Friday, December 14, 2012

Killing In The Name Of... the second amendment?

That's it. I'm officially fed up with guns, the gun lobby, gun toting freaks that claim "the right to bear arms"... all of you. How can you claim the need for guns in urban society in the face of this? There are 18 dead kids and 7 dead adults at an elementary school in Connecticut. And, just like all the other dead kids in movie theatres, on remote islands in Norway, at American schools and universities, and on Toronto buses, they were killed with guns
The NRA, Sean Hannity, Fox News, Ted Nugent, Stephen Harper (and the entire Conservative Party) can all go screw themselves. If I hear one word about how "guns don't kill people, people kill people" I'm going to scream. You know who kills large numbers of people with ease and efficiency in this day and age? People with GUNS!

With the tragedy in Connecticut there have now been 31 school shootings in the US that have happened since Columbine. There are those who are already making the argument that these shootings are not gun-control issues. They are mental-health issues. Yes, they are. However a mentally-ill person with easy access to a firearm is a lot more dangerous to a school full of kids than an mentally-ill person without a gun.

Mental illness is one of the most pressing community-health issues we have in North America and we should be focussing more resources on it than we are. But to blame mental-health issues for these killings is only giving weight to 1/2 the problem. There is no way a mentally-ill - or any other person - would be able to kill 27 people, in one go, with a knife or a sword or a machete. They would not be able to strangle 27 people in short order.

Conservative pundit (and all around, small minded, cretinous troll) Matt Drudge tweeted today that 22 students had been slashed in China, in a classroom attack; as if to say "see people don't need guns to commit violent crime against kids". *Sigh. Yes Matt Drudge, people commit violent crime with other weapons. However, you will note that the children in the slashing attacks were not killed and the attacker was apprehended. The difference in the attacks is the gun, and the culture that glorifies easy access to guns and romanticizes gun violence.

The other argument I'll address, just to get it out of the way is this: "If there was an armed person in the school, fewer people would have been killed." First of all, suggesting that teachers, principals and janitors patrol the school with side arms, is beyond ridiculous. Secondly, let's assume that the armed staff member wasn't one of the people killed outright. Nobody outside of a soldier or police officer trained in stressful shooting situations, is going to pop up from behind a desk or from around a door frame, and get the shooter with one shot - just like the movies. More likely fear will take over - as it should - and they will run for cover with the rest of the masses. Or, more tragically, they'll stay to fight it out with the shooter and more people will die from poorly aimed, frantic shots. An armed society is not a safe society.

I'm now beyond wanting the gun registry reinstated. I just want them banned for the majority of the population. I think, and I've posted this in other places in the past, that if you want a gun, you should have to prove that you need a gun.

Do you live in the city and never venture into the woods to go hunting? You don't need a gun. You don't get one.

Does your job require you to carry a gun? ie/ Police, private security, conservation officer, prison guard, soldier? No? Then you don't need a gun. You don't get one.

Are you a competitive shooter that can leave the gun in a secure location like a gun safe at a range? No? You don't need a gun. You don't get one.

Now, please keep in mind that I'm writing this from a Canadian point of view. We do not have a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms. Did you get that Canada? This is not the USA. You have no guaranteed freedoms when it comes to keeping a firearm. In this country, that's not a valid argument.

Canada is country that - in the words of Will Fergusson - "was partied into existence . We have no tradition of using gun violence to settle out problems. We didn't secede from the British in a bloody confrontation. We haven't had our northern brothers fighting their southern brothers. Canada was created at a cocktail party in Charlottetown, PEI in July 1867. Canada was a behind-the-scenes deal, brokered over martinis.

If you have a problem with the idea of a gun registry - and I don't mean the cost because that's a whole other topic - ask yourself this question: "If I have to register my car, an object that while deadly, isn't designed to kill people, then why shouldn't I have to register my gun, which is specifically designed to kill people?"

I'm angry today. Angry and sad, and feeling like I want to wrap a big blanket around my own school-age kids and keep them indoors. I won't of course. Kids need to be free to run and play. They also have the right  to live violence-free, and unencumbered by the threats of the modern world. Guns don't alleviate those threats. It has been shown time and time again that guns exacerbate them.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Opting Out

This is one time where the disclaimer at the top of the post is of critical importance. Please read this and understand that:

I am not taking sides on this issue of whether or not people should attend Remembrance Day ceremonies. Nor am I advocating that one should or should not attend Remembrance Day Ceremonies. Quite frankly, I feel that this is a personal decision - akin to decisions about religion and politics - that is best left to the individual. I am merely providing some context and some extra food for thought about the issue of opting-out of Remembrance Day.

One of the great things about living in Canada is that as long as we are not promoting hatred toward a group of people, we are free to believe what we want, say what we want and, within the bounds of the law, do what we want to do. Nobody in Canada whether it is a private citizen or the government can force you accept people from the LGBT community, to be fully accepting of people of colour, to choose one religion,  or force you to be an unbeliever. Looking at it from the other side of the coin, nobody can stop you from embracing the LGBT community, people of colour, the religious or the atheists. While you cannot promote hate-speech or violence toward any of those groups, you are free to believe what you want to believe.

Me, I'm the accepting guy. I feel that our community is at it's best when we all live, work, play and contribute to social good, together. And not this is not regardless of our background, beliefs, culture-differences, sexual orientation, or political leanings, but because of those things that make us unique. I'd much rather have the most culturally-diverse, richly-textured, and nuanced community I could possibly create, than a boring existence of beige sameness and cultural porridge.

It can be argued - and it traditionally is - that we enjoy these freedoms because of the men and women who fought the wars so that you and I don't have to. It could also be argued that European wars and eastern Pacific wars, may have had little effect on us here on island North America, regardless of who won. North America is vast and the idea that a small foreign nation could - in the days before electronic mass media - take away our core freedoms seems pretty far-fetched. Put another way, did we have to send our people to fight and die in a foreign land?

Whatever you believe, the uproar around Edmonton Schools allowing their students to opt out of Remembrance Day ceremonies is certainly boiling over. Unfortunately, the rhetoric coming from the traditionalists is trending toward familiar xenophobic and intolerant tones. Comments have appeared on Facebook, on Twitter and in letters to the Editors of various papers, exhorting new comers to Canada to go home if they don't like the way we do things and that "It's OUR country..." so you'd better do what we do and say. Many comments are also full of the ultra-nationalistic, jingoistic themes that drag us into conflict in the first place. Unfortunately these short-sighted views don't reflect the reality of an diverse and fluid culture that is constantly shifting and trying to create a shared-values system.

