Monday, January 16, 2012

On the joys of snow

A few days ago, a snowstorm hit the province. We accumulated 25 cm over two days. Tomorrow, we'll receive an additional 10-15 cm.
While enjoying the respite I am posting these pictures in hope of illustrating better my position on winter, winter cycling and defending my arguments in the last two posts. As of today, the snow has not been cleared on my street yet, while these pictures were taken on Friday.


Friday night, I went to my sister's place to pick up some of the furniture I put there during our summer renovations.

She lives right across from a metro station but the volume of the furniture was such that we had to go by car. Plus it was -17 Celsius, excluding windchill.

As we do not own a car, we booked 4 hours of carshare program, Communauto.

In case you did not notice, there a bicycle lane right there, right were the car is parked. Yep, a marked one, with paint on the road and all. Can't see it?  

Cutting across, we're approaching the station.

It's about 9 pm, my camera comes from El Cheapo, my fingers are freezing so those pictures kind of suck but I am sure you're getting the point.

Plunging view on my right leg.


Dear Hubby scrapping snow and ice off the car.

The three other cars parked at the carshare station. Usually there are all gone, especially on a Friday night, this is one of the most popular stations in town, gotta book way in advance.

Yet tonight, all cars are home! Nobody is stupid enough to be running errands on such a day but hey...

Finally we take off. For a moment there, I thought I was going to have to push the car out of the patch... Thank Heavens the beast pulled out on its own!
Then we found  ourselves behind one of these snow removal machines, mostly Caterpillars and John Deers construction machines converted for the winter season.

Most of these guys are private construction companies, leeching out on public funds in exchange for poor service, half-done work, aggressive and dangerous behaviour on roads, sidewalks etc. Every year people get killed.

Finally we get to destination. And obviously, the street was cleaned already. Damned, before us even!!
Nice right? It warms the heart to see one's hard-earned tax dollars put to such neat use.
Imagine if those guys were to clean the lanes and paths!!! Well maybe you would be getting a better look at the two bicycle lanes right there in the picture...

And I am not even mentioning the segregated one cutting across right in front of the bus and going all the way downtown!
No doubt, winter cycling is such a treat!

Ok, I am being mean-spirited again. Once this mess melts away a little, it is possible that the streets regain some kind of composure. Like in mid-December:

Like these two above, granted you are willing to challenge yourself with some bicycle skating!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter cycling in Montreal: study

At the end of December, the Montreal Gazette featured an article about winter cycling. 
Huh? Well yeah. 
Seems like the topic of cycling has gained so much momentum that it has become worthy of being discussed in the Gazette in December!!
Ok, so what is this study all about?

Quick summary

The number of cyclists is big enough now, with many of them continuing cycling in the winter, that the city has a duty to start clearing out all bike lanes and paths, the same way they clear all streets, including those that barely see a rat's ass in a 24hr period. Why? Because what really bothers cyclists is not so much temperature or weather conditions than road conditions... Duh!! I discussed it in November here and here!!
All of this, we have known for a very long time, but the researchers are finding out now, or so it seems...

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that the warmer cities retained a higher percentage of cyclists from summer to winter.
But Montreal’s winter cyclists seem less affected by temperature changes during the winter season than those in Vancouver and Portland. A smaller percentage of Montreal cyclists were discouraged from winter cycling because of drops in temperature, or intense precipitation.
“Montreal presents the lowest elasticities, suggesting that winter cyclists in Montreal are less sensitive to adverse weather conditions,” the study notes.
The big factor for Montrealers willing to cycle in winter seems to be not cold or precipitation, but road surface conditions.
“The surface condition is the main factor, and if we maintain good surface conditions throughout the winter we could improve these numbers dramatically,” said Miranda-Moreno.
He notes that European cities with similar winter weather to Montreal see cycling levels fall to only about 50 per cent of summer levels in winter.
“Cities can have four-season cycling. We don’t have to stop in winter. It doesn’t mean everybody wants to cycle in winter, but Sweden and Norway have very high retention of cycling rates in winter and we have similar weather.”
Full article here

It is not obvious but there is a full glassy ice coat right there

It may shock some but I am totally against this nonsense.
Pushing this stupid winter cycling agenda will only alienate everyone that does not cycle in the winter. 

Montreal is not Vancouver or Portland or wherever else. We do get big-ass snow falls and major-ass storms. Snow management is an absolute pain in the ass. It costs us fortunes every year. People fight over parking spot issues ("You motherfucker shoveled your snow on my car/spot/driveway!"). 
The city can never clear the streets fast enough to everyone's taste. And what about the sidewalks? Everybody and their mama who's ever slipped sues the city. Back alleys are not cleared. People sometimes spend up to 4 hours stuck in traffic during or right after snowstorms.

