16 September 2012

A tale of two street fairs

Part 1:  San Francisco's Mission District

In May, I went to San Francisco for a business trip. I booked a Sunday morning flight, so that I could have the afternoon free for fun. With great luck, I was able to join Hum of the City and her family to the Mission District Street Fair. We'd only "met" via twitter and blog comments before and it was a delight to meet her in person. Fun fact - we're both in the medical sciences field, but had no idea until we met that day.

"Hum" rode her honest-to-god Japanese Mamachari, which she's posted on extensively. All I can add is that any bike shop that doesn't think there is a market for ready-made family transportation bikes is in denial. Or doesn't talk to parents. Seriously - every time she takes this bike out, people stop her to ask where they can get one. I want one - and my kid's far too big for it.

Her husband and son rode this fantastically designed trailer bike. It's attached via a rear rack, making it super stable, just like our Burley Piccolo. However, it attaches at the very back, leaving the top of the rack available for cargo or a rear child seat. In contrast, the Piccolo has a giant knob in the middle of the rack, so the sides can be used for panniers, but a child seat cannot be attached. The downside? It's only available in Germany. I need to start expanding my linkedin network to more international scientists, so that I have access to some of the cool bikes available overseas. 

I got to ride the Brompton - see how many cool bikes they have? I found the handling a little weird at first, but quickly got used to it. I've been admiring these baby-wheeled devices for well over a year now. I haven't come up with a convincing rational for why I need to buy one yet, but it's only a matter of time. 

Once we reached the Mission District, the party was in full swing and the streets were filled with people. People walking, people riding bikes - the atmosphere was incredibly mellow and happy. We did need to use our slow-biking skills to weave through the crowd. But hey - at this point we were already at our destination, so what's the hurry?

We traveled the whole length of the street fair, stopping to watch performances, including this cabaret/acrobatics group, and the obligatory bathroom & snacks stop. We were very sad when the party ended with a police sweep and a return to normal traffic.

Yes, I have now joined the ranks of people who take pictures of infrastructure in their spare time. At least I didn't run out into traffic to get a better shot.
Our route home went along "The Wiggle", which wins for the best named bike route EVAH. The city has recently replaced the original sharrows with the green version above. They're bright and I love them. There is no way you could miss a turn marked with these babies.

Part 2: Seattle's Greenwood Street Fair

Last month, Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood had their street fair. By a terrific coincidence, Hum of the City was here for a visit, staying with Family Ride! The family biking blogosphere can be such a small world some times. This time we were there at the very start of the street fair, which was a strangely gradual affair. "Oh look, they've closed off the street! Let's go, kids! Whoops, there are still cars coming, get back to the side!" Fortunately, it wasn't too long before the streets were really, truly closed to cars and the party began.

Spencer did loops. And needs his seat raised. How did he grow so quickly?

I was really happy to see Spencer and Theo have so much fun together. A lot of my Seattle bikey friends have younger kids, so he really enjoyed having a new friend his age.
Despite the difference in height, Theo is 2 weeks older than Spencer.
Family Ride, being lapped by a balance bike.
The streets were full, but not quite as crowded as at the San Francisco Fair. We ran into a number of friends with whom we had to stop and chat. There was bike decorating, a (very) brief kids' parade,  and some fun performances, including a high rise trapeze act.

My photo doesn't do this justice - her act involved a lot of spinning around and was a lot of fun.
The audience was enthralled.
A Hawaiian dance troupe put on a performance and let the boys try out the poi balls. The difference between poi and nunchuks is thin, particularly to 6 year old boys. Oh well, at least they were wearing helmets. Alway dance in helmets, folks - think of your brains!
Look out!

A bouquet of helmets
After a lot of street partying, we were all getting hungry. There really weren't any street vendors, so we locked our bikes and helmets into an impressive pile and tried to get a table at a nearby restaurant. Alas the wait was long and our party was large, containing many children, so it was not to be. We had to say our goodbyes and get home before dark. It was so much fun to be out and having fun in the street and meeting friends, new and old!

09 September 2012

Critical Lass Edmonton: Highlands

We had a gorgeous day for a ride yesterday, 20-ish and sunny with a crisp breeze.
Unfortunately great weather and short notice meant not many people came out. Oh well, their loss!

Karen wore a beautiful vintage pencil skirt and a summery shirt from a local boutique. 
I wore my new-to-me vintage polka-dot accordion-pleated skirt
with sailor stripes, antique bakelite bangles, and a Tibetan beeswax amber necklace.

