Tuesday, 27 May 2014

It's Not The End. It's Just the Beginning!

You may have heard the news yesterday, that my husband, Chris, and I have joined forces and are putting our powers to good use in a new partnership, Modacity. After years of writing, photographing and filming about bike culture, we have decided to start offering our services to the masses, hoping to inspire even more people throughout the globe to move to a simple approach to mobility for people of all ages, abilities and incomes. Chris and I have worked so well as a team for over fifteen years, whether as housemates, husband and wife, parents and even writing, so it just seemed the next logical step was to combine our respective talents and focus our energy and passion on promoting the benefits of multi-modal transportation.
Hard to believe how much has changed
since this photo 2 years ago

What does this mean for the Velo Family Diaries? Well, sadly it means that after two years, over 44,000 page views and global readership, I am taking my writing talents over to the Modacity blog and will no longer be adding posts to Velo Family Diaries. It has been quite a journey, and has taken me from the humble beginnings of a mom sharing her adventures with her children, to today. I have had the pleasure of writing for several print and online publications, and am currently in the planning stages of sharing my stories and experiences in person in New Zealand!

I want to thank everyone who has supported me along the way, for following this blog, or sharing my stories on Facebook and Twitter. It is thanks to many of you that I have seen such recognition and success, and I will be forever grateful. I've enjoyed your comments and stories as well. Less and less have we felt like the crazy family that sold our car and opting for bikes instead, as we've realized there's a whole community out there just like us, living through the same trials and tribulations, and enjoying many of the same successes we've had over the years.

As I move ahead and start this new adventure, I hope you continue to follow me and the journey my family is taking. It is a very exciting time for us, and I couldn't be happier to sharing it with my husband, someone who's supported me every step of the way, and is, quite frankly, the best business partner I could ask for! Thanks again and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Way It's Meant To Be

This week, a friend of mine found out she had to go to the hospital for surgery and observation due to some health troubles she's been dealing with. It was very sudden and unexpected, and while I'm happy to say she's home and resting now, the news did cause me reflect on my own health and that of my family, and subsequently about the time I get to spend with them. All this happened simultaneously with Mother's Day and the past few warm, sunny days when we can't help but make the most of our evenings as a family. The idea of quality time with my family is nothing new, but this week is one of those times when I am reminded what is truly important in life - spending time with my family and our quality of life.

Riding along with my son, the ever inspiring five year
old who rode 27kms that day
On Mother's Day, my family treated me to a day of rest which included a slow ride out to Jericho Beach. While we were cruising along the seawall, I was reminded by my husband that this is the first time we have ridden out to the beach since our trip to California. Unbelievable! The local beaches are one of the main reasons I love this city, finding the beaches extremely calming and my own special brand of therapy. So I was obviously very excited to make the trip. What I didn't expect was the transformation on the Point Grey Road bikeway. We turned a corner and it was like another world, and nothing could so succinctly reinforce my point about quality family time than the sights that day.

As we approached the upgraded road, I had only memories of a stress and panic filled ride with my kids done just once before, when they were still being towed by my husband and I. Being forced to ride on the sidewalk so as to not have to rub shoulder with the fast moving cars passing on a narrow road. What I was greeted with, instead, was people, and lots of them. The sidewalks were teeming with people of all ages, out to walk their dog or a stroll with their mother on her special day. The bikeway was filled with families out cycling on a beautiful, sunny Vancouver day. All I could think is that this is the way it's meant to be - people of all ages out together enjoying a walk or bike ride without having to worry about speeding traffic, and truly experiencing the high quality of life Vancouver is supposed to be known for.
Riding along the new Point Grey Road. What could possibly be wrong
with creating more environments like this?
So comfortable, my daughter
will happily hold hands with her
dad while we're out for a ride.

Being the "Velo Family", I can sometimes take for granted how lucky I am to be able to spend so much quality time with my husband and children. Although Vancouver is far from perfect, with much more in terms of bikeable streets still to be realized (ahem, Commercial Drive), the bike routes that do exist allow me to not only get from point A to B relatively quickly and easily, it also affords me quality time with my kids. Life is so insanely busy, rushing from school to work to programs and everything in between, I sometime have to remind myself to cherish the moments riding next to my kids or holding hands with my husband.

