One of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the return of biking. During lockdown, when gyms and rec facilities closed, many Nova Scotians looked in their garages and sheds for inspiration, dusted off their old bikes and got them back on the road.
Cycling was liberating, and a way to shake off the isolation blues. Nothing beats heading out for a bike ride when you feel like it, for how long and how far you want. You’re getting movement, fresh air and a dose of mood-improving endorphins.
Biking can help lower your risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Even a slow, easy bike ride gives a great cardio workout that’s gentle on the joints. With bike lanes and routes popping up across the province, more Nova Scotians are feeling safer making the activity part of their daily routine.
Whether you’re new to biking or it’s been a while, here are some tips to help you get going:
If you’ll be riding a bike that hasn’t hit the pavement in years, visit a bike shop for a tune-up. Always do a quick ABC bike check before you head out. Make sure you’re comfortable on your bike – be sure to adjust the seat properly, always wear a helmet and bright-coloured clothing, and use a bell and bike lights.
For your first few rides, pick a quiet street, a multi-use trail or a protected bike lane. Plan your route ahead of time and head out when there won’t be much traffic. If you’ll be biking in a busy urban area, opt for quiet back streets that don’t have a lot of parked cars. Bike lanes are a great option for new riders.
If you’re worried about biking in traffic, check out the Halifax Cycling Handbook – it outlines the rules of the road, intersection safety, hand signals and more, and is available online in English, French, Arabic and Mi’kmaw.
Make it routine
Once you’re comfortable biking on the road and in your community, look for times you can bike instead of driving. Bike to appointments, run errands and visit friends. You’ll love the freedom, the health benefits and not having to worry about parking. Work your way up to biking longer stretches, such as to your workplace. Chat with friends and coworkers who bike and plan a ride together.
To help build your confidence and skills, take bike-safety workshops and courses – check with local cycling clubs and community groups for current offerings. Many groups host rides and community events – a great way to meet fellow cyclists.
In Halifax, the Halifax Cycling Coalition offers an urban cycling course for adults and organizes critical mass rides (as well as Kidical Mass rides) to help riders of all ages feel safe biking in the city.
The Ecology Action Centre offers bike-safety courses for people of all ages, including Welcoming Wheels, a bike-buddy program that matches newcomers with experienced local riders. It also runs Bike Again Halifax, a volunteer-run DIY community bike repair shop. You’ll find more resources at Bicycle Nova Scotia, Cycle Nova Scotia, Bike Friendly Business and Blue Route.