Friday, July 27, 2012

[LOABkw] Feeling Flat

Life On A Bike in KW is a series of posts about Chris' attempt to get as much done as possible on two wheels, while Erin takes the car out of town to observe birds. How cycle-friendly is KW? 

Monday: disaster! About three blocks away from work on my way home, I notice that my bike seat feels... springier... than usual. I look down, and it's not the seat, it's the tire.

What a deflating feeling.

No slow leak here: within a minute or two, the tire is completely flat. And I am completely unprepared. A patch kit in my pannier, but no pump!

Getting home was not too bad. Despite having a good idea of the bus system around work, I missed the first attempt, but I caught one in the direction of Conestoga Mall. Thankfully, all GRT buses have bike racks. You've seen these, right?

Nice rack.

So getting home wasn't too bad, though I imagine some people were wondering why I was walking my bike up and down the same street.

I should have been able to repair the flat where I was, but it turns out I wasn't even able to repair it at home:

  • I didn't have a working emergency pump.
  • My patch kit was so old the rubber compound had fossilized!
  • I didn't have a replacement tube.
  • I had just loaned Erin my floor pump the day before because of her own flat tire woes.
This may seem unforgivable, but here's a secret: this is my first bike flat ever. You could excuse my complacency.

The next morning, I resolved to take the old Jamis to work via Canadian Tire, where I could correct all these things. It worked, but I discovered that in the two months since I had last rode the Jamis, it had gone from being my trusty steed for the last 12 years to an almost unrideable, painful, ill-fitting, dilapidated torture device.

Wow. I can't believe I rode that bike for over a decade.

None the less, I made it through the day (albeit with some of the neck and shoulder pain that characterized the last couple of years.) I brought home a new mini-pump, a tube, and a couple of new patch kits. And I hoped to hell the a patch would work because taking the wheel off would be a major chore...

Internal hub & brake: low maintenance != easy maintenance.

You see, the same piece of high tech on the Brodie that makes it low-maintenance and reliable also makes it much harder to get a wheel off. And the unforgiving topology of tori requires wheel removal. The Nexus hub pictured above requires both brake and gear cables to be detached and has an extra mount point to worry about too, along with alignment issues when you put it back together.

This guy didn't have to contend with a hub in his record-setting tube switch:

Fortunately, while you can't change a tube without completely removing the wheel, you can patch it in place. But you have to have a patch kit that hasn't expired, and you have to have a pump. Even if you can't patch it perfectly, it may be the difference between being stranded, and being able to nurse your way home or to a bike shop.

So, some lessons from this event:

  • Have a pump and a patch kit. Preferably attached to your bike so they're always there. (My patch kit still has no home but the pannier.)
  • Keep some bus tickets in your wallet. If you're in town and have a smart phone, Google Maps is invaluable for finding bus stops and will tell you when the next one is coming. It can also give you transit directions home.
  • Also with the bus, if the racks are full but the bus is not, be prepared to remind the driver that GRT says you can bring the bike on board.
  • If you're entirely carless, a spare beater bike is not a bad idea. After all, you may not even have a shop with bike repair equipment within walking distance.
Good news though: I've patched the tube and it seems to be holding. If this bike is susceptible to flats, I'll have to invest in some different tires that are puncture-resistant: Schwalbe makes a line of them that a friend recommended to me. I really don't want to have to take the back wheel off, ever.

And I don't want to be caught flat-footed.

Monday, July 23, 2012

[LOABkw] Signalling. Also, black pickup trucks?

Nothing is ever simple. For instance, signalling on a bike.

A cautionary tale

Last year, I was biking up Bridge St. in the bike lanes that weren't officially bike lanes yet, approaching my right turn onto Labrador. I sensed someone coming up behind me, and I made a proper right-turn signal (left arm out, forearm bent up) before starting my turn.

