Fairweather Bike Lanes

27 11 2011

Since the installation of new bike lanes in E-Ville this year, the question on many all-weather cyclists mind has been “Will the city clear the new bike lanes during the winter, or will they be used as places to dump snow?”

Today, I got an answer on 76 Ave.

And it looks like "dump the snow in the bike lane" is winning.

I can’t say I’m surprised. The counter-flow lanes in Garneau have also been (not) maintained this way in the winter since they’ve been put in, and it’s been my practice to just ignore them once the snow flies. Especially because once the road markings are covered, drivers have no reason to expect to see cyclists coming the wrong way down a one-way street. Still, I’m disappointed.

Even more disappointing, I hear that the city is putting funding for clearing the multi-use pathways (which they do a fairly decent job at) on the chopping block, as well as funding for any new bicycle and active transportation infrastructure. If this seems as counter-productive to you as it does to me, let the mayor and your councilor know before Dec 9th!

Arctic High

25 11 2011

One of the nicest things about northern prairie winters is that the sun still shines and brightens the short days, reflecting and sparkling off of brilliant snow. The catch? Those sunny days happen when the air is so cold that it can’t even hold enough humidity to condense a cloud, meaning that many of the coldest days are sunny ones.

Mid afternoon, -20C, sun is low, not a cloud in the sky.

The equipment needed for enjoying such a day is simple: warm clothing (with a sleeve big enough to keep my P&S camera warm) and studded tires to navigate the snow that’s been packed down solid and polished to ice.

The only 20" studded tires you'll ever see are DIY. Edit - apparently Schwalbe makes 20" studded tires, but DIY is the only way I've seen metal on a 20.

Sudden cold snaps in November also make for slow days at the bike shop, leaving time for Porta-Bike pampering. After taking these pictures, I overhauled its bottom bracket and coaster hub. The best part was finally finding the proper cotter pin for the left crank. In the picture below, you can see that the cranks are not aligned 180 degrees from each other, but I am proud to say that now, for the first time since I cobbled this bike together, the cranks are perfectly aligned. Additionally, the rubber plug I made last year for the bottom bracket hole seems to be working well, and the old grease was still pretty clean.

Polar Porta Bike - now pronounced with a preceding kazoo flourish.

At least this first wintery blast didn’t last long, and it’s made the last few days, with their average, near freezing temperatures, seem balmy in comparison.

Cold sun.

I’ve been helping out a lot of other people get into winter cycling lately, but I’ve also become increasingly disconnected with some of my fellow citizens. Cycling year round is  normal to me. Spending time outside, no matter what the weather, is normal to me. So I’m finding it difficult to understand how someone can live their life in a winter city and feel entitled to a 21 degree, climate enclosed shell 24-7, and balk and complain should they ever have to feel the wind for thirty seconds because of the absence of indoor parking. These are the same folks that tell me it’s impossible to ride my bike in the winter (or for transportation, period) despite the fact that I”m successfully doing it, and have been doing long enough that the incomprehension now runs both ways.

It’s Baaaack!

15 11 2011

Winter, that is.

And the Polar Porta-Bike.

Porta-Bike, where the bike path runs along the LRT tracks. And see - a train!

I put the studded tires on last weekend because of the threat of freezing rain, but on Monday morning it felt like overkill as I plodded into work on the clear & dry streets. An unexpected snow storm (ha! – like you wouldn’t expect a November snow storm in E-Ville) descended on the city by evening, turning the streets into an Ice Capades Demolition Derby. On my little winter special though, I was the most stable vehicle on the road, further insulated by a thin layer of smugness.

This year set a record for the latest first snow of the season, and it was almost like everyone (myself included) were just hoping it wouldn’t snow at all this year. That would’ve been nice, but back in reality, riding single speed foldies through snowy winter wonderland Mill Creek Ravine after dark is pretty nice too.

Scona Bombing

2 11 2011

A promising sign.

Every now and then the city completely closes down a major thoroughfare into central E-Ville for the summer, for paving, widening, revamping, and the creation of a 5 month long traffic jam. Not that I took that much notice, easily bypassing the resulting mess every day on my bike, but I was keeping my eye on this particular road, and when I heard it was about to re-open, I knew it was time for action.

It's all downhill from here...

As well as being a major artery, Scona Road is also a long hill that goes all the way down into the valley that bisects otherwise flat Edmonton. So what do you do when presented with a wide, empty, freshly paved street on an epic hill? You get some friends and some bikes and let gravity do the rest!

Holy crap! I'm rolling down the hill at alarming speed, trying not to scream, holding on with one hand while the other tries stay steady to take an action shot!

We weren’t the only ones marking Scona Road and 99th Street’s last night of being car-free, though. There was the odd pedestrian walking in the middle of the road, a guy walking his dog who stopped to chat, and a group of about 10 longboarders taking advantage of some of the best hill bombing of the season.

Longboarders meet cyclists.

The first time we went down, we ended up in oncoming traffic on an open road in the maze of interchanges at the bottom of the hill. The second time, we followed the longboarders down a safer route that went under the James MacDonald bridge. They had moved some of the road closed signs for an easier path, but seeing some of them fearlessly duck under the barricades at high speed like it was nothing made it look unnecessary for them.

The other part of hill bombing is increasing potential energy (going back up). These guys were making pretty good time.

Riding back up the hill wasn’t that bad, with the fresh pavement and the lack of car exhaust to choke on, plus it was a great way to warm up on a chilly night.

Panda action on a wide open & gleaming new 99 St.

I ended my night rosy cheeked and glowing from the rush of the hill bomb and the push of the hill climbs. If only there could be Scona bombing every Saturday night.

Also, check out my favorite reporter’s account of the evening’s adventures on Gig City.