Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Let's talk turkey: the mad gobble gobble has a firm grip on us.

Do you ever feel like you're spinning your wheels on the road to infinity? Don't worry. You're not alone. It probably happens to everybody at one time or another. 

 That's the best time to take a break, to surround yourself with a few of your favourite people and to celebrate with Thanksgiving the things you love most about your life. Earlier this week my heart sank after a conversation with someone who makes a killing mining for the energy sector here in Canada. He absolutely refuses to believe in climate change. His premise? He thinks that climate change is a farce because Al Gore is a hypocrite.  He takes exception to my opinion that our first world governments work harder for big business' bottom line than they do for the very citizens who elect them. He vehemently denied that the fossil fuel industry receives any subsidies whatsoever, (!) claiming that the subsidies all go to sustainable energy companies instead.  He then boasted that he makes a killing shorting those very companies on the stock markets. Even as my jaw hit the floor, he accused me of being naive, and ridiculous.


Ok. I will admit that I am rather gullible at times, but really?! To deny climate change in this day and age seems absolute madness. I had heard that there were still a few stubbornly oblivious people out there, nay-saying the evidence, but didn't think I personally knew any of them, and I certainly didn't expect to find them amongst the leaders of industry. But it isn't really surprising, is it? Somebody elected our war-on-the-environment Prime Minister, and it follows that his greatest supporters should be the very people who gobble gobble up the planet's treasured resources, and profit most from his anti-environmental stance. 

It makes sense that Canada's energy industry, with its prehistoric policies, should be governed by a phalanx of human turkeys, fossils all... and it IS in keeping with Canadian history that a very few people should benefit from the destruction of a long-standing, balanced and healthy environment. I despair sometimes, to think of the price we are about to pay for such short-sighted thinking. But despair is not a good place to operate from. So what's a girl to do?

She really ought to get on her bike and head out to spend some time with some conscious, fully evolved human beings, that's what. Last weekend, the wee small hours of Sunday morning found me in deep, dark Surrey, 45 km from home, celebrating a few birthdays with some lovely, dear, and (thankfully) switched-on friends. As I enjoyed their light-hearted banter, I couldn't help but marvel at how fortunate I am to have so many decent, kind, good people in my life. They are exactly the kind of people whom I would LIKE to see at the forefront of our biggest businesses, and they are most certainly the kind of people I would prefer to elect to public office.

What is it about power that corrupts so absolutely?  Why are such a large proportion of the rich and powerful so woefully lacking in moral fibre?  The man  I had that ever so depressing conversation with actually bragged to me that he paid $1.3 million in taxes last year, and went on to lament that fact, griping particularly about the amount of money paid to the first nations people.  Personally, I would rejoice to be earning enough income that my contribution to the economy was by necessity so large, but not him. He told me that he intends to sell his houses here, spend a fair few million on a swanky place in Singapore, and relocate there so that he never has to pay tax back into Canada ever again.  He was dead chuffed with himself and his cunning plan. And this is a man who was last year's "Man of the Year," according to the Canadian mining industry's flagship publication. I couldn't believe the things I'd heard, yet a recording of our conversation confirmed every sad and sorry word.

What on EARTH is wrong with us??

Bucky Fuller said that there is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come, and the reason he is right is that civilization itself is an accurate portrayal of the sum of humanity's state of mind. So the beliefs we collectively hold are fully manifest in our cities and states.  Our energy policies reflect a bizarre belief that economies must continually grow in order to be deemed healthy, and that we should constantly, endlessly gobble gobble everything in sight. We are all operating under the mandate that we must consume, consume, consume. The fact that cyclists are almost universally held in contempt is a reflection of our collective belief that a car-centric society is actually a good thing, something to be prized, aspired to, and that somehow, ridiculously, the bicycle undermines it. Never mind that it really doesn't take a genius to figure out that communities built round cars create a perfect storm of obesity and disease.

