Riding After Midnight

18 05 2012

As the night time temperatures warm enough that frostbite and hypothermia are no longer a worry, the deserted streets beckon riders already weary of crowded bike paths and streets congested with more construction than Hazzard County (I can’t believe I just made that reference).

Riders in the night, crossing Gretzky.

Always a challenge keeping up with the Raving Bike Fiend.

Cyclists in the moonlight.

Zooming through a subterranean loading dock.

All the cars have left downtown, leaving so much room to play.

Even midnight riders have to stop for a traffic light now and then.

Passing through your neighborhood like ghosts in the night.

As I write this and look at the photos from recent late night excursions, I’m reminded that the streets are a lot quieter these days in my neighborhood, and not just because  school’s out. There have been a series of stranger-assaults on women walking alone at night. This is fucked. What is even more fucked, though, is that the police and (especially) the media’s response has been to generate panic, fear and victim blaming, warning women not to go out at night and not to walk alone. I’m not saying that this is nothing to worry about, and being vigilant and aware of your surroundings is always a good idea, but shit can happen anytime, anywhere, and the sad fact is that a women is far more likely to be assaulted in her own home by someone she knows than by a stranger on the street, no matter what the time of day or neighborhood. In fact, it happens so often that it isn’t considered newsworthy enough to report, or shocking enough to sell newspapers.

I’m a creature of the night. It’s both my playground and my solace, and I won’t let creeps and tabloid fear-mongering take that away. Dark, mysterious, unknown, it’s easy to fear the night, easy to buy into stories that fuel the anxiety, but I just want to say how quiet, beautiful, liberating, tranquil, consoling, calming, awe inspiring, energizing, limitless the dark hours, while everyone else is sleeping, can be. And if you don’t believe me, I have a challenge for you: take a late night ride on a weeknight, by yourself or with a friend, and see for yourself how much less action there is than during rush hour and how hospitable the wide open streets really are.

Suddenly Springtime

15 05 2012

Here in the Great White North, the longer the winter wait, the sweeter the spring.

Springtime at sunset.

I hope y’all are getting out to enjoy the roadbike weather (even if it takes you somewhere not quite roadbike appropriate).

Oh Alberta…

3 05 2012

Alberta: Canada’s Texas; land of cowboys, oil, rednecks, truck balls, and an ultra conservative political climate. It’s not exactly a friendly place to be in if you’re a bike riding environmentally conscious radical activisty type, but still, here I am.

There’s no recession in Alberta. However, in the name of mining the tar sands, more earth has been moved than any other project in human history. To mark this, and to divert attention from the communities protesting the poisoning of their land from mining & pipelines, the city celebrates by displaying oil patch equipment in Churchill Square. I was going to take a picture with my bike in the bucket of the giant bulldozer, but there was a homeless looking dude pissing on it, and I did not want to interrupt his solitary act of protest. Now that I think about it, there was liquid inside this tire… ew.

I often think of this place as the belly of the beast. Many people escape, enriching other places with their energy and creative spark, turning other communities into friendly shores. I sometimes wonder how different it would be if all those collective efforts had been focused here, because if change can happen here, it can happen anywhere. As I read that last sentence, I shake my head and think of the recent election, and how the conservative party that has been governing this province for the last 41 years (fortyfuckingone!) promoted itself as the choice for change in the face of the even more right-wing-looney Wild Rose Party?!? This is a place that chews up and mockingly spits out people working for anything but their most selfish interests.

Click on picture to zoom in on all the juicy details. This election even got the graffiti writers riled up.

Still, there’s something about living in a hostile environment that galvanizes those working towards a more progressive community. I suspect it’s a big part of the reason that E-Ville is home to one of the oldest community bike shops in North America (now with 2 locations), why everybody knows your name when you visit Earth’s General Store, and just ask an Edmontonian about our dump.

The point of all this? Only that this place is more complex and nuanced than the superficial stereotypes, and as a reminder that there is still hope and resistance in the belly of the beast.