Monday, March 30, 2015

Why We Need to Stand Up

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a fast food restaurant here in Vancouver with my family, eating our last few french fries, when I realized that the man standing just a couple metres away from us was harrassing two young women in the booth nearby. He was telling them they should be ashamed of themselves because there were children here, & a number of other hateful things.

Being a bit distracted by trying to get the kids to eat with a minimum of food chucked on the floor, I didn't catch on right away. I'd see the couple cuddling in one side of the booth earlier, but the fact that it was two women just didn't register on my radar--why should it?

As soon as I realized what he was doing, I stood up & yelled at him. I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect that I have no problem with my children seeing a queer couple & I sure have a problem with my kids being exposed to such homophobic bigotry & that he should get lost. He left quickly, but not before having reduced one of the women to tears.

I told the pair I was sorry I hadn't realized what was going on & stood up sooner. I ran over & gave the crying woman a hug. I was so shocked by the whole experience--I can't remember a time I've ever seen something like that happen, such blatant & vicious bigotry.

I hope the women left feeling a little less alone & while I suspect the homophobic jerk isn't going to change his bigoted mind anytime soon, I hope he will think twice about spewing hatred next time he encounters LGBT people again. What was more important to me, however, was for my children to see me standing up for someone else. I want them to grow up to be people who will step in when somebody else needs help. I don't want to raise kids to stick to the safe sidelines.

I debated writing about this shortly after the event, but didn't want to seem like I was looking for praise. I see this as just being a decent human, nothing I need reinforcement of. But then I heard about the woman who was sexually assaulted in her home in Strathcona this week. She fought back & screamed & a neighbour heard her & intervened. This act may have saved her life. There were other people who held the perpetrator until police arrived--meaning he's in custody & won't be doing this to anyone else. A truly nightmarish situation was made slightly better because a few people stepped up.

I see a connection with these two events & bullying in schools too. Pink t-shirts & awareness campaigns are great, but I don't think our kids are really going to speak up against bullying unless they see us do the same in our lives. I hope someday we'll be able to prevent such harassment as I saw, or brutal crimes like the one in Strathcona from even happening, & I think in the meantime, we need to stick up for each other & stop it from getting worse. Whether it's bullying on the playground, harrassment of LGBT people in public, racism, or worse, we, the decent humans, the LGBT allies, are the majority.

Let's not be silent.

P.S. There is a crowdfunding campaign for the woman who was attacked, called Strathcona Cares.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

50 Shades of Biking

Meet elBoda Boda: an e-assist mid-tail cargo bike.
At the playground recently, I got into a conversation with a couple of moms about biking with our kids. One of them has a Yuba elBoda Boda (an electric midtail cargo bike) (we'll call her Ms. Boda Boda) & the other one is thinking about starting to ride with her three little kids (we'll call her Ms. Maybe Bike). Ms. Maybe Bike said she wasn't sure if she could do it, so Ms. Boda Boda chimed in & suggested she consider an electric bike. Ms. Maybe Bike went on to say that she's not sure if she's "a cyclist, you know, one of those people who ride".

I try to focus on how easy riding is & how many advantages it has over driving or taking transit--especially with two or three little kids. I love riding & I've been biking for transportation on & off for over 15 years now, so it's second nature to me, & I can get a little carried away talking about the load of paving stones Oli biked home or the four giant Ikea bags of clothes I rode with to a clothing exchange.

I think people have the idea that cycling is all or nothing. Black & white. You're either a die-hard, gearhead who bikes everywhere in all weather & always has bike grease under your fingernails, or you don't bike at all. But it's really a continuum, it's many shades of grey. There's no reason you can't just ride once in a while, in good weather, & normal clothing is perfectly fine for biking--often preferable if you have little kids, because who has time to change out of stinky spandex when you get to your destination, right?

Some people might consider me a "hard core cyclist", since I talk about it, blog about it, I even wear it on t-shirts. But really, I'm not all cycling all the time--it's just one of my options. We don't own a car, but we do drive Modo carshare vehicles once or twice a month when we go somewhere farther than we'd want to ride, or in really awful weather. I take transit sometimes, like when Linnaeus & I went to see the Nutcracker Ballet last December, or when we went out to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC with another family. I also don't really ride that far most of the time. Preschool drop-offs are about a 2km round trip, most of my grocery shopping or errands are within 3km of home. Even when I do a Costco run, I usually buy less than I would if I were driving & it's just a 15 minute ride from home.

I think maybe all the labelling divides people. Cyclist, MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra), Gear Head, Mountain Biker, Bike Commuter, Weekend Warrior, Recreational Rider... I get that our transportation can sometimes feel like a part of our identity, but let's not let semantics get in our way. Just get on a bike & ride. Try it on a weekend or evening, on an off-street path like the seawall or the Central Valley Greenway. Leave the car at home & do a quick run to the grocery store near your house for two or three things. Ride five blocks to the park with your kids on a sunny day. Just do it. I bet you'll like it.

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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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