On the Road: The way it’s done up north
June 15, 2005
Canadians are braver and smarter than Americans.That’s the only conclusion one can draw from a bicycle ride through Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia.That great city on the West Coast offers plenty to do for all comers. It’s got mountains on one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other. It’s home to as many cultures as one can imagine living peacefully together in tight confines. The food is outstanding – you can eat Lebanese one night and Indonesian the next.It’s also a great place for biking. Rentals can be had for about $15 a day. And while travel down the main thoroughfares can be problematic, as it is in any city, there are plenty of tree-lined streets where the cruising is a piece of cake.For an American couple embarking on their first Canadian bike ride, the bravery of our neighbors to the north became clear as soon as we encountered other riders. While Ericka and I had our heads safely ensconced in the helmets that came with our rentals, everyone else, and I mean everyone else, we saw two-wheeling around the city and its famous Stanley Park were without head protection.Mothers didn’t look worried as their children, as young as 3 or 4, wobbled their way down the busy bike path that runs along the waterfront of Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre refuge of woods, fields, beaches and rocky coastline less than a mile from downtown Vancouver. Old people were naked on top, too. For an American accustomed to seeing people don helmets before embarking on any activity that has the slightest chance of resulting in a head injury, the scene in Canada was disturbing. (Even more disturbing, however, is that I find the scene up there disturbing.)What makes it obvious that Canadians are smarter than Americans is the seats they choose to put on their bikes. Far from the American standard of calling a little post a “seat” and designing it to make you uncomfortable both on the road and for many days off, the Canadians make their bicycle seats big and soft and cushy. Frankly, it made biking fun and imposed none of the post-ride traumatic seat syndrome.