Budgets are tight. Plateau Mont-Royal's administration put up this website where you can play with the borough budget and see for yourself how much the different activities cost. Snow management is by far the biggie. People had to demonstrate this fall to ensure some swimming pools and other local services would remained open. The central administration is sucking the local boroughs dry by tightening theirs finances.

In that context, why should the local administration divert extremely rare funds from regular snow removal to clearing bike paths when only wackos ride in the winter? 
Whether or not what I just said is true, a lie or an insult is irrelevant. This is how the average Joe will perceive it. And we don't want that. Why? because it is hard enough to allocate valuable tax money to expand the cycling network without Joe balking. 
Between clearing out the paths in the winter for only 12% of cyclists to enjoy and building more paths for EVERYONE to enjoy during the regular season, the choice is easy. And right there, you've got the entire "regular" cyclists community agreeing with me. 

So it is us all, regular cyclists, plus all regular Joe's in their cars, against a tiny minority. It's ugly, it's petty and mean-spirited but as long as the pie's size is small, that's what it boils down to. The day the pie starts growing again and we've got an optimal cycling network in place, then yeah the city can spend money on winter cycling.
Until then, well.... Actually Plateau mayor, Luc Ferrandez, says it better:
The Plateau Mont Royal borough has been criticized for refusing to clear the Rachel St. bike path, which is supposed to be part of the Réseau Blanc. Plateau Mayor Luc Ferrandez says keeping that path clear costs about $150,000 per winter. The task is complicated by the fact that cars park beside the path if it is kept open in winter so there is nowhere to push the snow when clearing it.
Ferrandez said the Réseau Blanc is a nice idea that doesn’t really exist because the boroughs are not given resources by the central city to build and maintain a true network of safe paths. He said the central Ville Marie Borough gets extra snow clearing funding to keep the de Maisonneuve path clear (which despite this extra funding is filthy as ever). His borough would need not only more money for clearing, but money to build more and better designed bike routes to make the Réseau Blanc a reality.
“If there was (a Réseau Blanc) and I was stopping it by my stubborn cost-cutting habits, that would be one thing. But we don’t have a Réseau Blanc,” Ferrandez said.
As always, Luc Ferrandez is the man. Pr. Miranda Moreno rocks as well, but in this particular case, he needs to get real.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Specialized-Lululemon women team

Don't know what to think of this... Check it out!

Notoriously not a big fan of road cycling, I find this interesting nonetheless. For a while now, I have been trying to understand what Lululemon see in this new venture. Are they really trying to attract female cyclists to their brand? Or what else?
Anyone who has ever stepped into a Lululemon store knows how big of a stretch this is: it is a master split to perform.

Yep, I agree, cycling is on the rise... Yet their last two attempts at targeting the cycling community were major flops. This is how I got my Batwoman kit almost half price, remember? And this, in spite of the fact that a great deal of yoginis and yogis do cycle around (here in Montreal).
Lululemon is a very "girly" brand. Ok, not girly in a pinky marshmallow way. In a "inspirational", fulfillment seeking, self-realisation, lovey-huggey kumbaya way. It is very "Yin" despite all the achievement talk.
Road cycling and all, that's very "Yang". Yeah, I know they host running clinics and man! Hot yoga is *NOT* all that "Yin"...
Still, something is off. They can't even attract men as a market: the male line is incredibly anemic and has been so for years, despite several attempts to spice it up. Their previous "commuter" lines were fiascos, contrary to their recent ballet line which sold like hot dogs. And now we are to believe they are into road cycling... Female road cycling... Are they really that many, seriously? More than the troves of dance ladies desperately waiting for Lululemon to actually launch a stable and permanent line of basics? Pllllease!! We (almost) see as much Lulu as Sansha in dance studios nowadays... All yoga and running gear...
And assuming they really are enough road cycling ladies, do they need yet another cycling brand, what with all the Pearl Izumi et all already on the market? Why should Lululemon hop into a battle for a market that is foreign while turning its back on a captive one? Go figure!!!
Maybe they are assuming their cycling venture will turn out to be similar to their running venture?

Well, good luck to them. Hope it works out...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Folks, something is up... Up in the air...
There is a great disturbance in the Force... I can feel it!
It is lurking... creepingly roaming around and paf! One day it will be in my face!!

You probably have no idea of what I am talking about but it's ok, I understand myself, that's what matters for the moment.
More to come...

In any case, I wish you all a very Happy New Year, full of great realisations, cycle related or not!