Friday, 14 September 2012

Guest Post: "Connecting With My City" by Chris Bruntlett

So by now you've probably read Melissa's account of her five days in Edmonton. When she returned to Vancouver, she asked me to write a guest post for "Velo Family Diaries", in order to provide a contrast for her fairly uneventful, auto-centric trip, and provide her readers with an update as to what we got up to while she was away. Here it goes:

The first three days were pretty uneventful, with Coralie in school, Etienne in daycare, and I at work. With it being the first week back to school, we were still getting into a routine. This time of year, I always gain a new appreciation of the life choices we've made, and having the ability to walk and/or cycle the short distances we need to go. After all, it was only three short years ago that we were living in a South Vancouver suburb, and I was making the gruelling 75 kilometre commute to Abbotsford each day.

We have been enjoying a dry and sunny September, so we definitely wanted to make the most of our weekend. We collectively decided that Saturday would be spent on a beach, so we packed up the bike trailer with a picnic, and headed down to Third Beach. Since my own bike didn't fit the trailer hitch, I took Melissa's step-through, sit-up bicycle, which was a little small, but worth the effort. Compared to my hybrid commuter, it is so comfortable and easy-to-ride, and with two smiling kids in the back, turned plenty of heads along the way. I enjoyed the experience so much that I was inspired to sell my sporty ride on Craigslist the following week, and pick up a Dutch bike of my own!  

A rare shot of all of us taken by a kind stranger
The route to Stanley Park from our apartment is an incredibly enjoyable one. The Mosaic and Adanac Bikeways provide us with a convenient route downtown, and then the Dunsmuir and Hornby Separated Bike Lanes take us safely to the water. From there, it's several kilometres of leisurely seawall riding, soaking up the views of the ocean, mountains, parks, and glass skyscrapers. We arrived at Third Beach around lunchtime, which gave us a couple of hours to eat our picnic, toss the frisbee, build some sandcastles, and then head home. We continued along the seawall on the north side of False Creek, making sure to stop for gelato on the Adanac Bikeway along the way!
The gorgeous view of the North Shore from Third Beach
Sunday was overcast and a bit cooler, so we decided to take a ride to Granville Island instead. This time around, Coralie wanted to ride her own bike, so I pulled Etienne on the Trail-a-Bike. We rode the Central Valley Greenway downtown, which connects with the Olympic Village on the south side of False Creek. We did have a minor setback, when Coralie took a spill in the middle of the intersection at Quebec Street and East 1st Avenue. Luckily, the surrounding cars were giving her plenty of space, but I had to hop off my bike, walk her over to the grass in front of a nearby fast food restaurant, and take about 10-15 minutes to recover from the injuries and the shock of the fall. She had a few scratches and bruises, but soldiered on with the promise of treats and playtime ahead.
Etienne "trailing" behind on the Central Valley Greenway
From there, Granville Island is a short ride on the waterfront, giving the kids a chance to soak up the scenery and people around them. We grabbed a slice of pizza at the Granville Island Market, a sugary treat from Lee's Donuts, and the kids took an hour to play in the park there. It was during that time that Coralie told me she didn't want to take the seawall home. Instead, she wanted to take the longer, more challenging route over the Burrard Street Bridge, through the downtown core. Given her spill earlier, it was obviously a surprise, but that's exactly what we did, riding about 20 kilometres together in total that day. One thing I really appreciate about being a cycling family: the kids know the streets, neighbourhoods and landmarks of Vancouver like the backs of their hands! 
On our way home at Main and Dunsmuir
Melissa landed that evening, and took the Skytrain back to our apartment, with a newfound appreciate for the bubble in which we live. Funnily enough, in riding around in that bubble with the kids all weekend, I had also rediscovered what it is we take for granted. I'm always surprised at how hesitant Vancouverites are to get on a bicycle. Trust me, if our little family can safely navigate the bikeways, seawalls, and separated lanes of Vancouver, anyone can! It's remarkably easy, affordable, healthy; but most of all, it connects you with your city in ways that other modes of transportation cannot!

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