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Friday, November 28, 2008

I Almost Reviewed Cycling Shoes

Yesterday I spent quite a while typing up a description of how I had been looking for and found some winter cycling shoes. I typed out what I wore previously, the whole thought process and reasons for the purchase. I pasted in a picture of the shoes I bought and commented on what I did and didn't like about them.

When I read my work over, it was so boring I was ashamed of myself for thinking of posting it.




I never intended to review anything on this blog, and I don't know why I thought it worth doing yesterday. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to compare notes on what's working with other bike commuters; but why I thought even for an instant that a treatise on my shoes would be interesting is beyond me.

Please do me a favour - if you ever catch me doing something like that on this blog, refer me to this post and set me straight. Sheesh!

Take a Look at This

Play the clip and see how you do.


Ride on!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ghost Bikes come to London

As many Londoners are aware, Caleb Losier was killed at the age of 21 while commuting on his bike on the morning of November 12, 2008. I work near the tracks at Egerton and Brydges, and rode through the scene of that accident on my usual morning commute. The officers blocking the road gestured from inside their car that I could ride through by going around the scene on the sidewalk, which I did. At that time there were police cars blocking off the street, some police tape, a parked fuel truck, an ambulance and some police officers, and I didn't think much about it or stop to find out any more.

When I got into work my co-workers told me a cyclist had been killed, and some people repeated their admonition that I be careful as I ride this winter. I reassured them that I am always careful, and told them not to worry, and that the cyclist had probably done something risky that I would never do. I learned later that I was totally wrong. Caleb was a regular bicycle commuter who did nothing out of the ordinary. From caleblosier.com:

"Video surveillance reveals that the fuel truck came to a stop on Egerton Street for the railway crossing arms, and a light colored car and then a dark colored vehicle came to a stop behind the fuel truck just as the crossing arms lifted. The cyclist rode passed these vehicles on the right and was beside the truck when it turned," said London police Sgt. Tom O'Brien, Traffic Management Unit...

The coroner advised that Caleb was doing everything right and that there was nothing he could have done to change the course of the collision.


London's first Ghost Bike memorial is now found near that intersection:

I am very familiar with that particular spot; I ride through it twice a day in the winter time. It is very rare to see any sort of vehicle other than a clearly marked CN pickup truck turn into the rail yard there. I can easily visualize how this tragic set of circumstances unfolded in such an awful way, and I find that I have no particularly useful observations to make about them; instead there's just a sadness that it happened.

There are some who point to an incident like this and say that it is obvious that cyclists have no place on our busy streets. There are others who might use this tragedy as proof that the streets must be made safer for cyclists. What I know is that cyclists will keep riding and that drivers will keep driving, and that neither are overjoyed to be sharing the road. My hope is that the ghost bike dedicated to the memory of Caleb Losier will remind us all to put ourselves in the other's shoes as we travel together each day. I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the Losier family. Take care, everybody.


Related Links:

Free Press Article
GhostBikes.org Entry
Caleb's Memorial Web Site

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fairness in Negative Stereotypes is Important

The North American vernacular has been graced with the slang word "cougar" for some time now. At its best it is used to describe beautiful women over 35. At its worst a cougar is a cross between Mrs. Roper from Three's Company and Edie Britt from Desperate Housewives:



It is the most common of knowledge that ladies aren't the only ones sleazing around the bars in your town. There's another kind of creepy character out there that can even be found hanging out in the same establishments as young people. Where, I ask, is the slang term for the aging man on the prowl? I present as a candidate the word "Bougar". In written form it is just "Boy" and "Cougar" mashed together into one word, but I think how it sounds adds just the right amount negative connotation, similar to how Cougar was originally used as a put-down. I suspect that the word Bougar may never grow into a near-compliment the way Cougar is seeming to, but that's OK with me.

The Bougar can be defined using the same model as above, this time using (for fairness) Mr. Roper from Three's Company and Judge #3 from American Idol.


As you can see, the Bougar is much scarier than the Cougar. Perhaps this is why up until now we have been afraid to utter its name, kind of like he-who-shall-not-be-named in the Harry Potter books. Like young Harry, my fear is overcome by my mix of curiosity and revulsion, and to everyone's dismay I proclaim this name aloud: Bougar! Let us fear no more.

-----


Epilogue: In composing this entry I was torn between two graphical formulas defining "Bougar", and indeed originally had a different one posted and took it down, thinking it a little too weird. My daughter was not happy with me, saying the first one was much better. Since I would do anything for my daughter:


Bicycle Commuting in London Ontario Canada

When it comes to cycling, I'm pretty antisocial. A great many cyclists enjoy organized rides, training with others and being part of one club or another and even racing sometimes. I think that's great, and who knows? Maybe someday I too will find some like-minded riders and start hanging out, like these guys:



For now though, I focus mainly on commuting quickly and effectively in every season. Despite the popular opinion of my co-workers that I am a hardcore cyclist, I don't ride far or fast enough to consider myself one. I do, however pass bikesnobnyc's definition of a cyclist, since I meet both of his criteria. I am a bicycle commuter, which, unless you happen to work with a bunch of other bike commuters (and what are the odds of that? This is London, not Portland), kind of makes you a loner by definition. That is, unless you are a regular group riding roadie or mountain biker who daily commutes by bike too. If that describes you, you've got my admiration; I have a perhaps misconceived notion that you are a rare bird indeed.