Sometimes it's hard not to feel as if I'm caught in an endless loop of danger, judgment, and misunderstanding. Last summer, I was cycling up Spanish Banks hill on NW Marine drive, when a woman drove by me within a mere few inches of my bike, laying on the horn, startling, and scaring me. She was travelling well over the speed limit, and after she passed me, she did the very same thing to a cyclist riding a few hundred yards in front of me.  I called the police, because I felt threatened.  I thought that she had broken the law in refusing to allow me safe passage on the road. I gave her licence plate number to the officer who returned my call, and he later disclosed that he was very surprised when she freely admited to strafing me, hand on horn. The officer promised then me that she received a stern warning, and would be ticketed. I was satisfied, believing that no one else would suffer the terrifying effects of her road rage. A few weeks later, however, that officer's commander called me back again, and said that the woman would not be receiving a ticket, because I was supposed to be riding on the sidewalk on that stretch of road.

Barb Morris via the CBC
Ok,  So a few things come to mind, other than the obvious obscenities. In the first place, it is hard to even see that non-sensical sign, hidden as it is amongst the branches of the trees. Also, that particular path is heavily used by pedestrians, and on a bike, I am definitely NOT a pedestrian. I am a vehicle, and as such, represent a danger to pedestrians, children and dogs on the path.  Bikes are fast, and pedestrians are slow and unpredictable, and the two simply don't mix. It is a recipe for disaster. Pedestrians seem to hate cyclists even more than cars do, and they make it loud and abundantly clear that they resent my presence on any pathway they use. Besides, according to the BC Motor Vehicle Act, "a person operating a bicycle has the same rights and responsibilities as a driver of a motor vehicle." Furthermore, it's so narrow along that spot that many joggers, and even some walking pedestrians choose to use the road. Tell me: exactly where is everybody supposed to go?

(David Dunnison)

Cyclist David Dunnison measured the sidewalk width to be 72 cm in some sections. Provincial guidelines state that a path with a concrete barrier and shared pedestrian-cycling traffic must be at least 2.5 metres wide. This particular path falls more than a little short, don't you think?  And that's the thing.  As long as we collectively agree that a motorist's right to speed with impunity supercedes everybody else's right to safe passage, we will continue to have conflicts on the road, and we will continue to see unnecessary fatalities.  On the day that woman threatened me with her car, there were dozens of pedestrians on the path, so that my presence there would not have been welcome, nor indeed even safe - for any of us.  There were certainly far fewer cars, and in fact, there were none coming down the hill when she chose to make her hatred known.  Instead of passing me safely, she indulged her road rage and endangered my life for no good reason whatsoever, and the police chose not to hold her accountable. Why?! And how many other cyclists have suffered terror at her hands?

Why do people behave like cars have a greater right to the road than anybody else?  Roads have been around since time immemorial, and bikes have certainly been here longer than motor cars.  Motorists are responsible for countless injuries and deaths all over the world, yet rarely are they called to task for the lives they ruin. Why not?  What is it in our collective consciousness which allows for such wholesale manslaughter? Good grief. If so many people died of any other singular cause, you know that we would stand together to make it stop.

Why? Is it merely an extension of our willfully blind energy policies and our capitalistic, grow at all costs economies? Or is it because we are all culpable?  I mean, really, who hasn't driven too fast on occasion? Who amongst us has never gotten behind the wheel when they were too tired to drive, or too distraught? Which one of us has never, ever opened their car door without shoulder checking first to ensure nobody was there?  But then again, maybe we are finally waking up. In Ontario, a motorist caught driving whilst on their cell phone faces a $1000 fine, though in BC, the fine is less than a fifth of that.  But it isn't really that hard to mandate safer driving habits, and to enforce the rules in such a way as to create safer streets. And deep down inside, you know that the time has come to make it so.

It's not just a pipe dream. Bucky nailed it - you know it's true. Once we agree upon a logical course of action, nothing can stop the march of progress - even if it does revolve around two beautiful wheels.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Oils well that ends well: riding for a cause.

