August 1, 2020 News, Sustainability Tips

Since entering Stage 3 of BC’s Restart Plan, people have been out in the community, some have been returning to work, and social gatherings are happening all around us. With this, the ways that we’re getting around these days have been modified to accommodate physical distancing. For those who drive, parking stalls have been removed (to make room for on-street restaurant expansions) and some streets still have limited vehicle access to make room for temporary bike lanes.

Other transportation methods, such as public transit, ride-hailing services, and even carshare have seen drops in use and ridership. Because of actual and perceived risk due to Covid-19, options are pretty limited for those who do not own a private vehicle, or who prefer alternatives to driving.

So, what does that leave us? Our two-wheeled friend – the bicycle! While there are certainly limitations to riding (physical, financial, feasibility), for many, it is a perfect solution to a wicked problem. With the attention that cycling has received in recent months, it’s the perfect time to re-visit the benefits of cycling and the different options that exist when it comes to getting onto a bike.

Impacts of the pandemic on the bicycle (supply) chain

Since the first dramatic spike in bikes sales, resulting in bike shortages across the city, its been difficult for stores and suppliers to keep shelves stocked. When supply isn’t able to keep up with demand, we begin to see evidence of flaws in the supply chain. We had our first experience of supply chain breakdown during the first couple months of the pandemic, with the shortage of toilet paper and flour. One can imagine that the supply chain of a bicycle, made of many internationally manufactured components, is going to be more complex than that of a product grown and processed domestically. Because the pandemic has impacted every country, and their respective industries in unique ways, it’s difficult for us to predict which products will be affected. But we can certainly expect to experience downstream impacts, such as shortage of manufactured goods, as we have with bicycles.

Solutions to low supply of manufactured goods.

What do we do when there is no supply to meet our demand? One simple option is to shift to a different form of resource-use, which is where the idea of the ‘sharing economy’ comes into play. Renting, borrowing, sharing (throughout the use of co-ops and libraries) are ways to use resources, without needing to personally own individual items. We are lucky in Vancouver, as many of these programs and structures already exist in our communities, through formal organizations such as tool libraries and bikeshare, and informal ones, such as borrowing from your neighbours!

The Thingery is a community-owned library of things, accessible to all. Check out the closest location, in Kits!


Many of the direct benefits of cycling, especially to individual health, is common sense. Intuitively, we can understand how the physical activity of cycling helps us to be happier and healthier. It also makes sense that driving less means less air pollution and fewer carbon emissions. But there are also lesser known benefits of cycling; Riding a bike can be good on your wallet, as well as on the local economy. There can also be long-term impacts on communities ranging from lowered burden on the health system (because of increased individual health) and more connected communities.

Like so many things to do with sustainability, it’s not about choosing one thing over the other. You can be a driver, a cyclist, and a pedestrian. You don’t have to give up your car, but choosing to bike to work, or to the store a couple times a week (instead of driving) has significant impact.

Environmental Benefits:

  • Fewer emissions (fewer kilometres driven, fewer emissions!)
  • Decreased air and water pollution
  • Fewer energy, materials, and waste for manufacturing

When we make behavioural changes, it’s important to think of them holistically. If cycling causes a would-be driver to consume more meat (a big producer of carbon emissions), the environmental aspects of riding your bike could be negated! 1

Social Benefits:

  • Direct individual physical and mental health benefits (from the physical act of cycling) 2
  • Indirect health benefits to society (such as less air pollution)
  • Fewer bicycle related collisions with more bikes on the road (“safety in numbers”) 3
  • Health benefits of transitioning to cycling from vehicle-use that outweigh the health risks 4
  • Accessibility and social inclusion (to those who are unable to drive, or do not have access to other means of transportation)
  • Increased contact and connection with neighbours and community

There is a misconception that cycling takes more time. Depending on the alternative form of transportation, and the conditions that need to be considered (Is there rush hour traffic? Do you need to find parking? Is the bus full?). Cycling can often take less time that other forms of transportation.

Economic Benefits:

  • Direct individual financial impacts:
    • Riding your bike is free (unless you consider your food as fuel!)
    • Save money on gym memberships/exercise classes
    • Lower vehicle insurance rates (pleasure vs. commuting)
  • Increased overall human health (which has individual, and societal economic benefits)
  • Less traffic congestion and reduced road wear from vehicle traffic
  • Less development required for parking lots and roadways
  • Increased engagement with local businesses (which is good for the local economy!)


Borrow a bike
Sharing resources in the community can be one of the best ways to lighten your carbon footprint, to save money, and to strenthen community.

Borrowing a bike from or lending a bike to close friends or family members is a great way to save money and space, especially if it’s only for occasional use.

Share a bike
Biking sharing options are available throughout UBC campus, the UNA, and Vancouver. These bikes are great for short rides across campus or throughout the city, when running smalls errands or socializing.

Rent a bike
Renting a bike is a great option if you are looking to take out a bike for more than a couple of hours. Check out their website or call up your local bike shop to see if they rent bikes.

Buy a bike
There are many considerations to make when buying a bike. As with most purchases, we can drastically reduce the economic, social, and environmental impact of our decision by choosing to purchase a previously used item. A lot of bike shops, especially community-run ones sell used bikes. You can also buy a bike directly from an individual, through online platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. When buying directly from a seller, make sure you check out these guidelines to avoid buying a stolen bike. If you are looking to buy a bike new, make sure to call ahead. With bicycle shortages right now, it’s better to see if they have bikes available, rather than wasting your time (and possibly the gas to get there!)

Remember to invest in a bike lock (u-locks are the best) and to register your bicycle for Project 529 – a community-powered bike recovery system, that helps to deter bike theft and re-unite stolen bikes with their owners.

Abandoned bikes in the UNA: Did you know that bikes that are abandoned in UNA are donated to AMS Bike Kitchen and Kickstand? In the last two years, over 80 bikes have been donated to be re-used or used for parts.


Different types of electric bikes

  1. Conversion kits (for a bike you already have)
    • Often less expensive ($1000+)
    • Requires bicycle maintenance experience for installation and upgrades
  2. Purpose built E-bike
    • Comes ready to ride
    • More expensive ($2000+)
    • Comes with reliable service from the retailer

Class 1: Pedal Assist/Pedelec

    • Most common
    • Just like a regular bicycle, except that the motor kicks in to help with your pedalling
    • May or may not have a throttle (Can use throttle to ‘get-going’ on hill starts, or when hauling a heavy load (i.e. kids, cargo, groceries)

Class 2: Throttle Only

    • Less common, prohibited in many countries (all of EU)
    • Equipped with motor-controlled throttle, that does not require use of pedals to use motor

Class 3: Speed Pedal Assist/Pedelec

    • Like Class 1, but faster

Learn more about E-Bike regulation in BC.

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