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Strapping down collapsed 4 tier storage wire cart for closet. At Ikea store before cycling 15 km. home. 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Strapping down collapsed 4 tier storage wire cart for closet. At Ikea store before cycling 15 km. home. 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Costco bulk shoppers are the same as utility cyclists:  they buy groceries and schlep them homeward.

Uber Feasible Cycling Leads to Streamlined Living
However, the caveat is a purchase- laden cyclist can’t afford the temptation of buying junk food or anything superfluous:  she or he has to tow it home.

The no junk pre-condition makes the lifestyle cyclist, utility and commuter cyclist, more uber efficient in clean, free transportation, fitness and living only with what they need and treasure without the frills. Especially if they are only shopping within a 10 km. radius or less.

Leaving store with several large new boxes for moving 2010. Photo by J.Chong

Leaving store with several large new boxes for moving 2010. Photo by J.Chong

 Prep Time for Shopping by Bike Same as Finding Car Parking
Six months ago, we moved our stuff from a home to  new place,  just 2 blocks away. It wasn’t a big deal since there wasn’t much stuff.  We did rent a small van, not a truck,  to move a bed, large computer table and 4 large boxes of belongings. But the rest, was walked and also biked over by several small trips.

Moving around daily by bike, does require planning, especially for a particularily heavy or awkward, large load.  But probably no more time, than cruising around in a car and trying to find a parking spot in a busy shopping neighbourhood area. It helps to live near at least a bike route that does not have much car traffic or any at all especially when you are loaded down with an extra 30-40 lbs. of groceries and household goods.

 Packed in 2 side panniers from rear bike rack in 1 trip from store. 2011

Packed in 2 side panniers from rear bike rack in 1 trip from store. 2011. Photo by J. Chong. Hidden behind larger produce include tomatoes, tangerines, yogurt, 1 tin of clams, pasta & anise bulb.

 Squirreling Away Essentials Like Everyone Else
What is required, especially living in snow-prone areas of Canada, is to plan and buy perishable food when the prices and weather are right for cycling.  So yes, I did load up at the farmers’ markets with veggies and fruits galore in my panniers every weekend. Threw in the pasta and cereal into my panniers (or on top, held down with bungie cords) whenever there was a sale at the store. 

I half joke that I must be making a toilet tissue pack investment for the next few winter months since there are packs squirreled away in my storage areas. But my attitude is no different than the car driving shopper piling up their  bulk supply from Costco.

Bike transport of bins with this older model are becoming rarer. Changzhi, China 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike transport of bins with this older, but sturdy model are becoming rarer. Changzhi, China 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Usually I make my heaviest grocery bike trips on weekends, when the car road traffic is quiet and less congested.  This has been true for the cities of Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary where I’ve lived, biked and shopped.  In all of these cities, it was possible to use bike routes for shopping  that included bike lanes, dedicated paths as well as on the road for a few kilometres. Depending on where we chose to shop in any of those cities, one-way distances were from 4 to 16 km.  

Stacked bins on back bike trailer. Vancouver BC 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Stacked bins on back bike trailer. Vancouver BC 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  Of course in the winter, it was limited to under 8  km.  But truly we got everything we needed.  Any cycling for shopping further out, was more of a treat for  ourselves.  In such situations, we did sometimes use a blend of cycling and bringing bikes onto public transit trains or using the bus bike racks.

Jack has even cycled home with 4 unassembled dining room chairs, all boxed up on the bike trailer from the furniture store. It was only a 6 km. trip, partially on a busy road, then onto the bike path.  But it is possible with all the right roping, bungie cords and knowing the bike route well enough in advance to maneouvre the trailing, oversized packages along.  Another time, he slowly transported a pair of skis.

Returning with plastic caddy for storing cleaning agents. With some additional padding and secure cords, caddy could have stored more for journey home.

Return with plastic caddy for storing cleaning agents and grocery filled panniers. With some extra top padding and secure cords, caddy could store more for journey home.

 Bundled Cache of Bungie Cords- A Transportation Lifeline
Unlike him, what is annoying to me, is the fussiness of unraveling a bunch of bungie cords. So I keep my supply low –3.  He keeps over 10 different bungie cords in his panniers  –talk about seriously over prepared.  But admittedly, I’ve borrowed one or two from him.

For a 98- lb. person, it’s an excellent way for me to keep fit and build some strength when we go long distance cycle-touring later, with our pannier weight on cycling vacation trips.

So I don’t worry about dabbing on my make-up and choosing the right, colour coordinated purse before I leave. Instead I make sure my keys, wallet, lock and bungie cords are stashed away in my panniers.

Bike lane leads up to shopping mall, with signed bike parking area on right hand side by front entrance. Copenhagen, Denmark 2008. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike lane leads up to shopping mall, with signed bike parking area on right hand side by front entrance. Copenhagen, Denmark 2008. Photo by HJEH Becker

  Cycling Infrastructure Supporting Retail Shopping – HJEH Becker
Shopping by bicycle is much more feasible when quality cycling infrastructure is available on routes to retailing areas of cities. 

Quality cycling routes where cyclists are not apprehensive of passing motorists, comes first.  At shopping destinations, nearby bike parking that leaves a bike and shopping already done secure, especially in front of stores not down the block, is paramount.  Depending on trees and signposts for bike parking 

Family cycling with packages, including the boy with packages in his rear basket.  Downtown Karlsruhe, Germany 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Family cycling with packages, including the boy with packages in his rear basket. Downtown Karlsruhe, Germany 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker. This core area is heavily used by commuting cyclists with shops and restaurants, as well as bike parking areas and racks.

 just is not adequate.  Walking half a block from parking spots to stores is beyond the catchment areas for cycling shopping.  Some retailers understand marketing and how to attract cycling customers, considering that they have disposable money not spent on maintaining and operating cars.  These merchants even offer bike parking inside stores.  In larger shopping areas where visits to multiple of stores on a shopping trip is common, electronic, trip rental lockers or secure bike cages and corralled parking with restricted or attended access give higher level of comfort to cyclists that bicycles and shopping will still be there when one returns.

In Copenhagen, one of the large indoor-style shopping centres has bike lanes from the nearby arterial road through the internal road system to the indoor bike parking area located right adjacent to the main front entrance to the shopping complex.  In Calgary, major big-box shopping areas are connected to the bike trails along the river system and from the C-Train rapid transit stations by bike paths on road right-of-ways providing relaxing and pleasant cycling to stores.  Such a network allows for comfortable and pleasant shopping 15, 20, or even 30 kilometres from home. 