Here's a few illustrations to show how that thinking can fall short:

If a pacifist family feels that their children shouldn't participate in an event that, to them, celebrates violence, then they should be free to opt out. You might not like it but you absolutely cannot call them unpatriotic or bully them because they are putting action to their belief system. This is analogous to a Jewish person demanding that Christians keep Shabbos from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Traditional Christians would be outraged to find that their beliefs were being suborned to those of another group. So it is with pacifists. One cannot denigrate them for practicing their beliefs; especially when that practice causes no harm to anybody. Allowing a pacifist family to opt out of Remembrance Day so that they can keep their beliefs intact must be reasonable; right?

What of a family of Japanese or German immigrants? Surely allowing people from the "losing side" or the "wrong side of history", to opt out would be reasonable. After all, it wasn't their families who fought and died for Canadian freedom. In fact, there's a better than average chance that someone in their family died, due to the actions of someone from "our" community.

What of a Yugoslavian family, refugees to Canada because their village was torn apart by bombs dropped from Canadian attack planes? Are they supposed to take off their hats and give thanks to the veterans who drove them from their homes?

I'll address the counter argument that says "if it weren't for our veterans, those immigrants wouldn't have this safe place to come to." Perhaps, depending on your feelings about the potential impacts of either losing or ignoring the two World Wars when they happened, and on your thoughts about whether we should have been involved in the modern conflicts, at all. But if someone puts a gun to your head, demands your money and then gives you your wallet back it's going to take a while before you feel gratitude to that person for allowing you to live. In a broader sense, that's what's at play for the refugees from war-torn countries, where we helped to create the problem. Canadian (under NATO) jets bombed the hell out of Bosnia Herzegovina and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. I think it's a little absurd to expect that those same people should give thanks to the veterans who displaced them.

Please don't misunderstand my motives here. I'm as grateful as the next person to our veterans. I have pictures in a trunk of my Step-Grandfather in uniform, heading to the trenches of WW1. I grew up with him often drifting away in his mind, to a place that clearly disturbed him and from which he probably never fully mentally recovered. The impact of witnessing that mental trauma made a huge impact on me as a child and I've never underestimated what he gave up in order to serve his country and his fellow Canadians.

I am not saying either way, that people should or should not support Remembrance Day. I am saying that it's not for a group of super-patriots to decide what is right or wrong for people to believe.

My family marks Remembrance by wearing poppies, talking about peace and having the kids attend and participate in the schools' Remembrance Day ceremonies. Would I allow them to opt-out? Probably not; because I think the lessons about avoiding conflict and finding peaceful solutions to problems are important lessons to learn. The schools have actively included these themes into their Remembrance Day curricula.

However I for one don't believe that anybody should be forced to participate in something they don't believe in. Period. Case in point. A few years ago our elementary school wanted the kids to wear red shirts on the last Friday of the month to honour the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. When my son (then in Grade 3) said that he didn't want to participate in red shirt days because he didn't believe in war, we supported that decision. We didn't announce it publicly, but we did give him the vocabulary to justify the action that he took, should he get questioned. You don't have to like it, but you do have to accept it. I should point out that if he had wanted to wear a red shirt, we would have supported that decision as well.

I posted a quick note on Twitter today that said. "One of the hard parts of freedom, is accepting that people may not use it the way you want them to." One of the downsides of freedom is that you have to accept that not everybody thinks the way you do and not everybody believes the way you do; and that it's a good thing for society to work like that.

American conservatives might not like it that people burn a flag that soldiers fight and die for, but that's too damn bad. Flag burners have the right to burn the flag because people fight and die for the freedom of expression. Likewise in Canada, if you believe that soldiers went to war around the world so that you and your family can live free, then you have to accept that some people will display that freedom in a manner that you don't support. That includes opting out of the ceremonies that honour veterans. You don't have to like it. You don't have to agree with it. But if you truly value all our freedoms, then you have to accept it. The knife in this case, cuts both ways. It's ironic, but accepting all that a truly free society allows for is difficult. It takes work, thought, openness, and understanding. Demanding that people bend to your version of freedom and not allowing them to give voice and/or action to their beliefs, diminishes the core values of the entire concept of freedom.

So go into this Remembrance Day knowing that you are doing what you believe to be the right thing to honour and respect veterans. But keep in mind that a truly free society has no right to force that belief and that action on those who for whatever reason, cannot support it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Snow. Hell Yeah

Full Disclosure: As usual my views are my own. Year-round cyclist, winter-lover, and one who likes re-orienting your personal windmill-tilting.

Let's get this party started.

If I hear one more person whine and complain about how much better snow removal is in Montreal or Toronto, or Ottawa or Winnipeg, or wherever you may have lived before that had great snow removal, I'm going to lose my freaking mind. Get over it, or get your priorities in order and decide what it is you want to complain about.

I'll lay bets that the same people complaining about snow removal are the same ones who forced the City to amend the bike lane trial prior to the end of the pilot period. But I digress...

The issue here today is the continual whining about snow removal and how hard you feel your life is because the City hasn't cleared every damn flake from your side street within a nanosecond of the snow leaving the clouds above. People just don't seem to understand that if the City spends more on snow removal, your taxes will have to go up, or you'll have to do with reduced service in some other area. Why is this the case?

Here's why: There are only 92,000 of us living in what is becoming a sprawling, sub-urban, residential warren of vinyl siding and big lots. We take up a lot of space. The math is frighteningly easy to comprehend:

(Few people + lots of space + snow) / shared cost of removal = the speed at which snow is removed

There are only three ways to speed up snow removal in a city like Red Deer. 
1. Pay more - but you don't want to do that
2. Take up less space by living more densely - you don't want to that either
3. Embrace climate change and wait for the end of snow - this one depends on how you feel about climate change.

There is no fourth option. The reason that Montreal has a great snow removal system is that there are 1.8 Million people there. The population density is 2205/km2. That's a lot of people who don't take up a lot of real-estate. There are fewer kilometres/person requiring snow removal. By comparison, Red Deer has a population density of 868 people/km2. Montreal is 2.5 times more densely populated than Red Deer. They have more people to pay for proportionally less space, from which snow needs to be removed.

