Thoughts on a bicycle commute

I’ve been riding my bike back and forth to work for a while now.  It is what ended my iPod heading into work theme until the fall. 

Double-plus good.  I need the exercise.  I need to strengthen my lungs and my cardiovascular system after the pneumonia.  I need to strengthen my knees before the arthritis takes them from me.  Arthritis?  Seriously?  I’m only 40 for ghod’s sake. 

Err..  41. 

Well, nonetheless nothing has made me happier the past week or two than when I’ve been out pumping the pedals. 

Calgary is a quirky city.  Land of the car.  If you don’t drive, you can’t live in this town.  It’s too sprawled, transit is too eratic, I cynically think this city has been so poorly designed it’s going to take another hundred years to make it into a truly functional city again.  Barring conquest, war, famine and death that is.  This is the city that completely and utterly clogs during rush hour because we can’t get any traffic flow in and out of downtown, but the city is eternally blocking off the right hand lane from commuters with “traffic calming devices” to grind everything to a halt.  Awesome work, gents.  I see a lot of irritated traffic out there, not a lot of calm. 

And in the heart of it all, we have the bike paths.  Did you know they are among the best in North America?  Perhaps so, I can’t really judge other cities, but I consider that damning praise for bicycling in North America.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying cycling in Calgary is bad, not by any means.  For a city that really started it’s growth in the past 50 years or so, we really do have a relatively good system of pathways.  You can find a pdf map of Calgary’s bike paths here.  What it doesn’t tell you is the state of a lot of the bike paths.  Most of the paths are - I’m guessing - eight to ten feet wide paved paths that run along the creek and river valleys.  It gets insanely congested downtown - especially on a nice afternoon - so they’ve actually twinned the path splitting walkers and bikes.  The outlying paths are a different story, though.  They tend to be roads and side streets that have signs proclaiming they’re - watch the car door, Ma’am - bicycle friendly.  My biggest beef besides the - hey, give me some space jerk - traffic is that it takes a couple of times up and down the pathways to figure out where the paths are actually supposed to go.  Nothing like getting lost in a residential cul-de-sac wondering just how you’re supposed to get three blocks and one major thoroughfare over.  They either have one sign that’s supposed to guide you for the next twenty blocks, or they have three signs all in a row because, apparently, every street is bicycle approved.  Take your pick, I guess.  Something new every day. 

Older sections in the city are tough.  I rode my bike down to my Dad’s place in Acadia.  There are zero safe routes to get directly from downtown to the heart of Acadia.

We need better commuting routes for bicycles.  Lanes that are marked off for bikes.  Pathways that are for bikes only, none of these 20 km / h speed limits that few actually adhere to.  It would make for some real improvement in the city we desperately could use.  Not that I expect a lot of the lard ass-SUV drivers would take advantage of it, but it would do us all some good.  Before we wake up some day and realize we’ve turned 40 and have bad knees.  Ahem.  41. 

I wish this was entirely my thought process, but other than the general rant and dissatisfaction, most of it came about through Twitter of all things.  I’ve become much more engaged with some of the city’s thinkers, movers and shakers over the past few weeks.  One of the blogs I hit was Carshare Cody who set me off to Green Drinks Calgary and Bike Calgary.  Yeah, it’s going to take me a while to get up to speed with everything that’s actually happening out there, but I’m feeling more and more connected with the actual city these days.  I’ve actually rediscovered some of the joy of Calgary - so long as you stay out of the traffic that is.

And the geocaching has been a lot more fun lately..  Now, can we do something about that suicidal gopher just south of McKnight?