Duncan Wilcock


e-Bikes: No Traffic.
Easy Parking. Join the Fun!

Saturday, December 02, 2023

e-Bikes: No Traffic. Easy Parking. Join the fun!

I am so grateful I have found an alternative to sitting in traffic - for most of my trips.

eBike with Basket, Kid Seat, and Christmas Lights
Like most people, I don’t like traffic. I don’t like sitting in traffic, I don’t like knowing that I am traffic - when I'm driving a car. I see a lot of belly-aching about traffic in our local newspapers & social media. I fully agree that we in North Vancouver do have an epic problem of vehicle traffic.

We spent ~$300 million on the new interchange at 2nd Narrows ($70 million from the DNV's coffers*), and the delays are unchanged. This was predictable - the same things has happened with highway "upgrades" since the 1960s - add more lanes, and the numbers of cars using the roadway increase - so that the wait time is about the same. This is called induced demand. That's why the wait time is the same - people are willing to "pay" in the amount-of-time waiting.

* This article originally written to our local newspaper the North Shore News

Most Trips are Short

So I’ll say again - I am so grateful I have found an alternative to sitting in traffic - for most of my trips. Most trips are short - less than 10km and so most of my trips are short, and I have found joy on an eBike - and because I take up so much less space - I am no longer part of traffic. I whizz by gleefully with a smile on my face, knowing I'm getting some exercise, but also not so sweaty I can't do what I need to do when I get there.

Twice as Fast, Twice as Far

My ebike takes me about 2x as fast as when I tried the same trips on an "acoustic" old-fashioned pedal bike. This means I can go twice as far with it. I use my acoustic bike around Lynn Valley, but for trips to the Shipyards, to Delbrook swimming pool to get my 5yo to swimming lessons, to his soccer practice - it's the best. So liberating, so joyful.

Saving you Money & Time

I also know I am saving society money by looking after my own health - by building exercise into my everyday activity = "active transportation." The Dutch spend $0.75 billion on cycling infrastructure every year - because they know it will save them $27 billion in healthcare costs. Far from "not paying my way" quite the opposite - I am :
  1. One less car in front of you in traffic
  2. Saving you money by being healthier

Sometimes I drive

There are times when I’ll use our car. I prefer not to, but there are times when we do. It’s not about one or the other - that’s too simplistic. It’s about choosing to do something different so as not to wait in traffic. If we reduce the number of vehicles on the road - the roads are nicer for everyone - including those who need to drive.
I’m not a cyclist; I’m a person who drives a car at times. A person who walks at times. A person who rides a bike at times.

Some reasons not to bike:

  • Our roads sometimes don’t feel safe. That isn’t because being on a bike is inherently unsafe. It’s because we are sharing the road with machines 100x heavier. Yes - we need to improve our streets for bikes, and with the growing wave of people getting around on bikes & ebikes - we will. Faster improvements would be better, but we will. 
Riding a bike also is factually more safe than you might think it is.

eBikes For the Win

eBikes really are a game changer - a technological change that makes a 10x improvement to getting around on a bike compared to how things used to be - especially for the Northshore. You’ve seen how many more ebikes there are out there - it’s a growing wave. Give one a try - you won't regret it.

On my eBike: 

I never worry about traffic. I never worry about parking. 

Smiles, not miles. Join the fun!  

Monday, November 13, 2023

Biking with Kids - 0 to 5+ and Beyond

Getting around town with your kid on a bike is so magical.  

I believe my son knows his neighbourhood, all the many interconnections in our city - North Vancouver- much better for having gotten around on the back of my eBike for the past 5 years.   I love that we can stop in an instant to take a closer look at something if he asks about it - pulling the bike up on the sidewalk to look & talk.   And there is no better way to see construction sites with a little boy, than to walk or position the bike in the perfect position right up against a construction fence. 

 eBikes: No traffic.  Easy Parking.  Join the fun!

I wrote this up for a friend, and thought it was of enough general interest to publish a public version here.  Ride with your kids - it's so joyful. I wish you as much joy as we've had on the back of my bike - and him on his own bike.  Sun, Rain, and everything in between.

My goal of writing this is to share a  a lot of my learning and experimenting over the past 5 years to:

  • a) get around North Vancouver with my now nearly 6 year old by bike as much as possible.
  • b) helping him to learn to ride & to love biking around town, and beyond.

