Riding for Isaak

1 09 2012

Yesterday, the largest group of cyclists I have ever seen in Edmonton gathered in memory of Isaak Kornelsen, the cyclist who was killed on Whyte Ave earlier this week.

A section of the crowd in Churchill Square. Participants were asked to wear yellow in honour of Isaak.

The procession makes its way down Whyte Ave.

The mass took several traffic light cycles to clear each intersection.

The mass grew as it wound through downtown and over the High Level Bridge, and by the time we were on the south side the police were blocking off intersections for us. We rode down Whyte Ave to the ghost bike, where cyclists filled the entire block – all four lanes, and stopped to pay tribute.

The ghost bike, now barely visible under all the flowers.

There wasn’t a plan or program for this event. Things just happened spontaneously. For example, one rider was giving out yellow ribbons to people who weren’t already wearing yellow. At the ghost bike, after one person tied their ribbon onto the growing memorial, many more followed as a way to pay respect.

Tying on a ribbon for Isaak.

For me, one of the most poignant moments came when the crowd went silent. No one asked for a moment of silence, but suddenly, even with so many people present, the avenue was completely quiet.

Powerful, moving, incredibly sad but also inspiring, this ride brought together Edmonton’s cycling community to both grieve and pay tribute to one of our own, and to come together to heal, grow and bring about change so that an accident like this never happens again. It’s a potent reminder that we can all do better, as cyclists and drivers, as city planners, stewards and citizens, our seemingly small actions make a difference, and together we can create a safer reality for all.

Isaak, I’m not sure that I ever met you, but like so many others who only learned your name this week, you have touched my life. Your light still burns in this community, and will be a beacon as we roll into a more bicycle friendly future.

More pictures, blogs and media reports:

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Mourning a Fellow Cyclist

29 08 2012

On Monday morning, news of a tragic accident on Whyte Avenue sent Edmonton’s cycling community into shock. Isaak Kornelsen, age 21, fell under the wheels of a fully loaded cement truck after losing control of his bike while trying to dodge a large mirror sticking out from a large pickup truck that was parked more than a foot away from the curb.

Ghost bike on Whyte Ave in memory of Isaak Kornelson.

It didn’t take long for word to spread about what had happened and for glimpses of who this young man was to appear. At the University of Alberta, he was a track athlete and a student in philosophy. He worked at a local vegetarian restaurant. He rode a bright orange Masi. He had graduated valedictorian at a nearby high school. People who knew him spoke of respect and love for a talented, accomplished, but humble young man who was a true leader and inspiration. His family are also cyclists. He sounds like the kind of person that this world is sorely lacking, and I send my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and everyone else who is mourning his passing.

Mourners gather and light candles at the ghost bike memorial.

The accident happened only a couple of blocks from BikeWorks South, and there were many witnesses, including an EBC member, who went directly to BikeWorks and started working on a ghost bike with Chris, which was installed mere hours after the accident happened.

The police called it a freak accident, but that implies that it wasn’t preventable. While I can only speculate about exactly what happened, I ride that stretch of road several times a week, and from all the witness descriptions, I feel like Councillor Ben Henderson’s summation that everybody involved, the cyclist, the pickup driver, and the cement truck driver, were pushing the limits of safety, limits that are routinely pushed every day on the Avenue. I want to be clear that I’m not blaming anyone involved, but as cyclists there is a lesson we can learn. That lesson, simply put given the current infrastructure, is take the lane.

This accident has reignited calls for bike lanes on Whyte Ave, but along with lack of infrastructure, has also highlighted the lack of cyclist and driver education that allowed this to happen in the first place. On mainstream media sites (Global’s facebook page, I’m looking at you) I’ve wretched after reading some of the nasty, victim-blaming comments, and even more friendly voices have said things like “that’s why I always ride on the sidewalk” and “riding on Whyte Ave is suicide.” Well, until there’s proper bicycle infrastructure, I’m going to keep on riding on Whyte Ave, taking the lane. If drivers want to get annoyed & honk at me, I’ll be reassured, because I’ve got the right to be there, and because when they honk, it means they saw you. It’s still the fastest way to go, and believe it or not, is safer than the sidewalk where every intersection is another opportunity for a collision, or being squeezed in between a lane of traffic and a lane of parked cars. I know it sounds scary to a lot of people, and there is always the slower, less direct alternative of taking the side streets, but even if you don’t feel like you can assert yourself in a lane of traffic, or that you’re not ready, I hope that you’ll keep in mind that level of comfort as a goal.

