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Jan 31, 2011

Car-Free Living - One Year On

Our family has just past the one year mark of carfree living and I thought an update on how our life has changed was due.  Overall, I feel like I am more content with my life than I was when motoring was what I did for a living (sales rep), I feel like I have less stress in my daily life, and I am more relaxed about life in general.  To help me keep this post from turning into an ADHD back and forth ramble from topic to topic, I've broken down my experiences into a few key categories. 

Jan 27, 2011

Bar Fight!

A small sample of the various city handlebars we stock.

Ah, the lowly handlebar, how we often overlook thee.  Too often we forget about you and under estimate the power you wield over our comfort.  An afterthought for many - not surprising when so many people are always proselytizing about this gearing system, that frame material, or what brand of bike you are attached too.  Pfft! - how important is that stuff anyway (kidding of course but trying to make a small point)!

All of which is a shame because you - the unheralded handlebar - can enable both a blissful or heinous cycling experience depending on your shape, sweep, and rise.

K - enough of that :)

Seriously now, the choice of handlebar is critical for a comfortable bike ride and a pleasant cycling experience.  Unfortunately, most MTB type bikes and traditional hybrid bikes come with traditional riser style MTB bars or worse yet, straight bars.  While these styles of handlebars are great for the demands of offroad or aggressive riding, they leave much to be desired  in the realm of comfort.  Sure, they'll work just fine for many people but if you are not comfortable on your current bicycle, changing your handlebar can be a quick, easy, and inexpensive fix. 

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, neck pain, or wrist pains, you might be a candidate for a different style of handlebar - the traditional swept back city handlebar.  There are multitudes of options in city bars with various sweep angles, rise heights, and grip area lengths - too many to get deep into here, but all helpful in offering more relaxed shoulder, neck, and wrist angles which can help reduce the pain associated with the more aggressive positions on most MTB and hybrid bikes.

There is no perfect city handlebar that will work for everyone so, if you are considering changing it up, the best thing to do is to bring your bike to the shop and we'll have a look at you on your bike and help you decide on the right handlebar upgrade.  Also, make sure you click through to EcoVelo's assorted articles on city handlebars as they get quite in depth into the various designs on the market - most of which we stock.

Only 6 more weeks till spring!

Jan 21, 2011

New Cycling Strategy for Calgary

The City of Calgary is working on our city's first ever comprehensive cycling strategy and part of that strategy was to do some research on Calgarians attitudes towards cycling in our city in the form of a telephone survey and an online survey.  The results are in and Calgarians have spoken - the majority want more bike lanes and safer cycling facilities.

In this case, the old saying "build it and they will come" couldn't be more true!  Here are a few interesting tidbits from the online survey;

- 64% said they do not feel safe cycling in traffic
- 26% said they are currently bike commuting to work/school
- 74% would like to cycle for transportation more often
- 79% want more bike lanes and 79% want physically separated lanes
- 69% want more motorist education about cyclists

The telephone survey is in many ways a better gauge of general attitudes towards cycling than the online survey as most of the online survey respondants identified as a cyclist.  Here are some interesting tidbits from the telephone survey;

- 59% said they would like to cycle more often
- 72% are interested in cycling for transportation
- 6% ride everyday (60,000 people everyday!)
- 80% feel unsafe riding in traffic (ouch!)
- 50% want to cycle more for transportation

Overall, the results seem pretty obvious - Calgarians would ride more if they felt safer, Calgarians want to cycle for transportation more often, and there are a lot of cyclists who are currently riding everyday.

So, giddy-up Calgary City Council - the ball is in your court!

Jan 19, 2011

If You Rode Your Bike You'd Be Home By Now

The City of Calgary has closed a major roadway for at least a month for sewer upgrades causing crazy traffic backups heading into the downtown during rush hour.

Want a way around the gong show?  Ride your bike!  More specifically, drive to one of Calgary's Park-n-Bike locations, drop off your car, get on your bike, and pedal past all the traffic on the beautiful river pathways all the way into downtown.   Voila!  No grinding, irritating traffic.  Workout done.  Head cleared and ready for a relaxing evening at home.

One of Calgary's expressways at the end of the morning rush.

Jan 17, 2011

D.I.Y. Snow Clearing of Vital Commuting Link

Here in Calgary we are very fortunate to have a city that clears many kilometres of pathways during the winter, making bike commuting a year 'round option for those who live close to the cleared sections and want to continue to cycle.

Sadly, there are vital links in the pathway system that the city cannot (or will not for various reason) clear snow from.  One of these sections is shown below in the map.  It links the Bow River MUP near the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary to the MUP heading south towards Lynnwood and Riverbend.  Basically, it is the only connection available from the south heading towards downtown that is direct, safe, and efficient.

View DIY Shoveling Section in a larger map

A few of the cyclists that winter bike commute from the south end of the city have been struggling with getting through here this winter and decided to take matters into their own hands after repeated requests to the city to clear it.  Here is a link to the story on our local bike advocacy forum, Bike Calgary.  Armed with a handful of people sporting shovels - including local Alderman Gian-Carlo Carra, and one snowblower, these DIY'ers had the pathway cleared (right down to the asphalt in places) in a few hours - all in -20c conditions and a nasty wind making the wind chills even colder.  Here is more info from the organizer "Oggie" - 

"What follows is a 'brief' outline of our activities.  I think this weekend was the fourth time the pathway has been shovelled this winter; first time was in late November.  Most time we shovel 2+ kms of path.  It varies depending on how much path Roads crews clear; they've been good this winter so most times we just shovel from the wooden trestle to the Walker house.  Most of the volunteers are from BikeCalgary.  A few are pathway users we've run into while shovelling and decided to help us once we explained what we were doing.  We've shovelled the equivalent of 10 km of path, though it is probably more because of repeated passes of the same section.  This weekend was the first time we had the use of a snow blower, which made the job much easier.  We've used 80 kilograms of ice melter so far this winter, primarily on the wooden trestle and icy sections.  I've gone through one shovel already.

