I love bikes.
In fact I have a bit of a collection for a variety of terrains (Mountain, Gravel, Road, Commute). I use my bikes for leisure and for transportation, and – until this year – my bike was powered exclusively by me.
But a recent switch in schools for my youngest child required a commute through Vancouver that required some thoughtful reconsideration...
How long would the route take in a car on Vancouver’s roadways?
How far can she ride a bike before she’s done?
And would she have the peddle-power to make it home after a long day? And would the accompanying adult want to do four of those trips a day – there and back for a drop; there and back for the pick-up?
Was the best option to move to the other side of the city?
(The resounding “NOOOO” from the pack still rings in my ears).
And then it came to us. The only sustainable way to make sure that our commute was consistently low impact was an electric cargo bike where our child is the cargo. In fact, we have found that we don’t just use it to transport our little one to school and back but also to all her sporting ventures and well as trips to the grocery store and such. It’s great, you just bike right up and drop off.
We have done over 2000 kms in less than 6 months. This is now our preferred local mode of transportation and here are the reasons why.
The bike we purchased is – hands-down – one of the best investments we’ve made. It was a bit spendy but I believe that, when it comes to electric bikes, you get what you pay for. The good news is it will pay for itself in saved parking, insurance and fuel costs.
We move faster than the cars that are clogging the streets. It’s a great ride, and my daughter feels comfortable and secure. Vancouver is relatively bike friendly so we take bike routes almost all the time. It’s easier than a car and there’s never an issue finding a place to park. You don’t need special athletic gear – this bike is just as happy with your work clothes, play clothes, or school clothes.
You get some exercise – at the level you want
I get as much exercise as I choose and and never more than I want. You can adjust the amount of “assist” but you always have to pedal. And, as we are much more likely to take this bike than our standard bikes, we are clocking far more “pedalling” hours now. The low-impact of pedalling will accommodate this type of exercise well into our advancing years. I sometimes am challenged to build exercise into my day (lack of time, reduced options during lock-downs, or injuries) but I can always get it on my commute to and from the office or the elementary school.
Vancouver is a rainy place with one of the most temperate climates in Canada. We rarely see snow, so we don’t really have to do anything to prepare for wintery road conditions. Hello friends in Calgary (where they saw the white stuff well into the month of May this year)... you may be interested in the balloon tires that hug a snowy road. Here on the Wet Coast, I will likely invest in the new attachments they have to provide some rain coverage.
It has environmental benefits
So much better for the environment than cars, electric bikes have virtually zero emissions, and are not dependent on fossil fuels (at least not in British Columbia where hydro is the primary energy source) and they do not pollute the air. Added bonus - they’re quiet so they don’t contribute to noise pollution, save for the bell you may have to use once in a while.
Supply chain issues
COVID has increased the demand for anything related to outdoor activities and, of course, that includes all types of bikes. At the same time, COVID has disrupted supply chains causing a real lag in meeting demand. For the sake of the planet, let’s hope that the demand keeps growing for all the reasons mentioned and, as we come out of COVID, the supply issues get smoothed out. However, in the short and even medium terms, continue to expect delays in delivery of the bikes and their parts. (You knew I’d bring it back here, right?)
In an article in Car and Driver “The Ride into Our Electric Future Will Be Led by Bikes, 2019”, it was predicted that 300 million electric bikes will be out on the world's roads by 2023. I get it. It’s the way to roll.
Of course, the issue of climate change has an urgency that overshadows the issue of pollution. But I have been reading and hearing more about the peril of plastic and understand that addressing our dependence on plastic has benefits for all of it: climate change, air pollution, land, and water pollution.
A time to reflect on the impact we are having on our natural environment and – as the host of all life – how much our environment needs to be centered in our thoughts and actions.
Remember five years ago when container loads of plastic scrap from Canada was turned away by the Philippines? The container loads sat on the docks until Canada took it back. The Freight Forwarding industry was indirectly implicated in this social issue but became an active part in addressing the issue by applying new government rules and regulations to stop the practice. This really linked how the ethics of our business decisions have real world effects.
Fossil fuels are a significant component of new plastic. Fossil fuel extraction, processing and plastic production contributes to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and changes our climate.
Millions of tons a year, only less than 10% of the plastic we create is recycled.
