Sunday, December 7, 2014

The day of rack-oning: is your city bike friendly?

Hey... hello! 

How have you  been? I've been looking for the breast rack. No, I am not drunk, though I am into my cups. Bike Snob has mentioned David Byrne's pretentious racks a couple of times, but anyone who appreciates the intimate link between function and form will likely find them irritating

Have you ever noticed how beautiful a round rack is? I'm quite partial to a nice full set, personally, and judging from the chatter you find all over the interwebs, I am most definitely not alone in that regard.

So I've been racking my brain for some time now, trying to think of a way to make bicycles more mainstream. If you lived in Vancouver, and you heard people talking about bike lanes

you could almost believe that cyclists are finally making some headway, but paint on the roads can be deceiving. Plenty of people are in a real fuhrer over the whole thing. 

You might fool yourself into thinking that society as a whole has come to accept us, but you'd be lulling yourself into a false sense of security. Car is still king, and cyclists are still an anomaly, still just one election away from a "Give the streets back to the cars" Robba the Fordian transportation policy. Even so. It is important to celebrate success as it happens, and in this town, those of us who choose to travel on two wheels are making a small inroads.

You can tell by the cute little lanes on the roads set aside for cyclists which drivers tend to ignore at will.

and by the stenciled bicycles (and unicycles!) in those lanes, telling the sometimes illiterate drivers just who the itty bitty lanes are actually meant for.

Just as a home reflects its inhabitants, so does a city reflect its citizens, and if you take a tour around Vancouver, you'll see a growing if oft resented reflection of a city with a commitment to a two-wheeled way of life. People who know me well know I totally buy the Hermetic Creed:  As above, so below, as within, so without. And so it is that any city with a determined population of cyclists will eventually show signs and symptoms of that way of life. These days, many of the office towers downtown have bike parking in the underground garages, and above ground you'll find a few creative places to leave your bicycle, too.

Not everywhere, of course. Most of the racks in town are standard fare, but every so often someone plays with a sense of humour or creativity,

or experiments with scale. And as with everything else, often the simplest solutions are the most effective, beautiful, and elegant.

And sometimes they play with simplicity itself, though as ever and always, without function, even an elegant form loses its appeal.

The arts are a litmus paper; taken together they indicate a society's state of mind.  And while music, sculpture, and painting are the most obvious outlets for the creative human spirit, artistic expression is all around us- it's in everything we do, from a sense of style in fashion and a gift for creating fine food food to an appreciation of a gorgeous garden path or even an exquisite turn of phrase.

Alex Colville - Cyclist and Crow
Remember what that clever cookie Keats taught us, that beauty is truth.  Just as form and function are married, so to are art and architecture. In my simple mind, the pinnacle of human achievement is when function, form, art and architecture converge, and that's what makes the bicycle so incredibly beautiful. And so any city which openly embraces bike culture expresses the epitome of civilization.

And that's the naked truth

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! :D

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American friends! 

To another good year!
I am mighty thankful to be here for another year, that's for sure. I've missed you guys the last week or so, and this. It's just that we are building a whole new kind of escape room in Vancouver's Gastown district, and until it is open, I am working more hours than I'd banked on. Still. It is the coolest job ever, and I am ever so grateful to have it. What are you appreciating about your life these days?  I am incredibly grateful to all of my fellow Vancouverites who decisively voted Mayor Moonbeam back into office, despite what appeared to be a close race prior to the election. Before the civic election, it appeared to be a tight race, and those of us who use the roads without necessarily driving a moving lethal weapon had an awful lot to lose.

The NPA's close contendor LaPointe said "It's time we give the roads back to the cars." I could almost smell the Fordian crack pipes burning, and I could definitely sense the unrest on the city streets, as all of those angry motorists longed to take back the bike lanes.

And just last weekend, on our club ride, we rode right by a youngster who had been struck by a vehicle in the bike lane on SW Marine Drive.

Burrard and First

And the very next day, I was witness to a young woman who was hit by a pick-up truck, This particular truck:

The driver felt horrible, it was plain to see. And you can't see it from this angle, but there was damage to the truck on the right front panel. The girl who got hit was riding east through the Burrard St intersection at First Ave. She was riding with the lights, and in the light of day, when he turned left directly into her path, so that brake as she tried, it was too late to stop. I had turned left in that intersection the moment before, headed for the bridge, and had stopped to turn on my rear light when I saw it happen. It was a shock to see, and it made the most sickening sound.