Bike path from Elbow River bike path to Marlborough shopping mall area. Calgary, AB 2011. Photo HJEH Becker

Bike path section connected from Nose Creek bike path, to Marlborough shopping mall area. Calgary, AB 2011. Photo HJEH Becker

 Calgary’s winter maintenance program of its bike trails along the river system extends the cycling-shopping right through winter as bike trails are cleaned of snow with the same priority as streets and only the minus 15 to minus 30 degree C  weather provides the hurdle to overcome.  Combining cycling and the C-Train rapid transit system makes such shopping trips more comfortable as total cycling distance can be managed to prevailing conditions.

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Walk offers different views along the way. San Antonio TX. 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

Walk offers different views along the way. San Antonio TX. 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

  In 2011, I had the opportunity to visit Seoul, South Korea and explore the Seoul Ditch, as I like to call it.  It is better known as the Cheonggyechon Stream.  The rehabilitation of the river was done in an excellent manner by providing a bit of rural space within a city for people to walk and explore.

In  February 2012, I had the opportunity to return to San Antonio, Texas and revisit the River Walk (Paseo del Rio).  The last time I was here, was a couple of decades ago with my then, 12-year-old daughter as I attended a conference.  Two weeks before Christmas, we sat at a restaurant table adjacent to a stonewall that lined the river.  Candles were burning in brown bags placed closely together on the top of the River Walk stone walls.  A very picture perfect scene it was.

Public tile painted art along River Walk. San Antonio, TX 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

Public art along River Walk. San Antonio, TX 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

  On the way from the airport to the hotel, the taxi driver was relating a story on the expansion of the River Walk, the supposed cost, the taxi service on the river, and other information that a tourist wants to hear.

From a modest beginning, the San Antonio River Walk is now about 8 kilometres in length with some additional branches connecting points of interest.

“The San Antonio River Walk is a public park, open 365 days a year. It is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath approximately 8 km (5 miles) of downtown San Antonio.  The River Walk is an important part of the city’s urban fabric and a tourist attraction in its own right.  The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks , lined with restaurants, shops, hotels and more. It connects the major tourist draws from the Alamo to Rivercenter Mall, Arneson River Theatre and La Villita, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Pearl Brewery.  Over 20 events take place on the River Walk every year.”  (Source – http://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/about/the-san-antonio-river-walk/)

River Walk’s Development Started in 1939 
River Walk has a long history, with work started on it in 1939.  In 1962, work 

Pedestrians and others waiting for water taxi / river cruise. San Antonio, TX. 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

Pedestrians and others waiting for water taxi / river cruise. San Antonio, TX. 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

  started to develop the River Walk, as we know it today with Texan or Mexican architecture, riverside businesses, and landscaping which  encompasses 17,000 assorted trees, shrubs, vines, and ground cover.

Different views along River Walk. San Antonio, TX 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

Different views along River Walk. San Antonio, TX. 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

  The Walk is fashioned after the early architecture  was finished primarily in stone.  With a walk in each side of the river, one passes through treed landscape in calm and peacefulness.  Herons sit in trees above the water. Historic and more modern buildings line the Walk with entrances from the river.  Taxi stops are conveniently located to hop on a riverboat and continue the journey by water.  The noise of downtown, is lost among the foliage and river.

The Walk is divided into the peaceful stretches and tourist commercial sections.  Here one can later, sit by the river, enjoy a meal or a drink and listen to the sounds of a Mexican band. In the park-like sections, one can wander, sit and contemplate, look at flowers and trees, view wall art, read about the local history on wall plaques, and find oneself on the Walk maps  that line the river. Cars pass unnoticed overhead as streets cross.

Walk is connected to the Market area. San Antonio, TX. 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

Walk connects to the market area. San Antonio, TX. 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

The River Walk is well connected into the downtown commercial area, including the plaza at City Hall  and to the Market, sometimes by landscaped connections, sometimes by staircases with direction signage.  Establishments extend to the Walk providing services, drink, and food.  A set of stairs leads to a local art community.  Other public venues are touched by the Walk.

Heron spotted along River Walk. San Antonio, TX. 2012 Photo by HJEH Becker

Heron spotted along River Walk. San Antonio, TX. 2012 Photo by HJEH Becker

 Compared to Cheonggyechon Stream, the River Walk lacks sufficient public space along the riverside for programming and for people to gather for events, except for the city hall plaza which is half-block away.  The walkways are meant for pedestrians, although one sees an occasional cyclist on the paths.  The walkways do not have the capacity for people wishing to experience the river in a peaceful manner, without being crowded. 

The river is a tranquil place. A bike path along it would increase the attraction and the use of the public bike system.

Further Reading:
Becker, Jack.    Seoul, South  Korea- Parting Thoughts.  The Ditch: Cheonggyechon Stream. In Third  

River Walk winds through also residential areas. San Antonio TX. 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

River Walk winds through also residential areas. San Antonio TX. 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

Wave Cycling Blog.  Nov. 7, 2011.

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The Seoul Ditch – Better Known as the Cheonggyechon Stream

Cheonggyechon Stream in downtown core of Seoul, South Korea. Uncovered after expressway torn down. This section of bubbling natural water offers walking stones for pedestrians to cross over to the other side 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cheonggyechon Stream in downtown core of Seoul, South Korea. Uncovered after expressway torn down. This section of bubbling natural water offers walking stones for pedestrians to cross over to the other side 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  A place for commuting,  walking, exercising, thinking, reflecting, talking, resting, enjoying the arts, being entertained, and communicating with nature.

When I first arrived, I read or heard somewhere that the stream brings a wind of fresh air into the central part of the downtown core in Seoul.  And that was the first thing that I noticed as I took the steps from the street to the water’s edge.  I heard that the stream decreased the air temperature by a few degrees Celsius.  So, I also noticed that.

Looking down Cheonggyechon Stream with downtown skyline of Seoul, 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Looking down Cheonggyechon Stream with background downtown skyline of Seoul, 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 One has to salute the wisdom and foresight of the conceiver of this idea:   tear down an expressway that covered over an old stream that was then, very polluted and replace it with a linear park. 

As I walked the full length of the 8.3 km stream before it joins a river, I kept looking for fish.  Halfway to the river junction, my search ended as large fishes swam about.  If they are bottom suckers or fish that thrive in clean water, I do not know.

Eight Kilometre Stream with Character Changes Along the Way
One has to admire the creativity of the designer for this stream.  Can one find things to complain about? (Of course, as we are good at that.)  However, one must admire this new wonder of the world.   It combines all the elements that 

Various public art installations along the way, including sculpture of woman carrying a water jug. Cheonggyehon Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Various public art installations along the way, including sculpture of woman carrying a water jug. Cheonggyechon Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 makes it a complete design.  Elements of breathing fresh air, exercise, sports, the arts from visual to sensual, performance, mosaics to statue, places to sit and think, relax, to listen to the city and its creatures, light as artistic expression and live art that changes regularly with new themes. 