Response from pathway users, cyclists/joggers/walkers, has been very positive.  One thing I've noticed is that I'm seeing more cyclists using the path as the winter progresses, usually it is the reverse.  I think word is slowly getting out that the path is being maintained this winter and more cyclist are using the path and cycling this winter.  I hope the City eventually gets the hint and starts maintaining the path but we're prepared to keep at it until spring.  Alderman Carra has obviously been very supportive and is actively trying to get Parks to clear the path from Inglewood to Glenmore."

Bravo fellas!

A note to the City of Calgary - come on folks, why are average citizens doing your job for you?  This section should be included in the pathway clearing plan so that people in Lynwood, Ogden, Riverbend, Douglas Glen, and points south can continue to use bikes all winter.  Our opinion is that the MUP should be cleared all the way down to Fish Creek Park so that people can use the pathways for transportation all season long.

After all, every bike on the MUP's is one less car on the road, right?

*** UPDATE ***
I just received a message from Ald. Carra that this section will now be plowed by parks effective immediately on a Priority 2 basis and will be reviewed at the end of the season as to whether they will continue.  Great job to all involved!

Jan 14, 2011

Calgary's Own Version of Pedalpalooza?

Hey Calgary, lets get organized and create a week of bike events in June, ok?  Edmonton does it.  Portland does it.  Vancouver does it.  Even Peterborough Ontario has a winter bike week.  We are wondering, why does't Calgary have a week of bike fun?  What's the hangup? 

June is Bike Month in Canada and the perfect time to be out riding bikes.  Summer is just around the corner at this time and people are pulling their bikes out of winter storage and hitting the streets and pathways.  Everyone is pumped for a summer of bike fun - what better time is there to bring attention to the fun that riding bikes is and the transformative power of the bicycle on our society.

Not sure what kind of bike events to organize?  My suggestion is to check out some of the events that are organized by the cities highlighted above for some inspiration.  Clinics, night rides, food-focused rides, mountain bike rides in the city - the options are only limited by your imagination.

So, wudduya say?  Will you organize some bike fun of some kind?

Let us know what you think - is Calgary ready?  Spread the word and lets turn up the volume on bike fun in Calgary!

*** UPDATE ***

The first meeting of interested parties is scheduled for this Thursday February 3 at 630pm at BikeBike.  The aim of the meeting is to flesh out some go forward strategies and get the plaaning process rolling.
See you there?

Jan 13, 2011

Dynamo Lighting Upgrades

Dynamo lighting (aka generator lights) has come a long way since the days of those annoying little units that rub on the side of your tire making a lot of noise and sadly not producing much useful light.  Certainly you can still get those "bottle" type generators but nowadays the better option is to use a hub powered dynamo and LED light.  Totally silent, super bright, much more efficient, no batteries ever - and in this case, a "standlight" which keeps the light on for a few minutes when you stop.  Progress.  Ya gotta love it!

Tired of spending oodles of cash on batteries that never last that long?  Had enough of thieves stealing your light off your bike?  We have the solution - upgrade your 700c wheeled bike to dynamo power.  The upgrade lighting package we have assembled consists of a Busch + Muller Lumotec Oval+, Shimano DH-3D72 dynamo hub ( 32H disc compatible), DT stainless spokes, and the versatile Alex DM18 700c silver rim that works with canti brakes, V-brakes, or discs. 

Here are the options -

- Option 1 - Buy a new bike from BikeBike and upgrade it.  If you purchase a new bike from us without lighting and want to upgrade it, we can do it for $150.00, install it for you, and show you how it works, and you're off.  Tah! Dah! - you're lit!

- Option 2 - Already have a suitable 700c wheeled bike?  Plop down $200 and we'll install it for you, show you how it operates, and you're good to go too.

No more dead batteries.  No more lost lights.  

Light up the night.  Efficiently.  Silently. 

On top of these dynamo products, we also stock dynamo hubs from Sturmey-Archer and SON, lights from Planet Bike and Supernova, and many different rim options depending on your intended bike and use. 

Stay lit!

Jan 10, 2011

Operating Costs for a Vehicle in Canada

The CAA - Canadian Automobile Association, has prepared a .pdf document showing the costs associated with car ownership in Canada in 2010 - and, pardon the slang - it ain't cheap!  It is a short read and worth a few minutes of your time.

Illustration by Andy Singer
If you own a car and drive it 18,000kms per year in Canada you are on the hook for approximately $10,000 per year.

Every year.

Year over year.

All the dough, down the drain, never to be seen again.

I am not going to pass judgement on those who own a car as I know that cars are needed for many different reasons.  My only hope is that perhaps you can look at your own situation and think about how you may be using your own vehicle (if you have one) and how might be able to reduce your dependance on your vehicle.  By reducing your car usage you can save money, feel better physically, and positively affect your community.  You can show your friends and family that living carfree or carlight is easy and you can insulate yourself from rising gasoline prices.

Has anyone chosen to actively reduce their car usage and have practical advice for others?  Has anyone recently gone carfree - I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Jan 9, 2011

Winter Bike Polo Peeps

Better than being inside in front of the TV all afternoon!

We may not have the biggest polo scene in Canada, we certainly have the hardiest!