Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Your safety, my safety, and the ghost bike between us

I learned to ride in the land of the midnight sun. Up north kids are given the basics of how to physically ride a bike, but the real how is never really taught. It's something you learn. I didn't learn "urban cycling," or "street cycling," or whatever the going term for riding in the streets is these days. We rode on the sidewalk, and if there was none available, we rode in the street in the direction of oncoming traffic.
There were a lot of sidewalks, trails, and pathways in the land where I grew up. Children rarely if ever wore helmets. I certainly didn't until I became an adult. Those who grew up riding knew to watch for riders and pedestrians who grew up under these rules. And I didn't see a ghost bike until I became an adult. Back then, we didn't have ghost bikes, though many memorials to those slain by drunk drivers could be found on virtually any major thoroughfare. We did not fear cars striking us down, we feared moose, and knew no helmet would protect us from the wild animals which wandered on a whim through the town.
Helmets were for kids from the "lower 48," or "military brats," "snow goslings," and the like. Not for us. We knew were were more likely to die from leukemia, a drunk driver, or a moose. We wore lights in the winter if we were ambitious, but most of us settled for reflective striping on our clothes. It might be the land of the midnight sun, but it was also the land where night ruled 3/4ths of the year. Yet, we didn't decorate ourselves in anything more than reflective stripes, or duct tape for the poorer families.
And while we didn't have helmets, lights, and cell phones, by in large, what we did have is something I believe more valuable to us than all of that.

We knew about death. We knew it happened to all of us, that it could strike at any time. We did not shy away from talking about it to children, nor did we children shun the knowledge that we were vulnerable, squishy, and ultimately, very mortal.  By the time an Alaskan child is 10, she has probably attended three or four funerals. By the time an Alaskan child is 15, they have probably buried five or six of their friends. We don't just know that death happens to us, we know how the living carry the dead with them through all the end of their days.

Most children up north get their driver's licence as soon as humanly possible. A car is a warm form of transportation, a lifeline to the hospital on dark lifeless nights, and usually how water will be transported to their home. Many consider the car essential, those who don't, consider having dogs essential.

I fell more into the latter camp than the former myself. I survived happily with my dogs and my bike for many years in the far north. However, even I became weary of such a life, and left for "civilization,"

Here in civilization, you can pass other cars on the right. This would get you arrested where I come from. Walking against traffic is called "salmoning," and its no wonder most never see their death coming, since it comes up behind them. Here there are few sidewalks that are not in such disrepair you can barely traverse without tripping. Here, in "civilization," I encountered my first ghost bike.

Oh I'd seen memorials for the dead in my town, white crosses and a bouquet to mark where a life was taken, but they were mostly for those killed by drunks, or by ice. Here, in civilization its unlikely ice will kill you. but the odds of a drunk doing it are comparable. We had people die on their bikes, some killed by drunks, others by moose, but not because of street tracks, not because infrastructure fundamental failed them, (at least not more or less than it does cars, pot holes caused by permafrost are the bane of all).

In civilization you will probably never know the person who the ghost bike stands for, up north, you knew, you knew either the family or the friends of the person whose last mark on the earth was a little white cross.

The north gave me the knowledge of personal loss, and no helmet protects you better than this, for a personal knowledge never lets you be fooled into thinking you've done everything and now you are safe. It weighs more than a helmet, and can never be taken off. The knowledge of personal loss tells you your safety is always in the hands of others, and that you are responsible, not for your own safety, but for those around you. The knowledge of personal loss tells me everyday that it could be me, that I can never pretend that ghost bikes happen to others. The knowledge of personal loss reminds me that any ride can be my last, and forces me to ride for those who can no longer; it is the bitter taint to my personal miracle.

I put my helmet on knowing it protects me from many things; victim shaming, cops stopping me randomly, or a random piece of airplane falling out of the sky, and that's about it.

Its not magic.

 If a two ton truck hits me, that will be all she wrote because I'm not getting up from that, helmet or no helmet. If a semi-truck mows me down no helmet will protect me. If a car comes up behind me and slams me, its just as doubtful I will survive that either. I can't count on being lucky. I can't count on magic colours or talismans.

I'm counting on you.

I'm trusting you to not hook me with a right on red. I'm trusting you to stop at the light and not "gun" it at the last minute.I'm trusting you to stay three feet to the left when passing me, and not hook me with your mirror. I'm trusting you to put down your cell phone. I'm trusting you with my safety.