It is a stream that changes character constantly from urban sterility to touches of rural trees and vegetation.  From new concrete pathways and walls of today, to rocks that cross the stream as bridges and have seen centuries behind them.  From bare concrete-faced walls to hanging natural, living wall cover that reflects the colours of autumn. 

Bike-pedestrian bridgfe further out from downtonw. Variety of areas along the Stream exhibit different personalities. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike-pedestrian bridge further out from downtown. Variety of areas along the Stream exhibit different personalities. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

This area of the stream and pedestrian walkway was devoted to a breast cancer fundraising event for a few days. Seoul,South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

This area of the stream and pedestrian walkways, was devoted to a breast cancer fundraising event for a few days. Seoul,South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 At lunchtime, the walkway is congested as any street in large cities.  At other times, it is not deserted as people walk, sit and contemplate, or exercise along the stream.  From formal exercise equipment to stretching along the path,  

Occasionally there are exercise machine installed for anyone to use by the stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Occasional fitness equipment installed for anyone to use by the stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

people do their thing.  Closer to downtown, pedestrians are occasionally joined on the too narrow walkways with a few cyclists. 

More Cyclists On Well-Designed Bike Path
However, further east there is a very well designed two-way bike path, coloured green with edge and centre lines, frequent cycling stencils and with street lighting for darkness.  The path sweeps down from a parallel street along the stream and continues out to the river.

The few cyclists in the downtown sections are now replaced with a continuous stream of cyclists of all ages – the old, the soon to be old, the ones making progress in their life, and the young.  Now commuting and exercising becomes the drive for cycling.  Some have bandannas covering their mouths.  Others have them close by, just in case.

Bike paths along Cheongyyechon Stream are generally well-marked for cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike paths along Cheongyyechon Stream are generally well-marked for cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

One of several pedestrian bridges crossing the Stream, each a different character. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

One of several pedestrian bridges crossing the Stream, each a different design. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike share system near Cheonyyechon Stream and bike path.  Located abit away from downtown to serve weekend cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Public bike share system by Cheonggyechon Stream and bike path. Located abit away from downtown to serve weekend cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Finally, I stumbled onto a public bike share system station, the only one I saw.  It is well positioned to service the weekend crowd that wants to go for a spin.

Cycling in the City
Downtown, a fair amount of cycling is done.  Much of it is on sidewalks although even in rush hours you see some cyclists taking up the inside traffic lane.  Some were in ordinary work clothes, others were in their spandex and helmets with their fancy bicycles.  Many had very utilitarian bicycles with a back rack and a high extension to put on too many goods for delivery.

In the urban core, the only cycling facility that I came across was a red coloured bike in front of the palace grounds where it was  too packed with touring buses and cars, not cyclists. 

Cycling on a bike path by the Stream  with the pet dog in side bike basket.  Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cycling on bike path by the Stream with the pet dog in side bike basket. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclists and electric wheelchair user out on a fall, crisp day. Some cyclists wear bandanas over their mouths --though it wasn't very cold nor smoggy. By Cheonggyechon Stream, bike path. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclists and electric wheelchair user out on a fall, crisp day. Some cyclists wear bandanas over their mouths --though it wasn't very cold nor smoggy. By Cheonggyechon Stream, bike path. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 As one leaves the downtown core, then cycling facilities started to appear.  On the road paralleling the Stream, the one-way road has a bicycle lane on the left (not right) side, well-marked but not coloured.

There seems to be a good system of bike paths along the rivers, usually coloured.  In suburbia, coloured bike lanes on new roads appeared regularly.  Some were physically separated from motorists and pedestrians, others were not.  Bike paths  are also parallel to the main railway line and highway to the Incheon airport.

Jumping blue dolphin sculptural art work in the Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Blue dolphin sculptural art work seems to jump-dance in the Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Making Seoul a More Liveable, Shopping City
Priority number one, get the motorcycles and mopeds off the sidewalk. Step two, remove car and truck parking on sidewalks.  Then remove cyclists from sidewalks.  Follow the Paris lead.

With the Cheonggyechon Stream breathing more life into its downtown core now, the heart of Seoul becoming a more dynamic, lively place.

Further Reading:
TransLink.  Removing Freeways and Reforming Buses: An Interview with Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang President of the Korea Transport Institute.  In Buzzer Blog, Mar. 28, 2011.

Hand painted outdoor tile wall art, seen while walking along Cheongyyechon Stream 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Hand painted outdoor tile wall art, seen while walking along Cheonggyechon Stream 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

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Mix of cyclists, including a couple on right using blue bikes from city's public bike share system. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Mix of cyclists, including a couple on right using blue bikes from city's public bike share system. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Melbourne, just recently named the most liveable city in the world, wrenched that boasting right from Vancouver.  Vancouver, has now been relegated to the third rung, not the second.  A time for reflection as the world keeps on moving.  Status quo is not an operative word if one wants to be on the first rung.  If one wants to be the boaster.

Impressions Leaving its Airport
So, stepping off the plane after a two-night stop in Seoul, the question is what 

Interurban rail station connected to transit. Buses don't have bike racks yet. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Interurban rail station connected to transit. Buses don't have bike racks yet. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 makes this city so great to live in? No rapid transit line for one to take to downtown core, as is the case in Vancouver or Seoul. Just a high frequency bus service to the Southern Star railway terminal, that runs every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day. The bus is a specially configured articulating bus that wheels passengers through the 20 minute ride to the railway station. Not like Eugene Oregon’s bus. There is no space for bicycles on the bus. There is no cycling facility easily spotted that lets one cycle to the city. Maybe there is, but where?

Bike-pedestrian bridge. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike-pedestrian bridge. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Downtown Core For Shopping, Work, Not for Living  –Yet
The downtown  core, Melbourne’s prime real estate asset, is all about business and retailing.  It is all destination shopping and working, since there are no places for people to live.  Slowly, residences are being introduced into the city both downtown and also into the docklands as well as other small real estate properties that fall within the City’s boundaries.  Imagine, a city where the overnight inhabitants are primarily hotel guests. That is the City of Melbourne.

But Streets Alive with People
With 96,000 inhabitants at night, and 778,000 during the day, the city has a very active street life.  No matter if one is strolling along the pathway by the  

Melbourne Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 river flanked by retail outlets on the land side willing to feed your appetite or pacing yourself along the downtown shopping streets, one is not alone.  You are just an entity among a mass of people vying for sidewalk space.  Storefronts are open to streets as feet traffic brings warm cheer to merchants.  Some laneways have been populated with tables and chairs for serving food and drink, places where people now rule where cars were once here.  Slowly, streets are reconfigured and  squeezing our cars by only leaving essential service and delivery vehicles to do their job.  Instead, there are stream of pedestrians, cyclist, and tram riders with noise of conservation on the streets, instead of engine noise and pollution emitting from exhausts.