This Friday, the monthly Critical Mass ride will be dedicated to Isaak’s memory, at the request of some of his friends. As usual, meet at City Hall, by the fountain, at 5:30. Wear yellow in honour of Isaak. Together, we’ll take back the streets, if only fleetingly. I expect we’ll alter the usual route to include an emotional visit to the scene of the accident.

News reports:





June Critical Mass

20 07 2012

As June is Bike Month in E-Ville, June Critical Mass is usually the the most well attended of the year. I don’t know what it is this year, but Critical Mass seems to have lost momentum. Maybe it’s because some of the folks who’ve been putting most of the effort into promoting it have had other commitments lately. But, promotion or not, we know the time and place. and we still ride.

Rubber to the asphalt.

The High Level Bridge is always a highlight.

Rollin’ down Whyte Ave.

It’s the Bikewriter himself!

Brian and a particularly triumphant bike lift.

Last Friday of the month, 5:30pm, City Hall (fountain side).

Be there or be a square wheel.




May Critical Mass

3 06 2011

Wow, it’s June already, which means it Bike Month, which means my doing bikey stuff to writing about bikey stuff ratio is going up, up up, and I’ve fallen behind on my blog posts. So much to write about, so little time.

To fill the void, here’s some pictures from last week’s Critical Mass.

Laughing and rolling. Rolling and laughing.

Kim on the bridge.

Turning left.

Micah don't need a car, or a car dealership.

What's more fun and more attention getting than a shiny new auto? Brett's freaky art bikes!

CJ was flashing me a peace sign, but my camera was too slow to catch it.

Adrian, aka Bikewriter, aka EBC mechanic, aka professional cameraman, was waiting for us on the hill at the end of the bridge.

Another reason bikes are awesome: If you're a kid in a chariot and you see your fave aunt riding behind you, you can say hi and chat.

After the ride, it's time to play around on other people's bikes in Gazebo park.

Class & Sass at the Mass

16 07 2010

I’m a little bit late posting photos from last month’s Critical Mass, mostly due to the sheer volume I had to wade through and edit out out of the many blog worthy pics. June’s Critical Mass is usually the largest of the year in E-Ville (’cause it’s bike month), and there were around 200 people in a mass a block long, in one of the biggest rides this town has ever seen.

This guy is really stoked!


Taking over the High Level Bridge is usually the best part of the ride.

A rare moment to enjoy the view, the breeze, the peacefulness of the ride while there are no cars on the bridge.

Jasper Ave, cyclists for a solid block.

These two had just pulled a bike switch-a-roo on their equally rockin' bikes on Whyte.

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.

Critical Mass, February, Winter City

1 03 2010

Like many other cities around the world, Critical Mass rides happen on the last Friday of the month in Edmonton (5:30, City Hall, FYI). Winter rides tend to be a less than massive affair, though, with a small but determined group of hardy cyclists.

This month, I had high hopes. The weather has been warm for this time of year, the main streets are dry & clear and more cyclists are coming out of the woodwork. I packed my skates, hoping that I could get to City Hall early enough to fit in some skating, but was foiled by weather determined to turn the rink into slush. So I set off on a little jaunt on my bike to pass the time before the big ride.

The Muttart Conservatory, an iconic E-town landmark, through the spokes.

But back to Critical Mass, I was hoping for a larger turnout to compensate for my skating disappointment. There were about 15 of us all together, and I was the only woman riding. Because of the small number, the group decided to not take over both lanes of traffic on the High Level Bridge, as the tradition has been since the beginning of Critical Mass rides in Edmonton way back in 1994, so the sweetest part of the ride (not to mention sweetest photo op) was marred by loud & aggressive passing cars. Oh well, it was still nice to hang with some familiar faces who I don’t stop and talk to on the street when it’s too cold to stop moving. And with spring on the horizon, the mass will only grow (unless there’s a blizzard at the end of March, which there probably will be, because E-ville’s weather is always evil at the end of March).

Critical Mass ends in Old Strathcona, where it fits entirely within the Gazebo instead of filling the entire park when summer rouses the mass.