So I was driving a Zipcar around for my boss today, when I heard the CBC interviewing an officer about the nine pedestrians and two cyclists who were hit by vehicles last weekend.  Vancouver isn't a big city, but even in a big place, that is an awful lot of people whose day was spoiled by inattentive drivers. And as I was listening, I noticed how many of my fellow motorists were speeding, and swerving from lane to lane in an effort to get where they were going quickly.

Two things I took from this week.  1) SW Marine Drive might pretend to be a bike lane, with all of those painted bicycles, but it's definitely not.  It is a narrow shoulder, riddled with potholes, full of debris, and chocka block with parked cars. It's a death trap, and the most dangerous place in the city to ride a bike. It's high time somebody did something about it. Fortunately, the city has it blocked off from 5 Dec to 5 Jan, so we will soon see what they have in mind.  I will get back to you about that the moment I have the scoop. And 2) The only way we will have safer streets is if there is a concerted effort to slow traffic down.  We have to make a concerted effort in both education and enforcement.

Because let's face it.  We all want our loved ones to come home to the holidays safe and sound. So slow down, drive safely, and enjoy having your nearest and dearest healthy, happy and whole, mmmkay?

                                    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everybody! :D xo xo

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Keep on Truckin'! The drive towards global warming continues, with car sales starting to pick up.

Hello, and welcome to spokeNscene!

After last week's dismal news events, I decided to host a little dinner party mid-week, just to brighten my spirits.  After all, sharing good food with good people is one of life's greatest pleasures, don't you think?  Besides, it is hugely important to celebrate often, just to re-align your frame of mind.  I decided on a hummus and pita starter, rosemary chicken, roast potatoes, and greek salad, and when I went to the shop to pick up cucumber for the salad, I was shocked to find that the price had risen from just over a dollar a little while ago to a whopping $3.75! I keep hearing warnings that broccoli is going to cost seven dollars a pound soon, too. WTF?! News reports say it's because of the drought in California. Climate change. Extreme weather events are happening all over the place in ever increasing frequency, but that doesn't seem to bother anybody here. I used to be proud to be Canadian, but lately?  Not so much.

Even though thinking people the world over have understood and agreed for a good long time now that we simply must curb our polluting, carbon emitting ways, and even though it is fairly obvious that we need to change our uber-consumer habits before climate change becomes disastrous, everybody just continues blithely along on their merry way.  The North American automotive industry was booming this year. That's right.  Sales of new vehicles were up all over the place.  But it's not like everybody got substantial raises over the last few years and decided to treat themselves to a new car with all of the money they put away.  Oh no...

Moody's this week warned that Canadian banks are exposed to some serious risk because of the crazy number of automotive loans Canadians are taking out, and the CBC's morning business consultant, Chris Carter said that we are going into debt en masse to purchase new pick up trucks.  That's right. Canadians are purchasing monster sized new vehicles like never before, and what's worse: they are doing it on credit.

WTF?!  And what really bugs me is that nobody sees even the slightest connection between their dumbass monster truck and the four dollar cucumbers in the supermarket.  Everybody seems to think that changing their habits to prevent a climate change disaster is somebody else's responsibility, that their lifestyle is not at issue, and that they haven't any responsibility for the mess we're in.  And OMG, even if you don't think that carbon is an issue, do you really think that the planet can cope with unlimited emissions?  Does the whole world have to breathe the kind of toxic sludge they try to pass off as air in Beijing before people stop driving fucktardedly huge vehicles around town?!  It doesn't take long in a closed environment with your beloved pick up truck idling before you are no more.  Exactly how many billions of cars and city dwelling pick up trucks do you think this closed atmospheric system can handle?

Kissing clean air goodbye.  Giving it the boot.

For the last few years, Canadian banks have raked in record profits.  Billions and billions of dollars in profit, every single one of them. Scotia bank, for example, scored a record $6.7 billion in profits in 2013, a mere five years after we the taxpayers BAILED them OUT and yet they have just announced that they are cutting 1500 jobs. How greedy can you possibly GET? Someone explained to me that it is because their insitiutional investors insist on a certain level of performance (read growth), but that brings us right back to the argument that infinite growth on a finite planet is a business model which doomed to fail.

