What happens when you cross a bike race with a mud bog?
Queens Cross, that’s what.
Saturday’s driving rainstorm may have deterred all but the hardiest spectators, but dozens of riders from beginners to elite men and women relished the chance to battle each other and the elements at New Westminster’s Queen’s Park in the fifth race of the eight-race Vancouver Cyclocross Coalition’s series.
Cyclocross is an off-road version of a road cycling criterium race in which riders lap a number of circuits on a two or three kilometre course comprised of dirt trails, grassy meadows, over barriers and across creeks or gullies. It evolved in Belgium and Northern France in the early 1900s as a way for road cyclists to stay fit during the fall and winter off-season. Sometimes getting to the warmth and shelter of the nearest café or brasserie meant cutting across farmer’s fields and through forests; cyclocross replicates that experience.
Saturday’s cold torrential downpour was worthy of the worst weather of the Ardennes and turned most of the course at the west end of Queen’s Park into a track of thick, viscous muck. At the end of each event, the line at the hose station was 20-30 muddy cyclists deep. Even through their exhaustion, many managed a smile. After all, there’s often a rainbow at the end of a rainstorm.
With apologies to the Eagles, there’s a new kit in town.
Actually, the Fraser River Fuggitivi road bike group has been rolling up and down the hills of New Westminster and beyond for about five years. But this spring the squadron has achieved a milestone coveted by every collective of roadie riders; they’ve got kit.
That’s cycling speak for fancy custom-designed jerseys and shorts emblazoned with the team’s name as well as the logos of various local sponsors. They’re not just riders anymore; they’re rolling billboards for an elite selection of supportive businesses. They’re also ambassadors for the city (minus the talent competition or commitment to wave from a parade float).
Jesse Cahill doesn’t think he’s “weird enough” to be mentioned in the same breath as David Byrne.
But the New Westminster drummer and the Talking Heads’ frontman known for his herky-jerky dancing and shock of white hair share a similar passion for bicycles.
Byrne expresses his love for two-wheeled transport in prose; he authored a book about his experiences riding his folding commuter bike between gigs around the world. Cahill uses a medium format film camera to photograph bikes he’s encountered while traveling through Europe, Asia, and the Americas with his rockabilly band, Cousin Harley. In June, an exhibition of eight of his photos will be on display at the New Westminster Public Library in conjunction with Bike Month. Continue reading “Drummer’s Cycling Passion Expressed in Photos”
The new year often brings new resolve to live better, healthier.
Gyms and community centres are busy with people toning up and slimming down.
But more and more people are breaking free from the confines of the exercise mat to find fitness; they’re dusting off the bicycles in their garage or heading to the local bike shop to find a new ride to physical salvation.
“It’s a common theme at this time of year,” says Gord Hobbis, proprietor of New West’s original bike shop, Cap’s. “You can only be on a treadmill for so long otherwise you’ll go stir crazy.”
But the allure of getting exercise and fresh air by riding a bike also comes with challenges. Especially in New Westminster.
The city’s network of streets are often choked with traffic. Designated bike routes don’t always connect well with each other or take cyclists where they want to go.
When you cycle in New Westminster you see transportation issues through a different lens. Factors which affect a cyclist’s safety and mobility can be very different that those affecting trips made in a vehicle. In addition the vision and understanding of civic politicians towards cycling issues can greatly influence the quality and level of cycling in a community. One need only look at Vancouver and Victoria which have long had pro-cycling agendas from politicians of all political stripes. These cities have experienced a significant growth of cycling mode share and popularity over the past decade. In some recent cases –how to best implement cycling infrastructure– has become a significant discussion point within the election campaigns of the leading candidates.
The New Westminster Chapter of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition has been active in the Royal City for more than 10 years now. Our organization advocates for safe, attractive and effective cycling infrastruction in the City, promotes cycling and awareness of City cycling routes to cyclists and potential cyclists and provides services for the education of youth and adults on safe and responsible cycling practises through programs in the schools and community centres. As advocates for cyclists we work with City Council to encourage the completion of a viable and safe cycling network which can be used by people of all ages and abilities to enjoy healthy, community-friendly and congestion-free transportation as they move about the City. More recently we have been working through local schools to promote cycling education to elementary and middle school students in New Westminster.
With this in mind the VACC-New Westminster has circulated a questionaire to the Mayoralty and Council Candidates as well as the candidates for school board in order to gauge their experience with and vision for cycling as viable and common mode of transportation within the City. As transportation is one of the dominant issues in the New Westminster campaign it is noteworthy to see the levels of interest and understanding shown by candidates in the broader spectrum of transportation choices.
In this city of hills, you really can travel uphill both ways. So it’s perhaps surprising that New Westminster has such a strong, passionate cycling community. While it is hilly, our city is both compact and central – features that lend themselves to bike commuting. Now City Hall too is sharing the velolove.
The City of New Westminster has added three new electric bikes to its vehicle fleet, making it easier for staff to do business in the city without the need of a car.
As Transportation Demand Management Coordinator Jenyfer Neumann points out in the City’s media release about the purchase, most local trips are as fast or faster by electric bike as by car.
“By sticking to the bike routes, our staff are able to avoid heavy traffic,” Neumann says, “and the full electric assist also keeps staff cool – except for steeper hills, pedaling is not necessary.”
The purchase will reduce car trips for city business as well as employee commutes.
“After surveying staff, we found that many people drive because they need their vehicles for work,” says Neumann. “By providing more fleet vehicles, staff are able to leave their cars at home, or even sell an extra family car if they don’t need it for work anymore.”
The electric bike initiative is only one part of the City’s corporate Transportation Demand Management program, which aims to reduce the number of staff single-passenger car trips by encouraging alternatives such as taking transit, cycling and carpooling.
In addition to providing the three electric bikes for staff use, the City also has:
made more traditional fleet vehicles available during the work day
become a member of The Company Car, part of the Co-operative Auto Network
provided access for city staff to TransLink’s discount annual transit pass program
implemented a Guaranteed Ride Home policy should staff members taking transit to work be called away to tend to an emergency
become a member of Jack Bell Ride-Share to promote car-pooling and provide ride-matching
provided personalized transportation planning for all interested staff
purchased two fleet “regular” bicycles available for staff use
updated information available about sustainable transportation options