Monday, January 31, 2011

a sunny panda

Inspired by the author of the cycling blog Simply Bike, I'm trying to figure out how to take panda shots (self-portraits while riding) reliably. Practice, practice, practice!

I loved the contrast of this weekend: a dark, dripping Saturday and a crisp, bright Sunday.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

archive adventures, part 2

It's back to the archive again today, with another old shot that my mother sent me when I mentioned I was looking for photos of myself and the bicycles my family had when I was young.

This isn't me, actually; it's my little sister (on the left) and an anonymous wee friend. (She may be 27 now but she'll still always be my "little" sister.)

This trike was... how do you sum it up in one word? Awesome. It was our introduction to bicycling, but it certainly didn't get left behind when we moved on to two-wheelers. I remember our forays into "cargo cycling" like the photo above (and that wagon deserves a place of honour itself!) and into doubling (a second kid would stand on the back). A bell, those jangly spoke-beads, and oh-- that colour!

Tricycles so have a place in my heart. If I ever have a need for a cargo cycle, I think a cargo trike (2-wheels-front OR 2-wheels-back) may just be considered.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

un-archive adventures

We interrupt these archive posts to momentarily recount an actual current bike adventure.

A few friends and I had bought tickets for a Dine Out package deal on Thursday evening: dinner at Cru and a play at the Stanley Theatre. Since it started at 5:45, I headed there straight from work. My route took me south on Hornby and across the Burrard Bridge, the first time I'd ridden the two bike-separated sections one right after the other. As expected, they were brilliant and got me across the busiest section of the city at a rapid pace even at the busiest time of day.

After crossing the bridge, I had to make my way along some residential streets that are part of the bike system. Given that it was dark and rush hour, this section was actually a bit more uncomfortable than the downtown section. Cars were pulling over and out, pulling into driveways and out, and passing through narrow sections with parked cars on both sides. I had trouble making a left turn at one spot (from bike lane to bike "route", incidentally) because there was no left turn lane/light and no "bike box" to help you make a 2-part pedestrian-style turn. It was hard to even squish in near the first car because there were already 2 cyclists doing the exact same thing! Cycle traffic in January?! I can't image how people turn left here in the busier months.

On a sartorial note, I was wearing a fairly short, tight skirt that I'd never tried riding in before. It took a bit of practice to (1) mount smoothly (on a non-step-over bicycle), and (2) take off smoothly, but after a few tries I got the hang of it. I just had to remember to move more slowly during these actions and be aware of the greater restriction of movement.

The dinner was tasty (if a bit slow) and the play was interesting (if a bit long). It was at least 10:30 by the time we got out and I grabbed my bicycle to head home.

Heading home. Now this was a completely different experience than the ride over there. To start, I had the streets to myself: quiet, calm, lovely. It was probably just a few degrees above zero but the best part was...

--the fog.

Fog! I adore fog. It's got the excitement of extreme weather without the inconvenience of snow or rain or even high heat. (Unless you're on a boat, perhaps.) It wasn't thick enough to pose any danger of me not being visibile to vehicles (or not any more than usual) but provided an eerie softening of the world as I glided quietly down the empty streets.

Heading onto the Burrard Bridge, you couldn't see the apex of its curve. The lane just extended out in front of me indefinitely, an unending rise into the mist. Above, the fog swirled through the bridge's columns. Below, False Creek had been replaced by a comforter of grey, punctuated by orange points of the lights on the docks. The usually-imposing view of downtown Vancouver's towers was temporarily absent.

What an experience! The best part was that I actually got to experience it at all. If I'd taken the bus, I would have frozen my toes off waiting for it at that time of night, then rushed right through the beauty with barely any time to savour it. In a car: warmer, but ditto for the rushing part. And walking-- well, that would have taken forever and isn't really feasible for going that distance on a weeknight.

For all the rush hour craziness and mundane months of utility, it's moments like these that remind me: yes, this is why I love riding a bicycle.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

archive adventures

With motivation at a seasonal low to go out and actually take any current photographs, I've been organizing my archives and happened upon a number of photos that were taken ages ago but never saw the light of day. Time to drag 'em out and dust 'em off!