So, complain about snow removal if you want. Maybe you'll even make it more efficient. However, don't complain when your 2013 tax increase is directly tied to a line-item in the budget for snow clearing.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Revealing Cowardice

Everyday people in the public eye put their opinions, decisions and actions on view for everybody to see. The things our elected officials and senior bureaucrats say, and do within the scope of their work, are a matter of public record. That's a given; a black and white reality of the life of someone working for the public good, on the public's dollar.

Less black and white, is the conduct of those elected officials and senior bureaucrats when they are not engaged in official duties. What they do and say on their own time is their own business. However, as we've seen  locally in recent weeks and over the past 50 years with the rise of broadcast and new media, the public has a funny way of deciding what is and isn't their business.

Ask someone working on the public dollar and they'll tell you, nearly everything in their private and public lives is open for debate and discussion. The level of bravery required to put oneself in that position is incredible. To know that with every decision you make somebody is going to cry foul, call you names, question your intelligence, and question your morals; and to still put oneself out there, is an act of selflessness.

In order to ensure that there are checks and balances on governing bodies, there needs to be an effective critical social voice. That voice should include media professionals, opposition (or pseudo opposition) political critics, and an emboldened citizenry. Now, when a critic from any of those spheres writes a letter to the editor, pens a column, writes a blog, posts a critique on facebook (or other social media) they often do so under their own names. It's a requirement for columns and letters to include your real name, and really it's just honest and decent to do so on your blog or through your on-line missives. Why? Because it shows that you are willing to engage in open debate in the public forum, and that you are willing to stand behind your statements. You are essentially treating the person you are critiquing with a basic level of respect.

So what then do we make of anonymous bloggers who have nothing positive to add to the public debate? How then do we treat people who won't stand behind their statements, by posting their thoughts under their real name?  Before answering that, I want to examine what would posses someone to make critiques from inside a virtual ghillie suit.

What can be the motivation for putting on a virtual mask, jumping up and down in the on-line world, and making a whole lot of noise?

I figure there are two reasons for making anonymous, on-line attacks on public officials:

  1. Cowardice. You're just a big, scaredy-cat chicken. Sure it's an immature counter-point but I don't know how to put it any more bluntly. Whether you're protecting your job, your reputation or you're just afraid of people finding out who you are, the act of posting critique from behind an anonymous screen isn't an act of public service; it's the act of coward.
  2. Conspiracy. Perhaps you think that somehow, if you post under your real name that "The Man" will be out to get you. Maybe your property taxes will go up - but just yours. Maybe all the traffic lights will mysteriously turn red when you get to them - but just in your lane. Maybe the By-law officer will fine you for parking 11 minutes in a 10-minute zone - but just you. Let's be clear here, City governments don't work like that. The governing body has way too many pressing issues to deal with to be distracted by "getting even" with a critic.

Whatever the motivation, either cowardice or the need to hide under a protective shield of tinfoil, anonymous critics do need to be addressed. This is not to give them their due nor to give any credence to their arguments. Rather, we need to call out anonymous critics and make them accountable for their statements because their statements have a ripple effect. For example, if a person has an opinion about a piece of potentially contentious, public policy they have every right to voice that opinion. By placing their name to that opinion, they are forced to carefully choose their words and to temper their outrage. This creates a more balanced and reasoned discourse. Conversely the anonymous post is less likely to be subject to that tempering. The writer can hide behind the mask of anonymity and feel secure that any backlash will safely pass him/her by. The resulting ripples include an inflated sense of public outrage, and as we saw during the bike lanes "discussions", the devolution of the discourse into name-calling, threats and the potential for violence.

When an anonymous critic calls out a Councillor by name, and not only makes a poor argument against the ideas of that Councillor, but insists on calling into question that Councillor's reputation and intelligence, then the critic must be able to face a rebuttal from his accused. It's how public discourse works.

In the country of Burma the government's most outspoken critic (hell the most well-known political critic in the world) never hid behind a pseudonym or simple anonymity. Aung San Suu Kyi faced the threat of torture, execution and threats to her family members for openly critiquing the military junta in Burma. She was violently attacked in 1996 and spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest. And yet she has never wavered and never hidden from those she was criticizing.

Call him a lunatic if you want, but Paul Watson has driven his little Zodiac - and later his large ships - in front of Japanese whaling ships. He has given press conferences to rail against nuclear testing, chained himself to bridges, to nuclear power plants, and to old growth trees; and engaged in myriad other international acts of protest and critique - never once hiding his identity.

Here in Red Deer we see letters to the editor in the Red Deer Advocate, daily, calling for political change, public action or questioning the decisions of council. They all have a real name attributed to them. Even someone I disagree with, Ryan Handley, had the decency and the respect for public discourse to publish his comments and his anti-bike-lane petition under his own name.

Also here in Red Deer, Bill Berry, the gentleman assaulted by the RCMP, has been very outspoken with his criticism and call for action; under his own name. Bill is contributing to the public discourse, be calling for action on a very difficult-to-understand scenario, and he's doing it in his own name. To be the victim of an assault by the authorities and then to stand up publicly and vocally demand action takes courage.

All of these people - including the ones we disagree with - deserve our respect, our time and our reasoned response. They deserve it because they have the courage to stand behind their words and actions, under their own names.

Back to my original questions: "So what then do we make of anonymous bloggers who have nothing positive to add to the public debate? How then do we treat people who won't stand behind their statements by posting their thoughts under their real name?"

Well as I see it we have two options. We can ignore them for the conspiracy theorist and/or coward that they are or we can publicly call them out and demand they reveal their identity. Either way, the level of respect currently being shown to both Council and to you and me - the citizenry - by anonymous bloggers, under the guise of representing the opinion of "the average joe" in this city is repugnant, and needs to come to an end. Either ignoring anonymous critics or insisting they show a basic level of respect for the rest of us by revealing their identities, will take the wind out of their sails.

Now I know that some people will be crying foul over this, saying that there is a great tradition of anonymity in public discourse. They are of course, correct. Without anonymous sources we wouldn't have had the revelations of Nixon's malfeasance, the wikileaks-released video footage of US Army helicopter pilots shooting civilians in Iraq, or the myriad other instances of stories attributed to "an un-named source". The responsibility of protecting a source is a right that journalists have long invoked as a necessary defence of free speech.

Let's be crystal clear here. When a journalist quotes a source they are doing so because the source has information that the journalist could not otherwise access. When the source asks for anonymity, they do so because they fear for their jobs, their personal safety or the safety of family. When dealing with large government cover-up or massive corporate wrongdoings, these may be valid concerns.

