Sunday, December 26, 2010

birthday bicycle

My birthday was a few days ago and my sister Shelley found this fantastic card for me. She certainly knows what I like! Flowering trees, a cast iron fence, and a pretty vine-wound bicycle in a field of flowers. What's not to love?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

personal transportation strategy

So ... did I mention that this blog isn't just about cycling anymore?



This blog isn't just about cycling anymore.

The facts are these: I'm new to cycling. (In an inspired, addicted, this-has-changed-my-life-and-I-think-I'm-in-love kind of way.) Almost two years now. So it feels a bit funny -- not to mention limiting -- to be writing about something that I feel so non-expert about. ("Poser." "She's faking it!" "Take away her keyboard!") I know that plenty of blogs, especially many of my favourite cycling blogs written by women, are by recent "converts" such as myself. I also know that this blog is not at all about being an expert and all about telling my stories and ideas and wonderings.

However, what I am an expert on, you could say (in an experiental way... experience > expert?) is in living without owning a car.

I have never owned a car.

I do have a drivers license, shared vehicles with other people, been a road-trip driver, a designated driver, a mini-van driver, and now am a member of the Cooperative Auto Network.

In my high school and university years, living without a car was easy. It's what students do.

When that was over, I entered a new phase of my life and had to learn what it meant to be an adult without a car. Would it seem childish? What if I needed to X, Y, or Z? Would I end up using taxis a lot? Would I ever get tired of the bus and walking? What would people think of me? If I could afford it, why shouldn't I get a car, just for convenience? How about a motorcycle or a scooter? (I've always adored motorcycles, but -- alas -- have never learned to ride. The reason why is a story for another day.)

So here I am: in my late twenties, a young professional, making deliberate choices about where I live and work and spend my time and money and most of all how I move myself between all those things in a way that aligns with my values and my desired lifestyle. I call it my "personal transportation strategy" and car ownership isn't a part of it.

That's why this blog isn't going to be just about cycling anymore.

I hope you'll enjoy this new angle, too.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

matchy matching

On Thursday morning, riding to work along Hornby, I ended up stopped at Georgia, fourth in a line of five cyclists. For December, a fiver is not bad at all! One was a courier, one was riding a fairly upright bicycle with a sprung Brooks saddle, and the other two were typical "winter cyclists" in the usual gear.

The city worker who has been manning the intersection since the bike way opened (a woman, probably near-ish my age) was talking to one of the cyclists stopped in front of me. We usually acknowledge each other as I ride past each day. Her role seems to be to help everybody get used to the new lights (pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists included) and she seems fairly friendly. As the light changed, she looked back and said, "There she is!" as I accelerated past and smiled. I getting a reputation as "that crazy chick riding a bike in heels and skirts"?

Then, as I was locking my bicycle to the racks outside my building, another gentleman (who wasn't wearing any cycling-specific clothing/gear) unlocked a bike and said, "Nice colour-coordination!" in a friendly way. (Purple helmet, red jacket, purple bag-- it may not sound that way, but the tones match up fairly well.)

That evening, I stopped in at a cafe. The barista said: "You're very matchy! I like it."

A hat wouldn't get these kind of reactions. For some reason, the coordinated helmet seems to catch people's attention. As much as I wish I didn't have to wear it or carry it around, it's certainly a great conversation starter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

when in fancy dress

This past Saturday evening was my company's annual holiday party, hosted downtown at the Pan Pacific Hotel above the Convention Centre. Coincidentally, that evening was also a special birthday celebration for two of my best friends, located on the south side of False Creek.

The Hornby bike lane, opened days before, was a perfect link between the two ends of my dual-party evening.


Alas, my plans to cycle in the shortest cocktail dress and highest heels I own was thwarted by a cold December downpour. The former runner-up, public transit, took the win instead.

Home to the hotel was a piece of cake, a 1-bus route only dampened by my impatience to get to the party through the stop-go-stop-go traffic of the city centre. After a delightful dinner and dessert with my coworkers (and not-so-delightful round of silly games that I probably should have skipped) I walked a few blocks to the skytrain and rode the Canada Line south a few stops, where I walked another few blocks to the restaurant. Although the heavy rain persisted, the distances were short enough that the walking wasn't a problem.


(Neither were the shoes. My philosophy: life is too short to wear uncomfortable shoes, most especially when they involve propping yourself unnaturally up on a post narrower than your natural heel. At one time I used to hate heels; now I love them but insist on only wearing quality brands that consider comfort as well as style. These can go all night.)

