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On tacks on bike lanes

My first thought was not that someone had deliberately sown tacks on the bike lane.

It was a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago. The air was pleasant. We were pedalling down 102 Ave to meet friends from Holland for brunch. A metallic sound, a kind of clank, from the back of Shelagh's bike made her pull over for a quick inspection of her machine.  Not looking for tacks, we didn't at first find two of them embedded in her back tire. The spokes were good, the chain guard was good, maybe a rock had kicked up into the fender? We rode the last block to Blue Plate, locked up and forgot about the mystery sound.
While we talked and laughed and reminisced across a table inside, the back tire breathed its last on the sidewalk outside.

"Something's not right," Shelagh said a block into the ride home.

Flat tire. Or, if optional spelling is allowed, a pfffffflatt tire. The p and the extra f's somehow do a better job of capturing the sense of immediate exasperation pre…

Stop that ball: reflections on tonight's sunset in Edmonton

Tonight the sun in the smoky sky in Edmonton looks like a lot of things. It looks like payload being lowered to the horizon.

And it looks like those flabby red balls we would kick onto the roof of the school during summer holiday. After six or seven attempts.

The sun tonight proves the First Law of the Goodness of Riding a Bicycle in the City: when you are on a bicycle, it is easy to stop for a big, glorious red light.

I am not the only one feeling the need to make time stand still this evening.

Commonplace red lights are coloured with new meaning.

That ball is outta here!

Stopping moves us.

The colour red—we carry it with us. 

This was my favourite book when I was a young boy.

A bus transfer

I pushed open the door of the University LRT station this morning and felt the short surge of electricity that prepares me for a bodily encounter with a stranger who is going to ask for money.

"Hi, buddy, do you have a bus transfer?" the man asked. He seemed friendly.

Bus transfer, I said to myself.

"No, sorry, I don't have a transfer," I said quickly, eyes down.

That wasn't exactly true.

I was on my way to campus to find a place to read or write or try to read or write while checking social media. The truth is I had no real place to go this morning, and I realized that slightly disturbing fact reading Knausgaard on the train across the river from downtown. I have gotten to Book 5. Our teenaged hero  is back in Kristiansand after a minor hitchhiking odyssey from Norway to Greece.

I ended up at the library. It was habit that drove me there, some of the same sensation of panic I'd had when I walked around there during my years at gymnas had me in its gri…

Early morning thoughts on rainbows, bicycles, email...

This picture captured me this morning.

The elements came together. Rainbow, shining birds, stormy and clear sky, light, dark, river, bicycle, the University of Alberta, a man with orange hat, arms crossed, standing in witness. In the bottom right corner a kind of shadow signature.

I thought: How lovely it is to know how to ride a bicycle so that you can easily stop riding a bicycle and stand and watch a rainbow when your heart tells you to stop and watch a rainbow.

I took the picture and then took a chance.

"Hello," I said to the man with the orange hat.  He took an earbud out of his right ear.  "Hi. I took a pic and you might like it and if you do, here, take my phone and email it to yourself."

He looked at the picture and smiled and said wow or that's cool and he took the offered device and entered his email address. While this was was happening, my friend Maryanne recorded the scene of two men, two rainbows, one phone.

The man in the orange hat said thank y…

Oliverbahn 101. (Okay, 102 :)

The "Oliverbahn" is a stretch of protected, treed, life-lined bicycle lane that runs along the north side of 102 Ave through Edmonton's Oliver neighbourhood. There is a lot to notice and consider on the way to and from the city's downtown core. Today, I saw:

A neighbourhood that provides space for pedestrians, bicycle riders, bus passengers, motorists, and, with all the stately elm trees, birds.

Families awheel.

Homes for fans of Hobbiton.


Two built for a bicycle built for two.

The cool Lord Simcoe apartment font on brick.

Trees with bark and bite.

Walkers who wave hello.

Automobile drivers who wave hello.

A boy who says "cool bike" to his mom about me and hears me say "cool bike" right back to him.

People on bikes.

The 1913 telephone exchange building by Alan Jeffers.

Signed but self-regulated intersections that reveal where we're at with each other:

People on bikes:

A tipi above the hedgeline in the Christ Church yard:

At the end o…

The elephant in the alley

The first time I saw the toy elephant was a month ago. It was lying on its side in a patch of grass and leaves and twigs in the alley behind our house. That seemed wrong.  I put the plastic creature on its feet. Every morning walking to the bus, every evening coming back from the bus I glanced down to make sure it was still there. And until yesterday, it was.

Yesterday when I came home there it was—in 34 pieces. Run over by a car? Smashed to pieces by someone's boot? What happened?

I bent down and carefully picked up the shards and then carried them in a cupped hand into the house. There was never any question that I would glue the pieces back into some kind of form. I laid them out on a paper towel. Shelagh is in Minneapolis.

I bought three tubes of Krazy Glue. (As I write this blog post there is still a distinct elephant glue aroma in the room.) I looked at the pieces until they began to resolve themselves into head, body and legs. The I re-constructed the miniature creature, h…

A little bike ride in Edmonton

Today was the perfect day for a little bike trip along the downtown network in sunny Edmonton.

I enjoy the view of the towers from the 105 Ave path near 110 St. I have long felt that bicycle riders, not sealed under roof and behind glass, have a special relationship with the road. Bicycle forks sing the rhythm of the road into the bones of the city rider. It's a kind of rock music.

From 110 St, the bicycle rider can reflect on the passage of things as traffic streams by MacEwan University. The railroad used to be there. 

On 103 St, the trees are in photosynthesis overdrive. Street and trees and people. That's what cities are made of. Or, if streets are, as they are, unimaginable without trees, then cities are made of streets and people. Artifice and nature. Dirt, bark, leaf, concrete, asphalt, steel, glass, rebar, rubber, wood, brick, stucco, polyvinyl chloride, dreams, hopes, blood, bones. And good dogs. 

And people.  We met Mark on the Jasper Avenue.

And Claire on 100 Avenu…