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Critical Lass 6: North To Alberta Avenue

Critical Lass 6: North To Alberta Avenue

We had a gorgeous sunny summer day for our Critical Lass ride yesterday. Angel and I met at Bicycle Bottleneck and rode to our our meeting place. Along the way we rode briefly with Coreen, who took a different route so she could go to the bank, and met a new friend (hi Anon!). We took the bike path north to 103rd Avenue, then took that to Churchill Square, and found our meeting place in front of the Winspear: 

Our new friend, who has asked that we not use her name. She’s the coolest, and so her is fab mid-70s Twenty.

As you can see, the Square was packed for Taste of Edmonton! Poor Coreen wasn’t sure where we were meeting, and wasn’t able to find us in the crowd. We hope nobody else had the same trouble. =(

We all coveted Marilyn’s fantastic skirt from H&M.

We waited an extra 35 minutes to make sure nobody else was coming, then started on our route:

down 102 (Harbin) Avenue through South Chinatown,

along Jasper Avenue, where we admired the river valley views at the top of Dawson Park (which you need to enter from the bottom of the valley, so we’ll explore it another day),

then along the multiuse-trail that runs parallel to the LRT line,

to the end of Alberta Avenue closest to Coliseum LRT Station, which is the most recent section to have infrastructure upgrades. The site of the old Cromdale Hotel (above) gives a good idea what much of the street looked like a decade ago, when it was best known for its drug-fuelled crime rate. We walked a couple of blocks on the brand-new sidewalks, crowded with people walking in the opposite direction toward Capital Ex, and watched pickup trucks and SUVs whizz past, then decided our best course was to ride on quiet, residential 119th Ave, using the church and community league park as our landmarks to come out onto the sidewalks on 118th. In retrospect maybe we should have taken photos of the parks, too – they both had playgrounds full of families, nice green spaces, and at one of them there was a fenced space with a community garden and dogs playing off-leash. So cool.

Most of the shops along 118th have this sign in their window, for the community-based campaign to reclaim their neighborhood. (Oh look, this is also a self-portrait.)

Our first stop was Handy Bakery, famous for their pastries…

… and their display case didn’t disappoint. They had a steady stream of clients coming in to pick up orders.

The Portuguese custard tarts? So. so. good.

They also have half the shop devoted to hard-to-find groceries and spices.

I wonder if the traffic on 118th is always this busy, or if it gets busier during big events like Capital Ex at Northlands?

We unlocked our little bike pile from one of the brand-new racks that line the street, then headed back via 119th to our destination, where Coreen caught up with us:

It smelled amazing inside, thanks to the shisha smoke from hookahs, and meals like this:

Ethiopian food! So tasty, and extremely filling. The injera (flatbread) that you eat with tastes a bit like sourdough. Nom!

Afterward we rode south on the residential streets marked on the map in the last post, past the Mustard Seed and Hope Mission, and along 106th Avenue parallel to where the railroad tracks used to divide these neighborhoods from downtown. We made one little alteration to our planned route, cutting through Grant MacEwan College and down the future Capital Boulevard:

Yeah, the Ledge grounds. After all, it was hot and sunny. How could we resist the chance to go wading?

But first we went into the rose garden for a group photo (which will be in Coreen’s post) and admired a bumblebee who was playing in the blossoms. There are more photos from the rose garden in Coreen’s ride report!
(Thanks for the sweet photo Coreen!)

I love this photo of Coreen. She sewed her floaty wrap skirt herself.
So refreshing, and such a great way to finish the ride! Afterward we headed our separate ways, with most of us heading over the High Level Bridge to Bicycle Bottleneck.
Thanks to everyone who came out! Those of you who missed it – we’ll see you August 28th!

27 July Update: I’ve been reflecting on the changes on Alberta Avenue. It’s definitely way less scary to spend a sunny afternoon there than it was in 1994 when I first visited, on a mission with my roommate to find stuff for our student apartment at the world’s sketchiest used furniture shops. I remember lots of boarded-up storefronts and pawn shops then, and not a lot of pedestrian traffic. Now we’re seeing families in playgrounds, lots of restaurants, lots of people out walking. There’s a farmer’s market, gallery space, and a number of festivals held on Alberta Avenue now. I expect, now that the infrastructure upgrades are complete, in the next couple of years we’ll see it become an incubator of cool local retail and arts space, in the same way that 124th Street and Whyte Ave have been in the past.
I also commented above that the working-class neighborhoods we rode through were divided until fairly recently from downtown by railyards; Marilyn notes in her blog post that the arena project proposed for the redevelopment of that land could make that division permanent. Go read!

