Women on Bikes Series: Theresa Yurkewich

I am a lawyer working downtown Calgary, and I commute by riding my bike daily. It's such a great way to stay fit (and beat the traffic!). 

Although civil litigation is my day job, I love food, fashion, travelling, and just generally getting out and doing something fun. I like to write about my experiences on my blog -
www.livingtoat.com - which I try and update 5 days a week.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding a bike when I was about 5 years old. However, after high school I took a break from the biking world and didn't get back into it until the summer of 2012. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I'm motivated to ride because it is a great way to stay fit and explore the world.

I love renting bikes when travelling because you can see a lot of a city in a shorter period of time, especially areas which you might have missed had you been limited to public transportation or walking. 
During the week, I'm motivated to ride because it is a much faster method of commuting, and I don't have to worry about finding or paying for parking! 

You commute regularly to work, when did you decide that you wanted to take on the streets by bicycle?
I decided I wanted to take the streets by bicycle after becoming more comfortable with leisure-type rides around Calgary. The city streets always seemed a bit daunting with busy cars and crazy drivers, but once I tried it, I realized most of the fear was built up in my head. The main reason I started commuting to work via bicycle was when I got my puppy. I knew I would be on a tight schedule having to run home to let her outside, and as a result, biking seemed like the best method to do that (and get back to work) fairly quickly. I love being in control of how fast I can get home and not having to sit frustrated in traffic.

Do you commute all-year or prefer to do so during the nicer seasons?
I try to commute as long as possible, but when the snow hits and the roads become icy I stick to walking. Luckily, in Calgary we have Chinooks which usually melt the ice and snow, making it pretty reasonable to bike to work for a few days during the winter months.

If you commute all-year or on days less favorable (rain, etc.), how do you dress so it is tolerable?
Commuting in the rain is definitely my least favorite part about biking. However, to stay dry, I wear a light rain coat, pull on the hood, and tuck it under my helmet. It's a pretty effective way to keep my hair dry. I always change when I get to work so I don't have to worry about getting my business clothing dirty. During the colder months, I put on warm gloves, long leggings, and layer up with a sweater.

What tips or suggestions would you give to someone who has never commuted, but would like to start?
The best tip I can give is to get out there and try it. Scope out your route beforehand and try it on a weekend. This will let you figure out the time required to commute, and it will help you build up your confidence on busy roads. I try to stick to the side-streets for as long as possible before merging onto the heavily traveled roads. If you are worried about switching lanes, wait until a crosswalk comes up, hop off your bike and walk across. Invest in a good lock, one with a cord and a U-lock - that way you can park your bike with peace of mind.

Also, try to think of yourself as just another vehicle on the road. Don't think that because you are on a bicycle, you can constantly blur the lines between a pedestrian and a motorist. Obey the traffic laws and to best stay safe. I have seen too many instances where bicyclists have been hit or injured by not following the rules. Of course, motorists need to share the road, but as a cyclist, you need to remember that your life is the one at stake and you need to follow the rules and always be prepared. Plus, the last thing we need is another crazy cyclist out there giving us all a bad name. 

Tell us about the cycling infrastructure where you're at! Do you have protected or dedicated lanes?
Here in Calgary we have a few dedicated lanes. In the downtown core, we have a bike lane which allows you to travel North-South with ease. Along the rivers there are well-kept bike paths that can take you from one end of the city to another. Best of all, a pilot project is beginning next Spring to develop a "cycle track" for those of us that enjoy commuting to work via bicycle. This track will add a few East-West lanes and another North-South lane to make the commute even quicker (and much safer).

What do you enjoy about your city in terms of being cycling-friendly? Calgary has an extensive river pathway system that extends through much of the city. You can bike along the river, through a forest, or down a quiet residential road. It is very easy to get around - and the majority of the roads are flat. On the outskirts of the city there are big hills and great trails for those looking for a challenge.

What would you like to see changed?
As mentioned above, I would like to see drivers become friendlier to bikers. However, I think this can only be achieved if bikers follow the rules of the road and respect the drivers around them. Many times I see bikers ride through red lights, cut off vehicles, or fail to signal - which only enhances the negative stigma about cyclist behavior.

Have you had a bike accident or a situation that tested you? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I have been fortunate enough to avoid being in an accident (biking or otherwise). Although, I once fell in my parkade... my bad :)  

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love riding my bike because it is relaxing. It is a time when I can enjoy the environment around me and do a little soul searching. I love that I can ride fast or slow depending on my mood. And of course, I enjoy zipping by vehicles that are stuck in the busy rush hour traffic. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Currently I have a pink and grey Norco hybrid. It is a smooth ride and quite light. Originally I was looking for a road bike, but I chose this bike because it would give me the flexibility to ride on the road or along easy trails. Calgary is close to the Rocky Mountains and Alberta Foothills which offer an assortment of different bicycling adventures - I didn’t want to be held down to just the road in case I wanted an adventure.  As I was just getting back into the biking world, it was great to find a high quality item at a reasonable price.  

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
My favourite clothing to wear while biking is Lululemon. The leggings, shirts, and sweaters are all quick drying which is perfect if you work up a sweat. The items are easy to layer and have pockets for your keys, chapstick, phone, etc. I don't have many bike accessories, but I am a big fan of the lights I purchased from Mountain Equipment (for those dark evenings!) and my U-lock.

You also enjoy blogging! Tell us about your blog and why you started it-
My blog is what some call a "Lifestyle Blog". I write on food recipes, travel stories, fashion ideas, my dog, and my every day adventures. Usually these adventures revolve around eating at various restaurants in Calgary but I try to add in different events or promotions. There is a great culture in Calgary around trying new things which has allowed a wealth of boutique shops and cool events to pop up and quickly become successful. It is actually quite a young city and it has enough wealth that it really encourages start-up businesses. I love to stay on top of what is happening in my City and relay that information to my readers so they can decide if they want to go check a place out. Plus, trying out new restaurants is always so exciting and more often than not the meals are incredible. 

I started my blog as a creative output. In my line of work, most of the days are filled with technical and professional language. Legal writing is not always the most riveting, but blogging gives me a way to feel fulfilled and get my creative juices flowing. What I love about my blog is that it is mine. I can write about whatever interests me and I'm not worried about catering to other people. In that sense, the name comes from the idea of living life through my perspective. My blog encourages me to try new things and go on adventures - all while improving my skills at communication (and hopefully photography). It has helped me become more self-confident and outgoing. 

Tell us a random fact about yourself! 
I eat chocolate on a daily basis. My whispering voice is usually louder than my normal voice. And, I am known to have entire conversations with people while I'm sleeping (and completely forget it happened the next morning).