Tuesday, June 08, 2010

They See Me Rollin'/ In Linen / Patrollin' / They Tryin' To Catch Me Ridin' Pretty

First up, I will draw attention to a new Process Blog post for Little Worlds, which is now back from hiatus. Check it out if you didn't before!

Over the weekend I had an encounter with what I guess must be called "pretty cyclists" or "pretty riders". It wasn't really by chance, but because I don't look before I leap I had decided to attend an event described as a "pretty ride"; I naturally assumed that living in a city that isn't hard on the eyes (and I believe fancies itself to be picturesque), this was a geological/architectural sort of pretty we were talking about here. "I am down with biking past pretty places", said I. Only later when I went to see where I ought to park myself come fourteen-hundred-and-thirty Saturday did I notice a link to an article describing the act of "riding pretty". Riding pretty, besides being something you'd expect to hear in a Chamillionaire parody, is a movement whose goal is to disarm road rage and intolerance toward cyclists with an aesthetic shift from what you expect (spandex, muscle shirts and cargoes if we're talking mountain or BMX bikes) to something a little more whimsical, perhaps. Helmets which have velcro-on hat coverings. Lipstick. The pretty rider falls somewhere in the area of 'hipster' or 'retro-chic' on the fashion spectrum. Suits seem to be accepted also (one man and one woman came so attired). It was raining Saturday afternoon, and so I went somewhat less-than-prettily, following my usual logic of "if you would mind getting chain grease on it, don't wear it on a bike!".

These pretty riders turn out to be a nice bunch, so it didn't even turn out to be a thing that I looked as though I had not received a memo. Perhaps they were too polite to make a point of it? If it happens again on a nicer day I shall dutifully suit up, perhaps? In any case, it didn't end up being a very long bike ride on account of the rain and the cold, but that made tea at the end rather gratifying.

The Pretty Ride was a part of cycling week here in Halifax, which is a rather encouraging phenomenon. Halifax has rather fewer bike paths than Ottawa does, and almost nothing like the sections of trans-Canada trail and similar pathways that wind along the rivers and the Canal. Oddly enough it makes cycling a little more visible when you have to take the roads everywhere, but the flip-side is that even comparatively deferential Nova Scotia drivers can scare some would-be cyclists off the road as-is. About a week before the pretty ride was an event called "critical mass" in which cyclists saturated about a lane's worth of roads and even tackled one of the big suspension bridges over to Dartmouth, so I hear it. ELI was rather disdainful of their tactics ("You shouldn't be allowed on the road if you can't keep up with traffic!"), but I rather enjoyed the idea of such a high-visibility tactic. It's really too easy to miss cyclists when they're confined to the narrow margin between car door and kerb.

It seems not unreasonable that major streets should have dedicated bike lanes. The nice, bold white lines make everybody's lives easier. The margin for cyclists is well-defined, it's clearly delineated...it removes a lot of ambiguity from the relationship between car and bicycle drivers, I think. Halifax has a few good bike lanes, but not enough. But beyond that, we should be looking at how to reverse the car-centric approach to urban transport. Peninsular (Metro) Halifax isn't that big - maybe 25km from end-to-end, if that. That's a long bike ride if you need to go from one tip to the other, and most people probably don't.

Bikes are - at least according to Mind Trap - the most efficient vehicle ever designed by humankind. They have a much better vehicle-weight-to-payload weight ratio...actually, it's so good that it's the other way around! It's a rare person who weighs less than their bike! I'll sound like a broken record saying this, but you want an easy way to kill two birds with one stone? Bikes are a pretty good tandem solution to over-dependence on oil and potentially the obesity epidemic - certainly if you encourage cycling from childhood.

I've never really been heavily invested in velopolitics (a term I have just now coined) but this bike week, and a couple of recent discoveries have made me consider it more strongly (that, and it will make a lovely break from copyright law!). Bikes are forbidden in Halifax's public gardens. I'm cool if I have to walk my bike in quiet, slow-paced pedestrian crowds...but even WALKING MY BIKE is apparently disallowed. I will go to great pains to keep it out of peoples' way; I just want to cut through somewhere pretty and not have to backtrack in order to get to my ride! Furthermore bikes are also prohibited on the weekends in Point Pleasant Park. THIS IS MADNESS. What good is Saturday and Sunday biking if the nicest places in the city to look at are off-limits to me? I drive slow on the paths, I look out for people. I stop when dogs take an interest and let them sniff so I don't run into them. THE DOG OWNERS APOLOGISE, EVEN (they needn't!). I don't ask to be able to be a speed demon in a shared pedestrian/cyclist park, but I would like to be able to see the sights in my own chosen way!

That is all for now, methinks.


No comments:

Some Rights Reserved

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.