Friday, December 29, 2023

Greek streets: the kingdom of the motorcycle

This fall I went on a climbing trip to a village in Greece for a week and a half or so, and as usually happens when I travel, I found myself adapting to a new attitude around roads and streets. This time, I found myself thinking differently about motorcycles. 

The first thing I noticed after landing in Athens was that the highways were full of motorcycles going much faster than the car traffic and weaving through it at speeds that were kind of scary to us at first. There were bikes on the highway - dirtbike-looking things - that wouldn't be legal on that class of road in Canada, and as we drove three hours down to the Peloponnese and got further and further from the big cities, the motorcycles started to make more and more sense. The roads are narrow. They're steep. They wind and switch back and dive down precipitous cliffsides. 

And then you get into the towns, and you really understand why there are so many motorcycles. It's a bit of a shock at first as you wind your way up the hill through Leonidio (the small town we were staying in, with a population of about 6,000) and the streets just keep getting narrower. There's a slightly unnerving sense that you might encounter a narrowing spot that you just can't fit through, or you might wind up in a street you can't get back out of. 

This is a pinchpoint just 
down the hill from where 
we were staying.
There are cars in Leonidio. For one thing, it's an area that attracts climbers from all over Europe, who often bring cars, and it's an agricultural town (its main crop being eggplants) that has light trucks coming in and out of the flat farmland below the town, which lies tucked in between steep hills and ends at the Aegean Sea.

But in the village itself, drivers have to navigate very narrow streets with strange hairpin turns at times and steep grades - and people walking in them, and motorcycles and bicycles everywhere. You just navigate around them, and take intersections very carefully in case there might be another car (although there were very few cars moving around the town at any point).

So people generally get around on foot or (because the side streets are steep) dirtbikes, ebikes, scooters and light motorcycles. They zip up and down the streets, making me, as a pedestrian, jump - for the first day or so. Then I got used to it, because they all know what they're doing. 

Everyone rides these. Maybe (I don't know for sure) it's like snowmobiles in a far northern town. I watched moms and dads taking their kids to school on dirtbikes. We were passed one afternoon by a man steering with one hand and carrying a chainsaw in the other. Older ladies in black took scooters to church. There were some (generally teenaged) people who rode bicycles, but watching them pedal in the lowest gear possible past us up the steep hill I didn't think I'd want to deal with that every day, and definitely most of the older, working folks used bikes with motors, of whatever kind. Some of the side streets, especially on the steep side of the village, were at impressive grades that I couldn't imagine trying to pedal a bike up. 

Streets were asphalt or paved in flat limestone cobbles. They weren't a consistent width and there was no sidewalk. There were no lane markers on the road: no parking spaces, no zebra stripes. Almost no signage meant for cars, within the village itself. There simply weren't enough cars moving around inside the town to require street markings. If you were coming uphill and encountered another driver coming downhill, one of you found a way to skootch over so you could get by each other - or one of you threw it into reverse until you could. 

If you must block a door
because there's nowhere
else to put a car, at least
make it your OWN door
If you were going to park somewhere it was a matter of figuring out whether it was polite to park there - are you blocking anyone's door? Are you making the street too narrow? Does it seem like you should? Outside our AirBnB there was a slightly wider stretch of street, next to a restaurant patio, where we could usually park. When we were out climbing, sometimes the staff at the taberna on the ground floor would park three scooters in the spot where we usually kept the car at night. When we returned, they'd jump up and walk the scooters across the street to clear the spot for us. 

This is a two-way street used by cars, bikes, and pedestrians.

It wasn't that you couldn't get a big vehicle through this town. There were beat-up old Ford pickups and cargo vans and at least once a couple driving a camper van through Leonidio. But the streets were not made for them and definitely did not go out of their way to accommodate them. Once, I saw a sign that warned of a narrow passage ahead that a car might not fit through, but that was about it for indications to drivers as to what they should do: because cars were absolutely the minority transportation. This town was here long before them and, I felt, will still be here after them. 

