Saturday, February 23, 2013

Wrong and Right

My expectations of the meeting held by the city to explain the new bike routes was wrong.  I imagined that it would be a presentation to explain to angry motorists why bike lanes were necessary and also to sell cyclists on the idea of sharing the road with cars.
Picture is worth a thousand blog words

I was right about the angry motorists.  They were present in large numbers and easily three quarters of the audience were car enthusiasts.  While looking at a map of the route I take to and from work, an older guy across from me began to harangue the city engineer standing next to me and I decided not to become involved in an arguement that neither of us would win.  (I was getting the strong impression that the bike routes were already a done deal.)
Mr. Arguementative is in the upper right side
The presenter kept his cool when an old fart kept standing in front of the projector unaware that the projected images had turned his top into a rather colourful Hawaiian shirt.  The city employee was quite calm when his speech was interrupted by an angry question from a motorist and which created some snickers from the cyclists who could be easily picked out wearing their cycling gear.

Mr. Calm
My wife was surprised that there was no question and answer period but these civic employees knew well enough that things would quickly spiral out of control given the passionate positions held by the assembled crowd.  A week earlier a similar open house on the southside had created newspaper headlines and sensational news stories.

The improvised parking lot
Leaving the meeting and unlocking my bike, I was satisfied that this city department believes in cycling and as I rode my way home, I hoped that they could find a way to convince the snowplow operators not to deposit their scrapings onto the bike lane - making necessary cycling on the bare sidewalks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mean Streets

"...the water is polluted and the mayor's a dork..."so goes a line in a song by the Three Dead Trolls In A Baggie and I'm beginning to think that the reference to the mayor being a dork might apply to this fair city.  Especially with the controversy surrounding the city's plans to expand bike lanes by fifty odd kilometers this year.

I've voted for this guy in the past and I've even gone so far as to visit his campaign headquarters to collect numerous election posters and distribute them in my neighbourhood (and plant a bunch on my front lawn).  Mr. Mayor (call me Stephen) used to be a funny guy - his election posters would have slogans like: "Wears Glasses - Sees Big Picture" or the one pictured below:

Now the Mayor seems to have lost his sense of humour and is accusing his own city administration as being "ANTI - CAR" when this year's bike route plans were announced recently.  How can anything in this western city be anti car?  In our city, car is king! In spite of the fact that the newspaper used a photo of the Mayor on a bike in front of Silly Hall:
The Mayor (call me Stephen) is probably buckling under pressure from local businesses and from residents who stand to have their parking spaces moved.  Notice I said moved.  Not removed.  Not eliminated.  The city has done extensive, detailed studies of the areas involved and has come up with a plan that should satisfy everyone involved: cyclists, residents, motorists and business owners.
It can be a nightmare for cyclists out there on the city streets - especially on the new bike routes.  My daughter took me to a bike lane that comes to an abrupt end and leaves the cyclist facing oncoming traffic!  I can't help but think that bike routes are an effort not so much to help cyclists but simply to slow auto traffic down.  I bet you could never get anyone from the city to admit to that. 

I'm considering posters to plant around town....

                               "AVID CYCLIST -                       
                     NOT IMPRESSED! "                        

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Things were pretty quiet during my volunteer shift at BikeWorks the other day.  There wasn't anyone lined up waiting for the gate to open at one o'clock although there was a creepy individual who approached me before I could unlock the padlock securing our yard.  He was shifty enough that when another volunteer showed up, we opened the cash drawer to check that there wasn't too much money in the till just in case he wanted to rob us.  Where did that paranoia come from?

It was so slow that my attention was drawn to the strong shadows created by the bright glow of daylight pouring in through the shop windows.  The first one to catch my eye was from a dusty model of a Canondale that sits atop the east workbenches.

Claire, the other volunteer mentioned that she was planning a bike packing trip from Hinton, Alberta to Vancouver, B.C. which we estimated would take almost two weeks (remembering that what a car can do in an hour a bike takes a day to do).  Naturally what followed was a discussion on what to pack and how much to pack.  I half jokingly suggested that she attend my bike packing workshop that I hope to give in June during Bike Month.

While Claire digested the idea of me finding a three hundred dollar Hubba Hubba tent for twenty five bucks at a garage sale, I observed over her shoulder that the low winter sun had moved to the west enough that it was now casting the word BIKE onto the wall above the benches.
Maybe half an hour later, when we guiltily got back to work, the angle of the sun had changed yet again and the word WORKS was cast onto a different section of green wall.  To me this meant that the creepy guy was prbably still out in the alley (shadowing us) and luckily we hadn't made any sales that would increase the amount of cash in the drawer in case he really intended to rob the joint.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Sign of the Times

Getting mail still gives me a bit of joy these days - especially if it is mail that involves cycling.  It could be a tax receipt from the charity I ride for every summer or maybe it is the latest issue of the Adventure Cycling magazine.  Today it was a notice that the city is installing more bike routes in my area.  Reading the notice, I thought if nothing else it would give the snowplows somewhere new to dispose of snow in the winter.
New place to put snow

My son tells me that in his city, bike lanes were installed expressly for the purpose of making the road narrower and thereby slowing down traffic.  I intend to ask at a future meeting someone from the city's traffic department if that is the city's intention here. The new route they are planning is the very one that I take to and from work each day so I know the route very well and will be able to give input about any decisions to be made.

To quote the fancy brochure: "Public input will help identify any unknown issues or unique local uses...". Like the drainage problem on 95th Avenue.  Doesn't matter what time of year - summer rains, winter melts or spring thaws - the road becomes a lake and as cars shoot through the deep water gysers of wetness cascade from their wheelwells.  I stopped riding that section simply because of the danger of being overwhelmed by a Tsunami of coffee coloured meltwater.  With only 13 blocks out of 99 left to go in my commute, it would be a shame when I got home to have to strip off all my soaking bike gear before entering the house only to discover that I'd left my house key at work.  Stand on the porch naked and ring the doorbell or put the sodden clothes back on and wait for someone to come home?

Friday, February 1, 2013

We Rode the Whole Way

Today I'm wearing a tee shirt that I bought this past summer when my friend and I travelled to northern Idaho to bikepack their abandoned railbeds.  Our plan was to cycle the 320 km. "Bitteroot Loop" named after the mountain range that this mostly paved trail traverses.
The Hiawatha symbol
My friend Roy and I had cycled up an unpaved and rather steep grade from Mullan, a still active silver mining town.  Our plan was to stop at Lookout Pass where we could buy the necessary passes that would allow us to ride the "Route of the Hiawatha", an historic juant along the famous "Milwaukee Road".
The said tee
Every time I wear the tee - shirt I chuckle at the expression We Rode It All - since we rode 150 km. to get there and 150 return - so the 22 km. of trail took only a short amount of the time we spent on that trip.

Not that my friend and I are any sort of super athletes.  Well maybe my friend Roy is.  Me, I just plod along at the same turtle's pace - but I do eventually get to where we are going (giving Roy enough time to pull out his camp stool and relax in the shade while I pump away).
Got it made in the shade

Judging from the crowds we saw on the "Route of the Hiawatha" and the hundreds of bikes available for rental, most people pull their car off the I90, rent some bikes, buy some passes and when they've completed the downhill portion of the trail, they jump on a shuttlebus that takes them back to their starting point.  While Roy and I are still on the trail heading to our campsite for the night.  At least the tee shirt doesn't weigh much - I wouldn't want to slow my athletic friend down any more than I already do.