When the second party wrapped up around 12:30, I hit the skytrain again to head home. My apartment is one more bus away from the skytrain (20 minute walk, 10 minute bus), so this two-part leg was the longest of the evening. Here's where things got wrinkly. I'd forgotten my cell phone at home, so had no idea when the bus would arrive. My strategy for warmth is usually to keep moving -- something that walking and cycling suitably support -- so waiting for buses has always been the worst part. If it wasn't raining so hard, I would have walked. (Yes, even in those heels. I told you they awesome.)

Crowds clustered under the awnings of this well-populated, central stop. Partygoers in their finery, some unfamiliar with the bus system, bonded over the challenge of getting cabs on a mid-December Saturday evening such as this.

As I waited, feeling somewhat cross about the rain and my quickly declining temperature, I mused about the role of public transit in moving "entertainment traffic" -- i.e. weekend evenings, especially during the holiday season -- in contrast to commuter traffic. Always looking for a fun brainstorm topic to stretch my mind on thinking up radical ways to innovate seemingly boring and taken-for-granted services (some people do crosswords) I let my fancy fly.

What are the goals? Help citizens enjoy their personal time and keep them safe. Avoid drinking and driving, minimize car traffic (for congestion, pollution, accident prevention considering the higher proportion of pedestrians who are "enjoying" their evening), encourage the entertainment sector to thrive. Make a night out easy and fun.

What kind of movement is involved? Pedestrians, taxis, personal vehicles, limos, buses, bicycles, kabuki cabs (!), skateboards, skytrain.

What's not so fun? Figuring out which bus to catch when you aren't familiar with the system (or when they unexpectedly change route after 9pm), waiting in the cold and/or rain, the long time between buses in the evening, personal safety when waiting in urban areas after dark, the temptation of taking a cab (if you can get one) despite the significantly higher cost (and other side-effects that may concern some people but not others).

What could be fun? Late-night coffee shops near high-volume stops that display screens showing the next arrival times of each bus. At the most minimal they could even be temporary: a truck and a portable heater like the kind on restaurant pations. A "Plan Your Night Out" utility to make it fun and easy to take transit when you aren't so confident with the routes and/or your skills: you punch in where you're going and the general time frame (no need to be exact) and you get a handy pocket plan to print. Packages of tickets and info for companies that want to encourage transit, too (especially for those without the resources to provide taxi vouchers, but potentially also in addition to them). Smaller but more frequent buses to minimize wait times in less than optimal circumstances.

It's a game, but one I play less so when riding a bicycle and paying attention to the road. Public transit has that one in its favour: more time for daydreaming!

The bus dropped me mere steps from my door and the night was over. There's something so satisying about arriving home in the wee hours after merrymaking and celebrating with jolly good friends and no cars needed. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

shopping by bicycle

Holt Renfrew

Holt Renfrew never disappoints with complicated and often stunning window displays. This holiday season, winter transportation cycling appears in one of their windows on the Granville side. Chain gaurd! Furry boots! This manequin has done her Christmas shopping by bicycle and so can you.

(Although a slightly more organized load might be prudent...)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

introducing: the hornby bicycle lanes

Thank you, Hornby bike lane, for being six shades of awesome.

Hornby & Georgia

Oh, and for being MY route to and from work.

Hornby & Georgia

Some intersections have 2-phase lights:
1. right-turning vehicles get green, bicycles/pedestrian have red
2. right-turning vehicles have red, bicycles/pedestrian have green

Personally, I find this quite civilized and safe, but am curious about how it will fare with unobservant and impatient people (both in bicycles and motor vehicles) who aren't paying attention to which light they should be looking at. (Pedestrians are already used to "delayed walk" arrangements and most here tend to look suitably ashamed when they accidentally get in the way of a vehicle that has the right-of-way.) Despite spending 15 minutes of my lunch break the other day standing at the corner of Hornby and Georgia, watching the yellow-jump-suited city worker with a STOP/SLOW sign nudge everybody into the grooves of this new system, I have no predictions. For sure I'll be following it's evolution closely.

The banks of racks confused me at first (although the same on the Dunsmuir bike way changed my mind, if you recall), given that they aren't always in front of anything important in particular. (I think this bank is near Georgia, but there are others in less trafficed parts of the route.) However, it's occured to me that they're meant more to act like parking lots and help people avoid having to ride down streets (like Georgia) that are busy and have no bike lanes, just to get closer to the actual "main attractions", like Granville Street or Pacific Centre. Park on the bike route, where you won't have to deal with cars or intersections or searching for a parking spot, then walk the 2 blocks to the mall.

