We're in the midst of a self-imposed hiatus from writing new blog material, as we're busy hustling behind-the-scenes on our first full-length book. But rather than suffer through total radio silence, we thought it would be fun to periodically revisit old articles we've published over the years, many of which are no longer available online. The following, written by Chris, originally appeared in Hush Magazine on May 8th, 2013.
“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” - Iris Murdoch
For some unknown but surely masochistic reason, I spend a great deal of time and energy imploring everyone around me to catch up with the bicycle. By now, they are all well aware of its myriad societal benefits: how cycling has the potential to make us a healthier, wealthier and more sustainable culture. But I often carelessly leave the chief reason I choose the humble bicycle as my primary mode of transportation year in and year out: it gives me an intimate, unfiltered experience of the city around me. I see Vancouver up close and personal every day of the week; its beauty and ugliness, its people and their inventiveness, and its continuous, inevitable maturation over time.
I sometimes lament the backstreet nature of our city's bike routes, which conceal cyclists behind main streets like mice in the walls. But they do offer a serene tranquility that can't be replicated while rubbing shoulders with vehicles. Vancouver’s greenways and bikeways are a feast for the senses, and every season brings something different: the dramatic sight of the Lions Gate Bridge disappearing into thick winter fog, the sweet scent of cherry blossoms bursting to life in the spring, the warmth of a summery ocean breeze on your face while cruising the seawall to the beach, or the crunch of autumn leaves under my tires along the 10th Avenue Bikeway. The fast-paced modern world yields to calming sights, smells and sounds when perched on the seat of a bicycle, and somehow, every pedal-stroke magically slows things down to just the right speed.
This unique experience is made all the more enjoyable when shared with someone else. Cycling affords an unparalleled opportunity to converse and connect with the folks in my city, in ways I couldn’t do sitting in a car, train or bus. While technically illegal in the province of British Columbia, I frequently have some of my most excellent and rewarding conversations while riding side-by-side with my wife, children, or a friend or colleague I happen to bump into on the street. If I’m travelling alone, every stop-light becomes a chance to link up with a total stranger. A simple smile and “hello” to another person often leads to a brief chat, before we both pedal on towards our destinations.
If I’m not feeling particularly social, getting around by bike can also be an occasion for introspection and inspiration. It is amazing how a short ride sharpens the mind, getting the blood flowing and brain working, and within 20 minutes, I reach my creative and productive peak. No matter what project I happen to be working on — whether design, writing, film or photography — my bike can rekindle my motivation, give clarity of direction, lower my stress levels, and get the ideas flowing. This is especially critical during the shorter, greyer days of the ruthless Cascadian winter, where seasonal depression and inertia can sometimes set in. Any hiatus in the near-constant drizzle invites me to get outside, and find the stimulation needed for a mental breakthrough.
I’ve also discovered on my two-wheeled travels that Vancouver is experiencing a street art renaissance: an artistic and expressive side of the city concealed from those unfortunate souls trapped in metal cages. Local artists and poets such as wrk(less), iheart, and the Wolf Mountain Writing Collective paste and stencil their work in alleyways, on the sides of buildings, under bridges, onto sidewalks, and inside tunnels only accessible on foot or by bicycle. It’s not uncommon for me to stumble across several new and thought-provoking pieces each week, and I’m certain to photograph and share them online before they are removed by a diligent landlord or city worker.
While some may imagine ditching a motor for pedal-power is a downgrade, I have found the exact opposite to be true. Cycling is a form of sustainable transportation that’s both practical and hedonistic, offering countless qualitative benefits in addition to the obvious quantitative ones touted by its advocates. Travelling by bike has also taught me the landmarks, geography, topography and history of this city better than most manage in years of moving around by car or transit. I’ve felt the cobblestones, flagstones and cracks under my tires, and snapped it from every possible angle, warts and all. I know for a fact that cities like Vancouver are working hard to make cycling even more accessible and delightful, and I hope it’s only a matter of time before my secret gets out.