So... the banks are offering low price, long term car loans to lure apathetic, complacent, carbon emitting Canadians into buying the massive SUV or pick-up truck of their dreams, and then the cheeky bastards have turned around and sacked plenty of those very same citizens, leaving them unable to repay their debts. Takes a lot of balls, that.  Heyyyyy I know!  We should call them Scrotia Bank.

And are all of those big trucks really making people happy? Ha!!  That's a joke.  Um, I think not.

The other day I was riding down Cypress Avenue bike route toward First, when a big truck kept gunning to get by me, even though the speed limit is 30 km/hr along that stretch. I was travelling downhill on hefty Bea bike, where gravity is my friend, so I was cruising along at a good clip IN the BIKE LANE, and was in fact travelling faster than he was. Never mind that by law, when I am travelling at the speed limit, I am allowed to take the whole lane, and not just half of it, but I didn't get greedy for space the way he did.  I stayed in the bike lane. Still.  He was foiled in his attempts to pass me again and again by the traffic coming up the hill in the other lane, because he had to yeild to the cars coming in the opposite direction, whereas I was permitted to pass, using the little bike lane work around. He was furious. Fuming. Just like his smelly truck. That's a great way to exhaust yourself. He looked pretty monstrous himself, getting his hate-on in that massive beast of a vehicle. (OMG! That's it! It's probably a phenomenon similar to the one where people resemble their pets, or their life-long partners!  That must be why there are so many monster sized Canadians fuming in their butt-ugly, monster sized motor-vehicles.)

Anyway, he made his anger clear by driving into the bike lane and pulling to a stop just before First Avenue, blocking over half of the bicucle access with his massive truck.  But he only blocked half of it, and I am pretty comfortable in tight spaces, even though Bea bike is a wide load, so I cruised right past him anyway, with the wind in my hair and a smile in my face.  Man oh man did that piss him off.  He caught up to me a couple of blocks later, and laid on the horn as he sped past me, to which I replied with a smile and the middle finger salute.  When we were both stopped at the next light, he rolled down his window to say "Genius move, you fucking twat."  Again, I laughed, because he looked funny all red and apoplectic like that, though I can't see him living long, bless his hatred filled heart. I've had lots of guys chat me up from inside their vehicles before, but this definitely wasn't a pick-up line! Ironic, too, him calling me a twat, when he was the one with the long box. Still chuckling, I told him that he should go back to school, since he obviously can't read the picture signs painted all over the road.  And then I suggested to him that the next time he wants to drive in the bike lane, maybe he should get off of his fat ass and onto a bike.

After all, you know my motto:  Use Your Ass, Not Gas! Though, come to think of it, maybe some bicycles are a little more gas powered than you'd like to think...

You see, this is a great town in so many ways, but even here, people refuse to take any responsibility for the state of affairs in our own neighbourhood.  Because of the ungodly price of real estate, and because ours is a fairly temperate climate, (at least by Canadian standards) Vancouver has a serious homelessness issue. And Mayor Moonbeam, our very own cycling advocate, may well lose his mayorality because he tried to do something  about it.

Housing is a basic human right, and homeless people have half the life expectancy as those with homes, but Mayor Robertson is being villified for trying to address the issue. None of the civic parties up for election has a great solution, but at this point, we have to do something. Anything.  It's madness. Here in Canada, one of the G8 countries with more wealth than most places on earth, one in five children live below the poverty line, and the situation is worst in BC. But somehow it seems that most Canadians who are really well-off are also completely cut off from any social conscience; they are sadly lacking in any sort of moral fibre. 

For example, that plotz currently holding title as the govenor of the Bank of Canada, Mr Poloz, suggested this week that graduates and students who can't find work should instead work for free.  I have to wonder just how willing he would be to model the behaviour he is suggesting. Or maybe he could donate his salary to the poor here in Vancouver to help house them. He and the head of Scrotia bank alike.  Between the two of them, they could build some bridges between the haves and the have nots, and in so doing, improve a lot of lives.

