Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Understand the BC Transportation Referendum in 8 Minutes

Whenever I see any discussion about the ongoing referendum about the Mayors Council Transportation Plan, I see a LOT of misconceptions out there. Here is a great resource that will likely answer many of your questions, including a lot of useful statistics to put the plan in context. We need to improve Metro Vancouver's transit, walking & biking infrastructure, as well as roadways. I really feel like this plan is the best we've got & worth voting yes to. But don't just take my word for it--spend eight minutes watching this presentation. You won't regret it, I promise.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

YouTubed: Entertaining DIY with Threadbanger

I love to watch DIY videos on YouTube. Occasionally, I'll actually do the project myself, but that's not why I watch Threadbanger. Which is not to say I wouldn't make the things they do on their channel, but more about how entertaining they are. Rob & Corinne are irreverent, quirky, & just plain funny to watch.

Threadbanger has been going for several years now & Rob & Corinne have gone through many DIY projects & honed their vlogging style over the years. I love the series that they are currently doing: Man vs. Pin/Corinne vs. Pin. In it, each of them try out projects--suggested by fans--as seen on Pinterest.

As you might expect, hilarity ensues, when trying to make glasses out of beer bottles, lava lamps, marshmallow shot glasses, doily lamp shades, etc. Not all of the projects are entertaining failures, some of them actually work out well. But it's really the ones that fail miserably that I'm there to see. Who doesn't want to expose the occasionally fraudulent DIY claims you find floating around Pinterest?

A quick word of warning before you watch--Rob & Corinne do swear, though it's bleeped, & there are the occasional drug use references or penis jokes & the odd injury dripping with theatre blood, so you might not want to watch this with little kids.

Here's one of my favourite videos by Threadbanger:

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Review: PoCampo Six Corners Handlebar Bag

For about two & a half years, I've rarely left the house without my Po Campo Armitage Satchel. If you haven't heard of Po Campo before, you should really check them out. They make a range of bags designed with cycling in mind. Most of the bags feature adjustable straps that open up so you can attach things like a yoga mat to your purse, attach your bag to your handlebars or a stroller. Could they be more perfect for my life?!? I could take my yoga mat to exercise classes, attach the bag to my stroller on trips to the park, & strap my bag to my bike when running errands.

So when I noticed that Po Campo is running a monthly contest to show how we use their awesome bags, I had to play along. I hashtagged a few pictures on Instagram--not hard, because the bag is usually in the Yuba bread basket & half the pictures I take these days are of the bike--& sort of forgot about it. Then Po Campo left me a comment on my pic to let me know I'd won the contest for February for this photo, taken outside the grocery store after I bought a few too many things for my front basket. I used my Armitage Satchel's straps to tie down the two jumbo packs of toilet paper I'd bought. Good enough to get me the 1km home. :)

Po Campo did a wee interview with me that they posted on their blog here, & sent me a cute little Six Corners Handlebar Bag as a prize. I say little, because I'm a mom & I usually need to drag around snacks, diapers, wipes, books, toys, plus the usual wallet, keys, etc that you'd have in your purse, so I tend to go for larger bags. But for the quick trips to the park or when I get to go out sans enfants, this little Handlebar Bag is big enough.

I used it recently when I went to Playdome & managed to fit a diaper, two wipes, a few cards & ID, cash, a pack of gum, my phone, plus some business cards in the various pockets of the purple lined interior. The Handlebar Bag was waterproof enough when it rained on the way home--it's made of a plastic coated fabric. I also like the subtle reflective stitching in the straps, giving me a little added visibility on the roads without making me look like a crossing guard.

Check out Po Campo's line of bags & accessories on their website, & if you already have one, you can show it off on social media--hashtagged #PoCampo--to enter their fan photo contest. Good luck!

A little more about Po Campo:

Back in 2009, Chicago industrial designer Maria Boustead had a problem: she couldn’t find a bag practical enough to attach to her bike for her work commutes & stylish enough to take into her office. So she came up with a solution: Po Campo's functional & versatile bags.

In May 2013, Po Campo partnered with World Bicycle Relief, a Chicago nonprofit that supplies new bikes into programs for rural African communities, giving them access to healthcare, education, & economic opportunities. Every time Po Campo sells 50 bags through their online store, they pay for a new bicycle for a schoolgirl in Africa.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. My first PoCampo bag was a birthday gift from my husband & the one I reviewed above was won in a contest. I was not compensated by PoCampo for this review.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bike Parking Gets the Squeeze

Yesterday I brought the kids to our local community health clinic for their vaccinations. Bronte was due for her 18 month boosters, so I booked Linnaeus in to get his pre-kindergarten shots at the same time. Of course we biked down there--it's the fastest way to get the two or so kilometres to the clinic. The one thing I don't like about biking to the clinic with our Yuba Mundo is the bike parking situation. It's a tiny parking lot & the bike racks--several single loops in a row--are crammed in where there's space, between the ends of the car parking spaces & a railing. There was a bike at each loop, & only spaces on the side between the racks & the railing. The Yuba, with its running boards on the back & basket on the front, doesn't fit in such tight spaces. So I had to wiggle up against the railing beside a loading spot instead, hoping the aren't picky about where bikes get locked up at the clinic.