PS: This post is part of our series for the LGRAB 2011 Summer Games! It could qualify in several categories – this was a new part of town and took in new-to-us bike paths – but we’ll just call it a group ride. Let the games begin!
Critical Lass July plans

Critical Lass July plans

Reminder: Sunday July 24th will be the next Edmonton Critical Lass ride!

So you can check out A Taste of Edmonton before the ride, if you like, we’ll meet at 1:30pm in front of the Winspear Centre and depart at 2pm. We’ll ride via 95th Street (and Chinatown and Little Italy) to Alberta Avenue, so we can see for ourselves its’ revitalization from a neighborhood that a decade ago was best known for pawn shops and drug-related crime problems, now that the infrastructure changes from the Streetscape Improvements program and storefront facade renovations are mostly completed. We’ll likely make stops at The Carrot, Bedouin Beats, and Handy Bakery, and have our supper at Habesha (Ethiopian, and we hear they’re vegetarian and vegan friendly!).

Originally, our plan was to ride all the way to Northlands, grab a group photo with Gretsky, then take our bikes on the LRT – but since Capital Ex is on, we expect Coliseum Station to be a bit too crowded for bikes. So, now we think we’ll loop back to downtown before going our separate ways.

Any feedback on the route, ladies?

20 July UPDATED PROPOSED ROUTE: So. After discussion with Angel, I did a screencap of the bike map then highlighted our new route idea:

We’ll be starting about where the blue oval marked 3 is (that’s the AGA), taking the on-road bike path on 102 Ave (that’s Harbin Road, just north of Canada Place, which stands where the original Chinatown was established 100 years ago) through Chinatown South to Jasper Ave, and take that along the upper edge of Dawson Park (it’s not clear whether we can actually enter the park from the top – if we can we can stop and take photos here) to where it turns north and becomes 82nd Street. Where 82nd crosses the LRT tracks at 113th Ave, we can get on the MUP (red) then take the on-street path (green) north on 81st Street (past another wee park) to 118th Ave. This brings us out close enough to Northlands to hear the ruckus and smell the mini-donuts from Capital Ex, close to the eastern end of the section of Alberta Ave that’s had infrastructure upgrades. Then we’ll ride west on 118th, check out some places, and stop for supper. Afterward we’ll take 96th Street south and pick up the on-street path (green) that skirts north of downtown to head to 109th Street, then south via the MUP (red) and across the High Level Bridge to Bicycle Bottleneck. When they reopen for the day I’ll call Habesha and ask them about the timing – whether they want a group to show up for the 4pm coffee ritual, or want us to make reservations for later, will determine whether we move our start time a bit later. Our reservation is for 4pm at Habesha. Sound OK?

Critical Lass 5: South To Whitemud Crossing

Critical Lass 5: South To Whitemud Crossing

Our fifth Critical Lass ride was the first on an evening that was threatening rain, after a few solid days of unusually wet and miserable weather, so our group was small but mighty. 
We met at the Bicycle Bottleneck, and lingered there chatting for awhile while some of us finished our chai, lattes, and poutine. 
Spoke cards installed and ready to roll!
Talking about the spoke cards Deb made. 
(They’re 2 colour photocopies, sandwiched inside 4mil hot-lamination pouches.)

(No matter how carefully you trim and lay them out, they shift in the laminator – argh!
Next time we’ll do double-sided printing on cardstock. Lesson learnt.) 

We’re so happy that Selene was able to join us during her brief visit!
Lots of stylish raincoats and cardigans.
Plastic capes in case of a downpour stashed in baskets and messenger-style bags.
Selene’s sweet Raleigh mixte – swoooon.
Monie’s Apollo with awesome cork-looking grips!

Geneva’s made-in-Japan Apollo was rescued after several months’ abandonment in a back alley…
… and it has intact Fred Deeley Cycles decals.
Can you believe that Marilyn’s fab shoes are second-hand?

When we got rolling, we skirted the U of A campus
and headed south on the multi-user path beside the LRT on 114th Street.

panda self portrait

Stopping to decide which restaurant to head to and call ahead for a reservation
after picking up Miss Sarah en route.
(Click the link to see her photo essay on the ride!)

