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Cycling in a Bike-Unfriendly City


When I purchased my last car, I didn't feel self-satisfaction and pride. I didn't feel independent and free (OK, maybe a little - transit in my small city is nothing to write home about). I mostly just felt annoyed and anxious that I'd sunk a bunch of money into something that will only just keep costing me money, continually lose value, and eventually fail.

I kept it for a couple of years, frequenting the shop, as one does, and breathed a sigh of relief when I sold it (at a fraction of what I paid, of course). No more debt. So much more money in my pocket each month.

With my newfound wealth, I decided to buy a bike and cycle commute. It's low-maintenance, most maintenance can be done by me, it's an excellent way to start and end the day, it cost an tiny fraction of the cost of a car, both in initial purchase and ongoing costs, and it's now lasted me over a decade!

In making the decision to switch to cycling, I knew a few truths were still to be faced. First, I live in the Canadian prairies, which is windy af, and winter lasts more or less 8 months of the year. There are hardcore riders out here with those enormous-tire super bikes who cycle year-round, but folks, when I say winter sucks on a different level here, I mean the wind is frequently above 40 km/h, often 70+ km/h during inclement weather, and the coldest part of the year (which last around 2 months) stays around -30°C with cold snaps dipping to -50°C. Seriously. It's horrible. I am not one of those hardcore riders. Once the snow flies at the end of the season, I'm done. Winter = death. Not into it.

Second, I live in the Canadian prairies. I'm in Regina - a small city of 250,000 - and enjoy a pretty city-centric life, but we are very surrounded by farmland. This lends not only to a very car-centric city, but a high percentage of very large 4x4 trucks. Most of these folks do not need these monstrosities for daily driving, of course. They're just driving to work, getting groceries, the type of stuff you could absolutely do by transit or bike if it were invested in, rather than sinking untold sums of tax dollars into road repair. Carbrain. It makes cycling harder, largely because a lot of people driving seem to feel like the slightest perceived inconvenience (like having to slow down for several seconds for bike traffic) is worth endangering - or even taking - the life of a stranger on two wheels.

This is not a bike-friendly city. There are very few bike lanes and routes. Cyclists are often forced to share the road directly with cars, and, of course, superfluous, phallic monster trucks, which is not safe.

But it's slowly getting better. A few years ago, I moved into a place with access to some of the bike paths we do have. In fact, the majority of my 30 minute commute is on these paths, with just a bit of shared roadway in some residential parts of downtown, where car traffic generally knows how to handle changing lanes to drive around a cyclist.

In the brief warm season, I've been cycle commuting for over a decade now and I love it. In the winter, I use a combination of carpooling, transit, and - if I must - Uber.

I deeply wish my city made cycling a better option for more folks, but ironically slowly is the wheel that turns with cars in mind.