Cover: It's time to get cycling, Vancouver

By Ulrike Rodrigues

Cyclists are everywhere. If youre in traffic, we swirl around you. If youre on the seawall, we glide past you. If youre on the sidewalk, we steer around you. If youre on a bike were behind you.

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According to the City of Vancouver website, cycling is the fastest growing method of travel, and almost 16 per cent of Vancouver residents cycle or walk to work including a full 41 per cent of the residents in the downtown and West End neighbourhoods.

And if youve noticed more bikes than usual this spring, its because 2012 is a champagne year: at the convention centre, 1,500 delegates of the international Velo-City Global 2012 conference are rolling up their trousers to talk cycling planning. In the streets, thousands of participants of the third annual Velopalooza bicycle festival are rolling out their bikes for two weeks of themed rides, parties, talks and water fights.

Its getting to the point that driving is the old normal.

Cycling is not just for weekends anymore, and its no longer rumpled. Like a lively golden thread, city cycling has sewn itself into the fabric of Vancouvers dashing new look. Its fresh-faced, light-hearted, practical-minded and easy on the eyes. Its easy to try, too. With its mild weather, separated pathways, and cycle-themed hangouts, Vancouver dares you to not try a day on a bike.

But about those sidewalks. Its super that everyones so keen, but did you know that not only is it not legal to ride on the sidewalk, but its totally not cool in the cycling community. And that cycling community is actually a misnomer?

June is Bike Month in Vancouver, and this week, WE shares tips, tricks, facts, and jabs from the heart of the cycling, er, scene.

If youre new to cycling, new to Vancouver, or just velo-curious, cruise a few places to find your people.

Go to a bike shop. Many bike shops have bulletin boards near the door or cash register. Browse the posters, brochures, maps and newsletters.

Go to a bar or cafe. Hang out at a biker-loving watering hole like the Musette Caffe, Wilder Snail, Banditas Taquiera, The Brickhouse, or The Cambie.

Go to a venue. Check out BMX, track, cyclo-cross or downhill mountain-biking by showing up as a spectator. Take a course. Volunteer.

Like a Facebook group or join a Meetup online. Its hard to recommend any one group over another, so use your Google sense and try some keywords.

Browse a blog. Begin with a general blog like Average Joes Cycling Blog (AverageJoeCyclist.com), and follow the links.

Pull up a general info website. The City of Vancouver (Vancouver.ca), Translink, (Translink.ca), Cycle Route Planner (CycleVancouver.UBC.ca), Tourism Vancouver (tourismvancouver.com) and Tourism BC (HelloBC.com)

Poke around in a special interest website. HUB: Your cycling connection (BikeHub.ca), Velopalooza (Velopalooza.com), Vancouver Bicycle Club (VBC.bc.ca), Vancouver Bicycle Rides (VancouverBicycleRides.com), and Cycling BC (CyclingBC.net) are a good place to start.

When is a bicycle not a bicycle? When its a burro, a bottle opener, a taxi and SUV (Supreme Utility Vehicle), and an unending source of amusement.

Carry stuff. With a rear rack, a cardboard box and a couple of bungees, you can carry $200 worth of groceries from the supermarket.(MomentumMag.com/articles/fear-factor-superstore-shopping)

Carry people. Its not legal in Vancouver, but if you pad the rear rack of your bicycle, you can invite a passenger to sit side-saddle and ride pillion.

Open a bottle. If your bike has water bottle mounts, you can attach a specially-designed bottle opener to the frame of your bike.(TheBikeDr.com/Cool-Stuff/norco-bottle-opener.html)

Light up. Use the motion of your wheels to power the front and rear lights (ReeLight.com) or to animate the streets. (MonkeyLectric.com)

Play it straight. Ride a straight line in traffic, shoulder-check before you change direction, pedal one kilometre per hour at stop signs, use your right arm to signal right turns, and stay off the sidewalk.

Important Announcement: the days of pulling on shiny sport fabrics have passed. We can now return to riding bicycles in regular attire.

Pants. Most pants are cycle pants. Look for stretchy fabrics and avoid pants with bulky inseams. Tuck the cuffs into your socks to protect them from the bike chain grease. Better yet, ride a bike with a chain guard.