The official bike path takes a detour into Lendrum that’s a bit difficult to follow.
Where the bike path rejoined our route, we were split between street and path for the first block.
We also missed the official (unmarked!) spot where the multiuser path
crosses busy 111th Street just south of Southgate LRT station,
so we ended up single file on the sidewalk for a few blocks until we could cross at 40th Avenue.
By this time the sky was clearing and trench coats were feeling rather warm.
It’s so hard to get an unposed photo of Miss Sarah without her camera in front of her face.
Duggan is a pretty typical 1970s residential neighborhood –
large lots, mature trees, lots of bungalows and split-levels.
Traffic was light on 40th Avenue and 106th Street so we felt really comfortable taking the lane.
Monie does mock outrage pretty well, no?
This sign was next to the bike racks we used at Whitemud Crossing.
Our destination. So good we forgot to take photos of the delicious food.
Having a smaller group for the ride meant we had a tatami room
and could indulge in serious girl talk.
Heading north on 106th Street before we all headed our separate ways.
Isn’t Geneva’s belt-bag the coolest dumpster dive find ever?

After parting ways to our various end points (some took to LRT for speedy home time, others returned to the Bottleneck), myself and Deb rode over to the multi-use path beside 91 street and down to my place in Mill Woods. Google maps says we did just under 20km total that evening. It felt great!
Deb with her ’72 Phillips, just before we swapped bikes on the way back to Mill Woods.
Photo without flash.
With flash! WOW! That’s a ten dollar Cactus Creek safety sash from MEC. (Note to self: MUST BUY!)

Luckily, it never did rain – not even a drop!
Thanks to everyone who came out for a delightful evening.
Your camaraderie would have made it fun even if the heavens had opened!

Reminder: here are the upcoming ride dates:

Update: Coreen’s ride report is up!
June Critical Lass!

June Critical Lass!

It’s been a busy few weeks, so although we’ve tweeted about the date for the next Critical Lass we have been remiss in posting! Here are the details:

When: Monday, June 20th, meet at 6:00 pm, depart at 6:30 pm (weekday evening chosen to not coincide with major Bikeology Festival events during Bike Month)

What: an inclusive social ride for women and trans cyclists in stylish clothes, on a route suitable for novice riders, to promote cycling as an approachable, fun, everyday activity

Where: meeting at the Bicycle Bottleneck (that’s the intersection of Saskatchewan Drive, 109th Street, and 88 Avenue) on the sidewalk near High Level Diner

Route: this time we’ll meander through the neighborhoods around the University of Alberta, south on the multi-user path along the LRT line, and east on 40th Avenue to the Whitemud Crossing area (which will soon be easily reachable via the soon-to-be-installed 106th Street sharrows). Yokozuna Japanese Restaurant and Thai Valley Grill are among our choices for food afterward.

Update: yes, we know showers are currently in the forecast. We’ll ride rain or shine.

We’ll be making spoke cards using this cheeky 1940s postcard from my collection for attendees,
since our lovely friend Eri is too busy to make pins.

Upcoming rides (tentatively all scheduled on the 4th Sunday):

  • July 24th – Alberta Avenue (because We Believe In 118!) and The Carrot and Pho King
  • August 28th – suburban summertime ride – Millwoods bicycle infrastructure and a family picnic in Jackie Parker Park
  • September 25th – autumn colour ride along the top edge of the river valley
Critical Lass 4: LRT and downtown

Critical Lass 4: LRT and downtown

Happy Mothers’ Day to me! This morning, ubermechanic Keith installed Fibrax ASH144 pads on Eliza’s rod brakes and adjusted them for me, and also switched out the plastic Sturmey-Archer shifter for the prettier (and more reliable) chrome one that Bert can no longer use. The difference made by new brake pads was phenomenal – if you have a DL-1 with rod brakes, keep these in mind as something you may need to track down.
Then I drove, with Eliza on my car’s rack, home to drop off my exasperated and bored daughter (“Mommmm! Can you stop talking about bikes so we can gooooo?!?”), then back to Century Park, which is the LRT station closest to my home and the end of the LRT line. It was time for Critical Lass!

