Healthy Living in the North

An ode to helmet hair (and biking!)

Author wearing orange glasses in the shape of a windmill.

Did my Dutch heritage inspire my cycling? Absolutely! Bikes are everywhere in the Netherlands!

When I first received the invitation to join a Bike to Work Week team, I was visiting my family in the Netherlands. There were bikes all over the place – young people biking to school, professionals biking to their offices, families biking to the grocery store, seniors biking to community spaces, friends biking to their favourite restaurants, and thousands upon thousands of people biking to train stations. Inspired in part by all of these active commuters and my Dutch heritage, I decided to join a Bike to Work Week team.

Now, after a really fun and eye-opening week, I’m considering adding a new activity to my routine: biking to work!

I loved the chance to dip my toes into the water when it comes to biking to work. I think that I’m ready to take the plunge!

Map of bike route.

Don’t let distance keep you down! Drive part of the way to your work site and then find yourself a nice, manageable route to start and end your day.

Here’s what I learned this week:

  1. Biking to work is a great way to get my (minimum) 150 minutes of physical activity as per the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. My route took 10-15 minutes. Multiply that by 2 (it’s a return trip, after all!) and a week’s worth of bike trips brought me to 100-150 minutes of physical activity!
  2. Biking to work is quicker than I thought! Or maybe the issue is that driving isn’t quite as fast as I thought it was? I was surprised that I didn’t have to get up much earlier than usual (maybe 10 minutes to give myself a cushion) and didn’t get home noticeably later than driving days.
  3. Co-workers and others embrace (or don’t notice or remark on!) helmet hair!
  4. Hills can be tough, but people are very impressed when you tell them that your route includes a hill! Their oohs and aahs – along with my sense of achievement – more than make up for the sweaty brow at the top!
  5. Walking your bike up hills is allowed, of course!
  6. Don’t let distance keep you down! On some days, my commute is over an hour as I travel from Vanderhoof to Prince George. 100 km is admittedly a little far for a daily bike commute but I realized that just because I’m in my car, doesn’t mean I have to stay there! I threw my bike into the car, parked 5-10 km from the office, and got to enjoy a 15-minute bike ride to start and end my day! The same might apply for you! Do you live out of town? Drive in and bike the last few kilometres. Live on top of a hill? Drive to the bottom and start your bike ride from there!

So, what do you say? Will I see you on your bike this year?

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)