Keep moving forward and find balance

April 15, 2016

Academic. Bike enthusiast. Sustainability advocate.

Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for Canadian kids, and Dave Buchanan is no exception. His need for (a five) speed is deeply rooted in his childhood—growing up near the hometown of legendary Olympic road cyclist Steve Bauer, who inspired him. But as those childhood dreams of being the fastest faded, Dave discovered that cycling gives him something more important: freedom.

“You’re in complete control of where you go and how fast you go,” he says. “It’s that sense of independence, and that’s always been a big part of the appeal of riding bikes—going back to the earliest days of bicycles in the 1860s.

Eight years ago, Dave thought of ways to combine his personal interest in cycling with his academic interests in literature. “That’s when I started looking at the literature around cycling, in particular cycle-travel writing. It was one of those eureka moments where I realized I could combine two of the things I’m passionate about.”

One of Dave’s areas of interest in English literature is the earliest cycle-travel narratives from the 1880s. “Before cars, bicycles seemed incredibly liberating and full of potential for all kinds of people,” says Dave. “There was such a fascination with the bicycle as a revolutionary form of transportation.”

Cycling for Dave continues to be a great way to get around. “It's always an adventure riding your bike.” It’s also part of a well-balanced, sustainable lifestyle (one that for Dave includes gardening, buying local and volunteering in his community), which gives him a unique perspective to share with his students.

“ All of these enormous problems are a result of us living un-sustainably. We have to do better and we can.” 

In 2015, Dave collaborated on the development of Sustainability 201, MacEwan University's first interdisciplinary course that would be available to students of all faculties. He eagerly volunteered to be one of the course’s first teachers and prepare students to face some big challenges.

“I realized a few years ago that the most significant impact universities can have on the larger world is through educating our students about the basic principles of sustainability, and sending them out into the world prepared to change it, to make it better for themselves and future generations,” he says.

“Like a lot of people, I worry about the future of our planet, about climate change, about a loss of diversity in nature, about growing inequality in the world. All of these enormous problems are a result of us living un-sustainably. We have to do better and we can—once we let go of dreams of endless growth and shiny material goods and focus instead on building a more balanced, long-term prosperity that’s really about well-being and caring for the planet and each other.”

Dave has learned that the key to living sustainably is no different than the secret to riding a bike: it’s all about balance.

Dave Buchanan is an assistant professor in the Department of English. Find out more at



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