The elevator at Century Park LRT station – you need to go up from the parking lot to a pedway over the road. Note the signage.
The elevators at both Century Park and Southgate stations are HUGE compared with the ones downtown.

Of course I ended up running a little late, and arrived on the platform just as the 1pm train was pulling away. No biggie, they run frequently even on Sundays, and soon I was off, with a firm grip on my bike and my hip wedged against the seat to keep the silly thing from rolling when the train started and stopped. A kickstand or wheel-lock would be handy.

I got off at Belgravia-McKernan station just in case, but nobody was there (I took the photo above while I was waiting), so I caught the next train and found Judy waiting for me on board. We had a great chat on the way, then were forced to carry my Raleigh and her Pashley up the stairs by an out-of-service-cos-it’s-Sunday elevator at the Winspear exit from Churchill Station. Sigh.

Almost our whole group were waiting when we entered Churchill Square. Most of them are experienced cyclists living in core neighborhoods and had ridden the whole way.

For what it’s worth, I’d say the whole bike-on-LRT experience was only a minor hassle, and an uninterrupted LRT trip from Century Park Station to downtown takes only about 15 minutes. And while I drove to the LRT today due to time constraints, I easily could have cycled or done a cycle-bus combo from the subdivision where I live way out by the Henday ring-road. The east-west MUP that runs along 23rd goes directly past the LRT station and probably takes 30 minutes or less to ride, depending on your speed.

I took all kinds of photos while we were hanging in Churchill Square,
but unfortunately they all look like this one of Keith holding Robert,
thanks to my malfunctioning camera.
Keith rode an amazing 1951 CCM camelback that he made into a fixie,
and he joked about looking like a hipster. We were so pleased that he came.

Update: Keith has already posted his synopsis of the day’s events! Since most 
of my shots of the bicycles didn’t turn out I will defer to his post for that.
Somehow this shot is the only one I have with the Art Gallery of Alberta in the background.

Luckily I took a look at what my camera was producing,
and Karen was able to lend me hers for most of the rest of the ride. 

(Aren’t you grateful?? I know I am.)
Unless otherwise noted, the rest of these were taken by me using her camera.

I didn’t get many photos (thank you, crummy camera), but with such a lovely large empty space, we naturally all had to try each others’ bikes out. I rode Karen’s new Linus loopframe (SO nice). Here is Judy about to give Coreen‘s no-longer-Polar Porta-Bike vintage folder a go. Sarah is fixing the pictures she added to her basket in honour of Mothers Day. Aren’t her gold heels fabulous?

At about the time we stopped playing musical bikes, a bulldog showed up and started riding a skateboard. At one point everyone in the square was cheering her on. So fun! It turns out her name is Buttercup and she’s Sorta Internet Famous:

Daisy (Angel’s Pro-Tour of unknown heritage) looks a proper mamachari now that she’s had a heavy-duty rear rack and the found-via-Japanese-blogs child seat installed (here it’s got the seat back flipped down for basket use). Angel reports that both her kids fit, and we can expect a proper review post soonish.

Group photo in front of Edmonton City Hall, courtesy of Miss Sarah. 
L-R: Monie, Sable, Deborah, Judy, Keith, Sarah, Robert, Karen, Angel, Marilyn, Coreen.

Coreen and Porta-Bike, courtesy of Miss Sarah. Her vintage dress is the coolest.

Marilyn and Brompton, courtesy of Miss Sarah.
HOW did I not notice her t-straps today? So pretty!
The carillion at City Hall chimed just as we were leaving Churchill Square. 
 I think it was actually about 2pm, wasn’t it?
Did we really spend that long chatting and checking out each others’ bikes?
Maybe we did. Time flies.

Taking the lane.
Angel on Daisy, courtesy of Miss Sarah.
That wrap dress looks so much prettier on her than it did on me.
Judy on her Pashley.
It was a trench coat kind of day, breezy and mostly overcast with rain in the forecast.
Stopped at the lights. This may be the best shot of Monie’s Fiori that’s I got.

As you can see the Linus loopframe is brilliant for pulling a Chariot.
Doesn’t Sable look great on her Dahon? Doesn’t her crossbody bag look like it’s butter-soft?

 Another shot of Karen on her new Linus and Robert in the Chariot, courtesy of Miss Sarah.
Karen’s leopard-print dress? Those shoes? So stylish. 
When my babies were that age I’m sure I wore nothing but yoga pants.