Here we go:

1.   I mostly accepted not biking with my kid until 1 year old.  
Their neck muscles are not strong enough younger than this age.   I did not try a "sling" or hammock type thing that can go in a bike trailer.   I have no experience or opinion of if they work well less than 1 year old.

2.  A seat on your bike is way more fun & feels safer than a chariot.
I found the trailer behind my bike felt less agile & I didn't feel as in control.  It would be fine for biking on trails with a kiddo, but for biking around town - having him on the bike feels way more solid to me.  A box-bike cargo bike could be ideal, but I also like the agility of a standard size bike & ebike.    I found a rear "Thule Yepp Maxi" worked well from age 1 to 5.75.  (40lbs).     

3. Details on the Thule Yepp Maxi Kids Bike Seat
There is a rack mount version of this seat - which I used and linked to above -  and I found it to be great.  Another choice is a  a "frame mount" that could also work well, and doesn't require as a strong a rear rack. My ebike had a built in rack that was part of the frame and could take 100+lbs of weight, so the rack mount was a good choice, and I see rack-mount seats on most of the long-tail cargo bikes I see around. 

Also: I only just found a month or so ago that there is a "Thule store" at Park Royal (West Vancouver, BC) that could be a great place to visit and see their many options in person, rather than only online.

4. Run Bikes:  
For learning to ride - run bikes are amazing.  Consider a Strider with the pedals that can be added later.     This reduces the transition to a different bike when it comes time to have pedals.  The transition & change was a barrier for us.   

There was a young girl in our alley who learned to pedal before she was three on a Strider made with the added pedals.  An alternative is to get the new bike and remove the pedals.   Let them use it as a run bike for a few weeks before adding on the pedals.  

5. Learning to ride expectations.
I've seen kids doing amazing things on run bikes at 18 months.  Run-bikes are definitely something many kids can learn by/at age 2.  
For pedalling - as I mentioned in point 4, I've seen happen at or even a bit before age 3.  My kid was riding several kilometers on his own at age 3 three. ( I was/am very proud 🙃).  When I was a kid -  I didn't learn to ride until I was 5 or so.  Not doing training wheels moves things way forward.

Also:  In 2022 or 2023 I've started to see  mini-electric bikes for 18 month-olds that might be a terrible idea.  They might also be amazing!  We missed that boat and we didn't try them. I have an open mind to the idea.

6. Bike-Trailers:
I have had good luck with the Thule trailer. We rarely used it for biking, although he loved the idea of it. It was more fun for us doing XC skiing.   We went with the 1-kid size, which was nicer to have a lighter load to tow for XC.   

We have had more use out of the trailer by using it as a cargo bike to haul stuff.  For that I would have liked the 2-kid size.  Now it's become useful as a "cargo bike" when I combine my ebike and the trailer, and I find I can't fit a garbage can of compost in my trailer - it's a bit too narrow - so in some ways I'd like a wider one.

7. Cargo bikes
Box bikes are the best - to my mind at least.   Seeing your kind in front of you, and you can loading up a lot of stuff!  But on the down-side, they do feel like driving a pick-up truck on the bike path.  You have to ride slower and defer more than on other bikes, because you are so big. They are also very pricey, and you might need a garage to store it in.   I don't have a garage, unfortunately.
Long tail cargo bikes are very popular, less expensive, and I think also very useful.  I haven't ridden many, but I think they are a great option right now.
A bike/electric bike + a trailer IS a cargo bike - so consider that.   We hauled our paddle board to Deep Cove in our bike trailer & back.  It was a bit of a trek from Lynn Valley - but when you make the journey there & back part of the outing - it's all part of the fun.  

8. Mac-Ride for Mountain Bikes
If you mountain bike - get a Mac-ride (or shotgun seat) and enjoy. It's SO MUCH FUN!.  We could have started a little earlier with ours - at age 2.  He used it through age 5.5

9. Towing at age 4-5 with a "Tow-Whee"
 A "tow-whee" is a great tool for mountain biking, and for when your kid rides on their own around town.  I tow my kid on his 20" bike up steep north van hills using my ebike.  It's worth having.

10. Getting Helmet fit Right
Helmets may be worth getting fitted at the store with your child. I've bought at least 2 helmets the wrong size & wrong fit.   100% worth buying at a shop with him/her with you to ensure a good fit.  Obsession bikes in North Van was particularly good at helping us.

