Friday, 6 July 2012

One family's far

Cycling to the beach is now a
norm for this former suburbanite
Well, it's been one week since I started this blog, and it's been such a treat getting to share a few stories of the life of my family on two wheels! It's also become a great place to brag about my daughter and her impressive stamina, which I will write more about tomorrow. For today, though, I thought it would be a good idea to tell you a bit about my story, so you have a better idea of where I came from and how I got to this place of riding my bike nearly every where and encouraging others to do the same. I'm not going to go all the way back, so don't worry, this won't become a life story, just snapshots of my journey into the crazy little life I have now.

Like most Vancouverites, my family and I, with the exception of our son, are not originally from this city, or even this province. We're part of that large group of people who used to call Ontario home. My husband, Chris, and I spent our teenage years in the ever growing suburb that is Kitchener, which is where we met and our story together began. Like most kids coming of age in the 80's and 90's, a highlight of my youth was obtaining my driver's license and the "freedom" that goes with it. However, being from a one car family, with a parent that commuted to a neighbouring city for work, my access to a vehicle was not as frequent as I would have liked. Instead, I actually spent a lot of time on my bike, which, at the time seemed like such a simple action. I never once thought about how I was saving the planet with less emissions, or how healthy my actions were...I just did it because it was the most convenient way to get to see my friends in a city whose public transit options still had some learning to do.

Skip to a few years later when Chris and I moved to Toronto for University. Living in the heart of such a thriving big city was so exciting and opened my eyes to how accessible life in the city is. We lived on campus for three years, mainly out of convenience. Not just because of our proximity to the school, and the perk of waking up five minutes before class that goes with that, but we were right at the heart of numerous transportation options, too, including the bus depot when it was time to travel back to see our parents. The summer before our final year of school, we decided to leave the comforts of the university and find a place of our own. Thinking back on this now, I'm realising that we have always had a desire to be close to the amenities, because we found a cute little apartment not fifteen minutes walk from the school, and still very close to all the main transit lines. That summer was also when I decided to dust off my old bike, having been neglected for three years, and ride to my summer job, about a thirty minute ride from my apartment. It was definitely the quickest way to get there, and I would admittedly get a bit sad on the rainy days when I would take the streetcar instead. Spoiler alert, this hasn't changed, I am what you would call a "fair weather cyclist", and I'm not ashamed of my distaste for being soaked to the bone.

After graduation, came time to grow up, move out of the city, buy a car and start commuting to work every day. I still can't believe the number of hours I logged driving to and from work everyday, or to visit our parents, a thirty minute drive away. Still, the notion of being in a walkable community never left for us. The city of Guelph is not a huge one, but it was important to Chris and I that we live within walking distance of the downtown area so we could do our weekly shop on foot or bike whenever possible. This is also the time that Chris started using his affordable Huffy to get to and from work, even on the icy streets in the middle of February. I have to give him credit for his tenacity, because at the time, I thought he was nuts! 

Coralie surrounded by our worldly treasure all set to
travel the 4500kms from Guelph, ON to Vancouver, BC
In 2007, when our daughter was only eleven months old, we took a huge step, and moved from our quiet little existence in Guelph to Vancouver. Although Chris was offered a job in Abbotsford, it was very important to us that we live in the city, allowing me the opportunity to work in the city and not creating the need for a second car, which was very important to us. After nearly three years of spending at least two hours a days in a car, Chris (and I) had had enough, and Chris found work in Vancouver. Within weeks of starting his new job, we quickly found that our car was not leaving the comfort of our garage more than once or twice a week, and when it did, it was purely out of our own laziness or for really long trips that we just couldn't do by transit or on foot. So, we took a chance, sold our car, got Chris a bike, and haven't looked back. We found out in no time that this city is not as daunting as it seems, and discovered how incredibly convenient getting around on our bikes can be. For our longer trips out of the city, we have a membership with a car-share, or, whenever possible, we try to travel by train, which the kids find so exciting. 

Life not owning a car has it's challenges, and we are very aware that we lucky to live in a city that affords us the ability to get around on our bikes as a family safely and easily, for the most part. It's the choice we made, and I am very proud of how far we have come. I look forward to the day we can all travel around this city and others solo on our bicycles, and watching my children gain confidence and independence as the grow up aware of their surroundings in their neighbourhood and the larger city. We are at an exciting time in our lives, and I am humbled to know that so many people have enjoyed reading about our journey so far. This is just the start of what I know will be an incredible adventure!
Riding with my kids along the
idea of happiness!

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