Because you trust me with yours.

Monday, April 11, 2016

30 Days of BOOM!

     The Greenwood explosion is becoming a memory, as the community heals some things will never be the same, other things will be there, but not in the same way. Much to everyone's, not just myself I swear, G&O Family Cyclery will be opening a temporary location just a wee bit north of where they were before (the address will be 8554 1/2 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103), so its no hardship if you regularly ride your bike to the shop. As of yet they are not open, so please watch their blog, Twitter, and Facebook for updates
     Sadly, I wasn't able to get Scamper back, and up and running, in time for this year's #30Daysof Biking. I had debated a LOT about whether or not I was going to do it this year. On the one hand, it does support a great cause. On the other had I already ride my bike pretty much every day. It was one of the problems I had last year, which was a lot of biking up and down the driveway to be honest. You see, I don't own a car, and I rely a lot on my bike, with public transit bridging the gap left. So if I don't have to go anywhere one day, I'm not going to invent an excuse to go for a ride, nor make my probably-hurting-body go someplace it doesn't want to go. After all, 30 Days is about the joy, not a punishment. But with the addition of supporting the World Bicycle Relief Fund I had considered doing it again this year. 
    I also missed out fulfilling my literal dream of biking on the freeway. It broke my little heart quite sincerely, as I have dreamed of this since I first rode Seattle's freeways. And, rhetorical aside, isn't the  moniker "freeway," ironic since it is neither free to build, nor does it connect, in fact, it usually divides neighborhoods, puts up walls, and indentures us to the fossil fuel method. However, Scamper's mishap on the Georgetown train tracks, followed by being in an explosion, and then the epic day of washing, did have one or two positive effects.
     For one, I don't really care for Barry, (my husband's bike), with all respect, he's just a big boy. I thought it wouldn't be an issue since both our bikes are very adjustable, but my poor knees disagree. So much for making my back up bike a Miami. But it made me aware of just how much I put into making Scamper shine. Sure he's got a lot of stickers, but each one is a story, his stickers are his tattoos, and every dent I hammer out of his fenders, a hit he took for me.
    Secondly, it made me rethink what bike events and challenges I want to do. If Scamper had been operational, I probably WOULD have done 30days, and that would be a shame, because regularly joyful riders are probably the only ones who don't need to participate.    
   Also, it's made me eager as hell to be out on my bike. A Trader Joe's opened by my home, but too far to walk, though I guess I could walk to transit. However, I despise having my shopping on a schedule. or pushing a clerk to make a faster check out so I don't miss the bus. So we waited. A new pet supply store opened. We waited. We needed to go to other stores to grab other things. We waited. (You can see why, even though I really wanted to wait and go to the temp location for G&O this wasn't really feasible). 
    This brings me to the last positive thing to come out of the mess. I recall, some time ago, Critical Lass ended their ride at R+E Cycles, which had this amazing bike rack out front showing how many bikes could fit in a car slot. I was reluctant to take Scamper just anywhere, not just because he's a folding bike, but I want to support local bike shops that are inclusive and foster the kind of cycling culture I want to see carry forward. From what I could vaguely remember (be fair, there was some really good beer) the people were nice, so after a brief call I took a freshly scrubbed Scamper down to see if they could help. Not only were they able to get him back up and functioning, but they stuck around until I could get back down to get him. They understood that Scamper wasn't just a bike, he's my independence, my freedom, and without him, I'm goddamn SOL. 
    Its not everyday you find a great bike shop, especially not when your local one has been exploded. Having a chance to go back and get to know the folks at R+E was the bit of silver lining I needed to this cloud.
And so my friends, I am back in the saddle. Right where I belong.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Everywhere You Go, You Always Take The Weather With You

