Polar Porta Bike

19 12 2010

Between last weekend’s snow and the storm that swallowed up most of this week, we had one day of reprieve. Monday it was warm and clear, which was mighty good timing as it was also the night of EBC‘s Starlight Ride, where a bunch of us rode to the observatory at the U of A to look at the stars, Jupiter and its moons, craters on the moon, as well as spotting a few meteorites along the way.

Polar Porta Bike on the roof of FAB near the observatory.

Over all, more than two dozen people met up at the observatory, most riding (including some folks who were new to winter cycling), and some using transit. The ride was warm compared to standing around on the rooftop, and the little space heater beside the telescope was very much appreciated. With the weather warming up a little, the snow on the roads softened up, creating the strangest gravity defying buildup on my bottom bracket. How does slush get pointy, anyway?

Unnatural brown sugar bottom bracket deposit.

The next day, the snow started to fall again. I was working late when the boss advised me that it was starting to look ugly out there, and that I should head home before it got blustery. I said “sure,” secretly anticipating the fresh snow on relatively empty, post rush hour roads. It was a pretty good ride, except for the dude in the pickup truck who rolled down his window and “Ha-Ha!”ed me Nelson Muntz style. (Let’s see, if I get stuck in a snow drift, I pick up my bike and carry it, if dude in the pickup gets stuck, he has to pay a bunch of cash to wait in the cold for several hours for a tow truck – who should be “ha-ha”ing who?)

This photo does little justice to the huge amounts of snow that had collected on my sweaters.

The snow didn’t stop all night, and the wind soon joined it. By the next morning, anything that had been unburied the night before was whited out, and though the snow was still coming down, it was hard to tell how much of it was falling and how much had already fallen to the ground and was just getting whipped around by the wind.

Sassy surveys the snow that could engulf her over her ears.

I was wishing I could just stay in bed and cuddle the kitties for just one day until the roads were in better condition or people had a chance to clear the sidewalks, but this is one of the busiest weeks of the year where I work, so I still had to get there somehow. I was pretty sure the bike paths wouldn’t be plowed, and even if they were, they would be drifted over in no time, so I opted to hop on the LRT with Porta Bike.

Polar Porta Bike goes multi-modal.

Even though I did have to get off and carry the bike over a few snow banks, riding the bike was still more efficient than if I’d waited for the bus or walked the last leg of my journey. The main streets and bus routes had been plowed, and even though there was still lots of slippery brown sugar and oatmeal snow (this is the kind of oatmeal and brown sugar I prefer not to start my day with, thank-you), the Polar Porta Bike handles it better than any other bike I’ve ridden. After one day of mass transit assisted commutes, I was back biking the full 20km round trip.

I ordered a new set of white nubby tires (this bike would’ve originally come with white tires) and studded both of them, so I now have one of the most unique (and awesome!) winter bikes ever. Between all the studs and the rough road conditions I’m not moving nearly as fast as I’m used to, but I’m still moving and getting to my destinations as reliably as anything fueled by gasoline. I’m so happy with Polar Porta Bike that I even did something I’ve never done before, and added festive decorations to it.

Few sights are as sweet as a plowed bike path after a storm lightly dusted with sparkly snow. Also, white 20" studded tires FTW!

As I write this, the snow is still falling, and the plows are still rolling. A lot of folks have been acting like riding a bike in this weather is a hardship, but in reality it’s so fun! Sure it’s a bit of a workout, but I’m never too cold (actually, I get pretty sweaty), and I always feel better for the exercise. I can’t count the number of times this week I’ve been offered rides by well meaning folks, who think I’m crazy for riding. If only they knew what they were missing. The landscapes covered in sparkly fresh snow alone assure me that I’d be nuts to pass up an opportunity to ride.

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Please Be Aware & Careful Out There.

22 05 2010

Sad news that a cyclist was struck and severely injured by an LRT train on Thursday. To Wesley John Haineault, best wishes for recovery, my thoughts are with you, and your family and friends. You sound like the kind of person our communities need more of, and I really hope you pull through.

News story here.

The news reports say that he waited at the railway crossing for a southbound train, and then crossed while the crossing arms were still down, not knowing that there was a northbound train coming down the other tracks, which hit him. In a slight twist of the usual blame the victim spin the media likes to take whenever a cyclist is injured or killed, it has been widely reported that he was wearing headphones. How headphones can drown out the sound of a train is beyond me, but do you know what can drown out the sound of an approaching train? Another train passing! I must admit, though, that I am glad that they haven’t been reporting on whether or not he was wearing a helmet, because I don’t think it would make much difference being hit by a train.

I don’t know if I’ve ever met Wesley, but this story still strikes close to home. I rode through the same intersection minutes before this accident happened, and waited for the ill-fated train at the next crossing. I’ve been quick to cross the tracks after the train passes but while the signals are still on (heck, I’ve done it at least twice this week) and have had a near hit in a similar situation where there was a second oncoming train. I cycle with music all the time (and I don’t wear a helmet, in case anyone cares). For 99.99% of the time, cycling is pretty safe, but it could’ve been my, or anyone’s, number come up in the shit lottery.

Before anyone chides me for risk taking, please consider this. The most important piece of safety equipment we possess are our brains. Alertness, patience, awareness, good decision making and reaction time are more critical than any gadget we can buy or what we wear or don’t wear. Take this reminder to reflect on the chances we take and decisions we make everyday, and please be alert and careful out there.

And to my friends, I promise I will never enter an active train crossing again, no matter how clear it seems.