#irideYEG – David Shepherd

What is your commute like?

10-12 km. I use the Railtown multi-use path, 102 ave, and Rice Howard Way.

What are some of your favourite things about Edmonton?

The fantastic local music scene, the Metro Cinema, the local bike community, and the river valley. That there’s so many talented, visionary people here willing to work to make Edmonton a great place to live.

How long have you been cycling? What got you started?

I’ve been riding since I was five or six years old. I remember going for bike rides with my parents in Edmonton and Fort MacMurray (and running into parked cars – I was easily distracted), and have great memories of tearing around the neighbourhood every day as a kid. When I was older, we’d go for family bike rides from Rundle Park along the river valley to near downtown and back. I always loved those trails.

I didn’t ride much for a few years after high school, but started again when I moved back to Edmonton in 1997. I started commuting to work, and rode regularly in the river valley. It’s just always been something I’ve loved and felt great doing.

Biking, to me, is freedom – the freedom to go wherever I want, whenever I want – and I always feel great doing it. It keepa me focused, grounded, and connected to the city.

What do you like about biking in Edmonton?

Well, the river valley is fantastic. It has an amazing mix of paved, off-road, and single-track paths to ride and explore. There’s a lot of support from the local bike community if you ask for it. Edmonton Bike Commuters is a fantastic group – Bikeworks has kept me going through the last three winters – and there’s lots of great riding groups and opportunities to connect.

What’s your favourite place to ride for fun?

I have a great loop I like to ride from downtown through Hawrelak to the Quesnel Bridge, and then back through Buena Vista Park. There’s some great single-track trails around the Strathcona Science Park, and I love Mill Creek Ravine.

What challenges do you face as a cyclist in Edmonton?

 There are parts of town that are somewhat intimidating to bike to or through, particularly if you’re a beginning rider. Trying to get around north of the Yellowhead and west of 97 st, for example. You’re forced to be out in traffic and need to be assertive to protect your space.

There’s a lack of good bicycle parking in a lot of the core areas. I was in Montreal and really liked how all of their parking meters had a small circle of steel welded to them for bikes to lock up to.

What would you like to see for bike infrastructure in Edmonton?

I would really like to see protected, separated lanes. I was recently in Hamilton, Ottawa, and Montreal and saw some great examples of those. In Montreal, they have two-way separated lanes on several main thoroughfares. They were a pleasure to ride and constantly in use. I’m not afraid to be out in traffic, but if we want to make cycling an accessible option for more new riders, I think we really need protected lanes.

I’d also really like to see some solid north-south routes outside the central core. The river valley provides a fantastic natural corridor east and west, but there’s not nearly as much to get people quickly and safely north or south.

How safe do you feel on your commute?

I’ve learned to be an assertive and defensive rider, so I feel pretty safe. I follow the rules of the road, use a rear-view mirror, and try to keep a sharp eye out. I’ve found most drivers are respectful, though I’ve had a few close calls with some who weren’t paying attention or felt the need to express their road rage by passing too close. I find it more intimidating outside the city core, trying to navigate areas like the north end.

What are your thoughts on winter biking?

I’ve been riding year-round since 2011, and I love it. I love the feeling of challenging the elements and the freedom of being able to set my own schedule instead of having to plan around and stand in the cold waiting for buses. This year I connected with a great group of local cyclists who also ride year-round and it’s been a great inspiration to ride on even the coldest days. All you need is some good layers and a pair of studded tires, and you’re good to go!

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