Thursday, 21 February 2013

Take a Risk

If you heard the last words I said in the documentary my family and I were recently featured in, I said to "take a risk". When I said this, I was referring to moving to a car-free existence, because at the time that we sold our car, we were about to enter into unknown territory, having relied on a car for the better part of seven years and having two very young children. I think back to it now, and realize it really wasn't that risky, and we've managed to exist very happily without it for almost three years now. 

Today, while listening to a yoga podcast in my hotel room as a means to de-stress after a day of air travel, the instructor used those same words, "take a risk". Thinking on it now, I realize that it has been by taking risks and challenging myself that I have reached the place I'm at now. From choosing to leave the comfort of my childhood home for university, to our big move to the West Coast, adopting a bike-centric lifestyle, and even the long ago day I chose to start dating my now husband, I have been taking a series of risks. I don't regret any one of my decisions, knowing they have helped me learn and grow, and I will continue to take risks as my future unfolds, and look forward to all the challenges and excitement they will bring.

We currently live is a society, though, that seems to frown on risk. In the search for stability both socially and financially, many people "play it safe", opting to do as their parents did before them, or their peers are doing. Children are even being raised to "play safe". The days of running down the street and calling on a friend to play have been replaced with scheduled play dates from the safety of one's home or in a well-supervised playground. It may still be too early to tell if this will be a good or bad thing, but I personally can't help feel that if we don't ever take any risks, life will be pretty boring. What kind of example is that to set for our children, and what will that leave them to look forward to?

Risks don't have to be grandiose, or life-threatening. Something as simple as vacationing somewhere you would have never thought to go can be a small risk, and the reward could be amazing! I think to our honeymoon. We could have played it safe and travelled to the Caribbean, relaxed on the beach and watched the sun set. While that does sound idyllic, we instead opted for a two-week whirlwind trip through France, Spain and Italy. Now we look back on that as being one of our favourite vacations. Yes, we were tired at times, at the mercy of train schedules, and it cost us a pretty penny, but I wouldn't trade any of those memories, of which I look back on fondly and frequently.

So I challenge you to "Take a Risk". Do something you wouldn't normally do, eat something different, try shopping in a place you would normally never dream of shopping in. Or go big! Either way, I will be right along with you, continuing to change things up, and encouraging my children to never turn down the opportunity to try something new. You never know what will happen, and the results could exceed your wildest dreams!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

So you want to license my child: The insanity of bicycle licensing

Our kids don't need a license to ride, just
passion and a bit of common sense
Being an advocate for increased bicycle ridership, better infrastructure, and reigniting the number of children who ride bikes, I tend to read quite a few articles and posts on the subject. I will admit, from time to time, I venture into the comments, just to see what others are saying, and also to see if perhaps, finally, the general population has given up on this whole "war on cars" nonsense. One suggestion I frequently see from those commenters, who feel people who ride bikes are being pandered to, is that bicyclists should have to get a license. The belief is that if they are using the roads, then they should have to be licensed. I'm still a bit perplexed as to why there is such a push for bicycle licenses, mainly because I have a six-year-old who does ride on the road and a four-year-old soon to follow. So to understand it a bit better I looked into it. Here's what I found out.

Many motorists believe that by licensing people on bikes, it will turn them into better road users. From obeying traffic laws to respecting other road users' space. It is true that there are some pretty aggressive cyclists out there who run through stops signs, blaze through intersections without looking for traffic, and even disrespect pedestrians at crosswalks. I have to point out, though, that licensing these people will not change their behaviour, just as requiring people to pass a driving test and obtain a license to drive a car has not stopped some motorists from speeding, rolling through intersections instead of coming to a complete stop, not yielding to pedestrians, or worse still, crashing into each other. Not licensing because it won't change behaviour does seems a little fatalistic, but I would argue that there are many reasons motorists must be licensed - you have to be 16 to drive a car, driving is a very complicated task with many regulations and rules, and most importantly: cars are 2-tonne metal machine capable of causing death and destruction. A bicycle can be ridden by anyone, any age, weighs about 20-40 lbs, and cannot kill someone, if by chance they are hit by a bicycle.

Another argument I hear frequently is that people on bicycles need to share the cost of road usage and wear and tear. The fact is that all adults living in a city pay taxes, whether through income, purchases, property taxes, etc, regardless of their mode of transportation, be it car, bus, rapid transit, bicycle or plain old walking. Those taxes go to various expenses, not the least of which include road repair and upkeep. But ok, let's look at it from the monies earned through licensing point-of-view. Copenhagenize summed it up quite succinctly in a related post written in March of 2010 (Source). Essentially, if you compare the average weight of a car, around, let's say, 3500 lbs, to the average weight of a bicycle, around 30 lbs, a bicycle weighs about 0.9% of that of a car. Here in BC, the cost of a driver's licence is $75. If you based the cost of a bicycle license as 0.9% of that, then a bicycle license would cost $0.68. Mathematically, that just doesn't make sense, and the government would actually lose money in setting up a system like this, not to mention the administrative costs lost over time. So, to sum up, licensing bicyclists would cost tax payers more money, leaving even less from an already strained budget for repair and upkeep of our shared roads. 