And it all works. I stopped jumping at the sound of engines behind me after a day or so. I gained a whole new appreciation for the agility and versatility and surefootedness of motorcycles and scooters. And it was, as always, a bit of a culture shock returning home to the supremacy of the car. 

Bikes and scooters parked in a plaza off the main street.
Nary a car.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Unexpected recovery (and more questions than answers)

Status update: About a month after my Trek got stolen from the bike room in my building, I got an email and a voicemail from a sergeant with the Ottawa Police Services to let me know that it was now back in the room. I talked with him for a bit, and then went down to confirm that it was in fact there, and. . . there it was. 

The worse for wear: It had had every single accessory removed. Fenders gone. Trailer hitch gone. Camera mount gone (the cameras, thankfully, come off every time I leave the bike, so I still have them). The OneUp multitool I'd just gotten from a friend and installed - gone. Even the bell was gone. And the Project 529 shield on the seat tube was spraypainted over in white. The seat had been dropped several inches too. But - it's my bike. 

Aside from dealing with the sense of violation when I look at the smear of white spraypaint across the frame and the derailleur, and the hole where my cute OneUp tool was stashed, I'm also left with some patchy information and a lot of other questions.

The cop I spoke with told me that after the bikes were stolen, the property manager posted notices about the theft in the building and got some information from tenants. The security cameras in the elevator area also caught the kids taking the bikes out of the basement where the bike room is. The kids were apparently identified from the video, because the cop was able to tell me that they were eleven years old - a girl and two boys. The girl lives in the building and let her two friends in.

At eleven years old, I'd have assumed they were just messing around. But they - or someone - systematically removed anything that might identify the bike. Including the OneUp tool, which requires you to know what it is and how to take it out: it's a tool housed in a little cylinder that you drop into the steering tube and then bolt into place through the bottom of the cylinder. And they spraypainted over the Project 529 shield. 

These children can't be experienced bike thieves. For one thing, they didn't hock it or ditch it. One of them seems to have been riding it: the seat was lowered and there was an elastic LED light on the handlebars. But - that spraypaint says they know something.

When I emailed the cop back to let him know the condition of the bike, his answer was "oh, wow," and he said he'd go talk to the boy and his parents, so I guess he also thinks the fact all the identifying items were removed is sketchy. And I still don't know how the bike wound up back in the room - did the boy fess up? Was he caught? Did he just put the bike back and the property manager noticed it? I didn't think to ask, so I guess I probably won't ever know.

But at least, and very improbably, I got my bike back! 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Ride review (and introducing Idris)

It was probably an ideal day to take the new Priority Continuum (I have named it Idris) to the office. Drizzly, a little above freezing, with balls of slushy snow in the bike lanes. The sort of thing I imagine this bike was designed for. 

I ride about 20km round trip to the office building I work in. Plenty of time to get used to a new bike. So, first impressions.

First, that big internal gear hub does make the back end heavy. At some spots, like intersections, where I might have stopped, put feet down, and then just swung the bike under me to a new direction, I couldn't easily do that. The bike itself is not light; it's something like 40 pounds. I felt that a little bit on hills, but I don't mind the extra legwork. And the weight does make it feel sturdy. I'm interested in how that heavy back wheel performs in winter with studded tires (I'm getting a set this weekend). 

One odd thing about it is that it's so quiet. There's no chain; there's no derailleur; the gearshift is a barrel shifter with no separate gears to cycle through; there's no clicking.  I think even when you're coasting, there isn't that little tiktiktik noise from the freewheel. It's just silent.

I'm still getting used to the shifting, I think. Because there aren't discrete gears, you just sort of ease the resistance back and forth to where you're comfortable. Your indicator, instead of numbered gears, is a little dude on a bike on a hill. The hill gets gradually steeper as you shift into lower gears. I admit to being kind of charmed any time I had to climb a steepish hill and shifted the little bonhomme till he was practically aiming for the sky.

