until the end of the year, BC residents get 25% off tickets!
  10. Christmas at Canada Place Woodwards is long gone, but the holiday window displays live on, inside the halls of Canada Place! It's nostalgic good fun & it's free.
  11. Get your Christmas tree by bike! There are many local tree lots around the city, there's probably one not far from you. You can carry your tree attached to a cargo bike fairly easily (you can rent one at Reckless to try this out), or in a child trailer, or if it's relatively small, you may be able to attach it to a regular bike. For inspiration, Instagram is full of photos of people getting trees home by bike right now.
  12. Linny meeting Scuba Claus in 2012
  13. The Winter Solstice Lantern Festival put on by the Secret Lantern Society is celebrating its 25th year with fire performances & beautiful installations in Yaletown, Strathcona, Granville Island, & Chinatown on December 21st. 

Are there any other fun events in the City of Vancouver that you love to bike to? Let us know in the comments!

Also: if you're interested in biking with us & other local families to some of these events, join the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook Group--we may post some organized group rides there or you can let people know you're heading out & informally meet up along the way. Nothing more fun than a little "bike parade" of families riding!

One of the homes along Trinity Street several years ago

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