I saw an old-school post the other day, one which inspired me to par-taaaay.

I loved seeing physical proof that I am not alone. While it's abundantly clear that humans are hard wired to ignore climate change, more and more people are definitely waking up to the undeniable fact that we simply can't continue on our present course of action without suffering undeniably dire consequences. Some people, like Leslie Askin, are shocked and dismayed to discover that as an environmental activist working to defend your beliefs in here in Canada, the Prime Minister's Office automatically considers you an enemy of the state , but it doesn't surprise me at all. 

I wasn't surprised, either, to discover that Victory Square was almost barren at the appointed hour. I had hoped to see thousands of bright, young millenials standing up to fight for their future, but apparently even they have other things to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

I WAS surprised to see that there were almost as many police as activists present as we waited to head out on a "Bikes, not Pipes!" protest ride. 

That's Marcus in white, one of two organisers of the day's events.
It may have been a small gathering, but everyone who came out for the ride holds the same vision: a planet sustainably powered, and a BC coastline free of a bitumen-filled pipeline, and the tankers needed to service it.

We inflated balloons the way Enbridge inflates profits. They do it for money, we do it for life.  Their actions are chock full of err. Ours are for the air.

Ready?  Set?  Let's rock and roll!

This was the beginning of the ride, and so we hadn't quite started chanting yet. It got better, and louder, as the ride moved along.  My favourite was "Use your ass, not gas!" but there were quite a few of them, dreamt up by Douglas Gook, all designed to let the general public know the purpose of our protest.  It was fun.  "Occupy Love!" I really enjoyed the look on many drivers' faces when they heard us singing "if you love your car, then set it free!"

You'll notice that the police gave us the right of way as we moved along, stopping traffic for the ride so that we didn't have to stop for lights, and ensuring our safety as we made our way through Chinatown, trying to raise awareness for the cause.  It makes for a beautiful contrast to the police presence in Hong Kong this week, don't you think?

The mother in me really appreciated that.  Most of the people we saw along the way smiled, waved and cheered us along, but one woman yelled "Get the F**K off the streets!" and had she been behind the wheel her anger would have scared me a little, at least with respect to the boys I'd brought with me.

But as it was, I felt good that the kids felt empowered to create change, to mold their own future the way they see fit.  Every child should understand that the future really does rest in their young yet capable hands.  It's serious business, the health of this planet.  The most important issue of all...

Most of today's parents are worried for their children's safety, so concerned that they never let them out of their sights, and for understandable reason. Yet don't we owe it to them to give them the tools to enable them to take responsibility for themselves?  After all, it's their future we are talking about here.  

The best teacher I had in grade school emphasized the fact that you really can't believe everything that you read, even if it is written in a text book.  For generations now, Canadians have been fed a bullshit version of history which conveniently left out the genocide of our indigenous peoples, and the eradication of their cultures.  I was a full grown adult before I was aware of the horrors many people suffered in the residential schools, and I was one of the few lucky ones who learned about it a couple of decades ago. Most Canadians are only now beginning to understand the truth.

And the real truth is that it will definitely serve our children well to question authority before they commit their allegence to anything in this day and age, especially with respect to our government and its dubious energy policies. When I was young, we were taught that government is by the people and for the people, but nowadays that's a joke. Government is nothing but the long arm of big business, and the health and wellness of the populace takes a back seat to profit. Every. Single. Time. 

Specially when it comes to pipelines.  The Hecate Strait is the third most dangerous body of water on Earth, and our damned fool Prime Minister is dead set on hauling millions of gallons of nasty crude bitumen through there.  It's not a question of whether there will be a big spill, but when, and where. And that is so not on.

If we're going to change things and create a better future - indeed, if we are to have any future whatsoever - it's time to stand up in solidarity.  It's time to stand up for life, liberty, and justice for all.