It seems counterintuitive to me that you twist the barrel forward to go into lower gears and backward to shift back up - but my last couple of bikes had paddle shifters, so I might just be out of practice with barrels. I kept accidentally shifting the wrong direction. But again, because you just flow between "gears" it didn't do a bunch of mechanical clicking and jumping from cog to cog.

It was rainy and dark enough that I left the office ahead of twilight: people drive like morons in this town when the weather's bad, and I didn't want the temperature to fall and lay down ice on the roads - I don't have the studs on yet. So I didn't really get to see how bright the lights are for night riding. I expect I'll want to have a separate headlamp if I'm going to be on unlit paths or streets at night, but it really is nice to know that I'm lit up front and back no matter what. 

(Update, added later: the front headlight is actually plenty good enough to see by on an unlit path, in the rain. Hurrah!)

I'm slowly amassing the accessories that were stolen along with the Trek - the mount for my Fly12 camera, the bell, the trailer hitch. They've been ordered, and I'll start decking the bike out with them as they come in. 

So. . . so far, Idris and I seem to be getting along just fine. Looking forward to seeing what happens with studs and snow.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Hello you sexy thing

So. . . my new bike arrived today. And I got to assemble it this evening. Say hi to Idris. 

Idris is a Priority Continuum Onyx, which means it's a bike I have had my eye on for roughly a decade, it's a bike I had to order directly from the manufacturer in New York, and it's a bike I had to assemble myself. 

But, after my Trek commuter was stolen a few weeks ago, I decided if I was going to have to get a new bike anyway. . . why not splurge on the all-season commuter I'd been looking longingly at for years? 

And so I found myself ordering a bike from a direct distribution company, getting it delivered to my door, and following along to YouTube videos on how to assemble it. 

But I am pretty stoked about this bike. 

Here's the basics. I've been aware of the Priority Continuum for something like a decade. This bike has an internal hub, a carbon belt drive, hydraulic disc brakes, built-in dynamo lights, and built-in fenders. Plus, the front headlight actually has a capacitor that lets you charge other devices off of it. And it looks COOL AS FUCK, can we just agree on that. That matte black finish! The insouciant sans-serif reflective branding on the top tube! The headstock logo that's only really visible under direct light because it's reflective too! GAH.

I only got it today and I spent an hour or so after work putting it together out of the box (with help from the awesome YouTube tutorials the company provides), so I haven't got a ride review yet. But, let's be real: I am probably going to look to like -- if looking liking move. 

Apparently, what you get with one of these bikes is a low-maintenance (because of the sealed hub and belt drive), hardy, all-season commuter. I'm in Ottawa - not a whole lot of elevation to worry about, but definitely a lot of salt, grit, and freeze-thaw. The day I got this, we came in for a night of freezing rain. I'm probably going to go ahead and order some studded tires to fit this bike. 

One con: sure, I won't be able to service this bike on my own as easily as I could a straightforward chain drive bike. But, I'm okay with supporting my local bike shop by bringing it in once in a while for support. I'm not going to learn how to build or fix a CVT hub, of course. But for the more infrequent maintenance, I'm just fine to pay my LBS to do the work for me. Same for the hydraulic brakes. Sure, I can't replace my own brake pads easily. Fine. My mechanics can do it. And this bike looks like it's going to be a blast to ride. 

I've also gotten the heads up from a couple of other Ottawa bike folks that in very cold conditions the carbon belt can snap. . . but when that happened the company sent them replacements for free. So, I guess I'll keep that in mind. And, honestly. . . 

I'm really looking forward to the ride. 

Friday, November 17, 2023

Bike theft update

Well, I know a little more about the theft now. It looks like my bike, and one other, were taken by three teenagers, literally less than an hour after I left it in the room. They were caught on camera getting into the elevators (I don't know if it was the elevators for my building or the one next door - the garage is shared). That means if they didn't ship the bike off somewhere, it might actually still be in the building, or the one next door.

I'm heartened that at least the landlord did check the video surveillance, and have sent the video to the police. I just emailed them to let them know the report number, so the cops can connect the video to my report. And the landlord has now installed a security camera in the bike room, which is also encouraging. 