Monie balancing on her Fiori, courtesy of Miss Sarah. Cutest jacket ever. Wooden buttons!

On 104th Street Promenade, courtesy of Miss Sarah.
You can see a glimpse here of the architectural heritage and urban renewal
that made this block one of the focuses of yesterday’s Jane’s Walk.
(Everything I’m wearing is part of my Project 333 wardrobe, BTW.
Wow, black doesn’t photograph well.)

Judy and Pashley, courtesy of Miss Sarah

Realtors’ lockboxes on a bike rack outside Credo Coffee. WTF. Courtesy of Marilyn.

Monie’s boyfriend brought a little something down to the cafe to supplement our lattes.
(Chocolate liqueur? Well, maybe just a little.)
Monie made him this book, isn’t she clever?


Robert was an absolute angel, only complaining in the Chariot when we had to stop.

We sat and stood outside with our bikes and coffees and food.
 After awhile we were all as cold as Marilyn looks. I love her dress and obi sash so much.

Angel enjoying a cuppa, courtesy of Miss Sarah.

When we were done our coffees we split up for a few minutes and took a quick peek in some of the local independently-owned shops that have sprung up on 104th. Coup was full of pretty frocks and baubles, and 29 Armstrong makes me want to throw away everything and redecorate. Having already had a machiato brownie at Credo, I skipped Queen of Tarts, but I’m regretting it as I type this.

When we realized the time we all hopped on our bikes to conclude our ride.

Angel and Monie waiting for me so I can take a photo at the entrance to High Level Bridge.

By this time the sun had come back out and a steady stream of walkers and cyclists were using the MUP across High Level Bridge. Coreen took a zillion photos as we were riding across. I’ll link to her post once it’s up.
After we split up, I decided I’d ride back through Garneau and McKernan to Belgravia-McKernan Station, but when I got there I had just missed the LRT, and the bike path beckoned. A shorter-than-usual ride so that people could head off for their Mothers Day plans had left me wanting more.

South Campus LRT station. I have just (accidentally-on-purpose) missed my train. Again. Oopsie!

Eliza waiting in the sunshine while I check my phone messages
– oh look, a text saying supper is ready.
Eliza needs a shorter (and possibly wider) saddle in antique brown, I think,
the wicker basket washed in walnut stain, and a simpler skirtguard,
in addition to the rear rack with kickstand that I’ve mentioned previously and my crate.
My jacket is balled up in the basket. Yay warmth.
Every so often along the trail by the LRT tracks there are spots like this
with benches, bike racks, and underused noticeboards.
The section of path just before this spot ran alongside a little wetland that had frogs singing in it.

I ended up hopping back on the train at Southgate Station, but I could easily have ridden the whole way; from Southgate to Century Park on the bike path would have only been another 10 minutes or so. But as it was supper was starting to get cold when I got home, and everyone was eager for some time with Mommy.
It was such a lovely afternoon! Thanks again to everyone who came out, and to Karen, Sarah, and Marilyn for coming to my rescue when my camera went on the fritz.
UPDATE: Sarah has her post up with more great photos and a video!
UPDATE 2: Coreen’s post is up with yet more great photos

Mothers’ Day Critical Lass

Mothers’ Day Critical Lass

Now that the snow has finally melted and the street cleaners are making the rounds, we can announce our first Critical Lass ride of 2011! We’ll be riding on the afternoon of Sunday May 8th.

(Now, we realize that a lot of you might have other plans on Mothers’ Day. However, it was the only date when all our organizers could make it that didn’t coincide with EBC‘s women-and-transgendered-only days for May. So we are choosing a route that will allow people to easily meet up with us late or leave us early, so they can hopefully work around their brunch or dinner plans for the day. We also encourage you to bring your mom along. If you want.)

So here is the route:

1ish – Angel and I will be possibly meeting for lunch at a nearby restaurant beforehand, then starting off from Century Park LRT Station. That’s right, this is going to be a bicycles-on-transit adventure for us! We figure the new-ish South Light Rail Transit extension hasn’t been seen much on the local bike blogs (which are mostly written by core-dwellers), so we should show it some love. LRT is an easy way to extend your bicycle explorations, and the rules & usage hours are all commonsense.

1:15 to 1:30pm – We will be hanging out on the platform at McKernan / Belgravia Station, where we expect those who live in the neighborhoods around the U of A to meet up with us.