The driver in the black pickup truck (why is it always black pickup trucks?) must have seen my signal, because the alternative doesn't bear thinking about. As I banked into the turn, trying to hold speed, the truck turned with me, also with speed. I was probably doing 20kph on the inner turn, and the truck matched me positionally right through the turn, but at much higher speed on a wider turn. Probably around 40kph. His tires were squeaking as he roared off. One wobble and I would have been under them.

The lesson is that the information you convey by signalling may be used against you. Particularly with right turns, I have seen many situations where maintaining the appearance that you are going straight is the best way to guarantee you'll get to turn without conflict.

Friday's theme

On Friday morning's commute, I biked up Regina towards the Bridgeport intersection. I was passed by (you guessed it) a black pickup truck, who turned his right turn signal on. This gave me pause, and it took a moment for me to realize what felt wrong... Bridgeport is one-way and he was signalling against it. I took my standard defensive position behind the right-turning vehicle though... after all, his destination may be a driveway beyond the intersection. Not to mention that it's usually just a good idea to avoid filtering up the right.

This is one time the air horn was useful. As the light turned green, he began his turn onto Bridgeport, and I started blasting the horn and gesticulating a very non-standard "don't go that way!" signal. Not sure if he reacted to me or not, but he straightened out and roared off. I could almost taste his embarrassment, but all's well that ends well.

No such thing as an overabundance of caution

There was an incident later that same ride that served to remind me that I can still learn to cycle safer. It worked out okay, and whether I was within my rights or not is ambiguous, but I put myself at risk. A new lesson learned.

I crossed the expressway at Lexington, and prepared to shift left to turn at Davenport. I had to wait longer than usual because of a passing heavy truck, but behind him I had plenty of room to clearly signal and make my lane switch. Or so I thought.

The next vehicle was coming up at a speed that had to be close to 80kph. I signaled left, shoulder checked, judged that I had room (but didn't pick up on the rate of closure.) I started angling left, glanced again, and saw that the vehicle was much closer, coming up fast, and planning to pass me on my left. I yanked myself back to the right, the driver realized what my intent was and slowed right down, and after I was sure he was leaving me room, I made my lane switch.

(No, the vehicle was not a black pickup truck. But it was a black SUV.)

Reviewing the incident in my head, I have realized:
  • Lexington is a speedway, with dangerous speeding commonplace; I know this and must not forget it
  • I didn't have to take advantage of that gap: there are other ways across the intersection
  • Signalling and shoulder-checking caused me to veer left earlier than I wanted.
It's not clear I was in the right in that situation, but even if I was: I can be right, and still dead.

Yes, the driver was coming up dangerously fast, but that is the fault of Lexington's road design as much it is that of the driver. Waterloo City Council can fix Lexington, if they choose (but so far they have waffled.) It would enable cycling for a lot more people for whom it is too intimidating now. I don't think less of anyone who refuses to bike through this corridor, but there are no alternate routes when it comes to Waterloo's great cycling gulf.

Irony and Irrationality

Friday afternoon, while working through the another miserable gap in our cycling network I must cross on a daily basis (Forwell Creek to Regina via Weber and Columbia), I apparently made an impression on the driver behind me with my signalling (lane-claiming, right turn, left turn.) She called out "nice signalling, buddy!" as I was preparing to turn onto Regina.

I waved, but I was peeved. She may have said "nice signalling, buddy!" but what I heard was "I will allow you to use the road!" I felt the same way I did when another chatty driver said she would give me a pass to go bike on the sidewalk because I was a nice guy. It's the idea that drivers own the road, and it is at their sufferance that those not in a motorized vehicle are permitted.

In retrospect, my reaction was completely irrational. This motorist was probably expressing simple appreciation that I was doing everything I could to be predictable and safe. She gave me room and time and was totally not driving a black pickup truck. So when I compare the morning's incident to the afternoon's, there is no good reason for me to be unhappy about that.

And yet...

