In Defence of Bike Lanes

25 10 2014

There’s been a lot of folks in this town hating on bike lanes lately, with a small, vocal minority calling for the removal of lanes already put in. This week, councilor Mike Nickel put the southside bike lanes on 76th Ave and 97th Street in the cross hairs, even offering support for the planned 83rd Ave and 102nd Ave bike boulevards in exchange for support on removing the lanes in question. Amazingly, many members of the E-ville cycling community seemed willing to participate in such a trade, sighting poor design, poor placement, and the inefficacy of paint on the road.
For real? How bad could they be? This required an exploratory mission to the south side via 97th Street.
Perhaps tellingly, I don’t remember taking this route before. If I was going a shorter distance south in the area, I’d take 96th Street, and if I was going deep south, I’d take Mill Creek then 91st Street. I had to look at a map to confirm that, indeed, there was a bike route that ran all the way south from Whyte Ave. Perhaps this route actually was reduntant?
The first thing I noticed as I turned onto 97th was that there wasn’t anything demarking it as a bike route. Upon closer inspection, things started to become clearer.

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The game is spot the sharrow!

The relatively new markings had been paved over as part of road resurfacing. Suddenly, the threat of bike lane removal by a fiscally conservative politician became more real – you can’t call him on being a hypocrite for wanting to spend money removing infrastructure when it was already gone. The timing of this made perfect sense.
Running down a quiet residential street, I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with this route, and I was enjoying riding it far more than I did 96th.
Then, I saw it:

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Roundabout!

A newly constructed roundabout! The ultimate in traffic calming and bike accommodating infrastructure! And I bet someone’s pretty pissed about it.
Further down the road was the bike boulevard piece de resistance, the street had been blocked off to cars but a multiuse trail allowed bikes to continue to pass through. I’ve only rode infrastructure like this in Montreal and Vancouver and was thrilled to see it in my home town. Who knew E-ville was so progressive?
The residential section, however, is not the section that has been generating criticism from cycling allies and enemies alike. As it crosses 63rd Ave southbound, 97th Street enters an industrial area, and the sharrows give way to painted bike lanes.

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That's a bike lane. That's what all the fuss is about.

As I rode, I went over all the criticisms levelled at this route in my head and wondered if the naysayers were talking about the same road. Busy? Nope, not even at rush hour. Going to get squished by a semi? Nope, the car lane is wide and where the bike lane turns to sharrow it becomes 2 full lanes – lots of room. Loss of parking for businesses? Nope, all of the businesses had parking lots in front and there wasn’t street parking to start with. Unused? Nope, I saw several other cyclists. Disconnected, start and stop infrastructure? Ok, maybe a little, but nothing unmanageable, especially by this city’s standards.
The best part was crossing the Whitemud Freeway. The road just went right over – no negotiating the multiple lights and offramps of the 91st Street and 99th Street alternatives.

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There's a freeway beneath my wheels.

I barely noticed I was crossing the busiest freeway in the city. How awesome is that?
The bike route ended at 34th Ave, which is where the 91st Street bike path also terminates and gives you the option of riding a busy arterial or going way outta your way on twisty suburban roads. Since I’d come this far, I decided to venture a little bit further to get some noms at Loma House before heading back. The last leg of the ride was definitely the worst, zigzagging through the industrial area where bikes weren’t even an afterthought, to get my reward. Too bad the lanes don’t go all the way to 23rd Ave.
So, to all the haters out there, I say this bike route is great! It’s useful, safe, direct and well thought out. We need more of this, not less, and we can’t let opponents to progress exploit our duversity of opinions to convince us that we need to be undoing the first steps towards a citywide cycling network. A lot of people also like hating on sharrows, wondering what’s the point of having a road marking that signifies something that’s perfectly safe, legal and normal anyway (namely cycling on the road)? The beauty of sharrows is that jerks in gasburners look especially stupid when they yell “get off the road!” so it happens a whole lot less. And less ignorant screaming makes everybody’s lives better.
Vivent les bike lanes!

