How Much Carbon is Created by One Space Shuttle Being Launched

by Mark Zaugg 30. November 2015 19:32

Today while watching CBC's Power and Politics I saw a question flash by while Elizabeth May was being interviewed.  Sadly, I'm not watching in high resolution, so I can only guess at the name of the questioner.  I believe her name was Phyllis Brown Rouble - please correct me if you can.

She asked:  “can anyone tell me how much carbon is created by one space shuttle being launched into space and what damage is done to the ozone layer”

I’m a space aficionado and I thought I’d make a quick attempt to estimate it.

First, we need a little information on the Space Shuttle.  When it launched, the Space Shuttle consisted of four main visible parts:  The Orbiter Vehicle itself, the External Tank, and the two Solid Rocket Boosters on each side of the External Tank.

The Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) are simple, cheap and reliable boosters used to get the shuttle off the ground.  SRBs don’t perform as well as liquid hydrogen engines, but their job was only to get the vehicle moving.  They burned ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP).  The actual source of fuel was aluminum because it has good energy properties and is hard to light accidentally.  The fuel was held together with rubber binder.  This is the carbon contained in the fuel and totalled 12.04% of the total mass of the fuel.

The Orbiter had three main engines and drew it’s fuel from the external tank.  That fuel was liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, when the hydrogen was burned it created plain water which is considered a zero-emission fuel.  No carbon whatsoever was put in the atmosphere from the liquid fuels.

Each SRB contained about 500,000 kg of fuel.  Of that mass about 60,200 kg (12.04%) consisted of carbon-bearing binder.  As exciting as polymer chemistry is to me, this gets crazy in a hurry.  In a nutshell, we have long chains of carbon and hydrogen with some molecules of oxygen and nitrogen strategically aligned in the mix.

Very roughly, I’m going to equate 1 kg of APCP to 1 kg of gasoline.  Let me stress, they are not the same, and APCP is really nasty stuff, but this is at least ballpark equivalence of carbon.

And here is where my mind gets blown.

According to Stats Can, in 2014 only in my home province of Alberta, we had gross sales totalling 6,566,200,000 litres of gasoline sold.  That equates to 17,989,589 litres per day.  Depending on the blend, I’m going to estimate 1 litre of gasoline is approximately 0.75 kg.

My assumption that 1 kg APCP is equivalent to 1 kg of gasoline is unrealistic and a good organic chemist will clarify far beyond what I have done here.  But by the back of my envelope, Alberta sold 13,472,403 kg of gasoline per day in 2014, which is about 224 times more than the carbon produced during each Space Shuttle launch. (Please note: I chose Alberta because I live here.  Quebec sells 9,212,889,000 litres per year, Ontario 16,178,215,000! Total for Canada is 43,522,454,000.

Compared with gasoline output from vehicles alone, each Space Shuttle was negligible.  There were 135 Shuttle launches.  We burn 200 times that much fuel each and every day in just one province of our country.  I'll leave the ozone calculations to the reader unless I come back to it later in the week.  Suffice it to say, I doubt it will amount to much.

Of course, the value for shuttle launches needs to be included in the calculation.  Without shuttle launches we wouldn't have Earth Observation Satellites performing remote monitoring which gives us the very detail on climate change.  And I'm a strong believer in all that NASA Spinoffs have given to humanity, from better materials to health and medicine to entertainment.  That's a much higher rate of return on our atmospheric carbon than my teenage cruising trying to look cool.

Yes, I find the numbers mind boggling, but it's an important reminder that every attempt I make at conservation and energy reduction will have important effect on climate change.  There will be no surprise to my friends -- I'll be riding my bike to work tomorrow.


Cycle Tracks: An open letter to the Calgary Eyeopener

by Mark Zaugg 12. March 2014 07:03
Dear Eyeopener,

Earlier today Michael Stark did a opinion piece on why bicycles should not get separated bike lanes.  It started poorly and went downhill from there.

I cycle.  I drive.  I ride the bus.  I walk.  I commute back and forth to work, but also move around and about my neighbourhood a number of ways even when I'm not commuting back and forth to work.  The point of travelling using multiple means of transportation is not to give an air of authenticity to my argument, it's very much to emphasize getting around is much easier when I can travel in the most appropriate way possible.  When I have my children or heavy loads with me, it is far easier to drive.  When I am commuting on my own, driving is wasteful, expensive and slow.

Mr. Stark decried those bikes zipping past him while he was stuck in traffic.  It's true, cycling is faster downtown in rush hour.  Sometimes much faster.  In real numbers, it takes me 20 minutes to ride from my home to my office at 8:00 am every morning.  Driving that same route at the same time took me 35 minutes the last time I tried it.  Then I had to find parking and walk from my parking stall to work on top of that time.

My office does not have showers, however we do have enclosed parking for bicycles and we have a change area.  I can wear appropriate clothing for cycling then change into something appropriate for work.  Or those who know me better know I somewhat underdress for work and stay comfortable and productive all day.  It's true that I'm fortunate to work at a great office.  Days when I have to dress in a suit means I'd have to slow down and not get to work all sweaty.  Suits on bikes are not uncommon.

Lack of showers or secure lock up areas are a reason to improve available facilities downtown, and are not a valid reason to eliminate cycle tracks.

As for cyclist behaviour, I ride daily along 9 Avenue SE through Inglewood.  I strictly follow the law while hundreds of drivers each and every day break the law.  Let me reiterate that, literally hundreds of people breaking driving laws by speeding, driving in incorrect lanes, cutting off other drivers, or failing to yield to pedestrians.  I ride safely and legally.  I'm more than willing to take the lane when safe to do so.  Sorry for your luck if you are tailgating me in your car, driving in the bus/bike lane on 9 Avenue, blowing your horn and blowing your gasket.  Drivers are not supposed to be in that lane whatsoever and they are at fault, not the cyclists.

Yes, all travellers need to follow law and get about the city safely.  There is a dangerous imbalance when a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds meets a bicycle.  Separating lanes means we have a clear segregation where bicycles are expected and cars can travel.  It prevents overly aggressive or overly timid interactions between commuters.  It's beneficial to me as a cyclist and it's beneficial to me when I'm driving.

Mr. Stark chooses to drive and not cycle.  His choice and his perceived suitability for commuting choices has no bearing on the need for segregated bicycle lanes.  Those of us out there appreciate the safer, quicker, standardized routes to ride and many of the drivers out there appreciate cyclists being in their own lanes where they are not likely to swing into their driving lane.  It's necessary.  We need to encourage more ways to commute into downtown so more people can make more appropriate commuter choices.

We can't keep expanding roads without starting to eliminate the very downtown the roads are built to serve.  Better cycling infrastructure is just one of a number of great ideas aimed at improving access to downtown.

 - Mark Zaugg

UPDATE 3 - Cycling - Lance Armstrong finally admits to doping

by Mark Zaugg 17. January 2013 23:23

If you know me, you know that I'm a big fan of cycling.  Cycling is my favourite way of getting around by far.  It's my favourite exercise.  It's my favourite way to enjoy a warm summer evening.  It's my favourite way to put serious miles under my belt.

It's not my favourite sport.  That's football to watch, curling to play.  I take my football CFL, thank you very much.

So people who casually know I love cycling have been asking my opinion on Lance Armstrong.  Lately it's been happening a lot.  Enough for me to notice, and once I've noticed I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with it.