But I'm not holding my breath. History will judge us by how well we treat the less fortunate amongst us, and I'm afraid Canadians won't be sitting pretty.  Still, we have to do what we can to make ours a better place to live in.  And there IS some light at the end of the tunnel.

So... take a deep breath, hop on your bike, and join me on the road to world peace. Some people are already on it.  Like the Phil, the fit appliance repairman. Or like Russell, the Tikki Tikki pedi-cabbie, a bright guy who has travelled around the world for seven years, offering a lift to weary pedestrians...

It's not an impossible dream, you know, the bike path to world peace. If we each do what we can, and if we take it one day at a time, then some how, some way, together we'll get there.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Seat Post: you can't saddle me with the blues.

Wow.  What a big week in the news!  Sure, Canada suffered its very own terrorist attack in Ottawa, and yes, the CBC's biggest star is definitely not the great guy he seemed to be, but I am talking really BIG news here. Seriously. Did you hear? Washington State has shrunk its ferry capacity to reflect American weight gains. That's right. And what's more, Crash Test Dummies are Getting Fatter to match American drivers. Gone are the fit crash test dummies of old, weighing in at 169 lbs.

(from the CBC)
Today's crash test dummy weighs 270 lbs, and that has THIS crash test dummy worried. "Why?" you might wonder...

Earlier this spring, when I started racing, Bill Yearwood (President of the BC Masters Cycling Association, and Investigator-in-Charge of the Transportation Safety Board) lifted Ti Baby and laughed, saying "no wonder you're so strong!" because my bike weighs almost six pounds more than his. So I looked into what it would take to bring my bike in line, and it didn't take long (even for my tiny brain) to figure out that it would be much more cost effective to drop a few pounds round my middle than it would to make Ti Baby a few pounds lighter.  

But nothing appears to be getting any lighter, not this crash test dummy, and not her faithful steed, either.  

Back then, Ti Baby weighed 19.5 pounds, but today, fully winterized, it tips the scales at a hefty 21.8 pounds!

 And me? Bloody hell, all geared up for winter, I don't even want to know.

Escape Velocity's Saturday Club ride - so civilized - here we are, waiting while someone changed a flat.
What I DO know is that poor Bea bike's saddle was looking a little worse for wear, all sway-backed and sagging in the middle.  When I'm riding with the fast boys up there, I like to stay in the drops as much as possible, but I'm not such a big fan of riding in the droops. I prefer that my rides have some serious rigidity.

It was distressing that the saddle is so distressed. It's less than a year old, and yet the tension adjustment bolt was completely maxed out.

Meh. As if anybody needed further evidence that I am hard-on things.

I was fit to be tied, which was fitting, all things considered. I'm not just old, you know, I am a bit old fashioned, too, and so I like to apply old school solutions whenever it works. Long before Brooks employed the saddle adjustment bolt, they used a hole different system.

And you know how I aspire to holiness, (you've gotta be holy if you want to be the pope!) so it was definitely time to swiss cheese the saddle.

I decided to give it the corset treatment...

 y'know, a little bit of leather and lace. Might not be the way that Jian likes it, but it suits me just fine.

So fine, in fact, that I gave it the babble on seal of approval. 

This little fella was dozing in the Horseshoe Bay marina last week when some of those fat ferry passengers walked by and woke him up, poor little mite.

He was just hanging out, waiting for the fish to wander by, alongside his fine feathered friend, blue heron.

The whole week was tinted blue, wasn't it, from beginning to end, starting with a murderous madman at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 

and coloured crazy with a beloved national icon's dramatic fall from grace.

But we're in this thing together, and blue is still beautiful...

And every day above ground is a good day, especailly when you get on a bike.  Nothing else is guaranteed to put a smile on your face quite so quickly, save maybe sobberdooders up there.  Sure, Vancouver caught the remnants of a hurricane that just missed Hawaii, a system which turned the roads into rivers for much of  Bike to Work Week, but even in the pouring rain there's no better way to get around. Call me crazy (you won't be the first) but I can give you a million good reasons...

Just like YOU've given me a million good reasons to keep writing about it!  

Yeowza! Thank you ever so kindly for making this endeavour more than worth my while. The week might have gotten off to a dark and terrible start, but thanks to you, I am sitting here wearing a great big smile.  :D xo xo