When Keith Shillington changed his commute, he changed his perspective--and saw his community in a new way.
I loved riding my bike as a boy and teenager. But when I graduated high school, the pressures of my university studies and, later, my family and career pushed cycling out of my life. As I approached 50, I thought, like many people my age, that I didn’t have time for the luxury of regular exercise.
Then we started the Cool Commute Challenge, our annual campaign (and friendly competition) to encourage staff across Stantec to get out of their cars and into alternative modes of transportation throughout June. As a leader, I knew my participation was important, but I struggled to bring my customary enthusiasm to the Challenge. The idea of biking to work seemed time-consuming, expensive, and possibly dangerous. My colleagues Shawn Bravender and Dean Cooper convinced me to at least give it a try before returning to the comfortable confines of my car.
Those first rides began to revive the sense of joy cycling used to give me. I started looking forward to next year’s Cool Commute as soon as the current one ended.
Slowly, it dawned on me that I could ride my bike outside of Cool Commute—and that I should. I remembered that moving my body was fun. It made me feel like a kid again.
Keith at Ventoux
I bought a new bike. I gave up my parking spot and started stashing my car in the west end after driving from Spruce Grove in the morning, leaving me with a ride of around 10 kilometres into the office.
I started going for long rides on the weekend. I signed up for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 200-kilometre charity ride that takes place over two days every August. A few times a year, I’d bike into work all the way from Spruce Grove.
And a few weeks ago I cycled up Mount Ventoux in southern France, the setting of countless iconic scenes in the Tour de France. It took me two and a half hours, making me just marginally slower than Lance Armstrong.
The Challenge has also pushed me to explore other sustainable methods of transportation, namely walking and riding the bus. Both of these are much less stressful than driving and, in certain circumstances, extremely convenient.
But I will always be a bicyclist at heart. I know that now, thanks to Cool Commute.
My love of cycling has also made me see design in a new way. Biking through a community changes your perspective on it. It creates new connections between fellow travelers.
Is there room for everyone on this road? Do the sightlines let automobiles and bicycles stay safe? Where did that guy get that sweet helmet? I’ll ride over and ask him.
Biking invites thoughts like these. Maybe it requires them. To ride on two wheels is to travel with community in mind.
Cycling isn’t an obligation for me. It is one of the abiding pleasures of my life, and I owe my rediscovery of it to Cool Commute. Whether or not you’re a Stantec employee, I encourage you to give a “cool” commute a try and discover where sustainable transportation will take you.
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