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Meet the Olmo

26 07 2014

When you haven’t updated your blog for 6 months where do you start? My last post was about setting up the new BikeWorks South. Since then, the shop has been mostly finished, has opened, and has been extremely busy. More on that in a future post. I don’t want to talk about work as I’ve been working nonstop, but have had a little time to squeeze in a bike build and a ride here & there.
So, meet the Olmo.

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This Italian beauty started off with a set of tubular wheels, which I haven’t exactly had luck with in the past. My lucky streak continued when one of them exploded after the test ride.

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Around this time, a large, generous donation of high end road and triathlon parts came into BikeWorks, presenting me with an opportunity to upgrade this lovely old steel frame with some ridiculous modern components. This is actually my first bike with drop bars, so I felt a set of interuptor levers were in order.

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Yep, that’s carbon.
I also added some swanky low spoke count wheels as well as a small purse to act as a handlebar bag.

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It’s taken me zipping to the ends of the bike paths.

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Meanwhile in suburbia…

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Note the sky. That ain't clouds, it's smoke.

Here we have a public art installation in the extreme outer suburbs in a neighborhood that hasn’t even been built yet. In typical Edmonton fashion, instead of commissioning original art by a local artist, the developer got a Seattle artist to recreate pieces that he’d already produced for Portland. Still, I really dig the weird irreverence of it all. I live in a central neighborhood. Cycling out to see these fibreglass monoliths was nearly a 50km round trip. That’s how ridiculous this city is.
Of course I had to go back to see them at night, cuz they light up.

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Not sure why, but I always feel compelled to take my road bikes off-roading. Not the best idea at 130psi.

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This area has been cleared for E-Ville’s next footbridge, and you can see the corresponding clearing across the river. It won’t be long before you can ride down here on a road bike without feeling like your eyeballs are going to vibrate out.

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I think I like this bike a lot. I’m working on improving the stamina of my back, arms & hands as the riding position is way more agressive than any of my other bikes. I also have a few more plans for it. The old Campy shifters and derailleurs are lovely but can’t handle a modern gear range, so I expect to be making more changes yet, and to be riding centuries on it soon.





Biking Through Blizzards in the Coldest Place on Earth

13 01 2014

As hard as winter has come on this year, this past week has really taken the cake (except I started writing this post last month and got sidetracked). The work week began with blizzard warnings and ended with windchill warnings as the coldest temperatures in the world were registered in this province. In E-Ville, though, life doesn’t stop for the weather, and bicycle is still the best way to get around.

With the snow coming down and drifting on Monday night, I had to ride cross town. As I’ve always said, riding through fresh snow isn’t a problem, it’s when the cars start packing it down and churning it into oatmeal that things start getting dicey. Still better than waiting in the cold for a delayed bus.
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A little trail maintenance is a nice touch, though.
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And while the approaches to the High Level Bridge were drifted over and close to impossible to navigate, the upwind side of the bridge deck stayed clear.
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With days of warnings of the storm, the streets were empty, the desolation more striking than the bitter wind.

It’s all enough to make a girl stud a green tire for her fixte.
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For the record, I haven’t used my front brake since I installed the studded tire up front, though I have had a couple of hilarious slow motion falls into snowbanks while getting my riding boots caught in the pedal straps.
My long awaited bottom bracket and large track cog came in time to witness more than double the average snowfall through the the first months of winter. Unfortunately, it appears that Shimano doesn’t test their grease in E-Ville conditions as the bottom bracket starts getting extremely stiff below -15C. I’ve compensated by bringing the bike indoors whenever possible. We got long runner mats for the living and dining rooms to deal with all the slop melting off the bikes. 

Blizzards, too, must pass, usually not without some subsequent arctic air.
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I celebrated the cold snap with vegan Froyo for me and my sweetie. When it’s this cold, it’s very easy to transport without it spilling or melting.
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Life is sweet. Cold and sweet.





…Now with 50% Less Bollards

14 10 2013

One of my favourite routes to get out of the river valley from Rossdale is an old, slightly neglected bike path that runs parallel to 97 Ave. It’s a gentle climb over several blocks, and now it has 50% less bollards!

They took out half of those bloody bollards!

They took out half of those bloody bollards!

And now that there’s one less bollard in the way, anyone hauling a trailer now actually has a chance to make it up the hill.

