Friday, January 27, 2012

Bikes vs Cars

Why do we always have to be against one another? Don't get me wrong, I am NOT a fan of cars, I never want to own one, and dread the times when I have to ride in one, yet they exist and like it or not our cities and western culture has developed around them. That doesn't mean we have an excuse to rely on them or drive everywhere, but it does mean that they exist on the streets. However, bikes also exist. Bikes in fact have been around longer then automobiles! The first bicycle invention was created in 1817 by Karl von Drais, while the first automobile was not invented until 1886 by Karl Bentz. So, why do bikes get the shaft? As a biker I feel like I constantly have to fight for my right to a piece of the street (especially in the winter), which doesn't seem to make sense when I am the vulnerable under-dog who really has been here longer then the car driver. Humf.

But what gets me the most is the tension and anger we create around the idea that we have to share the road. Share?! Heavens no! Again, all I am asking for is a little R. E. S. P. E. C. T., is that so hard to do for me? There are cars that provide that, but there are many that don't. I think a big problem is that a lot of the car drivers are...surprise surprise...not bikers. Therefore they do not understand why a biker would ride in the middle of the road and get in their way. When really it is not that the biker wants to get in the way, but rather that the side of the road is full of hard and dangerous ice layers. Some drivers would thus reply, "Well then you shouldn't be on the road". But again, I disagree. I know this is an extreme, but take a look at Copenhagen, this is a city that has more bikers then drivers, and thus they have to adapt their infrastructure for it. Yes their climate is somewhat milder, but they do get snow, they do get ice, and all the unfavorable conditions that winter brings.

But wait, lets back up to the ticket word...INFRASTRUCTURE! I have to say that are infrastructure is not built to value both cars and bikes, its built to value cars only. And while north American cities are getting better (Woot woot to Ottawa's bike lane on Laurier Street, I love it), we have a long way to go. So obviously its awkward when bikers have to pedal along in a world designed for cars, yet it doesn't mean it shouldn't happen. In fact more bikers should do this. The more bikers flood the cities the more demand will arise to adjust our city infrastructure to create space for the bikers, which in turn creates a better infrastructure for cars too.

So instead of becoming hateraters lets be appreciaters. And if you want safer roads, then lets lobby the cities to built better infrastructure that supports both car and bike traffic (and walkers of course too!).


History of the Automobile:

History of the Bicycle:

Biking in Copenhagen:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Corn and Meat, what do we eat?

Yesterday morning, as I was making dal and rice (not for breakfast but to feed my hungry face later in the week when I will be busy and w/o cooking time) I was reading some factoids about corn. And how 60% of the corn that is grown in Canada is fed to...yep, you guessed it, cows. It makes me sad, frustrated and amused on so many levels. Sad because corn is not the natural diet of cows, grass is. Its like telling humans to naw on tree bark for breakfast. Yum?! I think it would put me in a lot of pain trying to digest that stuff. So I can only imagine the kind of pain cows are in when having corn and other grains that they arn't suppose to eat being shovelled down their throats. Euw.

Its also frustrating because of all the resources and space that growing all of this corn takes. Did you know that mono-cropping corn takes 3 times the amount of fertilizer than any other crop?! So where does all that fertilizer come from? Usually oil. And that fertilizer costs farmers a lot of money, which then goes into the pockets of the rich kids down at Monsanto, BASF, Pioneer, and Syngenta. Can you imagine the amount of fresh veggies, and organic grains that could be grown if corn was taken out? Even if only the corn that is fed to animals (which again remember are NOT even suppose to eat corn) was taken out, that would be 60% of all the corn, that's a lot of land. And that's a lot of money saved on fertilizer. I know people say that its not possible, but I disagree.

Why do I become amused? Simply by how crazy our food system is. How did it get this way? What makes us think its ok to feed living-beans stuff that hurts them? What makes us think growing one crop for miles and miles is a good way to treat the earth and feed ourselves? If we take a look at a forest what do we see? I know I don't see only trees in one section, moss in another, and ferns in another. They grow together. They provide the nutrients needed for one another, they live as a community that provides nutrients for each other.

But, back to reality. Our situation is far from a forest oasis. So where do we go from here? I think we need to let go of our attachments to what we think is normal. Its not normal to consume most of our food from plastic packages. Its not normal to have farms that span kilometers and kilometers. Its not normal to raise animals in such small confinements that they cannot move. Its not normal to have to deal with water pollution caused by too much animal poo in the water. I could go on, but you get the point. All of these "not normals" can be changed though. I would love to hear your ideas, and what you are doing to create new normals.

Thanks for letting me express these ideas and feelings, even if they don't involve my bicycle.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Extreme Sport

Welcome to winter biking.

This past weekend my friend loaned me a bike until I get one for myself, which I still need to get...perhaps this week during my personal development hours, it is definitely something that can develop your personality, ESPECIALLY this past week in Ottawa. Its been snowing a lot, and with lots of snow comes crazy roads, and its not so much the snow on the roads that worry me, but rather the cars with the snow.

Here in Ottawa it is as if the drivers don't realize anything has changed and continue to drive as if there is no snow on the ground, which makes for extreme conditions for cyclists. And yet I have never seen so many winter cyclists before! Its great to have friends on the road. Its great to look out the window while making dinner and see two, not cars, but cyclists pedaling down the road.

Cycling this past week has been an extreme sport, different from cycling any other time of the year. I suppose I have to make a mental shift too, now that the snow is here. I can't race around doing a million things. I find the cold drains me, and cycling in the winter takes a lot of energy from me. Its unfortunate since I have a long list of things I want to do, see, etc. But perhaps its good. It will force me to slow down, be flexible, and enjoy the moment. Like yesterday, it had been snowing all day, and although the bike home was a bit scary, it was beautiful once I got to my neighbourhood. The snow was all stuck on the tree branches and so many people were outside walking or shoveling. I love how the crazy weather brings the people out.

Unfortunately, yesterday my loner bike also got a flat tire, so until that flat is fixed, no slush rush for me.