Why Go By Bike?
I would like to share why I like to call myself the “Riding Realtor” and why cycling is such an important part of my life. I feel a sense of freedom when I am riding a bicycle. The sensation of the wind on my cheeks, and the repetitive movement of peddling feels like a meditative process to me. When I am biking, my nervous system starts firing endorphins and I feel great! In fact, when I find myself stressed out or feeling down, my body starts craving a ride, and when I come home afterwards, whether it was a short ten minutes to pick up my kids from school, or it was a one hundred kilometre trek, I am always in a better mood.
When I was a young teenager, my bike was my primary mode of transportation. I could get from one side of the city to the other in twenty minutes. When I turned sixteen, however, I was eager to acquire my drivers license and once achieved, I used my bike less and less to get around. Biking, rather, became more of a way of exercise than a way to get to school or to my friends houses, or to my part time job at Jumbo Video. Why? Commuter cycling wasn’t encouraged nor was it modelled to me by the adults in my life as a way to get around town. In the 90’s, there was almost no cycling infrastructure in Guelph, which did not encourage anyone to ride a bike.
Like many of us, as I got older, I forgot how useful my bike really was to commute around the city. I have always continued to mountain bike on the many trails around Guelph but about two or three years ago I realized that due to the nature of my job, it might actually be more efficient for me to bike to my appointments and my open houses and showings. It was definitely more economical and worth the try. I have not looked back! I try as much as possible to show houses to clients by bike, go to the office and even grocery shop with my bike. Not only is it cheaper, healthier and more environmentally friendly, but I also believe that it can be quicker. I became fed up with how slowly traffic moves through Guelph. I hated the idea that I was one more person taking up space on the road, in an empty car that has room for four more people. As a friend of mine once said “You aren’t in traffic, you ARE traffic”. He was so right and this concept ignited a passion in me to learn about and help promote a more cycle friendly city.
According to the Guelph Cycling Master Plan, over 40% of daily trips by car in 2006, in Guelph, (as driver and as passenger) are three kilometres or less (TTS 2006). Those short trips are an excellent example of why choosing your bike instead of a car is a great idea. We have been taught in Ontario that we need a car for everything we do. When we turn sixteen, we graduate from a bicycle to a car and we adopt the concept that is now the new way to get around. We don’t question or think about the environment, or our health, or even what is best for our city and society in its entirety. We are sold the idea that the car gives us our freedom. Today, that can’t be further from the truth unless freedom means gridlock, lack of parking, high costs of insurance, car payments, and repairs. Imagine what life could look like without these costs. Could that be freedom?
How much does a car cost you? Most studies say that owning a car costs between $8,000-$12,000 per year if you account for car payments, insurance, gas, parking, and repairs. Even if we take the low end of that number and multiply it over a lifetime of driving (60 years or so) that number comes out to a staggering $480,000! Imagine what you could do with that money. Perhaps that would make the difference of justifying the cost of living in the neighbourhood you’ve always wanted, instead of the only neighbourhood you felt you could afford. Perhaps this is something buyers can take into consideration when they are looking at houses in cities and neighbourhoods. How bike friendly is this city? How bike friendly is this neighbourhood? Could my family drop one of our cars if we lived here? Could I live car free if I lived here? Does my realtor understand alternative modes of transportation and can they be helpful in deciding what cities are bike friendly? These are all interesting questions that we have not been conditioned to ask ourselves.
I would like to be clear, I am not “anti-car”. I would rather say that I am “anti having only one option for moving around cities”. The car has a place in our cities and roads. Many people need them for certain jobs or of course, there are people with mobility issues to consider. Shipping and emergency vehicles all need space on roads more than my car does. Wouldn’t it be nice if those emergency vehicles had more space on the roads to do their job more swiftly? All I mean is that cars should not have ALL of the room on our roads, and there should be a safe, accessible alternative for anyone who chooses an alternative to the big steel box. Riding a bike is just as much fun as you remember it being as a child! Maybe, the next time you grab your car keys, ask yourself if this is a trip that could be done by walking or cycling and give it a try.
Have a bike that needs some work? Do you lack the funds to do it and are willing to get your hands a bit dirty? Try the Guelph Tool Library on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for a free, “do it yourself” repair. These are awesome people in our community just trying to help you keep the wheels spinning.
Want to chat about any of the topics above or how friendly the city of Guelph is for biking? Don’t hesitate to reach out!