• Kristina de Guzman

I like to ride my bicycle...I like to ride my bike...

Updated: Sep 1

A common way to get to work


Photo: Kristina de Guzman
The idea of doing a bike tour from Paraiso North to Paraiso South has been floating around lately. Why, you might wonder? It turns out that more than one-third of Paraiso Tropical’s team (at least seven out of the 19 staff) bike to work on a regular basis!

We chatted with four of those staff – Luis Cifuentes Martinez (Paraiso South); Bruna Campos Gonzalez (both stores); Judith Montoya (Paraiso North); and Karen Alvarado (Paraiso North) – to learn more about their choice to bike to work over other modes of transportation, along with the good, the bad, and in-between aspects of their biking experiences.

How often do you bike to work? / ¿Qué tan frecuente vienes en bicicleta a trabajar?

Photo: Kristina de Guzman

Luis: Pretty much everyday.

Bruna: Everyday.

Judith: I moved two months ago and since then, I’ve been biking everyday that I have to work. Prior to that, I used to live maybe half an hour from here, and I also used the bike, but not every day of course (laughs).

Karen: Vengo todos los días, desde que comenzó el verano. [Mi familia y yo] nos quedamos con un carro nada más, entonces compré una bici para poder venir [al trabajo] todos los dias. (I go every day, since summer began. [My family] just got a car, so I bought a bike so that I could come to work every day.)

From where do you bike and how long does it take you to get to work? / ¿Desde dónde vienes y cuánto tiempo te toma ir a trabajar?

Luis: Close to Garneau area, and it takes me about 15 minutes.

Bruna: It depends. If I’m going to the north store [and] if I’m going really fast, it’s like 11 minutes. If I’m going [at a] normal [speed], it’s like 15 to 16 minutes. And to [Paraiso South], it’s about 20 to 22 minutes. I come from Downtown.

Judith: Now, maybe five minutes, depending. When I lived near Northgate, it was like an hour.

Karen: Vivo cerca – de cinco a diez minutos de camino. (I live nearby – five to ten minutes away.)

How often do you bike in general, including outside of work? / En general, ¿con qué frecuencia andas en bicicleta fuera del trabajo?

Luis: I like to bike a lot. I only really know the trails around the river, so those are the only ones I’ve done. And my bike is not that good, so like taking it further takes a lot of energy.

Photo: Kristina de Guzman

Bruna: Jesus [husband & co-owner of Paraiso Tropical] and I are always trying to bike on the weekends. He did the MS Bike Tour last year, so it’s 90 kilometres each day – it’s 180 [kilometres] total – so I’ve been trying to catch up to that. But the max I’ve done in one [day] has been 37 kilometres in one full ride. We try going everywhere on bikes to visit family.


Judith: Well, during my days off, I move around with only my bike. Now that it’s summer, of course! But if I want to go to Northgate, to Kingsway, to the southside – just yesterday, I worked in the southside, I used my bike, also, and it took maybe half an hour. But it’s better than 50 minutes in the bus.

Karen: Cuando salgo de trabajar y tengo que hacer un mandado, voy en bicicleta al Kingsway Mall, al Dollarama, lo que está cerca de mí. O salgo con mis niñas por las tardes después del trabajo o fines de semana al parque en bici. (When I leave work and I have to run an errand, I bike to Kingsway Mall, to Dollarama, which is close. Or I go out with my girls in the afternoons after work or on the weekends, we bike to the park.)


Do you often use the trails or do you ever bike on the road or the sidewalks? / ¿Andas en bici en las aceras o en los senderos de bicicletas o la carretera?

Luis: No, I go on the trails. I prefer those, because it’s safer. Sometimes, if you don’t know the whole bike signals and all that stuff, it can get tricky when you’re with cars. So I would just look for the [bike] trails.

Bruna: When we’re doing those big bike rides, sometimes we end up being on the road, and then it’s just annoying. ‘Cause there’s a lot of cars [with drivers] that don’t understand the perspective of the biker, and they think that if they get close to you, it’s fine. But it’s not really.

