Happy First Day of Spring From E-Ville

20 03 2013

Because in Edmonton, “the first day of spring” is nothing more than a date on a calendar.

At least it's sunny.

At least it’s sunny.

There have been 10 inches of snow in the past week, with more in the forecast. Oh well, at least it’s sunny right now.

Before this week’ s snow, we’d been enjoying a bit of a mild streak, and I’d heard many speculating that this was an early spring. I suspect those folks haven’t lived in E-Ville for long, have a short memory, or have a rosy view of climate change.

second winter

Pretty par for the course in March, I’d say.

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Plenty of Bikes

15 04 2012

It’s obvious why any cyclist would be excited with the arrival of warmer weather (though it’s snowing again as I write this, but it’s a warm snow storm). Spring is doubly sweet for me because I finally get to deploy the Sustain SU bikes that I’ve been working on all winter. The Sustain SU Bike Library lends out bikes to U of A students & staff for a month at a time, and nobody ever walks away sad after getting a bike with only a $40 deposit.

The bike library after a crazy busy rental day.

I wanted to get a picture of the whole fleet, but I didn’t have time before half of them went out the door. Oh well, with such a small space I can only pull so many bikes off their hangers at any given time, even after I’ve cleared out all the scrap rubber & metal.

A season's worth of scrap metal & rubber: three bins of rubber, one of metal, a box of cables & housing, and a bunch more wheels, tires & frames on top, all headed off via bicycle power for recycling. I'm a truck. This is what I was up to when I broke my fender stay.

While I’ve been turning wrenches and generating scrap rubber, the Campus Sustainability Volunteers have been working on profiling all the bikes for Plenty of Bikes, our new approach to matching people with bicycles. And now (drumroll please!), I’m proud to share the brand new Plenty of Bikes video!

I cannot understate how giddy this makes me. The volunteers did a fantastic job!





It’s Sorta Like Flying…

30 06 2011

A little street art spotted on campus:

Wheee!

Here’s to bike commutes that make you feel like Superman (but without actually pulling a Superman).





Bike ‘Shrooms

23 09 2010

Something different has been popping up near the new student residences on campus.

Mushroom-like hanging bike rack.

My initial response was “that’s so awesome!”

I told a friend about it who demanded we head out on a night time mission to investigate this new species of bike rack. The first thing we did was try to put my bike up in it, and the second thing we did was determine that there was no way we could mount my bike, or any bike with front fenders, onto the wheel holders. These racks weren’t looking so well thought out, after all. Our interest piqued, we set out to do more investigating.

Unassembled bike mushrooms.

There were more bike mushrooms, some assembled, some not yet, at least 6 in all. We did not find any other types of bike racks in the new development (hopefully there’s some on the way).

My companion demonstrates the structural integrity of bike mushroom caps.

I found the tops of these to be the most visually striking aspect of the new racks, but they won’t be visible from ground level once they are installed. The design also doesn’t allow for securing the wheel and frame with a single U-lock, even though it looked like it would be really difficult for a thief to detach a wheel, which was one of the few positives. I appreciate the idea of a sheltered bike rack very much, but when I checked back at the rack on a rainy, blustery day, I found wet seats. Rain never falls vertically in this town, and I consider fenders to be a necessity at times. I’m not even going to get into how much of a pain it can be to lift bikes into hangers every day. If these are the only bike racks going up, it will be a huge disappointment for a supposedly green development.

Anyway, remember to lock your bikes up properly, everyone. Don’t end up like Bruce.

And watch out for your fellow cyclists, too.





24 Hours in the Slow Lane

21 08 2010

It was one of those restless summer weeknights where adventure and responsibility fight for the attention of the insomniac mind, when I decided I needed to ride. I often feel that I have to go farther away to find fresh scenery, and to push myself to go harder and longer, but this night I felt bored with that prospect, and instead opted take Poplar (my 1950’s loop frame bike) for a tootle.

The University of Alberta campus is close to home, packed full of all sorts of interesting stuff, and is delightfully abandoned and quiet after midnight, making it the perfect place for a slow late night ride (so long as campus 5-0 didn’t bust me for riding without lights or a bell).

View from a parkade top. Also, check out the reflective design on my hoodie!

I wanted to top a parkade on Poplar mostly because I wanted to feel what it’s like to do it on a single speed with a coaster brake. Turns out it was no problem at all, and I therefore have no reason to feel bad about any time in the past where I may have “encouraged” anyone else on such a bike to do it. 😛

I wonder if, in the 70's it was some art or design student's project to paint large circles at the top of a parkade...