But it also is not a good feeling that these were dumbass kids. Are they stealing bikes for some kind of ring? That's shitty. Are they just stealing bikes for the lulz? That's also shitty. If it's just them messing around, I don't want to bring the cops down on them but also I want them not to steal bikes just because they're shitty teens. If they're stealing bikes for a ring, I want them to get the hell out of that now (and also I can be pretty sure my bike's already been broken down in Montreal).

It sucks all around. At least we're getting better security in the bike room out of it.

My bike got stolen

I suppose it was inevitable? 

About two weeks ago, I headed down to the bike room in my building to grab my bike and head to my Saturday martial arts class. I got to the room and there was someone in there getting her bike out as well. I stopped. Looked around. Assuming she'd moved my bike to get at hers, I checked all the nearby bikes. 


"My bike's not here," I said, staring around. I know I had that look on my face, the one everyone has when what they expected to see just isn't there. I saw it on someone's face in the bike cage at work, when he came out, panniers in hand, and then stopped, just like I had, looking all around him in a search pattern. 

"Someone stole my fucking bike," I said finally, although I was still looking for it as though it would just appear. 

But I was going to be late for class, so I went back outside and got in my car. Between having to drive and the fact that Carleton University was holding Convocation that day and the parking lot was crammed, I was feeling pretty damn combative by the time I made it to the Combatives Room. 

Got home and reported the theft to the police and to Project 529, and to the landlord. And to Ottawa Bike Twitter. And I went down to the bike room with a sign for the door warning other users that my bike had been stolen and telling the thief - who I figure had to have been someone with a key, and therefore another resident - that if they just put the bike back, I'd cancel the police report. But so far, nothing. 

Sure, I might still get the bike back through Project 529 or the cops, or the person who took it might put it back. 

People ask if I had it locked up in the room, and my answer is, I thought that a locked bike room in a locked garage in my own apartment building might - possibly - be secure enough. Not a mistake I'm going to make again. The room does not have any racks, so the only way to secure your bike is to lock the wheel to the frame and hope that's enough of a deterrent. 

I've asked the landlord if there are any plans to install racks. I don't expect much, though. 

However - since I need a winter bike and Long John will NOT work in bad weather conditions. . . I've bitten the bullet and ordered a Priority Continuum Onyx, a bike I've wanted for literally years. It's getting delivered sometime in the next few days. There will be reviews! And I will be locking it the hell up, no matter where it is. 

Monday, October 16, 2023

That PSA

There was a good old-fashioned ratio on the thing that used to be Twitter today. The Richmond RCMP decided to go out with a fall PSA on pedestrian safety. In the fall, crashes involving pedestrians tick up a little as it gets darker, and inevitably you wind up watching something like this.

Girl heads out, in a black hoodie. She pops in her AirPods, flips up her hood. She hits the beg button at the crosswalk and when she gets the signal and the flashing lights she starts to cross. Meanwhile, a driver gets a text notification or a call or something, so he picks his phone up from the cupholder and starts to respond, ignoring the road. Screech of tires. The two look at each other in shock. The driver puts his phone back into the cupholder. The girl removes her earbuds. Fade out: "Pedestrian safety is a two way street." 

Twitter's response? Cordially: oh fuck off, Richmond RCMP. 

What this PSA showed was a person going for a walk, in broad daylight, pressing the crossing button, waiting for the flashing lights at the pedestrian crossing, then crossing the street - and a person driving a car while trying to answer a text message. One of these things is illegal.

The PSA frames them as equivalent. Two-way street. Sure, that driver shouldn't have answered the phone. But she was walking with headphones in! 

They got rightly dragged. I participated in some of the dragging. 

I am probably preaching to the choir on this blog, but if we are living in a world where no one can listen to music while they walk (while drivers cruise along in a soundproofed box that doubles as a stereo sound system), then we are also in a world where no person with hearing loss should be permitted to walk around unattended, and what about blind people? If we're saying you have to wear a high-visibility vest, be on high alert, and also be able-bodied to. . . walk. . . then we truly have ceded our public spaces to the automobile.

