Discover the joy of cycling in your community! Cycling is a great way to get around for fun, fitness or a specific purpose. Whether it’s a leisurely ride with the family, an energetic ride on a biking trail, or a practical trip to the grocery store or the library, cycling is the way to go.
No matter what type of cycling you do or the distances you travel, it’s an excellent physical activity which offers many health benefits. At any pace, cycling is good for your heart, lungs and muscles.
The expression “what’s good for the body is good for the soul” can easily be applied to cycling. In fact, cycling “exercises” your mind as you explore the routes and trails in your community.
Destination cycling is one aspect of cycling that is getting a lot of attention these days.
Destination cycling is about biking with one or more purposes or destinations in mind, such as going to work, visiting a medical or dental office, or attending a local music concert, a movie or a community event.
Think about all the “task-oriented” trips you take in your car, and then consider how many of those trips could be done on your bike. You might be surprised at how often you can choose to use your bike and even more surprised at how much less you can spend on gas.
Sometimes, hopping on your bike will save you time, because you don’t have fight traffic or struggle to find a parking stall. A fast trip on your bike to one or more of your favourite destinations around town can be one of the most pleasant and satisfying parts of your day.
To carry out these trips safely, make sure you wear a helmet. It’s also a good idea to use a bike rack or basket to help you safely carry groceries, books, papers, a briefcase, a laptop computer or other items.
Save Your Money
Often, taking your bike is the best solution for certain distances or destinations. For example, if your destination is 30 minutes away on foot, then taking the bike will save you valuable time.
Similarly, if it seems like a waste of gas (and money) to take your car to travel a short distance, then taking the bike is all the wiser. Pat yourself on the back for every “good decision” you make to ride your bike!
Biking to destinations can save you money on parking fees too! Often, parking fees can be high, whether for all-day rates or only a few hours . For example, a trip to a downtown location, a busy campus or a local hospital can be pricey. By taking the bike, you can cut your costs, and get “free” health benefits at the same time.
An important part of destination cycling is having a safe place to lock up your bike. Businesses, property owners and local communities can help promote more cycling by making sure that bike racks are available near entrances to public and private buildings, such as office towers or complexes, medical offices, libraries and malls.
Maps and More Maps
With a bit of planning you’ll find there are many safe routes for cyclists and many places or locations you can easily get to by bike. For example, many urban municipalities have produced cycling maps that show all local bike routes, as well as designated bike lanes on roadways.
Check in with your local parks and recreation department website for maps available online or in hard copy. Often, such maps are available in places such as municipal offices or public libraries.
Equally, you can plan out your safest and fastest routes by using a road map of your area and choosing the roads or routes you know best, including any trails, paths or roadways that offer a direct route or less vehicle traffic.
Biking is Good For Your Health
The best part about destination cycling is that it contributes to your health and fitness. In fact, some people find that biking “almost everywhere” has led to a significant improvement in their fitness levels.
Although many people think they “don’t have time” to cycle, this barrier can be overcome. Keep in mind that biking serves two purposes at once; it gets you where you need to be and it allows you to get into a regular pattern of being physically active.
For example, if you cycle-commute to and from work, you won’t have to “find time” to exercise or cycle after work when family or life demands might get in the way. By building your biking time into your daily routine, you get the exercise you need and can use your leisure time for other things, such as playing with your children, doing yard work or socializing with friends.
Low-cost Family Fun
Biking around the neighbourhood on your own or with your family members is a great way to enjoy your home territory and to visit friends and neighbours in your community. It’s also a simple, low-cost way to explore new routes or simply enjoy the fresh air, local landscapes and scenery.
You’ll probably find that biking in your community will help you live life at a naturally slower pace, compared to always driving around town. For example, you might notice a neighbour has a new puppy or has laboured with a sod cutter to make room for a “raised-bed” garden.
These kinds of small changes or events can often lead to conversations and getting to know others in your community. The next time someone cycles past your residence, try giving them a friendly wave! After all, what “goes around, comes around.”
Many community events, such as summer festivals, offer a secure bike lock-up on site. Take advantage of these services and have the whole family ride to your favourite events. You’ll not only enjoy the event, but also the bike rides to and from!
By making a point of travelling by bicycle whenever possible, parents can be active role models for their children. Parents can also encourage their children to bike to school regularly or participate in a cycling school bus.
If your children’s sports or recreation activities are close to home, help them get into the cycling habit, instead of offering to drive them each time.