My interest in competitive cycling was short lived.  Yeah, I loved the time trials in the Olympics.  The Tour de France is really a pretty cool idea.  I don't know if I'd want to do it competitively but I wouldn't mind having the time and money to do it on my own.  But I'm not much of a spandex guy.  And I'm not so sure I 'get' the peloton idea.  Or more precisely I don't get the team peloton idea.  I fully understand drafting and pushing each other forward, but I'd have a read problem riding in support to make some other guy win.

But it was those Tour guys that started really turning me off.  Maybe it's back to the team peloton concept or something in their collective attitude, but somehow they just tweaked my nose the wrong way and I said to hell with them.  Once doping was clearly demonstrated in 1998 I lost all interest.  I've never watched anything on the Tour since then other than highlight reels on sports coverage.  Precious few of those lately, too.

By the time Armstrong made his astounding comeback I had mostly lost interest anyways.  However his story was compelling enough to almost make me want to believe.  It was a pretty hard sell to put away my skepticism, but I tried.  The more riders and their teams pulled out after sketchy drug tests the less I sought out any kind of coverage.  I never fully bought into the lie, with the more I heard the less I was even willing to give the benefit of doubt.

The tipping point was when someone tried to convince me Armstrong had a superhuman metabolism.  His body had some amazing power to break down lactose or process oxygen or some stupid thing.  Citing a sketchy paper with questionable data, no less.  Say what you want, I'm still a scientist at heart and I'm not afraid to get down and dirty in the research.  I was not convinced.

So tonight I got home, let the dogs out to do their business, and opened my laptop in order to start getting on top of the things I need to get done.  I opened up Google News and at the top:  "UPDATE 3 - Cycling - Lance Armstrong finally admits to doping"

Rather than read anything about it, I decided to write a quick blog instead.  It's worth more of my time than to read up on a cheat and a liar.

Lance Armstrong, just go away.  Don't ruin anyone else's life.  Go fade away.  Not that I'll care, I won't be paying attention.

Change the name of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  Tomorrow.  Give it back to the people who cared enough to build it with genuine work and effort.  I feel bad enough I let one of my kids take one of those yellow bands out of a geocache.

To organized cycling, you've lost me, forever.  No amount of pissing in a cup will ever restore my faith in your sport.  No gimmick will ever bring me back.  I hope you accept how much harm the systemic doping did and the unwillingness to take it on.  Same goes to every other sport that looks sideways at the severity of doping.  CFL, don't let me down.

But I refuse to end it on a scumball.  I'd much rather end this thinking of an athlete worthy of mention.  If you've lost a hero today, here's an athlete worth knowing:

To Clara Hughes, I TOTALLY love you.  I saw you once in person at the Olympic oval and you were a scary incredible athlete.  I look up to you as a person, I admire you as an athlete and you almost brought me back to cycling.  You were the last to draw me into competitive cycling and tonight I most want to remember you as a speed skater.  No matter, I still find you an inspiring person.  If I've done nothing but introduce one more person to someone I genuinely care about and admire, it was worth so much more than reading about someone I don't.

If you don't know Clara, go visit her or find her on facebook.  Make something positive out of today.

As for me?  I'm not going to read that coverage.  Instead I can't wait to get out on my bike and go ride someplace unimportant.

Commuting along 9 Avenue SE

by Mark Zaugg 11. July 2012 00:34

I travel back and forth on 9th Avenue SE through Inglewood at least five days a week.  Four of those five days I usually cycle, Fridays I typically drive.  I tend to have pretty firm views on what works with the bus / bike lanes that were put in this past year.

In the winter when the lanes were first put in, I was one of the few riding a bike along 9 Ave.  With spring more riders joined me and as we've reached summer the number of cyclists is noticeably higher.  I'm quite confident in my bicycle and my cycling gear (such as my mirror and lights) that I feel comfortable commuting along the road.  I feel happier that the bus / bike lane has been set up which enables me to travel at higher speeds while cycling and I feel a higher confidence with bus drivers in my lane than the general public.

On Fridays while I drive, it is an annoyance that I have to stick to the left hand lane only.  Traffic does clog up when line-ups form behind drivers turning left.  I'll explain more very soon.  When I drive I stay strictly in the left lane and wait behind turning traffic.

I'm going to display my trip into the Beltline through photos and my trip out of the downtown in video.  Today traffic was lighter than average, and as it was taken during Stampede I'm feeling a little more forgiving with out of town traffic, particularly around the Stampede Grounds.  I wish to add, my general feeling is that my ride into work is usually safer and less conflict driven than my ride home, although today that was certainly reversed.

I should also mention that this post was instigated by what I consider deplorable driving behaviour on Monday during my ride home.  So much that I actually created an account and reported the offending vehicle on  While I am mounted on my bike I am considered a vehicle and I'm entitled to "take the lane" - and even encouraged to do so to discourage cars from passing when it is unsafe.  With the bus / bike lane set up on 9 Avenue SE, only buses and bicycles are entitled to be in the right lane westbound from 7:00 am to 8:30 am and eastbound from 3:30 pm until 6:00 pm.  The only exception is made for vehicles turning right immediately at the next intersection.  There is no excuse whatsoever for a motorist to follow me along the length of 9 Avenue SE.

I generally consider 9 Ave a pretty safe, quick and effective route for me to commute to work and home.  It's direct and reasonably efficient whether I'm cycling or driving.  There are a couple of dangerous areas where I try to be extra vigilant, but for the most part I feel I can ride quite safely.  Let me guide you riding into downtown, westbound along 9 Avenue starting at 7:59 in the morning.

Let's start at the funky corner where 17 Ave SE and 15 St SE meet at 9 Ave SE.

All the vehicles in the right lane on 17 Ave must merge to the left lane once they turn onto 9 Ave.  Usually drivers will swing to the right lane to avoid potentially queuing behind vehicles turning left, but being in the right lane is probably not a problem at this point.  Early in the spring I think there was a temporary sign placed at this location.  Drivers probably ought to know better by now, but advance warning is never a bad idea.

The van behind the bus ahead turned right at the next intersection.  Otherwise an uneventful ride to 12 Street.

The vehicles shown here had all turned from northbound 12 Street to westbound 9 Avenue.  Three vehicles are clearly visible having changed lanes into the bus / bike lane ahead while I was waiting to cross at the red light.

These are vehicles number 5 and 6 driving in the bus / bike lane, I was still waiting at the red light at this point.

Vehicles #7 (the black truck, ahead of the sedan) and #8 the white sedan itself.  At this point I realized I did not demonstrate the left turn onto 11 Street so I circled around the block, dismounted and took pictures from a good vantage point.

The Mustang is about to turn left, you can see two more vehicles in the wrong lane ahead bringing the new count to 10.

The truck is #11.

The white truck was blocked from turning left by oncoming traffic.  You can observe three vehicles passing on the right, total is 14.

The queued cars begin to peel around the blocked truck.  The black coupe is vehicle 15.

The two black SUV's are #16 and #17.

The sedan is #18.

The truck clears the intersection, the Volvo is #19.

Vehicles #20 and #21.  I always get extra annoyed when cabbies and other professional drivers drive in the improper lane.  I expect them to be professional and particularly courteous with their driving.