The risks of signalling

The best way to be safe on a bike is to be predictable, and signalling is an important part of avoiding surprise. On the other hand, I have mentioned three risks of signalling from a bike:

  • There is a cost: taking a hand off the handlebars robs some of your control.
  • You may think your signal has bought you room to move, while a motorist may not have seen or has ignored it.
  • Your signal may remove ambiguity from your actions, which may cause someone to be less cautious.
(The last one must be balanced against the fact that removing ambiguity is usually a good thing!)

For me, signalling is about making the best use of the small amount of control a cyclist has to influence the behaviour of other road occupants. It is a tool to be used in moderation, and always with a mind towards unintended consequences.

Black pickup trucks??

Early this spring, the driver of a black pickup truck-- whom I delayed for about three and a half seconds at an intersection-- yelled at me to get the hell off the road and onto the sidewalk.

I should acknowledge the possibility that there is only one very confused black pickup truck driver in KW, who perhaps owns a black SUV as a second vehicle, and I have the bad fortune of running across him time and again. It seems unlikely that one style of vehicle should attract less attentive drivers.

And yet...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

[LOABkw] Tools of the trade

Life On A Bike in KW is a series of posts about Chris' attempt to get as much done as possible on two wheels, while Erin takes the car out of town to observe birds. How cycle-friendly is KW? 

Erin is now at Rock Point, banding birds. I am officially car-less. More or less. For instance, I booked a car rental for the weekend after this one, to go visit her. The price shocked me... only $53 for a two day weekend rental? I wonder if I'm missing something. At that rate, you could rent a lot of weekends before you hit your typical lease or loan payment, assuming you don't need a car during the week.

Also, the rental agency (Avis) is a short walk from my home. That's a big deal: when I rent a car to travel for work, I insist on renting from that place. No pickup/drop-off hassle. Once again, the importance of geographic proximity over other aspects when you aren't driving yourself everywhere.

The Obligatory Gear Post

I backed myself into a corner, saying that the next thing I would blog about would be a "what I ride" post. Turns out, I don't like dictating my own blogging agenda beforehand. I like to go with the flow, write about whatever is on my mind.

Still, this is a post that needs writing, for this series to cover what I want it to. Since I've been cycle-commuting for twelve years, I've tried a lot of different products, clothes, clever ideas and gimmicks. A kind of darwinism of usefulness, and a new-found love for cycling minimalism, has whittled those down to the things that are truly valuable. I hope you find it interesting... or at least informative.

What I want to do is draw a line between what is truly important, what is helpful, and what is simply "nice to have". Cycling requires very little. Cyclists tend to accumulate stuff over time. If you're a gear fetishist-- and I admit, I used to be-- you could easily turn a cheap travel option into an expensive hobby. You have been warned.


In June, I put aside my undersized and beat-up Jamis, and bought a beautiful new Brodie Section.7 from King Street Cycles. This one has a few must-haves, like fenders and rear cargo rack. It still needs a chain guard, and will get one as soon as I'm biking in long pants again.

Section.7 and the things I ride with
(I recommend local retailers for bikes, as many of them offer free service on purchases. This is really helpful, if you're not the type to tear bikes down and put them back together again in rideable shape. Even though I've replaced the Jamis' whole transmission, I appreciate not having to monkey up this bike.)

Riding this bike has taught me some important lessons:

1. The right bike is much better than the wrong bike. The Jamis served me well, but was ill-fitted to my body and physical limitations. That sapped my motivation. I didn't want to spend money on a new bike when I had a working one, but I haven't regretted this purchase now that I finally made it.

Still, the corollary to this lesson is, any bike is better than no bike. If you want to get started, don't let the idea of "finding the perfect bike" get in the way. Chances are you'll need to ride a couple of years before you even know what the perfect bike is. I rode the Jamis for 12 years before I knew.

2. A beautiful bike will make you fearful. Bike theft is real. I bought a flashy bike. Now I stress about where I leave it. This is not a problem I had so much with the old Jamis.

If this idea bothers you, buy a used bike for cheap. Of course, when you do, try to make sure it's a legitimate sale and not "hot".

