Every Coaster needs to leave these stunning shores once in a while. The event can become an ordeal when it involves predicting overloads and wait times at Langdale, followed by negotiating Vancouver’s traffic.
It needn’t be so. Not only do bikes, BC Ferries and TransLink work well together, but the cost is a fraction of car commuting. Although there are some regulations to deal with, cyclists are afforded some special privileges. To start, bikes ride free with a BC Experience card.
Embarking at Langdale is a breeze. The hardest part is suppressing the urge to ride onto the loading ramp ahead of the pedestrians. If you fail at this, you will receive a firm finger wagging from someone in a vizzy vest. You will park your bike in the rack on the lower car deck, near the front, ready for your quick getaway. You can lock your bike to the rail, but most don’t bother – where is any thief going to ride to?
Take your bottle upstairs, you can fill it with ice cold water from the cafeteria. Beware though, you can’t cheat and fill up with pop instead. The dispenser emits a special noise for water only. Since you are drinking water, you will need to get some calories somehow. So go ahead and chow down on anything you like. You have earned this!
If you have ridden in the pouring rain to the ferry, you will want to pack some spare clothes. Otherwise, in 40 minutes you’ll be a shivering mess as you set off for the next leg. Even on those sweltering summer days, when nothing comes between you and the fresh air but a little bit of Lycra, having something to throw on during the ferry ride is never a bad idea.
Disembarking at Horse-shoe Bay, you get to leave the boat via the main car deck, before the cars, while throngs of pedestrians leave via the upper walkway. Cyclists can use the road exit to take the highway, though it is recommended that you take the quick and difficult pass through some poorly designed pathways and gates, so you can ride through the village to Marine Drive.
If you are taking transit into town, you need to know that the rack on the bus takes only two bikes. You will want to take stock of any other cyclists exiting the ferry, then make sure you are either in first or second place. Take your bags off your bike before loading it onto the rack, then take note of the fact that you beat all the pedestrians and can take the best seat on the bus. Pay for your regular fare as there is no charge for the bike.
The return journey is a similar affair, with a few tricks to master. First off is the entry to the secure terminal area behind the ticket booth. You’ll be given a post-it note stuck to your boarding pass, and on it will be a five-digit passcode printed by a dot matrix printer, which, unfortunately, starting running out of ink in 1996. If you are over 35, you will have to find a teenager to read out the code for you. You can get it wrong as many times as you want, but once you get it right, don’t let the gate slip back to close; you’re locked out for good then!
An automatic gate slides back to let you on before the cars. Make sure you’re boarding the Langdale ferry. If you’re a bit late and the cars are already loading, you can board afterwards, but you’ll have to pick and choose the best route to the front through the cars. Pushing a fully loaded bike with wide panniers can present an interesting challenge.
Back in Langdale, you’ll be disembarking with the hordes that walk off the ramp before the cars. Keep to the left if you can, and when the safety-vest-adorned staff greet you in the roadway, stand your ground as a vehicle user and hit the road, not the pedestrian path. This way you’ll be at the bus before all others, securing the best seat once again, or, if you are cycling home, you’ll be turning left before the speeding cars get to the lights.
This article brought to you by Transportation Choices, organizers of this year’s Bike to Work and School Week. See www.biketowork.ca/sunshine-coast