As the trees start to blush with fall colours and the first snow dusts the peaks in the distance, we’re reminded just how many things there are to love about living in this city. Vancouver is uniquely beautiful but one thing we’d all agree doesn’t improve with any season is the traffic.
Even for cyclists, who are able to bypass the worst of the jams, options are still limited. Many bikers I know won’t use the very narrow sidewalks of the Second Narrows, and cyclists wanting to cross the Fraser River at the Massey Tunnel have to wait for the bike shuttle. But there’s something new to ponder: the shuttle bike.
Judah Schiller lives in another city surrounded by ocean and found a novel way of beating the commuting crowds. Last week he mounted his bike to a simple snap-in pontoon system and pedalled his way across San Francisco Bay.
He's also pedalled across the Hudson River in New York City:
The pictures make you question how unwieldy the system is to transport — the pontoons look quite large — but in fact it’s a very efficient kit called Shuttle Bike, weighing less than 10 kilographs and purchased for approximately $1,000 from an Italian manufacturer. The entire kit folds up so it can be worn as a backpack, and requires about 10 minutes preparation before you can snap a bike into the frame.
Schiller says riding on calm water is as smooth and simple as road biking. Wakes from boats and rough water create an experience closer to the shifting terrain of mountain biking. In late September, his 6.5 km crossing from Oakland to San Francisco took him just over an hour.
He told San Francisco Chronicle, “No buses, no cars, no taxis, no pedestrians — next year, we'll have 500 bikers riding across a virtual bike lane on the bay with me."
Schiller said he was hopeful water biking will catch on as both an activity and a viable means of commuting in cities like ours where waterways abound. With this goal in mind, he’s started the BayCycle Project, which is looking to raise $50,000 U.S. to fund a new water bike system, develop the business infrastructure to bring the new system to market, and work on community outreach and awareness, including group water bike rides. Investors who chip in $10,000 will get their own water bike and if anyone is prepared to throw in $25,000, Judah will get a tattoo in their honour.
It’s hard to imagine Schiller will transform the commuting world just yet, given the Shuttle Bike pontoons need more time to set up than it currently takes to cycle over the Lions Gate Bridge and that an absence of cars doesn’t mean commercial shipping in the Burrard Inlet wouldn’t present a hazard to intrepid water bikers.
However, it’s hard not to admire his determination and commitment to the cause. And there’s no denying that water bikes look pretty fun, like a stand up paddleboard for cyclists. I’d certainly be willing to give one a try. Take our poll: would you commute to work on a water bike?
Kay Cahill is a cyclist, librarian and outdoor enthusiast who believes that bikes are for life, not just for commuting. Contact Kay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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