Sunday, January 25, 2015

The winter people

I am pretty glad I got my butt out of the house Sunday morning for the 4th Annual Winter Bike Parade. On Saturday it was hovering a little below freezing and, frankly, it was gross. Sloppy, gritty, scary, generally unpleasant. Today, when I suited up to get to City Hall, the radio was telling me it was -17C, with a windchill taking it to about -24.

Bring it. The ride downtown was far better than anything I did yesterday. And I made it *just* in time to fall in with the line of about 50 (?) bikes heading out for a low-speed, low-stress, fun cruise around the streets of downtown Ottawa.

My iPhone cacked out on me on the ride there: too cold. Its little electronic brain couldn't hack it and it shut off. From talking to a few other people, I guess that was happening all over. Some people were tucking their phones into inside pockets or stashing them in armpits to keep them from caving to the cold. A few others were running hardy GoPros (mine had no battery power, alas). So, I don't have any photos of the ride, but it was fun.

And of course, other folks had cameras.

We pedaled along through the chilly streets. I found myself riding near a couple of people I knew from Twitter, though I didn't know it at the time: @MrOneWheelDrive was chauffeuring @solemom in a great homemade trailer, and we chatted as we rode along. And I got into a couple of Sarah's pictures, along the way:

And then we were back at City Hall to lock up our bikes to every available post and rack, and head up to the Councillors' Lounge for coffee and sandwiches and cookies and a panel with urban city councillors Jeff Leiper, Mathieu Fleury, Catherine McKenney and Tobi Nussbaum. Those four are about the furthest thing from hostile elements at City Hall, and they all had really good, concrete information about what projects are in the pipe, realistic timeframes for certain types of change, examples of solid work they're getting done, and, probably most importantly, advice on how best to get the bike voice heard. Right down to the nitty gritty of "make noise on Twitter, by all means, but email is how you contact your councillor."

(The Twitter community for cycling is great in Ottawa, and I think in part a lot of people make noise about frustrations on Twitter because they'll also get a couple of supportive comments from other cyclists. When I have a scary encounter with a bus or a terrible bit of infrastructure, and I tweet about it, chances are good I'll get reassurance from someone out there in the #ottbike cloud - just a basic "glad you're okay, that sucks, hang in there, we all know what it's like." And sometimes that "you are not alone" feeling is more important, in the moment, than letting anyone in authority know what just happened. But Jeff Leiper did make the point that he doesn't get around to Twitter as fast as he does his email, and if we really want a concern to get his attention, that's the route to take.)

For added entertainment, later that afternoon there was the chance to watch Kevin O'Donnell and "Ottawa_Driver" trolling the comments section on the Ottawa Sun's article on the event. Break out the bike comments bingo cards, folks!

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