Because there's no reason to avoid walking, even when you're cycling, oui?

Hornby btw. Robson & Georgia

Here the path swoops east a few metres, then back again, acting almost like a traffic-calming device. This makes a lot of sense to me, given that it's a raised, crosswalk-cut section in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Vancouver Art Gallery, Hornby entrance

The Vancouver Art Gallery! A city landmark. Can you image rolling up on your bicycle to the front door, dressed in all your finery? You lock it mere steps from the entrance (new racks, FYI) and saunter in to some fancy 'do' or to get your dose of culture.

The Dunsmuir route didn't affect me on a regular basis, as it goes east from my work and I go west, but Hornby is smack dab in the middle of everywhere I go. I'm elated to be rid of riding Pender St. and and am loving my daily commute using this new infrastructure.

Even, let it be said, in the pouring rain.

Monday, December 6, 2010

just in time

My silence this past week or so has been due to the fact that all I've felt like writing that is even remotely related to cycling would involve a torrent of vitriol against Pender Street and its designation as a cycling "route". Because it sucks and I am tired of riding it everyday, back and forth, in the rain and dark and those cars who cannot stay on their side of the lane or use a turn signal or 4-ways when they come to a complete stop directly in front of me in a no-stopping zone.

See? It wouldn't be positive, and I try to keep this blog mostly positive.

Pender is also boring. And has pot holes 2-feet wide. And--

It doesn't have this.

Or this.

So I've walked to work a few times recently (it's about twice as long as riding) to enjoy the wide variety of routes that I'd almost forgotten that I used to know like the back of my hand. One advantage of living diagonally across a city grid from where you work is the nearly infinite routes that can be taken from one side to the other, zig-zagging in a different combination every day for a year. Not all of these are optimal for cycling: there's a hill in the middle and on wheels it usually seems more efficient to go around, not up and over, even though on foot I don't seem to care.

Today, however, I logged on to Facebook to see this.

With thanks to Lewis Carroll: O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

It's finally here!

Friday, November 26, 2010

soggy once again

Rain overnight transformed the city for the second time in 48 hours, cleaning away the white and returning us to our regularly scheduled grey. The temperature was all of 5 degrees when I rode to work but felt positively balmy in comparison to the first half of this week. Another realization really hit home: experiences are all relative. If you've never ridden below 10 degrees, then 5 will seem a bit crazy, but after motoring happily through -5, it seems pleasant and mild.

There was still slush on the ground, especially through the short 1-block shared pedestrian/bike connector that I ride through each day. At some points I couldn't go around, so it was interesting to ride slowly through the clumps of muddy, mushy ice and feel the increase/decrease in traction under my rear wheel. It never felt out of control (keep your wheel straight, stay off the brakes), but being able to sense the momentary drop in friction was novel. It felt a bit like testing my limits; I know now that I can slip a bit more while still feeling quite secure and upright.

The ride home, however, was a completely different story.

It was pouring.

And it was so much less awful than I imagined it to be.

Setting: Dark. Heavy rain. Urban. Taking a shared-lane route (albeit one where the lane is 50% wider than usual and meant for sharing). Traffic jammed and cars drifting into my side of the lane to either try to get around or see what's going on. Wearing a wool jacket that doesn't cover my legs the way my rain coat does.

Recipe for misery, right? As I made it through the worst, I checked in with my mental state. Was I anxious? No. Slightly annoyed at silly drivers for bending the rules and mother nature for being inconvient, but it felt very "sheesh, whatever". Was I worried about getting run over/into? No. I'd felt very much in control of the situation, comfortable with my route and aware of the behavior of cars at points where I knew myself to be vulnerable. Was I cold? No. Hands, feet, middle-- comfortable. Was I wet?

Yeah, on my knees.

Knees are not the most temperature-sensitive part of one's anatomy. I almost laughed out loud. In conditions that used to vary between "striking fear into my heart" and just plain dread, my biggest concern was that my knees were wet.

Upon arriving home, I changed into sweat pants and ate a hot cheese & broccoli pot pie, coziness epitomized and soggy no more.

Experience. Relative. Totally.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

snow day, feet day

I had gotten up, showered, dressed, and was nearly ready to leave for work this morning before I bothered to go into the living room and look out the window.


