Stuart Westie is a man about town.
On any given day, you might see him rolling by in Williams Lake, often in a bright red coat, he is the man on a bike, with a beard.
The active 74-year-old has committed to spending 100 minutes a day being active outdoors, which he said he finds easy enough, because he uses his bicycle to get around most days.
In 2021, Westie rode his bike 323 days and drove his car 23 days.
“I’m too old to get out of shape,” explained Westie, who has not always been a dedicated cyclist.
It all started after he retired from teaching in 2007.
“When I retired I wasn’t going to go to Mexico or anything … I was going to get out in the fresh air.”
His physical routine at that time was to drive to the pool from his house on South Lakeside, swim about two kilometres and then drive home and get on his bike to get some more exercise.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be neat if for one day I didn’t drive my car,” recalled Westie.
So the next day, he rode his bike to the pool instead. He found he enjoyed it so much, he just kept doing it.
While many might balk at the idea of biking year round in Williams Lake, Westie said with the right clothing, he is fine to ride until the temperature gets below -15 C, though he made the concession of heated gloves.
“You can be in the house in November and it’s one degree and raining and you think ‘Oh my God’ but then you get out in it and it’s not so bad.”
In order to get in his exercise in the colder temperatures or when it is snowy or icy, he walks to the store in town instead, which he said takes about 55 minutes. Then he buses back home, or vice versa. He then uses his indoor bike to keep his knees in shape, despite how “boring” indoor biking is, he said.
While many would not feel safe cycling in the area, with the lack of cycling infrastructure and drivers who might not be used to sharing the road with bikes and pedestrians, Westie said “ninety-nine per cent of the drivers are extremely respectful.”
Though he does admit the one section he does not feel is very safe is between Mackenzie Avenue and South Lakeside Drive on Highway 20, where traffic backs up at the lights and drivers can get impatient in the heavy traffic, passing too close.
“I try not to inconvenience the traffic.”
He draws some of his fortitude for the harsher conditions from thinking about his father, who spent three years fighting in the Second World War. His father was on basic food rations, only allowed one cold water bath a week and knew he could die any day.
“So I always think, how bad is it? And that always motivates me.”
Westie is from Kelowna but settled in Williams Lake as a teacher after having taught in a number of places, including Fort Nelson and Alert Bay.
In Fort Nelson, he loved the community and got into broom ball and coaching sports, but decided after a few years he was not so keen on nine months of winter. At the time, it was nearly 400 km of gravel road to Fort Nelson from Fort St. John and there was no television.
When he came to Williams Lake in 1979, his passion for sports found its match in the town’s enthusiasm.
“I’d never seen a town that had such good participation and had such poor facilities (at the time),” he recalled of his early days in the lakecity. He’s been here ever since.