Streetcars in Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Streetcars in Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Impressions of this city:  It does  feel like nirvana when encountering one arterial street after another with ribbons of steel down the centre of the roads.  With motorists who do not enter the tram space, the steel network allows efficient and fast service through downtown.  Each tram swishes from stop to stop, carrying about 200 or 300 customers to downtown live.  An extensive network of metro trains brings in 1,000 people at a time from the proliferation of suburban homes.  Downtown life without cars is made possible by a high service tram network, supplemented by a dense network of cycling facilities, and also wide sidewalks.

Road Planning Under State Authority
With 4.1 million inhabitants, Metro Melbourne encompasses 30 municipalities.  The roads are not under the control of the municipalities, but of the state.  Joint planning is just a new word here.  Street priority and allocation of space may not meet the needs of City of Melbourne’s priorities.  Something to work on.

Inside interurban rail station. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Inside interurban rail station. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Commuter Cycling Facilities At Destination, But Not Multi-Modal –Yet
In Metro Melbourne, the vision for cycling seems to be providing a true capacity for people to embrace that mode of transportation to destination.  The vision does not seem to include combined mobility with transit beyond the most frequent European model of cycling, to a train station and leaving your bike there.  In fact, Parkateers or caged bike parking seems to be springing up in suburban train stations.  Suburban train cars may have the European design with place for bicycles but none are allowed.  Nor are they allowed on trams or buses.  No bike racks on buses here.  There is a punt or a bike ferry that makes its way across the Yarra River to allow faster commutes to the west.

Public Bike Share Run By Car Organization
A public bike system has emerged last winter.  Not widely used.  Elsewhere in cities where helmets while cycling are mandatory, the local helmet law is upheld as the public bike killer.  Locally, the story is different when listening to 

Melbourne's public bike share system run by a car organization. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Melbourne's public bike share system run by a car organization. Some lack of initial marketing and initiative driven by state authority, not under responsibility of municipality which contributed lower usgae at beginning. Helmet law was less of a factor. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  politicians and city staff.  It seems that there is a culture of wearing helmets while cycling in Melbourne.  If one forgets to wear one’s helmet one day, a passing motorist may just roll down the car window and remind you of that. Implementation of the scheme by the state, without consultation with the city emerges as an issue.
 
The system was introduced during the winter, with no spring advertising and marketing program.  The bike stations are not dense enough with a catchment area that would appeal to potential customers.  The stations are not located close enough to where potential customers want them.  The system is run by an automobile club that is not inspired to market the system nor make it a winner.  Nuisance is a word frequently heard instead.  Now back to the helmet.  Despairing remarks have been made that the provision and access to helmets was not well thought out.  One does not see briefcases on the street designed for carrying a helmet or backpacks with that provision.

Relaxing by river waterfront. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Relaxing by river waterfront. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 The city does have an extensive network of bike lanes for cycling the public bikes.  The philosophy seems to be squeeze in whatever you can without disturbing the movement of cars, the parking of cars, the stopping of trucks, or the stopping of cars all on bike lanes.  After all, for a metro area where comments have been made that there are more streets for car,s than in other cities, is this not what one would expect.  Sometimes when cars are lined up next to the bike lane, the lane is so wide that one needs to use the curb and push the bicycle forward in the less that half meter space.  On the positive side, there are designated spaces for cycling and the cycling lanes are painted green.  Will it encourage many motorists to cycle who are not the most confident or skilled?  I doubt it.

The network design toolkit is extensive with small catchment areas to the closest cycling facility.  The infrastructure design toolkit has any concept in it that one can find in any city.  The combined mobility toolkit is limited to cage parking at suburban train stations.  The social marketing toolkit is minimal, including bike to work day celebrations and cycling maps.

Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 The most prominent design from infrastructure design toolkit that is evident on the streets, is the advance green painted stop boxes with bike stencils.  Beyond that, bike horizontal and vertical separation from cars with bike lanes, can be found easily. In new developments like the Docklands, more comprehensive designs can be found, along with bike signals.  However there, the bridges are not really intended for cycling.

Docklands has Potential
The Docklands is a stretch of waterfront lands that is being transformed from old industrial use to residential and commercial use.  Not bad. Though not to the level of European people streets.

Docklands area, formerly an industrial, has potential to become more pedestrian-cycling oriented. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Docklands, formerly an industrial area, has potential to become more pedestrian-cycling oriented. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  While sitting on a bench along an old pier, an urban planning student approached me and asked questions.  He and his mates are working on a uni project.  What do you like about this development?  What needs to be done to it?  After my dissertation on the topic, he advised that their polling of Dockland users, brought forth the same thinking.  Simply, the strengths of the Docklands combined with Vancouverism along the waterfront, would yield a very desirable people street and places that would compete with the best of what Europe can offer.  Sterile is the most predominant word used to describe the Docklands.  The architects have not quite left the 1960’s and 80’s to join in with the best of Vancouverism architecture that makes people streets and places.

What really stands out from visiting Melbourne for a couple of weeks, are the trams system and the right hook turns that cars make when the street have tram tracks.  One is used to seeing cyclists do it, but not cars.

Melbourne a windy city that grows on you.

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Deception Pass, Washington state. On a bike trip that combined ferry ride, cycling and train between Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Seattle. 2010

Deception Pass, Washington state. On a bike trip that combined ferry ride, cycling and train between Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Seattle. 2010

I’ve been wanting to write this article for awhile:  how cycling can change your spending habits.  I should know –I haven’t lived in a household with a car for over the past 30 years. Yup. It really has been a car-free joy “ride” to financial liberation.

Panniers packed on our bikes. Ready to cycle to France. Morning street with cycling commuters and others. Freiburg, Germany 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Panniers packed on our bikes. Ready to cycle to France. Morning street with cycling commuters and others. Freiburg, Germany 2010. Photo by J. Chong

I have been cycling  over the past 19  years.  By moving to a cycling lifestyle, you redirect your money for things you really want, instead of sitting in car-clogged traffic while gas money is literally vapourizing away.

So if I may offer, over a quarter century of homespun, financial savvy on what it truly means to live a cycling lifestyle, dollar-wise:

  •  Less  impulsive purchases
  • Buy what you need, what you really want  –that includes buying less  junk food. After all, you have to cart the weight away by bike  and chug up the hill with loaded panniers.
  •  Buy less fashionista clothing –my attention is more on cycling clothing.
  • No knowledge of gas prices and pricing wars.   I have been blissfully ignorant for over a quarter century.  I am psychologically freed from vehicle gas costs. I’m only aware of fuel costs  –when I pay for a plane ticket.
  • Less window-shopping.  I am more focused when I shop.  If an area doesn’t offer a place to lock up my bike safely, I go somewhere else.
Trip included Strasbourg, France --after cycling from Germany 2010. Pedestrianized street which allows bicyclists that cycle slowly.

