Monday, June 30, 2014

Fairy Tale Using Bike Names

Once upon a time a GHOST wanted to have an ADVENTURE.  She wanted to take the EXPRESSWAY to the NORTHSHORE of Vancouver.  Her ROUTE would take her to WHISTLER where she expected to meet her NEMESIS the GIANT DRAGON.  But a THUNDERBOLT boomed nearby and LIGHTNING scared her.  The LIGHTNING made a SIMPLE SLICE in the LUSH undergrowth and the GHOST was afraid that it could TRIGGER a landslide which would cause her to make a DETOUR.

How the GHOST wished her friends LEXI, IVY and LILY could come and help her.  But LEXI was such a BAD GIRL and LILY was a HOOLIGAN.  IVY was a heavenly CITIZEN with a QUICK temper..  The group of them could RACE DOWNHILL and call the POLICE.  The worst that could happen is the POLICE might warn them of the GRAVITY of their situation or even give them a TICKET.  A TICKET could PROPEL then into court where a judge might find them too ROWDY and throw them out of the SESSION.

It would seem that the GHOST COMPANIONS would never leave the METROPOLIS and get to WHISTLER where if they DEFYED the DRAGON they could REMEDY a situation in that mountain resort. There would be a certain amount of PRESTIGE involved if and when they could do it.

The moral of the story?  You can't always get what you want.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The City Gets it Right

The rootbeer folder
In an effort to engage the public about plans to build more biking infrastructure, the city has gone to a lot of trouble and expense.  Recently one meeting was held on the south side of the river and two meetings were planned for the north side.

The meeting I attended was only a few blocks from my work so after scarfing down a quick supper, I rode the Raleigh 20 over there.  With only fifteen minutes remaining before the start of the meeting, the bike racks were full and it was all I could do to find a sturdy fence to lock up my ride.
Another folding bike on the fence

The city had gone all out by renting a large gymnasium and filling it with enough tables and seating for two hundred guests.  Colourful balloons added a cheery note to the sterile gym. However the music playing on large speakers was odd.  "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" which starts off with the lines "Get Your Motors Running..." seemed out of place for a meeting of cyclists.
Party atmosphere
In a short speech, the organizer explained that the city had made a mistake last year when they presented already completed plans for bike lanes to the public.  Motorists in the crowd were vocal in their anger and cyclists were eager to point out flaws in the plans.  This time, the city wanted  input before making any decisions.
Plenty of maps
We sat at tables with a facilitator and talked about what we thought a bike lane should look like.  An engineer had shown examples of what cities like Winnipeg, Toronto, and Vancouver had done.  As well there were examples from the U.S. of A. and Europe.  In the middle of our table was a pie shaped diagram that looked like something from Trivial Pursuit.  In each pie section were elements that had to be considered when designing bike lanes.  The impact on property owners.  Will this affect businesses along the route?  The cost to the taxpayers.
Trivial Pursuit
As the evening wore on, I became convinced that the city was sincere in wanting to know what we as cyclists in this car centric city wanted.  We switched tables after half an hour and studied what other participants had written on their wheel shaped diagram.  We added to their remarks and when we got back to our table, we studied what other cyclists had written on our sheet,
Edmonton's poet laureate
The evening was capped off with a poem written by Edmonton's poet laureate Mary Pinkoski.  This artist had spent the evening wandering from table to table listening to the varied discussions.  Her poem which sounded more like a story was involved and lengthy.  My ears perked up when she mentioned something I had said to our table and I'm sure others felt gratified that she had listened to them. I'd like to get a copy of her poem since I felt moved by her words.

Except for a error on the maps which placed Christ Church, a 1920's era Anglican place of worship a block away from where it actually stands, the city's effort to reach out to the cycling public was an encouraging step in the right direction.  Just ask Nancy Sinatra - her boots are walking...
Christ Church in situ

Monday, June 16, 2014

Father's and bikes

It was always amusing to see my father come out of the house wearing shorts.  Seeing his lily-white legs covered in red hair was an unusual sight since my father wore pants almost all the time.

The reason for wearing the shorts would be some excuse to take my bike out for a ride - most likely Dad would want to test out a recent repair that he had made.  He had probably fixed a flat.  As a kid, you don't think anything about riding over sharp objects like broken glass and nails.

The funny thing about watching my father ride a bike was the angle at which he had to position his legs to be able to ride such a short bike.  The same sort of angle a frog's legs would take if you can imagine a frog riding a bike.

When my father arrived back at the house with a smile hidden under his red moustache, you forgot your impatience and were hapy to know that one, he hadn't crashed your bike and two, the repair he had made was good.