In general, even if they've got headphones on, pedestrians and cyclists are more aware of the environment than drivers, because they're not in a sound-dampened, climate-controlled, windproofed roll cage. The burden of responsibility should always be on the person who is capable of the most damage. The one behind the wheel of the large, heavy, fast-moving vehicle. And if you're going to say that there's a shared responsibility, maybe don't draw an equivalence between wearing headphones and a hoodie to go for a walk, and operating a vehicle while focusing on your phone. 

In response to getting righteously pilloried, the Richmond RCMP responded, in part: 

"Every year we put out a media release on pedestrian safety, roughly at this time of year. We offer tips for sharing the road for both the pedestrian/cyclist and the motorist. 

This year, is the first year we decided to make a video. The video was conceived in-house and a student with a gift for film, graciously donated his time and his skillset. The people in the video were volunteers. 

This was a positive experience for us, but the response to it has been extremely disheartening. The purpose is of the video is to reduce harm, save, lives, and create awareness. Full stop. Nothing more an certainly, nothing less. The video is not about X being more right than Y. That is not it's purpose. 

We have investigated many, many pedestrian and cyclist collisions throughout the years. They can be gruesome. They can take their toll mentally on everyone involved. Many of them are entirely preventable." 

WAY to double down. 

You conceived this in-house? That just indicates your internal bias: this pernicious car-brainedness that says "distracted driving is just something that happens. Speeding? I mean, we all do that, it's only bad if you're going more than 20 over. You can't do anything about cars maiming people, it's everyone else that has to be on high alert at all times for their own safety. You can't trust that the people in those cars actually see you. I mean, if you're sharing the road with these things it's on you not to get killed." 

It's not about X being more right than Y? Yeah, except one of those things is against the law and can result in your killing other people, and the other of those things is listening to music while you walk. 

Your student filmmaker went along with the message and did his best to get it across? He did a good job, it's not a bad little piece of video. But from the start to the finish it is based in an assumption that pedestrians are asking to be injured or killed if they don't head out on that walk prepped for a high-risk undertaking. And you are the police force that will be responding to that crash scene and asking, "so, was the victim wearing dark clothes, or earbuds?" 

And that. . . that is why we're dragging you. We're begging you to see it. 

Thursday, August 17, 2023


I finally bit the bullet and got something I've been eyeing for a while: a Burley Travoy trailer, with an attachable market bag. 

All summer, I get a weekly farm share pickup about 5 or 6 km from me. For the first half of the summer I can usually manage with a backpack, but once we get into August they start putting melons and potatoes and big heads of broccoli into the box, and I stop being able to make it all fit in my backpack. Also, if I want to pick up bulky things from the grocery store like cat food or toilet paper, I have been needing to take the car because I didn't have room in the backpack. So - I decided it was time to get a trailer. 

First impressions are good - but then, like I said, I've been looking at this particular piece of gear for a while online. This thing seems super easy to use and very easy to attach, collapse, and adapt. The trailer folds down to about the size of a small wheelie bag, if you take the wheels off - and it's easy to get the wheels on and off the axle. Once it's off the hitch it transforms into a shopping cart, basically: something you can tow around the store with you. It comes with a storage bag, which is cool. And it has a kickstand, so it stands up vertically when it's not attached to the bike. 

The hitch arm and upper section fold down with a turn of the yellow handle, and due to some kind of wizardry, turning the handle almost automates the folding action - it's surprisingly easy to manage with one hand and very little strength. No "pushing in a little button while you twist something else." This seems like it would be pretty simple to use even if you had problems like arthritis or hand pain. 

The hitch is super simple: it locks onto the seatpost with a lever that compresses it around the post with one flip. That means it can be attached to multiple bikes - you don't need to mount it on one bicycle and then only use that bike to haul the trailer. (Yes, I have two potential bikes it could be mounted on.) The trailer attaches to the hitch by sliding on to a pin, secured with a sliding tab, and I discovered I can attach or remove the trailer with one hand, leaving the other one free to hold on to the bike. 

