What I learned from Lana Stewart


I recorded on Strava my bicycle ride to the post office at Shopper's Drug Mart this afternoon, and sent a quiet thank you out to Lana Stewart for the prescription. 

This is Lana in de pecha (kucha) mode earlier this year in Montréal: 


She was making a point that has stuck. Here goes: riding a bicycle to work is a lot of work. For the newcomer, there's a lot of obstacles. Safety in traffic, changes of clothes, storage, sweating, matted hair, risk of bike theft, mild ridicule, change of weather, and so on. Why the fascination with getting people interested in riding a bicycle to go from zero to workplace? Why not instead encourage people to make the simple rides, the neighbourhood trips to the grocery store, the bakery, the liquor store, or the post office? Better to build local and solid by encouraging wanna-be-again bicycle riders to make trips to the locations that, if they're fortunate, sit within one or two kilometres from home. 


Bing's. Bikes visible

That's how I started. For childhood me, going to Bing's was synonymous with getting on my bike and pedalling to Bing's. For grade school me, going to school in spring, summer and fall meant pedalling to school. We pedalled a mile to Mitch's place to play grass hockey for hours. We pedalled out past the Yellowhead to ride our bikes up and down the Honda Hills. Translation: we rode our bikes to go to ride our bikes, and then when we had finished riding, we rode back home.

Okay, I've strayed from Lana's lesson with this suggestion that riding a bicycle to do an adult's errands might help spin back the wheels of time. Even though I have found that to be quite true.

Shopper's Drug Mart, one of the businesses that ring the piazza of automobile parking at Meadowlark Mall, is 1.3 km from our house. It is a perfectly tricky distance. Easy to drive, easy-ish to park. It's a kind of tipping-point distance. While it might feel too close to fire up the car, it also feels a bit far to walk or ride a bike. Until you remember Lana.

So, I saddled up. And, with apologies to my bicycling betters who use to app to chronicle thrilling and scenic rides where thousands of calories are burned along hundreds of kilometres of nicknamed segments, I pressed record on Strava. I crossed the romantically named 149 St, then 150 St, then 151 St, then I cut through Shaske Park, before climbing the 150s and through the pocket of idling vehicle-KFC perfume and into the mall. I did not notice the seven-metre elevation change. I did notice on the way a man sitting in his driveway on a motorized medical mobility scooter. I flashed him a peace sign. He returned the sign. 

The conductor

At the post office, I bought some of the new Birds of Canada stamps and picked up three packages of bike lights for the darkening evenings. On the way back, I watched a woman pushing a shopping cart across the parking lot conduct with vigorous arm motions the flow of automobiles around her. I smiled and said hello. She smiled and said hello. 

So, Lana, (@modalmom on Twitter),  thank you. The work of riding to work can seem too much. But that just means the other destinations—grocery store, bakery, liquor store, post office, childhood—are more within reach.






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