However, and this is the critical "however", the journalist writing the story, offering opinion and making conclusions based on the testimony of the source, always publishes under their own name. Julian Assange, Woodward and Bernstein, Jill Abramson, and the rest of the legitimate media - hell even the idiocracy at Fox News - all publish and broadcast under their own names; sometimes at their peril.

Journalists are not protected by whistleblower legislation - because they themselves are not the whistleblowers - nor are they afforded any personal or professional protection outside of the guarantees of free speech - as a result of simply doing their jobs.

So, local anonymous critics, bent on creating public discord, you don't get to cut it both ways. If you are portraying yourselves as pseudo-journalists - and there is ample evidence for this, including court cases in the States where first amendment challenges to bloggers have been supported by traditional media - then you are bound by decency to publish under your own names. You might take heat, or get called names, or perish the thought, someone might think poorly of you. Well guess what? That's too damn bad. Every time you call out a Council member or denigrate an opinion, or sew the seeds of public discord - such as during the bike lane discussions - you aren't acting as a source, you're acting as a journalist and anonymity is not guaranteed.

It's just cowardly.

Todd Nivens

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Might These be My Final Public Thoughts On Bike Lanes?

Well, after reading the latest round of hurtful comments directed at a few of our City Councillors, after having gum thrown at me while riding home yesterday, and after watching one Councillor shamefully try to spin the bike lane issue to his political gain, I'm done.

I'm done arguing.
I'm done being nice.
I'm done.

Which in all honesty, pains me to say.

Here's a little background about me. I'm a husband and father, a citizen of Red Deer, a believer in the overwhelming power of the planet, and a person dedicated to helping bring about effective change for a sustainable future. I'm a professional Environmental Educator with nearly 20 years experience. I teach my kids to think critically, to discuss issues rather than shouting about them, and to live with as little impact on the earth as possible. We as family bike, walk and bus to work and school - year round, try to do most of our errands without resorting to using the truck and spend as much time playing outside as we possibly can.

One of the things for which I am incredibly proud of myself, is the completion of my Masters of Arts degree (in Environmental Education and Communications) last year. In the course of my thesis research I found that there is a huge loss of hope, or more correctly, a major sense of hopelessness amongst Environmental Educators. It seems counter-intuitive that the people most directly involved in creating change among the citizenry, would feel that their efforts were failing. I had personally never felt that hopelessness and helplessness. Every time I deliver a program or take someone for hike, snowshoe, interpretive bike ride or give a talk to large or small groups, I come away feeling energized. I feel that I'm truly making a difference in my community and in by extension, in the world.

And then came along the bike lane issue. Or rather, along came a group of people who want to argue, name call, abuse and generally fight against bike lanes in the most base, banal manner possible. And the sad thing is, it's not a huge group of people. Many of the concerns about bike lanes have been well-thought-out and well-reasoned. I myself had initial misgivings about one of the routes (you can read about them further down). Council doesn't need people fawning over them and stroking their egos. What they need is intelligent feedback. Just as there are some cyclists who give the bulk of us a bad reputation, this group of zealots is overshadowing the reasoned arguments and giving the balanced people a bad name.

This small, outrageous, rude and tactless group of people has created a culture of antagonism, fear-mongering, and divisiveness around the bike lanes, that is usually reserved for American attack-style politics. They have turned what should be slightly uncomfortable growing pains that can be worked through by reasonable people, into calls for firings of City bureaucrats and demands for the heads of elected officials.

What's really sad though, is the the lack of imagination that this group has; the inability to see a future where we don't have as many cars on the road. This group of people is so married to the status quo and to an ideal that says you have to drive everywhere and that car culture has supremacy, that the mere thought of having to wait for an extra traffic light sends them over the bend. And, best of luck to the cyclist who ends up in front of them on a city street because they're on a route with no bike lane. I would bet heavily, that the most hateful comments are written and uttered by the same people who attack bicycle commuters for merely trying to get to work and school.

So, I'm finished with the issue. I'm not writing about it, talking about it or generally opening myself up to the kinds of attacks being suffered by Paul Harris, Cindy Jefferies, Craig Curtis and others. I'm climbing on my bike, putting my head down and riding.

Please don't throw anything heavier than chewed gum at me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Keeping Safe, One Lane at a Time

There have been lots of comments about "why cyclists can't commute on the City Trail system?". Well, here's why:

I posted about the potential for this situation on one of my recent blog posts, just prior to this unfortunate accident. I'll say it again for those people who think we're just out for a daily jaunt, with nothing better to do: Bike commuting is NOT a recreational activity. It's transportation. We move along at 25 - 30km/h, which are speeds that are far too quick for meandering trails and for sidewalks. While this story focuses on the cyclist, it should be noted that the jogger was also sent to the hospital for stitches.

Putting bicycle commuters in bike lanes is the safest option for everyone involved.

While a car driver may be slightly inconvenienced by an extra wait for one turn at the stop light, the benefit to all of us in the potential to reduce human casualties is huge. Bike lanes can lead to reduced health-care costs as A)more people choose to leave their cars at home and go to work in a manner that promotes healthy living and B) reducing the number of ambulance trips and hospital visits by injured cyclists and pedestrians.

Will you as a driver take a little longer to get around on a road that has a bike lane? Possibly, in the short term, yes you will. However the wait won't be onerous - it won't make you late for supper and family time at the end of the day - and, you'll have participated in a movement that is pushing us toward a more sustainable, more healthy society.

We cyclist-commuters will do our part to educate those riders who don't know or don't understand the rules of the road and the protocols for bike-lane routes. I think that by and large, we'd welcome any driver out to experience the commute from the perspective of a cyclist and to see first hand, how the bike lanes are making things better.

All, the anti-bike-lane crowd has to do, is be a little patient and be willing to engage and to try something new.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hey Look, More Thoughts on Bike Lanes

You'd think by now I'd have hashed this through.

First and foremost I need to issue an apology to the Association for Bicycle Commuting in Red Deer. In my last post I called them myopic. In hindsight, that was an unfair assertion by me because at the end of the day, the Association didn't go out and paint the lanes on the road by themselves. As has been pointed out - and I did know this but my crankiness got in the way - the bike lanes are the work of a huge planning group that the Association is a part of.

So John, Steven, Grant and the rest of the committee, please accept my apologies for throwing you under the metaphorical bus.