Snow is a positive for me, not a negative, but I wasn't willing to test out "first snow ride" on a Thursday morning when I needed to get to work mostly dry and in one piece. Such experiments are better left for weekends; weekdays are satisfied with "tried and true". So I stuffed my pantlegs into gumboots (that's what we wear in the snow here: wellies) and walked.

Pleasant surprise: I'd forgotten the enjoyment of walking. About half of my walking route is through the residential sidestreets of the west end, under the towering old trees (not pictured above, BTW) and through an endearing jumble of old, semi-old, and occasionally new apartment buildings, with the odd old house thrown into the mix. There's always something to look at, you can take a different route every day for months without ever taking exactly the same route twice, and at an *even* slower speed than that at which I cycle (which I assure you is ever-so-meandering one), you pay attention to the tiny details, like gardens and architectural features and funny posters stapled to telephone poles.

By afternoon it had turned to rain and my walk home from the latest Pecha Kucha Night (can I say again: inspiring?!) was mostly through ice-mud (winter's equivalent to fall's tree-mud), otherwise known as slush or "bleh". But I re-trod routes that I used to walk so much last year that I knew them by heart. It was like rediscovering old friends. I realized that I've been so caught up in cycling -- its fun and efficiency both -- that I've forgotten the pleasure of pedestrianism.

Note to self: feet are good for more than pedalling. Let's mix it up more often.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

cold snap, day 2

My primary anxieties before trying out freezing-temp cycling were these: ice and cold.

It turns out that success in both areas is affected by one tactic: ride slower than normal. This was the second day in a row I've been almost late for work. Oops. I now plan to factor a bit of extra time for days like this. However -- and this is a selling point for me -- it still took less time than either walking or taking the bus.

Ice! No, this is not ice on the road. This is ice in a semi-frozen fountain outside my office building. Lovely, isn't it?

Unlike the wacky ice formations formed by semi-flowing water, on the road there was almost nothing. Occasional patches smaller than my palm and a thin trickle here or there, but nothing that couldn't be avoided by awareness and a respectable speed.

This is along Dunsmuir at noon (not my route, unfortunately) where the curiously straight stripes of white perhaps indicate...salting? Or some other ice-addressing chemical? I'd expect that bike tires wouldn't have the width to distribute the substance like car tires would but maybe it's not necessary. It's nice to see that the bike lanes have been thought of, too.

Cold (and that icicle-framed water does look cold, no?) has not been an issue if I wear winter attire and don't go fast enough to generate a breeze. The neckwarmer, toque, and mittens added today did the trick and it was quite comfortable. A walk at lunch included everything except the neckwarmer, which means that -- broken record! -- I basically didn't wear anything different than I would have worn if I had walked or taken the bus. (Are you annoyed yet?)

This was part of my outer attire today.
Wool jacket ... check.
Neckwarmer ... check.
Scarf ... check.
Snowman pin ... check.

Winter pride, y'all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

first freeze

Today I rode in sub-zero conditions for the first time.

To the rest of Canada: stop laughing!

That photo was taken on Saturday in Victoria, where I spent the weekend not riding but carpooling with family. The bicycles were not rare there, with citizen cyclists still casually rolling about the city. Their existence encouraged me, for sure.

I wasn't alone today, as the racks at my building showed a respectable number of bikes (given that this is considered a somewhat intense temperature for residents of this climate) when I passed at lunch.

I opted for slightly more stable wedge loafers instead of my usual heels. With two pairs of socks, foot warmth wasn't an issue.

So what did I (re-)learn? Actually, little that I wouldn't have to change anyway if I was walking to work tomorrow or waiting for the bus.

1. I'll wear a neckwarmer that I can pull up higher around my chin.

2. Thinsulate gloves are not enough (despite the power of purple for making you feel warm and fuzzy inside, of course). It's time for... woolen mittens!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

after the storm

The first droplets of rain hit my head as I maneuvered my bicycle through the glass front door of my apartment building yesterday evening. Minutes later, it began to howl, and the storm raged until midnight. Cozy and warm at home.

Today dawned clear and cold with a bit of remaining bluster. It was a wool coat day!

This photo was not taken in a park or a garden or on the road. It's the pedestrian pathways of Granville street. On a bench at lunch. Where did the sidewalk disappear to!?

The be-stocking'd legs are because I don't currently own a pair of work-appropriate boots. I've got a pair of legwarmers on the needles, but they're nowhere near completion. However, the activity of pedaling appears to make this somewhat irrelevant at the current temperature levels. I've started to be able to feel (or at least notice) the blood pumping and warming me from the inside, without sweating. It's a pleasant experience, especially for someone like me who spends most winters permanently chilled from the dampness in the air. Self-heating: this is a phenomenon I like very much. One more point in favour of fall cycling.

