By Sue Nickason
Cycling has become the transportation mode of choice and a means to stay in shape for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prompted by an effort to avoid germ-infested public transit systems, an increasing number of urbanites have traded in subway passes and rail cards to commute to work or do errands on two wheels. And for those working from home and with many fitness centres still closed, a daily bike ride provides a great way to stay in shape and take a welcome break from a computer screen.
Whilst the surge in cycling started immediately following lockdowns across the globe, the World Health Organization proclaimed the benefits of using bicycles on 16 April 2020, recommending that “[w]herever possible, consider riding bicycles or walking” to comply with social distancing guidelines and to meet the minimum requirement for daily physical activity.
Governments and people worldwide have heeded that advice. In the United Kingdom and Germany, bike shops were one of the few non-food supply businesses permitted to stay open during shelter in place. New Yorkers took their bicycles to the streets, creating a brisk business for bike shops. Even cities such as Winnipeg and Calgary in Canada – not normally known for optimum cycling weather in early spring – closed lanes and roads to vehicles to provide more space for cyclists. Paris has responded to the demand for more cycling space as well, rolling out 650 km of pop-up cycle paths.
As keen cyclist and BBC radio host Jeremy Vine recently said in a Cycling Weekly article, cycling will “make you fitter, less of a burden on the NHS, make you happier (which it has done for me), and make you safer and everyone else around you safer. What’s not to like?”
In the Cayman Islands we may not have mass transit to be concerned about, but we are a community that likes to stay fit. Darrel Evans works as an assistant property manager at Dart Real Estate and has been cycling for eight years. An avid competitor on the local scene, Darrel is Cayman’s fastest national triathlete, and clocks about 500 miles on the road every month. He shared the benefits he has seen from his pedalling time.
“Cycling has been a great tool for me over the years in understanding human potential and how resilient we are when faced with challenges. When riding you are fully present, and life is moving at a different pace that allows you to observe and appreciate your environment instead of the usual zipping by in your vehicle,” he said. “I’ve found cycling to have a meditative factor, also; many times I’ve taken life’s challenges on a bike ride and after, I just feel better about the challenge, looking at it from a different perspective.”
Darrel Evans competing in a 2019 road cycling race in the Cayman Islands. Photo: Wil Bignal
Darrel also mentioned to me the universality of the sport. “Wherever you are in the world and have a bike you can leave your doorstep and explore,” he said. In the spirit of this comment and as I have watched the increasing number of people cycling each day, I decided it was time to pull out my cruiser from the garage and go for a ride. Now, a month after dusting off my bike and hitting the road, I am cycling an hour most days and very much enjoying exploring the island from a new perspective. From picturesque neighbourhoods to deserted trails in the bush, every journey makes for an interesting ride.
Here are some of the highlights from those excursions.
A way to unwind
I recently discovered the backroad network on Grand Cayman and it’s fast become one of my favourite places. With no cars to share the road I can wear my AirPods and really relax on a long bike ride to clear by mind after a busy day of Zoom calls and webinars. This path runs parallel to the Dart Nursery, one of the first tracts of land acquired by Dart over 20 years ago, and the source of the plants and trees that are used in the hallmark landscaping at Dart Real Estate-developed properties.
Quaint street signs
One of my favourite places on Grand Cayman is West Bay. It feels like the authentic Caribbean I first fell in love with as a visitor. I never tire of reading the interesting street signs when cycling the back roads of West Bay. I grew up in Canada in what was referred to as the Loyalist City, where royal titles and names displayed on street signs reminded us daily of Canada’s status as a Commonwealth country. As a child I made my way to school and the fish monger at the market on streets named Princess, Queen and Duke, and Charlotte, Sydney and Wentworth. It made me a lifelong student of history, such was my early curiosity about the individuals who inspired the names of the streets.
As I ride my bike along the curving roads of West Bay I again wonder about the genesis of the names displayed on signs along my route – from my favourite dessert (sticky toffee pudding) to Captain Dudley (who was he?) and Up the Hill (I don’t need to change gears on that incline, the slope is that modest).
Cayman Islands Yacht Club
No doubt the lockdown has been particularly hard on boaters and I can hardly wait to trade bike handles for a tiller in my hands this summer. Until our shelter-in-place regulations are fully lifted it has still been a great ride around the lovely yacht club neighbourhood where Dart Real Estate’s first residential development Salt Creek is located and to take advantage of the lightened traffic to enjoy the views of boats docked at another Dart property, Cayman Islands Yacht Club. It’s definitely worth a stop here to enjoy tapas and a Friday happy hour cocktail at Bacaro or freshly caught fish at Morgan’s.
Poinciana trees and Bougainvillea
One of the questions I am often asked by Canadian friends is “Don’t you miss the colours changing in the fall?” My answer is a resounding no! How could I when we have the vibrant orange-reds of the poinciana trees, which reach their peak heights of colour in July, and the fuchsia bougainvillea which adorns most properties here on Grand Cayman.
Cycling lanes are a welcomed addition to the Esterley Tibbetts Highway on Grand Cayman and more paths are being developed across the island. We have a short but satisfying bike path that traverses from Public Beach in front of The Residences at Seafire and Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, offering lovely views of Seven Mile Beach. Pause here to enjoy a wander down the beach path, which features turtle-friendly lighting, with light angled downwards to prevent it shining on the beach so as not to confuse nesting turtles who look to the moonlight to guide them towards the sea.
Another available bike path is at Camana Bay, the 685-acre New Urbanism community developed by Dart Real Estate and home to some of the leading law firms and financial institutions in the Cayman Islands. The bike path is a shared-use path that travels along the edge of Foster’s supermarket and along the north edge of the cinema parking lot. Just follow the signs along Emeritus Drive and Solaris Avenue to find this path.
Camana Bay has been a spot I have frequently visited during lockdown for grocery shopping at Foster’s but also to enjoy freshly made gelato at Gelato & Co. In addition to take-out service, they have been offering delivery. Buying gelato has been a great way to help support this wonderful local business during the pandemic – and eating it has given me another reason to keep pedalling!
About the author
Sue Nickason has been VP Marketing and Sales at Dart Real Estate since May 2017. Originally from Canada, Sue has worked in luxury residential-resort development in the Caribbean for over a decade. Sue and her team are committed to promoting the unique value proposition of the Cayman Islands to those seeking to establish a personal and/or corporate presence here. They serve as trusted advisors and offer exceptional service, timely market information and a warm “Caymankind” welcome. Sue earned a BA (Honours) from Mount Allison University, an MBA (Distinction) from University of Guelph and has completed studies/earned certificates in journalism, economic development, adult education, customer service, revenue management, and protocol. In 2020, Sue received her Certification in Investment Migration from the Investment Migration Council. Sue is a member of the Christie’s International Real Estate Master’s Circle and an Angel in the 100 Women in Finance network.