Afterthought parking at the new Home Depot
This is a common problem, actually, that businesses squeeze their bike racks into out-of-the-way corners, or tiny spaces with 30cm or less on either side of the rack like you see to the right. Bike parking is nearly always retrofitted after the car parking is planned, but even when it's a new building, the bike infrastructure seems to be an afterthought.

I would love to see a little more thought go into the placement of racks. A simple option for businesses that have a parking lot would be to take one car parking space & put the bike rack in the middle of it. Rather than just providing room for one driver, this would mean that as many as ten customers could park their bikes in that one space. A lot more efficient, no?

Even for businesses that don't have their own lot, just leaving a little more space around the rack would go a long way to make cycling to that business easier, especially for the growing number of us who ride cargo bikes. With two little kids on my bike, I need to have space around it to load up my purchases & get the kids into their seats. Racks like the one in the picture seem to be designed for single people on regular bikes who aren't actually going to be loading anything into their bike. But this is Home Depot, a place that sells a lot of big bulky stuff. Seems silly to make it hard for customers to take such things home from your store, right?

This is an issue that I plan to bring up in my new position on the Active Transportation Policy Committee for the City of Vancouver. Got any feedback you'd like me to add around bike parking in Vancouver? How do you think we could improve it?

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The good & the bad

I like to focus on the positive about biking with kids because there really are so many great things about it. But it ain't all sunshine & roses every day. One thing that sorta sucks about cycling compared to driving is when your kid is having a meltdown. In a car, you strap them in, shut the door & only you are really subjected to the screeching. On a bike, anyone within a block can see & hear you.

Let me give you an example. Linnaeus often doesn't eat his snack during preschool, so he's pretty hungry when I pick him up. Oliver let him sit & finish it before heading home a couple of times, & back when I used to walk with the stroller to pick him up, he'd stand on the skateboard attachment, using the footrest of the stroller (that baby Bronte's short little legs didn't need) to hold his snack. Nowadays I always pick him up with the Yuba Mundo. It's way easier since my hip is giving me grief when I walk, plus it's faster. But he isn't strapped into a child seat anymore--he rides on the rack, holding onto his own little handlebars--so he can't eat a snack while we bike.

One day he asked to eat his snack after preschool, but I didn't want to sit & wait while he did that. Bronte & I were hungry, since we were planning to head directly home for lunch. So I tried to convince him to hop on the bike & delay gratification for a mere five minutes. That's all it takes to bike the 1km or so home from preschool. But nope. He was not having it. No matter what I said, he was intent on pitching a wobbler. So I plunked him on the bike & headed out while he cried loudly.

It was like having a siren or something & I'm sure the doppler effect of his constant "WaaaaAAAAaaaaaaaah!" must have been a bit funny, though it was pretty hard for me to see that in the moment. The kid screamed the entire trip home, while I set my jaw & stared straight ahead, trying to ignore the heads that were probably turning, people wondering why the heck this kid was caterwauling.

I guess it's rides like these that make me appreciate the good ones more. How about you: got any public tantrum stories to share with me?

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Help Grow the Urban Forest: Buy a Tree From TreeKeepers

Our first TreeKeepers tree: a spruce
Do you remember how we got our first live Christmas tree from TreeKeepers this past year? I posted about it extensively on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & here on the blog, but I'll forgive you if you've forgotten or you're new around here. ;) Anyway, TreeKeepers is a non-profit partnership between Tree City & the Environmental Youth Alliance working with the City of Vancouver to grow the urban forest. They help get trees into the hands & then balconies or yards of people like you, with the goal of planting 150,000 additional trees by 2020. (This is part of the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan)

So why am I posting? Well, their latest event is upon us: TreeKeepers annual Spring tree sale! TreeKeepers is ready to take your online orders. You can choose from 16 different types of fruit & hardy ornamental trees for your balcony or private yard. They have apple, fig & plum trees as well as the rare Smiling Forest Lily Tree & the beautiful flowering Leonard Messel Magnolia. 

I have no idea how we're going to choose! TreeKeepers has some great advice: asking the right questions & keeping in mind LIGHT, SOIL & GROWTH. Read more about choosing the right tree on their website here.

Whichever tree we get, I do know that we'll be biking the trees home from the community centre pickup site--stay tuned for photos of that in about a month. :)

Maybe you're wondering what this is going to cost you? I saved the best part for last: you can buy a tree for just $10-15 on the TreeKeepers website. Then you pick it up at one of the distribution sites in your (Vancouver) neighbourhood. Here's the list:

Trout Lake Community Centre   
Trees! Photo via TreeKeepers
Sat. April 11, 1pm-2:30pm

Kitsilano Community Centre   
Sun. April 12, 10am-11:30am

Killarney Community Centre   
Sun. April 12, 2pm-3:30pm

Slocan Park Community Centre   
Sat. April 18, 10am-11:30am

Sunset Community Centre   
Sat. April 18, 2pm-3:30pm

Strathcona Community Centre   
Sun. April 19, 10am-11:30am

Dunbar Community Centre   
Sun. April 19, 2pm-3:30pm

Mt. Pleasant Community Centre  
Wed. April 22, 6pm-7:30pm

Want to help?
TreeKeepers is looking for volunteers to help out with promotion, tree distribution & their Earth Day event. To sign up, please email: or click here for more details.

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