     I've been rethinking the term "fair-weather cyclists," it gets thrown around a lot to refer to people, and lets be honest, most are inferring women in the idea, who only bike when the weather is "nice," usually defined by sunny skies. Weather is something we all deal with, whether we acknowledge climate change or not, seasonal changes are something that every cyclist faces. I know someone who is literally allergic to the cold. Is it fair to ask this person to bike in December? or wait a prolonged period outdoors for a bus?
     The weather is never "fair" in my opinion. Fairness is derived from human action, it is a gift we give by our cognoscente capacities. We can discern when a situation is fair or unfair, usually by its negative in that some situation is "unfair," but we never apply this beyond, merely the word.
     Is it "fair" to have me cycle in the sun? I am quite allergic to the opposite conditions applied to the other person. I can never do a century ride simply because the sunlight exposure would do me irreparable injury it would not cause another. To another the weather is "fair" because it is "nice" and thus, I am a "poor weather cyclist," simply because that is the condition in which the skies are favorable to myself.
     But as cyclists do we recognize that the terms we are using are somewhat misapplied? Regular cyclists sigh as the summer months make finding decent parking a challenge. Those who would never lock their bike to a sign find themselves with no other option. There is also the propensity to blame the "fair weather cyclist," for their inconsistency that perpetuates the idea there is usually enough parking for cyclists. The whether or not is comfortable to ride has shifted with the weather, but we usually focus on the wrong one.
It is unfair to ask others to cycle when its either uncomfortable for them, or downright impossible. We focus to much on the 'whether or not' conditions rather than the 'weather is not' conditions. We look at bike lanes unused and think its the 'whether' conditions, not that the bike lane is flooded and uncomfortable for even the hardy cyclist, and thus a 'weather' condition.
We need to look at whether it is safe to ride, comfortable to ride, yes, but we also need to consider weathers impact on those same questions. We need to accept that some people will never be able to ride, we need to accept that the conditions that make it acceptable for one person to ride will make it harder for another.           And we need to take "fair" out of weather altogether.
The weather will never be 'fair' or 'unfair' but we can give the weather fairness. Proper drainage and bike lane maintenance would be a fantastic start.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Last Coffeeneuring Trip of 2015

Well, the last in the official challenge anyway. On November 8th, Sunday, we set out for the final coffeeneuring trip for the challenge. For the last of the funky socks I picked a pair my family gave me before I left Alaska:

     The weather had cleared so I didn't bother wearing my galoshes, but I still wore my cape since it makes a rather nice wind breaker. The trip there was only 4.5 miles (a round trip total of 9 miles), and while it had been raining earlier, the late afternoon glow gave the air a magical quality. We opted to take the south bound 1st Ave over Meridian Ave as it is a more direct path to the 3rd Ave drop to 116th, which, of course, leads to Roosevelt Way. You would think with a retirement complex, two parks, two churches, & two schools, 1st Ave would be a very calm street. And you would be hilariously wrong. In spite of #VisionZero signage, such as "20 is Plenty" and evidence of residential structures it is consistently treated like a speedway.
     After a Handy Andy truck nearly ran me down (the driver decided if he stopped at the stop sign he wouldn't be able to pass me on the bridge, which was very important since he might have to go slower so I could make the turn, for like maybe two whole minutes), I had thought he was going to stop like I had, as he was not at the sign when I had begun my way across, but, haha, nope. Looking back if I had run the stop sign I probably wouldn't have had such a close call. Maybe not, maybe he wouldn't have seen me at all. In any case, my husband and I made it across the treacherous 1st ave cross. It was the same route we used to go to Bark Espresso, only this time we kept going down Roosevelt.
      The new cycle path had been installed, and south bound it was quite nice, then evaporates at about 103rd st., whereupon you end up back in the dooring zone. I've described what its like to climb Mt. Roosevelt before as part of my commute, this time we went all the way up to the Maple Leaf area to Cloud City Coffee . At first we thought there was no bike rack, but lo and behold, once you got around the crammed parking lot, there was a railing.  

    We went inside and was warm and well lit, though the tables were a little too close together for me. I got us both eggnog steamers since it seemed the perfect drink to go with my socks

    Sadly, my husband didn't realize steamers were caffeine and would later fall asleep ridiculously early in the evening. I saw a Bike Benefits sticker by the register, which I though odd for a place that just had one railing. We enjoyed our drinks, and the fading day light. I was sad to have the challenge come to an end, but this year was a successes in that I found a truly local coffee shop with a bike rack. As we unlocked to leave we noticed a sticker which made me smile