There is a bigger issue at stake here, beyond whether or not I like the 40Ave bike lane (my stance on the lane itself hasn't changed). Two days ago in the Red Deer Advocate, former Councillor Vesna Higham  wrote that the bike lanes will be a disaster because parents like her need to drive their kids to school at Lindsay Thurber.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. Right now we don't have that much traffic on the roads. The summertime bike commute is comfortable largely because we don't have parents taxiing their kids to and from school.

My question to Vesna Higham and to other parents is this: Why can't your kids walk or ride their bikes to school?

Full disclosure: I have two kids. One is in middle school and one in elementary school. They are daily walkers and bike-riders, year-round. One gets picked up from school on Mondays. The middle schooler takes the bus or rides his bike from our house in Anders to Central. If the temp falls below -20 the youngest one still walks - she just wears a thicker scarf and warmer mitts.

I understand that the first day is different. Kids have a mountain of supplies to bring, there are first-day jitters,  and inquisitive parents want to be on hand to find out who their kids' teachers are going to be. However, by day two of school things are back to normal. Beyond physical disabilities or the fact that some kids live outside of bussing range or outside of their designated school's boundary, there is no good reason that a kid needs a ride to school every day.

I'll address the counter arguments.

1. It's too dangerous for my kid to walk/ride to school.
     Dangerous in what way? If you're talking about traffic safety, that's an issue for you to deal with. Teach your kid to look both ways, to push the button at the crosswalk, to wait for the cars to stop and to use the crosswalk. This is not hard.

     If on the other hand, you think it's too dangerous because the streets and alleys are crawling with weirdos waiting to steal your child, then I suggest you stop watching TV. I won't trivialize the pain that a family goes through when their child is abducted nor will I minimize the trauma to an abducted child. However, every jurisdiction in North America shows a decrease in their statistics of random-stranger child abduction over the last 30 years. Kids are as safer walking to school today than they were when I was a kid, growing up in the 1970s. Kids are assaulted - statistically - by the people they and their parents know and trust. What has increased in the last 30 years, is the amount of coverage that news outlets (mostly TV) give to stories of abducted kids.  Yes, you hear about it more. That's because it's covered more, not because it's happening more often. Fear and sensationalism bring in viewers.

2. We live too far for my child to walk/ride to school.
     How far is too far? 30 years ago kids were walking upwards of a kilometre each way. Today (and this by no means a modern thing) there are bussing options for kids who live beyond a certain distance and Transit bussing options for those going to out-of-boundary schools. And, guess what, the Transit busses even have bike racks on the front of them so your kid has multiple options.

The reality is that exercise won't kill your kid. In fact it'll likely help them.

Getting themselves to school does wonders for a child's sense of place in the world and for their self confidence. They learn navigation skills, they learn familiarity with their neighbourhood, and they gain decision making skills they need in order to thrive as adults. Walking to school makes your kids familiar to the people in the neighbourhood. I've never told my kids "Don't talk to strangers." I have taught them, "Don't go with strangers". This way, they learn through their interactions with people how to judge character and who lives where in the neighbourhood.

So, to Vesna Higham and the other helicopter parents, do your kids a favour and let them get themselves to school. If you're worried about your children's safety, organize a number of kids to walk/ride together, find a stay-at-home-parent in the neighbourhood and see if they'll do a "Walking school bus"; do whatever it takes. But don't just take what you perceive to be the easy way out and drive the kids to school everyday.

3. It's too cold
    I'm sorry but in all honesty - bullshit. Those days where you are driving your kid to school, guess what. they're playing outside at recess and lunch. The school will keep them in if the temp falls below -20 (actual or with windchill). Most days, even through the winter, your kid can walk. Drive 'em on the really cold days if you must (if they're not on a school bus plan).

How does all this relate to bike lanes; that topic that we're all abuzz over here in Red Deer. It's easy. Many of those lanes exist to help kids get to and from school on their bikes and to help encourage commuters like me to get to work alive. Vesna and others, need to look beyond their steering wheels and dashboards and understand that if they didn't drive their kids and if others didn't drive their kids, those cars wouldn't be choking up the intersection of 55th Street and 40 Ave. If our kids rode their bikes, took the Transit busses, took the school busses or God-forbid, walked, then all those parents driving their kids to Thurber (and Camille J LeRouge) wouldn't have to go anywhere near there. Problem solved.

The Red Deer bike lanes are an amazing addition to the City. They demonstrate a real commitment on the part of Council and the involved departments to give us sustainable commuting choices. Are the lanes for everyone? No, of course not. But they can be for more of us.

The arguments being presented against project are mostly along the lines of "I'm not a cyclist, why am I paying for this waste of time?" can be applied to almost every infrastructure project in any community. I could well ask "I'm not a soccer or lacrosse player, why did we need to build a field house in the Collicut Centre?" The answer is that the City needs to cater to its entire base. They need to not only run the City day-to-day but they need to have a vision for the future. Part of that vision right now, is a more sustainable, lighter impact way of getting about town.

That vision, requires bike lanes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Bike Lane Angst

Again with the disclaimer:  I am a daily, year-round bike commuter who strongly believes that bikes belong on the road and that there is an incredible lack of understanding and empathy on both the part of drivers and cyclists. These views are my own.

So, I've now ridden the 40th Ave bike lane - northbound and the 55 Street bike lane, westbound. My conclusion is that the Association for Bicycle Commuting in Red Deer is a myopic, single-minded group that doesn't care that their agenda is actively interfering with the majority of Red Deer commuters and that The City of Red Deer consulted only with the commuting association and not with any other cyclists - particularly those who don't support the views of the association. I'm not complaining that I personally wasn't asked, but I am pointing out that there are many bike commuters who don't support or don't belong to the Association for Bicycle Commuting in Red Deer. Our voices are clearly not represented in this project.

Hey if I'm going to offer a critique, might as well come out with a bang, right?

Its not all bad. There are some great additions for cycle commuters.The 39 Street lane seems great. There's lots of room, the road bed is smooth and let's face it, it's not a hugely  busy road, even during the commute.

The Spruce Drive lanes, likewise are great. They appear to be well-designed and again, the road bed is great.

However, I had expressed my doubts about 40th Ave a while ago (you can read those concerns here: ). I take no pleasure in the feeling that I was correct with those concerns.

Now, I have no love for traffic and for maintaining/increasing the number of cars on the road. It's a given that one of the things we need to do to reduce our carbon footprint and to bring about a more sustainable future is to reduce the number of cars on the road. However, in order to put in the 40th Ave and 55 Street bike lanes, The City has removed the entire curb lane and turned it into bike lane and buffer. These are two incredibly congested streets during the school year. Plus, the lanes were painted on, without any improvements to the road surface. Riding these two roads in the curb lane is a daily grind through an obstacle course of holes, cracks, and sand/mud.