Vehicle 22 was also a taxi.

Vehicles #23 and #24.  I will give them credit for stopping for a pedestrian crossing signal.

Vehicles 25, 26 and 27.  This photo was taken at 8:09, so exactly 10 minutes after I began riding along 9 Ave.  I'm very disappointed with the high numbers of drivers violating the bus / bike lane.

Rather than subject you to continuous photos, I want to demonstrate why swinging into the bus / bike lane is truly a dangerous problem along 9 Avenue.

This is a bicycle courier riding safely in his lane.  As traffic swings around left-turning vehicles they come directly into his lane, sometimes courteously, sometimes with no thought to bicycles possibly being in that lane.  I personally would feel comfortable with the space that SUV gave the cyclist, but clearly not all cyclists are.  Subsequent vehicles passing the courier did not give him as much room, a problem on a regular road but this is a literal crime when the vehicles have no right to be in that lane whatsoever.

I wish to address enforcement as well.  When I posted the photo of the horrible driver on several other cyclists mentioned a lack of enforcement by the police along 9 Avenue.  I do not criticize the Calgary Police Service here.  I see them pulling over drivers on a regular basis.  I give a tap on my helmet to them whenever I ride past.  It's not perfect enforcement and I don't see them daily, but I've seen boneheaded drivers lined up along a side road waiting for their turn to discuss their infraction with an officer.  Drivers' attitudes have to change, I'd like to think they slowly are.  I'd hope that mine have.

When I drive, I don't stay in the left lane because I'm a saint.  I stay there because 80 percent of the time I feel vulnerable, particularly to drivers swinging into my lane to go around other vehicles.

In all honesty, I had no idea it would be so bad this morning.  I don't feel this was a typical day, but the photos don't lie.  The real point I set out to make this morning is in the following photos.  It displays what I consider to be the riskiest part of 9 Avenue for bicycles and cars to coexist and quite possibly the most difficult section to solve.  The actual bus / bike lane ends at 9 Avenue and 9 Street SE.  I've been stopped by another cyclist who asked where it ended, the only real indication is the subtle "ENDS 08:30" on the sign.

Traffic past 9 Street turns left onto 8 Street and into Ramsay.  Traffic was too light today, but when a train is crossing or traffic loads are heavy, the traffic will back up in both lanes well past 9 Street forcing drivers who wish to continue straight into the right lane or risk getting trapped in the left turn lane when discourteous drivers refuse to let them safely merge right.

This poor guy did everything right up to 9 Street, then had six drivers pass him on the right before anyone would let him in.  This is where things get tricky because 9 Avenue may not be wide enough to adapt.  We're forcing drivers to merge right within the length of one block while traffic regularly backs up for two blocks at that point.  Vehicles need space to manouver safely, cyclists need safe passage with vehicles moving over on them.

A lesser problem is that the pavement gets pretty chewed up at this intersection, right where cyclists are expected to ride.  My suggestion is this is a good section to take the lane outright.  I understand that takes some guts and a lot of visibility to do and it isn't for everyone, but the average commuter cyclist can travel at roughly the same speed as the traffic along this block until the pathway opens up in front of the Deane House.

My ideal scenario would be to actually end the bus / bike lane one block earlier.  That would give drivers more time to respond and safely merge to the right to cross the 9 Avenue Bridge.  To keep cyclists safer I'd try to extend the marked bike lane that's west of the bridge to the east side as well, giving cyclists a clear and safe path of their own along the road.  I don't know if there's space, but it would make that section of the road so much less aggravating to me as a driver and so much more safe as a cyclist.

To end off, I'll take you along with me on a ride home.

n-plus-1 bikes, inner tubes, spacetweeps and stress.

by Mark Zaugg 16. May 2012 01:22

There's a truism I've heard quite often lately about bicycles.  No matter how many you own, you always need one more.

I laughed when I first heard it.  Quite loudly.  Then the frame on my 20 year old Norco mountain bike broke while riding in the snow.  I bought myself a new Trek 3 series regretting that it wasn't the bike I really wanted to own.  What I really wanted to purchase was a great road bike for city commuting on the roads, but it was cheaper and much more practical and reasonable to get a new mountain bike for my newfound year-long riding.  And suddenly I grokked n+1 bikes.

It got worse than just one more bike for me.  Much worse, in fact.  Every time I go to Bike Bike I longingly yearn for a decent cargo bike.  Imagine not balancing and strapping whatever I'm hauling to the rack over my rear tire.  I could carry things much more safely without worry about the bungee cord that's got to be nearly as old as that Norco breaking.  Yeah, that's all I'd really need.  My Trek mountain bike, a whiz bang commuter and one of those awesome cargo bikes for hauling stuff.

Well, except that now I'm well accustomed to riding year round, I'm kinda getting tired of doing spring maintenance on the Trek to the degree I require in order to make it acceptably ridable after every winter.  There's no question, it gets rather grungy and the work involved with simply cleaning the drive train is no laughing matter.  In fact, wouldn't it be awesome to get one of those internal gear hub babies?  It would be so much nicer to maintain.  So that would be fantastic.  My mountain bike for crappy weather, my internal hub for really crappy, winter weather, my whiz bang commuter bike and one of those awesome cargo bikes for hauling stuff.

But you know, just today I went back to Bike Bike to replace my pannier that I was too brain damaged last week to notice when it fell off.  While I pulled up outside and locked up my bike (force of habit -- one I really don't want to break while I only have the one bike I rely upon) I noticed some really sexy folding bikes in the display window.  Now I can't say I've ever had any desire to have a folding bike, but I've heard the advancements have been really astounding and now they're clearly allowed on Calgary Transit it seems like a damned appealing thing to have for when I'm shuffling around town and need to worry about storing my bike.  So it's just my mountain bike for crappy weather, my internal hub for really crappy winter weather, my whiz bang commuter bike for getting around town, one of those awesome cargo bikes for hauling stuff, and a super sexy folding bike for when I have to worry about parking the damned thing at the office.

Although, truth be told, I have to admit that "brain damaged" isn't quite the term I need to use to express what happened with losing my pannier last week.

In actuality I'm so stressed out that...  Well, I'm very stressed out.  I've got all the signs showing in spades again right now.  I'm not sleeping well again.  My blood pressure is climbing back up the scale even though I'm taking my medication regularly.  I'm locking myself further into a self-induced segregation and feeling more and more distant from my friends.  The end result of all this is I end up riding my bike in a surly mood and don't even notice when my pannier falls off.

There's a little bit different from the last time I fought one of these big ones off.  Last time I wasn't sleeping like this, I ran into the Space Tweep Society and at least made something productive out of not sleeping.  Sure, I waste a whole lot of time on twitter talking to people I've never met in real life, but they ARE my friends and they have been amazingly powerful to building my reserves.  That's so much better than tossing and turning, waking up two or three times a night - always too late to run into my normal crutches people I regularly bitch at - and waking up as if I never fell asleep in the first place.  It's a lot different than falling headlong into a game until I'm bored with it and then flit to another equally pointless and subtly different game.

What is the same is the feeling of hopelessness.  The feeling that no matter what I do, I'm just not going to get a better result.  I'm headlong into a whole pile of those right now.