Chris and our daughter riding on the separated portion of Pt Grey Road
Bikes and the pathways proposed to make it easier for them to travel through the city continue to be a controversial topic in Vancouver and cities around North America and beyond. Arguments range from loss of parking, increased commute times, and minor inconveniences to a regular routine. Perhaps if the focus for proponents of improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure focus more on the positive outcomes, it will help those who don't understand why a separated bike lane or wider sidewalk is necessary see the bigger picture. What I saw on Sunday, the number of families venturing out to enjoy time together outside of a car, is such positive imagery that has stuck with me, even three days later. It gave me such hope for the future of multi-modal transportation. 

We all know that quality time spent with the ones you love is what's most important in life, and should be enjoyed whenever possible. Providing people the means to do that safely is a hard concept to argue with. As has been proven time and again in this city, if the average citizen is given the infrastructure they need, they are more likely to leave their cars at home and travel throughout this city with their family and friends by other means. I know that we are not alone in this city as a family that rides, but I am hopeful that as time goes by, the Velo Family will be just like everyone else, instead of one of the few - enjoying each and every moment with our families, as it should be.
Another very happy Mother's Day with my children!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Sensations of Non-Motorized Travel

Here in Vancouver we're enjoying a bit of a pre-summer tease, which means I've been out on my bike each and every day this week, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the beauty of Spring. One thing I've come to remember, after a long winter, is how my senses are treated to an absolute delight when out for some Spring riding. Most of the winter, I tend to stay hibernated inside the warmth of my house, out of the wet and cold, and opting for public transit and car-share instead of riding my bike. So it's completely reasonable that I forget how non-motorized travel can be such a positive experience for each of my five senses, and it's so lovely to have been reminded these past few weeks.

Most obviously, riding my bike is so visually stimulating. As Spring takes it's hold, blue skies become more and more common, meaning a beautiful backdrop for the still snowcapped mountains. Flowers bloom all around, adding a bright splash of colour to green scenery. On our most common bike route, the whole family is treated to two spectacles. First are the large, vibrant leaves of the chestnut trees that line much of the 10th Avenue bikeway, casting a soft green glow as the sun shines through them. It creates the most calming canopy, and I always feel just a little happier when I pass under their shade. Second, while fleeting, are the gorgeous pink cherry blossoms that grace many of Vancouver's bikeways. They are so special to the people of this region that it's almost irritating to non-locals how many photos are posted of them on social media. I feel absolutely blessed to be able to not only ride amongst these pink petals every year, but also to wake up to them outside my window each morning and watch the birds flit amongst them.

Which leads me to the sounds I am treated to while out for a bike ride or a walk through the city. Of course, the birds flirting with each other doing what they do in the Spring is a musical treat, especially when you hearing lovely song birds calling to each other. Something else that returns, though, is the sound of children playing. Hearing their screeches of delight and their laughter is very intoxicating, and it's hard not to smile at the sound of their playful innocence.

It's easy to understand that my sense of smell is in overload throughout my springtime rides. The flowers in full bloom, and the cherry blossoms, along with the newly budding trees offers such a freshness to the air that I frequently find myself taking in deep breathes without even realizing it. During my seaside travels, I love to take in the smell of the ocean. It reminds me that I am at home by the water, and no matter what stresses fill my days, I can always take a walk along the water and feel at peace.

Even taste comes into play when I'm travelling around on bike or foot. Passing bakeries is not only a treat for my nose, but I can also taste the fresh baked bread and pastries without actually eating them, sometimes causing me to divert my travels for a little nibble. And I have to be honest, pretty much every time I leave the house for a bike ride or a walk, I can hear the cafes calling my name. Be it habit, craving or otherwise, having a tasty latte in hand just makes the trip that much sweeter.

Finally, but most importantly to me, riding my bike is always a tactile experience. Today, for the first time, I raised my hand as I passed one of my favourite little maple trees on the way back from dropping off my daughter, running my hand through the new leaves. I've waited all winter and early spring to be able to do so without scraping my hands on the tree branches, and, inside, I was like a kid at Christmas, with a silly grin of satisfaction spread across my face. Touch is the way I stay connected to my environment, and it's only by travelling outside of a car, bus or train that I can truly experience all the textures of my surroundings.

Our senses are what make us human, and so it seems only fitting that the most human forms of travel are the best ways to really treat them. Sure, you can marvel at the landscape of a country side as you speed by in a car, but the slower modes of riding a bike or walking are the only way you can really focus and take in all the details. Not being trapped in a vehicle, I can hear all the wonderful sounds of nature and people interacting, and breathe in all the fresh scents of the natural world. I can savour a snack or beverage while I take life a little slower, and revel in the feeling of each tree, plant, and even rock I pass simply by reaching out my hand. The world around us offers so much beauty, and I'm grateful that my main modes of travel allow to experience it to the fullest.