Drivers are going to be livid when they discover that they have to squeeze into one lane so that the minority (us cyclists) can have the entire curb lane. Further, the 40th Ave bike lane starts at Eastview school. I have to wonder if anybody on the Association for Bicycle Commuting in Red Deer or in City Engineering has ever stood on that corner during school drop-off time. Cars are entering the front lane of Eastview from the South and exiting it from the North. Busses are lined up at the curb dropping kids off. The bike lanes will be inaccessible during the key commuting period of the morning.

Here's a screen cap from the video of my ride to work, this morning:

Click on the image and then understand that in two weeks, this will be full of cars. Where will the bikes go?

I assume - and I could be wrong -that the northbound Michener Hill lane will be going in soon. I beg cyclists, please do not use that one if it shows up. It's going to be downhill, on the outside of a corner, next to an Armco barrier. On a rainy, slick day with the tendency for cars to be pushed to the outside of the corner...

I just don't understand this 40th Ave route. 43rd Ave would have offered a quieter, safer ride and, with the safe left turn onto Ross, it would have given a direct route into downtown. The impact on car traffic would have been minimal, thereby reducing the frustration of drivers. My explanation is in the link that I gave earlier.

Anyway this whole thing has put me in a supremely bad mood today and I really don't feel like beating a dead horse.  The lanes are what they are, and their success or failure will be determined by their use, their impact on society as a whole, and by the feedback that people give The City; which you can do here:

The City has excellent information about the lanes and about sharing space and respecting each other here:

That's it. I'm spent. I've exhausted my ability to rant and apparently, to affect change. You can surf back through my blog and read all the other things I've had to say about biking, winter commuting, bike lanes and the rest of it.

I encourage everybody to choose their bikes over their cars. It's great exercise, it takes almost no extra time to commute to work on a bike and you'll be doing the planet a favour. Pick your routes carefully and "keep your head on a swivel."

See you on the road.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bike Lanes, Traffic and Where We Belong

I'm writing this post in response to a discussion happening on Twitter regarding bike lanes in The City of Red Deer and where bikes belong.

Full disclosure: I am a daily, year-round bike commuter who strongly believes that bikes belong on the road and that there is an incredible lack of understanding and empathy on both the part of drivers and cyclists. These views are my own.

It has been argued by many drivers that bikes belong on sidewalks and trails; that having bikes on the road is  unfairly impeding traffic. Let me break this down and address the issues separately and completely.

"Bikes belong on sidewalks" - This one is a yes and no.

Yes: Little kids riding, or people meandering to the corner store, a friend's house or the park, or some similar activity are all biking trips that can happen on a sidewalk. They are generally slow, recreational-style rides. People have time to react to pedestrians and pedestrians won't be surprised by a fast moving bike.

No: Commuting is not recreational riding. Commuting on a bike fulfils the same functions as commuting in a car; get to work in the shortest amount of time possible. When a cyclist is commuting to work, they are generally travelling upwards of 25-30 km/h. At those speeds the sidewalk is the last place a bike should be. The chance for a pedestrian to get injured or for a cyclist to be hit by a car coming out of a driveway is greatly increased. Cycle commuters are focussed on getting to work and school. They are not stopping for ice cream, or lolly-gagging along attempting to waste drivers' time. For everyone concerned, given the speed of the cyclist and the relatively short times to react to challenges on the sidewalk, the road is the best place for cycle commuters.

"We have a trail system for bikes" - Again, this is a yes and no.

Yes: Red Deer has an amazing trail system. You can ride, walk, ski, rollerblade and skateboard from one end of the park system to the other, without having to cross a major road. You get to travel in the shade of Spruce, poplar and Elm trees and experience all that urban nature has to offer. The trail is a great recreational asset and a good commuting option - for some.

No: Most of the people in Red Deer do not live along the trail system. My commute to work for example, takes 13 minutes (17 in the winter) via surface streets. If I detour over to the trail system my commute becomes a 25 - 30 ride (40 in the winter). It's just not feasible to ask a cyclist to spend the extra time in a busy day, to detour through the park - and I work on the park system as the trail leads right up to the Nature Centre. Asking someone who lives on the East hill and works downtown to find their way over to the trail in order to get to work, is patently ridiculous.

There is a misconception that cycle commuters are eco-guerilla, anti-car, anti-social freaks; and maybe some of them are. However, most of us are simply trying to get to and from work and school in as economical, low-impact, and healthy manner as possible. In my case, we are a one-car family. The economics of owning, insuring and driving two cars every day didn't make sense to us. Neither did the tonnes of greenhouse gas that we'd be responsible for by having a second car. While I like riding to work everyday, take my word for it, there is sacrifice involved.

Last winter I wrote and filmed a series about winter cycle commuting - you can see it further down the blogroll. Here is an excerpt about what it's like to ride on Red Deer's roads, and what I feel are the best strategies for staying alive while bike commuting. Also, keep in mind this is written from a winter-centric and bike-centric point of view:

" my careful, scientific estimation there are like a zillion more cars on the road in the winter, effectively creating one long line of moving iron. There are no spaces to dodge into, to get around the hole. To make matters worse, this snake-like iron and plastic leviathan is controlled by humans who - let me be delicate here - turn into cold-lulled, meat sacks unable to see anything beyond the dvd infotainment system in the dash, once the temperature dips down below "chilly".

This brings us nicely to "Strategies and tactics to make sure you don't die".

First, base all your decisions on the following assumptions:

  • Nobody can see you. It doesn't matter how bright the jacket, how loud the bell, how good the lights; in winter you are beyond invisible. note - this applies year-round
  • Nobody is stopping for you. They're cold, the light is yellow, they're going through. Likely, this is because it's probably safer for them, than stopping would be. Do not be tempted to jump the light or snake a lane in the winter. Nobody is going to hit the brakes in the middle of an intersection and risk sliding into the guy in front of them.  note - this applies year-round
  • All cars are broken-down, barely maintained heaps of junk. It's patently not true. But if you assume that the cars around you have no brakes, bad tires and poorly maintained steering systems, then you'll be mentally ready for things to head south.  note - this applies year-round
  • The winter road will never be as good as you imagine/hope. You will always find glare ice, drifted snow, new potholes, broken car parts, dead kitties, sand piles etc... littering the curb lane and the intersections. Be ready for these obstacles.
  • Eventually, somewhere, somehow you will get hit by a car. It probably won't be serious. But it will happen. More on this, below.  note - this applies year-round

Given these assumptions here then, is how you survive as a winter cyclist.

