Countdown to Velo-city 2012: Charter for Young Bicyclists

By Sarah Ripplinger

An RCMP helps a child appropriately snap on a helmet.

Teaching kids about biking in their cities is one of the most essential ways to maintain and increase cycling numbers. Learning the skills necessary to master cycling in their cities is a right all children should have access to through school and community programs.

Velo-city Global 2012 organizers; the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), owners of the Velo-city conference series; and the City of Vancouver have announced the upcoming signing of the Charter of Vancouver on Children and Cycling, which will officiate this right.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and ECF president Manfred Neun will be among the expected signatories of the charter on June 29, 2012, during the Velo-city Global 2012 conference in Vancouver, BC.

According to a release:

The Charter of Vancouver is a document outlining the important connection between children and cycling, and is based on the United Nations 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Charter is designed to recognize children’s rights worldwide, the special ability of cycling to enshrine them and a commitment from the signatories to call for the adoption of goals, policies and practices towards cycling as a means to further recognize and promote the rights of children.

At Velo-city Global 2012, children and cycling are the foundation of one of the conference’s major themes, Empowering People and Inclusivity. Conference delegates can expect sessions focusing on incorporating cycling education into school curriculums, promoting youth engagement in alternative transport planning and transportation decision making, as well as best practices for bike to school programs.

The signed document is expected to “serve as a legacy for the City of Vancouver (and) the Velo-city Global 2012 conference,” the release continued. It formally recognizes the importance of teaching children about cycling and continuing to support the use of bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation.

ABOUT VELO-CITY GLOBAL 2012

Velo-city Global is the world’s premier international cycling planning conference. The four-day event offers delegates from around the world a chance to share best practices for creating and sustaining cycling-friendly cities where bicycles are valued as part of daily transport and recreation.

The Velo-city Global conference unites politicians, engineers, planners, architects, social marketers, academics, researchers, environmentalists, advocates, educators and industry representatives. Delegates join forces and foster international collaborations. The event also draws experts from related areas, such as health, economics and the environment.

Velo-city Global 2012 is expected to host over 1,000 delegates from around the world. The conference will be held June 26 -29 at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Center Hotel, accessible by the new Hornby Street separated bike lanes.

Visit velo-city2012.com/registration to register now.

Check back to the Countdown to Velo-city 2012 blog each week for updates on the conference, its speakers and the people on the attendance list.

Originally published on momentummag.com.

Cycling’s Future

It is true that the young will inherit the earth. Whether we have cycling-friendly cities or gridlocked superhighways in the future is largely determined by the choices we make and the knowledge we impart to youngsters today.

There are so many benefits that children who cycle from an early age experience, as their parents can attest, including better health, a sense of community and overall wellbeing. Kids who bike learn to be independent and gain a sense of autonomy as they operate their own mode of transportation. They experience their communities and the outdoors while getting fresh air and exercise, which is more important in the age of digital technology and climate change than ever before.

I have fond memories of biking with my family as a child along the urban streets of Guelph, Ontario. Gazing up at the branches of trees passing above me, I felt like I was flying. Biking gave me transportation freedom: I could get to school, friends’ places and, when I got older, downtown on weekends, all without the help of my parents. I was free to choose my route, which improved my sense of direction and made me more familiar with street names and the geographical layout of my city.

Many families want their kids to experience the joys of riding. Some, however, have concerns about letting their kids bike alone to school or a friend’s place. Long-time Momentum contributor, Chris Keam, explores some of these concerns in his “Growing Up Velo” story on p. 37.

Statistics show that independent bicycle dealer unit sales of youth bikes – bikes designed specifically for ages 12 and under, including BMX and sub-20-inch wheel bikes – in Canada and the United States have stayed close to the 20 percent mark for the past decade. The number of youth cyclists in the US rose by 4.3 percent between 2007 and 2008, according to National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) figures. Still, some industry experts believe more should be done to attract young riders.

Dave Overgaard, Norcoís bicycle division vice president, told me in a telephone interview that the bicycle industry needs to create bikes that fit kids properly and communities need to build the infrastructure that will encourage more kids to ride.

Robert Jones, statistics program manager for the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada, said key drivers for kids bike sales are cost, parentsí preferences and theft-prevention.

“The things that are working against it (getting more kids on bikes) are parents’ paranoia about allowing their children to get out of their sight and the fact that bikes get stolen.”

More work needs to be done to attract young riders, commented NBDA executive director Fred Clements in a June 2009 Bicycle Retailer and Industry News article. In the same issue, Jay Townley, manager of Gluskin Townley Group, made a plea to the bicycle industry to place a higher value on increasing youth ridership. “[I]f anything, it is even more important in the long-term to get more kids on bikes more often than to get more adults on bikes,î he said. ìOur future depends on it.”

Will communities continue to expand bicycle networks? Will there be plenty of green spaces? Will there be an emphasis on alternative forms of transportation? Will cyclists feel included or excluded? What the future holds comes down to the choices we make today and the lessons we pass on to the ambassadors of tomorrow. Our generation might not be around to cycle the streets 50 or 100 years from now, but our kids and their kids will.