Our wee tiny party of protesters made its way through the city streets to a surprisingly welcome reception from the people we met along the way, until we joined up with a few more of our kind on Main and Kingsway. One of the officers pulled me aside once we stopped to congregate. to ask if we had any further road protest planned, and as I had absolutely no idea, I asked lovely young Marcus just what was going on. 

He was a bit miffed that they should asked me of all people, and how can you blame him? I was not the police liason. He sighed, turned, and walked over to them spell it out. He told them that yes indeed, we were going to take our protest down Main Street to let the city know what we think of our collective dependence on petrochemicals, and his passion lifted my spirits more than just a little.  

It won't take many people like him to make this world a better place and ensure the survival of the human race. He told the police we were going to take over Main Street, and take it over we did, at least for a minute or two...

I had no idea where we were headed, but the kids had an unusual plan. They had a serious point to make, and they wanted the petrochemical industry to listen to what they had to say. 

We marched down Main Street till we came to the Chevron Station on twelfth, and there we stayed to stop and play.

They roped off the site, and pumped up the sound, and then together we turned that poor proprietor's day upside down.

It really was a party against the pipeline, 

with music, drumming, 

 dancing and people galore, 

 in the hope that oil won't wash up on our shores.

It was a light-hearted event with serious intent.

Did our Premier Cristy Clark hear the drums beating?  Did Enbridge get the message?  Who knows?  Seriously. It still remains to be seen, but at least we did something to stop one of the biggest crimes against the planet today...

Since we're being crude: fuck that stinking pipeline.  It isn't going to happen. Not on my watch, and not if the kids who are awake today get the chance to have their say. Do you want to make a real difference, to be a hero?  Do you want to save the world? Then use your head.  Think about it, and then do like the kids said:  use your ass, not gas!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The run down on the run down.

Dear Mr Snob,

You know I love you. You would have to be completely out to lunch to have missed the fact that I am a big fan of yours, and clearly you are as sharp as they come. Everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine, and you are a true master of wit. I love that you manage somehow to get your point across with a laugh, even though you might be covering a serious topic of conversation.  Satire makes it simpler, somehow, to broach subjects which incite strong debate, and you do it so well.  But Friday's post was a huge departure from your usual fare. And as much as I love you, and will always remain a loyal fan, I really have to have a word with you...

Even though you're a world class satirist, you have every right to approach serious topics with serious intent. Please just keep in mind, however, that you have a lot of influence, not only within the cycling community, but across the board, at least as far as transportation is concerned.  So when you take off your satirists's cap to play the serious journalist, you ought to do so with integrity. Especially if you also plan to play self-appointed judge, jury and executioner to a fellow cyclist in the ugly kangaroo court of public opinion.

What happened, anyway? It is abundantly clear that Detective Mennen has a hate-on for us, and for you in particular.

Why does he hate you?  Probably because you have such influence AND you are one of us: a lowly, almost universally revilled cyclist. But what I don't understand is why did you let him push your buttons? Did you really have to jump on the "let's all hate the cyclsist" bandwagon?

I can't speak to the incident itself, because like you I wasn't actually there. I have heard various details from several different sources. I heard again and again that the cyclist had the light. Nevertheless, you vilified Mr Marshall for pushing for a personal best in a park where there are lots of people. You said "There seems to be some disagreement as to whether this latest cyclist had the light.  However, that doesn't matter.  It's a park.  You know people are going to cross against the light, and if you choose to ignore that inevitability the blame should fall on you."  Really?!  So as cyclists we are now responsible for the irresponsible behaviour so many pedestrians display?  Are you kidding?!  I yield to pedestrians, and I do my best to avoid the ones who step out into my path without looking, but if they don't look before walking out in front of a moving vehicle, the driver is not at fault, and neither, frankly, am I.