Plan your route. Red Deer is an easy city to ride in, largely because you can route-plan on the fly. Lots of side streets will take you to the places you want to go, almost as fast as the main arterials. When you leave the house in the morning, make sure you have a couple of optional routes in your mental map so that you can bail out of your main route, if things are getting dicey.

Keep your head on a swivel. More than anything else, you have to be hyper-aware of what's happening around you. You should know roughly how many cars in the in lane behind you (I count them at stop lights), if anybody behind you is planning a right turn at the upcoming intersection - this is a great place and situation in which you can get hit by a car, and what the traffic lights are about to do. You should be aware of the roads and traffic up to a block ahead of you, and you should be scanning the sidewalks for pedestrians who may be feeling adventurous. Are there yards with potentially open gates on your route? Dogs and cats aren't afraid of you and will run out into traffic. Cats will do it just to try and make you swerve into a bus - sadistic little bastards. The more information you can track in your surroundings, the better you can avoid protential problems and the more options you can find for escaping trouble.

Here's the uncomfortable reality I mentioned at the top of this article: Some day, you will eventually have a negative interaction with a car. It doesn't matter how much you've perfected your situational-awareness, how great your studded tires are, how well you've planned... eventually things are going to go bad and you will either hit or get hit by something outweighs you by 2800 lbs or more. It will hurt.

Practice falling off your bike. Go to a frozen school-yard and fall down. Do it at fast speeds and slow speeds. Get someone to push you over as you ride by or simply throw yourself off the bike. You need to know how to hit the ground effectively. Hit with the biggest amount of  body real-estate. It's instinctual to put your hands out to try and catch yourself. This is a great way to break your wrists. Try to land on your shoulders, side, or hips. Let the force of the landing get dispersed across as much of your body as possible.

Once you're on the ground. Roll. If you've broken something (on you, not your bike) your body will instinctively try to protect that part. Rolling does two things. One, it helps to protect the injured part by moving it out of harms way and two, it further dissipates energy. It redirects the energy of the impact over space and distance.

By practicing falling, you're developing muscle memory. If you get hit, your body will just "know" what do. This is important because when bad things happen, they happen with little warning and you simply can't remember fast enough, what you should do to protect yourself in a fall.

In the event that you do have to fall:

  • Once you're down, stay down. Do a self-systems test. Does your neck hurt? Does your back or head hurt? Did you black out? Can you wiggle your fingers and toes? Once you've established that you've not compromised anything critical - and if nobody has stopped to help - you can try to move. Be slow, be deliberate and double check those fingers, toes and neck for sensation, mobility and pain. If there's a negative change, stop what you're doing and wait for help.
  • Do. Not. Let. Anybody. Help. You. Up. If you've hit hard enough that you require assistance, just ask someone to call an ambulance and let the EMTs take care of how and when you move. Don't let passersby remove your backpack or helmet. At this point, those things are stabilizing any injuries and removing them could cause more harm than good.
  • Don't get up fighting. Remain calm, ask for the driver's insurance and registration and leave the scene as calmly as possible. The police and insurance companies will figure out who was wrong and who pays what. Don't assume that just because you're the cyclist that you're in the right. Your own stupidity or bad decision could be to blame. 

Drivers and cyclists, re-read those last two sentences carefully. Here, I'll re-paste them: Don't assume that just because you're the cyclist that you're in the right. Your own stupidity or bad decision could be to blame.

Cyclists are not infallible. Most of us ride by the rules of the road, wear bright clothing and do our damndest to stay out of the way. However, there are some realities that drivers are going to have to accept.

1. We are forced to ride on the worst part of the road. The edges of any road bed are the first to degrade. This is the place where the potholes show up, where the road heaves and dips around man-holes and where debris collects. We have to either risk damaging our bikes or move over a little to avoid these obstacles. This isn't being done to piss off drivers, it's self-preservation

2. We might move up to the front of the line of traffic. This is the safest place for us at a stop light. By being at the front of the line we reduce the risk of being run over by someone turning right at the intersection. By the same token, moving to the front of the left turn lane lets us get out in front of traffic and out of the way so we don't get killed. This is especially true in the winter. The last place a cyclist should be is at the end of the line of traffic. One rear-end collision would result in a cyclist sandwich. There is some data to suggest that cyclists have fewer negative interactions with cars in jurisdictions that allow lane-splitting.

Will Red Deer be safer with bike lanes? I certainly hope so. There are none along my commute right now (and honestly I don't want one on 40th Avenue - see my previous post). What well-designed bike lanes do is  blend bike traffic with car traffic, while keeping the cyclists separate enough to be safe.

Drivers need to remember that they are piloting a vehicle that has a mass several hundred times that of a bike and rider. If a car hits a bike, it's never good for the cyclist. Drivers.are going to have to learn how to deal with an increased number of bikes on the road. Cyclists likewise, are going to have to learn to ride by the rules of the road and to ride predictably. If bike lanes facilitate a new understanding between drivers and cyclists I'm all for them. However, if drivers see the lanes as "taking away" from their right to own the road, then it's the cyclists who will pay for that resentment. We'll pay through damage to our bikes and through hospital stays - or worse.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bikes, Bike Parts, Bike Lanes, and Why I'm Ranting Against a Group I Should Be Supporting

Not all of those three things are directly related, although they have connections between them.

I've mentioned before that I love my bike. With the upcoming Ride to Conquer Cancer weighing heavily on my mind, I recently made a couple of improvements to my bike. They're small improvements but they've transformed the experience of being on the bike.

The first one was swapping out the tires. After a winter of riding on wide, low-pressure, studded, knobbies, and years of deep-tread, down-hill tires, I made the move to some high-pressure, low tread rubber. The new tires are reasonably thin (1.95") WTB All Terrains. While listed as a hybrid tire, they're more properly a cyclocross tire. They're still a little wide and a little overly-treaded to be a hybrid. However, I can run them at super high pressures and the centre tread knobs are placed close enough together that the rolling resistance is unbelievably low, for a mountain bike tire. I'm not a product-review guy, but after two months on these, I'm sold and I'd tell anybody to pick up a set; preferably from Tim and the good folks at WipeOut. Remember, support your local bike shop.