The sense that I'm bashing my head against a wall financially.  Not that anyone ever seems to care.  Why do I give a rat's ass about being decent when no one around me seems to be?  Hey, over the past three weeks I've even run into the mindless, brainless bureaucracy that doesn't even bother to monitor punishments it metes out!  No one will ever convince me that they actually care about anything more than the paycheque they collect every two weeks.

Just today, TODAY, I got a letter asking me to resign up for another five year term of volunteering with an organization that has only once ever asked me to actually volunteer -- and THAT single time only came in response to me jumping up and down and lodging complaints about never being asked to participate!  Honestly, is there a single organization in world that requests volunteers to sign up and then can afford to shun them once they have jumped through the hoops in order to participate?



I got thinking about the things that have been bugging the hell out of me lately and I'm concerned.  I've got five Very Angry Letters (tm) I want to write.  There's the three non-stop standard letters of complaint that seem to rule my life on a constant basis.  But right now there are two major issues I can't seem to get anyone to listen and act on right now in addition to the normal griefs and annoyances of my life.

Is there any reason I'm riding my bike angry right now?  That's supposed to be an enjoyment factor, especially for me.  Even I've been wondering what's been happening with me when I'm screaming at the moronically stupid drivers who endanger my life by driving in the bus / bike lanes along 9th Avenue SE through Inglewood while indignantly insisting that I'm blocking their progress and demanding the right to honk and gesture rudely at me for riding in the lane that has been designated for me.

So tonight while I was doing my bike maintenance I suddenly realized what I've been fighting and why I've been feeling so hopeless and uptight lately.  Sure, I need another bike, but until money becomes a little less tight I've discovered that my immediate desire isn't to have one more bike.  I'm thinking along a much simpler line to relieve stress.  I simply want to be able to go buy a new inner tube every bloody time I get a flat.

Infinite spare tires.  I want to stop looking for leaks.  I've had a slow leak that's been bedevilling me all winter long.  While finally swapping studded tires for mere knobbies I took that tube, submerged it into the water and knelt on it until I found the leak.

Some times the only thing you can do is rip off the old patch, sand off the crusty cement, and put a new patch on properly.  One of those patches is to stare at the skies and reconnect with some of my #SpaceTweeps.  I need to get some sleep.  I need to listen to more music.  I need to remember what I like about myself.

Meanwhile I'd be damned afraid if you're one of those people who can expect one of my Very Angry Letters (tm) soon.  Honestly, some things have to change and it's long overdue that someone actually listens and acts.

To fail?

by Mark Zaugg 6. September 2011 02:43

I'm starting to think that failure is seriously under rated.

I tried to ride my bike out to Banff on Saturday.  On Friday, just as I was planning my trip, I spoke with the neighbour who reminded me that it was a long weekend and most of the camping spots would be already occupied.  So instead of being a day trip out and camping overnight, it became a ride out and back in a single day.  Instead of getting to Banff it became going as far as I could and returning home.

I failed to make Banff.  I was 40 km short when I gave up and turned around.  After riding for four hours I decided I was going to have to stop if I was going to return in a single day.  I was rather worn out at that point anyways.

Failing to reach a goal can be a huge drag.  What's the point of setting a goal and trying to reach it when you fall short?

Riding westward I rode for 4:09:57.  My turning point was Lac Des Arcs.  I travelled 96.76 km at an average speed of 23.2 km/h.  My maximum speed was 67.3 km/h.  I like downhill.  Lots.

Amazingly, the elevation of Banff is 1383 metres while the elevation of Calgary is just 1048 metres.  There is an awful lot of hills both ways, but I would have expected the return trip to have a greater percentage of downhill runs.  Unfortunately, a south eastern wind came up and I was facing a head wind returning to Calgary.

The return trip took me 5:14:26.  The distance was very similar - 96.61 km, so my average was quite a bit slower at 18.4 km/h.  Maximum speed coming home was 56.1 km/h, which was very disappointing to me after fighting to get up Scott Lake Hill.

So on Saturday I rode 193.37 kilometres in total.  It took my 9:24:23 and my average speed was merely 20.6 km/h.

That's some failure of mine.  I can't wait to do it again.

And that's success.  Isn't it?

Letter to the Herald Editor re: Bow River Flow

by Mark Zaugg 26. August 2011 09:52

In response to this editorial in August 25's Calgary Herald.  All I can think about right now is, "I didn't run it through my editing process."  I won't fix the "where cars were cars were" below.


I began as a detractor to the Bow River Flow.  I saw no purpose to it and thought it only an inconvenience on a Sunday afternoon.  I am, however, a huge fan of the festivals and the amazing spirit formed within Calgary through them.

Three years ago, I had started riding my bike again for the first time in many years.  There were two purposes, the first to save money on gas and the get exercise to strengthen my chest muscles after a terrible lung infection.  I did like the prospect of a festival for alternative transportation in Calgary, but I also questioned the value of holding the event on Memorial Drive.

My children demanded to attend the Bow River Flow the first year it was held and I had no better excuse to dodge out of it, so I grudgingly went.  I observed a very interesting festival and changed my opinion towards it.  I did not have children pestering me to buy something every five minutes.  Instead my children ran from booth to booth actively seeking out what each had to offer.  We reconnected with organizations we participated with in the past and formed relationships with organizations new to us.  It created a bonding experience between us as a family and also with Calgary as a city.

The other observation I made that first year was that people almost appeared to be afraid to walk on the street itself.  I encroached the road when my children played a game or walked the chalk maze, then scurried off to the side again wary of a car swerving across Memorial to plough into a crowd of pedestrians.  It never happened, of course, and it took a second year for people to appear confident enough to celebrate on the street.  It reminded me of my childhood where we played road hockey and rode our bikes up and down the streets without fear.  Is it wrong to wish the same for my children?

Granted, none of those streets were Memorial Drive.  A "necessary east-west thoroughfare" according to the Herald's editorial on Thursday, which suffered from day-long traffic snarls.  Such trite obstinacy to neglect to mention the newly revamped Trans-Canada Highway along 16th Avenue a few blocks north.  An inconvenience, yes, but Memorial Drive is hardly the sole link from the northwest part of the city to the northeast.  Memorial Drive has undergone much more severe and long lasting closures during it's reconstruction just a few years ago.

Does the Herald also decry the closure of Memorial Drive to traffic from 4 Street NE to Crowchild Trail for the Caglary Marathon?  Of course not, nor should they.  The closure of Memorial Drive is a disingenuous excuse to disparage this particular festival and nothing more.

The Bow River Flow is contrasted with Lilac Festival.  The closure of 4 Street and 17 Avenue SE is dreadfully disruptive when I was forced to drive around it a few years back when I forgot it was Lilac Festival weekend.  I had every bit as much warning then as drivers receive for the Bow River Flow.  If we as drivers make the mistake to not pay attention to the warnings, then the fault lies with us and not the event.  The editorial utterly fails to mention the parking problems on either side of 4 Street SE where cars were cars were parked wherever they could.  I had absolutely no problem finding a place to park my bike at Bow River Flow, and I certainly did not create a parking problem for community members in Sunnyside.  I must certainly call into question to characterization of Cliff Bungalow and Mission as pedestrian friendly while Hillhurst and Sunnyside are not counted as pedestrian friendly.  Both areas have substantial pedestrian traffic in different ways, why are we not taking the best of each area and trying to improve the city at large for pedestrians?

