Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One right (and one left) make two wrongs

(Mostly posting this because I thought of the title and it amused me.)

As I was on the way to work this afternoon, heading north on Elgin Street, there was a car waiting to turn left. The car behind it cut me off (not sure if he was even aware I was there) to duck out around him. I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting the side of his car as he did so, and said something loud (a sarcastic "Nice!" I think it was.)

He then proceeded to turn right, once he'd cut me off, and paused for a moment. Switching his turn signal on - which was entertaining - at the exact moment he completed the right turn and headed off down the side street. I rolled my eyes and continued to work.

Coming home from work, south on Alta Vista, I came up to the left-turn lane onto Heron Road. Signalled, merged over into the left-turn lane. Didn't get the advance green, but the green light was still on. There was a car ahead of me making a left. I pulled up behind him and, seeing another car heading toward me, decided to wait till it came through the intersection before turning left. I started to roll forward toward the intersection, though, in preparation to turn.

At which point a truck appeared from my left side, having run the length of the through lane, passed me on the outside (hi! illegal!) and then cut over, turning left in front of me so he could gain that precious half-second of time.

Sigh. I rolled eyes. Continued riding. No point in trying to decide whether the drivers are impatient, or just blissfully unaware. Not sure which I'd rather.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy Monday

Here's a little video for anyone who rode or is riding to work today. Happy Monday: enjoy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Get scared or get stubborn

A car blew past me today so close I could feel the shockwave on my hand. A foot, maybe, off my handlebars. Too damn close, and going way too fast (it was on Heron Road, and the speeds there are a bad fit with how narrow the road is.) I shouted; I couldn't help it, just an inarticulate shout that came bursting out of me as the car passed.

And it had been such a nice ride, otherwise, too. I had a split second where I could have gotten terrified, or mad. I got mad. Which is a sign of how long I've been riding. I can remember times when I screeched to a halt when that kind of thing happened. Now, though, by the time I'd processed what was happening, I was looking to see if the car was going to hit the red light ahead and if I could catch up. I wanted to tell the driver that he'd been far too close, dangerously close, and if we lived somewhere with the one-metre rule, he would have been illegally close. So I started pedaling like mad to catch up.

But I didn't catch up. The light changed, and he went on ahead without knowing how angry I was. Although maybe he heard me. I can hope that the Doppler effect didn't steal my shout as he flew past me. By the time I got to the traffic light it was red again, which was not such a good thing, because it gave me a minute or so where the delayed adrenaline - and the short breath from my sprint - kicked in and I started shaking. Mad and about to cry all at once. So I sat there, calming myself back down, until the light changed, and then I set off again. Just as I got back into my stride, another van came past - not as close, but it was a van, and so its sheer size startled me.

Okay, fine. Fine, I thought. And again I kind of surprised myself: I got mad, and I got defiant. If they were going to keep blowing past me, then I was going to get out into the lane and make it impossible. So I came out about a metre into the lane - where, technically, I should be, but way further out than I usually ride - and I stayed there, determinedly ignoring the sounds of cars coming up from behind me. Or at least, not ignoring them, but not letting them push me sideways. I was absolutely done with being intimidated by cars.

A couple of things about that. One: I not only knew, but had internalized, the idea that the further out in traffic you are (within reason) the safer you actually are. I stay a long way over to the side out of courtesy for drivers, but if you want to be visible, and to avoid drivers thinking they can squeeze by you, you take up space. Two: I have a lot more confidence than I used to, about a lot of things. And I thought, as I rode the rest of the way home, about my Amazon friend's insight about the relationship between being femme and biking (or any kind of non-mainstream-ism and biking): that you have to take up your space, stop shrinking to the side to avoid being 'in the way,' stop trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. Unobtrusive is sometimes way too close to invisible.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spinning in Almonte

A couple of weekends ago, my poetry/storytelling performance group, the Kymeras, got to open for Evalyn Parry and her fantastic show 'Spin.' A celebration of the bicycle (and in particular the phenomenal changes it created in the lives of women), this show is a little hard to describe. Part musical show, part documentary, part one-woman-and-a-guy-playing-a-bicycle show, it was moving and mesmerizing and surprising. Personal and political.