Trip included Strasbourg, France –after cycling from Germany 2010. Pedestrianized street which allows bicyclists that cycle slowly. Photo by J. Chong

So really what have I done with the money I have saved by not owning nor driving a car, for all these years?  I have redirected my  precious dollars:

  • Bought my own home —mortgage-free.
  • Several memorable cycling vacation trips, in Ontario, Quebec, Maritimes, Alberta, British Columbia, Hawaii, New England, Washington,  Oregon, California and some  European countries.  I support  the local economy as a cycling tourist.
  •  3 bikes   –all add up to less than cost of a used car.
  • Cycling clothing and equipment  –equivalent to car tune-ups and repairs costs.
  • Nice restaurant meals on bike vacation trips.  “Fuel money” for our body. Instead of gas.
  • Money  to take other plane trips to see family. So yes, from car fuel to plane fuel, which I can only justify because I don’t do it often.  However these trips are essential for my soul.
  • Occasional evening art courses over the years. ( I created some of my own art which adorn my walls.)
  • Replaced 1 desktop computer with another new computer plus a new couch and bed.
Cycling around in a neighbourhood designed for walking and cycling. Roads for cars were not built for cars. Malmo, Sweden 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Cycling around in a neighbourhood designed for walking and cycling. Here, roads are not built for cars. Malmo, Sweden 2010. Photo by J. Chong. Bikes parked by home, not cars.

I am pleased to say that I have reaped the benefits of living within a 15 min. walk or less from public transit and cycling infrastructure for the cities of: Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

All three cities do have areas that are more time-consuming, transportation-wise  but I simply focused only on neighbourhoods where I could  live a car-free life.  There are trade-offs but  a peace of mind and healthier lifestyle, is what draws me to cycling lifestyle and walkable-bikeable area.

Cost of Car Ownership and Driving
For major Canadian cities, a parking spot for a residential building costs approximately $30,000 – $50,000 with Vancouver at the higher range.   In 2010 the Canadian Automobile Association estimated cost for a small car at $18.00  daily which includes owning and driving a car (based on 18,000 km. mileage annually or 49 km. daily).  Add on parking and now total costs could be easily be $30.00 daily.

Gourmet lunch of sandwiches and lovely cake slice. Vancouver 2011

Occasional treating oneself to gourmet lunch of sandwiches and lovely cake slice. Vancouver 2011

Thanks to 30 years of car abstinence, I have $328,000 to spend on other things.

If you still don’t believe this money-saving wizardy, check out your car credit bills.

Further Reading:

Driving Costs: Beyond the Price Tag. Understanding Your Vehicle’s Expenses. Canadian Automobile Association, 2010.

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Farmers’ markets have been a moving fixture in my life –long before its welcomed rejuvenation and craze of today.  Different variants of farmers’ markets and their local goodies punctuate my past and present, as a customer and visitor. 

Market at Hilo, Big Hawaii Island. 2002. Photo by HJEH Becker.

Market at Hilo, Big Hawaii Island 2002. Photo by HJEH Becker. Bike trip stop including cheap, huge papayas. Gorgeous stalks of tropical flowers were inexpensive and plentiful.

 It started off with ritual weekly visits as a teenager, with my mother to the Kitchener Farmers’ Market in Ontario. I plodded behind her and helped her carry bags or pull along the shopping  cart buggy, while we weaved among the crowds and stands of vegetables, fruits, German sausages, and Mennonite shoo-fly and apple pies.  I didn’t discover the famed Waterloo Farmers’ Market where black-clad Old Order Mennonites sold their wares, until I was in my late teens.  It was over 20 kms. north and my parents didn’t have a car in those earlier years.

Farmers' market in Munster, Germany 2008. Photo by HJEH Becker

Farmers' market in Munster, Germany 2008. Photo by HJEH Becker

Market Food Schlepping During Teen Years- By Transit
Then we boarded the local transit bus, with our overflowing, heavy shopping buggy. After all, it was stuffed with cheap cuts of chicken necks, pork hocks and seasonal produce to feed a family of 6 children.  Through the eyes of a disgruntled teenager, this earthy shopping experience by using buses, was far from a chic outing with a wicker basket, to meet a 100-km. diet menu. It certainly wasn’t about buying artisan bread, sans fats and sugar. It was about hauling enough butternut squash –at a cheap 25 cents each because squash didn’t have the foodie chic cache and popularity, as it does today.  

Farmers' market, Strasbourg, France 2008. Photo by HJEH Becker

Farmers' market. Strasbourg, France 2008. Photo by HJEH Becker

 I was bored when we shopped at the farmers’ market. It felt uncool. Unfashionable people seemed to frequent the farmers’ market. I assumed this was another daily typical market experienced by every Canadian. It never occurred to me, a farmers’ market could be a tourist destination.

In Lieu of Farmers’ Markets
How wrong I was.  While  living and studying at university in London (Ontario), when it was still strongly WASP, I quickly learned there was no farmers’ market in town at that time. Nor did everyone knew anything about the Mennonites. Nor were there sausages, ham and sauerkraut in great abundance in stores.  Here, I was even more bored with local food choices and ambience. Asian groceries had not even penetrated any grocery stores.

On B.C. ferry to Saltspring Island and eventually to farmers' and arts market. B.C. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

On B.C. ferry to Saltspring Island and eventually to farmers' and arts market. B.C. 2010. Photo by J. Chong. Getting there by bike, was part of the whole enjoyable experience of a day at the market.

 When I moved to Toronto, I initially visited the St. Lawrence Market every few months.  It seemed remote since I still only used subway and bus. Why would I go there when I could get quality  or a lot more interesting food choices in Chinatown, Kensington or High Park-Runnymede areas? 

Visiting Farmers’ Markets Coincides with Regular Cycling
It was not until I returned to cycling in 1992, when the convenience of a bike got me to the St. Lawrence Market weekly and easily, for schlepping groceries back home to Scarborough. Maybe as a cyclist, I had heightened awareness of  

Freiburg's daily farmers' market surrounded by restored medieval and renaissance buildings. Germany June 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Freiburg's daily farmers' market surrounded by restored medieval and renaissance buildings. Germany June 2010. Photo by J. Chong

 what I was buying and hauling home. That weight of food had better be solid, good choices, worthy of vigorous cycling sweat and effort. I started to buy interesting breads with all natural ingredients. And lovely cheeses, strong and more rich in flavor– beyond typical cheddar cheese.  Downstairs one could discover the diversity of rice at Rube’s where he had well over 20 varieties.  Though I knew what to buy in Chinatown, the St. Lawrence Market conveniently supplemented the Asian grocery pantry, with a good sampling of its Old World European food items, under one roof.  I could fill up on some Greek and Italian foodstuffs as well as bagels if I didn’t want to run in multiple directions west, north and east to  large ethnic neighbourhood areas in the city.

