Stuff + Things

Commuter Life in Vancouver is Just Like Riding a Bike

Confession: Until this summer, I hadn’t ridden a (non-spin) bicycle in about 20(!) years. So you know that expression, “It’s just like riding a bike…”? I pretty much had no frame of reference. Aside from that, I am the poster child Vancouver urban commuter.  So imagine my delight when I got the invitation to be a beta-tester for the now launched multimodal app, Cowlines, but then my utter horror when they suggested doing a photo shoot featuring me in my urban commuter #westcoastcitygirl glory… riding a bike. Eek.

I’ll get back to me teetering precariously on a bicycle in a minute, but let’s talk about commuter life in Vancouver and what the Cowlines app is.

The App

The short: Cowlines* is a free multimodal iPhone app that enables you to get around Vancouver by integrating all of means of Metro Vancouver public transport. That’s TransLink, West Coast Express, BC Transit, Modo Car Co-op, Mobi bikes, Aquabus, False Creek Ferries and taxis – phew! They’ve taken all of that and made it easy for urban commuters like myself to get around.

*Fun Fact: The name is a spin on the “cowpaths” that city planners use to design paths in parks and whatnot – mimicking the behaviour of cows when they roam an open field. Considering how people are herded through transit stations, I find this a very appropriate and amusing name, but I digress.

I was excited when asked to beta-test the app, as it’s pretty much what I’ve needed all my commuting life. Google Maps doesn’t always cut it, and it’s certainly not giving me have the option to track CO2 emissions or take the route that affords me the luxury of staying dry on a rainy day. (Super important on the rare occasions that my hair is actually smooth or blown out!)

Commuter Life

While I do have my license (though I didn’t get that until I was 30), I’ve been taking transit all my life and driving in the city gives me no joy. It’s super expensive, gives me anxiety, and not conducive to reading a book (or being on social, let’s be real here – I am on my phone much more than I need to be) unless I’m a passenger.

I feel like my not driving makes me “green”, but my primary goal as a commuter is always to get to work, home, around and about, etc in as quick, best and economic a fashion possible. (Having just moved to Victoria, this is a learning curve as they only have buses and no tap cards…  I miss rapid transit. That being said, my commute is now 20 minutes, door-to-door, so I will take that win!)

Just Like Riding a Bike…

For many people in Vancouver, “green” transport means riding a bicycle – yes, we are finally back to that – so Cowlines challenged me to make full use of their app by planning a route with my friend Alex (who also hadn’t been on a bicycle in years) that involved booking Vancouver’s bike-share program: Mobi. Why? Cowlines has all the bike racks listed and links you to the Mobi app, so it’s easy-peasy to book.

The cycling? Not so much. But can I tell you? Once I got over the helmet, the jitters and figured out the gear shifts, (I told you TWENTY years not riding a bike. No my childhood wasn’t deprived. I just hated wearing a helmet – but didn’t want to smash my head – and didn’t really find joy in pedalling around.) this was such an awesome experience.

Once I found my centre, I was able to appreciate how beautiful Olympic Village and False Creek are with just my eyes – not my phone camera – and feel the summer breeze on my face. This was especially nice because the pieces of our move were beginning to ramp up and I was a bit stressed.

I’m On a Boat

Cowlines also got me organized with the little ferries around False Creek this summer as they have integrated the schedules. Until September, I used to work in Yaletown and the Brit and I love the Olympic Village area; the ferries are a super convenient an efficient way to zip across to meet friends for a drink or run errands. (Have you been on Aquabus or False Creek Ferries? They are such a fun and scenic way to get around the city – ask my Scottish friends, we went full force this summer!)

Try New (or Old) Things

Testing the Cowlines app reminded how much I love exploring my hometown, and it also kept me organized when the Scots were in town and in the final weeks before the Brit and I moved to the Island. And while I don’t know that I’ll be riding a bicycle again any time soon, I’m glad I still know how, and can actually say the cliche expression with some truth!


How do you get around Vancouver? Have you downloaded the Cowlines app yet? You can find it here on the App Store.

(The app will soon be updated with the metro transport info for Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, San Diego, Toronto, and NYC. I hope they decide to integrate Victoria in the near future.)

This blog post was a paid partnership with Cowlines. All opinions are my own. Photos: Jam PR

“The reality about transportation is that it’s future-oriented. If we’re planning for what we have, we’re behind the curve.” – Anthony Foxx

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