In its material state, we have a big problem getting rid of plastic. There is a variety of reasons for this - it does not make it back to recycling facilities, or there are no buyers for the recycled materials, or (mostly likely) its components are not pure enough to recycle. We should keep recycling, of course, but ultimately the answer has to be a drastic reduction of our dependence on the stuff.
Unrecycled plastic waste becomes pollution. We have all seen pictures of the football field-sized garbage patch in the middle of the ocean and read about the microplastics found in the bodies of fish that are ending up on our plates.
Related to the ship stranded off the coast of the Philippines, we now know of the mountains of first world plastic waste many wealthy countries sent to poorer countries. It was a cheap way to meet reduce domestic landfill. For developing countries taking in the garbage, it was a significant source of income (BBC News June 2019). To address the sheer volume, some took to burning the plastic – creating toxic air pollution that causes respiratory and other diseases. Not good.
If it were not for the pollution and GHGs, I am sure we would all still love the properties and conveniences plastic offers. A topical example -- think of the necessary tons of disposable plastic coverings needed to keep sterile all the plastic paraphernalia for COVID tests and vaccinations. We do not have ways to alter all our dependencies on plastic just yet – but I am confident we will in time.
I still want to do my part.
On this Earth Day, I pledge to choose plastic-free and plastic-reduced options wherever I have the power to do so. The easiest things I can do right away are refusing single use plastics like plastic bags at grocery stores, drink bottles, coffee cups and their lids, and straws. And I will be bringing this sensibility into our workplace to influence the habits of our team.
I invite you to join me.
CARM, the Canadian Border Services Agency’s newly created Assessment and Revenue Management system, will soon be opening the virtual doors on its registration process.
While an overhaul is long overdue and there are certainly efficiencies to be had once CARM is fully implemented, we do think there is reason for the government to pay attention to the calls of Importers to slow down implementation. Those being:
Very likely CBSA will adhere to their published timelines. Regardless, you can trust Courtney to work on your behalf and work along with you to ensure that all the steps are taken in good time. We will help you navigate this road.
as we release information bulletins, conduct timely webinars, email blasts and other types of communiques to keep you ahead of the curve.
To best facilitate our CARM notices and future communication, we are updating our client management system. We are opening up streamlined communications channels that will deliver to our clients timely information and facilitate even better service.
Please click here to sign up and receive the information you need when you need it, which includes industry updates, Courtney news, as well as CARM updates. Visit our CARM info webpage for more information.
Courtney has been incorporating more business planning tools into our operations – and bringing a new lens to customer service, people development and forecasting. These exercises have only strengthened my appreciation for the value of professional associations to the advancing of industries and the businesses that work within them.
Whether they think about it or not, clients greatly benefit from a company’s role with its professional association.
I currently volunteer and serve as CIFFA Vice-President I and Customs Chair. From that vantage point, I am really well-schooled in the seemingly continual changes to regulations governing our industry. The CIFFA board advocates on behalf of its members – serving as watchdogs, of sorts, for how government priorities affect our businesses and systems and by extension our clients.
Professional associations set the bar for baseline education and provides opportunities to gain advanced knowledge. They establish service standards and ethical codes to build consistency, security and trust. That is particularly important in Freight Forwarding in Canada. If you’re a shipper and not one of our clients, I would strongly recommend you look for a supplier that is a CIFFA member to gain access to the competency, business ethics and knowledge the association requires of them.
Our team benefits from professional development opportunities which, in turn, benefit our clients.
My own career was carved out by a family-owned business where the learning was… might we say… “organic.” But, as I moved into more responsible roles – culminating at owner and CEO – I relied heavily on the educational offerings of the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers (CSCB) and CIFFA.
Earning certificates through the courses offered, I continued to enhance my learning through conferences, workshops and conversations with the network of members. Experiences that proved invaluable to my business and my clients.
Today, I give back by sharing my knowledge with colleagues, competitors and industry newcomers. As a leader of a team of eager and able young customs brokers, forwarders and logistics professionals, I support the growth of our team through fully sponsored certificate programs offered by the industry associations.
Would you like to know more? Please contact me at email@example.com.
Courtney Agencies Ltd, a BC-based customs brokerage firm, celebrates its history and prepares for its future