Oh, and I lost a shoe on the way home while taking off at a four-way stop. This required turning around and going back for it. Note to self: if you have a habit of walking right out of a particular pair of shoes, probability is high that you may also pedal yourself out of it. Doh.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

sombre, sludgy, splendid sunday

Sombre, as in the weather. Moody, dark, and threatening rain, yet never following through. This kept the seawall in a lovely state: enough traffic to not feel alone, but not enough to feel crowded.

Sludgy, as in the ground condition. Copius leaves have fallen, a not insignificant amount of rain has fallen on them, and cars, trucks, people, and bicycles have mushed them into organic mud. Thank goodness for fenders and being a happily slow cyclist; if I was the more aggressive type I might be frustrated by the slipperiness of that kind of surface at higher speeds. As it is: not a big deal. (Kind of fun, actually, like the inner-child instinct to run straight through puddles when you're wearing gumboots.)

Splendid, as in my chore-running afternoon.

Mended a wool skirt that had been waiting for me to stop procrastinating and took it out for a spin. The lovely thing about fall weather and wearing thick tights is feeling somewhat less exposed than in the summertime when wearing skirts without a lot of horizontal give.

Dropped off a bag of clothing donations at the VGH Thrift Store. Hooray for baskets!

Swung by Three Bags Full for a little yarn shopping.

Poked my head in at the Bike Doctor to ask if they sold any rear reflectors. They didn't, but they had a stash in a "miscellaneous parts" box in the repair shop and the nice fellow gave it to me at no cost. They're one of the shops I patronize fairly frequently for parts and things, so I promised him I'd be back. While they're not the most organized shop I know (their ordering system has a few holes) they do have a great selection and have proven once again to be friendly and helpful. (Although it seems like no one I've ever talked to there can understand why I would specifically want a dark coloured bicycle...)

I haven't ridden much in the past few weekends, mostly staying within walking distance of my apartment. It's the hibernation instinct, I suppose. However, today's errand afternoon reminded me of how things aren't much different now than at any other time of year. I've aready conquered my instinct to change my commuting behavior in the fall and this helps to emphasize that I don't need to change my weekend utility transportation behavior either.

Now we begin the countdown to the darkest day of the year...

Saturday, November 13, 2010


This next music video comes via my friend Jen.

The song is called Keep Drivin' and the artist is Hayley Sayles, who happens to hail from my home island (Vancouver Island) but is nationally-known.

What's this? you ask. Why are you posting a video called Keep Drivin' that prominently features a van?

Stay with me.
First, the bicycles enter at about 1:30.
Second, see what happens at 2:00!

There's no denying the enjoyment of a road trip. Whether it happens in a clunky old volkswagon, a comfy touring motorcycle, or on a fleet of two-wheelers, that's a cherished experience for many (me included). Hanging out with your peeps! "Driving, keep driving..." Take it figuratively, not literally. Road trips aren't really about how far you get: they're about what happens along the way. So maybe there's an alternative to "cycle touring" (which I've never tried, but really-- it just seems so hard). Cycle road-tripping. Short and sweet.

Other things to love:
- horses!
- campfire!
- sousaphone!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

bike to work week & month & year

Last week was Bike to Work Week, fall version.

The one in the summer ended up having lousy weather and I only rode 1 or 2 days out of the 5. Looking back, it amazes me, because this time it was November and rained and/or blustered several of the days and I continued riding, as usual, through the whole week. And the week before, and the week after, and I intend to continue. My increased tolerance for not-just-perfect weather is something I didn't envision happening quite so quickly. With this raincoat, it's just turning out to be not a big deal.

So today I have no photos, no funny stories, no rants, and no opinions, because I've simply been riding.

This evening I participated in a phone survey about Translink. "In the past 30 days have you used transit less, the same as, or more than you previously did?"

"Less than," I said. "I ride my bicycle now."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

on feeling safe

I've been thinking about how there is a difference between whether an action is safe enough and whether a person feels safe while doing it.

