Monday, November 17, 2014

City Riding Pros and Cons: Bicycle vs. Scooter vs. Motorbike

City Riding Pros and Cons: 
Bicycle vs. Scooter vs. Motorbike 

Bicycle--25 years riding

  • Silent
  • Out-maneuver traffic (no jams)
  • Secondary benefits to travel time: exercise/zen time
  • Free parking
  • Get exercise/cardio/always fit for ski season or other activities
  • Feels like a skill to be a good rider
  • Arrive everywhere pumped full of endorphins
  • Stay warm every season (moving)
  • Can carry a lot of stuff of unusual dimensions (eg. vaccuum cleaner on a rear rack)
  • Zero-emissions
  • Way more stealth
  • Bicycle-culture very creative/casual/low-cost
  • Very very fun
  • Can actually drink coffee while riding
  • Can do most of maintenance yourself
  • Less gear than motorized bikes
  • Can wear almost anything/almost nothing
  • Other cyclists wave
  • Can use almost any roadway/shoulders of highways
  • No insurance! No licence!
  • Can ride year-round, even in snow

Bicycle Cons:

  • Have to allow longer travel time
  • Always arrive sweaty/tendency to develop low-maintenance cyclist 'look'
  • 100% exertion
  • Difficult at times to carry as much as you need without over-exertion
  • Require 'bicycle-recovery' time
  • Have to mess around with headlamps/rear lights/batteries etc.
  • Over-use injuries 
  • Less likely to go out if tired
  • Safety factor in dark/rain
  • Safety factor on streets without bike lanes
  • Still a lot of gear to haul around (rain gear/helmet/locks)
  • More susceptible to theft

Scooter (Honda Ruckus 50cc/4-stroke)--5 years riding (36 000 km)

  • Actually pretty quiet
  • Can sneak around traffic (somewhat illegally)
  • Can park in triangle zones/motorcycle parking almost always available
  • Zero exertion
  • Can carry A LOT of stuff in panniers/through underseat to foot-well
  • Low emissions/low cost for gas
  • Get a lane! (Feel safe)
  • Full face helmet is good for incognito effect/singing en route
  • Faster than a bicycle (60 km top speed)
  • Other bikers wave (even 'real' motorbikers)
  • Has built-in lights so don't have to mess with detachable lights!
  • Can ride almost year-round  (about 1 1/2 months of ice here)
  • Very very fun
  • Friendly/cartoon factor--all ages/everyone will approach to talk about your ride
  • Low theft-factor.
  • Soooo easy to ride around town (automatic)
  • Insurance is cheap
  • Don't need a motorcycle licence (just a driver's licence)

Scooter Cons:

  • Get cold in off-season! Have to layer up/wear wind & rain gear/use hotshots
  • Shop costs/finding private mechanics who are available when you need them
  • Not much scooter-culture unless you chopper your bike/not inclined to partake
  • Doesn't feel like a real skill (doesn't require that much co-ordination/courage/fitness)
  • Have to wear anti-road-rash gear
  • Can compress vertebrae on bumps (all weight on tail bone)
  • Slow on hills/have to watch/deal with overtaking traffic
  • Not allowed on high speed highways (not necessarily a 'con'...)
  • Have to pay insurance
  • Can't carry a passenger (weight restriction)
  • Messin' around with oil n' gas

Motorbike (Kawasaki Ninja 250cc)--3 months riding


  • Fast (100km/hr)--can go on highway...can go places!
  • Arrive everywhere pumped full of adrenaline
  • Can't multi-task: pure focus/zen
  • Big Big Big Bliss-Factor
  • Riding position is better for bumps (can stand on foot pegs)
  • Probably more cool
  • Feels like a real skill to learn to ride
  • Other bikers wave
  • Still very cheap on gas and insurance
  • Anti-road-rash gear may be the same as on a scooter but feels more legit

Motorbike Cons:

  • Loud
  • Need a licence (a good thing, but time/money)
  • Arrive everywhere feeling like a Stormtrooper
  • Can't carry items of unusual dimensions
  • Not as easy to ride in town as a scooter--have to constantly change gears
  • Still can't carry a passenger--feels too dangerous
  • Feels like a luxury/not entirely practical (depending)
  • Feels less safe than bicycle/scooter in heavy rain
  • Definitely have to wear anti-road-rash gear
  • People actually less likely (than scooter) to approach and chat about ride!..maybe because this bike is pretty generic?
  • Motorbike culture more exclusive/expensive
  • Shop costs!!
  • Fast factor--higher risk
  • Can't ride year-round 


Two-Wheeled Evolution...The Fleet

There it is, the Kawasaki that may or may not change my life. It's hard to know at this point. But it felt ordained: I'd given up on getting a (motor)bike this year because everything I liked was too expensive. Time was going. And I felt greedy. How many two-wheeled vehicles does a gal need? (Three, apparently. Three.) Then the Universe intervened. Housemate Robyn, who was moving to the States, discovered he couldn't take his bike with him. He sold it to me, cheap. 

