Stylocycle’s Blog


New year… what?
January 2, 2011, 8:06 pm
Filed under: around town, Hop on the bus Gus

I never really expect things to happen all of a sudden just because yet another day has turned over on the calendar. It’s just another day, people.
However, much of the world does get all excited about the ‘new year’… so hey: smoke ’em if ya got ’em, I guess.

I’ll admit that this year I’ll be very interested to see how the local discussions about public transit progress. I happen to favour the development of a central LRT with a more grid-oriented bus service that would connect to the LRT with a few rapid bus routes heading east-west, and with localised routes for neighbourhoods bounded by those rapid bus routes. I can see rapid buses making sense on Northfield, Columbia, University, Victoria and Ottawa and the LRT to take us from the very North end of town to at least the bottom end of King St. in Kitchener.

Apparently 3/4 of the local population works in the Cambridge-K/W region, and the existing bus lines on the main corridor can’t keep up with demand, meaning that people continue to drive instead. I happen to have a bus that stops almost outside my front door, and if I take that bus and transfer to the mainline I can make it to work in 22 minutes (including a walk across campus from where I get off the bus). In good weather I can walk to campus in 28 minutes (i.e., when the sidewalks are clear and I don’t have to navigate snow, ice, or puddles). In bad weather it can take as much as 45-50 minutes to walk to campus and the bus will still get me there in under 30.

But my bike? Well my bike gets me to campus in about 15 minutes, and a smidgeon less than that to get home, and that’s door-to-door, with no walk across parking-lots or fields, etc.

Therefore, it’s almost always my bike that I use… but someday I imagine that I’ll be too old to do everything by bike. We’d like to give up the car, too. So for us, having an LRT line makes most sense. Thing is, I think it makes most sense for the region, too. Lots of people want to give up their cars, but keep them because the bus schedules are unreliable and because the transfers are terribly inconvenient. The only reason the bus works so well for us is that we live only 2 blocks away from the main line with something like 5 routes to choose from to get to our work-places.

LRT will not require more and more bus drivers or more and more buses to be added, and won’t require paving over even more space in order to create designated bus-routes all over the place. There’s a pretty compelling argument favouring LRT in Today’s local paper (www.therecord.com). It outlines these and other observations that make the initial outlay for LRT the better financial and service choice.

All this said, I don’t have much faith in my fellow humans. Too many feel entitled to their private little living-rooms on wheels. Selfishness and griping about “my tax dollars” will persuade regional politicians… and the idea that bus-riding, bike-commuting people aren’t paying taxes will prevail.

I sure hope I’m wrong.

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Not much ging on; too much going on.
September 24, 2010, 7:19 pm
Filed under: around town

I’ve been madly busy, and I haven’t had much to say other than “riding my bike in beautiful weather is great fun”.

I don’t much care for how I look in photographs these days, and I’m rather shy about asking anyone else to be photographed on their bikes for the blog.

Also: the photo uploader for wordpress is, as they say, ‘teh sux’. I’m tired of spending ages uploading photos, catpitoning them, titling them and having the resulting series appear to have been mounted by a squirrel on crack.

I will say that it’s very nice to see that 3 fairly close neighbours are all riding around on city bikes, and that I really apprecaite having a new friend in town who does things by bike, and meets me on her bike. It’s just a nice way to get around.

I’m a bit disappointed that the hub gears ob Dear Spouse’s Fryslan have gone already, but we understand they are under warantee, so we are waiting for the bike to come out of the shop. Anyone else out there had trouble with SRAM hub gears? Mine are doing just fine after 3 winters and being parked outside year round, but DS’s blew a few weeks ago on an ordinary ride home. Some bolt came flying off and the wheel came to an immediate halt… he took the bike in for repairs, and it came back seeming OK, but bit the dust a few days after that.

We don’t know if the second problem results from a bike shop that doesn’t really know what to do with Dutch bikes, or if it’s true — as the fellas at the shop claim — that SRAM hubs aren’t that great.

Anyway, it’s time to take my bike in for maintenance to get it ready for winter riding — which will come soon enough, even though today was 31 degrees C.

Other than twice annual tune-ups, though, I have had to spend very little on the bike.



Week-end in the city
July 25, 2010, 8:21 pm
Filed under: around town

It rained this week.