I have never ridden a bike through Central Park, so I can't precicely speak to the circumstances, but here in Vancouver, Stanley Park has a roadway through it, which I prefer over the multi-use seawall path the majority of cyclists use.  I choose the road for the simple reason that on my bike I am a vehicle, not a pedestrian.  As such, I typically travel at the same speed as the cars.  In Stanley Park, I have to speed by quite a margin in order to keep up with traffic, but nobody is complaining about the speed at which the cars drive. Well, except for me, perhaps. I don't understand how it could possibly be wrong for me to push for my personal best on the very same road that the cars speed on, simply because some pedestrians might  cross where they shouldn't, or because they might possibly be too lazy to look up before they cross onto the road.  I can't count how many times pedestrians have walked onto the road in front of me without looking up, simply because they don't hear a car coming. If Mr Marshall had been driving an electric car, and if he had hit the woman who wandered into his path in that circumstance, the NYPD would have done what they always do and declared that there was no criminality suspected.  But somehow because he was riding a bike suddenly he is worthy of a criminal investigation?! I can't believe the double standard, and I was deeply disappointed that you failed to call them on it.

I am sick and tired of being treated like public enemy number one when I am not doing anything wrong. Yes, I push for my personal best at every opportunity, and unfortunately I have to do it at risk to MY OWN life and limb every single day as I ride in traffic on public thoroughfares. I play nice, though, and yield when I should.  I try to create goodwill on the roads, so I signal, and I thank the drivers who are courteous. I always do my utmost to do the right thing, which is to be visible and predictable. I have a life, though, and can't often escape all the way out of town to hit the highways as you insist I should. And when I can't go out before six in the morning, (which I do because traffic is light then), I sometimes ride in the middle of the afternoon. How dare you suggest that I haven't got the right to ride hard and fast on the city's public ROADS, along with the cars that travel much faster than I?! It's absolutely, downright ridiculous.

Worse yet, how dare you condemn me as some sort of moral reprobate because I track my efforts on Strava?  I don't understand what your problem is with Strava. Had you ever given it a shot, or had you even bothered to ask a few questions of anyone who actually uses it, you would know that it deducts the time you spend at a stop from the time of your ride, so that there is absolutely no incentive for riders to blow through stop signs and red lights. In fact, the chance to catch your breath is pretty good incentive to stop if you're actually pushing hard.  But there have always been cyclists who don't like to stop, haven't there? Long before anyone ever even imagined Strava there was THAT GUY.  In fact, my understanding is that you yourself sometimes take a red light with a grain of salt. So it is ok to blow through a stop sign or even a red light as long as you aren't actually pushing your body as hard as you can, and just so long as you aren't tracking your ride?  That's absurd.

I have always ridden as I do. I have to strive for my personal best because my medical condition is only kept under control when I am super-fit. Strava hasn't suddenly made me a different person, but it has provided community.  It's a forum full of people who understand the kinds of challenges I deal with daily, people who support me where the rest of the world fails.  I long ago stopped caring what the average person thought of me, but I worked hard to develop a community of souls who understand who I am and why I live the way I do.  I figured your blog was just that sort of place, but maybe I was wrong? Look.  I know the type of rider you are objecting to.  We all do. But that guy has been around a lot longer than Strava has, and that rider isn't necessarily the man in question here. Strava is a tool, nothing more, nothing less.  The internet is a tool, too, and sometimes people are exploited at the hands of others who use it malisciouly. But put the shoe on the other foot for a moment, would you? How would you adapt your life to a world where people claiming the moral high ground insisted everybody just turned the internet off in memory of the people who have suffered at the hands of a few assholes who use it unwisely?

It's true. Even in the most unexpected places...

My heart goes out to Mr Marshall.  He may well have made a mistake - I wasn't there, so I can't say.  Perhaps he should have chosen a different path that day, but there is no real evidence that his actions were criminal in any way, shape, or form.  Still.  After what was probably one of the worst moments of his life, he then had to deal with the hatred and judgement rained down upon him from you and all of the rest of the sheeple too happy to join you in tarring, feathering, and hanging him out to dry. For shame, Snobbers. You've been a naughty boy. You would do well to offer him a humble, heartfelt, and equally public apology. Either that, or you're in need of a proper spanking.