11. Bike Seats for Bigger Kids:  Quibbel
 Beyond age 5, I want my kid to be able to ride on the back of my bike - I  have friends where kids rode back there to age 8 or even 10.   The RadRunner by Radpower has a nice setup for it,  but for me -  I have a standard length ebike with a solid, but standard rear-rack.  (My ebike, FWIW).   I've found and have a kid bike seat by Quibbel:  I think it's amazing and from the Netherlands.   Thule/Yepp makes a similar one, but it is not offered for sale in Canada at the time of this writing.  I've seen them in person in NorthVan when someone picked on up in Europe.

The only place in Canada I could find the Quibbel for sale was in Victoria, BC at Bishops Family cycles  It seems like a great store, and I have not yet checked the store out in person.  
They won't ship this seat to you, but will do online purchase and you can arrange your own shipping. I found I was able to do so for $70 with UPS - not cheap, but less than a special trip.  I was able to have family on the island pick it up, and my kindergarten kid is loving it so far. 

Not so nice parts

From #2 above about the bike seat - I have in fact dropped the bike with him in it a handful of times. I know - awful - but I think the truth is important to out, to both reduce fear and guilt - we parents have plenty of both.    I've been lucky - he didn't have an arm out in a way that he got very hurt.  I think part of that is good seat design, but a lot of it is good luck.

More than once there were no tears at all. I can think of 2 times where there were some tears, but I felt much worse than he actually wound up feeling.    If my bike had better, more stable kick-stands - like a long tail or box-bike cargo bikes - I don't think it would have happened. My bike has a side-kick-stand, which is  not ideal for kids in a bike seat.  For the most part I always had a hand on the bike when he was in the seat, and this is an advisable rule.

In Summary:

Wow - long post.  It's been a journey, and continues to be a fun one!
Happy Riding!  ðŸ™ƒ⚡️🚲💪

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Bike Lanes are Good for Business in North Van: Lynn Valley Road, and everywhere

In early June, at Lynn Valley Road & Dempsey, I chatted with a group of about 10–12 retirees on ebikes about the planned bike lane, and I was surprised they were not in favour of the second phase of the mobility lane on Lynn Valley Road.

Two boys biking - The're not in the way of you driving, you're not in the way of them living

In fact - only one person spoke -  but she expressed concern about The End of the Line store & café – “I want that store to remain open” – or something similar, that others in the group didn't contradict. And I thought:

  • Wait: don’t you know bikes are good for business?    I guess she didn’t.

Why bikes are good for business - this is well established:

Improving access to people on bikes, people on transit, and people walking is good for business. This has been proven many times locally and globally, including by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) - who initially opposed bike lanes a couple of decades ago, and have since become strong advocates in favour of mobility lanes – because they increase foot-traffic, and result in healthier retail business.

Here are some of the facts, as I see them:

1. End of the line is not sustained by a few parking spots. It’s people - not cars - that go to the shop. The more people that go there - the better the business will do - which is obvious, but in our car-centric world it clearly needs underlining. Specifically - many more people who come in cars park in:
  • Kilmer parking lot
  • Dempsey Road
  • spots at Lynn Headwaters.
  • and more 
2. However, there is only so-much space on any road and two or three spots for cars aren’t going to move the needle. What will move the needle for this store is enabling more people to come. The only ways to do that are: 
a. Better Access via Transit = Buses
b. Better mobility lanes, so that:
    • More people can feel safe travelling there by bike - especially those who are not yet biking
    • More people know there is a safe bike route so that they feel safe biking there

This is why mobility lanes that are obvious, simple, and “feel safe” are so important. The mobility lanes aren’t for me - they are most important for the people who are not yet biking there, so that they feel safe to start. Moreover, so they are safe for all the 15 to 25 year olds on Lime bikes - our kids! that are already using so many Lime bikes. That is why great mobility lanes, and more frequent bus-service - will bring more people, and be better for businesses across North Vancouver. Even better, they will help reduce our infamous traffic-jams.


Too Many People?

Now if you feel “there are already too many people there” - that’s another topic. I suggest you spend some time reflecting on equality. Specifically: Why are you so special you deserve to access all that nature, when another person travelling there by bus, bike or otherwise doesn’t deserve the same access and privilege you enjoy? A topic for another day.


