Saturday, March 21, 2015


Sure, it was the first day of spring, and today was the day of Spring.Bike.Ottawa. That, of course, meant the view out my window was this:

And after I just cleaned my drive train and replaced my brakes.
But I think I actually kind of enjoy riding in adverse weather. On a Saturday, a little warm slushy snow isn't a big deal. So I hopped on the bike. It was a bit sploshy, but not bad riding, and the receding snowbanks are such a joy.

Spring.Bike.Ottawa is an annual event put on by Citizens for Safe Cycling to present some bike talks and information (and encourage advocacy, naturally). I hadn't been before, but I knew about it from the Winter Bike Parade.

There were a series of talks: Councillor McKenney said a few words (apparently there are as many active cyclists on city council as there are women: unfortunately, that means there are four, only one of them - McKenney - being both.)

The first half of the event was a panel discussion covering local and provincial advocacy updates and legal issues. I thought that last topic was particularly interesting: Nicole Laviolette, who's a law professor at U of O, talked authoritatively about the laws around cycling, and gave some sense of how, if a law doesn't actually make sense, you might go about trying to change it. (She has a book - Every Cyclist's Guide to Canadian Law - that I think I'm going to have to look for next time I'm at MEC.)

It was a packed room with a few familiar faces: people I've run into before around other bike events mostly. I wound up sitting next to Councillor David Chernushenko (he may not remember it, but once I played Puck against his Titania in a semi-staged reading of the first act of A Midsummer Night's Dream in a basement bar in Centretown, hosted by a reading series I once worked with. I didn't mention this to him this afternoon).

The funny thing is, though, that a lot of the people there were people I know - and who know me - from Twitter handles and blogs. So I don't always have faces to attach to the names that I have fairly robust relationships with online.

At the break I wandered over to where a big map of the city was getting festooned with radiating strings of different colours: there were instructions to match how you got there - car, transit, walk, bike - to a string colour, then pin the string between the McNabb Centre and where you'd come from.

I pinned my string, and for a brief moment I was the longest green (bike) string. Didn't last, of course.

I also got to talk to someone from the EcoDistrict, trying to create a more sustainable downtown, and a representative from, an initiative to map bike hazards, accidents and near misses in order to collect data for planners and bike advocates, and to help people plan around dangerous stretches of road.

After the break there was a really interesting talk by Glen Gobuyan, a designer who had some fascinating (to me anyway) things to say about wayfinding: what makes sense to people and helps them find their way around, how Ottawa's bike signage was planned, and how it could be improved (big hint: stop assuming that cycling is tourist-destination oriented and start telling people how to get to various neighbourhoods instead of landmarks. And tell people where the routes go: I've always wondered, coming up on those ambiguous green signs that say "Bike Route" and have an arrow. . . bike route to what? To where? Will it take me where I'm going? Am I not supposed to take this other street right here?)

His slide with possible neighbourhood-oriented signage actually got a couple of pleased, oh-my-god-of course murmurs out of the crowd.

After his talk, Trevor Haché gave an update on what's been happening with the Healthy Transportation Coalition, which is a wide-ranging organization he started last year to tie together a number of different interests - anti-poverty organizations, seniors, community health centres, supported housing, cyclists, etc.

And then there were some updates about other CfSC events coming up, and then it was time to promise the nice volunteer at the CfSC table that yes, I really was going to sign up as a member when I got home (I did: it's about time), pull my damp rain gear back on, and head back out into the alternating rain and snow and sleet to head home.

There are days where you feel more like you belong on the road, and days where you feel less secure. Days where you've been around a lot of other dedicated cyclists tend to make you feel more like you belong. I took up my space and flowed with traffic on the way home. I had the "swoosh."

Somewhere near Lansdowne, I was caught up to by someone who'd arrived at the event at the same time as me: we'd spoken briefly inside the event as well. He said hello and grinned as he caught up to me. "Hey, hi!" I said, and waved as he passed, and headed off southward ahead of me, tail light flashing in the light rain.

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