Life in the bike lane: Katrin and Karl


-1In this series we stop people along the bike lanes in Vancouver and have chats with them about their thoughts on cycling, their bikes, and more. Have a look at the archive HERE.



Katrin and Karl.

Where are you biking off to today?

Katrin: We’re going on a spontaneous ride around the seawall. The biggest decision of the day was whether to go clockwise or counterclockwise around False Creek.

Karl: That sums up summer in Vancouver.

Do you bike quite frequently?

Karl: I don’t drive, and because I’m studying abroad in England during the school year, whenever I come back for the summer I really want to see a lot of the city at the same time. I find myself doing a good 4–5 hours on a bike per day at least. I have a faster bike so that I can cover some good ground, usually about 40–50 km per day. Essentially I live on a bike.

Katrin: I was really impressed when he said he was going to meet me in 20 minutes at Broadway and Commercial from his place in Burnaby.

Karl: It works if you do the hills right. I’ve got an old Italian racing bike, so the bike does most of the work.

Katrin: I don’t ride all that much. The bike I have right now is a cruiser that I got for free. It’s pretty rusty and heavy. It’s good for coasting down hills or riding on flat areas only. It’s so heavy that I can’t even put it on the front of a bus.

Karl: Really? They won’t let you?

Katrin: No, like I literally can’t lift it. What I started doing mornings is cruise downhill from my place to 12th and Commercial, and lock it outside Banditas where there is a lot of bikes – I don’t want to lock it at the Skytrain where it could get stolen – then I take the train to Gastown where I work. Then after work, I go retrieve it and sometimes I get a bite to eat at Banditas. Or sometimes I just take it for a ride like today. So my bike is kinda part of my commute. It would be pretty easy to walk that stretch but it definitely saves some time in the morning.

Karl: I find it tricky to bike in England where you don’t have as much space. It is very tight on the roads and there’s all kinds of traffic. Where as here you can get going pretty fast because you have enough room to do so, which makes it safer and less stressful. They’ve done a great job in Vancouver with the dedicated bike lanes. Just coming back once a year or so and seeing the infrastructure improvements over time has been great. I’ve never biked a city like Vancouver which is just like paradise for cyclists. Even if you don’t ride a lot, it’s a great way to get around in the summer, and to feel the texture of the city.

Katrin: It’s an essential part of the summer to have a bicycle. Yesterday we met up too, and I was stranded without it and I complained and mentioned about ten times that “I wish I had my bike.”

I understand. It’s hard hanging out with people who don’t own bikes because I always feel like you have to compromise by walking around the city because I don’t want to take the bus and they don’t own a bike.

Karl: I’ve stopped hanging out with those people. Unless I am really close to them, and then I’ll say “Okay, we’ll meet at that destination.” Because usually I can get there faster on my bike and it doesn’t cost me a thing… except when you take it in for repairs which is getting more and more expensive as more and more people are riding, which is fair enough.

I guess you just have to find your perfect shop or mechanic. Do you have anyone that you like to go to in particular?

Karl: I’ve got a couple different places. The wheels that I have on my bike are kinda unique because I have an older model of bike, so I have to specifically go to Dream Cycle to get them repaired. Although Dream Cycle is a little bit on the expensive end, so if I need something else done I usually go to Union Cycles close to Main where they have some lovely people working. Or there’s a place I go to out in New West called New West Cycle, both of those are pretty on par for regular tune ups.

So other than biking around the city this summer, is there anything else you’ve really enjoyed about Vancouver this season?

Karl: This city is very alive in general in the summer, in a really spontaneous and delightful way. Plus there is just nature screaming goodness at you from every angle as well. We have had the most incredible weather, with gorgeous heatwaves, whereas in England you are never truly away from the rain. It will rain at least once a week there no matter what. To have a summer that you can count on here, where you can get into warm weather mode and just relax is so refreshing.

Katrin: There is a cultural shift when there’s good weather.

Karl: It’s huge, and in a way more exaggerated because the winter has such a looming “Game of Throneisan” presence. I mean last night for example, there were giant drum circles on the water, and then Karate Kid playing in the park.

Katrin: Yes, the outdoor movies in Stanley Park and obligatory Grouse Grind trips with my Dad. Weddings, going to them and seeing pictures all over Facebook of friends occasions. BC kinda has a wedding season as well.

Karl: And then even the smaller stuff, like cultural shift-wise like you were saying. I was coming home the other night, and there was a tree house overlooking second narrows bridge and there were some people up there having a little get together in the space.

Katrin: You just get invited in, just for passing by.

Totally, I find that with neighbours too this time of year. People that you don’t normally talk to, you see having a party and you start up a conversation with them.

Karl: It’s nice that you can still do that, because sometimes cities are closed off to that. I mean in the winter too there seems to lack that community feel.

Katrin: Garage sales, that’s another summer thing that you notice, especially on a bike.

Karl: Well just back alley stuff in general, where people leave so much stuff out for others to reuse.

So how did you guys meet?

Karl: Mutual friends.

Katrin: We just met this summer even though I had heard about him all through the Vancouver winter, through Skype and our friends. That’s another thing about summer in Vancouver, is that a lot of people have migratory friends that they come back here for the summer.

Karl: It’s kindof an unfortunate quality of the city, in that for some things you can’t stay, like for anthropology I need to go study it in England. I know a lot of people who are interested in politics or law where they are drawn to Ottawa. Which is a shame.

Katrin: I teach ESL so I am going to be here forever.

Karl: Which is nice because what you need to do is actually in your hometown for once.