Building a Better Bike Map

27 07 2012

This week, I attended a feedback session on the City of Edmonton’s bike map. Maps fascinate me. All you have to do to keep me occupied for hours is give me a some maps or an atlas, especially of places I plan on going. I’m sure the amount of time I’ve spent looking at E-Ville bike maps over the years amounts to days or weeks.

Scrutinizing the City of Edmonton bike map.

Last year, I waited with baited breath for the new edition to come out, but when I finally got my hands on one, it was a huge disappointment. While it was nice to have an updated map of the new infrastructure, the new style with it’s barely visible roads and dearth of street names compromised its overall usefulness.

Participants in the session checked out bike maps from 6 different cities (including E-Ville) and gave feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about them via post-it notes and a written survey. I wasn’t the only one who found lots of room for improvement for Edmonton’s version.

The E-Ville map had the most post-its by far. Click on picture to zoom in to read some of them.

Because there weren’t very many people there, and because I have so many strong opinions on the subject, I spent the better part of 2 hours making detailed comments on everything (and apparently riling up some of the other participants).

Even though this was the only physical session, you can still give feedback online via this survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/C7H8Y8L

Afterwards, I talked to one of the consultants who’s working on the new map. They are well aware that the current map needs improvement, and is a step down from previous editions. The current map was produced with different software than before which apparently is much more limited. They also confirmed something I’d always suspected, that there weren’t any pre-press samples to detect the misprint that made all the non-bike lane streets nearly invisible.

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The Most Difficult Thing About Winter Cycling

3 01 2011

It’s not the cold. It’s not the snow or the slush or the salt or the muck. It’s not the ice, even when you get right down to it (FTR, falling on ice > road rash). It’s not buying the perfect bike, or the right set of tires, or the right technical clothing. It’s not finding a light with batteries that aren’t affected by the cold or making your presence known to drivers who aren’t expecting you. And it’s certainly not the windchill.

The most difficult thing for me about winter cycling is the moments before I cross the threshold and leave the house.  The anticipation of the cold and the snow and the ever changing conditions is always worse than whatever the conditions of this frozen city actually are.

At the top of this parkade there is a giant pile of snow and a pretty cool view of snow and fog enveloping downtown.

Every morning brings a twinge of dread when I look out the window or check the forecast. Every morning, doubt worms its way into my head and tries to convince me that I can’t make it cross town under my own power on a two wheeled machine. Even though I know that I always feel better after a ride than before one. Even though I know that I’ll be warmer riding than waiting for a train or sitting on a bus. Even though I have never regretted a ride, but have certainly regretted not riding. A little momentum can take you to your goal, but the most difficult part is creating momentum when you start out with none. Everything gets easier after that.

This cool view doesn't have much to do with my post, except it wouldn't have happened had I not been riding like everyday was an adventure.

When people (outside of the bike scene) initially find out I ride all winter, I am pretty used to them thinking I’m crazy. I’ll often protest, “No, actually it’s pretty fun! And you’re moving so you stay warm. I don’t mind at all! It’s a great way to go, fast, cheap & good exercise. And my studded tires grip ice better than my boots…”

But as I peer out the window at my frozen bikes on a cold winter morning, I wonder, for a moment, if I really am crazy, and if this lifestyle actually is a bad choice. I’ve never counted, but I believe it takes me about 2 – 5 cranks of the chain (depending on how cold it is) to completely alleviate this doubt, at least until the next cold winter morning.

Empty streets, mysterious atmosphere, lights up 'til Orthodox Xmas, overall a fine night for parkade topping.

Maybe I am crazy, but it’s because I doubt doing something that’s always sure to put a smile on my face.





When Shit Happens

4 07 2010

Some days you’re the bird. Some days, you’re the statue.

So, what do you do when you’re on your way to work, and suddenly find yourself covered in more shit than you could picture coming out of an ostrich?

Regular readers of this blog may be interested to know that the avain offender was a common seagull, not a woodpecker. He got my skirt & head too.

Step one: scour E-ville’s unusually clean streets for something to wipe off the chunkage. I found a single piece of newspaper about a block away from the initial incident.

Step two: ride to city hall, pushing bike through the throngs of children (it was Canada Day, so there were literally thousands of families crowding the square), trying not to rub shoulders with anyone.

Step three: immerse entire left side of body in the cold fountain, regardless of the 15C air temperature, to remove any remaining gull residue. Splash around and rub hair & face manically, emerge half dripping, half dry, and shake hair to scare off any gawking tourists.

Step four: ride away triumphantly with the knowledge that having just been shit upon, the rest of your day will be better in comparison. I was smiling within 5 blocks, and dry by the time I got to work, 20 minutes later.

Living without a steel cage forces us to engage with public space in case we need a contingency plan if shit happens. On & near my regular commuter route, I’ve explored dozens of places to take shelter in case of a severe storm (ever been caught in hail?), escape routes if I encounter a bad scene, and public restrooms for obvious and not so obvious reasons. Life can be messy, and it’s nice to have places to clean up.

Last week, I had stopped to take some pictures when I heard my bike fall over. To my disgust, I found that one of my grips & brake levers were embedded in rotten apples.

Nope, don't like them apples. Notice the brake lever imprint in the top one.

Step one: don’t panic. Use leaves to wipe off as much apple chunkage as possible.

Step two: ride to a little used, bicycle accessible bathroom. A security guard actually directed me (bike in hand) to the brand new washrooms in Louise McKinney Park.

Cleaning up the bike in a lovely, though underused modern facility.

Step three: using water and TP, clean everything. Don’t forget to air dry to prevent corrosion!

Dry thoroughly.

Step four: ride to EBC to disassemble levers and clean out remaining apple bits. Swear off applesauce for the foreseeable future.

Step five: ride to 99th street to pick a rose and rub petals on hands, grips & gloves to cover any remaining odors. Ride away triumphantly, smelling of roses.

The moral of the story: there's no security like a bicycle accessible bathroom.