This happened in August, a couple weeks before my learner's licence was due to expire on Sept. 5th. I couldn't book a road test appointment in time. Best I could do was call up Pro-Ride (where I did my motorcycle training in Sept. 2013) and get on the cancellation list. Sure enough, Pro-Ride called on Sept. 2nd and said 'Hey! We have a cancellation! Can you do your practice test tomorrow and your road test on Friday??' I said I'd go for it. The Universe obviously wanted me on a motorbike.

At that point, I'd only crept around the neighbourhood on the Ninja, stalling randomly and trying to remember how to change gears, I hadn't even taken it through a traffic light. When I knew I just HAD to do it, I got on it that night and rode all over town. No problem! I swear, motorbike riding is 95% in your head. And I passed--the day my learner's licence expired. Suddenly, I had a bike and a licence. My soul needed time to catch up!

Here's, me, my soul, and the Ninja, catching up on the spit in Squamish, with The Chief in the background. 

There's definitely, um, a huge leap in nirvana-factor between a scooter and a motorbike. I'd describe it as one of the more visceral experiences of my life--like being an extension of a machine, suddenly capable of going very fast, while feeling strangely secure and connected to the engine. And this, from someone who definitely rides like a girl. I think the overblown safety concerns re: motorbikes are clearly related to the dominant demographic who tends to ride them. Every time I take a step 'up' the motorized ladder on two wheels, I actually feel safer. Like 'Wow! I can actually keep up with traffic!' (Now, when I drive an actual car, I feel huge, as if I'm going to bump into everyone. No room to maneuver!)

So I am indeed sticking with three two-wheeled vehicles for the moment. The insurance for both the Ruckus (50cc) and the Ninja (a 250cc) is pretty cheap, and the downfall of 'real' motorcycles is that they can't handle long-handled cargo (i.e., garden tools), so I need the Ruckus for work. The Ninja, however, doesn't have a fantastic prognosis: there are cylinder issues (and I'm not spending any more $$ on it). I could take it on an Epic Ride that would simply end when it chokes on a cylinder. Could end anywhere from Surrey (woo) to mid-Alberta. I wouldn't wager much farther. 

This blog has seen me through a full evolution of two-wheeled transportation, and I have a feeling it's not over. Recently, my trusty work vehicle (Honda Ruckus 2012, centre) hit 18 000 km, which is how much mileage was on my 2009 Ruckus when it hucked up its engine and died. I don't believe in jinxing, mainly because I've changed the oil on this one religiously, every 1000 km. So chances are, it will last longer. 

I, however, have been reconsidering the bicycle lanes! Honestly, density on the North Shore has increased SO MUCH in the past few years that the free-flowing bicycle lanes are starting to look good again. Not to say I'd go back to pedaling  like the manic gardening cycling maniac I was...five years ago. I have discovered, though, that Motorino makes an electric scooter with the same frame as the Ruckus, which means I could haul tools and claim the bike lanes at an acceptable 30 km/hr. 
See? Looks just like a Ruckus, but electric!  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Stephen Harper, Stick This in Your Pipe and Smoke It.

So here we are, on the cusp of a decision about whether the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will be pushed through our province to the shores of the Pacific.

Seems to me this is going to come down to the First Nations slowing down the Greed Monster. Sure, the oil sands aren't going to go away. But I'm not sure how they'll build a pipe across First Nations territory without consent. How many traditional chiefs does it take to stop a pipeline? One. And we have more than one.

The folks running the Unist'ot'en camp, west of  Prince George and in the path of the proposed pipeline, are fueled by good old passion and inherited responsibility and dare I say, hope and optimism for their children's future. Well, I know what side I'm on. Here's the link to their page: Unist'ot'en Camp 
And here's a link to the caravan this summer to support them: Caravan to Unis'tot'en Camp

The Unist'ot'en are a clan of the Wet'suwet'en people, who, together with the Gitksan and Nisga'a people in the same region, have been fighting various industry interests in their traditional territories for years. The Nisga'a quite famously signed the only modern-day treaty in 1997 and have a degree of self-government. The rest of B.C., except for a bit of Treaty 8 up in the northeastern corner, is unceded territory.

After growing up in small town B.C. in First Nations communities and studying FN history and treaty process in university, and even working for Indian Affairs in Alberta for a while (believe it or not, in the litigation department, for a case in which bands were suing the government for oil and gas royalties--oh well, everybody's rich now...) I'd have to say that First Nations issues get resolved very very very. 

It just comes down to philosophy. Money now or long-term stewardship. Shiny trucks or shining waters. There's enough evidence now that the environmental cost is too high. So time to slow down.

Here's a couple recent pics for perspective.
This is from Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver, looking over at Stanley Park.
Here's a modern-day freighter, loaded up with items from China that are so essential to our lives that we would trade our ecosystem for them. Note the scale of the freighter, in relation to the park headland..