This path continues into the Legislative grounds where you can access the High Level Bridge and becomes a much more pleasant, though slightly steeper ride.

Choose your flavor of bumpy - unkempt asphalt or  sidewalk slabs.

Choose your flavor of bumpy – poorly maintained asphalt or sidewalk slabs.

The Leg ground paths have not, however, gone on a bollard diet, and still continue to stand as a monument to the 80’s.





Slowing Down a Little with Some Bikey Books

6 06 2013

The last couple of weeks have not been pleasant thanks to an unknown digestive tract invader. There were several days that I was too ill to leave the house, so I curled up on the couch with a cat and some books. Even if I was too sick to cycle, I could still read about riding.

The first book was found in the recycling bin of the local bike co-op. How anybody could toss such a gem as “Bike Tripping” by Tom Cuthbertson is beyond me.

Bike Tripping, and a cat.

Bike Tripping, and a cat. Also, what is that floating clown putting in tambourine penny farthing dude’s mouth?

Featuring amazing illustrations by Rick Morrall that scream “I was made in 1972,” this book is a snapshot in time to when cyclists were more on the fringe than they are today, and the ten speed was the latest and greatest thing in the bike world. And it’s a really entertaining read.

Meet Freddy Sprocketooth

Meet Freddy Sprocketooth

How to get out of sticky situations, from aggressive dogs to drunken gun nuts taking pot shots out of their pickups (thankfully, we have so evolved here on the prairie since the 70’s that we no longer have to fear guns on the road since the DB’s have switched to paintball) is tackled with straight talk and humor.

Not gonna lie, I've fantasized abou this after riding through hermitage park, though I suspect that something aimed at the irresponsible dog owners would be more  successful in the long run.

Not gonna lie, I’ve fantasized about this after riding through Hermitage park, though I suspect that something aimed at the irresponsible dog owners would be more successful in the long run.

The best illustration of a dooring I've ever seen.

The best illustration of a dooring I’ve ever seen.

I'd say saddle technology has advanced since 1972, yet somehow the leather saddle is still the epitome of comfort (grumbles the vegan).

I’d say saddle technology has advanced since 1972, yet somehow the leather saddle is still the epitome of comfort (grumbles the vegan).

“Many people are thinking and talking about cycling trips these days, not only because they are attracted to the sport itself, but also because they are getting turned off by other trips which have had their day and gone sour.”

There’s a seriously groovy tone throughout. Suddenly the 70’s bike boom makes sense in context to all the burned out survivors of the sixties.

“Ride out to the country. Expand your consciousness a little, and turn on to good old Mother Nature, before she starts turning on us.”

Then again, he said it better than I ever did, which reminds me, now that I’m feeling better I ought to start planning some serious rides of the rural persuasion.

Switching into an urban cycling gear, I read “The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power” by Travis Hugh Culley.

Memoirs of a courier.

Memoirs of a courier.

This is a well written, fast paced memoir following the author’s exploits as a bike messenger and the happenings of the the Chicago bike scene in the late nineties. Alley cats, Critical Mass, crazed drivers, secret underground shortcuts, fast riding in traffic, cryptic messenger lingo; this book has it all. This was one ride I didn’t want to stop, and it may or may not have encouraged some courier like cycling behavior. Highly recommended.

In a time when cycling is becoming increasingly mainstream, both of these books are reminders of the days when bikes were for outlaws and outliers. While I think this rebel cache may once have been used to help sell bikes to the masses, I wonder if the normalization of cycling will also mean the decline of distinct cycling subcultures. I’d hate to lose one of my (secret) favourite things about riding – the cheeky yet harmless bad-assery.





Bicycles Are For Lovers

3 06 2013

I can’t remember who recently said “cycling is romantic.” It really resonated with me as what cycle advocacy is missing, and in my last post, I echoed this sentiment. But do I really need to pontificate?

Too cute :-)

Too cute 🙂





Of Never-Ending Winters, Girly Italian Foldies, and a Fixation

17 05 2013

It’s been far too long since I made a post, mostly because I’ve been ridiculously busy (I’ve had one day off of work in the last 6 weeks thanks to multiple jobs). Still, it’s been a relatively short amount of time since the landscape looked like this:

Joyriding on the Fixte through a wet ravine on a warm April day.