3. You don't need a billion gears. The Section.7 has a 7-speed shifter and no rear derailleur. In KW, that is enough. And now I understand how the Dutch get by with 3-speed bikes in their flat country.

The Jamis was a 21-speed and had a granny gear for steep hills (which I never used it on a road, it felt like surrender.) Turns out, I didn't need all that for city riding. Chances are you don't either.

The Brodie has a number of other nice features. I like twist-shifters, but that's a personal thing-- many hate them. The internal hub shifting system is a wonder for city riding. Simply put, I can shift at a stop... that simple fact has changed my world. Also the benefit of lower maintenance, as the hub is a sealed unit.

Okay, that's enough talking about the bike. Less text, more pictures!


Okay, let's get this out of the way first: I do not support mandatory helmet laws. I believe bicycle helmets have their place and provide some small safety benefit, and adults should be free to make their own risk assessment. The effects of mandatory helmet laws on cycling safety are complex, and sometimes detrimental. Read here if you want to understand more.

I do wear a helmet for a substantial portion of my cycling, because I am frequently trekking 9km through some busy traffic corridors, and I'll take any edge I can get. These days, I'm wearing a Bern Brentwood.

Size XXL.
You should replace your helmet every 5 or so years (recommendations vary) so this year I decided to move away from the "spaceship on your head" fluted style to something that I felt would provide some better side and back impact protection. There is a lot of debate about whether traditional helmets truly provide a safety benefit (especially when weighed against the effect of risk compensation) and while this is still not a helmet rated for being hit by a fast-moving car, I think it's a step up.

For short rides within my neighbourhood I will omit this. Sometimes this makes me uncomfortable, but the reaction is almost a superstitious one. I've gone 12 years without ever being hit by a car, so sometimes I wonder if I use a helmet as a totem. I have had a serious fall at over 30kph, but even then my head never touched the ground.


If I had written this a year ago, I'd have a lot more to say about clothes. But I've decided to put aside the cycling-specific clothes as much as I can... bike shorts, half-gloves, yellow-lensed glasses... whatever. By and large, I now cycle in my street clothes as much as possible. I will occasionally wear a loose-fitting synthetic cycling shirt, if it's excessively hot.

There may be more to say about clothes when the weather cools. If the weather ever cools. The short version is, have a decent jacket for wet weather, but you won't be biking in the rain that often. Apart from that, just bike in your clothes as much as you can. Or bring a change of clothes, if it helps. You don't need to wear a special uniform.


Pay attention. This is important.

City cycling inevitably means negotiating for space with cars. There are a number of things you should strongly consider having.

Don't skimp. Get a high quality rear flasher.
Get a rear flasher. And use it whenever you're on major roads, even in the daylight. A good one will be visible a hundred metres away in bright sun.

This is really valuable. I notice a big difference in the space cars give me on the road when I'm running this flasher. I believe it makes motorists aware of me earlier, which gives them more time to pass me in an orderly fashion, instead of a late reaction which results in a tight high-speed squeeze.

In combination with assertive lane placement (something I'll talk about some other time), that means that almost all drivers will pass me courteously on the worst roads.

The one above is a Planet Bike flasher from MEC. Not expensive. Get one.


Keep a front light for night rides.
The front reflector is legally required in most places. But I strongly recommend having a front light handy for riding after dark. If it flashes, that's helpful. You want it more to be seen, than to illuminate the road that streetlights are already shining on.

The Night Rider I have mounted on there is a fairly expensive new acquisition, enough to dazzle in daylight. At the very least, you should have a 1 watt LED lamp handy. And don't worry about batteries... unless you have a high-power light, they'll last for ever. (And if you have something brighter, it should be rechargeable.)

Deliberate mirror shot.
My left handlebar carries two vital tools: a mirror (another must-have for mixing with traffic) and a bell (a must-have for mixing with pedestrians.) Get a mirror and a bell. Use them.

