Lynn Valley resident Jay MacDonald said he’s shed more than 50 pounds and sleeps better since he started cycling seriously two or three years ago.
“There have been all kinds of health benefits for me,” MacDonald, North Shore chair of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “It’s been great. If anyone’s been thinking about it, if for no other reason than just to find a way to get fit again without wasting time in a gym, it’s perfect.”
The 47-year-old said he’s spending about half his working life commuting around Metro Vancouver. He works for a downtown software-servicing company, but he also rides all over the region as part of his work. MacDonald said he specializes in encryption and implementation of open-source software.
“It was entertaining last week,” MacDonald said. “My gig was out in Richmond, which means I had an ‘in-town’ thing, so I actually bike commuted from North Vancouver to Richmond. That was a lot of fun.”
According to MacDonald, the potential for cycling is not being realized on Keith Road, a major arterial connecting the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge Crossing—which he sometimes uses—to the Lonsdale area. He said his “biggest pet peeve” is the fact the District of North Vancouver nixed a separated bike lane on Keith last year. Otherwise, he said the North Shore is improving for cyclists in most areas.
“The challenge we face on the North Shore, one is the hills, obviously,” he said. “To go almost anywhere, you’re going to have to climb a fairly severe hill. That, compounded by the fact that we’ve got all of these creeks and ravines running through the area, means that there are only a few ways to get through in some places. So, sure, when you’re going along the lower part there, along Marine Drive and 3rd Street, there is lots of opportunity. But as you get farther east, so as you get out to the Second Narrows, there is no really easy way to get from Main Street and the Second Narrows Bridge up toward Lynn Valley and Upper Lonsdale.”
District of North Vancouver mayor Richard Walton conceded there was still untapped potential bike-related infrastructure, but he echoed MacDonald when he noted that “both West and North Van are the two hilliest communities in Metro Vancouver”. Walton, who cycles regularly, said he’s now being driven around by his wife due to a hockey injury that required him to stay off his feet, skates, and bike.
“While our council is somewhat supportive of it [cycling] in general, I think that I am the only cyclist in our council,” Walton told the Straight by phone. “Therefore, I think that the comments that resonate with the public for traffic calming—which involves a whole range of different things, from speed bumps to curve bulges and those kinds of things—tend to not be of great assistance to the cycling community.”
Meanwhile, City of North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto cited one example of effective traffic-calming and bicycle infrastructure. “We don’t have as high speeds as we used to have on top of 3rd Street hill [between Queensbury Avenue and Heywood Street],” Mussatto told the Straight by phone. “Of course it used to be a cash cow for us, for the RCMP and traffic-ticketing,” he said with a chuckle. “So the negative is we don’t get as much traffic-fine revenue on that section. But I am happy with that.”
Mussatto is excited about the Spirit Trail, which the North Vancouver municipalities, along with the Squamish Nation, are working on. “In just another year or two, you’re going to be able to ride your bicycle or walk or jog from Lower Lonsdale right over to Park Royal without having to worry about any traffic, or there are just a few traffic lights that you have to push a button for,” Mussatto said. “I have to give credit to the North Vancouver District and to the West Vancouver District for the work they’ve done on the Spirit Trail. That is something I didn’t think I’d see in my lifetime.”