KENTVILLE – Buying a car is a milestone for many, but selling his was a milestone for Ian Lemmon, who now rides a bike everywhere he goes.
Whether going to work or out to buy groceries, Lemmon goes everywhere by bike and cannot get enough of his new lifestyle, cycling throughout all four seasons and in all kinds of weather.
It may seem drastic, but he swears it took just a few weeks to get used to, and it’s something he plans to stick with, despite attitudes others have when seeing him bike on the road.
“I’m traffic, and I want to get safely from home to work. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a car, in a bus, on a bike, on my feet – I’ve got the same needs and desires as everyone else wanted to get to work,” says Lemmon.
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Switching gears from driving to cycling
Lemmon was pushed to give up bad habits after noticing some extra weight uring the winter season and how hard it was to breathe when he went for a ride on his bike.
Though a smoker for years, Lemmon said the decision became an easy one when he could barely bike and felt like he was suffocating.
“It’s easy to get annoyed with smoking when you can’t breathe,” he laughs.
“It’s an easy choice at that point, and I’m a motivated guy – I like to ride hard and push myself – and I wasn’t able to do that when I smoked, so I let it go.”
He sold his car in November 2016 and invested in cycling equipment like a small trailer to help carry grocery loads, cycling jerseys and other gear, like winter bicycle tires to be ready for all conditions.
Lemmon now owns six bikes, including one he’s currently using that he made a few modifications to after purchasing it used for $50.
“It was just a mindset for me. I transitioned myself into different ways of thinking and was able to adapt biking to my lifestyle with minor adjustments,” he says.
Lack of awareness a barrier to safe cycling
Lemmon is – by his own definition – what’s known as an aggressive cyclist, making no excuses as he rides on roads and avoids narrow shoulders and large potholes.
He says he pushes hard and always ensures people know he’s there to avoid nasty run-ins, or run-overs, with cars.
When asked why cycling can be scary, he says there is a “list” of reasons, and that they begin with how cars react when cyclists don’t stick to sidewalks or bike lanes when road conditions require it.
“To a cyclist, they could be injury – everything is a more severe impact when you’re on a bike and not inside a steel cage, but some drivers don’t get that,” he says.
With some motorists and cyclists appear to feel bitter after such incidents, Lemmon said discussions on sharing roadways, “often devolve into us versus them – car versus bike – and the reality is roads aren’t built for cars. Roads are built for people.”
“Whether you’re a car, bike, or pedestrian, it’s all traffic, and people are just trying to get from point A to point B safely,” he says.
Feeling hopeful with new act on horizon
With the new provincial Traffic Safety Act starting with public consultations and set to hit the legislative floor this fall, Lemmon says he’s hopeful such attitudes on both sides will change.
The new act will replace the dated Motor Vehicle Act – first written in 1914 – and will contain new, updated rules stating how roads are to be shared by all forms of traffic.
But this may not be enough, says Lemmon, who believes education is the most important step yet to be taken by the government.
“That’s going to be the big thing. We all want a new set of rules, but being aware of those rules is crucial,” he says.
He hopes the new act uses clear language and shows cyclists and motorists don’t have to be in adversarial positions, and that if awareness is not a priority, that investments into infrastructure to promote safe cycling happen.
“The younger generations are moving to areas they don’t need a car, so this is something we need to move forward with. At some point, the old establishment is going to have to admit it, or get out of the way,” he said.