The red switch on the right is something a little extra: an Air Zound air horn. It's somewhat handy, but I wouldn't whole-heartedly recommend it. It can really grab motorists' attention (or wake up the gaggle of ipod-wearing students blocking the entire trail.) But it makes you choose between horn and brakes, and you should always be choosing brakes.

It's astoundingly loud, though. And good value for money. I wish I could mount it closer to my thumb, but the twist shifter on the right handlebar gets in the way...


There's a lot of different products for carrying things in bikes.

Get a rear pannier rack. With that, you can get traditional pannier bags (MEC makes some great ones), or rear baskets. Refer back to the first photo to see each.

Speaking of which, I'm very fond of these Basil Memories baskets. They hook on and off very quickly, and have an integrated handle. Great for grocery shopping, though they do bang around noisily.

They should pay me an advertising fee.


What you get for a lock depends on your bike, location and level of paranoia. There's a lot of opinions about locks on the internet, and most of it will make you terrified to leave your bike anywhere ever again.

I have a Kryptonite U-lock and cable combo. The cable is a handy addition, allowing me to quickly run a noose through the frame and front wheel. Lets me relax a bit more about letting this bike out of my sight.

Final words

Hopefully, I've made this post descriptive but not prescriptive. This is what works for me, what works for you might be quite different. But take a look around... you may find exactly what's right for you.

For instance, yesterday I locked up at the supermarket next to a young lady with an awesome long tail. I admired her ride for its cargo capacity (200lb, she said.) She admired mine for its gearing and light weight. (I guess we checked out each other's equipment.)

It's great that there are finally so many purpose-built bikes showing up here in Canada. Utility cycling and commuting can be done with your bog-standard mountain bike, but gradually we're catching on to better alternatives. With bikes built for just getting around, infrastructure to make us welcome on the street and and at our destination, and learning to normalize cycling as a routine part of life, this community is shifting gear.

It's exciting to see.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

[LOABkw] Conversations & Provisions

 Life On A Bike in KW is a series of posts about Chris' attempt to get as much done as possible on two wheels, while Erin takes the car out of town to observe birds. How cycle-friendly is KW?


Yesterday was not a great day to be on a bike, at least for me. Heavy traffic means aggressive and unpredictable drivers. Also, there is work underway on a site off Bridge St., which presented me with this wonderful example of bike riders as second-class citizens:

Extra points from the judges for artistic placement right next to the bike symbol
I have since conversed with the region, who said they'd look into it. Today, at least, the practice was still in effect.

After that and the traffic which followed, just when I thought I was clear of the insanity, my chain popped. That meant struggling with it for ten minutes under a hot sun in a used car lot near Lancaster and Victoria.

Earlier in the trip, because of the heavy traffic and everybody's slow speed, I had not one but two interesting conversations in the street. One was while I waited behind left-turning traffic on Labrador, watching a driver nose out of a driveway alongside to my right. She saw my concern:

"Are you going left?"


"I didn't want to cut you off. You must take your life into your own hands here!"

I take my time, and it works out. It's a nutty intersection.

"I don't know why you don't hop along the sidewalk and bypass all this?"

Technically that's illegal. I'd rather not do that. 
"Oh, I hate when people do that! But you're a nice guy, I'll give you a pass."

...needless to say, I passed on the pass to pass.

Later, on Bridge south of University, I came upon a big traffic backup. This is an area to keep your wits about you: Google Maps calls this part of Bridge a "bicycle-friendly road" (code for "not a complete meat grinder but don't expect any favours") and when car traffic is slow, it behooves bikes to take it easy too. Zipping up the right is tempting, but there's not even a strip of paint to suggest you have a right to that space, and it can disappear without warning.

A cyclist came up behind me while I pedaled slowly. Over my shoulder I chatted him up.

I'm not going any faster, so feel free to pass me. But this road can eat you up, so be careful.

"Yeah, it's as bad as Lexington."  Ahah, I think... a fellow traveler.