Joyriding on the Fixte through a wet ravine on a warm April day.

And only a week after the following picture was taken, the temperature had increased by 30 degrees Celsius:

This is me getting close to losing my mind during a late April snowfall.

This is me getting close to losing my mind during a late April snowfall.

After what seemed like a never-ending winter, the seasons changed as if a light switch had been flipped, and suddenly the weather is summerish.

I’ve been mostly riding the Fixte. I love the speed, the engagement, the challenge, the feeling of connection between woman and machine and the road. It feels a little weird to go on about it, because I feel like I’m saying the same things the fixed gear riders would rave about to me, the same things that wouldn’t convince me to open my mind to it being something that might actually be safe and fun. I get it now. After riding fixed for a while, when I get back on a bike with a freewheel it feels like the bike is out of control, like “holy crap, this bike is moving all by itself and I’m not even moving my legs!” Yes, I’m liking this fixed gear thing. I’m even planning to convert another one of my bikes to fixed.

The Fixte and some lovely art of the night.

The Fixte and some lovely art of the night.

I had built up a front wheel to match the back, a high flange hub and a white deep-V rim, but was waiting for the gravel to be cleared off the roads and for the city to get a start on patching potholes to install it and my new tires. They even came to my street and very crudely filled some of the worst offenders, so my bikes still rattle and bump uncomfortably every time I leave the house. I guess feeling like your fillings are going to rattle out is still better than worrying about dieing on the street after wiping out in a pothole. Deciding that things weren’t going to get any better and that I wasn’t going to wait any longer, I upped the hipster quotient of the Fixte.

Mixte Fixie version 2.0

Mixte Fixie version 2.0

I wouldn’t say that the 700 x 23 tires are ideal for E-Ville’s cratered roads, but it sure is fun and looks cool. Bright lime green is a colour I’d never wear but I thought I’d try a pop of brightness on the bike, and if it gets old, it’s just rubber and can be easily changed. I have a goal in mind, though. I’m working on how to skip-stop, and I plan on leaving a trail of bright green skid marks around this town by the end of summer.

In other bike related news, there was a Critical Lass Ride to celebrate CycloFemme, a Global Women’s Cycling Day. A small group of us took a jaunt across the High Level Bridge and around the Leg Grounds.

Critical Lass at the Leg

Critical Lass at the Leg

Thanks to Deb for organizing and scoring some really cool temporary tattoos!

This time has gone by in such a blur. Always busy, always something interesting going on, always another challenge. My job at the Bike Library is finally over, and though I’ll miss it, I should have a little more time for myself, to enjoy riding, instead of spending nearly every waking minute encouraging other people to enjoy riding.

Another night, another river crossing.

Another night, another river crossing.

With my fleet of bikes feeling full and my joyriding time close to nil, the last thing I expected was to feel the need to acquire another bike, but guess what fell from the sky?

What's that? A vintage Italian loop frame foldie with a Duomatic hub?

What’s that? A vintage Italian loop frame foldie with a Duomatic hub?

This bike was donated to EBC after it didn’t sell at the annual Bike Swap. How could so many people looking for bikes pass over this gem in the rough? Sure, it needed quite a bit of work. I switched out the saddle and tightened the bottom bracket to make the bike rideable, but it was only after I’d been working on it a while when I discovered its secret. That worn down sticker on the seat tube that I initially read as DOOMATIC was actually Duomatic! Much to the amusement of the rest of the folks in the bike shop, I freaked out. For years, I have wanted to get my hands on a 2 speed kick-back hub to build into Porta-Bike, and here was a bike that had one, that had all the features of Porta-Bike plus more, was prettier and in better condition, and it didn’t have a sketchy looking home weld job at the hinge.

So, I bought it.

Annabella, near the end of a joyous night ride.

Annabella, near the end of a joyous night ride.

Meet Annabella. I’ll be posting more detailed pictures soon and as I fix her up. She needs a new saddle, tires, chain and everything overhauled, so I guess I’ve got another bike project. It’s so little to ask to get this lovely Italian Annabella back on the road.

Ciao for now!