Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Mr Rees Takes the Bike

with 16 comments

So today I went to Steveston Bikes to collect my trusty steed. It has been cleaned and serviced and a new rear brake fitted. The tires have been inflated to a pressure I would never attempt manually. They also etched my driver’s license number onto the frame – for free, and I bought what is described as “bicycle pyjamas” but is in fact a large plastic bag to put over it as it has to be stored outside. It has lived in a storage locker for the last 16 months, and had not been used much before that.

I felt that if I was going to write about bikes, and I should get back in the saddle. And indeed, it was a very pleasant afternoon, though I think next time I will spend a bit more time and see if I can find my gloves. I do not wear any special cycling gear, except for the helmet required by law. I am not at all convinced that helmets are necessary. But I do find the data which shows that the more bikes there are the lower the accident rate is very compelling. And we would all be much healthier if there were more bikes and fewer cars.

On my ride today I saw lots of robins, mallards, a bald eagle and a rabbit, not one of which even so much as raised an ear to my passing. The properly maintained bike being almost silent. Which reminds me. I need a new bell. As was remarked yesterday, when you drive through an environment at speed you really don’t care what it looks like. On a bike you have time to appreciate where you are, you are part of it, not looking at it through a window in a steel box. And of course I could stop and look at anything interesting – so I should have brought my camera along too. Fraser Titan is dredging at the bottom of No 5 Road and another one of those huge Honda car carriers was honking for it to get out of the way.

I think $35 for a professional tune up was money well spent, and I would happily recommend Steveston Bicycle & Kayak Shoppe at London Landing. The bakery next door is good too. And as long as the weather is reasonable I intend to be out and about on the bike more often. I might even be able to get into some of my old trousers again before too long.

Oh and one thing I should have mentioned about Richmond’s bike routes. There are no special cycle push buttons at signalised intersections, as there are in Vancouver. On Williams Road there are bike detector loops at the stop line – but the painted dots to show you where to stop have all faded away. For many busy intersections, it is safer to stop and use the pedestrian button than take a chance as many drivers are purblind and incapable of proceeding at any speed near or below the posted limit. But I can report that today several commercial truck drivers took extra care to give me room – which is not something that busy Mums in Hummers or Chevy Subdivisions think about.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 12, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Posted in bicycles, Road safety

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16 Responses

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  1. I remember seeing a minivan accelerate past a cyclist in a school zone. The cyclist was going about 25 km/h downhill. Not too smart.


    March 12, 2008 at 6:00 pm

  2. Welcome to the world of urban cycling.

    Chris Porter

    March 12, 2008 at 6:33 pm

  3. I used to commute by bike. When I worked at Metrotown I could get home to Richmond on a bicycle faster than taking the bus!

    For the reason why I stopped cycling see my other blog

    Stephen Rees

    March 12, 2008 at 6:35 pm

  4. I do not wear a helmet nor any other equipment for a couple of reasons:

    1. I detest the thought of having to “gear up” for something that I think should be a very casual (unless you race) and uncomplicated undertaking. Adding more “must have” equipment steps to prepare for something as simple as riding a bike only means that less people are likely to find it convenient (or in other words they won’t bother.)

    2. I view wearing a helmet as throwing in the towel and accepting the dominance of the car on our streets. I think this is akin to the question of what to do about a street like Knight. Do we consider it a lost cause and put up concrete walls on the sidewalk to block the noise and pollution? Or do we take it back for pedestrians and claim it as our own territory and design it to reflect that? Wearing a helmet is like putting up the concrete walls. Yes, it may be more dangerous, but I refuse to consider the streets a lost cause for people and bikes. Cities need to make policies that unequivocally say “we’re not giving up here.”

    3. I hate carrying the damn thing around all day.

    By the way, one way of avoiding getting a new bell for your bike is to simply not tune it up, like my bike (a vintage Raleigh). The creaking and the groaning never fails to alert pedestrians to my presence! 😉

    Oh, to be a biker in Copenhagen…


    March 12, 2008 at 7:15 pm

  5. Corey

    How many tickets have you had for helmetless riding?

    Stephen Rees

    March 12, 2008 at 7:17 pm

  6. Oh, I forgot the worst part. The minivan took a left turn immediately after passing the cyclist.


    March 12, 2008 at 7:38 pm

  7. 0.

    In fact a few weeks ago I was cut off by a car coming out of a driveway and only stopped when I ran into its fender. A parked patrol car was across the street watching the situation, and did nothing. I have also had police drive by me numerous times with no tickets.

    Maybe they figure they have better things to do? This is Vancouver, mind – I have never ridden in Richmond.)

    I also find that I am on guard much more and am more aware of the environment around me without a helmet. With a helmet I tend to get a bit careless.