Our route to the Highlands: across High Level Bridge and down the bike path to McEwan, then east on 106th Ave to Little Italy, then north on a side street to 112th Ave, which as it turned out was down to one lane with construction, so we rode on the sidewalk away from the frustrated motorists. The whole ride took us about an hour...
...including our stop at the Italian Centre en route for a snack and a cold drink.
 Our destination was the two-block shopping district in Highlands (112 Ave & 65th Street), an early 20th-century streetcar suburb with fantastic Arts-and-Crafts architecture and mature trees. We met Sarah and her beautiful daughter at Mandolin Books & Coffee, grabbed iced coffees and sweets (the date squares and the chocolate cookies are delish), and walked a couple of blocks to the neighborhood playground. When we got a text from Judy, we headed back, said bye to Sarah and her sweetie, then spent a happy hour browsing used books, locally-made clothing, gorgeous yarns, furniture, and flowers.
Sarah and her charming daughter. I love the yarn-bombed bicycle racks on this block.
Karen, Judy, and me after a little shopping and a lot of visiting. The plan (at Sarah's suggestion) was to take Ada Boulevard, then head back to downtown to meet some friends at What The Truck for supper.
A horse-drawn carriage passing us on Ada Boulevard.
The view to the east of Refinery Row.
Highlands Golf Course and the view across the river valley from the spot where we pulled off to snap some photos.
Judy always looks effortlessly chic. Today she was wearing khaki skinnies with pointy-toed flats.
The highway and bridge behind Karen are Wayne Gretzky Drive and Capilano Bridge.
Can anyone tell me what the paper flags on the lawn at Concordia campus were about? 
The view of downtown where Ada Boulevard turns, with a bit of lens flare.

As I had been riding, I had noticed that my egg crate seemed even more rattley than usual, and my kickstand kept needing to be adjusted because it wouldn't stay put. Just after I took the photo above, a lovely fellow stopped us and told me my rear tire was flat. Oh, so that was the problem! I quickly realized I'd been flat since before our arrival in Highlands. The tube wouldn't hold any air at all, so we ended our ride with a walk to the nearest LRT station (along a pretty residential route with a nice tree canopy that the same gent had suggested we take). 
The LRT had to stop for a few minutes on the bridge over the North Saskatchewan River and wait for the track to clear, so I was able to get a shot of the streetcar on top of the neighboring High Level Bridge.
The view upriver through the LRT car's door.
The offending tire, flat as a pancake. When I got home I took a careful look at it, and it seems I picked up a sliver of glass  - probably on 106th Street on our way to Highlands. Amazingly, the rim doesn't seem any worse for wear, at least to my untrained eye. Steel is amazing stuff.
My spoils from the day's adventures: flowers from Sugar Blossoms, a reference book from Mandolin Books & Coffee, silk yarn from Wool Revival, and a top with lace sleeves from Sabrina Butterfly.
After Eliza's repairs I guess that list will also include new tubes and,
since they'll have to take the wheel off anyway, new tires to replace the 70s-era originals. 

07 September 2012

Isaak Kornelsen Deserved Better.

Video from the beautiful Critical Mass memorial Ride For Isaak by Andriko Lozowy, via YouTube.

Others have written much more eloquently than I can manage about the tragic, horrifying death of 21-year-old Isaak Kornelsen, who lost his life while cycling on Whyte Avenue in late August, and the infrastructure deficit that put him in danger. I refer you to their posts:

My heart breaks for Isaak Kornelsen's family and many friends, and I feel I am poorer for not having known him. Certainly the world is poorer without him. 

I still feel ill whenever I think of the accident - and the ignorant, callous, victim-blaming comments I have seen made in certain quarters. The attitude that cyclists and pedestrians are inconveniences and obstacles to legitimate road traffic, instead of real people, particularly upsets me. Some have suggested banning the use of bicycles on Whyte altogether, and forcing cyclists to use the side streets, which misses the point that road safety is about making streets safe for everyone, not removing vulnerable users from them. I'm convinced that adding off-street parking in the form of another parkade and using what is now a parking lane to create a separated bike lane along Whyte Avenue would be a win-win for cyclists and motorists. If only it didn't take a 'freak accident' completely preventable death to catalyze these important conversations about road safety and incomplete infrastructure.

(Isaak Kornelsen was not the only Edmontonian to needlessly lose their life while on a bicycle this year, although his death is being more widely mourned. While on a cycling vacation with her husband in July, 63-year-old Elizabeth Ann Sovis was struck from behind by a van driven by a man with multiple prior convictions for drunk driving. Follow up reports stressed that she was a cautious bicyclist, and Cycling PEI held a small memorial ride for her. The narrow, shoulderless country roads of PEI probably won't get any infrastructure upgrades, despite the promotion of the province as a cycle touring destinationThe driver will go to trial this autumn. Ms Sovis was a French teacher, close to retirement, and her death has played out as a private tragedy because of her age and the location of her accident - but it was just as preventable.)