1:45 to 2:15pm – Having taken the LRT to Churchill Station, we will meet on the steps of City Hall where we’ll catch up with our north-side friends, have a nice chat and use some of the brilliant architecture (Art Gallery of Alberta, anyone?) surrounding Churchill Square as the backdrop for some sweet photos.

2:15 to 3:15pm – We’ll ride via 102nd Ave to the 4th Street Promenade, where we’ll grab coffee at Credo or wine at deVine, browse the gorgeous green goods at Carbon Environmental Boutique, swoon over the fabulous furnishings at 29 Armstrong and fresh frocks at Coup, and/or partake of the pastries at Queen of Tarts. Yeah baby! The Promenade is also notable for its architecture, as per the website of the City Market:

In addition to the variety of shops and restaurants, make sure to check out the architecture of the many buildings that line 104th Street. There are currently nine “A” level heritage buildings on the 104th Street promenade, including the prestigious Birks Building on the east corner of 104th Street and Jasper Avenue (built 1929) and the Phillips Building (10169-104 Street), which was built in 1912 as one of the first completely fireproof buildings in Edmonton. 

Anyone who needs to leave at this point can catch the LRT at nearby Bay Station.

3:15 to 4:30pm – We’ll head for the Ledge grounds then over the High Level Bridge, some of us will no doubt split off to head home via Saskatchewan Drive, and the rest of us will head through the University grounds to Health Sciences / Jubilee Station, from whence we’ll all set off for home.

We’d also like to extend an invitation to our male friends, since some of you have said you’d like to bring certain gorgeous, droolworthy vintage bicycles and join us on our Loopy Ride… Please do! Just expect to be outnumbered, for a change, and wear something you’d like to be photographed in. 😉

Oh, and preview: for Bike Month we’re thinking that We Believe In 118

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

The snowbanks are melting, although the 17-storey Mount Slushmore in the west end may take until next winter. My five-year-old is delighting in pointing out hints of green among the brown blades where grass is exposed. My seven-year-old is thrilled to be wearing a thin fleece-lined jacket instead of an adapted sleeping bag. Today I saw a robin, and yesterday, when we took the kids for a long walk, we saw a pair of migrating geese (and boy, they looked pissed that their pond was still frozen over).

Best of all, today I took Ms Trudy Phillips out for a (too-short) ride around the block:

Happy to be playing in the sunshine. Someday I’ll figure out the art of the panda shot.
Sensible shoes: my shiny black rainboots, worn with thick knee-high socks and capris.

The sun and cool breeze on my face were absolutely heavenly. I must put more air in her tires and have another go, ASAP.

The residential roads are finally ice-free in my neighborhood, although the margins are covered in a winter’s worth of the dirty sand that makes Americans who visit Edmonton in winter think we don’t have paved roads. These shots are typical of conditions in the back alleys:

Skeptical bicyclist is skeptical. I’m wondering if my iPhone camera will get a decent shot.
As you can see, there’s a little stream running down the middle of the alley behind my home.
Some of the puddles are fairly deep.

So, things are improving! Hopefully we’ll be able to come fully out of hibernation soon and announce a Critical Lass date for May…

Winter in the suburbs sucks

Winter in the suburbs sucks

*sigh* Here is what my husband has worn to be able to safely walk the dog for the past month or more:

(photographed on a section of our sidewalk that we can’t seem to keep ice-free no matter how diligent we are)

Yes, tungsten carbide cleats attached to galoshes, found at the local cult-of-jogging emporium. That’s how treacherous the half-not-cleared, half-frozen-puddle sidewalks are in our neighborhood. The roads, finally cleared after weeks of waiting of 6 inches of hard-packed snow that turns to oatmeal on warm days, are little better. Lanes beside curbs are usually reduced to half their width by uneven windrows of snow (which the city is now working on clearing on the main arteries), two-way car traffic is no longer possible on roads where cars have parked, and where sharrows have been painted, they’re usually invisible under layers of ice and wheel-polished snow. This is the sad reality of living in a car-dependent suburb (WalkScore: less than 25 no matter what street you pick. Sigh).

So you can see how having a properly-equipped winter bike really is a necessity for riding in these conditions. The main roads are clear now, but I need to be able to get to them without falling off my bike.

