Shifting Gears: Cycling is changing

Commuting to campus on my bike is unglamorous common sense. Parking is free, and it turns the road rage of rush hour driving into joy. Cycling also makes me feel fast and powerful – not everyday feelings for many women.  With all of these benefits, it's certainly worth a try!

I’m a Teaching Assistant for ERS 310, a core course on critical environmental theory. My students expressed some disenchantment last semester; they were feeling helpless facing compounding ecological crises in the world. I see cycling (for active transportation) as a simple and available form of environmental activism for our bright, idealistic students.

I’ve seen the structural impact of more people on bikes all over the world. When I moved to Penang, Malaysia in 2011, bike transportation was considered backwards and risky. Fast-forward two years, and a friend posts this photo on my Facebook wall.

Twitter post of cycling statue in Malaysia

In Ottawa this week to attend Congress, I couldn’t help but notice that cycling culture has reached a critical (and chic) mass. Years of developing cycling infrastructure has led to young professionals and seasoned bureaucrats ditching cars for vintage cruisers, some in bike shorts, but most looking business-casual.

The recent announcement of segregated bike lanes along the LRT line is great news for cyclists in Kitchener-Waterloo. And, I expect, could encourage hesitant students and staff to take their bikes to campus. After a few safe rides, I imagine they would feel the same benefits I mentioned above.

Putting yourself on a bike instead of in a car to get to campus is good for you, and good for building cycling culture in our community. Happy Bike Month!

Beth Timmers is a PhD student in the Department of Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo. She is part of the Global Food Politics Group, conducting research on agricultural sustainability and food security in the Global South.