Once visiting my in-laws at their family home in Ottawa, my father-in-law took it upon himself to ride a bike up and down their street.  Being a photographer, it fell to me to record this surprising event.  The warm glow of lights inside the house matched the orange colour of the setting sun.  I used a slow shutter speed and let my father-in-law ride through the frame.  Later, when the film was developed, there was a ghostly streak of my wife's father across the picture.  When I look at the photo now, I realise that I never really knew the man on the bike.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Weather and Bikes

This piece may be chosen for an anthology of cycling called BESPOKE to be published soon

In my mid twenties I was sent to southern Alberta to work for a couple of days outdoors.  New to the west, it was a surprise to me that the province had a desert like area.  Dry sand, cactus and no trees.  Being outside in the full sun with no water, no hat and no sunscreen, it was no wonder that I suffered a sunstroke - mind you, I didn't know what was wrong with me at the time.

Southern Alberta

Driving back to Edmonton, my vision was blurred.  In fact I was seeing double.  Frequently I had to pull off the highway, lurch out of the vehicle and vomit on the side of the road then stagger back to the car and continue driving.  A sharp, pounding headache made concentrating on the road difficult.  Getting home, my girlfriend made me say in bed for a couple of days when she say how terrible I looked.

39 degrees in the sun

Years later, on a bikepacking trip with my friend Roy in south eastern British Columbia, we were cycling in 39 degree temperatures with no opportunity for shade.  I began to feel woozy.  Recognizing the symptoms I told my friend that I'd have to cool off or we'd have to stop for the night right here. Our water had almost run out and we still had 10 kilometers of trail to negotiate to the next town.  One saving grace was that the route to the town meant riding off the trail and down a steep, paved road where without any trouble, you could hit 50+ kilometers and hour.  The airflow created by such speed would help to cool me off.

Once in town we pulled into an air conditioned grocery store where I grabbed a tall can of beer which I began to rub all over myself during the hour we wandered the aisles of the store. Taking my helmet off, I stroked the cold can across my damp head.  Then my arms, my shouders and my torso.  When it came time to pay at the till, I discovered that my cold beer was now a warm beer.  I debated what to do.  Should I shove the beer back into the cooler and grab a cold one off the shelf?  Who's going to know that this can had been all over my body?  (Other than the odd strand of hair caught in the pull tab).
Hand held A/C

Quick thinking pointed out to me that ethically, I had used the beer so I should pay for it.  Besides, after three more hours of climbing to our campsite, any kind of beer, warm or not was going to be welcome!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bike to the Symphony 2014

After months of waiting, tonight is the night when we bike to the symphony.  I'd like to tell you that everything is arranged if I thought you'd believe it. Tell you that my wife has been practising on her own bike.  That our daughter is joining us for this fun ride.

Instead, the reality is that my wife will meet me at the concert hall and my daughter forgot the date and has made other plans.  Even what I'll wear tonight still has to be decided.  A suit?  T-shirt and jeans?  T-shirt for sure since I bought a black tee with a silkscreened impression of a bow tie and a pleated shirt.

I'm still debating as to which bike to ride.  My preference is the Raleigh 20 since it is so spiffy with its chrome fenders.  But I'm worried that the front fender will get crushed when I lock it to the portable bike rack that I know will be in place at the music venue.

The fender crusher
One thing I know for sure is that we will have a good time.  It is Bike Month here after all and what better way to spend a Friday evening than to have a fun bike ride and then sit right on stage with our city's orchestra?

Tickets are still available at:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Bittersweet Weekend

On a recent weekend the new southside community bike shop opened to great fanfare and a huge pent up demand for its services.  BikeWorks South as it is known to us who volunteer there had been closed for many months.
At BikeWorks North (the other community bike shop), every shift has been at capacity with folks wanting to fix bikes, buy bikes and rent bikes.  So it was with happiness and some relief that BWS opened its doors to the public.
BikeWorks North
This same weekend, the Edmonton cycling community learned of the tragic death of one of its young members.  A woman who last year went on a weekend bike ride to a nearby lake and instead of cycling back home, continued on and on.  We were all amazed by her determination as we watched her progress on Face Book.

Just by accident a couple of weeks later, I was working in Lake Louise and while pulling out of a parking lot early one morning, who do I see stopped at a stop sign, straddling her bike?  This very same cyclist with her small amount of gear strapped neatly to her rear pannier rack and looking fresh and strong.
In her memory
The varied experiences that life deals us every day are what make our lives so rich.  Just like light and dark, hot and cold, love and hate, there are two sides to life itself and this one weekend served those of us in the cycling community a dose of happiness and sadness.