Category Archives: psycholist

Thing I like: Merrell Boots

It’s November. Which means NaBloPoMo. Let’s see what happens when I force myself to blog every day for a month, shall we? 
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Since going back to work full-time in April, I’ve also been a full-time bicycle commuter. And Oxford is fantastic for cycling. In fact, because of the way the roads and cycle paths connect between my house and work, it’s actually shorter and faster for me to bike than drive.

And with such a short trip (my ride is about 2.5k), there’s not much need (unless the weather is really awful) for me to wear anything other than regular clothes. I feel very Copenhagenesque, pretty much every day, as I sit up tall and ride at a modest-but-still-leisurely pace.

It’s really a joy to jump on my bike, cruise through town, and then just lock it and walk up to my desk, without a complicated shower/changing/primping routine in-between.

Still, not all clothes are created equal when it comes to bicycle commuting.

For instance, I’m still on the hunt for great trousers, after my favourite jeans wore through in the crotch from too much friction with my saddle. Sadface.

boot

But while I haven’t found a good answer for trousers (lots of great guy bike jeans, not so much ladies), when it comes to footwear, or at least boots, Merrell has filled a gap nicely. I’ve been looking for a pair of chocolate brown boots for a while, and the Evera Amp boot is a gorgeous specimen that’s also bike-friendly! Win!

What I really like is that, unlike so much bike-specific gear, the first impression it gives is fashion over function. But it still packs in plenty of functional aspects. I really notice a difference between these boots and another similar pair I have that aren’t made for cycling: the rigid footbed and increased tread do make a big difference in terms of stability and efficiency.

Plus, they’re comfortable for walking afterward, which is a huge plus.

I really hope this is a new trend in nice ladies’ bike-friendly fashion. Now someone please get on the jean thing. And a helmet that doesn’t give me hat-head.

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Note, I bought these boots because I like them. And I’m sharing them here because you might like them too. This was wholly unsolicited, and uncompensated.

Screamers

Much of my free time the past few weeks has been taken up organizing Vancouver’s first Critical Manners ride. All reports say that for the amount of time in which it came together, and not much in the way of format examples we were trying to follow, it went quite well.

And throughout, of course, there was the discussion of Critical Mass vs. Critical Manners.

Luke put together a great post on the two, and while he certainly supports the new initiatives of Critical Manners, he also thinks there is still a place for Critical Mass in its current format. I’m inclined to disagree.

Seth Godin put it best in a recent blog post when he said (emphasis mine):

If you want to challenge the conventional wisdom of health care reform, please do! It’ll make the final outcome better. But if you choose to do that, it’s essential that you know more about it than everyone else, not less. Certainly not zero. Be skeptical, but be informed (about everything important, not just this issue, of course). Screaming ignorance gets attention, but it distracts us from the work at hand.

It’s easy to fit in by yelling out, and far more difficult to actually read and consider the facts.

There was an astonishing (to me anyhow) number of people I encountered who are proponents of Critical Mass and who don’t actually know the rules regarding bikes in the Motor Vehicle Act, and/or know where all the bike lanes/routes in the city are and/or don’t know what a bike box is for. I would put those people in the company of the Willfully Ignorant rather than the Aggressively Skeptical.

And then there are the people who shout (and it is still always shouting) that social change should be uncomfortable!

One Critical Masser said that:

There was time when it was inconvenient to have women in the workplace. And to have black people sit at the front of the bus. Social change is uncomfortable. Sometimes it even hurts. But it is necessary if we are to continue to evolve as a sustainable, equitable and caring species.

And not to pick on her alone – it’s a sentiment I hear often from many who support the ride.

But here’s the thing: In this case, Rosa Parks already has her seat.

Nobody’s saying it’s illegal to cycle on the road. What we are dealing with here is an issue of perception, awareness and education.

We do not need to scream to “take back the streets” as cyclists. We have them, by rights and by law. As do cars, pedestrians and any other tax payers.

What we do need to do is continue to be informed users of the roads, being aggresively skeptical of the number of cycling resources in the city and they way they’re being implemented. We need to be putting forward a positive message of cycling to drivers who are currently unsympathetic to cyclists and therefore unaware of us and/or unwilling to share the roads because of it.

We need to build upon the momentum we currently have in the city with a council who is ready and willing to spend resources on cycling infrastructure.

We need to stop drowning ourselves out with the screaming.

The Accidental Activist

After the VPD’s announcement requesting motorists avoid downtown tonight because of the Critical Mass ride, I was explaining to a friend who’s been out of the country for the past decade or so what exactly Critical Mass is.

I am not a fan of Critical Mass as it currently stands, and while looking up the original origins of what’s become an excuse for a large-scale act of civil disobedience, I found another, small event called “Critical Manners.”

Originating in San Fransisco in 2007 as a response to their own “Critical Mess,” Critical Manners consists of nothing more than a small group of cyclists who ride together, following all the rules of the road.