Now here's a shot, taken minutes later, of the former glory of the inlet: a stern-wheeler paddle-boat, characteristic of the steamers that used to head up Indian Arm at the turn of the century. Can you see it? Zoom in. Can you see it yet? How about now? 
I think our sense of entitlement has grown in about the same proportions. Super-size.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Spring Update--Si bella bella

This is about six posts in one. Am I allowed to do this? Is it cheating?
All is fair in May.
The tulips (above) were in April. They have  faded now, quite taken over by the bounty of everything else.
The magnolia branch that DID bloom in my living room:

YES! Amazing. See previous post. This was quite the sensation. Who knew. Christmas tree stands come in handy. It bloomed for about two weeks in March, and the actual tree flushes in early April...

Like so. And from the balcony (below). This is like having Mt. Fuji in your front yard. Spectacular. Is a Magnolia kobus.

Random glorious spring sunshine pic in Roswitha's garden: tulips (stick with Darwins--they rock), anemones and the overzealous leaves of Alliums...the giant purple ones..

My painting exertions this spring...more nests, funny that. This one (big--about 2x3') and the chair were displayed in the window of 'At Home' in West Van, courtesy of longtime clients who own the store. I painted both with Farrow & Ball interior paint...donated by the store because I donated the chair for a Stephen Lewis fundraiser.

Artists all over the north shore painted children's chairs for public auction. The West Van Gogos (Swahili for 'Grandmothers') raised $10 000 to support grandmothers raising children orphaned by AIDS.

So my former homie, Jordana Meilleur, took this pic of my chair and made it look like a superstar. She's professional. Don't steal her pic :P  It's low-resolution anyways. Awesome pic.

These are willow branches, stacked against a shed in a public garden in Vancouver--
Apparently, the entire garden is used to produce materials for weaving projects by artists Sharon Kallis and David Gowman. This intrigues me and when I have more than a stitch of time before midnight (these days) I want to look into it... 

This, below, is the much-loved Rhododendron lutescens in John Rawsthorne's garden, with a backdrop of Portuguese laurel swallowed by a Clematis armandii, and possibly some Viburnum 'Spring Bouquet' still poking a branch through here & there...

And just before all this May craziness began, I managed to have some semi-wilderness adventures with adventurous and keen-to-be-wild friends, met through the  Couch-surfing-network (another Whole New World to me!)

This included renewing my fascination with the semi-wilderness here on the north shore (here's a lovely red root shot, sometime in April, somewhere waaay up Mt. Fromme)... 

...and there's the Salt Spring Island tramping gang--it's kind of amazing--2 days out and we all kind of looked like we'd been in the bush for months. (Nice hat Shahin. I think it was in a free bin...?) Eating spring greens. And Elderflower tea. And Salt Spring cheese melted into Portobellos over the fire. mmm... Getting skinnier, gourmet style.

Love Salt Spring. Sooo many rare and wondrous spring things...orchids and camassia, Gary oak meadows and arbutus, nettles and cute Germans. (That's a cute pic, just sayin.)

So, back to my beautiful gardens. Si bella bella.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Happy Ultimate Birthday to Me: 42

The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything
--from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

So this is the week I turn older every year, and sometimes I have a big party, like the year I turned 40 and had a 1940's party (the good parts of the 1940s). I was Rosie the Riveter. That was fun.
Most other years, I just make a point of feeling grateful--not in a smarmy way, but honestly taking stock of where I'm at and who's around me and how cool everything  is without anyone trying too hard.

This is a random picture from my birthday this year, which captures a lot.

Jordana made me a batch of Birthday Balls (pictured). I made up a rule that I was allowed to wear whatever I liked on other people for my birthday moment, so that's Radha's purple scarf and Sarah's Christmas moccasins. This scared them a bit because they wondered if they were going to get their things back, but that is not the point ;) There happens to be an easel in the photo, which makes me happy because I've been painting. There's also a tiny rocking chair because I'm involved in an African fundraiser, but it also represents the awesome time I'm having with the children's outdoor preschool. My hair is looking gray, which is good because I have a list of things I want to do when my hair is full-on gray. People yelled 'Hip Hip Hurray' instead of singing happy birthday, which really just gets to the point. (And I'm pretty grateful for all the good-hearted and totally-engaged-in-life-people I seem to be surrounded by in general. Good company.) We drank Bellinis with champagne.  And the sign behind me reads:

What you are in love with,what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.It will decidewhat will get you out of bed in the morning,what you do with your evenings,how you spend your weekends,what you read, whom you know,what breaks your heart,and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.Fall in Love, stay in love,and it will decide everything.

Whoa. Whoa-ho. How's that, 42??
This year is a particularly good year to hand it over to the Universe.

Oh. And here's my Birthday Tree. (Just called it that because everything in March is my Birthday ____ )
This magnolia branch broke off in the enormous snow and I couldn't bear to throw it away, so it's in the Christmas tree stand. If it blooms in the living room, my brain will evaporate. Poom!