Since I attended the first Bow River Flow, my preferred means of commuting has shifted more and more towards my bicycle.  I still have to pay the cost of vehicle infrastructure through my taxes, even though I now commute four of every five days by bicycle.  I would like to see bicycle infrastructure improve significantly so that when I ride my bike I am safe from traffic and also so that when I drive my car I am free from worry of hitting a cyclist.  I would like others, such as my children, who would cycle more frequently if there was better infrastructure to have an opportunity to travel in whichever manner is appropriate to them at any given time.  That may mean car, bicycle, bus, taxi, pedicab, skateboard, segway or some other fashion I haven't even come up with.  Choice is good, the Bow River Flow exists to promote choice.

I continue to call for a better balance of vendors at the Bow River Flow.  The expansion into Chinatown allowed my family to have lunch at one of our favourite places, but I wish more was available throughout the festival.  Balance is the operative word.  I don't want Bow River Flow to become just another outdoor market and lose it's status as a unique festival in Calgary.

The Herald has clearly carried the worst of the special-interest agenda.  The agenda that says, "Transportation must always be vehicular.  Festivals must always be the same.  It has always been thus and thusly shall it always be."  Calgary is a city of youth, of vitality and, most importantly, a city of innovation and growth where options are available to us as citizens.  It's time to declare a singular mode of transportation planning an expensive flop and move on in the effort to give Calgarians more options to make our own city more sustainable.

Mark Zaugg

Bow River Flow to Go

by Mark Zaugg 20. August 2011 20:15

I need a wee little tweak on my rear derailleur.  It's just enough off that upshifting takes a moment or two to catch.  I think about it every time I ride home and I forget about it every time I stash my bike in the basement and head upstairs to start dinner.  The next morning I grumble to myself as I shift my gears and wonder why I didn't fix it.

I could jump off my bike and twist the adjustment screw during my commute, but it's really not bad enough to bother stopping to bother with.  I'll fix it when I get to work, or when I get home.  And the cycle repeats itself.

So what does this have to do with Bow River Flow?

The Bow River Flow changed my attitude and eventually changed my preferred method of commuting through Calgary.  Fuel costs me considerably less than it used to, my fitness has considerably improved, I feel better when I arrive at my destination than I do when I've been driving.  I can do my own maintenance, and when I'm over my head or short on time we've got fantastic shops locally who will help me out.

I'm saving time.  I'm saving money.  I'm happier.  How can a once-a-year event have made such a positive influence on my life?

Two years ago the Bow River Flow changed my idea of what a festival could be in Calgary.  It's different, it's fun, it's my style of festival.  I went with my kids and it was an amazingly good day together.

One year ago the Bow River Flow changed my idea of what government could be  in Calgary.  I started demanding a more cooperative, more productive, more open and communicative, less confrontational and more pragmatic government.  I think we have made some progress, but we have more to go.  The thing with last year was I went with my kids and it turned out to be an amazingly good day together.  What was different was that I started meeting some of the friends I'm proud to know and work alongside today.

Tomorrow I'll be back down there with my kids riding my blue Trek, looking suitably unfashionable and more than likely having a marvellous time.  I genuinely hope to see you down there.  Feel free to stop me and ask how my derailleur is doing.  

It will be my third Bow River Flow - I can't wait to find out which idea of mine will be affected this year!

Smiling and waving and riding through.

by Mark Zaugg 16. August 2011 19:20

Here I go into another way-too-long post trying to get my thoughts established, but it bugs me and therefore I think it's a worthwhile endeavour.

The trigger for this is Tom Babin's article here.  Go take a little time to read it, it's very worthwhile to go through.  Even if you've read it, it's worth scanning through again because I will doubtlessly refer to it.

That is far from the only source I'm going to draw from, however.

The next person to play a significant role in this entry is Mia Birk.  If you're unaware, Mia is, from her twitter bio: "Author, Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet. President, Alta Planning + Design. Co-founder, Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation"  To me, Mia is one of the "PeopleWhoRuinedMyLife" by making me actually care about how my riding appeared towards others and made me have second thoughts about how my behaviour may have repercussions against others.

The third person is an unknown cop who sat in his van yelling at a cyclist on the street.  Okay, the cyclist was me and I would characterize it as "..lording in his van yelling inappropriately at a cyclist on the street" but I will try to be factual and as balanced as I can be.  I've alluded to the story in the past, but I intend to throw the whole story out warts and all.

And with that, I will start with my anecdotes.  Do not confuse an anecdote with data.


My ride home from work is as follows.  I start on 11 Avenue SE and McLeod Trail (northbound) and ride eastbound along 11 Avenue SE until I reach the bus barns.  I went through the bus barn parking lot once behind another bicyclist - never again, that's a busy parking lot and although I actually trust the drivers who park there, I'm uncertain how they view bicyclists going through.  Instead I circle around the bus barns on the streets.  Sadly, that leaves me with a problem: Getting back onto 12 Avenue SE requires a left hand turn across a fairly busy road, after which I have to navigate the risky intersection of 12 Avenue SE / 7 Street SE and MacDonald Avenue SE.  I strongly prefer to ride along the sidewalk on the north side of the avenue, crossing at 7 Street once the traffic abates considerably.  I proceed along the Multi-Use Pathway (hereafter MUP, often referred to in Calgary as the "Bike Pathway") which is on the east side of 7 Street, proceed under 9 Avenue and continue on the MUP until I reach 17 Avenue SE at the Cushing Bridge.  After that it's 17 Avenue along the sidewalk all the way home.

I consider getting to work to be much, much safer.  Although it's the same route in reverse, I'm travelling downhill and with the flow of traffic along 17 Avenue SE and I avoid the fearful side of the 12 Avenue / 7 Street, McDonald Avenue intersection.

I ride this route twice a day, at least 17 times every month -- Monday through Thursday each week, plus the first Friday of every month.  I consider myself a seasoned bicyclist, somewhat out of shape, and confident riding virtually everywhere in the city year round now.

Both my anecdotes relate to this exact route.


The first anecdote is when I ran across "The Law".  I was riding home heading eastbound on 11 Avenue.  I don't remember the exact day any more, but it was early spring 2010 or late fall 2009.  It was fairly cool weather with ice on the road, and the left hand lane was still closed along 11 Avenue SE for the construction of the Keynote building.

You can see the exit to the Impark parking lot at the gap in the fence just before the red and white sign.  It's actually pretty safe in my view, although it is far from perfect.  There is a relatively good view of cars trying to exit the lot through the chain link fence, although often the view can be obstructed by parked cars.  The downside of the exit is that 11 Avenue is a one way road and cars trying to enter the flow of traffic often only watch for oncoming vehicles and do not turn their heads to watch for pedestrians (and certainly not bicycle traffic).

I hope you notice the puddle along the roadway.  This is an area that frequently ices up.  I knew that the exit was icy and if a car bombed out of parking lot without looking for pedestrians I wanted as much notice as possible.  So I swung out into the lane to get a better viewing angle on cars coming out of the lot.  For reference, I would have been riding approximately where the puddle ended in the picture.

At that point I heard a horn honk.  My first thought was someone was coming out of the parking lot - no one was there.  The horn blared as I continued across the exit and a cop shouted out of his van at me.

