Fleeing the island by bike.

Passengers of the 7pm Wednesday sailing from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen were treated to a spectacle. People rose from their seats and flocked to the front of the boat. I happened to be seated at the front, so I took the cue and got up for a better look. It was a beautiful sight, the sun was shining, and the boat was squeezing in-between the Southern Gulf Islands. A lone crew member was on the deck, resting his arms on the railing, but I was fairly sure he wasn’t meant to be the spectacle.

Some of the passengers migrated to the starboard windows while others returned to their seats. Curious about what had just happened, I tapped a message on my phone and showed it to the woman seated across from me, “I am deaf, I have noooooo idea what just happened.”


“Did you see them?!” I gestured.

She shook her head, “Nah.”

A few moments later, she tapped on her phone:

“You’re really brave to cycle when you cannot hear.”

I left work at 5pm in a hurry, worried I wouldn’t make it on the 7pm ferry as ticket sales are cut off fifteen minutes prior to the scheduled sailing time. I had to weave through commuter traffic on the bike path, but I was able to pick up speed once I was out of Victoria. I had done 33.5km in 73 minutes, which makes for an average speed of 27.3km/h. With two loaded panniers on my rear rack, this was a back pat-worthy achievement, yet the woman had no idea of this.

“I think I have a more sensitive peripheral vision than most. Besides, as long as I follow the rules of the road, I figure I should be safe.”

Heightened sensitivity to activity that’s happening outside my centre of vision, I believe, is a deafness-related adaptation. This has its drawbacks, such as not being able to focus well in open-plan offices. But, I’ve avoided collision with a person/car/bike/horse for over thirty years¹. Overall, it’s been an adaptation win.

The woman, who had also cycled to the ferries let it stew in her head for a few minutes.

“I suppose all the traffic noise just gives me anxiety,” was the next text she shared with me.

I think she understood. The only real difference between her and me is that I wouldn’t be able to hear a car right before it hits me. Being hearing doesn’t give you invincibility.

The following day I had iffy plans to meet up with a friend just outside Golden Ears park. We were to ride our bikes from Maple Ridge to Vancouver together, but without a cell phone signal inside the park, where she was leaving from, we could easily miss each other completely.

Instead, our timing was perfect. Right when I was composing a text to her, I noticed her cycling towards me from the opposite direction.

Woman rides a white bicycle with panniers mounted on the rear rack and additional gear strapped to the front rack. She is wearing a white helmet, black shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and shorts.
Looking rightfully satisfied.

Zoée, who is also deaf, led me through Pitt Meadows and Port Coquitlam on the Traboulay Poco Trail, a route she had discovered through the Steel + Rubber blog.

I couldn’t have been much of a company while we were riding as I struggled with signing while cycling, unlike Zoée. I could make up an excuse about my bicycle being more nervous when rolling at low speeds, but bike handling has always been my failing. Being able to go far and fast doesn’t mean I can maneuver a bike well!

I was able to stimulate Zoée at the rest stops, and once we boarded the Skytrain with our bikes. We didn’t go far (35km), but I believe Zoée is a better cyclist than she realizes. She merely needs to figure out her saddle situation (I’m still figuring out mine!) and learn to ride clipless. I look forward to riding with her again!

My usual riding buddy, Yann, met me 2/3rds of the way on the Lochside Trail on Friday, sporting a tiny cap with a tiny splatter of bird doo. A few days earlier, his black bike had been painted white by his incontinent avian pals. Yann has lots of good luck in store for him.

A black cycling cap with three stripes down the centre shows a small splatter of bird poop on the brim.
A bit shitty.

Visiting the mainland isn’t always worth the long travel time (4-5 hours per way), but this time the journey itself was enjoyable.

Tomorrow, I am headed to Quadra Island for a four-day climbing trip. On Sunday the 25th, Yann and I are leaving right after work for three nights in Strathcona Provincial Park. In about three weeks from now, we’ll be reunited with our (Deaf!) cycling buddy from England, Ed. The three of us will have two weeks together to thoroughly explore the mainland and island by bike.

It’s nearly the end of August, why does it feel like my summer is finally starting?!



  1. I collided with a public transport bus in 2010. I’ll write abut this another time.

3 thoughts on “Fleeing the island by bike.

  1. Zoée’s bike has a more upright geometry than yours does, which already puts her at an advantage when it comes to riding with her hands off the handlebars. Her vestibular system might be better suited to that as well.

    In terms of peripheral vision, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were also related to signing. When I tried learning how to sign, I couldn’t figure out how to see both hands (shape + movement) and the facial expression all at the same time. If I focused on one thing, I wouldn’t see anything else.

    What the woman on the ferry didn’t mention was that you are also missing out what guys in trucks yell at you as they drive by when you are bicycling.


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