Evalyn's songs and stories and snippets of theatre take us, mostly, through the 1890s and the bicycle craze, when bikes became not just ubiquitous, but also, serendipitously, propelled a good chunk of the women's movement. She tells tales of rebel entrepreneurs, suffragettes and the Ladies' Christian Temperance Union, and interweaves them with her own relationship to bicycles - your bike is a part of you - and the rich metaphors you can wring out of this simple machine. "The past is behind us / the back wheel is the power / the front wheel freewheels / hour by hour . . . "

I was riveted. As well as giving us the songs and stories - Google 'Annie Londonderry' sometime! - Evalyn was joined on stage by Brad Hart, who played a vintage bike mounted on a mechanic's stand. I think I heard him say there were fourteen separate pickups mounted on the bike, so he could play the tubes and fenders with drumsticks and brushes, whack on the seat for a bass line, spin the pedals, ring the bells, use a bow on the spokes, and rattle drumsticks on the spinning wheels. Add to that a set of looping pedals, and the bike sang. It was an absolutely constant presence in the show, a third character, the main character. Your eyes kept drifting to it where it hovered on the stage.

Sean, in the audience, just before Evalyn's show. And the bike.
The Kymeras - well, three out of four of us, since Ruthanne was at a storytelling conference and couldn't come - lucked into this gig. We'd been out to Almonte last year as part of Mississippi Mills bike month: arts organizer and poet Danielle K.L. Gregoire knew that I was a cycling blogger, knew the Kymeras, and asked me if I thought we could do a show about bikes. We did - to a small crowd, admittedly, but it was a fun gig, and this year, with a star like Evalyn coming in, Danielle thought of us again.

So we came out to do a bike-themed Kymeras set, to open for Evalyn. I don't think any of us really realized how big it was going to be until we got to the Almonte Old Town Hall for sound check and saw the seating. There were going to be about 170 people in the audience at this show.

Sean and Marie doing a sound check. Me getting artsy with the camera phone.
 We did a very quick sound check and went for dinner with our host and Evalyn and her band, then headed back over to the Town Hall where people were starting to fill in the seats.

We went back to the green room to munch on the lovely bowl of fruit the hosts had put out, run through our poems and stories one more time, and get dressed in our performing getups. Yup, we had a 'look': coloured summery t-shirts and black pants with one leg rolled up (to stay out of the gears.)

Sean and Marie: fashion icons.
And then it was time to go out! I have to admit to being pretty nervous, but the audience was not just big, they were warm, responsive, receptive, and a joy to perform for. I had brought my poems on paper (as the 'page poet' of the foursome, but also because I don't have Sean's confidence for memorization) and as I read, out of an embroidered notebook I'd bought and copied the poems into for the occasion, I could feel the audience coming along with me. It really breathed a whole other life into the words I was performing. The same thing happened the last time I performed in front of a really large audience, in January at the NAC. I could feel my performance getting kicked up a notch. I highly recommend the sensation.

Marie anchored our set with a pair of stories, about love winning over a bicycle, and then about a bicycle winning over love. I came between the two stories with a trio of poems about childhood bikes, about the one I have now (which changed my life) and about taking up my space on the road, and then at the end of the set Sean did a couple of his own poems - which echoed mine in their themes of love and summer and freedom and nostalgia - and then ended with a Mary Oliver cover, "Summer Day."

And then we were done, and giddy, and happy, and we headed down into the hall to watch Evalyn's show, which was, as I've said, totally mesmerizing. Watching Brad play the bicycle was a whole lot of fun, and Evalyn was a complete chameleon on stage, becoming a half-dozen different characters as she recreated the 1890s, and then took us through her own stolen bike and the bits of her life that had been tangled up in it. She got a standing ovation at the end: I was one of the people on their feet first, I think. Jumped up.

And I was so darn happy to get on my bicycle the next morning.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bike as Muse (and Musical Instrument)

Two great tastes that taste great together (isn't that the old line?)

This weekend I'm getting to combine enthusiasms. On Saturday at 8:00, my performance group, the Kymeras (spoken word, poetry and storytelling) will be opening for the amazing Evalyn Parry and her show "SPIN", in Almonte, as part of Mississippi Mills Bicycle Month. The show celebrates the bicycle as muse, musical instrument, and agent of social change. Yeah. Musical instrument.

I'm really looking forward to this show! And yeah, I'm a little nervous. But it's going to be so damn fun.


Just had another piece posted under my ClickShift column over at Spacing Ottawa! This one's about the stuff that surprises me about Bixi... and has a link to a very nifty animation of bike use at the Ottawa stations.

One thing I didn't mention in the article, because it's not a surprise, it's an annoyance: why is it that when you enter into your browser, you are automatically rerouted to the Montreal Bixi page, with no clear way of getting back to Ottawa? Grr, Bixi. Grr.