      Riding back down Roosevelt was a treat, for the north bound side the protected cycle track doesn't begin until the bottom of the hill and there's on street parking just before it, making maneuvering into it awkward, and a little nerve racking as you wonder if you're about to get doored. We stopped at the grocery store on the way back, and honestly the protected cycleway makes it difficult to turn left.
    Fortunately, I won't have to keep describing this all to you anymore. I'll be able to show you with actual video. You see, I usually spend my Saturday nights after Ben falls asleep, debating different cameras. I have been, for some months, doing this pretty consistently, and have finally bit the bullet and purchased one. Now, it will be some time before I upload anything, (mostly because I haven't ordered it, and partly because this is the first time I'm giving into the impulse to record and upload anything), but I doubt it will be anything like a real channel for some months yet. Ben suggested I run an assassination counter on my rides like a CinemaSins movie counter, but I haven't decided if that's more depressing than funny yet.
     Well my friends, another challenge complete. If you haven't checked out this year's patch, you'll be freshly impressed, if you've already seen it, you can admire it again. This year, Doug, also a cofeeneuring rider, designed the patch, and I can't wait to put on my kit. 
    I had a lot of fun with my funky sock theme, and plan on brainstorming a new theme for next year, maybe coffee stands only, or one flavor across a lot of different kinds of drinks. If you haven't completed the challenge, this weekend is your last shot, good luck! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Coffeeneuring Ride 6

     The final rides are upon us Coffeeneuring riders, and while I'd hoped to squeeze in a trip on Halloween, I just wasn't able to do it and all the other Halloween stuff going on. However, I went on Sunday, still wearing the socks I'd planned. 

     October is National Bat Appreciation Month, and yes, that's a thing. Bats are very cool, and in spite of an awesome book series and cartoon , still very under-appreciated. Snug in my socks we set off for the Richmond Beach Coffee Co, only 3 miles and a bit, away. It was a cloudy day, with rain on and off. However, in my Cleverhood cape I didn't have a care for the soggy weather. The path we chose had bike lanes, but they were unprotected and very unkempt, and ending in car heavy two lane traffic. Not ideal. The rain had tapered off by the time we arrived, creating a dramatic sun splashed moment worthy of its discovery, for I had found a locally owned coffee shop with a bike rack! For real.

pics or it didn't happen
     Right there, in Shoreline, a coffee shop, with a bike rack. The interior was pleasant, and the staff friendly. I had a Mighty Leaf African Nectar tea and bagel while Ben had the coffee. When I posted about it on social media, a fellow local rider let me know that it was probably a new improvement by the new owners. So awesome.

     I was feeling elated on the ride back, however an incident happened which I've honestly debated writing about. You see, we got pulled over for not wearing helmets. Its the law here because in spite of a lot of evidence that I've written about before, King County operates under antiqued laws. Shoreline doesn't specifically have laws about it, but because its in King County those laws apply. Now we didn't get ticketed, but here's the thing, if I hadn't been with my husband I might've actually tried to engage the cops in a discussion of the laws they were enforcing because they are the non-violent and nanny state oriented kind of law that is worth discussing. 

I didn't. 

First, it wouldn't have changed any minds that day, and second, the other things said make me furious enough that I don't feel its right to put this incident under a coffeeneuring post. I will say thanks to certain sidewalk comments I will probably be voting for whoever runs opposing for King County Sheriff, since this department has time to do this, but not get back the four bikes that have been stolen from me. Also, the cop made it sound like we had biked SUPER far from home and just...wow.

    We rode the rest of the way home together exchanging sarcastic quips. The whole ride was 6 miles and some change, but the experience is just another reminder that we're a very different kind of people. We're bike people.

Bike party!

     Those not native to Seattle might not know of The Bikery, but in the short time its been around its become a fixture to its local community, and an inspiration to others. On October 24th there was a huge fundraising bash to help build a better Bikery, and with an unofficial Critical Lass ride to get there I was totally down for this bike party.
     We started at the Freemont Brewing Co., which is one of those super bike friendly businesses

    One of my fellow riders recognized my coffeeneuring patch, and we got to chatting about our own trips around town. The ride itself was quite lovely, and I took advantage of the flat and downward nature of the bridge to do one of my longest dragonfly stands on Scamper. Riding under the I-5 was a real treat for myself and Ben as we usually take the Freemont to Dexter than the Eastlake way toward downtown. We promised each other we'd come back and explore it. 
    The party itself was a blast, and if you check out the photo booth pics, you might see a cyclist you recognize. The track stand contest was a hilarious good time, and each bike parked there was clearly loved by its rider. 
    Right now there's just six days left to help the Bikery reach its fundraising goal. While the party helped it obviously couldn't go all the way, so if you can, kick a little something toward something great, well, by the basic laws of exchange that would make you great. 