Photo: Rubén Contreras

Judith: Sometimes the trails. My bike is very heavy, so I don’t really use it on the roads, because I’m more slow. So I use the sidewalk to bike. It’s safer, also, but you have to go slower, because there are people around. But if you are going to use the road, [use] a helmet, of course, to be safe.

Karen: En los senderos de bicicletas. Busco lo que es el área de bicicletas. (On the bike trails. I look for what is the biking area.)

This is the negative side of biking, but have you ever been in an accident or close to being in one? / Este es el aspecto negativo del ciclismo, pero ¿alguna vez has tenido un accidente en bicicleta?

Photo: Kristina de Guzman

Luis: Here, no. Here, it’s pretty safe. Like it’s amazing that they have bike-only lanes and stuff like that. Before, when I was in my hometown [in Bogotá, Colombia], when they were starting to develop those things, they had cones and such. I had a couple of accidents there.

Bruna: Um, I’m not really spatially aware, so I drive Jesus crazy with that – he’s always like, “You have to look and you have to be patient.” So I’ve never been in an accident, but I’m sure I could have. The bike lanes really help.

Judith: Not really (laughs). I have been lucky, maybe!

Karen: No, nunca. (No, never.)

Have you ever had a bike stolen? / ¿Te han robado una bicicleta?

Judith: No, but I also try to avoid [those situations]. We have an area at the back where we can put our bikes. And at home, I have a car garage, so I put my bike there. So there’s not really a risk.

Karen: Sí, en mi país…muchas veces. Soy de Honduras. Tenía 16 o 17 años de edad…iba del negocio de mi Mamá al de mi Papá y me asaltaron dos hombres. Me quitaron mi bici y mis cosas. Pero aquí, todavía no. (Yes, often in my country. I’m from Honduras. I was 16 or 17 years old…I was going from my mom’s business to my dad’s and two men robbed me. They took my bike and my things. But here, not yet.)

Why do you choose to bike to work? / ¿Por qué eliges andar en bicicleta para venir a trabajar?

Luis: It’s cheaper (laughs). It’s the cheapest way of getting around.

Bruna: It’s fun. It’s healthy. A lot of times, it’s faster than the car. Well, for me at least, and especially when I’m leaving [during] rush hour. And with the bike lanes, you just cruise, and it’s great.

Judith: When I just came to Canada [four years ago], I was like maybe thirty minutes from school. For me, it was better to use my bike than to use the bus, because I had to save money (chuckles). Also, here in Canada, I think that sometimes, certain [routes] take more time to use the bus than to use the bike. [I also bike] because I don’t have a car.

Photo: Kristina de Guzman

Karen: Porque es más económico y, al mismo tiempo, hago ejercicio y me ayuda a mantenerme sana. Porque tenía tiempo de que no lo hacía [ejercicio]. Entonces decidí como estar más saludable y poder mantenerme activa y poder hacer actividades con la familia. (Because it’s cheaper and, at the same time, I exercise and it helps me to stay healthy. Because there was a time when I didn’t [exercise]. So I decided how I can be healthier and stay active and do activities with the family.)

Compared to your country, how is it for you biking here?

Judith: The area that I used to live in Chihuahua [Mexico], there are like many sharp things – in Spanish, it’s called espinas (thorns). But it’s like everywhere, so for sure you will get a flat tire. That’s why we don’t bike there a lot (laughs). If I go to Durango [Mexico] (where I was born), there is not a lot of that kind of problem, so it’s easy to bike, and you won’t get a flat tire. I preferred to rollerblade in Chihuahua and ride the bike in Durango.

Photo: Rubén Contreras

Any advice for people who are thinking of biking to work or using their bikes more often but are hesitant?

Luis: On Google [Maps], it’s updated where they have bike-only trails, which I imagine is the fear for a lot of people – like, “I don’t want to get in [there] with the cars.” So just go find your route. I would say it’s pretty friendly.

Bruna: Just do it. Use any bike. Like I started with the Canadian Tire bike that actually, Luis bought [from] me. Get a helmet and do it.

Judith: If people are looking to go to work or to school or any place that they are frequently going to, they should look for a good path to save time. Maybe look for the right time [to bike] and a good path to go on.

Here's Judith sharing more of why she chooses to bike to work!


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