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Belcarra author goes by bike all the time

Go By Bike Week promotes cycling as a part of everyday transportation
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Belcarra author Colleen MacDonald has published her third guide to cycling in British Columbia, the latest covering routes on Vancouver Island.

Oct. 3-9 is Go By Bike Week, a semi-annual promotion by the cycling advocacy group, HUB, to promote the activity as a part of everyday life.

Colleen MacDonald tries to go by bike every day.

The Belcarra author has just published her third guide to cycling routes around British Columbia.

Let’s Go Biking: Vancouver Island, Gulf Island and Sunshine Coast is a companion to MacDonald’s previous guides to routes around Metro Vancouver and the Okanagan. All three volumes are printed iterations of her popular online blog, letsgobiking.net.

MacDonald said going by bike — whether it’s to see the sights around you, run errands around town, or get into better physical shape — is getting easier every year as municipal and regional governments invest more money into building safe, accessible routes to encourage active transportation. But finding those routes, and learning how to link them together for a good day out in the fresh air can still be a bit of a challenge, especially for newcomers to cycling or families looking for a safe adventure.

MacDonald said technology has been a boon for finding new routes. Apps like Strava and Trailforks allow users to tap into vast databases of local riding knowledge as cyclists log their own rides. She also visits the areas she’s documenting to talk to riders, visit bike shops and traverse some of the routes herself, because it’s only when the rubber hits the road she can glean the real insider knowledge about the best coffee stops and most scenic viewpoints along the way.

MacDonald said cyclists are only too happy to share their insights, as the more of them there are, the better it is for all of them; when it comes to biking, there truly is safety in numbers.

“It’s about getting people educated about where to go on their bikes,” she said.

MacDonald’s latest book features 58 rides, from 5 km to more than 75 km, from flat, scenic trails along old rail beds to city greenways to rugged mountain routes. There’s even rides geared toward e-cyclists.

Of course renowned Vancouver Island routes like the Galloping Goose and Lochside get prominent billing, but MacDonald’s thirst for local insider knowledge also uncovers several little spur trails and linkages to take you off the well-beaten multi-use path.

“You can explore,” she said. “It’s amazing when you can find new places.”

Still, challenges remain.

MacDonald said signage can sometimes be lacking, leaving cyclists new to a route bewildered whether they should be turning left or right at a junction. That’s why her books are formatted in a way that allows their colourful maps to be handily tucked into a handlebar bag for quick reference.

It’s all about making the experience of exploration by bike as easy and comfortable as possible, MacDonald said.

The payoff, she added, is worth it.

“You’re right out in the elements. You can smell everything, you can hear everything.”

• To learn more about MacDonald’s Let’s Go Biking books, as well as links where to buy them, go to her website.

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