So here's a thought from psychology and parenting. If someone feels unsafe or scared or intimidated or anxious, let's acknowledge it. They own the feeling. Not me/you/us, not the world, not the other people in the world. Let's not say: "Well, you shouldn't be." It may be true, but there are other sides to it: it's kind of rude, it doesn't really work, and there's a good likelihood that they'll be either offended or annoyed.

dunsmuir bike lane

The reality is that when riding on roads on lanes shared with cars, it's not a gigantic leap that many people will feel any or all of the above. Sometimes I am scared. I was more scared in the beginning (by almost everything except the seawall) and now I am not scared as much. I'm still scared when I have to merge across lanes of full-speed car traffic in order to turn left.

A sixteen-year old might be scared the first time they leave the parking lot and drive on a real road. Someone who has grown up in a rural area might be scared the first time they visit a big, bustling city. A grown adult might be scared when they first ride a bicycle in the same space as cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles.

All these people may be scared because they do not feel safe. Within this feeling unsafe is (a) your own comfort level and familiarity with the activity, (b) your knowledge and factual information about the activity, and (c) the environment that the activity is performed in. (Note: not an exhaustive list.)

Cycling may be safe enough in certain scenarios that specialized protective equipment is not necessary. (---with "certain scenarios" being a combination of the environment supporting the cycling and the cyclist's personal skill/knowledge.) There is currently great disagreement about whether this is true and which in what context.

There are many ways we can change whether cycling is safe enough and whether each individual feels safe while doing it. However, while they are related goals, they are not the same.

Do I need to repeat that?

Do I need to bold or CAPITALIZE it or put it on its own line so that I don't forget it?

Safe enough and feeling safe are not the same.

Some of the current initiatives for change are: creating separated infrastructure (thank you, City of Vancouver); providing education and training for those who don't want to build comfort and familiarity independently (thank you, VACC); raising awareness of existing bike cultures with low cyclist injury rates (thank you Copenhagen Cycle Chic). I'm sure there are about a million more and I would love to sit down and do some research and creative idea generation, but that needs to be left for another time.

Today I'm all italicized out.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

a story about awareness

I had a funny, positive experience with a coworker today on the way home from work.

As usual, I was carrying my helmet under my arm as we shared the elevator. We don't work on the same floor so I don't see him much-- before today he probably didn't realize I rode to work.

"Riding home?" he asked. (It was dark outside already, and a bit drizzly.)

"Oh yeah," I said nonchalantly, and gave my usual reason. "I live in the West End, so it's quicker even than taking the bus."

He agreed it would be, as he finished retrieving his car keys from his bag. With a bit of a guilty laugh, he said: "I guess I'll pollute for both of us."

"We'll cancel each other out," I replied with a smile. Awareness is my thing-- I'm not into judging or making anyone feel bad for their choices.

We separated when he continued downstairs to the parkade and I retrieved my bike at the racks. But as I headed off on the road, he was just pulling out as well. While we were stopped at the red light, in different lanes to turn different directions, he rolled down his window briefly. "Thanks..." he said. "For cancelling me out."

I think he really meant it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

slow blink

We haven't had a music video in a while.

Hawksley Workman via The City Cyclist.

I especially love how slow they're going -- languid, smooth -- and the variety of bicycles they're riding. And there's nothing quite like cruising around with a group of good friends.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

matinees on rainy days

The weather forecast was looking blah for the weekend, so my friend Melanie and I decided to take in a matinee showing of the movie Never Let Me Go at Tinseltown.

While she hasn't ridden much in the rain yet, Melanie bravely rode to the theatre, even though the skies were threatening to open up. (I did too, having challenged myself to ride through the fall and winter regardless of weather.) By the time the movie was over, the rain had begun. We took refuge in a coffee shop to see if we could wait it out, but it was still spitting by the time our coffee cups were empty.

So we left anyway.

We headed in her direction, along a 98% empty seawall on the south side of False Creek. What a treat! Eventually we split to head in our respective directions home and I enjoyed another stretch of blissfully quiet seawall path on the north side of False Creek. All this while the sky was moody grey and presenting just a medium fall shower.

I arrived home to find an email from Melanie about how positive this cycling-in-the-rain experience had been, despite the fact that beforehand she'd felt like she didn't have the right gear. She been wearing two pairs of tights and simply removed the outer pair after getting home. I'd only been wearing one, but my jacket was longer so compensated for it. Helmets: kept our heads dry. Gloves (the normal kind, nothing cycling-specific): kept our hands warm. Footwear: leather boots were good enough for this level of rain. Shower cap: covered saddle while not riding and covered purse while riding. Dual-purpose!

In summary, she had this to say:
Overall, the experience helped to calm some of my fears of riding in the rain, especially since it took very few adjustments to my regular attire (i.e. throwing a shower cap in my purse).