I wish I remembered everything that was said.  It started with the usual, "What are you doing?" "I'm going home," and continued with the cop yelling at me and myself becoming more obstinate at the treatment I was getting.  It ended with the cop threatening to get out of the van and write me a ticket and me mumbling, "May I leave now?" while not really caring what his answer was, then dismounting and walking my bike along the sidewalk to not give him any more excuse to come after me.

This feels like I should have more of a moral to this, but I don't really have one.  Frankly, the cop was right.  By the law, I should not have ridden the wrong way on a one way street and it was a perfectly ticketable offence.  In subsequent conversations with cops (both that I do and don't know personally) the consensus seems to be he could have handled himself a lot better - if only getting out of the van and having a discussion with me directly.  Escalating the argument to the point of threatening to write a ticket did nothing to diffuse the situation or to change either my attitude or my behaviour.  Write one if you're going to write one, or say, "Hey, you ought to know better," if you're not.  Be decent either way.  Instead he just got blown off as another asshole cop having a bad day.

We can hire a thousand cops and have them write up 20 tickets each every day and have a terrible environment where everyone's afraid to put one wheel wrong.  Turning back to Tom's question, is it the job of the cops to punish or to educate?  Is it wrong to not hand out a ticket?  Should that cop get out of his van and listen to my reasoning?  Is my perspective skewed because the cop was in a van?  I'd have a ton more respect to the cop if he was riding behind me on a bike and said, "Hey buddy, smarten up."

I'll let it hang for a while longer.


I've been sucked over to the side of the argument that says there is no excuse for breaking the law.  It is making our job more difficult and we, as cyclists, need good will and infrastructure a lot more right now than you as a rider needs to save 15 seconds running a red light.  So I've tried to become more introspective while I ride and more vigilant in following the rules of the road to the letter.

It's catching, too.  I ring my bell each and every time I pass someone on the pathways.  Usually I exert enough peer pressure in that act alone that if another cyclist is not ringing his or her bell they will start after hearing mine go off two or three times.

So I have a lot of reason to be feeling proud of myself.  Then a couple weeks ago they restricted the lane on 11 Avenue SE to do work on the 4 Street underpass and I changed my route and started going straight to 12 Avenue and taking the lane.  Personally I prefer going down 11th, and still feel it's safer, but I figure I can "man up" and be a confident rider all the time.  A few days into the new route I noticed someone on twitter complaining about a bad cyclist.

I suppose the first question that has to be raised is just why I'm riding on 11 Avenue and 12 Avenue instead of the actual bike route on 10 Avenue.  Well, I think it's a bike route, although I admit I had to pull a U-Turn before I found any indication whatsoever that it was a bike route at all.  Here's my proof.

That's a fine piece of paint right there.  Now, this is on the far east end of 10 Avenue, there isn't a lot of traffic, bicycle or otherwise, along that stretch of the road.  Looking at that sharrow, it's pretty hard to say there is currently a commitment to cycling in this city or that we have adequate travel routes.

But that's not the real reason I don't use 10 Avenue.  The real reason can be found here.

Because the city is building the new 4 Street underpass, 10 Avenue just ends right now and there has been no access eastward from the end of 10 Avenue in at least two years.

So let me start my second anecdote and take you for a ride down 12 Avenue.  I was riding along this section in front of the casino, with the turn onto Olympic Way.

You can see very clearly that the right lane is unquestionably right turn only.  I rode up to the lights and was catching my breath when a car pulled up beside me.  "Okay," I thought, "she wants to turn so I'll scootch over right to the curb."  She didn't turn, so I dismounted, pulled my bike onto the curb and waited.  She still didn't turn.  "You idiot, you're going to race off the line and cut over, aren't you?" I thought.  She did.  I rode across the intersection after she performed her poor interpretation of launch control grateful she was gone and I could ride in safety.

When I'm pushing, I can cruise at about 30 to 35 km/h on my bike, so I'm not far off the speed of the traffic.  People were passing me, only to get caught up in the cue of cars trying to turn onto McDonald Ave.  At that point I start passing them.  However I've still got the problem of getting into the left hand lane so I can go straight onto 7 Street.  I signal, two cars refuse to let me in and I have to slow down to let them cut over to turn.  The lady in the third car did not see when I signaled and I was braking at that point and not in a position to be taking my hands off the handlebars to signal again.  I managed to move over through a lane change that would have thoroughly pissed me off if I were driving and stopped at the intersection.


See the guy riding a bike above?  He had a hard time getting to the left lane safely too, today.

Now, as I take a deep breath, this normally wouldn't be much of a story and certainly not a story worth telling.  That day, there were two cyclists riding along the sidewalk in the above picture.  They stopped at the intersection far ahead of me, had the right of way, and the first vehicle that did not let me change lanes damned near ran the lead cyclist down then and there.  The second vehicle waited, but I was completely certain that I was going to have to perform first aid and call an ambulance - it was honestly that close.

Now I know that I sometimes feel it's safer to ride on the sidewalk and I will do so when I think it's my best option, but after seeing the guy was okay my gut reaction was to yell at that cyclist for riding along that sidewalk just the way they had where they were less visible to the cars.  Here's the photo in the other direction from the exact same spot as above.


That is not just a sidewalk.  That is also a small section of the MUP that leads down along the west side of the Elbow River leading down through the heart of Stampede Park.

And somewhere in this mess is the exact point that I want to make.

I'm riding a bike on 12 Avenue SE and hit a red light.  Legally, I'm to take the lane and keep vehicles queued behind me as I ride through to 7 Street where I stop at the three way stop sign, proceed in turn, then transfer over to the MUP.

The lady who pulled up beside me at the light wasn't going to wait for cars, let alone a bike.  She was technically street racing off the line, and most certainly performed a dangerous lane change to merge into traffic.  When I arrived at the 12 Avenue / 7 Street, MacDonald Avenue intersection, two vehicles failed to yield to me, both of which cut across my path of direction in order to make their turn.  One nearly collided with another cyclist.  That cyclist was riding along the sidewalk and proceeded through the crosswalk so was plenty to blame on his own accord.  I doubt his wife or girlfriend behind him would have been thrilled to hear that criticism should he have been hit, though.  Even I performed an illegal lane change because I did not signal to the third car.

There is absolutely more than enough blame to go around over a stretch of three city blocks.

And I'm not even bothered by it.  It is "normal!"

And that is the point I want to make in response to Tom's article.

This issue goes well beyond the simple argument that cyclists have gotten this extra responsibility to browbeat good behaviour into other cyclists here and now so we can get some good will to build some desperately needed infrastructure.  It becomes bigger than yelling at drivers who perform incredibly stupid and irresponsible actions.  It becomes more than being vigilant for the unleashed dogs and the tottling toddlers and the joggers pacing themselves to skull-splitting volumes on an iPod.

Many of the rules that cyclists are defending are wrong, are dangerous, are nonsensical for anyone outside of a car.  But it's the law.

Well the law is an ass, an idiot.

I have no problem with telling other cyclists to clean up their act and ride safely.  I am not about to tell someone to endanger their life because the laws on the books are ridiculously dated, modal-centric rather than well designed, or outright contradictory.  (Seriously, is that a sidewalk or an MUP?  And is it too fine a line to draw, really?)

