Great Race - Share The Road Challenge

A six minute walk from the door of our palatial digs put me on the threshold of the Canada Line car headed to downtown Vancouver, six minutes behind Bruce who was powering up Cambie on his road bike. As the car descended to it's subterranean travels, Ryan's truck was visible in the tangle of traffic trying to turn north on Cambie from Marine Drive.Getting to the Vancouver Public Library first was the goal and I was feeling pretty good about the transit option. Sandwiched between the the birthday cyclist and the street bound SUV I figured the win was in the bag.

The car was packed, the ubiquitous, trans generational ear buds sprouting from the heads of a large portion of the travelers. Some read the paper and some, even those standing, were eyes closed, catching a last few moments of blissful darkness before climbing back up into the day.

The air was remarkably free of cologne insults but the hand of the fellow grasping the pole next to my face smelled strongly of cigarettes, a malodorous companion for the length of the ride.

We were sardines in a can, sans the oil, and the packing reached a crescendo as the train pulled into the King Ed station. I fought the lemming-like urge to get off as this was my regular stop and the press of bodies was an admirable crutch, giving me time to prevent any ill-considered action.

We were an extra moment or two as someone held a door open further back, but soon enough the RAV Line was under way, taking me to the race's finish. Above me somewhere the race was already being decided as Bruce's legs and lungs drove him towards the finish line. He caught a number of traffic lights on the green side of their cycle and so was making fabulous time. Ryan was fighting the inertia and blind instincts of the automotive herd, and he too was already past me and rolling towards the coffee and donuts at the south plaza of the VPL. Beneath those two, the transit car continued on it's rail-bound path and no amount of silent urging could speed up its passage nor encourage a short cut. Someone farted silently, adding to the olfactory cage match in my nose.

"Come on", I urged, "just a little faster!" And the train slowed for another station, more bodies to add to the group already aboard and I felt the first twinges of uncertainty, the first sense that this one was in the bag but the bag was being held by someone else.

At last, Yaletown-Roundhouse station and the first diaspora commences, rider salmon swimming upstream. The stinking hand leaves the post, but the body attached to it exudes still the nicotine tinged chemical stew. Can you get sick from second hand cigarette smell? My swimming head would attest to the possibility, now I just want to breathe fresh air and get a donut.

Vancouver City Center welcomes the car's arrival and I step out with a smattering of fellow travellers. Walking quickly- running is verboten- I take the stairs two at a time because I always do and find myself on Georgia heading east for the library. The traffic lights are kind to me and 5 minutes later I'm at the target site, the south plaza of the library, where mingles a collection of people in cycling gear and street clothes. They're animated, talking and gesturing and to the dedicated white board I add my time and my mode of transportation. After a round of public speakers extolling the virtues of the upcoming Bike To Work Week, we have coffee and donuts and head back to Brodie World Headquarters.

In the end, not only did I not win, my $2.50 trip put me a couple of minutes behind Ryan's vehicle-borne time and about 8 minutes behind Bruce and his bike. Aside from the odours and close quarters, the trip was uneventful and stress free. Paying is simple, the machines take bills up to a $20 plus debit and credit cards. The north/south orientation and lack of transfer points made the trip easy to navigate and, at 27 minutes from Marine Drive to downtown Vancouver, relatively fast. No, I didn't get to ride my bike and the extreme comforts of being an automobile passenger were noticeably absent. However, taking transit is a viable option for getting around, provided you plan ahead- some buses run less frequently than the train- you arrive fresh and finding a $6/hr parking spot isn't a worry.

That a bike won the race was as much a testament to Bruce's fitness as anything, but even so, an average cyclist can make exceptional time riding here in Vancouver. That we're still fighting to be recognized as a viable form of transportation is irksome, but the day will come again that the bicycle rules as an eminent form of transportation for people and goods. And that is where the real race will be won.

Pat FitzsimmonsPat