Experiences like this remind me that even with all the planning and information and advertising in the world, what often makes or breaks the perception of an activity is actually doing it.

Happy cyclists looking just like we always do...even in the drizzle. Ride on!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

on dignity

What is missing from the prominent stereotype of cycling in North America?


This is what I gained when replacing my handlebars to engineer a more upright posture.

I see so many people hunched over, eyes pointed at the pavement, pedalling away like their lives depended it.

How unappealing. Really-- it just looks so hard.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

granville after dark

Thursday night. We wandered up Granville St. from Waterfront Station to the Vogue theatre for the Pecha Kucha, me pushing my bicycle beside me.

Every. Bicycle. Rack. Is. Taken.

There are bikes locked to benches, sign posts, and spindly trees. There are ratty old mountain bikes; there are fixies; they are vintage; they are shiny; there are beach cruisers; they have banana seats.

By the time we exited at 9:45, the street was aglow with neon and wheels.

I wanted to stake out a spot, set my camera to the highest ISO it can suffer, and capture a blur of revelry, of shadows, of party goers on bicycles, enjoying the perfectly crisp, clear, dry, still-warm-enough-for-only-a-light-jacket night of early fall.

Can you imagine what Friday night is like?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

taking precipitational chances

Over the past few weeks, I've realized that it's more the threat of rain that decreases cycling than the rain itself.

little lakes on a bench

Now that I have a "rain plan", my default behavior in an overcast or drizzly situation is to pack a jacket and go. Last year, whenever it seemed like it could possibly rain, I erred on the side of caution and took the bus or walked.

So how many times have I actually been caught in the rain so far in September?

autumn drops


(Not counting the one time it was already raining when I left the apartment.)

Many days, the rain has happened when I'm inside: at work, in a coffee shop with a friend, in the mall. By the time I'm ready to go, the sky isn't falling anymore.

If I'd avoided riding on all those overcast days (and yes, there have been a lot of them in September so far), I might as well be a shut-in. Or buy a bus pass.

rain anenome

The west coast certainly has a reputation for being rainy, but it's more that it could rain at any time, not that it does.

polka dotted pink

Besides, isn't the world just so beautiful when decorated with water?

Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 norco city glide 3 ST

Yesterday I test rode a 2010 Norco City Glide 3 ST at the Bike Doctor on Broadway.

Colour = Like. Deep turquoise. (Deeper in person than appears -- at least to me -- in the photo.) Passes the "not a stereotypically girly colour" and "doesn't make me want to puke" tests.

3-speed = Just not enough. I was really struggling to get up the hill, feeling in 1st gear like I was stuck in 3rd gear on my current bike. (That's 3rd gear on rear, middle gear on front; I ride my 21-speed as if it were a 6-speed and that's entirely sufficient for my needs.)

Internal Hub = Like the aesthetic, can deal with the weight, but I heard it. The guy at the shop took it for a spin when I returned and said that he didn't think there was anything wrong with it. I've always ridden bikes with derailleurs, but I'm used to silence while pedaling and the whirring sound only when coasting. This one whirred even when pedaling. Is that normal?

Posture = Seriously upright! The handlebars felt so close to me. It might take a bit of getting used to, but I think I would like it.

The frame has interesting angles and tube shapes that almost make up for the fact that it's still roughly welded aluminum. I love the shape of the stem (like a long, elegant neck) and the fact that the seat post is so plain. Overall, the City Glide bikes have a fairly "clean" aesthetic that appeals to me, including logos and other branding.

Unfortunately, the 8-speed version, as I've probably whined about before, comes only in mint green (2010) or bright blue (2011), which are both deal breakers. The only place I've heard of so far that paints bikes is Toxik Design Lab in Burnaby, and from the website the rates START at $250 (plus tax) to paint a diamond frame and fork in a single colour. Yowza! It just feels like such a shame to buy a brand new bike and then pay somebody to completely strip it and start from scratch.

What can I do but send feedback to the manufacturers and hope I'm not the only one (black\burgundy\dark grey\dark blue\dark purple, pretty please?) and keep looking and hoping that some day, some where, some North American bicycle manufacturer will get a clue and start painting step-throughs for grownups.

Because seriously? Want. In an 8-speed step-through. Diamond frames have all the fun.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

of wellies and slickers


Now that was a success!


Today it rained, as it's going to do for the next 8 months. "Oh, bother," I thought, as I peered out the window in this morning's early grey light. That was followed with: "But wait! Wasn't I hoping for this?"

