Our third 2022 Bike Love story is from Quinn E, come along for the ride!
I’ve always loved bikes.
One of the first things I did when I arrived in Ottawa in 2006 was ride a bike.
I had just moved to the city for university and a family friend took me on a ride to the Hartwell Locks. I was struck by how flat this city is, after growing up in the foothills it was a biking dream come true! Four years later and starting grad school, I finally bought a cheap bike from a big box store. It’s gears never shifted well, but I could afford it. I tried biking to work along major roads on Canada Day, the roads were empty and it was still terrifying. I rejigged my route but still had to run up a giant grassy hill in the arboretum. A co-worker told me about a key bike path connection and it changed everything. Suddenly commuting by bike was easy! It was already so much faster than taking the bus. My route took me along the canal, I watched the seasons change, it was beautiful and I could decompress on the way home.
Two years later I graduated and got my first real job, I invested in a nice bike (a hybrid) from a store that didn’t also sell toilet paper and gardening supplies. It instantly made my life better, it felt like biking on a cloud, it was joyful, I was in love. Having a low crossbar opened up more clothing options, I got a rear bike basket to put my bag in (no more back sweat!), I got a side mirror and felt more comfortable biking on roads. Several years go by and I continued to bike seasonally, gradually reducing how many months a year I need to buy a bus pass. Mid March 2020, the pandemic hits, I immediately stop taking the bus. Biking suddenly feels like the only option, I discover even more of the interconnected bike network, I’m amazed by the places I can go. Fall 2020, I’m allowed periodic on-site access at work and start contemplating my winter pandemic commute. A female co-worker and neighbour both started winter biking in 2019 (I thought they were nuts) but they loved it… I nervously bought studded tires. Winter biking is surprisingly fine, my biggest challenge becomes over dressing – at least it was after a kind friend replaces my rear brake housing and it stops seizing in the cold. I get to experience beautiful sparkly snow bikes home, my heart is full.
Winter 2021, I was coveting cargo bikes, but there isn’t enough room and they are too heavy to navigate the front steps. Spring comes, a friend sends me a link to a mini “acoustic” cargo bike. It’s shorter! It’s lighter! It has a collapsible basket! I could feasibly haul it up the stairs, it would fit in my bike/guest/office room. I waffled, worried I couldn’t test it, worried about hills, worried I might not actually use it that much. I joke it’s my first vehicle purchase. I use the money I hadn’t spent on traveling and hope for the best. It arrives! At first trying to steer feels trippy, I’m wobbly, I remind myself to be patient. I add a side mirror and start biking it to work everyday. I get up the giant work hill on the first try! I finally take it for a grocery run and it’s simply delightful. Suddenly I no longer have to triage what I carry based on weight or volume, it opens up so many new possibilities. It becomes my main summer bike, I’m in love. It’s winter 2022, and I’m back to my hybrid with it’s winter tires and rear basket, it’s still a joy.
The pandemic changed how I bike. I went from being a seasonal commuter to being “all bikes all the time” anytime I left the house. It’s helped keep me emotionally grounded when we’ve all had to stay apart. I biked to my first two vaccine appointments. I biked to places I never would have even contemplated trying to get to by bike. I biked home an exercise ball and a meter long pizza box (thanks cargo bike!).
Initially getting myself on a bike and around an unfamiliar city wasn’t as simple or straight forward as I wished it had been, but it’s been worth it, the results have always been joyful. I’ve loved it. I joke that I’ve been radicalized by bike twitter during the pandemic and I’m now a slightly insufferable bike evangelist (“Have you heard about bikes?!”). But it’s been so hopeful seeing bike advocacy happening both locally and all around the world.
A lot can seem bleak right now, but I’m still excited for the future. I hope it includes more people on bikes.