I thought it seemed nice! Why not do it here? So I tweeted, and suggested a date.

And holy hell the response was phenomenal! Seems a lot of cycling Vancouverites feel the same way I do, and before you know it there were re-tweets and requests to help coming out the ying-yang.

Within 48 hours of taking a few minutes to set up a twitter account, website and email address, I’ve been on the radio, and the site has had over 300 page-views.

I’m overwhelmed and mostly amazed.

So, uh… if you’d like to join our friendly, law-abiding bike ride on August 14th at 6:00pm, go check out the Critical Manners Vancouver website.

Hope to see you there, and thanks!

I don’t believe in Peter Pan, Frankenstein or Superman

(**props to you who figure out where the title came from and why I chose it for this post**)

So if the weather here lately is any indication, summer is sadly already on its way out of Vancouver, which means the cycle-commuter season is also wrapping up. For most people anyhow.

So how did my first season biking to work go?

Well enough that I’d still rather ride in the rain than take the bus. I am a bit of a pretty princess, so that says a lot. It’s a lot faster than taking the bus, and I feel better doing it. I’m going to be seriously crabby once the show comes and/or it gets too icy to ride.

Observations:

Riding in the bike lanes and along bike routes is a lot less harrowing than one would initially think. They’re definitely wide enough to feel comfortable in, and are generally pretty well-respected by the rest of traffic. I wish there were more of them, since cyclists outside bike lanes are generally NOT well-respected by the rest of traffic, and it feels a lot more dangerous.

Bike maintenance is important! I’m not really used to using my bike as a regular mode of transportation, so I’ve been treating it like every other bike I’ve owned: annual tune-ups. My tires were feeling a bit squishy last week, so I finally went and inflated them. They were at 20 psi. They should be around 80 for optimal traffic riding. My brake cables are so loose the levers actually wobble. The bike’s going into the shop today for a bit of love. Commuter cyclists: weekly maintenance should be your mantra!

Secure bike parking and comfortable shower facilities at work are HUGE perks for cyclists. If I didn’t have both of these at my office, there’s no way I’d keep riding in. And now that I really enjoy biking to work it’s going to be a hard sell for me to take any job in the future that doesn’t have these things. It’s like going back to regimented hours once you’ve gotten used to flex time.

The pack you choose will make or break you. I have a backpack that’s got a mesh back and some stiff framing to keep the bulk of the pack away from my body. It works pretty darned well, but is still a thing on my back. Which is hot and sweaty-making – especially on the days I haul my computer back and forth. For my birthday I got a rack and set of panniers – I far prefer them to the backpack. I have to be careful, since I can cram a lot of heavy crap into them, but they make the ride a lot more pleasant. I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to bike to work on a regular basis (and doesn’t just keep an entire wardrobe at the office like my colleague Jeff).

When I drive now, I am much more aware of cyclists on the road. I think everyone who drives in Vancouver should have to bike through the city a few times (and drive in Europe, and on major US Highways) – if that were a licensing requirement, I think we’d have a lot fewer accidents.

HOWEVER, there are as many jackass cyclists as there are jackass drivers, and I fully understand why auto drivers get so antsy about the “psycholist” breed of cyclist. I can not stress enough the importance of riding defensively while asserting one’s space on the road. I notice I’ve gotten a lot more respect on the road by being respectful of all traffic (cars, pedestrians, hoverboarders, whatever) by just following the rules of traffic (signalling, staying in the correct place on the road, stopping at stop-signs, etc.). I think if more cyclists would ride the way they wish cars would drive, it would be much more effective than the generally disruptive and traffic-blocking Critical Mass rides, which seems unlikely to draw much, if any, sympathy to the cyclist cause.

Any questions from would-be bikers? Other feedback from cyclists out there? Tips I haven’t figured out yet?

LET’S GO RIDE BIKES!

After threatening to get bikes ever since we moved in together, Neil and I finally took the plunge and went out and got ourselves a pair of commuter cycles.

We didn’t intend for them to match, but they do. I got this one (in black/grey) and he got this one (in green).

We went a step above the standard Costco or Canadian Tire bikes, so the frames are a bit lighter and more durable, and the wheels are bigger (so less effort to make them go ’round) with higher-quality tires.

Disc brakes and full suspensions can wait until next year if this whole “biking to work” thing actually sticks.

But I’m excited enough by the fact that we can go ride around the neighbourhood on sunny days. I’d honestly forgotten how much fun cycling is (having not bothered with it basically since I’d gotten my driver’s license and no longer needed it as a mode of transportation).

I felt a bit wobbly getting back on, but it was, well, like riding a bike. You never really forget – and in no time I was cruising around like a, not pro exactly, but fairly competent average rider.

Next step: braving morning commuter traffic in an attempt to get to work next week.

Step after that: acquiring a Springer so we can take the dog with the bikes and not die if she decides to spook and dart, and finding a trailer or rack sufficient to hold the picnic BBQ and beach supplies.

Then we’ll never spend another sunny day at home!