Coasting down the ramps of the empty parkade, ducking my head because the ceiling seemed too close, I inadvertently rode into a photo shoot for a shiny black SUV. What an ad that would’ve made – sleek new car in huge empty space-age garage, and suddenly appears yours truly, smiling and rattling and rolling on a rusty 60 year old cycle. That image kept me giggling as I rolled down to street level and set off to explore more of campus.

Sculpture garden in the FAB courtyard, where steel goes to rust.

With the huge amount of construction on campus, routes are constantly changing, getting blocked off and detoured. The amount of change certainly keeps things interesting, and the temporary walkways can be a blast.

So, you're not supposed to ride through here, but when it's the middle of the night...

Not long after, with a big yawn I returned home for a second chance at sleep.

The next morning, the city was blanketed with smoke from forest fires 1000km away. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was complaining abut the haze? Well here’s how bad it has to be for an air quality warning:

High Level Bridge disappearing into the smoke.

Everybody’s eyes and throats were burning, and everything smelt like campfire. Worse yet though, is the thought of the destruction in BC causing all this. The pressing question for me was whether or not I should bicycle commute. Sitting across from me in the living room, the answer was obvious, “Poplar, you’re going to work!” (Doesn’t everybody keep their vintage bikes in their living rooms?). There is no way I could ride that bike faster than 15km/h, therefore I wouldn’t be tempted to over-exert myself in the nasty air. I gathered some tools in case the bike acted its age and set off on my longest (non snow storm) commute.

I noticed more people taking it easy on slow bikes than ususal, and so many more people smiled and waved, more cars stopped for me – I’m not sure if was the haze or the bike. Not long after I left home, I realized I had brought neither a water bottle nor a lock, and started worrying I couldn’t safely leave my bike while I picked up something en route to soothe my burning throat. My remedy awaited in Churchill Square in the form of people giving out free mini cans of Sprite. Cold, fizzy, sweet, free liquid? Yes please! I was very happy that my coaster brakes allowed me to drink and cycle safely at the same time. Slow riding was looking better with every revolution of the wheels.

After work, where better to go for eerie, smokey pictures than a cemetery?

Baby graveyard, for extra creepiness.

I like riding in cemeteries. They’re quiet, green, with empty meandering paved roads, plus I find old gravestones fascinating.

Looking for the sun. Looking at the sun.

Next stop, a slow ride to 118th Ave for a gallery opening and some farmer’s market goodness. The guy at the fruit stand really liked my bike. I appreciate that the 118 market is chill enough that I could keep my bike with me, and that the Nina Haggerty allowed me to leave my bike inside.

Loaded up with fresh fruits & veggies and my pink tool bag, riding into the haze again.

After more errands, and some unexpected run-ins with friends, I headed back towards the bridge and the south side.

The sun was just a cold orange disc. I wonder if this it what sunshine on Mars would feel like.

The view of the river valley in the strange orange light was spectacular.

Or maybe this is just a prelude to some sort of post apocalyptic Earth.

Over 48 hours, I rode about 50 slow kilometers on Poplar, and maybe I’m just projecting, but I think she enjoyed it as much as I did. My 10km commute, not including the extra stops, was only 10 minutes longer than usual, and was far more enjoyable than I expected. I may have to take the slow bike to work again…

Smoke on the water, and fire in the sky...





The Fleet Hits the Street

21 04 2010

Nestled deep in the bowels of the Student Union Building (SUB) at the U of A, beyond the “No Bicycles in Building” signs, near a lounge hidden at the end of two narrow hallways, is one of the best kept secrets on campus. The Environmental Coordination Office of Students (ECOS) runs a bike library with a fleet of around 30 bikes that members of the U of A community can borrow for a month at a time, and one of the hats I wear is chief wrench, crank, and maintainer of the fleet. I’ve been working with volunteers throughout the winter rejuvenating and overhauling the green bikes and cobbling together fresh bikes to add to the collection. And now that the weather has turned positively summer like, it’s time to find riders for them.

ECOS bikes ready to roll.

We pulled down all the good-to-go bikes from where they’d been hanging all winter, and seeing them all lined up, ready to take to the streets made me so elated and proud. I couldn’t help but giggle as I gave them a final visual inspection and checked the lights and the bells. Brrrinnng brrrinng hooray!

Packed in like a clown car for two wheelers.