Rainy Daze

23 05 2010

A little rain won’t stop the riding, just like several days straight of rain won’t stop the riding. Add fleece-lined tights, a hood,  gloves and gore-tex (not pictured) and it’s not so bad (at least until losing feeling in the fingers after stopping to take pictures).

Ducking out of the rain but not wind for a quick documentation of foul weather fashion.

The chilly rain refreshes and soothes the skin better than anything from a cosmetics counter, and the ride makes the whole body glow from within.

Then a friend calls up and asks for help making a film of people riding in unusual places, so why not?

Another one for the "it seemed like a good idea at the time" file. The video better be epic.

Aaahh, E-town’s characteristic light coloured mud-clay, still clinging after a long ride through tall wet grass in an attempt to get it off. So not looking forward to cleaning this up.

Please Be Aware & Careful Out There.

22 05 2010

Sad news that a cyclist was struck and severely injured by an LRT train on Thursday. To Wesley John Haineault, best wishes for recovery, my thoughts are with you, and your family and friends. You sound like the kind of person our communities need more of, and I really hope you pull through.

News story here.

The news reports say that he waited at the railway crossing for a southbound train, and then crossed while the crossing arms were still down, not knowing that there was a northbound train coming down the other tracks, which hit him. In a slight twist of the usual blame the victim spin the media likes to take whenever a cyclist is injured or killed, it has been widely reported that he was wearing headphones. How headphones can drown out the sound of a train is beyond me, but do you know what can drown out the sound of an approaching train? Another train passing! I must admit, though, that I am glad that they haven’t been reporting on whether or not he was wearing a helmet, because I don’t think it would make much difference being hit by a train.

I don’t know if I’ve ever met Wesley, but this story still strikes close to home. I rode through the same intersection minutes before this accident happened, and waited for the ill-fated train at the next crossing. I’ve been quick to cross the tracks after the train passes but while the signals are still on (heck, I’ve done it at least twice this week) and have had a near hit in a similar situation where there was a second oncoming train. I cycle with music all the time (and I don’t wear a helmet, in case anyone cares). For 99.99% of the time, cycling is pretty safe, but it could’ve been my, or anyone’s, number come up in the shit lottery.

Before anyone chides me for risk taking, please consider this. The most important piece of safety equipment we possess are our brains. Alertness, patience, awareness, good decision making and reaction time are more critical than any gadget we can buy or what we wear or don’t wear. Take this reminder to reflect on the chances we take and decisions we make everyday, and please be alert and careful out there.

And to my friends, I promise I will never enter an active train crossing again, no matter how clear it seems.

Mud, Mudslides, and Quiet Moments

13 05 2010

Everyday, I ride my bike crosstown, north side to south side, through central Edmonton. Many days, I opt for the scenic route, through the river valley, where I can pretend that I’m not in the middle of a city amongst countless strangers, cars and concrete, but in the countryside surrounded by trees and birds, where nature isn’t under siege by humanity.

Depending on how you frame it, it's possible to forget it's a five minute ride to downtown.

My bike gives me access to the little secret gems and hideaways invisible to those who choose the road, and the option of going out-of-bounds, where there’s enough time & space to reflect, to breath, to just be, without the pressure of being under someone else’s gaze (magpies excepted). These are the places in time and space where I remember that I’m not a mouse jockey or a mechanic or an activist, but just a tiny spark in this gorgeous, complicated organism called earth. Nothing else makes me feel more centered or sane.

This used to be a fun trail until a massive crack opened up in the middle and part of it fell into the river, causing the city to try to obstruct the access points with huge piles of dirt. Now it's an even funner trail.

Four Months of Crappy Tobogganing

7 05 2010

On days like these, describing Edmonton’s seasons as eight months of winter and four months of bad tobogganing doesn’t seem like hyperbole. A May snow storm isn’t any more unusual than a December snow storm, the only difference is that December snow usually sticks around for more than a few days, and a May snow storm can damage trees that have started to bud and flower.

As I rolled down the hill towards the High Level Bridge through the fresh snow, I decided to chance taking the bike path that runs between two long rows of caraganas for one last slalom fest of the season and was greeted by a Xmas card scene of droopy hedges. “How bad could it be?” I thought as the first few branches flicked off my face, then whap, whap, bigger branches slapping my face, flinging more snow, WHAP, completely blinded by a big branch and all the snow on it. Whap, whap, WHAP, WHAP, more branches, more snow, I can’t see where I’m going, my brakes aren’t working fast enough, my face is getting scratched, caraganas are jumping out at me, grabbing my hood and stealing my hat, WHAP, finally I skid to a stop.

The bike path seemed like a good idea at the top of the hill.

I stopped just before the obstructions got worse and ended up crawling underneath the leaning trees, dragging my bike behind me. And this was but the beginning of my journey. The bike paths on and leading to the bridge were uncleared and slushy (meanwhile, crews were completely clearing the square block of no-bikes concrete known as Churchill Square), and in some places all the bicycle tracks merged into a single tire wide line through the heavy snow. Downtown, a massive clump of snow rained down on me from the roof of a large building, leaving me looking like Frosty the Biking Snowoman. I must have been quite a sight when I walked into work with squishy boots, several inches of snow on my head & shoulders and a hood full of snow. Several people just said “wow.”

My ride home was a little less eventful, and I decided to skip the caragana experience the second time around. I arrived home exhilarated, tired, sweaty, cold, to a voicemail from my friend Chris. “If you happen to be passing by the bicycle bottleneck this  afternoon, make sure you take the multi-use trail through the trees and take some pictures cause it’s really gorgeous. I had to crouch ’cause the trees are drooping from the snow, but it’s really quite magical.”

Magical? I did have an encounter with hat swiping ents, so I’ll get behind that sentiment.

The next day, I took a joy ride through snow covered fields.

Studs meet spring. It's green under all that snow!

And it was such a lovely, fun ride that I was powerless to suppress a beaming smile. The snow will be gone in a few days and be replaced by green. It will take with it the layer of dust that’s been covering everything for the past month and leave behind fresh spring air and the hope that the land won’t dry up beneath our feet and blow away. It will be the true beginning of the season of growth.

Work is What Happens In Between Bike Rides

3 05 2010

Hello spring!

A blue sky, a strong, warm wind, skin that hasn't seen the sun since 2009, bright stripey socks, red stubby riding gloves, bike shorts, a swift steed and a million dollar view. What else could a girl want?

Pausing at a bend in the path.

Sunshine after an April shower.

Goose over Walterdale.

Marjory in the pines (though I think they're actually spruce, but pines sounds better).

And at long last, a thoroughly soaking rain.

Who’s Streets?

2 05 2010

There hasn’t been much time for writing lately, between the mad rush for bikes and spring tune-ups at the co-op and the return of summery weather that has compelled me to take epic rides at any possible opportunity. I’ve got several posts worth of photos of fantastic riding and cycle oddities from the last couple of weeks that I have yet to upload, but I’ll start with this one from Friday’s Critical Mass Ride, which was a chipper affair.

I took this picture while riding, holding the camera above my head, pointed backwards, aiming blind.