I am currently without a winter bike (sadface). I was going to throw snow tires on Bert, but my gurus at RedBike say snow tires won’t fit onto any of my Raleigh-built bikes without removing the mudguards, and mudguards are not optional for me if I’m going to ride in my everyday clothes. So I’m still weighing my options. I only recently learnt to ride confidently with traffic, so the road conditions are really discouraging as well. Perhaps my best bet would be creating (or buying? do they come that size?) a set of snow tires for my Norco foldy, so I could run local errands and legally stick to the suburban sidewalks and multiuser paths (which not many pedestrians are using in these icy conditions). If I won a lottery I’d just buy my midlife-crisis bakfiets and order snow tires for it at the same time.

Rabbit tracks in the waist-deep snow on top of my front garden 

I am NOT complaining about the wait to have residential roads cleared – Edmonton has enough roadway surface to reach to Cancun and back, thanks to the sprawl that comes with being a Prairie city, and I knew what was coming when we moved to the suburbs. The main arteries and the bus route one street over were cleared within 24 hours of each of the recent snowstorms, and that’s all I expect. It would be nice to see the road the new elementary schools are on added to that clearance priority list, as will likely happen when the city reviews its’ snow-clearance policies in light of this winter’s unusual challenges. However, poor conditions on residential roads are a definite hurdle for making bicycling an accessible year-round alternative to driving in a winter city, and if the city wants to encourage more than the core-dwellers to use bicycles more, they’ll need to consider this factor. Maybe adding the newly-sharrowed roads in the ‘burbs to the plowing priority lists might be a good compromise?

Meanwhile I am eagerly awaiting enough warm days that the roads are clear. It’s hard to write about bicycles, or even to motivate myself to work on my bicycle craft projects (instead I have been working on my other blog and planning a trip to Japan). I hate hibernating.

Municipal Election Bike Advocacy

Municipal Election Bike Advocacy

It’s municipal election time here in Edmonton (as you may know from the fabulous Miss Sarah’s blog), and I’ve been trying to work out who will earn my votes this time around. The new ward map means I can’t just vote for who I voted for last time, so a little research is required.

Luckily for me, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters have put together the terrific Cycle Edmonton website, compiling the responses from all the candidates to their questionaire and reader-submitted copies of email responses to letters. It also has links to all the candidates’ websites and other contact information. Highly recommended!

Update: The REALTORS Association of Edmonton have also posted the responses by candidates to their survey. Very interesting stuff.

(Also luckily, Edmonton Grows Up have endorsed a slate of candidates for the Edmonton Public School Board who will work proactively with communities to prevent school closures in mature neighborhoods. There’s a great post on Dave Cournoyer’s blog about the old-guard versus younger candidates for EPSB trustees that I also suggest you check out.)

However, there are a number of candidates whose public platforms are incomplete, or who have not replied to surveys and questionnaires. Since these particular candidates don’t have twitter accounts, I went with the next most immediate method to publicly ask them for more information online: their blogs. (More after the jump…)

For Edmonton Catholic School Board trustee candidates in my ward, the race is essentially between the incubent Marilyn Bergstra, and former trustee Michael Savaryn. (One other candidate seems to be running on a platform that Catholic schools are not religious enough – um what? – and the fourth candidate repeatedly misspells “school closure” in her campaign literature and has no website. So, I’m not taking them seriously.) Savaryn has replied to EBC’s questionaire and makes a point of discussing ways of preventing the closure of schools in core neighborhoods in his pamphlet (but, again, no website? Seriously?). Bergstra mentions her recreational cycling and work on anti-idling campaigns on her website; her literature is the usual effective-responsible-fiscally-prudent stuff that incubents here in Alberta always seem to run on.

So I asked her on her blog:

Hi Marilyn,

I’m a parent in your ward, with children attending St. Monica’s Elementary and Monsignor William Irwin Elementary Schools.

Can you please comment on your platform and record regarding closure versus renovation versus alternative uses for ECSD schools in mature, core neighborhoods?

Also, will you please take the time to complete the questionnaire you have received from Edmonton Bicycle Commuters? I’m very interested to hear whether, as an avid recreational cyclist yourself, you’ll advocate for adequate bicycle parking and other pedestian- and bicycle-friendly infrastructure at ECSD schools, bicycle safety education, bike-to-school events, and other measures to encourage students and their families to ride or walk to school.