But I am not holding my breath that he'll hear the "S" word, from you, or from anyone else who judged him so harshly. Sigh. Guess in the end, the best I can do is to go out and do what comes naturally...

...as best I can.  And because I love my cycling community, I will continue to track my rides.  And sorry, Snobberdooder, but I'm not even a little bit sorry.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What I did on summer vacation: Hornby Island or Bust

Ha!!  I wish.  Hornby it is.

photo here
Well, what do you know? Looks like school might finally be back in session next week, after more than three full months without classes! It looked like the teacher's strike would drag on indefinitely, but they surprised us all with a negotiated settlement this week, so this is officially the end of summer. What better time to tell you what I did on my summer vacation...  ready?

I rode my bike!! Surprise! Mostly we stuck around town, checking out the local attractions.  You know, like the Flying Beaver.  Everyone should visit the Flying Beaver at least once.  So that's what we did.  Then we set out dark and early one morning with our hearts set on Hornby Island.

We crossed the Lion's Gate bridge and rode through West Vancouver along Bellevue Avenue to Horseshoe Bay as the sun dawned on a gorgeous new day.

The grass along the seawall in West Van is so lush it's just psilly.

There's nothing silly about BC Ferries, however.  Specially not their new and anything but improved schedules and sky-high fares.  It can't possibly be true, but it seemed the walk on plus a bike price was twice what it was last year. It was certainly substantially more expensive. No wonder the lack of ferry traffic is starting to weigh heavily on several coastal communities. I am sure glad we were paying for neither a truck, motorhome, nor trailer.

But at least bikes are first on, first off (for the most part).

Outside Nanaimo (No-Mind-Oh) we were shooting for the moon,

but settling for Sexcessories in Parksville

they have both a front AND rear entrance, y'know.

After exploring Parksville we out for Qualicum Beach

slower than I'd like it.

You can see Hornby from Qualicum Beach.  It's encouraging to lay eyes upon it. Even with a way to go yet, it's a sight for sore eyes, or at least it is if you've been there before so you know what's in store.

And it really is a looooooooong haul, hauling a trailer all the way 

to heavenly Hornby Island,

though twelve hours and three ferries further along from our 6:30 A.M. start we did finally arrive safe and sound.

We were only there for two nights and a day, but we definitely made the most of the time we had. We started off the morning with a quick trip to Ford's Cove for a few supplies, 

and we couldn't help but notice how the Fall Fair was in full swing.  It's a tight-knit community, this one, and yet we were welcomed all around.

There were a few farmers' peddling there wares

but most of the stalls belonged to artists and artisans.  You could find jams, jellies, and preserves galore, along with jewelery, candles, t-shirts and more.

It's a truly peaceful place, 

with a remarkably laid-back attitude.

We had lunch at the fair, and then set off to explore the island and its many grapes.

They grow like weeds round here, so you'll find a fair few wineries if you keep your eyes open. The pub by the ferry landing called The Thatch, but it should be called The Vine, cause the deck is covered with them.

The original plan had been to sail to Hornby from Vancouver, but that fell through, and when it did, we decided to ride instead. Probably just as well, because it was such a lovely weekend that there really wasn't anything in the way of wind. 

You probably already guessed that I was okay with the change.  My legs like a good workout, and we managed over three hundred kilometers in three short days.  And while a calm, sunny day might make sailing difficult, it sure makes for great shadow play.

I love Hornby for lots of good reasons, not the least of which is its cycling culture.  I fit right in, and that's always a good feeling.

(a fun rack in Fanny Bay along the way)
It's one of my favourite places, Hornby, so even though the ferries have become prohibitively expensive,

I will always try to find my way back again.