I have one, absolute, unbreakable law while I ride that I invariably abide by.  Cyclists must yield to pedestrians.  I'm moving faster than they are, I can cause more damage to them than they can to me, I'm higher than they are and I ought to be able to see better than them.  Every law needs to be held up for inspection.  Some need to be upheld as a no-brainer:  Cyclists need to stop at stop signs.  Guh!

Some really do need to be examined.  If we have crosswalks and intersections, why can't we have bicycle crossings?  Do we really need to force cyclists to dismount at every intersection to cross at a crosswalk?  Cyclists must stop (full stop, real stop, not a yield, a stop, period) and if it's safe they can proceed.  Cars must yield to bicycles in the crossing.  Cyclists must yield at all times to pedestrians in the crossing.  Why does this not make sense?  Why can we not create rules that make sense and better reflect how we actually use intersections?  How is this not safer for bicyclists and pedestrians and vehicles?  It's reducing dangerous, higher speed interactions between us all.  If there are flaws in my reasoning - and I assure you there will be - smarter people than I can create real solutions.  So do it, damn it!

But for right now, we need change and infrastructure so desperately that a lot of us in the cycling community feel that we have to grab the moral high ground right away so we can at least start making progress.  We don't have time to wait for all the fatties in gas guzzlers to die off.  (He says as he puts down his snack and considers getting extra exercise over the next day or five.)

Laws need to be about making us all safer and creating fewer confrontational interactions and increasing positive interactions.  I'm not just talking about bikes, I'm talking about life.


I'm going to wrap this Dickensian post by directly addressing part of what Tom addressed.

Very often while I'm going to work, I round the curve on 12 Avenue.  Once you pass the curve, parking is allowed and there are always vehicles parked along the road by the time I get on my way to work.

It drives me crazy when someone feels the urge to pass me along that stretch by swinging into the oncoming lane of traffic as we round the curve.  It's incredibly stupid, incredibly dangerous, and quite sadly incredibly common.  This is before we even approach the parking zone.

I don't consider it a politeness, I have a very low opinion of the driver's abilities when they do that.  I need at most four feet - I'd prefer five if I can get it - but there is much more space than that available.  Crossing the center of the road demonstrates that you're deathly afraid of your driving abilities because I'm 100 percent confident that I'm not about to swerve six feet towards you with no warning whatsoever.

Like Tom, I get annoyed when some driver stops in the middle of the road to wave me through when I don't have the right of way.  I also get annoyed when drivers fail to yield to me when I do have the right of way.  It's a very simple concept, why can't drivers figure it out?

I'm going to quote someone wiser than myself.  From Mia Birk's Joyride, p. 113.

"I wave constantly at my neighbors and at strangers who stop for me at a stop sign.  Often, they wave me through although they have the right of way.  For many years, I would assert my presumed equality by motioning, "No, you go ahead, really."  But then I realized that when someone offers me kindness, it's my responsibility to graciously receive.  Besides, when you're on a bike, momentum is your friend, and I think that the motorists waving me through must understand that.  Perhaps they themselves bike from time to time.  I always smile and wave in gratitude.  And since this happens numerous times a day, I'm always smiling and waving, waving and smiling, happy, happy, happy as I pedal along, until I arrive at work or a meeting or home feeling pleasantly hungry, energetic, even buzzed."

On my bike, sure.  I'll smile and wave thanks and ride on through safely.  And quite possibly question your driving ability.

But when I'm in my car you damned well follow the rules of the road.  Seriously.

Bicycle vs. Car - an Argument With Myself

by Mark Zaugg 30. June 2011 20:52

I've been becoming more vocal lately about pretty much everything.  I'll go right back to what I told you last year - I'm a smart guy, but I'm wrong about half the time.  We count on it - that's the basic fundamental principle of democracy:  The majority of us will probably have the right answer most of the time.  It's not foolproof, but it's as good of a starting point as we've found.


So I've made a big shift from being a fair weather, pathway cyclist to year-round, "confident" cyclist who chooses a bicycle as my primary choice for a daily commute.  I've always been good on a bike and I've always enjoyed riding, but I grew up in Small Town, Alberta where traffic wasn't anywhere near the big deal it is in Calgary.  In the city, it's a whole different deal.  The pathways aren't bad when they aren't busy, but they can get extremely congested downtown.  Roads in the city are just scary to ride on.


Where the conflict develops is that I'm not just a cyclist -- I'm a driver too.  I'd like to think I'm above average in both categories - I secretly fear I'm not much different than anybody else out there.  It's not a fair argument.  We already know who's going to win.


Driver Mark:  All this crap about making Calgary bicycle friendly is starting to make me sick.  We have more than enough problems with traffic in Calgary.  We have too much sprawl and not enough roads and interchanges.  It takes far too long to get in from the suburbs to downtown.  Most of the people in this city drive cars.  We need better roads, we need more parking, we need better ways to move people back and forth.


Cyclist Mark:  We have a better way.  We've sunk untold millions into automobile infrastructure.  We can't continue this.  We don't have the space for more roads, we don't have capacity to move more cars through the inner city, we can't afford to keep building more neighbourhoods further and further from city centre and still move people back and forth every day the way we have.  The better way is alternative transportation.  Transit, bicycles, and walking can all relieve our biggest obstacles.


Driver Mark:  Yeah, yeah, more of this cycling crap.  One percent of Calgarians are going to ride bikes for three months in the summer and we're talking about sinking $28 million for a handful of people.  It's a joke, we need to put the money where people are really using it now.


Cyclist Mark: Hold up, let's be genuine here a moment.  We're talking about $28 million in capital costs, but there's a little over $12 million that's unfunded right now.  One mile of urban freeway costs about $60 million.  The numbers are kinda simple - that's one fifth of a mile of highway to find for all of Calgary's start up for bicycles over the next three years.  That's really cheap compared with vehicles.  We're talking tens of thousands of cyclists out there now, and we want to increase those numbers in the near future.


Driver:  That's ridiculous.  The roads are already built!  You're going to take away driving lanes and parking and call it a bargain.


Cyclist: We're not going to reduce McLeod Trail to two lanes all the way up and back.  Changes have to be strategic.  Bicycle lanes need to be put where cyclists can use them.  We're asking for a full transportation network, just like vehicles have.  No one would be happy driving from Deerfoot Trail, getting on a five mile long dirt lane, and then carrying on Highway 2 up to Edmonton.  We want the same planning to go into our bicycle infrastructure.


Driver:  But we already have this world class bike path system we brag about.


Cyclist:  We call them bike paths, but they're really not just for bikes.  They're Multi-Use Pathways (or MUPs) and there are bicycles and pedestrians and dog walkers and wheelchairs and all manner of users out there.  They're great for recreation, they're okay for commuters when they happen to align with your route, but they're not helpful when you have to go out of your way.


Driver:  So we spend a whole pile of cash to revamp our roads and nothing is going to change.  We don't know that anyone is actually going to ride a bike anyways.


Cyclist:  No, we don't know for sure that habits will change.  We do know one thing for sure:  Without better infrastructure Calgarians will not change.  Most people don't feel comfortable riding on the roads.  We have to make things easier if we want to convince more people to pull their bikes out of their garage. We've proven it over the last 40 years.  It's time to fix it.  It's a cheap way to leverage what we've already built.


Driver: And the end result of this is that we're going to get more idiots on bikes driving dangerously.  Have you seen those guys weaving through traffic back and forth?  They're insane, they're dangerous, and they're never held responsible for their absurd behaviour.  Why don't they ever get tickets the way I get ticketed as a driver?