One of the big benefits of falling into a cycling group so varied in its approaches that calling it a group at all might be a mistake is that there is no wrong answer to how one should commute by bike. What works for you is the right answer, whether it's this:



or this:




or this:



I'm always curious about what's working for my fellow commuters; what's ticking them off about riding in London; what and where they ride... if you've stumbled upon this blog and you commute on a bike, especially in London Ontario, your comments are always welcome. Ride Safe everyone.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Coffee is Incidental, not Sentimental

Have any of you fine Canadians out there seen the Tim Hortons commercial that shows all kinds of moving scenes from the lives of a wide variety of people in many different ages and stages and sweet situations? Many of the images are uplifting and make you remember some of your own precious moments. It's nice, if you're into nice things. This is a coffee/donut shop commercial, and the angle is that "every cup" (prominently featured in each image) "tells a story". We are invited to share our Tim Hortons coffee-related cherished moments on a web site at the end of the ad. You can see more at the Tim Hortons web site. There's a great big banner ad that will give you a good idea what the TV ads are like, and of course a link to everycup.ca so you can get in on the story sharing action.

I, for one, don't want to try to link the meaningful moments of my life with paper cups of coffee from a donut shop. I drink those cups of coffee all the time, as do many Canadian people. When I think about it, it is way more likely that I am doing something boring or arduous when one of those cups is around than when I'm watching a sunset or kissing my new baby or wrestling a puppy.

Those cups of coffee are almost always around. I might as well celebrate chairs; a great many of my most touching memories thus far have happened while I was seated on one, or standing near one. As you might have inferred by now, I just don't see a connection, and kind of resent anybody trying to create one for me. Just sayin'.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Butt Nipping Must Be Nipped in the Bud

There's an expression, "nip it in the bud", that means to stop something quickly, before it gets out of control. I believe it is a gardening euphemism, based on pruning a plant before it grows into a "Little Shop of Horrors"-style bad plant that will eat you, or some other undesirable plant like geraniums, which my mother refers to as "institution flowers". In conversation, however, there's about a 50/50 chance that a modern-day morphing of the term, "nip it in the butt", might be used, at least among the people I talk to.

I know some linguists, and they've basically convinced me that language just changes like that sometimes and I need to lighten up. I'm trying, I really am. My difficulty here is that the expression is most often used in reference to a person's behaviour. When someone says they will "nip" something "in the bud", they are equating themselves with a gardener who lovingly and precisely takes action for the betterment of the garden as a whole. On the other hand, when one is prepared to "nip" something "in the butt", they are ready to behave as an annoying little dog, inflicting some lightweight pain on another's bum that is most likely to make them yell, get angry and deliver a swift kick in response. If you're going to take the dog-attacks-bum approach to behaviour modification, you should at least say "chomp that fool's ass" or something like that. At least then you might expect a behaviour-changing result.

Rather than that though, couldn't we all just return to being gardeners rather than the annoying little enemies of mail carriers and delivery people? Gardeners are humans, you see, like kind and peaceful Greg here and horticulturally passionate Mary, whereas dogs are just dogs, like this Pug named Charlie or this fine fellow named Mondex. Oh, never mind.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Looking Stupid: A How-To For Winter Cyclists

I ride my bike to work and back all winter long. I see winter as an adversary that shall not be allowed to take away one of my favourite things, and I have figured out how to stay comfy and enjoy the ride in any weather. I only failed to ride in on 2 work days last winter thanks to truly impressive weather, and I'm gunning for a flawless record this year.

Since many motorists are either made nervous or angry by my presence in the off-season, I try hard to look like a well-equipped, serious and safe cyclist. I drive a car too, so I can relate to worrying that some idiot on a bike is about to do something stupid or dangerous that results in me squishing them flat. I am well reflectorized and lit in the dark, I wear a good deal of cycling-specific clothing, hold a nice straight line and ride in a predictable way. I even use hand signals. I am winter cycling's responsible, nerdy Ambassador. Grudging respect and acceptance is my goal, not looking stupid. Thankfully, for those wishing to expand their repertoire of dorky behaviours, others are happy to lead by example.

Tip #1 - Get drunk first. Have you ever tried to ride a bike drunk? No? I strongly advise trying it in winter if you're going to try it at all. Go hard or go home, as they say. Like the drunk dude who crashed repeatedly in the greasy snow on a very busy street right in front of me last year. He was awesome.

Tip #2 - Be woefully unprepared. Like the rugged bare-headed and handed men both young and old who ride recklessly in whatever direction might offer the best chance of keeping most of their frostbitten ears from falling off or allow them to remove their clenched, frozen hands from the bars upon reaching their destination. They are legion, at least in early winter. I can only guess the resultant injuries prevent any more gloriously stupid rides as the season wears on.

Tip #3 - When you see that ultra-polished ice that occurs at stop signs where drivers have spun their wheels, especially 4-way stops, insist on "taking your lane" to ensure your safety and fair treatment as a vehicle at the intersection. When you come to a stop, confidently put your fancy new winter cycling boots down as your bike attempts to slide out from under you. Discover that the hard plastic cleats of said boots do nothing on such ice. With agonizing slowness, carefully tip-toe yourself and your bike out of the way while impatient motorists on their morning commute watch with disdain and think "now look at that jackass. For somebody so well dressed, equipped and reflectorized, he sure is stupid."

Ambassador. Yay me.