Cycling for Sustainability
By Emily Lomax
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!
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.
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!)
Different types of electric bikes
Class 1: Pedal Assist/Pedelec
Class 2: Throttle Only
Class 3: Speed Pedal Assist/Pedelec