There is also the negative impact of licensing bicycles to consider. The biggest would be a large reduction in cycling numbers. Riding a bicycle is cheap, easy, and can be done by anyone. Requiring people on bikes to get licensed will turn a lot of people away, who would opt for other modes of transport instead of dealing with the hassle of getting a license. I think it's pretty apparent that riding a bike is a form of exercise, whether your racing or just using a bike to get around town at a leisurely pace. If a large number of people decreased their level of frequent exercise, and opted for a more sedentary way of travel, so increases their health risks due to inactivity and weight gain, and thus increases the strain on our health care system, costing tax payers more money. 

Outside of the cost to both the government and its taxpayers and to individual health, and whether or not it will make cyclists behave better, I have a question I blurt out every time I hear about licensing cyclists; What about the kids?! Many children start learning to ride a bike when they are between two- and three-years-old. Usually by the time they are school aged, those same children are riding on their own bike confidently, many on roads with their parents. What governing body, in their right minds, is going to require that toddlers pass a test and ask their parents to pay to licence their 16" one speed BMX? It's a ridiculous idea, and would only cause less and less children to learn the freedom of riding a bike, which, once again, would decrease physical activity in our young people. But again, I ask, do you really want to license my four- and six-year-old?

When all the facts are laid out, requiring licensing for cyclists would be a massive drain on time and money with little to no reward. Having a license doesn't necessarily mean people will behave better. Understanding the rules of the road, and respecting other road users is common sense, and believe me, those of us who ride bikes are instilling that respect in our children, not so much for the benefit of the motorists, but more for their own safety. So, next time you're frustrated with a bad cyclist, or the proposal of a new bike lane, take a breathe and really think about how this really impacts you before going on a rant in a comments section about licensing cyclists. We're not out to get you, we have not declared a war on cars, and nothing makes you look more like a jerk then suggesting a small child should get a license to be able to feel the joy of riding on two wheels.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Spring is in the air!

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day in Vancouver. The sun was out, the weather warmer, and it seemed that everyone was out on the seawall enjoying a little taste of Spring! Having gone for a lengthy bike ride the day before, we opted to go for a family walk instead, giving the kids a chance to run around, as well as hopefully burning off some of their energy. We travelled along the seawall from Science World to Granville Island, then up over the Burrard Bridge and onto the Skytrain home. It was so lovely to be able to enjoy a day in the sun, and as an added bonus, Coralie got to document it with her camera. This post features some of the photos she took of our day!

Heading off to the seawall
View of False Creek and the North Shore from Olympic Village
Taking a stroll while Etienne runs
Taking a rest along the boardwalk
Sweet view of Habitat Island
Peaceful walk for mom and dad while Etienne messes around
Boats in the Harbour
A nice shot of Chris and I with Etienne
Etienne at the playground on Granville Island
I took this shot of my beautiful little photographer
Heading across the Burrard Bridge for home
Long arm cuddles
I see some talent in this budding photographer
Looking West from the Burrard Bridge towards English Bay
Heading home after a wonderfully sunny day!

Friday, 8 February 2013

A Car-Free Life

A couple weeks back I wrote about my family and I being the subject of a "point-of-view" documentary. We I'm pleased the share the end product - a lovely look into our little family life! 

A Car-Free Life from Brigitte Patenaude on Vimeo.

A short, point-of-view documentary on how a family of four can get from Point A to Point B by foot, bike, or public transit.
Director, Second Camera, Editor: Brigitte Patenaude
Producer, Transportation: Ian Deichen
Camera, Editor: Devon Mussett

Saturday, 2 February 2013

You never forget, but sometimes you need a reminder

Bright sun in our eyes Saturday morning!

It's winter in Vancouver, and pretty much everywhere in the Northern hemisphere. It's cold, in my case, wet, and for a self professed "fair-weather bike rider", it's also the time of year when I spend very little time on two wheels. Weather combined with the fact that I was struck with the flu for the better part of a week meant that it had been a solid two weeks since I last rode, and I missed it!

Chris was kind enough to haul both kids to the game

Thankfully, we've had a break in the rain the last couple days, and we took full advantage. With tickets to the Vancouver Giants hockey game last night, we bundled the kids with a blanket into the trailer and headed off on our bikes from Commercial-Broadway to the Pacific Colosseum. It was a cold night, but the sky was littered with stars with the clouds having finally broken, and it was nice to ride alongside my husband and let go of the stresses of the week. It surprising how quickly I recall why it is I love to ride my bike. Riding through the quiet streets in our neighbourhood, it's almost like our own secret pathway, save the few local drivers on their way home for the weekend. I don't have to negotiate with crowded buses and streets, and can just enjoy the freedom of being my own means of transportation.

Just another action shot of Daddy

Saturday morning I woke up surprisingly sleepy, which I attribute to all the fresh air I got the night before. Of course, when you have a good thing going, in our case, a couple of days without rain, it's always best to just ride it out, literally! So once again, we hopped on our bikes and rode out to the kids' swimming lessons at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre. We took our usual route, along the seawall, at a leisured pace so my daughter could keep up. Her and I even got to chat along the way, mainly about how her father was taking pictures of his bike again. Oh, Daddy!

Some nice Mother/Daughter time on the seawall

After swimming lessons, a ride back to East Van for birthday party for my son, and then another ride home, all in all it's been a full day on my bike. With rain in the forecast for next week, I'm happy to have been able to spend so much time on two-wheels. Deep down, I never really forget how much I love to ride around my city. During the winter months, though, I tend to opt for the "easier" option, whether it's walking to school in the morning, catching a lift to my office on really rainy days, or taking transit for our weekly trip to the pool. So days like yesterday and today are a good reminder of how wonderfully freeing it is to control your own path simply by hopping on a bike and pedalling away.