If you keep your eyes on the newly painted bike lanes on George Street, you may notice some interesting bicycles rolling along beside you. More citizens are looking for alternative ways to travel to work and get the kids to soccer practice, and are leaving the car behind.
Hopping on two wheels is an efficient way to travel in Peterborough, as paved trails and increasing numbers of bike lanes allow for safer travel to more locations around the city. And, as more people turn to bikes to get around, we are seeing more unique bicycles around the community with customized frames for specialized purposes.
This past weekend, neighbours at the King Street Pulse Pop-Up hosted a “classic car” style bike show highlighting unique frames such as cargos, commuters, hybrids, and fixed gears.
The display of unique bikes showcased how creative and inspired citizens are to make their everyday travels possible without the use of a car.
One of the frames that immediately caught my eye was the extended frame of a longtail bike, also known as an xtracycle. An extended flat piece over the back wheel allows up to three children to sit comfortably with pannier-style cargo bags alongside the wheels that claim to carry, “everything from a backpack to a load of lumber.”
Lindsay Howell has customized her xtracycle to fit the needs of her family of four. It is equipped with an electric assist to help with Peterborough’s many hills, and to help with heavy loads on the way back from trips to the grocery store.
“The xtracycle allows our family the convenience of having two vehicles without having to own two cars,” Howell says. “It allows our children to know their neighbourhood and connects us all to not only our surrounding area but to pockets of Peterborough that we would never have known existed — and to experience that as a family is a phenomenal gift.”
Howell also shares that this bike regularly carries their families groceries along with giant bags of dog food and has even carried loads of garden soil.
Once children get a bit bigger, they may like to feel the independence of riding their own two wheels but may not have the energy to travel longer distances or the experience to be riding on the road.
There are unique kid-sized bike add-ons that attach to the rear of adult bikes, which help kids to build confidence in riding and to learn the rules of the road. Frames like these allow kids to transition from being towed to being independent, while the whole family gets to pedal and enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.
Cargo bikes are gaining in popularity, as well. Many manufactured styles are available that feature large wooden boxes or bamboo buckets for carrying your kids to school, transporting tools to the garden plot, or to even help a friend move their couch! Bike vendors are showing up at the local farmer’s market to sell everything from popsicles and bread to meat from their cargo boxes.
The Bullitt cargo bike was a show-stopper at this weekend’s Pulse Pop-Up. It can be customized to carry your unique cargo items and can be adapted with tubs, lockable boxes, canopies, flat boards, or child seats, depending on your needs.
Owner of the Bullitt, John Hauser says that his cargo bike can carry up to 400 lbs. and that with its versatility, he hardly uses his car anymore.
Another bicycle that was catching lots of attention at the show was a grey, single speed bike with orange rims and a belt drive in place of a chain.
Single-speed and fixed-gear bikes, also known as “fixies”, have a simple, clean design and therefore require less maintenance while their sleek lines make them easy to modify and customize and, without all the added gears, they are cheaper to purchase.
Fixies are often used by commuters and are without a freewheel. That means the rider is unable to coast.
Avenues-area resident Jay Ireland owns two fixies and has recently started commuting to work each day on his bike. Ireland says, “Riding a fixie gives me a better workout and a more intense ride when I’m traveling shorter distances.”
When asked why he has recently made the switch to commuting by bike, Ireland shares: “Cars are convenient but they disconnect you from your surroundings. Commuting to work is an opportunity for exercise that I can work right into my daily routine and it’s a great way to decompress after work.”
Ireland went on to explain that he thinks people may be reluctant to make the change because they believe it will take them much longer to get to work, “I travel over 10 kilometres to work on my bike and it only takes me 10 more minutes compared to driving a car — that surprised me.”
The costs of car payments, fuel, insurance, and upkeep are also becoming big incentives for many families to make their second car, a bike. Eco-conscious citizens make the switch to people-powered transportation to reduce their footprint. And, anyone who rides a bike experiences the health benefits of being active on a regular basis.
These are all great reasons to ride, but aside from the financial, environmental, and healthful rationale for choosing two wheels over four, I believe there may be another secret reason switching — the sheer bliss of riding a bike!
There is a certain happiness that radiates from people’s faces when they’re pedaling a bike; perhaps it is the joy one experiences when transporting their kids, meals for the week, or new fridge using their own people-powered momentum with the wind in their hair and a “weeeee” in their heart.
Check out the GreenUP Calendar for upcoming bike-related and environmental events in the Peterborough area, at greenup.on.ca.
All photos by Karen Halley except where noted.