    March 12, 2008 at 7:39 pm

  8. I refuse to bike in this city (I think I’ve commented about that at some other point in your blog too). I think Vancouver drivers are reckless (in general, I mean, I can’t say that everyone of them is) and since this is the city where I live (I don’t live in Richmond or any other suburb) so I have to just adjust. I walk and take transit (and AquaBus/SeaBus if need be).


    March 13, 2008 at 12:00 am

  9. I always bike with a helmet. Even if I’m on pathways and cars are not an issue, I still think it is better safe than sorry. But I’ve also lost control once going downhill and gone flying over the handlebars and had my head slide on the pavement – thank goodness for the helmet.

    Carrying it around does suck, once or twice I’ve managed to lock it up with my bike though.


    March 13, 2008 at 7:18 am

  10. I find that cycling, in addition to providing exercise, relieves tension and stress of work or school.

    A Translink study on cycling by Tamim Raad (sp?) was written about a decade ago stating that Richmond, owing to its flat terrain, has excellent potential to attract a much greater proportion of commuters to using cycling as a mode of travel. Richmond actually only ranked second to Vancouver.

    The monthly meetings of Translink provided great opportunities for the public to review such studies after they were released about a week ahead of the meetings. Will many reports and studies be posted on the Translink website now that meetings are infrequent and behind closed doors? Will we even be able to get access to the reports or have any idea what Translink staff are doing? Will only Area Transit Plans be divested to the public?

    I enjoy using the gravel pathway parallel to the Shell Road CN railway line. It is somewhat too narrow, but could easily be upgraded. The ocean-side dyke is great to ride and has good access to the east-west roads. The Canada Line bridge was fortuitously designed to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians owing to the pressure of local politicians. Better access between the Shell Road trail and the Canada Line north arm bridge and River Road would be a boost to the network


    March 13, 2008 at 8:13 am

  11. Stephen, if biking gives you more energy, then please continue. That’s even more energy for your informative reviews on this blog. Keep up the good work!


    March 13, 2008 at 9:48 am

  12. The word on the street is that Vancouver Police do an enforcement crack-down on cyclist helmet use in June (June is Bike Month). Otherwise they do not care. My usual route takes me past the police station on 5th avenue and I have never gotten a second glance when riding helmetless.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been passed in a school zone, while probably going around 30km/h myself. Once I was slowing down to let a man use a cross-walk, and I was passed by a truck that narrowly missed the pedestrian. I agree that in general, Vancouver drivers are reckless. It is entertaining to be passed by a driver who then immediately scrapes the bottom of his car on a speed hump, though.

    Stephen, are you going to come to Critical Mass in Vancouver this month?


    March 13, 2008 at 10:31 am

  13. Stephen – that’s a bad hospital experience. Luckily, I haven’t had any serious biking accidents yet. I’ve come close to being doored twice, but I narrowly swerved out of the way both times.

    I don’t find Vancouver drivers that reckless – at least not compared to any other city. It seems everyone likes to complain about how bad drivers. And with the abundance of bike lanes and bike routes in Vancouver, I’ve felt safer biking here than in any other city I’ve lived in before.

    If you’re going to do Critical Mass, I recommend the summer rides. The June is gong show, but it is so ridiculously packed with riders it almost seems dangerous, and most people are first-timers who don’t know what they’re doing. In the May, July, and August rides, there are still lots of people and lots of experienced Massers.


    March 13, 2008 at 12:54 pm

  14. Stephen, it’s wonderful to read a personal story from you! My father who, as I mentioned, is just a few years older than you, started cycling to work 5 days/week a couple years ago, and is aware of the plethora of benefits. He’s in fantastic shape now, slimmed down around the belly, with incredible calf muscles. He loves it. But he also has the gear to keep him warm and dry even on terrible winter days, and something very special — an electric-assist bike. Boy he gets a hoot out of passing young guys! Wish you good luck with your biking. I have too many unfortunate hurdles to doing it myself (currently).

    I got caught in the middle of a Critical Mass when I didn’t know what it was. Watching all these interesting and sometimes nutty people whiz by while my friends and I sat stunned on the grass was kind of incredible.

    Erika Rathje

    March 13, 2008 at 9:54 pm

  15. Erika

    I am pleased you like personal posts but I try to keep myself on topic here. And I must be doing something right since yesterday this blog got over 900 hits. There is another blog where I much more relaxed.

    Critical Mass is on Fridays, and that conflicts with another commitment

    Stephen Rees

    March 14, 2008 at 7:46 am

  16. Just remember that if you fail to wear an helmet and suffer brain damage due to an accident, you will be contributorily negligent and would not likely receive the full amount of damages (pain and suffering, future health care) that would otherwise be awarded to you – even if the car did cut you off and the accident would otherwise fully be the driver’s fault.

    Ron C.

    March 14, 2008 at 10:44 am

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