The bottom line for End of the Line: Better mobility lanes are not going to cause it to close - quite the opposite!

The most surprising thing about the interaction to me was to find a group of people like me - who just enjoy getting around on their bike and ebike, and - whose leader at least - didn’t understand how good mobility lanes are for all road users:

  • people who walk
  • people who take transit
  • people who roll in other ways (eg. 4-wheel mobility scooters)
  • people who bike
  • yes - even people who use cars & trucks (less cars on the road, because of the above!)

If you don’t believe me that mobility lanes are good for business, here are three other sources:

  1. The downtown Vancouver business association figured out mobility lanes were good for business
  2. This Canadian YouTube guy (@NotJustBikes) will help you see our urban & suburban choices differently.
  3. It’s not just Canada. Here is a 2023 Wired article recapping that “...installing bike lanes and making streets more pedestrian-friendly boosts the economic fortunes of a place.

My family & I love End of the Line. The coffee & treats are great, and the gift section is simply amazing for all kinds of occasions. We often show up there on our bikes, and I look forward to seeing you there soon.

Duncan Wilcock
Lynn Valley
I ride & love my e-bike to get around town. No traffic & no trouble parking – join the fun!

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Making Change in NorthVan - for People on Bikes

I didn't think I would become a cycling advocate.

However, it doesn't take a lot of riding a bike on the roads of any North American city to have some conflict and frightening experiences that can leave you feeling angry.  (To be clear - I do believe it is safe to ride bikes in Metrovancouver see footnote 1 below.)

I got into advocacy to channel that anger into something productive.   We're lucky in Metrovancouver in that a structure is already in place to work through as part of team - it's called HUB Cycling.  This link is the NorthShore HUB group.  

I'm writing this as a "how-to" get more involved, with my suggestions for getting started, as well as how I have learned to use the the tools to make it fit in my life, and not be too overwhelming or time consuming.  I'm likely to have shared this with you as a link & as summary.  I hope it's helpful.

1. Facebook Group

The easiest way to start getting involved is join the North Shore People on Bikes Facebook Group.   As of July 2023, it gets about a post per week on average I'd say, and is a good place for some discussion in public.  I visit and post from time to time, and think it's great.

2. Groups.io

Aside from coming to meetings & volunteering, groups.io is one of the best ways engage with other people on bikes in North Van.  I had a tough start with it, and wanting to share how I use it is one of the primary reasons I am writing this post.  

 It's a group email list, and my key learning to make it work for me is to access it on the web, and to only get a 1 per-day email-digest.   

By using group.io on the web, it's more like a "message board" or "forum" for me.  When I first signed up for it I think I ignored it for literally years due to too many emails.   You-do-you, but I get a lot of emails in my day job, and I work at keeping the inflow to my personal email inbox to only a handful of emails per day.  

Once I changed to the once-per-day digest, and access it on the web, as well as through their dedicated iPhone & iPad apps - it changed my relationship to groups.io and it became much more effective, as well as sometimes even fun.

The setting to change to "once-per-day digest" is in Subscriptions->Email Delivery->Daily Digest.  See this screen snip of that setting:

Screenshot of setting

Also, hot tip:  

You can permalink (permanently-link) discussions from groups.io with the little chain icon in the top left (and message number).  For example #3480 in this image, that links to this example message. So if there is a good discussion you want to share on social media, or link back to in a past discussion, you can use that to do so. 

3. Attend a HUB meeting

No pressure.  If you start with some facebook and/or groups.io - excellent.  

After a time however, I found I wanted to meet some people in person, and have some more full conversations.    The meetings are a great way to dig in a bit deeper, and also to relieve your family & friends from hearing you talk about bikes-bikes-bikes, as I confess has happened in my family...

Since the pandemic, online participation is way more feasible, and a part of every meeting - so if you're a busy parent and evenings out are precious, or for whatever reason - this lowers the barrier to trying it out..  I have a 5 year old, and I was able to start in with online attendance when he was younger.

In person is even better of course, because we often go for beer after

  • Time:  First Thursday of every month
  • Location: CNV Library, off Lonsdale.   
  • Full details linked here, including online meeting link.

4. Volunteer, and perhaps attend some City Council Meetings

Again - no pressure.  Doing 1 or 2, and maybe 3 can be enough.