Next up is the 6th coffeeneuring write up, its getting close to the end of this year's challenge, but it looks like I really will be finish again, and I know just the funky socks for the finish. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

On the road to nowhere... again

    This post is late due to a lot of riding interfering with writing. 
    I guess its going to be a yearly tradition, wherein I pick coffee places and do not go to them either due to them not existing or because reasons. In my defense, it was hard to establish whether or not I'd be again riding to another non existent place. Also, in dragging someone else with me I had to compromise distance, which meant picking a closer place. However, there are some things I won't compromise on, like whimsy.

     Yeah, not only am I small enough to wear children's knee high socks, but I rock the Twilight socks. Also, wings. 

Now 20% more awesome
     Fun fact, ladies who are into My Little Pony are called Pega-sistas. Much like, bronies, only we're inherently magical. And yes, that's a child's zip-up hoodie. Somethings never change. Like my height and tastes. The weather made it perfect to at last give a decent initial test of my new Cleverhood.

Pinkie, Blinkie, and Brownie
Corduroy isn't just for teddy bears

     I had hoped to do this year without hitting a single Starbucks, not because I have a specific bean to grind, its just as a corporate entity they've created a world where its a fun challenge to find a place they don't own and support it. I'm not saying a corporate coffee shop can't also be a local one, I've just found a boring uniformity that comes with it, along with other reasons that have, frankly, nothing to do with cycling. However, they are a corporation with roots in my location, so going there for coffee is my own way of showing local spirit, since I don't care about the football team that is so adored and equally corporate.
     I recalled seeing a shop on my old commute, I never stopped there since there was a coffee shop literally in the parking lot of the previous employer, and stopping on the way there was less convenient than stopping there. Though really, since I've had issues with drive-up stands before I don't know why this didn't occur to me as a solution other than, I really hate stopping in the middle of a ride. So we tried stopping at the Coffee Shack on 15th instead, only they were closed on Sundays. Opting for expediency, we settled on the Starbucks on 15th and 145th. It hadn't changed at all since the last time I'd been there, still no bike rack. However, Barry and Scamper were quite glad to get in out of the wet.

    I opted for a hot chocolate and a pumpkin cream-cheese. As we sat down and I felt a bit morose about it all. It was the fifth coffeeneuring trip I'd made this run, and yet, that made it all the sad for me. Its the stretch of finishing, not beginning. Sure, there'll be posts throughout the year on the Facebook Coffeeneuring page, but I debated whether or not I'd even count this trip, not because it wasn't worthy, but because I could use another weekend.  On our way back we stopped at the grocery store across the street, I was out of tea, and yeah, I love the new packaging:

complete with the quote by H.G. Wells cyclist splatoon everywhere
   In the end, I counted this trip, because there is something comforting about the familiar, even if, for myself, it breeds contempt, there is something of the symmetry of the fifth one that wasn't a part of the others. The sense of going down 155th and knowing exactly where to lean in the lane to avoid huge bumps and dips (like the one near the Anglican church) that make it more dangerous to ride in the lane than the street. 
  Also, the fact I got to wear my cape at last, I mean, the weather has been super cooperative lately but, you notice how you get new gear and then the conditions refuse to line up? Ugh. Anyway, the cape actually took some getting used to, as you might've noticed from the pictures, its a little big on me, which made the initial gripping of my handle bars a bit weird, and the magnetic clasps were a bit hard to get while riding, if you don't get them at the right angle water just pours into the open spot. However, once I got the knack of it I was pretty well set. I ended the ride mildly damp, mostly my legs from the gap between the wellies and the cape, and my hair and face since the hood is made for a helmet, not for someone who puts their hair in a pony tail (pro tip, no hoodie is ever made with the idea you will wear a pony tail, because perky warriors don't wear hoods) so next time I'm probably going to say I'll put my hair in a half tail, but then I'm going to forget and wonder why my hood won't stay up.
   The sixth and final coffeeneuring ride will have to wait, since this next post will be covering the Bikery party. I will be doing at least one coffeeneuring this weekend, but I'm not sure if I'll be finishing this weekend or next. But *knock on wood* I will be finishing.