Friday, May 25, 2012

A Great Day

Sunday May 20 was a bright and sunny day, between two elite cycling races in Gateneau PQ. With several elite level female athletes in town, Fast and Female sponsored an event for girls 9 and up. This was a chance to meet up with some accomplished women athletes hear some inspiring stories. Go for a ride for ride and practice some cycling skills.
I signed Darling Daughter up, and myself as a parent volunteer. We finagled a ride across the river to the event but planned on riding home. The event was very good. We had a bi-lingual introductory presentation. The girls were divided into groups and worked on girl power themed posters, it was very cute, being possibly the only male parent volunteer I did my best to stay out of the way. Then we went out for an hour-long ride. I was very impressed by both of the ambassadors who guided our little group. I was even more impressed with Darling Daughter, she's still not completely comfortable on her new bike, and an hour ride is long, for a nine year old. She did great, riding up and down hills, following instructions and doing drills. The ambassadors had the girls practice changing gears, riding with one hand, emergency stops, riding two abreast and touching the rider beside them. It was fun.
After the ride there were more presentations and a dance (zumba). Darling Daughter really enjoyed then event, Cath and Jenny (our ambassadors) were great and made a positive impression.

When the event finished up we set off for home. It wasn't the most direct route but we were able to take multi-use recreational paths all the way home. It was great.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A New Bike!

I bought a new bike this weekend. It wasn't my first choice of bike, honestly it wasn't even my second choice. That is O.K. it's not a bike for me.
My Darling Daughter has outgrown her 20" "Cream Soda", truthfully she had outgrown it last year.

DD's bike, Purple 20" Cream Soda
Darling Daughter's Purple 20" Cream Soda
A 24" bike would work for her, but not for long. That is the trouble with kids is they keep growing, and parents are always trying to plan ahead. I am a "Serious"* cyclist so I looked for a suitable road style bike, preferably a cyclocross bike. There was some trepidation because last fall Darling Daughter borrowed a Redline Conquest 24 and participated in a local cyclocross race. This wasn't a spectacular success, the race was a bit much for her. Still, I remembered it fondly. I found a bike that I thought would be perfect at REI, the Novara Pulse a small frame cyclocross bike sitting on 26" wheels. I was excited, this would be the perfect bike. 
Of course it wasn't the perfect bike at all. Its first and fatal flaw was it only existed on a website  Darling Daughter  couldn't see or touch it. It is hard to get excited about a smallish picture of a bike. The next flaw was price, it seemed expensive. While other options would turn out to be more expensive, they didn't have the additional problem of cross border shipping. I was negotiating successfully, making progress against the objections and building enthusiasm when the Novara Pulse sold out. Well, that was a set back, and a blow to internet shopping. All was not lost, the whole family visited a local bike emporium and proceeded to check out actual physical bikes. This confirmed what I already knew, 24" bikes had no room to grow into. 700c bikes were to tall and 26" wheel bikes were as Goldilocks would say "just right". And Darling Daughter fell in love with one bike in particular. 

Darling Daughters new Trek 820
Not my first choice, but it is not my bike. It is miles better then the little 20" bike, as it fits. We've already had longer rides and she is really enjoying it. So a hardy welcome to the newist bike in the family fleet.

* not backed up in results of any sort.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Solution for Scary Bridges?

There are a lot of bridges in Ottawa, and bridges are uncomfortable places for cyclists. Why bridges are uncomfortable is a complicated question. One factor that comes up frequently is there is not enough room, cyclists can feel squeezed and trapped, they try to share the lane but the lane is often narrow.  Drivers, for their part may not realize how wide the lanes really are. By trying to drive in the same lane as the cyclist, they reinforce the cyclists feeling of being pushed to the curb. A local Councillor has proposed a simple change to traffic signs on two of Ottawa's bridges (City to Install Cycling Markers on Two Bridges). The proposed changes are simple, really just a clarification, new signs will mark the outside lanes as no passing lanes. I believe this will be a improvement over the current share the road signs, pictured below:
Bank St. Bridge over the Rideau River.
The cluttered signage is confusing and contradictory

Bank St. Bridge over the Rideau Canal

The existing signs on the Rideau River bridge are confusing with a share the road sign directly above a "No Cyclists" sign. The signage over the Canal is less cluttered but not as very prominent maybe to the point of being invisible. Cluttered, confusing or invisible the result is the same, the signs are ignored and cyclists  take to the sidewalk.

Cyclists riding the sidewalk cross the Rideau River bridge

I don't like to be a finger wagging scold, I understand that there are several reasons why this couple chose to ride the sidewalk. Road condition is probably not even the main reason in this case, access from and to the multi-use paths is probably the main consideration in this case. Still cyclists do not belong on the sidewalk. This is even more important and more clear on bridges, not only is sidewalk riding a danger to others it is dangerous to the cyclists themselves, so anything that might help encourage cyclists to stay off these sidewalks is worth a try.
Not everyone agrees of-course, many people will agree with James McLaren, president of the Heron Park Community Association. Mr. McLaren doesn't see this a workable solution, he is worried that it is unrealistic and will be a burden on cars to ask them to change lanes to pass a cyclist on the bridge. Some of these people will see this as a silly extension of the "War on the Car", holding up traffic and causing congestion. My experience says different, I ride across these bridges frequently, the Rideau Canal bridge daily. I ride far from the curb and on these narrower lanes most cars change lanes to pass any way, formalizing this behaviour will help all road users, and if it helps join communities and encourage active transportation all the better. After all this proposed change is just communicating the rules of the road as they are: Cyclists need to be passed safely and to pass safely on a narrow lane a car must change lanes.