Thursday, January 28, 2010

Biking Burnaby

I've gone for a couple of rides in Burnaby this week. I get bored with biking around Vancouver all the time and I like to go for tours of the region, and Burnaby is in between me and much of the region, so I've biked through Burnaby quite a lot.

The City of Burnaby did two nice things at the same time. First, they spent a lot of money on street signs for bike routes, and second, they hired a mentally challenged person to plan the bike routes and decide where the signs go.

I bet they got a really nice tax credit from the feds for hiring their mentally challenged bike route planner, but actually biking the routes gives you an unsettling look inside the mind of someone who sees the world very differently than I do.

Bike routes in Burnaby frequently have reassuring signs that tell you to continue going straight down a perfectly straight road, but then they often have no sign at all when the bike route takes a 90 degree turn off the street and onto a narrow pathway. Sometimes your pleasant ride down a sleepy back street will change suddenly into a harrowing nightmare of "sharing the road", when you get dumped onto a major traffic artery.

But it's okay. The City of Burnaby and their special cycle route planner have made provisions for the safety of cyclists on these busier roads. First, they put signs up, like the one below, alerting drivers that they are presently "sharing the road", which, as you can see in the photo below, is the number one preoccupation of everyone driving down this arterial-connector-cum-cycle-route.

And then they intermittently paint pictures of bicycles on the road. These paintings are intended to scare drivers when they see them in their rearview mirrors by fooling them into believing they've driven over a white ten-speed. After their heart-pounding escape from their imagined hit-and-run, it is hoped that these drivers will resolve in the future to be more alert to the presence of cyclists.

My favourite Burnaby bike route moment came earlier this week when I followed the sea-to-river bikeway, which I assumed went from the Burrard Inlet (the sea) to the Fraser River. I discovered that the bikeway actually comes to an end about two kilometres from the river, when it steers you into a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a steep hill. Burnaby's bike map will assure you that the route continues through the cul-de-sac and out onto Marine Drive, but I can attest that no such thing is possible. My conclusion is that some important person at the City of Burnaby lives in that cul-de-sac, and wanted a convenient route for cycling into town.

The jewel in Burnaby's mentally-challenged bike route crown is the much-ballyhooed central valley greenway, which opened last summer. Translink, our regional transportation agency, spent $30 million on this pathway, which links New Westminster to Vancouver. Translink spent (in my estimation) the first $29 million or so of that money on this beautiful bike and pedestrian bridge in Burnaby:

Unfortunately, this bridge left them with very little money to complete the route, so they had to cobble it together out of existing pathways, linked together by confusing signage and the planners' imagination. The route, which is touted as a walking, biking and rollerblading path, frequently changes from asphalt to gravel to dirt to a sidewalk beside a busy road. It also prominently features confusing junctions with signs pointing out landmarks in three different directions, but not indicating which of the three directions the path continues in.

Biking in Burnaby: it's exercise for your legs, and your brain!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The team grows, again!

Now this is getting ridiculous.

New team member Steve and I went for a practice ride, and my lovely wife-to-be Erin came along for a spin. About 5 km into the ride, Erin had a flash of inspiration, and announced that she, too, would be riding with us to Seattle. So now there are four.

Steve looks like he'll be a solid addition to the team. On his first ride in many months, he kept up with us with ease and he finished the 25 km without his face turning any shades of red or purple. Plus, he's got a sweet 25 year-old custom made road bike with Italian componentry, which will definitely give our team a much-needed touch of class.

I'm not renaming the blog, incidentally. "Tucker and Ben and Steve and Erin Conquer Cancer" is just a ridiculous name.

Speaking of names, now that there are four of us, we'll definitely need a team name. I've been trying to think of a name, but I can't come up with anything that doesn't involve meat. (Wheels of Ham? Beef on the go? The Bottom Round Gang? Pastrami for a Cure?) I must be hungry.

If any of you, our dedicated readers (all two of you) have any suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them. As for me, I'm going to go have a sandwich and see what I can come up with. Most likely, it'll be something nap-related. (Snooze Cruisers?)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Team Grows!

Tucker and I have only been a team for three days and we've already got a new teammate!

My friend and neighbour Steve Holmes has announced (though not nearly so publicly as this) that he is going to join us on our ride to Seattle. This is exciting news; it means that we have someone who can carry my feet after I pass out and Tucker has to drag me off the road. That'll save me from having to shake the gravel out of my shoes when I come to.

I put up a link to Tucker's donation page today, and we'll get a link to Steve's up as soon as we can. Also, for the ladies, I'll see if I can get a photo of Steve in biking shorts.

Until then, you'll have to satisfy yourself with a photo of me in my less-than-sexy winter biking gear out at Spanish Banks yesterday, along with a couple of photos of my beautiful city on a beautiful winter day. You can click on the photos to get a much higher resolution version of them.

(In case you're wondering, the ride to Spanish Banks was a hilly 33km. I was starving when I was finished. Fortunately, the ride to Seattle will be fully catered.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Getting Started

Today, in the middle of January, I rode my bike 30 kilometers, across the Lion's Gate bridge, down the north shore and back across the Iron Workers Memorial bridge.

But why, Ben? That sounds hard, and you like things that are easy!

I'm glad you asked. Why, it's because this June my friend Tucker and I are riding our bikes to Seattle in order to conquer cancer. It's called the Ride to Conquer Cancer, and we're each trying to collect a minimum of $2500 in donations so they'll let us ride along with them.

To be honest, I don't actually believe that this or any other bike ride will ever conquer cancer. It's entirely possible that cancer will never be conquered. If we ever find a cure, I'm sure that the cure itself will be found to cause cancer. You know: all human endeavour is futility, yada yada &c.

The real point is, we'd look like a bunch of chumps if we just rolled over and all died of cancer without even trying to conquer it, so I'm getting on my bike and doing my part. Besides, It's going to be wicked fun. My neighbour David Pfeiffer did this ride last year on a borrowed racing bike that must have weighed about 10 pounds, and it sounded like he had a great time.

Tucker's mom died of cancer, which isn't something you'll ever hear him bring up in a conversation, so it's up to me to tell you. My family aren't really the cancer type; we're more heart attack and stroke people, but my parents seem to lose a friend to cancer every couple of years, so yeah, what the hell, let's go and conquer some cancer.

This blog has two purposes. First of all, I need encouragement. I do like to ride my bike, but I also really like to drink beer, and consequently, I'm a good 30 or 40 pounds overweight. It's going to be a hell of a lot of work to drag my fat ass to Seattle. I'm going to need to train, I'm going to need to lose weight, and I'm going to need to somehow do it without completely giving up beer, because as I'm often heard saying, I'm never going to quit drinking beer; beer is why I do everything else.

The second purpose of this blog is fundraising. We need $2500 in donations each to even join the ride, and anything extra will just make us look like superstars in front of all of the other cancer riders. All of the donations go to the BC Cancer Society and are fully tax deductible.

As an added bonus, Tucker's employer, Encana, will match all donations to his ride up to $25,000. So once I get my $2500, everything is going to him.

I’ve just discovered that this policy only applies to pledges made by Encana employees. Sorry for any misdirected excitement I’ve caused. —BC.

I've just I don't expect the donations to start rolling in yet; it's only January. But this is fair warning: when spring rolls around, I'm going to start passing the hat. If you don't want to give, you'd better just avoid me altogether.