The Eternal Debate – Edmonton Bike Lanes

The notion persists that cyclists aren’t paying their way. Cyclists pay, through taxes, like everyone else. The argument can be made they pay more than their share.

Bike lanes aren’t for me. They’re for cyclists less comfortable on the road, or out for a leisurely ride, maybe with kids. Bike lanes also serve to remind drivers cyclists belong on the road.
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Alphonse, Gaston, and the Flashing Yellow Lights.

Alphonse and Gaston

Alphonse and Gaston

(AL-fons uhn GAS-tuhn)
noun: Two people who treat each other with excessive deference, often to their detriment.

“… their “After you, Alphonse”, “You first, my dear Gaston!” routine often gets them into trouble, such as when they can’t evade a trolley which mows them down while each insists on letting the other go first.”

A recent, occasionally heated exchange (sorry about that) on the subject of riding vs dismounting in crosswalks took a sudden turn for the better, yielding this tiny nugget of advice from the goldmine of yours truly, the gift that keeps on giving, Captain Obvious: Don’t ride out in front of crossing (moving) traffic.

It’s not a question of rules, rights, signs, or lights. As basic as “don’t step in front of a speeding train or you’ll be killed”. That simple. Darwin aside, everyone over a certain age can do that math. It’s instinctual. Shouldn’t need to be said. Anyone who doesn’t understand needs to stop reading now and go over it until they do.

Even smart people do dumb things, sometimes. Especially when distracted. Or impaired.

Flashing yellow lights don’t afford cyclists the same legal or actual protection as they do pedestrians. (One advantage to cycling is being able to easily get off the bike and become a pedestrian. The woman or man stuck in traffic can’t do that).

At a flashing yellow crosswalk, pedestrians, including you if you get off the bike, have right of way over everyone else. Drivers and mounted cyclists should expect to grant it. Drivers have right of way over crossing cyclists who stay on their bikes. Cyclists should expect to cede it. Too many don’t. Point taken.

Cyclists move a lot quicker than pedestrians, may be harder to spot (“she came out of nowhere”), can’t stop or “jump out of the way” as easily as pedestrians, and drivers just may, correctly, take the right of way. As they should.

It all works so much better when we all follow the rules all of the time. It really does. But we don’t. None of us do, all of the time. I don’t.

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Dark Days ahead!

The days are getting shorter. It’s dark when I get up, just barely light when I leave for work, and it’s starting to get darker when I ride home from work. Time to think about the lights on my bike.

So, I unpacked my L&M Stella 150 and 200 lights, and charged up the batteries. I only used my 200, but I’ll get the 150 on my helmet soon. I mounted the 200 on my TriCross, where I can easily put the battery onto the front rack. I also have the Planet Light 1 watt I always have with me, and I run it as a blinker.

So, three lights on the front. (NOTE COMMENT BELOW – NO MORE THAN TWO LIGHTS ARE ALLOWED BY LAW) A blinker that gets attention. (NO BLINKER FOR ME, I GUESS) A powerful beam I aim downward in a fixed beam a few feet in front of me. And my 150, usually set to low, mounted on my helmet. The helmet light doesn’t blind people coming toward me, and it provides a good general wash wherever I’m looking.

I run three red lights in the rear. I have two great MEC ones I clip onto my pack and run on solid. And I have another on my seatpost I run as a blinker. I’ve read that blinkers get attention, but are harder to place spacially. Solid ones don’t atract attention the same way, but people can place your position and speed better. So I go with both.

It’s important to have rear lights both higher (on your head or body), and lower (anywhere on your bike). I’ve seen people ride with seat bags, panniers, long coats, etc, covering up the rear lights, rendering them near useless. Keep them clean, and make sure they can be seen from behind.

I also wear reflective clothing, and keep my batteries charged with a charger at work, and one at home. One advantage to running multiple lights is when a battery goes during a ride. I’m not stuck without a light. I keep extra batteries handy too, in my pack.

Ride at night, use a light.

And, …, this year I plan to once again do up my bike for the holidays, with battery powered strings of light. It’s fun, people can see you, and it has the advantage of putting people in a good mood, somehow.

Snow Clearing

Today was my first day riding to work after a bit of a break due to holidays, cold weather, and a wicked cold.

I’m very pleased to report the roads were very good, and the bike paths through the river valley and Mill Creek Ravine were excellent. Even my #1 complaint – the path on Gateway between 72nd and 69th had been cleared (though it wasn’t great).

So, I take back some of my previous comments regarding the job the City of Edmonton has been doing on the roads. I still hope they manage to get to the streets around my place though.

Snow Clearing, etc

The City of Edmonton seems to have decided not to clear anything but the major roads. And, frankly, if we consider the huge piles of snow left on the sides of even those roads (windrows that occasionally even block the sidewalk), we haven’t been doing a great job of the main roads either. I’ve never seen so little attention paid to clearing the roads here.

Of course it makes cycling challenging, and sometimes impossible on the roads. Don’t get on me for takig the sidewalks. The piles of snow make staying to the right impossible. Many motorists are unaware the lane belongs to the cyclist, and the cyclist is supposed to allow other vehicles to pass in the same lane at their discretion. Some motorists don’t think cyclists belong there in the first place, as if spending money on a car gave them exclusive access to taxpayer funded roads that I pay for too, far in excess of how much I use them.

In Oliver district, where I live, the roads are so bad that crossing the street ON FOOT is a struggle. I find it ironic that each year we fine people and businesses for not clearing their sidewalks, but we can’t clear the streets. Doubly ironic, is that we used to do a much better job, and paid much less. Paying much more, for much less? How did we get to this?

I understand that we may have some severe budget constraints. But when we are funding a bunch of very expensive events/facilities of questionable real impact (world’s fair bid, Indy race, etc) but won’t clear the snow from the roads (or fund the bike paths), I can’t help but feel we’ve got our priorities wrong. I think we’re losing our way. And that could prove very bad for some very capable people, come election time. I hope somebody gives this another look. Maybe our new city manager?


I gotta say, the Spot Longboard is performing beautifully these winter days. I’m still getting used to the geometry, and the disc brakes, but it’s coming. No problems with the belt. Every once in awhile a chunk of snow (or something) goes through the belt/sprocket and there’s a disturbing clunk sound, but it keeps on working.

The Stella 200L light is, literally, a lifesaver. What a great light! It’s such a pleasant surprise to buy a product that delivers MORE than promised. I got a Stella 150L for my helmet on eBay for half price. It’s working good too, and it’s not burning out the retinas of approaching people.

I took a few days off riding when it got real cold, but I’m glad to be back in the saddle again. I’m going to get one of the MEC balaclavas, because mine covers the mouth. My concern with these things is being able to breathe through my mouth, and the MEC one has a hole. I can’t get enough air in breathing through my nose. I doubt anyone can when riding.

Tried making it up Lungbuster, but there was no way. I think the studded tires dig into the snow. I walk up most of the way. It’s still easier than taking the stairs, which I tried a few times. I’ll tell ya, they seem to go on forever. That’s a good workout.

The city’s done a great job on the paths, with the exception of the Gateway North path from 72-69 ave. It wasn’t done last year either. It’s pretty much unrideable. Same as last year. I made it a few times, but an inch or two to either side, and you get stuck in two feet of snow, and go for a tumble. Three blocks can take 15 hard minutes. It’s like doing one legged squats for 15 mins. Lots of swearing involved. I hope they get this one cleared too.

Wacky Weather

Nothing was going to work, as far as a bike, in today’s nasty weather.