It took me a year of attending meetings before deciding to take on some greater responsibility.  I was attending some of the DNV council meetings already, and it wasn't much added time.     I haven't had to attend every council meeting, and many parts can be viewed online either live, or later as recorded video - so the work on council meetings is more doable than it was a decade or more ago. 

5. Consider joining my email list

Only if you are a DNV resident (District of North Vancouver) - I'm starting now on an email list for the electiions in 2026.   Local government can have some of the greatest impacts on your daily lives, but only around 20% of people voted in October 2022.   I am gathering emails now looking to unite progressive minded folks like me and you.   Have a look here and consider adding your email to the list.    


Thanks for reading!  I hope we can work together to make NorthVan safer and better for everyone by prioritizing safe ways for all ages to get around by walking & biking - ride safe!


Footnote 1:  Here is a study that convinced a very stats & logic focused friend of mine that biking in Vancouver is safe!   Perhaps safer than walking.  In fact, not biking is hazardous to your health if you consider in-active transportation in cars.   Anyway - I digress (welcome to my blog). 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Why I am Passionate About Micromobility

Climate Impact is a Huge Motivator

I am strongly motivated by climate change. My day job is with British Columbia's leading sustainability focused engineering firm, and I am passionate about working to reduce the scale of climate change.  Here in BC, 40% of our provincial emissions are transportation related, and 1/2 of that is private car/truck use. Many find it surprising that about 70% of of all private car trips are 15km or less (see the chart below).  Distances of 15km or less are the the sweet spot of micromoblity, meaning personal electric vehicles, weighing 30 to 60lbs - very commonly electric bikes (ebikes) and scooters.

Most Trips are Short - log-normal distribution


My passion for reducing my carbon footprint has led me to the electric bike pictured above. There are many types - including cargo ebikes, and that is part of the magic of micromoblity; what I like best is that micromobility is a rare win-win-win-win - in that I believe greater use of micromoblity will result in:

  1. reduce our individual and collective climate impact
  2. improve health outcomes for individuals and collectively by re-embedding light exercise in our day-to-day activities
  3. improve our societal cohesion and interpersonal trust - by promoting quieter, calmer streets with fewer cars by reducing car dependence - resulting in greater connectivity within neighbourhoods
  4. Access to more equitable transportation options (in terms of the poverty/wealth divide) than the current car-dependent culture so dominant in North America and much of the western world.  In a nut:  A car is a  financial barrier to freedom and access to opportunity, and for practical purposes, to fully participate in modern life in the western world - most people feel they need to own a car.
  5. result in cleaner local air quality and quieter cities - places that people will enjoy lingering more of the time
  6. result in safer streets by right-sizing a vehicle (30lb to 200lb) to transport 150lb to 300lb humans - instead of the status quo of using a 5000lb+ metal box to move 1.25 humans. (Most cars move 1 person almost all the time - the average over time is ~1.25)
  7. improve outcomes for our kids - key outcomes such as autonomy and independence. By making it possible to use fewer cars in our lives, our streets will be safer, and we will be able to permit our kids more freedom of movement - rather than being effectively imprisoned in suburban homes - dependent on  someone to drive them to most activities and friends.
  8. increase the number of smiles-per-mile for many - honestly - it's just way more fun getting around this way! 🙃

An Exciting Future

A lot of my enthusiasm for micromobility starts with the person who coined the word in 2017 - Horace Dediu. He is an outstanding thinker, shared through podcasts and writing. He describes micromobility as a disruptive innovation - in the business sense - meaning "a worse car," that will eventually supplant and obsolete cars/trucks for most short distance journeys. He speaks about "what is fast is slow" meaning that cars typically take 5 years+ to design and produce a new model at volume - where a new version of an electric bike can be designed and built at scale in 6 months. 

 This faster pace of innovation is likely to result in vehicle that solves the "jobs-to-be-done" better and better than the one-size fits all choice of travelling in a (ie car/truck). Fast iterations allow products (and biology) to evolve much more quickly.   This is exciting! I can't wait to see what we will come up with next!

I truly believe the innovation of micromobility is a wave of technological change, that on balance is going to make our cities a LOT better.   It will add mobility choices, increase equity, and I hope help rebalance a century of car-dependence. In doing so we will move forward into a better future together.

So let's get on our ebikes! Let's re-make our cities for the 21st century and beyond to be more walkable, bikeable, and friendlier for all of us.