Try making a list of all the things your family does, and figure out which ones are the “bikeable” ones! For example, some or all of the family members can ride together to the library or to the video store. By riding together often, it can help kids think of cycling as a common mode of travel, and reduces the family’s reliance on driving.
Whether riding alone or in a group, always follow the rules of the road. When you are riding your bicycle you are considered to be a vehicle and must abide by the same rules as all other vehicles on the road.
Among other rules, this means staying to the right side of the road, signalling your intentions at all times, staying in your lane, stopping at stop signs, obeying all traffic signs and lights, and giving right-of-way according to traffic laws.
One of the most common mistakes cyclists make is playing the role of vehicle and pedestrian at the same time. As a cyclist, you must follow the rules that apply to cyclists. This means, for example, that you shouldn’t ride on the sidewalk, partly because it affects pedestrians and partly because it confuses or affects drivers of vehicles that you may encounter.
For instance, if you ride at high speeds on the sidewalk and pass by an entrance to an alley way, you might surprise a driver looking to exit or enter the alley. Drivers who are exiting or entering alleys, parking lots or driveways, are not expecting fast-moving cyclists to cross in front of them on the sidewalk, so this type of scenario can easily lead to bike-vehicle collisions.
There are plenty of other reasons to avoid riding on sidewalks. For example, cyclists can encounter safety hazards themselves, whether pedestrians, pets, objects such as newspaper boxes and light standards, rough pavement or vehicles emerging from residential driveways.
Plus, from a pedestrian’s viewpoint, a passing or approaching bike can feel like an interference and a hazard. Be courteous to pedestrians and stay off their turf.
For bikers who use local trails and paths, stay on designated bike paths. If you go “off limits” you may find yourself in dangerous locations or on rough trails that could lead to a fall or injury. In addition, you may be causing unwanted damage to the natural landscape, by causing erosion or damage to the natural features. Again, be courteous to the community by following the rules and doing your part to protect the natural environment.
When cycling as a family, parents can lead by example, following all of the rules of the road and teaching young riders the same rules. This includes such things as paying attention to other traffic on the road, cycling at safe speeds, proper signalling, and ringing a bike bell before passing people or before rounding a corner on a trail with limited visibility.
More Safety Tips
When you’re out for a ride, remember to think “safety first” and always wear your bike helmet.
Here are some other important safety tips:
- ensure your bike helmet is properly fitted and meets CSA standards
- ensure your bike is equipped with a bell
- use a bike light on the front of your bike
- ensure you have a red reflective light on the rear of your bike
- consider also using a flashing LED light (on your bike and/or helmet), so others can see you
- wear a reflective safety vest for extra visibility (day and night)
- use a water bottle and take rest breaks
- wear closed-toe footwear and make sure your laces are tied tightly
- use a bike clip to keep your pant legs tight
- to help prevent injury if you fall, use cycling gloves and other gear as appropriate, such as knee pads, elbow pads or other mountain biking equipment
- always maintain your bike in good condition; have it serviced annually and do minor check and tune-ups on your own regularly
- do a quick maintenance check before each ride, e.g., lubricate the chain and bearings as recommended, test your gears, check your brakes and tires
Cycling is a low-cost, environmentally-friendly way to get around your community while increasing your level of physical activity. You can do it for fun and fitness, as a family routine, and with any number of tasks or purposes in mind.
The more you cycle around your area, the better you will feel about your own health and your place in the community. Remember to be a safety leader and follow the rules of the road.
If you find cycling facilities (such as trails, safe routes or bike racks) are lacking in your area, try to work with your community and local government to find ways to improve things. Help them identify what needs to be improved to make cycling easier or safer in your area. Your “drive” to promote cycling will pay off in more health benefits for you and your family, and for more people in your community.
Alberta Bicycle Association
Information on all forms of cycling in Alberta.
Bike to Work BC
Promotes bicycle commuting.
How bikeable is your community? The Bikeability Checklist can help you find the answer, offering answers and long-term solutions to your neighborhood's potential problems.
The Commuter Challenge
A week long event every spring that rewards walking, cycling, carpooling/ride-sharing, taking transit and telecommuting
Bicycling Info (USA)
Plenty of information on bicycling (and walking) from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Centre.
Walking and Biking Through Minnesota Winters
Similar to Alberta, Minnesota has a snowy, cold winter. Check out this link for ideas on winter walking and biking.
Active Travel Strategy
A document from the British Heart Foundation