It's super easy. 

The market bag is a 40L tote that attaches with four anchor points to the frame of the trailer. It came with some tiedown straps that I haven't tried out yet, but which I stashed inside the bag in case I do need them, and it has an outside pocket where you could put some small things.

You know I had to take it out for a spin this afternoon, so I decided to do some quaxing (does anyone still say "quaxing?"). I went out to the South Keys shopping centre to hit Bulk Barn and the grocery store. Barely noticed I was towing it (and although for the first little while I kept being really conscious of flexposts and curbs and things like that, I think that in fact it's no wider than I myself am, so it never caught on anything). 

Locked up next to one of its cargo-hauling cousins at the store.

At the shopping centre, I ran the cable through the trailer frame, my back wheel, and the bike frame to lock it up, took the market bag off, and went into the shops with it. Then I hooked the bag back onto the trailer and headed back home with a stop at my corner store for some lemons and hummus: this time I took the whole trailer off, folded down the hitch arm, and used it like a granny cart in the store. 

Back home at the bike room, I popped the trailer off, stashed my bike, and headed up to my apartment. Folded the whole thing down and stuck it in the closet. I'm happy enough with this purchase that I went ahead and bought the upper market bag too, which holds 22L and has a buckle-down top on it. 

I think that before, when I was doing most of my grocery shopping on the way back from work, and didn't go on a lot of specifically "hauling" trips, this gadget would have made less sense. Now that I work from home a lot of the time, I think it might really help me ride more, drive less, and generally carry more shit.

I think I might name it Hopalong.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Infra can't fix inattentional blindness

I was on my way to the office yesterday when I was nearly right hooked at an intersection designed to avoid right hooks. And I hate to say that it might partly have been the infrastructure put there to prevent just that from happening that contributed in this case. . . but mostly I'm going to put the blame on inattentional blindness

Dynes and Fisher, with the protected intersection
under construction
I was riding along Dynes Road, which has a painted bike lane. Coming up to the intersection with Fisher Avenue, I was passed by a big dark-grey F-150. I saw that the right turn signal was on, so I made a call. At Dynes and Fisher there's a "Dutch-style" intersection, where the bike lane leaves the street to cross beside the pedestrian crossing. This puts you away from the turning cars and their blind spots, and up ahead of the stop line for motor traffic so they can see you as they turn. 

I decided to use the cycle track. The pickup was behind another car which was signaling a left turn: I figured if I used the cycle track, I'd be on my way through the intersection before the pickup got there and I would be more visible to the driver. 

So this is how that played out. 


I'm going to assume that he didn't see me as he passed me, he didn't see me as I then passed him, and he still didn't see me when he started his turn.

As the light turned green, I kicked my pedal into position and fumbled a little getting rolling. I'm actually glad of that: if I'd been faster off the mark I could have been right in the truck's path. I started across and he was suddenly there in my field of vision, far faster than I'd thought he'd have moved. I hit the brakes and yelled. He turned his head and looked at me blankly. He drove off down Fisher. A couple of other drivers froze for a couple of seconds while I got myself together. Then I kept going.

And here's the tough part, where I have to say, grudgingly, that the vehicular cyclists could take this as an argument for their "side." I generally believe in separated biking space, and I think intersections like this are safer in general. But I also think that in this one case, I probably would have been better off taking the lane behind the truck (who had passed me with a right signal on) and gone through the intersection behind him. In this case, the separated infrastructure actually did do what the vehicular cyclists argue it always does: it gave me a sense of false confidence because it moved me physically further away from the big truck; it took me far enough away from the driver that he could continue not to see me; it kept me out of his awareness until it was nearly too late. 