For today: the view forward.

I'm pretty rotten at taking "panda" shots (i.e. parts of me are in the photo + while moving) but I can usually manage getting the handlebars.

This was taken purely to record and remember and love how absolutely lush certain parts of 10th Ave are. To the people who maintain these verdant front yards and boulevards, you have my heartful gratitude for making the world a more beautiful place to exist in. Thank you.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

handbags & mutts

Holt Renfrew had a bicycle in their holiday window display. As they changed things up in January and that bicycle disappeared, H&M placed a bicycle in theirs, a block down Granville Street, to pick up the slack.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

the january blahs

As is typical for January, one of my 3 least favourite months of the year (along with February and March), I've got a case of the blahs. I'm still riding to work most days (not including those that start out with a heavy downpour) and using it to get around on the weekends. But... that's all. I'm not inspired to lug my camera around and take photographs or think hard enough about anything that warrants a post. Right now, it's just plain old transportation.

And I don't think that's a bad thing.

Instead, I'm lucky to have some guest photos from my good friend Melanie. These are taken on a film camera so they've got that fantastic ethereal look.

First up is a wacky ornament made of bicycle reflectors. I think this may be in the centre of one of the traffic circles on 10th (but don't quote me on that).

And second is fabulous winter cycle chic on one of the cold, sunny weekend days we had a few weeks ago. If only there were more like these, maybe January wouldn't feel quite so blah!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

'ice to meet you, 2011

December was a dreary month this year. It didn't feel like it rained any more than usual, but with the sun also staying away it felt like the endless grey ceiling kept its grip on our skies and moods.

Four days ago, it let go.

Since then, we've been enjoying blue sky, that burning orange glow of the horizontal light at sunset, and unbroken subzero temperatures. And by "enjoying", I mean that the whole city seems have yelled: "Quick, get outside before it goes away!" and spilled out onto the streets to soak up as much of the oh-so-short daylight that we can absorb without freezing our wimpy west-coast fingers off.

Both yesterday and today I ended up riding to meet friends, going for a walk, stopping to eat somewhere where it's cozy and warm, then riding home again.

It's cold and dry without snow, so my current concern is ice. I shouldn't really say "concern", as I'm not worried about it and it's not preventing me from riding, but the fact is that it's "on my radar". I'm riding slowly, paying attention to the surface of the road, and watching for dark spots. They are out there. Sometimes I ride around them, sometimes can smoothly (and slowly, in a straight line, and without brakes) ride over them, and once had no choice but to stop, get off, walk across, and get back on. (Ironically, it was one of the side connectors leading on the Hornby bike lane. The rest of the bike way had been well salted, but not this stretch. The other side-effect of being blocked in on both sides -- while separated from cars -- is that there's nowhere to go should you need to go around something that stretches across the whole width of both lanes.)

Frost is quite frequent in shady areas, like here in the shadow of the barrier on the Burrard Bridge, beside parked cars, and on the north sides of buildings. I've been riding over it with due caution, neither trying to avoid or ignore it.

Unfortunately, I pulled my camera out of my bag today only to realize that I'd taken out the memory card yesterday and forgot to put it back in! So despite the extraordinary weather today, I was not able to record the COUNTLESS cyclists out and about. They were all over the seawall and nearly taking over Granville Island, people of all stripes on bicycles of all kinds. We are Vancouverites: when the sun shines, we take to our bicycles, regardless of the season or temperature. I was so proud.

...and speaking of being proud, I was most proud of my friend Melanie, who rode her vintage cruiser (upright and heavyish, so nice and stable!) for the first time ever in winter.

(I would have taken a picture, but... you know. Oops. Won't do that again.)

Just like the rain, the cold weather that once felt threatening for riding in is now feeling comfortable and feasible in a variety of situations. It really is about acclimatizing yourself to new experiences gradually. Winter 2011 may just have begun, but it's a season that I think I'm actually looking forward to. Happy New Year!