Byward Market in the fall. Ottawa, ON. Photo by HJEH Becker

Byward Market in the fall. Ottawa, ON. Photo by HJEH Becker

Still, for awhile, I didn’t catch onto the buy-local food mantra yet.  Jack, a former weekend farmer for a decade, initially puzzled me with his insistence to support the farmers by buying local produce when he could afford it  when visiting  local farmers’ markets whenever we went on our cycling vacations in Canada, U.S. and Europe. (I am not sure if he went to a market in New Zealand during his 6-month long cycling foray there.)

Local Baden wines produced by farmers and sold along with their fresh cherries and other fruit at farmers' market. Freiburg, Germany June 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Local Baden wines produced by farmers and sold along with their fresh cherries and other fruit at farmers' market. Freiburg, Germany June 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Cycle-Touring Markets Beyond Home:  Canada, U.S. and Europe
So I have cycled the paths and roads leading several times to the market in Peterborough, Ontario; the Atwater Market in Montreal (for lovely Quebec cheeses and pastries); Ottawa’s Byward Market downtown, fish-throwing antics at Pike’s Market in Seattle and the hordes thronging at Portland’s market by the grounds of its local university.  We have cruised the market plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico where we saw pottery and bundles of red dried chilies shining under the cold bright blue sky. There was no seafood in sight here.

Local Market Becomes Trendy  Hang-Out
Farmers’ markets offers  an inexpensive way to see local foods, crafts and meet locals who offer their food tips, even if it meant they want to sell a food goodie to you. At Hilo’s famers’ market on Big Hawaii Island, we drank in the bright explosions of fresh cut tropical flowers at ridiculously cheap prices.  There were  heavy-headed, red wild ginger flowers at $5.00 per stalk or less; bundles of birds-of-paradise flowers, mangos and scented, ripe huge papayas at 25 cents each. Of course, you could get local sushi stuffed with Spam meat or tuna poke — Hawaii’s version of ceviche where raw tuna is marinated and mixed with various spices and juices.

Hub of activity with summer festival tents, childrens' rides, concert and daily farmers' market. Karlsruhe, Germany June 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Hub of activity with summer festival tents, childrens' rides, concert and daily farmers' market. Karlsruhe, Germany June 2010. Photo by J. Chong

When I was in Paris on the Left Bank for several days, my sister and I stayed at a pension where at the doorstep, there was a neighbourhood morning market with an abundance of freshly baked bread, fruits and vegetables. Of course, we went to the famous Dutch cheese market at Gouda, in the Netherlands, where costumed teams of 2 cheese-bearers hauled around large orange cheese rounds on cradle flats hung from their shoulder straps.

Earlier, I wrote about our recent visits this year to the Freiburg market in Germany or the Munsterplatz, under the shadow of a 700 year old cathedral and surrounded by carefully restored medieval and renaissance buildings. In Karlsruhe, Germany each day, we visited a farmers’ market a few metres away from our hotel. It was right in the heart of a major junction where there were streetcars, cyclists, shoppers, commuters, cafes and a local summer festival event that had a children’s carousel, stalls with German street food, candy and concert stage.   

Coastal Markets, Prairie Markets
Back in Vancouver, we cycled several times weekly, to Granville Market where unlike most other markets mentioned earlier, you could buy a wide range of local seafood year-round. This abundance plus its proximity to Japanese culture and history, accounts for Vancouver’s notoriety for the highest number of sushi and sashimi joints in Canada.

Baked goods used flour grinded by cycling power. Saltspring Island, BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Baked goods used flour grinded by cycling power. Saltspring Island, BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong

 At this market, you need to be alert for short seasonal runs on salmon or for spotted shrimp.  During summer, there are impressive piles of local blueberries and raspberries at competitive prices. British Columbia is Canada’s biggest raspberry producer. It’s always a careful balance to cycle back with a basket of ripe raspberries.

Granville Market. Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

B.C. salmon --several varieties offered at different times of year. Granville Market. Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

For a change of pace to shop outdoors, we cycled to the seasonal markets set up at Trout Lake, the railway station, and Kitsilano. There, as well as at the popular Saturday farmers’ market on Saltspring Island, you were within view of distant mountains which truly marks a Northwest coast outdoor market experience.  I don’t know how many other regions in Canada, a cyclist is pumping up the hill several times during the year, with bike panniers jammed with several fresh salmon over 3 feet long.

One of several farmers' markets. Calgary, AB 2010. Photo by J. Chong

One of several farmers' markets. Calgary, AB 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Local abundance of higher quality red meat, is apparent at Calgary’s farmers’ markets: there is no shortage of beef, either marbled or not, as well as several vendors of choice for bison, elk, and ostrich. A great reflection of ranchland Canada.  But we also saw and hauled by bike, enormous globes of red beets and kohlrabi –twice or three times the regular size.  One of the markets, Crossland Market, had various established Eastern European vendors with more Ukrainian and Hungarian food.  They were joined by more recent fare from the Middle East, Mexico and India.

So far it’s been a long, exploratory journey of farmers’ markets from teenage jaded boredom to now, as an interested consumer, spectator and visitor when we bike over to a market, find bike parking and settle down for coffee, local bakery pastry before stuffing our bike panniers with food from the stalls.

Bike valet parking at Trout Lake farmers' market. Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike valet parking at Trout Lake farmers' market. Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 By now, Vancouver and in some major North American bike valet parking crept as an expectation for farmers’ markets. No longer are  trees, rails or fences  are satisfactory to park their precious steed. Some mainstream retailers seem to object to cycling facilities or bike parking gracing their storefronts, although cycling customers would be happy to spend some time buying and browsing.


Further Reading:
Chong, Jean.  Cycling is For Foodies and All: Getting the Retail Connection Right.  Jun. 2, 2010.

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 A Canadian major, national retail store representative once stated to Council that:

  •  Cyclists spent less than drivers on the average per trip to their stores
  • Cyclists come more often to their stores than drivers
Cyclists at Cambie & 7th Ave. large retail store. Retailer provides an air pump just by the bike rack. Oct. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclists at Cambie St. & 7th Ave. large retail store. Retailer provides an air pump just by the bike rack. Oct. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

  This means for retailers:

  •   more opportunities for impulse purchases
  • a retailer’s dream
Bike lanes on both sides of road by this corner at a major national retail store outlet. Vancouver BC Oct. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike lanes on both sides of road by this busy corner at a major national retail store outlet. Vancouver BC Oct. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

So why are retailers complaining when bike lanes are going into their streets? 