But, I think I can argue that that was one case out of however many interactions happen at this intersection. And I can also say: that driver didn't see me because, cocooned in his extended cab, higher up than all the other traffic, cushioned on his shocks, he didn't feel he needed to look. He passed me and if he'd been looking for cyclists, he'd have been aware of where I was on the road. He'd have seen me pull up to the crossing over there, at about 2 o'clock from where he was sitting at the red. 

So yeah, VCs - separated infrastructure does have a weak point, where it intersects with motor infrastructure, and it doesn't counteract drivers being checked out and inattentive. I'm still not coming over to the dark side, though. I still think this intersection is better than it was before they put in the cycletracks, and I still blame the driver, for not paying attention and shirking the responsibility that comes with driving an 18-foot-long, 4,500-pound monstrosity.

Friday, March 17, 2023

I'm going to try coming back to blogging. (Thanks Elon?)

It's been more than two years since I posted anything here, but these days I have been, in the back of my mind, sort of longing for my old blog. I admit that over the last few years I fell into doing the majority of my commentary on Twitter: the #ottbike community was robust and friendly and funny, and I got a job that really did take a lot of my time so the ultrashort form started to be easier for me. And it also got to be a habit during the pandemic, like I think it did for a lot of us, to doomscroll and consume content and yell at clouds (or, you know, at trolls). 

But lately I've missed having a space to write things out at length. And a lot of the people I really enjoyed talking with on Twitter have left for the mammoth site or other alternative social media. Twitter now kind of feels like the sort of party where you thought it would be cooler but it's in fact kind of awful, and all the cool people are slowly just checking out, and a group in the corner is starting to shout drunkenly at high volume about something mindnumbingly dull. So, I thought, maybe I should start writing here again. Yes, blogging is probably a deeply deprecated Gen-X form of content creation and I should go get a TikTok account or something, but I'm not cute and I can't talk that fast, and I want to write. Besides: blogging is just subscription-free Substack, right?

So yeah: it's the very acromion of the shoulder season right now in Ottawa. Many, many years ago now, March 17th was the first day I started riding again after the snow started to clear. Tonight, it's misty and drizzly outside, the five-foot-high snowbanks are slowly granulating, and I'm noticing, from my apartment, that someone with a Honda Fit has obviously had it parked on the street below me for at least two weeks.

That car is about seven feet from the actual curb. It's parked at the outer edge of what was the snowbank, and it's clearly been there since at least the last time we needed to break out the snowplows, which was two weeks ago in the last massive snowstorm of the season. 

It occurs to me that there are two things eloquently shown in this picture. One is that although everywhere in the city there is a three-hour parking maximum, in point of actual fact that is bullshit and you can store your car pretty much anywhere you want for as long as you want. The plow came by on March 3 and politely went around this vehicle and all the others parked on this street, and the car stayed there for two weeks, untouched, while the spring thaw kicked in and the snowbanks around it turned to corn snow and started to slump into the street. 

The other: this is the very definition of a "sneckdown." 

If you don't know what a "sneckdown" is, it's a sort of portmanteau of "snow" and "neckdown." A neckdown is where a sidewalk widens to narrow the street: it's a form of traffic calming (not my favorite, honestly, but that's as may be). But a "sneckdown" is where you realize just how much of the pavement that's been handed to cars is not actually needed, because snow has accumulated and no one's cleared it. No one's needed to. No one has even had to drive through the uncleared area. So, obviously, you could just take that area, hand it back to active road users, narrow the street down to what cars actually use - thereby calming traffic because drivers have to slow up more to use narrower turns - and call it a day. 

If it was that easy. 

Not that the street I'm looking down at from my building should be the first priority for something like that. It has reasonable sidewalks on both sides. It's in a quiet neighbourhood, one where kids actually do play on the street in places, and where even though some streets have no sidewalks, it feels safe to walk in those streets. This street doesn't need the sneckdown analysis that others do. But look at that car. Those cars. How far they are from the actual curb right now, without interfering with traffic on the street - it's still plenty wide enough. Look at the amount of space claimed by decaying snow because no one actually needs it. Does that space really need to be paved over? Could we put some grass there? Trees maybe?