The cyclist passes me, and then eventually hops up onto the sidewalk. Despite how I feel about that, I have a hard time holding that against him: he uses it to get to the crosswalk at Bridle and turn left, the heavy traffic not offering him any opportunity. Prior to that, though, he quips:
"The cars don't care!"
Considering my previous conversation on Labrador, it may be that the cars don't care... but the drivers certainly do.


Today, at T minus three days to Erin's departure, I took the car to work specifically to obtain a few things difficult to transport on bike.

Are those maps? Does anyone use maps anymore?

The bird food is a lunchtime trip to Exotic Wings in St. Clements to save about $30 over the prices at the vet down the road. The water (and the propane, in fact) is RO, for homebrewing. KW's water is quite drinkable, though it's a little hard to brew beer with. How would I fill this need without a car? Possibly with carshare, or maybe by investing in an RO system at home. The propane could also be made obsolete if I switched over to natural gas (which has already been done for our barbecue.)

I should consider these moves anyway, car or no. I like things that reduce the number of silly errands I have to run. But if you don't have casual access to heavy goods transportation, it becomes even more important to think about.

Time to say goodbye to the Matrix for a few months. But it has a little parting message for you to think about:

Won't you too?
So bike safe, walk safe, drive safe.

I'll get to that "tools of the trade" post soon!

Monday, July 9, 2012

[LOABkw] Countdown and looking ahead

Life On A Bike in KW is a series of posts about Chris' attempt to get as much done as possible on two wheels, while Erin takes the car out of town to observe birds. How cycle-friendly is KW?

Erin heads out of town this weekend. You can follow her bird-nerding adventures on a blog aptly titled Adventures of a Bird Nerd. And since she's taking the car, my countdown is on.

Erin wishes her bird nerding would be this awesome.
The funny part is that to a large extent, things won't change next week. (When it comes to getting around, that is-- Erin's absence will certainly affect my life for the next few months!) After all, I'm already cycling to work 3 or 4 days a week. How much different will this be?

The challenge is going to be in errand and "one-off" trips, I think:
  • Groceries: I can do it, but I have to think about volume and weight.
  • Hardware store (hard to predict what you need to haul to keep a house in working order. A box of screws is easy-- a new toilet, less so.)
  • Pet store. (7 birds to feed, and the best deal for food is over in St Clements.)
  • Visits out of town.
  • Heavy occasional supplies that I use for brewing beer, such as RO water and propane refills
When I started thinking about this, I realize that despite the fact that I have reduced my personal car dependence quite far, it's the last mile (so to speak) which is the least flexible. Alternatives exist for specific things, like I know where to get more parakeet food in town, conveniently on my way home-- but at almost twice the cost. Hardware stores tend to offer delivery.

A big, less obvious benefit of car ownership is that you don't have to think about this sort of thing very hard. You make a decision and go. Your cargo capacity is enough to handle almost any need. You can go further to get the best deal. You can go whatever the conditions are, and you have secure storage on hand for multi-stop trips.

I can haul a lot on my bike, considering it's a fairly conventional design. Two Basil Memories baskets are already demonstrating their value:

Handles with all the grace of a pregnant sow.

... and this past weekend, I proved that they had the strength to carry 24 cans of pop on one side, and 5kg of ice on the other. That's good, but there's no way I'm fitting a 20lb propane tank or a 5-gallon water jug in there. There will be the point at which I turn to Car Share. And there's always transit, too.

Though this guy has figured it out.

Flat Rate vs. Pay-as-you-go

It's clear that car ownership is simpler, and while driving an owned car is certainly not free, a single trip feels virtually free-- purchase, insurance, maintenance and even to a certain extent gasoline all feel like fixed overheads. (Yes, I believe it's easy to think of fuel as a fixed overhead: ask yourself if you mentally debited $1 from your budget the last time you drove 10km.) Car ownership feels like a flat rate that once you pay, you get a lot of convenience for free. People like that sort of thing.

