The Kootenays are full of them. They are the thrill-seekers, fitness-fanatics, ‘rubber heads’ and environmentalists who ride their bikes to work. But, what is it that motivates these riders to leave their motors behind and make the challenging daily ride?
Isaac Saban is a regular cycle commuter and also President of the Kootenay Columbia Trails Society. Like many Kootenay residents, Saban wanted to give up city living, keep his career on track and be able to bike to work. Saban found it all in Rossland and Trail.
“I’ve been cycling to work for most of the ten years I’ve lived here,” said Saban. “For two summers I was part of a bike carpool, where each person took a turn at driving everyone else (and their bikes) back up the hill.”
From April (or whenever the snow goes) until mid-November (when it returns), Saban commutes on his mountain bike, living for the fresh air and freedom. He feels good that he’s not adding to the negative effects automobiles have on the environment.
But off-road bike riding, even on established trails, comes with its own set of challenges. Recently, Saban met a moose on the trail. Although he stopped a couple of times to let it move on, each time he went around a bend, the moose was still there.
”I had to turn around and go back up the hill,” said Saban.
Saban rides rain or shine. It is just a “mindset” he says, having ridden in Vancouver, where rain was practically part of the daily routine.
“It’s never as bad outside as it looks,” said Saban. “It’s establishing a habit. Once you’re into it, it just happens.”
Saban is committed to riding safely. His helmet is always on. He says it’s part of the lifestyle, like wearing a seatbelt. He also has mountain bike shoes, soft-soled to better connect with the pedals. And, he always carries a spare bike tube. These are all things he recommends to anyone contemplating commuting by bike.
Saban is not alone. There are dedicated cyclists who ride both down and up the hill between Rossland and Trail, on-road and off-road. According to Teck Metals Trail Operations, their bike parking lot is full most of the spring, summer and fall. Riders come to work from all directions.
Saban’s family lifestyle is typical of the Kootenay region: work in a neighbouring town, take the kids to activities, summer trips to the lakes. So, his family also has a car and a truck, to go along with their fleet of six bikes.
“It kills me to drive,” said Saban, but he acknowledged that it is also a necessity for active families with children in rural communities like Rossland.
He also dreads the on-road portion of his ride, describing the Warfield to Trail section as his “least favourite.” When unaware drivers cut him off, he has been known to report them to police. Rural road riders don’t have marked bike lanes like their urban counter-parts and must share the roads with motorized vehicles.
However, the Kootenay’s growing network of trails and peaceful backroads provide a great opportunity for cycle commuting. A sustainable, environmentally-friendly alternative to driving to work may be just a bike away.
For more on sustainable transportation initiatives in Rossland, visit the Rossland Sustainability Commission website at www.visionstoaction.ca, Kootenay Carshare Co-op at www.carsharecoop.ca or Kootenay Columbia Trails Society www.KCTS.ca.
Communications for Rossland