For the first time since I can remember, I don't currently own a bike. Until I moved up north last spring, I had owned a bike since I was approximately three years old, when I pedaled around Comox on my red and white tricycle.
Right before I moved up here when I lived in Vancouver, I had my sister's hand-me-down (and costly) mountain bike, which I used to bike from Kits Beach to Stanley Park and back every single day for work at the Vancouver Parks Board.
Then I got a job here, gave my bike to one of my best friends and never got another one.
Seems weird, right? But keep in mind, I'd lived in Fort St. John before briefly back in 2006/07. I knew that cycling in this town didn't make a lot of sense for the most part: 1) because it's a small city, and if it was summer I could walk everywhere if I had to, 2) let's face it, you pretty much need a vehicle here when winter rolls around anyway, and 3) this is not much of a bike-friendly city like Vancouver.
Vancouver has bike lanes - everywhere. Mind you it was quite the hot debate before the downtown lanes were installed, but it worked out, they're well used and not as many pedestrians seem to get clipped, hit or killed.
Here, the only good thing about the roads for a cyclist is how wide they are. You don't see any of those winding, old, narrow, dangerous streets I had to bike around in Victoria (some of the scariest biking experiences I've had were in Victoria and cyclists still get killed by buses and cars every year there). So that's a good thing about biking in Fort St. John.
The bad thing about those wide roads? The shoulders are often littered with broken glass, shrapnel, metal shards and garbage. My roommate has already gone through four or five tires in the past month and a half from running those things over - that's pretty bad (and costly).
Then there's the etiquette of some of the drivers in town when they come across cyclists. Many either don't know what to do when they come across a cyclist (because frankly they don't come across them that often on busy roads), or other drivers don't like sharing the road with them.
While I don't bike here, some of my best friends do, and the stories they tell me about being on the roads certainly don't help convince me to run out there and get another bike. They get honked at, yelled at, almost hit on purpose and called names from windows - one even had a bottle thrown at her head. Now I know Fort St. John has some interesting characters, but that attitude towards cyclists seems a bit extreme, no?
Then there's the Blizzard Bike Club, which has been operating in town for over 30 years. You'd think their presence on the roads in the community for the past three decades would have helped drivers become familiar with sharing the road with cyclists - you know, get used to them - but no, my friends still get verbally abused on their bikes regularly.
So while I'll admire cyclists in town, it'll be from the comfort of my truck, where the odds of popping five tires in two months is slim, and where if I get verbally abused, I'll know it's because I cut someone off, not just because I'm on a bike.
Kudos to people like Pat Ferris and my friends whose love of cycling outweighs some jerks in town and kilometres of glass-strewn shoulders.
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