Car Share and transit are pay-as-you-go, and they come with the (sometimes uncomfortably obvious) awareness of what each trip costs. Do I want to take a Car Share vehicle for an hour ($10 on my plan) to get a $15 propane tank fill? Or spend $70 to visit my parents? That incremental cost seems outrageously expensive, but it has to be compared against the cost of buying and running a new car ($8-$13K a year) or even keeping a cheaper used car on the road.

It seems clear to me that there will be opportunities to trade time for money, and money for time. Overall, there will be a drive (no pun intended) to seek efficiencies: combine trips, buy in bulk, choose destinations based on accessibility rather than bargain-hunting across town.

And of course, do as much as I can on two wheels, for free.

(courtesy Threadless)
Next time... the tools of the trade!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

[LOABkw] - Life On A Bike in KW

Life On A Bike in KW is a series of posts about Chris' attempt to get as much done as possible on two wheels, while Erin takes the car out of town to observe birds. How cycle-friendly is KW?


I'd like to welcome you to something new. A blog within a blog, if you will: Life On A Bike in KW.

Riding bikes in this town is nothing new for me. I have been a part-time cycle commuter during the warmer months for over a decade, regarding that ride as an easy way to get exercise. I have put over seven thousand kilometres on a Jamis Explorer mountain bike, wearing through a set of panniers and an entire transmission in the process. With helmets and reflective jackets and purpose-designed bike clothes, I regarded myself as "part of the cycling subculture" willing to take on any road to get where I need to.
Me with a spaceship on my head, ca. 2010

But there has been a sea change in my thinking this year: I realized that I don't want to be some kind of counter-culture hero. I just want to be a regular guy, on a bike. I want to treat cycling as a natural way to get around this city. And I want others to see me as a regular guy on bike they can identify with, instead than a spandex-clad road warrior. Because more than anything else, I want other people out there on bikes with me.

Also, I look terrible in spandex.

The Story So Far

The Region of Waterloo has come a long way since I bought that Jamis in 2000. At the time, virtually no road had bike lanes. There was no formal statement at any level about growing cycling as a transportation mode. The Iron Horse Trail had been established only a few years before. If I saw another person on a bike, it was almost always a student of a university or high school. (Of course, my route at the time usually went through UW campus, so this shouldn't be surprising.)

Contrast our current situation in 2012. The region and the cities all have master plans for cycling. The city of Waterloo has even won an award for its progress. Bike lanes and pathways don't quite form a continuous network yet, but the gaps are much smaller. Despite occasional signs of waivering conviction (the region's backpedalling-- no pun intended-- in Conestogo, the city of Waterloo failing to pull the trigger on Lexington, and penny-pinching budgets by all governments), I can attest personally to the improved bike friendliness of Kitchener and Waterloo.

We have reached the point at which a minimal level of continuous cycling infrastructure is within reach. The region has established Walk Cycle Waterloo Region to look at the situation holistically, and they are painting a picture of how to build a more mature network of cycleways. The outcome has been a gradually growing number of people for whom cycling is within their comfort zone.

Have you noticed how many bikes there are out there right now? I know the weather has been great, but there's more going on than that.

The Opportunity

This year, I have been biking more than I ever have before. There are a number of reasons for this, which I will discuss in time. But I have been presented with an opportunity to live effectively car-free for the rest of the summer: my partner and occasional co-blogger Erin will be spending ten weeks in a provincial park, as a bird observer. And she will be taking the car.

I'm pretty well equipped to deal with the absence of the car (though the absence of Erin is another matter.) I have access to transit, and I've picked up a Grand River Carshare "simple" membership just in case. And of course, there's always my own two feet.

But more than anything else, I look to my bike to make this work: now for more than just commuting, it will be my primary mode of transport.

And it's not the Jamis anymore. I have a new bike. Which I'll talk more about in another post.

Brodie Section 7, loaded for bear (and to bear)

The Journey

The idea of this series will be to show how a regular guy in KW can make cycling as primary transportation work. Also, to show where our governments are getting it right, and wrong, on cycling, what barriers need to be bridged (*cough* Expressway *cough*) and any other discoveries along the way.

I hope you'll read along.