Skirt. Choose either a flowy A-line or a stretchy pencil silhouette. Add pleats and slits for even more mobility. Wear padded bike shorts underneath for comfort and modesty while pedaling, then discreetly pull off the shorts when you arrive.

Tights or leggings. Black, footless leggings are great for warmth and style under regular shorts, skirts or dresses. Any kind will do, but a pair with more stretch than cotton in the blend help will help with shape and durability.

High heels. Savvy, suited cyclists agree: its easier to pedal in heels than walk in them, because you have less weight on the ball of your foot. Requires some practise.(MomentumMag.com/videos/biking-to-work-in-a-dress-and-heels)

Hair. Take preventative measures and seek a cycle-positive stylist who can offer well-tested suggestions. Never, ever wear a bicycle helmet over wet hair.

Scarves. Cotton scarves or bandanas add flair to a summer outfit, keep your neck warm on a cool night, and work as an impromptu headband to hide helmet hair.

Rain poncho. If rain threatens, a cover-all rain cape drapes over you, your regular jacket, and your bike.Under $50.

Safety vest. As dusk falls, transform your regular clothes into reflective gear simply by slipping a mesh-fabric safety vest over top.

Dress your bike. Add fenders so puddles dont splash your clothes. Add a chain guard so oil doesnt stain your slacks. Add a rack or basket to carry stuff instead of a shirt-wrinkling backpack.

Bus fare. If you get caught in the wrong clothes, in the wrong weather, or at the wrong time, just call it a day and take your bike on the bus. Keep a book of Translink FareSaver tickets in your wallet so you dont have to scramble for change.

Gone are the days when you needed to get technical at an outdoors store to ride cycle in the city. To feel safe, comfortable and stylish when you ride, the bargains are in a neighbourhood near you.

Downtown. For dry feet, visit the boot department of Army and Navy for a houndstooth spin on the rubber boot. $29.99.

Kitsilano (and other locations). If you dont ride far or fast when its wet outside, try the feature-rich rain pants at Marks Work Wearhouse instead. $29.99.

Cambie Village. Pssstneed a bike? The Vancouver Police Department has a deal for you. Once a year the VPD sells off their collection of unclaimed stolen bikes in a three-day public auction.There were 400 on offer this past spring.

East Vancouver. For those who like to forage for bargain parts and accessories, check the aisles of donated or consigned items at Our Community Bikes and Sports Junkies.(PedalPower.org/our-community-bikes/ ; SportsJunkies.com/

East Village (formerly Hastings-Sunrise). When Main Street and Commercial Drive feel too mainstream, bike clothing crafters source wool pants and skirts, retro t-shirts, and Madmen jackets at the mom-and-pop thrift stores surrounding Value Village.(ValueVillage.com)

When it comes to environmentally transporting goods and materials, we Vancouverites could learn from other continents and eras.

Rear rack. With a rack on the back of your bicycle, you can carry almost anything. It takes the weight off your sweaty back and your sore butt. Starting at $15.

Bungee cords. Use one or two bungees to secure a box of groceries, extra clothing, a purse, a hockey stick, and a surprisingly wide range of odd objects to your bikes frame or rear rack. $2 or less.

Bike bags. Known as panniers, bike bags hook onto a rear rack and keep groceries (no more shopping bags!) and clothes (no more gym bag!) dry and secure. They usually come in a pair starting at $40.

Basket. Metal newsboy-style front baskets and racks are making a comeback. They can be light enough to detach and carry like a shopping basket, or sturdy enough to transport a Bichon Frise. Starting at $25.

Kickstand. Mounted on the bottom bracket or rear triangle of your bike, a kickstand allows your loaded bike to rest wherever it wants. Inside, it keeps the bike away from easily-scuffed walls. Starting at $10.

Compared to automobiles, bicycles are easy and inexpensive to maintain. Remember, theyre simple contraptions with a few moving parts. Keep those parts happy, and your bicycle will be happy.

Air in the tires. Most people ride bicycles with too-soft tires. It wears out the tires and makes the bike harder to pedal. Inflate the tires every month or so. Roll up to any bicycle shop and theyll show you how to check and inflate the tires yourself.

Oil on the chain. A dry chain creaks, wears out other parts, and makes the bike harder to pedal. A bottle of chain oil usually costs less than five dollars, and a bike shop can show you how to apply it. Lubricate your chain every couple of weeks; more frequently if the bike gets wet.