This understatement fails to capture he great torrential rivers of rain that came down.

I didn’t have time to check it out, but my mum called to tell me that on Friday there was video of folks canoeing down Guelph Street in Kitchener. So yeah: it really, really rained.

Some of the rain pooled in what used to be the egress point from the root cellar, and eventually made its way in under the old door. I guess that’s going to have to be bricked up lest we have such a torrential rain again.

Anyway, I’m allergic to mould, and it’s been a really wet summer, so Dear spouse spent the wk-end in the root cellar, washing down walls, removing cabinets that had soaked the water up into them, and spraying the walls with a fungicide to kill the mould. I spent the week-end stripping 60+ years worth of paint from the main stairs and took it right down to the walnut boards. Eventually we will refinish the stairs in a traditional, natural stain, dark treat with white risers. It may take a few *years* before we do it because I don’t want to get rid of the stair runner while the teenager is still in the house (it softens his step in mid-night wanderings).
So: we gardened, and I wrote (not enough — have to finish a chapter today); we did home maintenance, and Dear Spouse helped the neighbours put a new roof on their garage…

We are exhausted, and have had no time to go biking at all.

­čśŽ



Take the lane!
May 18, 2010, 3:01 am
Filed under: around town, commute by bike, hazards

Our provincial legislators are considering a change to our traffic laws that would require that drivers maintain a minimum 3-foot distance from cyclists when passing us on the left.

Dammit! While it’s an idea with some practical merits, it further entrenches the popular idea that cyclists belong shoved over on the right hand side of the road (where most of the gutter hazards are).

But here’s the thing that really sticks in my craw. Under current traffic laws, cyclists already have a right to be *in* the lane, taking up the usual space of one vehicle. Here’s what the local paper has to say, “Under current laws bicycles have as much right to the road as a vehicle.” (The Record: http://news.therecord.com/News/CanadaWorld/article/712968) The article goes along to explain that “[a]long some streets, such as King Street through downtown Kitchener, cyclists are encouraged by the city to take the whole lane. Drivers do not always appreciate that.” (Ibid).

Drivers don’t always appreciate that?

Whether appreciate here refers to their entitlement issues or comprehension issues, I leave to your interpretation, but I”m going to close this one out by quoting from “Shit My Dad Says”:

“You’re riding up this guy’s ass because why? Because you are in such a hurry to be on time for that nothing that you do?!”

And the irony is that when those drivers don’t appreciate us riding in the middle of the road, where we are legally entitled to be, we are invariably faster or at least moving at the same pace as the rest of traffic. Cars may beat us off the block, but in dense city traffic, the cyclist is more efficient. That’s why we have huge companies that are built on the efficiencies of bike travel for messenger services. Duh.



What’s up, Buttercup?
May 17, 2010, 12:38 pm
Filed under: around town

Astonishingly, gardening is keeping me off the internet on week-ends. It’s really lovely.
When we bought our new centre-of-the-city house last year, we really did not realize how big our lot was. Our house, garage and back deck manage to run pretty much down the centre of the lot, sort of obscuring the true size of the surrounding area. We had sort of thought that we had just two narrow alleys down either side of the house, but it turns out that each strip as roughly 20 feet wide, and our house is set back from its front line by about 30 feet. That all translates into more ground to care for than we had realised.
But we are not complaining. For one thing we have a lovely combination of basswood (lime tree) and silver maple trees that keep the house shaded and cool — so we don’t need A/C (which means: very low utility costs in summer). We also have a lovely combination of yew and cedar hedges around the house, so that was a good base from which to begin our work.
We’ve planted hostas at the base of a few of the trees, and all round the hedges for some visual difference, and we’ve put a rock garden on our front lawn to start the process of getting rid of grass. All the plants we’ve put in will spread… so we should be able to just keep expanding the low growing flowers and mosses and keep getting rid of grass each year.
Yesterday Dear Spouse bought me a lovely rhododendron (with violet flowers) to put on the side yard, and it it makes it through the winter, it should bring lovely flowers for many years.
However, we’ve not only been workign on aesthetic gardening.
We’ve also dug up a section of the back/side yard about 4 feet wide and 12 or so feet long, added new soil and sheep manure… (and fed the robins the white grubs that we plucked out of the ground by hand). Into the new bed went a row of snow peas, a row of Roma tomatoes, a row of arugula and a square of bush basil. And if we succeed, we will have a salad garden. The ingredients for a salad garden also translate in a pesto garden, and a pasta sauce garden.
If our plot is successful, we will double its size next year, and raise the beds so that they are easier to work.
I’d also like to add some quince bushes because I adore quince preserves.
A bit of rhubarb would be lovely too.
So here’s what I’m growing for eating this year:

Meyer lemons (this is year 3, and I have a 2nd tree now)
Bush basil
Lettuce basil
Oregano
Purple sage
Lavendar
Cilantro
Thai coriander
Lemon balm
Thyme
Roma tomatoes
Snow peas
Arugula

Next year I’ll add:

Rhubarb
Quince

And I’d love to have an apple tree. We have one up north that has been struggling along, and I’m considering transplanting it here because it’s a graft from a very old spy-type apple, which means that if it ever fruits, the fruit should taste like the apples did when I was a kid: tart, juicy and crunchy, not mealy and pallid the way so many apples are now.

So we spent our week-end digging and trimming… and it was lovely. The work puts us out of doors, and we talk to people as they go by… (some are a bit odd to be sure, but everyone is nice). The elderly people who attend mass on the week-end at the church directly across the road were well-acquainted with the home’s previous owner, herself an elderly woman who had the basics from which we have begun our work. We’re sure that the church-goers have been watching to see what we would do with “Helen’s house” (she lived here for 60 years), and so it’s nice to get their nodding approval for our efforts.

Sticking with the theme of being more connected to the real world of people than to the virtual world:

Our Saturday night was spent with a new friend who was recently hired into a discipline close to but not identical to mine. We have just enough in common to talk about interesting stuff together, but not so much that we get embroiled in griping abut work. She has bought a house just a kilometre from ours and has come by a few times… and we ended up drinking wine into the wee hours on Saturday night. Very nice…

We finished off our Sunday night with a visit with our neighbours and the use of their spa-tub, which was just
what our ageing joints needed after two solid days of working in the dirt.

We slept last night like people who had actually worked all week-end, and yet it didn’t feel as though we had laboured; rather, it felt as though we had lived.



Riding Study Participation: complete
May 5, 2010, 9:16 pm
Filed under: around town

We have been very lucky weather-wise around here of late. I’ve had no storms to impede my desire to go one place or another, even though we have had some good rains! Indeed, the fresh smell of grass and rain is wafting through my window as I write this post.

The amenable weather meant that I was out on my bike, running errands, visiting friends, going to and from work on pretty much every day of the week-and-a-half study with the GPS units.

Of course, there were no snow banks for me to tag as problematic, but when asked to really pay attention to the surfaces on which I ride, I came to a kind of meta-cognition point about curb heights, access-hole covers, one-way streets, and pot-holes, nasty parking habits on our streets, and so forth. I’m hoping that once all the data are in that we’ll see some significant changes in the flow of our traffic (generally) and of bicycle traffic in particular. There are so many areas where we need better use of available space, often where multi-use trails would be far superior that currently unused sidewalks etc. I’d like to see bike lanes on some of the quieter more picturesque streets with low automobile traffic. Often such streets are one-way only but are sufficiently wide enough to handle a two-way bike lane. Such streets are rarely used by cars and round-abouts would solve any intersection concerns for where these streets cross others that are currently two-way.

Anyway, I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what comes of it.



For the Pashley Riding Grad Student
April 27, 2010, 6:49 pm
Filed under: around town, comments around town, commute by bike

My dear spouse just phoned me from his office to find out if we would be riding home together after work. Nope! I have the freedom of doing my own thing and I’ll be stopping off, meeting a friend for coffee on my way home. I love having my own wheels!

Anyway, in the course of our conversation, DS told me that he’d met a grad student outside the campus library, and that Grad Student was riding a Pashley — probably the only Pashley in town. Hey, Grad Student: I’d love a photo of you riding your Pashley around town!

Anyway, I heard that Grad Student had had some trouble finding someone to properly service the Pashley gears. My understanding is that the folks at Braun Cycle can help you out.

Good luck!