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The Downside of Growth
by Harold Bridge

Parents, seeing their children every day, don't exclaim: "My, haven't you grown since I last saw you ten minutes ago!". But Aunt Agatha, visiting from afar, who hasn't seen her niece/nephew for 5 years, most likely would. Urban traffic is like that. If you live in amongst it, you don't realise how much worse it is than it was.

When, in 1979, Gerry Pareja, the late John Hathaway, Wayne Phillips and Dan McGuire, then of the Vancouver Bicycle Club, rode British Columbia's first series of Randonnee's in preparation for that year's Paris-Brest-Paris, I didn't have much idea what it was all about. In 1981 I found out.

My wife & daughter had a spring vacation where they went to Guadaloupe in the Carribean. I was free!

Gerry had mapped out a 200km route that started & finished outside what was the BC Tel building ("The Boot") & turned around at Maple Falls. My mate Mike Thornton & I were joined by a young lady who looked like she had just come down to see her boyfriend off. But no, she was there for the whole shebang. I think 2 of us enjoyed ourselves for the 12 hours it took us There were others, but they were off the front & in a different space to us.

1983 saw me repeat that ride, only it took even longer - 13:15 when the 200 limit was 14 hours. Gerry gave me a 15 minute penalty at the start due to my "Wonderlite" being screwed to the front of my handlebar bag rather than "permanently mounted on the bicycle". Having been at my wife's birthday party the night before I wasn't at my best & had difficulty driving home.

Event starts in East Vancouver were quite common in those days, but as a rational alternative to driving we were allowed to use the ride to the start as part of the event. Thus, my first 400 started and finished at Dan McGuire's home, then in New Westminster, with the official start being the turnaround. The only change being that the initial part of the ride is done Audax style, ie; a group ride without the time limits.

Riding in and out of town in those days wasn't too bad. With proper approval from TPTB (the powers that be) alternate starts were allowed. BUT, alternate starts require more administration and those who benefit from the privilege have to be prepared to do the extra work.

There used to be a 24 hour Petro Canada station at the corner of 7 & 7B, just west of the Pitt River Bridge and that became a favourite site for an alternate start.

Around 1988 we used a 600 route that started & finished at Denny's on SW Marine Drive @ Cambie. Upon checking distances, I found that the ride from 7/7B to the Pattiullo Bridge was within a kilometre of the distance from Denny's to the Bridge. Of the total entry, 12 used the alternate start and as we climbed the Woodlands Hill to pass under the Pattullo Bridge, we saw Manfred, et al, riding overhead, just a few minutes ahead of us.

I have heard it said that alternate starts are "Unfair". In a non-competitive event such as we run, I don't understand that. But, is it fair that I should have to ride the worst part of the ride twice? I don't have to, I have a vehicle. But am I safe to drive after an extended bike ride?

London-Edinburgh-London has 2 starts, one at the southern terminal, nominal London, and the original start, Thorne, near Doncaster about halfway up the route. The split in the field enables them to accommodate twice as many riders. I suppose it could be said that it is unfair that those who start at Thorne & get the difficult northern part of the route done first have an advantage over those with about 25% done before they tackle the northern hills..


August 15, 2008