A yearly tune-up. A bicycle tune-up generally costs less than $50 and includes air, oil, an adjustment of moving parts, and a safety check. If you dont ride your bike often, ask a bike shop for a free estimateyou may not need a whole tune-up. If you do ride regularly, get a tune-up every spring and fall.

Sometimes riding a bike is not breezy and effortless. You can get tired, sweaty, lost, and intimidated by traffic and hills. The solutions are so simple youll be amazed you didnt think of them yourself.

Call BCAA. Your favourite roadside assist now helps with common cycle crises. Flat tire? Broken chain? Stranded in Delta? Call BCAAs Bike Assist and theyll either repair your bike on the spot or tow you home or to the nearest bike shop. bcaa.com/bikeassist

Go multi-modal. If you need a little help getting where youre going (like through the George Massey Tunnel), use Translink. Thanks to their Bikes on Transit policy, you can bring your bike on the bus, SeaBus or SkyTrain at no extra cost.

Get off the bike. Is that hill too steep? Get off the bike and push it. Is that traffic too busy? Get off the bike and wheel it to a quieter street. Is that destination too far? Get off the bike and go multi-modal. Dont feel shy even if youre walking the bike, youre still getting more exercise than that driver in the Pathfinder.

To keep your bike safe, you must out-smart the criminals who know more about bike security than you do.

Record your bikes serial number. The Vancouver Police Department recovers thousands of stolen bikes every year, but cant return them because many victims didnt record the serial number and didnt report the bike stolen. To locate your bikes serial number, ask a bike shop.

Replace the quick-release parts. Annoyingly, many new bikes still come with a quick-release (QR) front wheel, rear wheel, and seat post that are easy to steal. For as little as $20, you can replace all three QR parts with a security skewer set.

Use a U-lock, not a cable lock. Yes, hauling a heavy, high-security lock along on a ride sucks, but its a fact of life when you cycle in Vancouver. Use a U-lock to secure the frame (not wheel) of your bike to a rack or pole. Dont use a cable lock unless your bike is worth less than $30.

Its about the lock, not the bike. As one pawn shop owner put it, If you locked a $800 stereo system out on the street, it would get stolen too.

Granville Island. What a perfect combination for a bicycle thief: tourists, visitors and new Vancouverites using a $10 cable lock to secure the QR front wheel of their newly-purchased or rented bicycle to a poorly-positioned bike rack.

Any campus or library bike rack. Bike thieves know that going to classes and researching projects takes time lots of time. To keep your bike safe, lock it in front of the busy coffee shop across the street instead.

Your buildings storage locker, bike room, or garage. Thieves know how to break, enter, and load up a van in mere minutes. You can thwart them by using a U-lock to secure your bike to an immovable object inside the locked bike storage area.

Ocean, forest and mountains. Millions of bike-renting tourists cant be wrong: the car-free Seawall path around Stanley Park is a 360, 10-kilometre, counter-clockwise ring of pedal heaven.

Sun and beaches. The three-kilometre section of the Seaside Bicycle Route connecting Spanish Banks, Locarno Beach and Jericho Beach offers up a near-continuous, family-friendly stretch of sand.

Bridges and cafés. The Seaside Bicycle Route also includes an urbane False Creek section dotted with sidewalk cafes and green gardens. The path runs seven kilometres between and beneath Vancouvers Burrard, Granville and Cambie Street bridges.

History and industry. On Sundays only, the Burrard Inlet Commissioner Street route (four kilometres) and the Fraser River Kent Avenue Bikeway (seven kilometres) lose their weekday truck traffic and reveal locals-only glimpses of sea port and wood mills.

Bike geeks and freaks. Join the flow on the Adanac Bikeway (5.5 kilometres) or 10th Avenue Bikeway (seven kilometres). Both routes run east-west through central and east Vancouvers leafy residences.

The most interesting bike route youve never ridden. For an easy day trip or an after-work spin, jump on the 24-kilometre Central Valley Greenway. The inter-urban trail connects the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster on a flat, continuous, paved route that shadows the Translink Millennium line. Follow the path of creeks, crows and old railway lines from False Creek to the Fraser River, then grab a snack at New Wests River Market.

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