Sarah Ripplinger

Editor, momentum magazine

sarah@momentumplanet.com

Originally published in the Sept/ Oct 2010 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

Taking it E-sy

Lisa Brown and E-Bike Lead
Photo by Christian Webber
Lisa Brown and her E-Bike (left) have enough power to toe partner, Stefan Reinsberg, up a neighborhood hill.

By Sarah Ripplinger

Rushing about in her housecoat, Lisa Brown is up early to get Theodor (Theo for short) to daycare before she heads to work. The sun shines in through the kitchen window, casting a beam of bright light on the floor – the heat from it is palpable. It reminds Brown of her aching calf muscles, sore from the long run she took the day before. Her energy levels are low, but her partner, Stefan Reinsberg, has the car, so she’ll take either the bus or the bike. There isn’t enough time to take the bus, so bike it is. Her mind balks: what about that behemoth hill she has to climb? But, then she remembers the little motor waiting to jump into action – a birthday present from Reinsberg. One twist of her handlebar throttle and even the steep UBC hill will feel like a breeze.

Stefan and Theo
Photo by Christian Webber
Stefan Reinsberg (left) shows Theo, 2, the many components of an e-bike while mom, Lisa Brown, looks on.

“For me, it’s about mobility; it’s not about exercise,” Brown said one sunny morning at her home in Vancouver’s West Point Grey area. Like many urban dwellers in search of alternatives to the car, Brown decided that she could satisfy her daily transportation needs on the saddle of a bike. However, she didn’t necessarily want her cycling regimen to cut into her running routine. The solution: Rev up her bike.

Brown has embarked on what could be the next revolution in bike transportation: the electric bike, or e-bike. A small motor sits inside her front wheel hub. Wires attach it to a pack of 36 volt Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) batteries nestled in a pouch under the top tube of her bike frame. A small computer on her handlebars, called a Cycle Analyst, lets her know how much juice is left in the battery and how fast she’s motoring – up to a maximum 50 km/h or about 32 km/h without pedalling. (ICBC regulations set a maximum speed of 32 km/h for e-bikes when they are not being pedalled on level ground). A motor controller, located at the rear of the bike, regulates the output and speed of the bike. Two lights, one mounted on the rear and one at the front, draw energy from the battery to light Brown’s way. The equipment does add about 35 extra pounds to the bike, including the front-wheel motor. “The one disadvantage, I must say, is that it’s quite heavy,” Reinsberg said. “And if you do run out of juice, you have to cycle a very heavy bike.”

E-bike batteries tend to last about two to three years before they need to be replaced. Brown says that she gets around 25-35 kilometres out of her battery before it needs to be placed in the charger, which can be plugged in to any standard outlet. That’s part of the convenience of the e-bike, Brown says. If you run out of power, “you can just bring a charger and plug it in and have a break.”

Brown grew up in the Okanagan where the family car was a mainstay of everyday commuter life. She presently works as a capital project development engineer, which has meant that she often needs to travel to destinations throughout Metro Vancouver. Using an e-bike, she said, is convenient and more affordable. Plus, commute times on her e-bike are comparable to travel times by bus or car. A trip from the Cambie Street Bridge to UBC on her e-mountain-bike, she said, can easily be completed within half an hour – this is one of the primary reasons why Brown is happy to own one. “It’s essentially the convenience and the speed you can travel at… you just go.”

E-Bike Batteries
Photo by Christian Webber
Rows of NICAD batteries are protected from the elements in a soft bag with zipper. Charging the batteries is easy, just attach them to the charger and plug it into the nearest outlet.

Owning an e-bike has had a positive impact on their family-time too. The couple, who have been together for almost 10 years, say that they can tow Theo, two – in their Chariot trailer with shock-absorbers – down to the beach and back with relative ease and without the headache of finding scarce parking.

Reinsberg purchased the electric assist kit for about $1,400 from the Renaissance Bike Company, located on Main Street, near 30th Avenue in Vancouver. He installed it on Brown’s well-used bike in their kitchen, which was transformed into a makeshift bike shop during the cool and rainy month of March. “It’s not that tricky,” Reinsberg said. The bike operates similarly to an electric wheelchair, he said. Brown’s “freewheel” e-bike allows the front wheel to spin and be pedalled freely when the motor is not engaged. The manual that came with the motor took all the guesswork out of the job. The hardest part was getting the fork of Brown’s old bike onto the new front wheel that houses the motor. That motor transmits a fair amount of force on the axle – enough force to carry him and Brown together up a fairly steep incline. This can be harder on the bike over the long-term, Reinsberg said, but is fine for the purposes of everyday commuting.

Reinsberg laughs now when he thinks of his first reaction to the idea of Brown riding an e-bike: “Initially I was thinking that e-hubs are for sissies; I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea that she wanted that for a birthday present.” He changed his mind after seeing how much more amenable Brown was to riding her bike with the motor, and after finding out how much fun it was to have the little electric boost.

“It’s magic,” Reinsberg said. “Nobody really likes going up hills.”

Renaissance Bicycle Company: ebikes.ca

Originally published in the July/ August 2009 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.