The other recent upgrade I made was the saddle. This is the best $50 I've ever spent on my bike, bar-none. Again, it's a WTB product - specifically it's a Speed-V. While I've still got to play with the front/back and nose up/down alignment, after a day of riding on it, I can't believe how long I put up with the old rock-like, Bontrager saddle. The idea that I was going to spend two days and 234 km on the old saddle fills my rear with dread.

Ok, enough product endorsement - like the companies care how anonymous me feels about their stuff. On to more important things.

The Association for Bicycle Commuting in Red Deer has released their draft map of where they'd like to see bike lanes in Red Deer. First and foremost I will disclose that I love the idea of bike lanes. I commute almost daily, year-round. Anything to make the ride safer, is great with me.

By and large the bike lane plan is a good one. With one glaring problem. The association is calling for a bike lane running north on 40 Ave from 39th Street into downtown. See map: 
View Larger Map

It was mentioned at the last Association AGM that this is a terrible bike lane route, for a number of reasons. The long and short of it is this: 40th Ave is a terrible road for a bike lane due to school traffic, car traffic, a terrible road bed, an off-camber corner going down Michener Hill, a narrow road with high curbs along 55th Street, and the forced left-turn at surface intersections (with no dedicated turning lanes) across oncoming traffic to get into down town. Any one of these factors should be enough to make the idea of a 40 Ave bike lane, a non-starter. Taken together they spell disaster for cyclists.

I'll elaborate on most of the problems.

  • 40th Ave, north of 39th Street is narrow and rutted. Travelling north, as soon as you cross 39th St, 40 Ave feels noticeably narrower. As a cyclist you really feel like you are getting pinched in. Add to this, the lack of an escape route immediately north of Eastview school (no side walk to hop up on if cars get close) and the unbelievable amount of cars dropping kids off at school at Eastview. This alone should be enough to make this route untenable. But, that's not all. The road bed on 40 is nothing short of terrible. It's rutted, cracked, and full of depressions, potholes and lumps. It's a cycling horror-show. By putting in a bike lane on 40, you're asking the City to re-surface from 39th to Ross street - 10 blocks.
  • Drivers on 40 Ave already dislike cyclists. Because we're so close to cars (given the narrow road), drivers already feel like we're holding them up. Putting in a bike lane is going to aggravate the hell out of already cranky commuters. Road rage, the need for vengeance and bikes is a bad combination.  
  • Michener Hill can get you killed. Michener Hill is at best, a flat corner. In some places it's actually off-camber. Centrifugal force is already pushing cars to the outside of that corner. Add rainwater or winter to the mix and you're asking for a driver to slide into a cyclist. Putting the lane on the inside of the corner is just as bad because then you'll have cyclists moving at high speed towards on-coming traffic. 
  • 55th Street doesn't go into down town. I don't commute to down town Red Deer so I don't have a vested interest in this one, however is bears elaboration. In order to get into down town from 55th street you first have to navigate down an even-narrower street. 55th on a bike is tight. Then, choose your intersection. Both 47 Ave and 48 Ave do have lights. But they don't have a turning lane or an advance green. So, you're forced to turn across on coming traffic, all while hoping you don't get rear-ended by a driver rushing up behind you who can't tell that you're waiting to turn.

Now, I don't complain about something without offering a solution. So, here's what I recommended back at the Association AGM:

By far the better route would be to run a lane straight up 43Ave from 32nd to Ross and then turn left onto  Ross, head down the hill and ride into the down town core. Here's the map:

View Larger Map

  • 39th Street runs right to 43 Ave.  I didn't highlight it on the map but the plan calls for a bike lane down the North side of 39th Street. Rather than bending the lane around the corner onto Ross, it could continue to run straight west, right up to 43 Ave. This is the best of both worlds for north/south-bound and east/west-bound commuters.
  • 43 Ave is quiet and wide. From 32nd street all the way to Ross, 43 Ave is a wide residential street. It's quiet, doesn't get a lot of traffic and the cars that are there, are moving slowly. There is a school zone at the north end of the street calming an already-calm road.
  • 43 Ave and Ross is a huge intersection. With a light, and darn near zero on coming traffic, 43 and Ross is a very safe intersection. It's also extremely wide, giving cars and bikes lots of room to share. 
  • Ross street is wide. From 43 Ave to down town, Ross is extremely wide and the road is in great shape. It's a fantastic place for bikes to be.
  • Easy access to trails. For cyclists who need to get off Ross to go North or South down toward the Arena, Ross affords a great jumping off point (a right turn into Woodlea at the bottom of the hill) to where you can get onto one of the Waskasoo Park trails.

I think it's ironic that if the 40 Ave bike lane goes in, one of the most regular cyclists from the south end (me) won't be using it. I ride my bike close to 200 days/year. I ride in all seasons, all conditions. Unless I actually need a vehicle at work or to complete work, I cycle commute. I think it goes without saying that I am unbelievably in favour of bike lanes in Red Deer. However, this one particular route won't ever see my bike travel it. It's too narrow, the road is too poor, the hill is potentially deadly in bad weather and it's inconvenient for people going to down town.

That's my $0.02. The nice thing about the internet is that if your voice isn't heard live and in-person, you can always tilt at your windmills to the whole dozens of people who read your blog.

Ride safe folks.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bicycle Commuting - the video essay

Ok, it's not really an essay as much is as it's a six-part v-log with random musings throughout. I took the long way around to work today, starting and stopping the camera as the terrain changes or as I had something to say.

Note: Apparently I didn't have the lens rotated to exactly vertical. You'll be a little tilted to the left. Sorry.

Enjoy the ride.

Play outside.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Commute

I got a great new toy from Shannon for Christmas. This little camera (similar to a GoPro), mounts to just about anything and give the viewer a ride-along view of all kinds of activities. Today was the first day I tried it out; mounting it to the side of my bike helmet.

I grabbed a few minutes from the first part of my commute. I will warn you right now, in some places the wind noise is crazy. However, it was a good traffic day - all the drivers behaved so there was no stress in the commute.

I'll address one thing right off the bat...  I did ride to the front of the turning lane, past the line of cars. On an icy day, the front of the line is the safest place for a cyclist to be. That way, you don't get squished between two cars if someone panics and locks up the brakes.

Anyway, enjoy. Keep in mind this raw footage - no editing.


There's another clip on my facebook page. It's longer and has some neat snowy, downhill footage.