These ideas can reduce the ridiculous crush of idling motor vehicles around our schools during drop-off and pick-up times, and promote stronger, healthier, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods.

I look forward to your response.

…No response yet. I wonder if I’ll get one? There’s so little conversation on her blog that I was surprised that comments were enabled.

(I may actually be in a position to follow up on some of these ideas at the level of individual schools in my part of town, since I have volunteered to help organize a bike-to-school month with a bike rodeo at my daughter’s school, and will naturally share the information with people at my son’s school as well… stay tuned for a separate blog post on that!) 

As for councilors, the race in my ward (Ward 9) isn’t hotly contested. We have a well-respected, fairly progressive incumbent in Bryan Anderson, who has replied to EBC’s questionnaire and said sensible, well-researched things – and a handful of challengers who none of the pundits seem to think have much chance of unseating him. (Envision Edmonton aren’t even funding a candidate in this ward.) The most interesting of those challengers, or at least the one whose platform aligns most closely with my own opinions, is Jennifer Watts, so I commented on her blog to see if she would also say sensible, well-researched things. (Update: she did! But none of them were about cycling infrastructure. Yet.)

Here’s what I said:

Hi Jennifer,

I’m extremely interested in sustainable design and development, and have recently taken up cycling again as a way of minimizing both my carbon footprint and improving my health. I bike both with my school-age children and on my own to run errands, and I’m fortunate to live in a part of Ward 9 where it is possible to walk, bike, and use public transit much of the time – although the multiuser pathways are not always convenient, and motor vehicle users sometimes seem dangerously unaware that adult bicycles are legally required to be on the roadways, not the sidewalks.

You’ve been quoted in the newspaper articles you have attached about the need to manage sprawl in our ward, and you specifically mention accommodating public transit and active transportation (walking & cycling) in the “Transportation” part of your platform, and supporting the community leagues and schools to strengthen our neighborhoods in the “Community” section of your platform.

Can you clarify how you, as councillor, would support our school boards in preventing school closures in core neighborhoods, and support rejuvenation of core neighborhoods so that they are attractive to young families such as mine, and the small local businesses promoted by groups such as Keep Edmonton Original?

Can you also clarify your position regarding funding of the City of Edmonton’s Bicycle Transportation Plan, and take the time to answer the questionnaire you have received from the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society? I’m very interested to hear how you would support cyclists and pedestrians, and thereby promote stronger, healthier, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods. (Readers can learn more about the City’s BTP, and see what other candidates are saying at

Congratulations on a thoughtful and progressive campaign. I look forward to your response.

Update: since her response did not answer the cycling side of my questions, and her questionnaire response has not been posted yet (presumably because she has not bothered with it), I posted a followup comment:

 Thanks for your thoughts on revitalizing mature neighborhoods by improving infrastructure, and how demographics influence school enrolments. Naturally, these are complex problems that require a many pieces to be in place for their solutions.

However, you really didn’t address my question about bicycling infrastructure. Cycling in Edmonton is increasingly popular, but the existing recreational multiuser trail network is incomplete and ill-designed for the needs of people wishing to commute to work or run errands in their own neighborhoods. City planners have recognized the importance of cycling and the trend toward increasing bicycle use by creating the 10-year Bicycle Transportation Plan, but it needs to be fully funded, and although the dollar amount for that investment is relatively small (less than the cost of a single freeway overpass, at $10-million per year for 10 years), it is vulnerable to cuts if councillors are ill-informed about the many other benefits of the plan. 

By completing the proposed bike paths and sharrow lanes, and fully integrating the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians into future public transit and roadway construction projects, we would not only ensure that everyone can travel our city safely and efficiently in a healthier, more sustainable manner. We’d also make it possible for families to get by with fewer motor vehicles, putting more money back in their pockets and thus improving the local economy. Improved bicycle infrastructure can also make neighborhoods come alive: more pedestrians and bicyclists on the streets lowers crime rates, and more pedestrians and bicyclists spending time in local parks and spending money in local businesses helps to build vibrant neighborhoods where residents know each other and set down roots. More people using their bikes means less traffic congestion, fewer parking issues, and requires less road maintenance.

Will you commit to fully funding the Bicycle Transportation Plan as part of your commitment to smart, comprehensive development plans and reinvestment in mature neighborhoods?

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comments.