  • Why are their stores not drawing in cycling customers? 
  • Is it because of:
    • No bike lanes, separated bike lanes, or bike paths leading to their retail stores?
    • No bike parking in front of their stores or in their stores?
    • Or is it the product lines that these retailers are selling?

Maybe these retailers should do a scouting trip to Cambie and 7th Ave with its bike lane and watch the action on a Saturday as a continuous stream of cyclists come and go, doing their shopping.

If one follows the line of the retailers that bike lanes will reduce the sales revenue of their stores, then the question may come up of where do cyclists go 

Cambie near 7th Ave. Vancouver BC Oct. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cambie St. near 7th Ave. Vancouver BC Oct. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

to spend their money.  The concept that cyclists are thriftier and hoard their money will most likely not play well in the world of reality.  So, where do these cyclists go and why not to the stores of the merchants who fear bike lanes on their doorstep?  After all, cyclists are not a homogenous group of people.  They are young and old.  They are single, in couple relationships, and with children of all ages.  They are of all income levels.  They are of a broad spectrum of taste.  They buy a broad spectrum of goods.  So, what is lacking with these retailers’ stores?

Related Articles:
Becker, HJEH.  Bike Helmets on Customers Expose Unnoticed Business For Retailers.  Jan. 11, 2010. 

Chong, Jean.  Cycling is for Foodies and All: Getting the Retail Connection Right. Jun. 2, 2010.

Becker, HJEH.  European Retailers Prosper from People Streets, Downtown Vancouver Retailers Trudge Along with 1960’s Retailing  Models.   Sept. 12, 2010.

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With the rollout of the Greenest City strategy and its separated bike lanes component, Downtown Vancouver retailers are resisting changes to their local streetscapes.

People streets in retail areas with outdoor seating, street art and on-street retail booths. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Upon examining this phenomenon, conclusions could be speculated including a natural resistance by retailers to any change, which is not either generated internally by a retailer, or collectively with their associations.  This is not unlike how business prefers to operate unless forced to change by outside elements, by market place changes, by bank managers, or by impending bankruptcy.  Another hypothesis may be a preference for the “status quo” while business continues to migrate to the suburbs.  Also, it may be conjured that retail businesses owners, property owners, and property mangers as a group have not bought into the Greenest City strategy and its favourable local economic impacts, which come with that strategy. 

Cyclists riding down bus lane on 16th St. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

In Europe, cities and downtown merchants have realized the benefits to their business emanating from traffic-calmed streets.  These cities have turned over some streets to people walking and cycling.  Car and commercial vehicle access has been limited to hours when people are not on the streets shopping or enjoying eateries.  Stores migrate to outdoor merchandising.  Big boxes, chain stores, and specialized local stores all benefit.  These businesses are attracted to these streets.  People are also attracted from the neighbouring region to these downtown streets.  Merchants clamor for the expansion of their people street network.

Lessons from Downtown Denver, Colorado
A stay in Denver on a Labour Day weekend, highlighted the attraction of such streets with a milieu of people enjoying stores, eateries, and the vibrant atmosphere.  People took time to sit in outdoor restaurants.  People took time to sit on street furniture, the chairs, benches, and sitting blocks located in the 

Police on bike street patrol in people friendly retail street. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

boulevard down the middle of the street.  People were absorbed in conversations.  Some sat in front of pianos and played to their hearts’ content.  16th Street has been reconfigured from a conventional arterial road, most probably a one-way street.  Now there are two narrow bus-only lanes, flanked by wide sidewalks with outdoor eating spaces.  Cyclists and buses seem to share the space.  Sometimes the sidewalks on each side of the street are of the same width.  Sometimes the sunnier side is wider, sometimes by almost fifty percent.  Sometimes there is a wide median located in between the bus lanes decorated with trees, sitting areas, and space for selling or entertaining.  Buses travel constantly with headspace of a block or two or so.  Speed is slow.  These buses are purpose-built with drivers on the curbside and with four doors for quick, highly efficient loading.  On this street, the ride is free.  Police park their cars, take their bikes off the rear racks, and patrol the street by cycling, having time to talk to pedestrians.  It may be surmised that there may have been some careful store location planning to keep the street lively.

People time in the mid-boulevard-- playing chess, resting and talking. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Downtown Vancouver –Lagging Behind with Car-Oriented 1960-1970’s Retail Models
Meantime, Downtown Vancouver retailers prefer to keep their street the same way they were in the 1960’ s and 1970’s — car-oriented.  Meanwhile  their customer base has changed.  No longer is this area a regional destination.  People no longer have any compelling reasons to come downtown to shop or to eat.  In the past, the big box stores, department stores, and locally owned, specialized stores were only located downtown.  Now, the big box stores have moved to the suburbs, sometimes with stores and merchandise lines larger than downtown.  Restaurants have moved and popped up in the suburbs, as well.  Only the concentration of bars in the downtown area keeps people coming.  It is not unusual to hear unsolicited comments that people have stopped going downtown, since they can shop locally.  For instance, Chinatown has effectively moved to Richmond and expanded there, leaving only an older, local shopping component behind in downtown.

In Step with Recent  Residential Population Growth in Downtown?
During all this time, there have been changes in the downtown peninsula.  Resident population has grown significantly.  However, retailers have not shifted their focus to this new market, which has been developing since the 1990’s.  Instead, the owners, developers, and property managers have focused on big boxes, forcing specialty stores to look to the suburbs.  Has this strategy really worked or has it resulted in regional customers shopping more locally?  Has this strategy even worked for the downtown peninsula dwellers?  Where do they go to shop, south of False Creek?

Treed median with seating, flanked by 2 bus lanes. 16th St., Denver CO 2010. Photo HJEH Becker

Vancouver has seen a resurgence in farmers’ markets.  Have the downtown retailers taken advantage of this trend to attract more people to shop there?  Have streets been closed downtown for such a market?

The basis of free economics has not prevailed downtown. Supply and demand is supposed to set the prices for rent.  Downtown retail rents keep rising, while retailers are complaining of hard times and looking for assistance from the city’s residents through their municipal Council, in one form or another, including provision of on-street parking.  There is a case to be made that this is a form of city subsidy to the retailers, when full cost accounting techniques are applied.  Rent prices keep locally based specialty store operators out of downtown.

While residents in European cities from small to large populations are flocking to their downtown people streets, while farmers’ and other markets are held in their downtown streets, downtown Vancouver retailers are going in the opposite direction, by continuing on with their retailing habits of the ’60’s.

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 There are arguments being expounded that step changes are needed for Downtown Vancouver.  Times have changed.  No longer can businesses look for the tourist and foreign student trade  to buoy up the retail trade.  New urbanism concepts within the context of Greenest Cities and Livable Communities, suggest that it starts with the streets.  It starts with streets that shoppers want to visit and shop in.  It starts with Greenest Cities and Livable Communities Streets and with people streets.