And I was.

And it was as good as I hoped.


The aforementioned shiny new red raincoat was perfect, save one entirely fixable deficiency. It buttoned all the way up to my neck, kept my upper self dry, and looked chic and very 'me'. The missing piece: since the buttons don't extend all the way to the bottom, the front tended to fall away as I pedaled, leaving my knees exposed (oh, the scandal!) to the rain (oh.). So at lunch I picked up some black elastic and will fix up a small tie that can be fastened when riding to keep pants dry. Very important.

Add gumboots (pictured above), a water-resistant purple plaid laptop bag:


...and a plastic hat...

inverse flower

--and I was golden for the ride to and from work in the rain. Like many, I often feel indignant about the plastic hat, but in this case if I hadn't, I would have had to have worn...

...a plastic hat.

So this one pretty much did the trick.

The next 8 months are certainly looking up.

Monday, September 20, 2010

cycling shoes

Because what is a rear rack for except to carry extra shoes?

Extra new shoes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

rain or whine

Today was "girls night" with a few of my coworkers. On the agenda: drinks at Cactus Club and Eat Pray Love at the Scotiabank Theatre.

Having my bike with me, I walked it from the restaurant to the cinema. There's something elegant about walking a bicycle. It's somewhere to rest your hands, a rolling companion that feels more often like pulling you along than needing to be dragged places. (Funny, isn't it?) Besides, Burrard Street, a margarita, and a light dizzle aren't best of friends.

There were bicycles (more than one!) in the movie, with baskets and even the bell itself got a mention. One was very clearly a brown Electra Amsterdam (and interestingly enough for the theme of the movie: not the "women's" version).

By the time we exited the theatre post-movie, the drizzle had been replaced by plain and simple rain. Rain, rain, rain.

Yesterday I had bought a new, shiny, red raincoat!

Unfortunately, I hadn't worn it to work today.

Fortunately, I live about 7 minutes from the theatre and my green non-waterproof coat held up for that distance.

Unfortunately, there's not much that could be done about the water in my eyes.

Fortunately, I had trusty lights and nobody ran me over.

And because this situation was clearly biased towards the positive, I still have more 'fortunately's left over to add:
Fortunately, it's only September, so it's quite warm and I wasn't uncomfortable even when slightly damp.
Fortunately, I was heading to home, not away from it, which makes getting wet rather irrelevant and actually kind of fun.

Last fall/winter/spring, I avoided the ran and went long periods of time without riding. The bus became, once again, my prison. This year, I refuse to...
a) avoid riding because of the rain, and
b) look frumpy and/or sporty in rain "gear" (rather than rain "wear") that I don't enjoy wearing.

Freedom! The way I see, I can choose to embrace the rain or I can whine about it. This is Vancouver, after all: it's part of culture, our way of life. There are chic rain options out there and I intend to find them. For once I'm actually looking forward to the rain so that I can take my new shiny red rain coat (red! shiny! raincoat!) for a spin.

Freedom in all weather. Bring it on!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

cooling down

I haven't felt much like writing in the past few weeks. As summer winds down, the air starts to cool, and the grey skies come, my heavy camera stays at home and my daydreams of quiet rides in sundresses and sunglasses to picnics on the beach start to fade. I've been taking a break from analysis, idealism, and observation to simply do just what this blog is all about in the first place.


Every day, to work and play.

Soon, the wistfulness will drift away and I'll feel a renewed vigor for the autumn season. The seawall will once again become an enjoyable route (I avoid it in the summertime due to the crowds). I do, do love fall/winter laying: scarves to fly behind me in the breeze, wool coats to keep warm and cool and dry, knitted handwarmers to keep out the damp coastal air. And boots! Boots with thick socks and colourful tights, avoiding the need to wrap a flapping pant leg.

The camera will come out again, ready to capture the season and how people change with it, how they ride their bicycles in it.

Until then, I may have some archive photos to post. Or I may not. Autumn, here I come.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

a gentleman's ride

In the heart of the business district, in the plaza where countless office workers eat their lunch and soak up a few minutes of lucious early September sunshine, was parked a sturdy black steed.

His double top tubes were notable in their uniqueness... but then again, he already stood out against a sea of hybrids and road bikes without even trying.

I imagine his owner (and humour my baseless flight of fancy, here) would be wearing business attire to ride to work in one the tower hives above and certainly not changing when he arrived.

This is as much a bicycle for a modern man as it is for one with admiration for classic design. Gentlemen, can you see yourself suited up on this?