Cyclist:  You know what?  You're exactly right.  It's dangerous, it's stupid, and it's setting back the cause of cycling twenty years.  Cyclists should not be riding like that.  Let's not forget there are plenty of drivers out there driving dangerously, too.  The dangerous drivers are a much bigger problem for you than the dangerous cyclists because you have to deal with a lot more bad drivers than bad cyclists.  I am still going to through out a proviso, however.  Sometimes it's safer for a bike to not strictly follow the rules.


Driver:  Hold it.  As a driver, I'm expected to follow all the rules, all the time.  You are not going to get away with some creative excuses because you're on a bike.


Cyclist:  People on bikes should follow the rules all the time.  But not all the rules are particularly bike friendly.  Not all the rules have been designed with bikes in mind.  We need to get them addressed fairly.


Driver:  Tough, tell it to the judge.


Cyclist:  It might come down to that, eventually.  Until then can we agree that we need fair and reasonable enforcement for everyone on the roads?  We're going to have issues, but everyone's driving out there needs improvement.


Driver:  Fine.  But what about all those cyclists slowing me down when I'm trying to get somewhere?


Cyclist:  Bicycles are slowing you down?  Can't you pass safely?


Driver:  No.  Those cyclists think they own the whole lane.


Cyclist:  They deserve the whole lane.  It's done to keep us safe.


Driver:  Safe?  You're going 30 km/h blocking me the whole way!  Move over and let me by.  You're supposed to ride to the right.


Cyclist:  Most people I know generally do move over when it's safe.  But even if you're held up for a block, it's hardly the problem with slowing you down much.  Honestly, the problem is there are more cars than the roads can handle.  Look at this video, it's Crowchild Trail during rush hour.  The bikes are faster than the cars.  And they're not even trying to go quickly.  More bikes on the road mean less cars on the road.  You'll travel faster as a driver.  It's good for you!


Driver: It will only get worse when you're taking away driving lanes and parking.


Cyclist:  Experience from cities like Montreal have been the opposite.  Bike lanes are getting congested because they're so well used.  That's easing congestion on the streets, at least a little.  Besides, haven't you noticed all the "traffic calming" measures the city is slapping in through the inner city neighbourhoods?  You're losing your driving lanes anyways.


Driver:  All those blockages really piss me off.


Cyclist:  We can use some of that for bike lanes.  It'll keep traffic flowing, take cars off the streets, and we'll all be better off.  As for parking, if someone goes to the store by bike, that's one more person you don't have to fight for a parking stall.  You can park a lot more bikes out of the way with a bike rack than you can with a single parking stall out front.


Driver:  Okay, but Calgary has this thing called winter.  Why are we spending this much money for times of the year when no one can ride?


Cyclist:  Actually, I ride year round now.


Driver:  Are you crazy?  That's ridiculously dangerous.  You're going to slide right underneath my car going around a corner.


Cyclist:  Look, during the winter what tires do you put on your car?


Driver:  Well, I just use my All Season tires.


Cyclist:  The same tires you hate in the rain because they're so slippery?  Are they better on ice?


Driver:  Well, no.  It can be kinda scary in the winter.  But I have AWD so it's not all that bad.


Cyclist:  Okay, when I ride in the winter, I put studded tires on my bike.  They give incredible traction out there - I feel very comfortable on ice or snow.  Besides, Calgary is famous for it's chinooks.  It's not so bad all winter long.  You just prepare for the conditions.  Why don't you put winter tires on your car?


Driver:  They're pretty expensive.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have better tires year put on.


Cyclist:  I got fantastic tires for $80 each.  I feel much safer out there and they'll last me for years.  My entire bike is set up and maintained for winter.  Honestly, it's kind of nice to not get to work sweaty in the winter.  It would be a lot better if they cleared snow regularly out of the lanes where I need to ride instead of moving snow onto it.


Driver:  It was tough enough getting the city to plow more of the city streets regularly.


Cyclist:  We're sharing the pain.  Don't you agree it's a real problem when the lines are faded?


Driver:  I can't tell where the bicycles are supposed to be and where I'm supposed to drive.


Cyclist:  A huge portion of the bicycle strategy is dedicated towards maintenance.  That's going to help drivers and bikes know where each other are supposed to be and keep us all safer.  It's as much about cars as it is about bikes.


Driver:  Well why aren't bikes carrying their share of the costs?


Cyclist:  I drive, too.  I pay taxes just the same as you.  We're paying right now.  It's just that there's been very little put towards cycling infrastructure up to now.  We don't need as much as vehicles, but we do need more than we've had up to now if we're going to encourage more people to ride.  Cycling is getting me fit, it's going to save a whole lot of health care costs.  Cycling can save us a whole lot of money in the long haul.


Driver: Well why aren't we leaving space for the cars and just putting cyclists and pedestrians together on a oversized sidewalk?


Cyclist:  There are two major problems.  The first is the problem that a traditional intersection isn't really well designed for pedestrians, and it's atrocious for cyclists.  The other problem is between cyclists and pedestrians.  Relative speeds between bikes and pedestrians are too great to be safe.  I walk at a quick pace and I'm only travelling at 5 km/h.  On a flat road on my bike with no wind I can sustain 35 to 40 km/h now.  That's the same as talking the difference between a car and a bike.  Really, the best case scenario is to separate vehicles from bicycles and separate bicycles from pedestrians.  It will take an investment, but it's ultimately geared towards making us all safer, more active, and hopefully healthier.  We call it our bicycle strategy, but it's really about transportation for all Calgarians.  We have literally sat on this since the early 1970's.  The sooner we act, the sooner we can make it better for all of us.


Driver:  Well, I've got one more beef.  I don't see why we have to hire three people to organize this whole bicycle strategy.  What are those jobs supposed to be doing?


Cyclist:  You know I've been complaining about the signs on the pathways.  They're horribly designed for a cyclist moving at 20 km/h - let alone someone moving at that 35 km/h I can sustain now.  We need someone to design better signs, to plan detours and maintenance, we need someone to plan routes that will least interfere with drivers and give maximum usefulness to bicycles.  We need someone who is taking a serious look at bike boxes, crossing signals, coloured lanes and other safety features other cities are having success with.  This isn't a three year job, this is going to be a ten year project until we show significant results.  At the end of it, we're going to have a healthier city, cleaner air, safer traffic and faster commutes.  It only makes sense.  We absolutely have to work on this.


Driver:  I'm not sure you've convinced me, but you make some good points.


Cyclist:  I am you.  You're out riding on a regular basis.  You're happier when you get into work.  You're not scowling at the other drivers when they do something stupid.  You haven't lost a pound of weight, but you've dropped an inch from your waistline and your lungs feel better than they have in years.  You know this is right for you.  You know this is best for your children.  It's a chance to correct 40 years of mistakes and finally get a cycling network built in Calgary for them!  Don't blow the opportunity.


Driver:  At the public hearings when one of the presenters said cycling was fun, Andre Chabot said that driving was fun, too.  He's right, I like to drive!


Cyclist:  That's never going away.  You're going to have to do a little of both well into the future.  Having more choices is best for everyone.  We need to fund this.  We need to seriously act on it.  Right now.


Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.


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