Arguments have been put forth that now may be time for downtown retailers, developers, and landowners to embrace what Europe has learned many decades ago.  Are we really different than Europe, contrary to the standard rhetoric that is thrown out when change is not embraced?  Are we really 

Two bus lanes flank each side of road median. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 different than other global places where use of city streets is given to first to shopping?  The reality is that most of us in Vancouver come from Europe, Asia, or from other lands, either as first, second, or third generation Canadians.  So, is there a big difference, which would prevail against people streets?  Did the Olympics not demonstrate an appetite for people streets?

Arguments against people streets and against Greenest City streets with separated bike lanes are sometimes based on the expectation that people have of being able to find parking right in front of their destination retail stores.  On the other hand, reality tends to be that people may have to park farther away and walk back three or four blocks or so.  Then, is there a real argument against providing short-term parking in car garages within this catchment area?

Merchandise carts in median boulevard for people-friendly streets. 16th St. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Arguments are made that people prefer to park on streets than in parking lots.  Would the free market pricing argument not prevail that the market determines parking prices for on-street parking and that these premium, desired parking spots should be priced at premium rates?  Would the elasticity of pricing then be such that motorists would seek out lower-cost, off-street parking?  By using free market pricing principles, on-street parking should be priced at a premium to the level that free market pricing demands for event parking downtown, at sometimes ten and twenty times more than the going rate for off-road parking outside of an event parking catchment area.

Maybe it is time for downtown retailers to seriously reconsider their retailing direction and embrace and work with Vancouverites in transforming some streets to people streets, to Greenest City streets, to Livable Communities streets.

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Two cyclists' luncheon feast at Thomas Haas Patisserie, far left clockwise: pistachio sour cherry tart, champagne chocolate cake and tomato bocconcini panini sandwiches.

Cyclists' luncheon feast at Thomas Haas Patisserie, far left clockwise: pistachio sour cherry tart, champagne chocolate cake and tomato bocconcini panini sandwiches.

Farmers’ markets are great destinations to kickstart  cycling for both newbies and regular cyclists. Cycling is irresistible when the air is warmer.  Since we live in balmy Vancouver, we cycle year-round.

Waiting for bike valet service at farmers' market. Trout Lake Park, Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Waiting for bike valet service at farmers' market. Trout Lake Park, Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong

But so far, our farmers’ markets are only around like most places in Canada –during growing and harvest seasons. But this may change. Read on.

This year there will be more new farmers’ markets at more new locations to meet the public’s clamouring demand.  Tara MacDonald, Executive-Director for Vancouver’s Farmers’ Markets,

Local cheese producer. Trout Lake farmers' market, Vancouver BC 2010.

Local cheese producer. Trout Lake farmers' market, Vancouver BC 2010.

indicated there have been up to 12,000 people per week for all markets. Last year a market was established at Thornton Park, wedged in between the rail-bus station and the Skytrain Main Station. Now there is a waiting list of farmers and vendors for this location.

With this wave of sustained enthusiasm, one wonders if there will be matching bike valet parking lots for all city farmers’ markets.  Last year  at the Main Station farmers’ market, there was no bike valet parking. It definitely was difficult to find a place to lock up several bikes. If you were shopping solo, you had to walk your bike amongst the tight crowds.

With discussions now under way with the City of Vancouver, there is 

UBC Farm Market. University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC 2009.

UBC Farm Market. University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC 2009. UBC continues to run its popular Saturday market at its on-campus farm. Photo by J. Chong

a plan to have 4 different year-round farmers’ markets. Let’s hope there will be bike valet parking too. It would relieve problems of car parking and traffic congestion. Already this past weekend at Trout Lake farmer’s market, many enthusiastic cyclists were wheeling up with their children and leaving with panniers and baskets full of goodies.  

Hungry after viewing  Trout Lake farmers’ wares and our hilly bike ride, we cycled over to the ever popular gourmet pastry and sandwich café, Thomas Haas Patisserie.  Usually we  have to hunt down for adequate bike rack parking.  By the time we get there, the bike racks are nearly jammed full. 

Two local celebrity chefs in discussion during a break: Vikram Vij, owner of Indian fusion restaurant, Vij's and Thomas Haas, pastry chef and chocolatier. Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Two local celebrity chefs in discussion during a break: Vikram Vij, owner of Indian fusion restaurant, Vij's and Thomas Haas, pastry chef and chocolatier. Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Thankfully it was warm enough we could sit outside at the front of the restaurant for lunch while we kept a watchful eye on our bikes as we dug into our warm panini sandwiches and elegant cakes.

In the City of Vancouver, there are many restaurants and cafes near bike routes. Some restaurants do have a few nearby bike racks while other places do not have anything to lock up a bike. When cycling for transportation grows, the demand for this basic and necessary cycling facility grows also.  Among regular cyclists, it is a glaring omission where often cyclists just give up, 

Cyclist at farmers' market 2010. Vancouver, BC.  Photo by J. Chong

Cyclist at farmers' market 2010. Vancouver, BC. Photo by J. Chong. This bike amongst shoppers, is rare when a market offers bike valet parking.

take their bikes and money elsewhere.

In fact, in one international women’s cycling forum where I hang out, there was popular support for creating a blog where members could rate  restaurants not only for their food , but also if the restaurant catered to meet needs of cyclists.

Ganache Patisserie- a sit-in fine gourmet pastry cafe in Yaletown, Vancouver BC 2010.

Ganache Patisserie- another fine gourmet pastry cafe in Yaletown, Vancouver BC 2010. http://www.ganacheyaletown.com Located by a bike lane, but no bike racks in sight.

Rather than complain about loss of customers whenever there is a bike lane,  storefront restauranteurs and business owners should redirect  their tactics to provide street facilities to attract a much broader range of customers who use non-car transport.  After all, such customers will not have the convenience of rushing off in a car.

As casual foodies and cyclists, we appreciate Haas, a master pastry chef who himself is a cyclist.  One can buy cycling jerseys emblazoned with his chocolate-coloured business brand.  Several years ago, Haas generously provided a brief tour of his bakery kitchen for Jack’s son, a budding young chef.  Haas’ gourmet desserts fall in the fine German baking tradition, so loved by Becker.   No wonder, after all they come from the same part of southern Germany where fine food is the plate of the day.

Haas has thought of cyclists as potential customers.  We just think that to meet growing public appetite for cycling and  his delectable desserts and sandwiches, he might want to consider how to ensure even more cyclists can drop by with their bikes safely tucked away.

 

Interesting Reading:
City of Vancouver, BC. Engineering Services. Bike Rack. Link provides phone number and bike rack application form for businesses.

Shore, Randy. Farmer’s Markets: A Bond Between People and the Market. In Vancouver Sun, May 21, 2010.

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