bike

SAIT Graphic Design Fast Track: Icon set

One of the assignments we did in my SAIT graphic design program was to put together a set of five icons representing things about ourselves. I really enjoyed working on the icons. There is something really fun about taking something and putting it into it's simplest form. You are trying to get to the essence of something with just a few different lines and shapes. It's something I definitely want to do more of.

 

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Back in the saddle

One of the best things about being back in Calgary is that I have a bike again. While I was in Washington, D.C. I missed riding dearly. I would glare at all the cyclists and resent them and their beautiful bikes. Now I have my bike who I loving call Doris after the moderately functional bus in Almost Famous.

Despite my excitement I find it easy to make excuses to not ride my bike. My parents car is fast and easy to use. This city can be frightening to ride in. There are lots of hills. Too many hills. There is the endless rain.

But no these are just a bunch of lame excuses. I rode to Eau Claire today because of my blanket refusal to park downtown and remembered how much I miss riding. It is so much more satisfying to ride there than it is to drive. The river valley is beautiful and I have bike lanes most of the way. Why don’t I always do this?

Riding home along the pathway as the sun was setting I was reminded of how nice it is to get somewhere with the wind in my face, using the power of my own legs. It is extremely satisfying to peddle as hard as I can and glide along. This was something I felt everyday in Copenhagen. I find I am much happier when I feel this instead of the stiffness in my legs as I press the peddle and sit still.

Later I ran into a friend and mentioned to her that they are putting in physically separated bike lanes on 7th street.* She was supportive then I said it’s just a start they should have them on every street downtown, and everywhere else for that matter. Then I got that look that says you’re crazy, that will never happen. People won’t go for that. Part of me knows she’s right and another part of me knows that there’s a reason Copenhagen is touted as the world’s most liveable city while Calgary isn’t even considered for the list. It’s because driving an hour or more each way to work doesn’t make people happy, walking to the grocery store shouldn’t be a luxury and riding your bike to a friend’s house is way more gratifying and healthy than driving. If more people looked at the 10th street bike lanes and saw the future not an exception then we would be a happy, healthier more liveable city. If you disagree with me give riding your bike a try. Once you get over the sheer terror of rolling stops by motorists at stop signs you might just get converted.

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* I have my reservations about physically separated bike lanes. They have their upsides and downsides. I am personally a fan of the ones that are just on the road. They are a lot cheaper and ultimately no amount of concrete will protect cyclists from drivers who have unsafe habits and attitudes that endanger cyclists. I think we spend too much time debating what type of bike lanes to put in and not enough time putting them in.

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Bike hunt

We are on a very important hunt, and taking one of the most important steps towards becoming a true resident of Copenhagen: we must find a bike. I have never walked this far down the street. The city is still new to me. We walk past trendy stores and coffee shops to an area that is filled with kebab shops. By the time we get there it seems like we have been walking for ages. The store has a reputation for selling cheap bikes, that is all. They are not necessarily good, and were probably stolen, but they are cheap and we are students.

The storefront itself comes off as being small. Incredibly small. Smaller than our living room. It is filled with wheels and accessories that he will try to sell us at unreasonable prices. This is the beginning. We step through dodging items as we go along and trying our hardest to shake the felling that this place is very very sketchy. We enter a courtyard and find numerous bikes lined up. None have price tags. We’re told that some belong to other residents of the building but not which. A vague hand motion is not enough to make me feel certain. Then we find it. Down a half-storey of steps there is a basement that must be home to half the bicycles in Copenhagen. They are shoved row on row with some hanging from the roof. There is no way to get any of them out. Not all of them look mechanically sound. Quantity over quality. The man who owns the store greets up. He works his way easily through the muck of bikes and takes us out to the courtyard. These are the bikes he wants to sell us and we’re not really in any position to object.

Then the summer I spent working at a bike store hits me. My friends know nothing about these machines and how questionable they are. They know nothing about locks or bike lights but I do. I know that these bikes are less than mechanically sound, but then again we’re going to be leaving them out in the rain for the next few months so what difference does it really make?

Bikes are selected with a sure why not style. We are glad to get out of that place and hope our new bikes are worth what we paid.

Flat tire

Copenhagen is a city of cyclists. It is said that there are more bicycles in Copenhagen than people, and I don’t find this hard to believe. Owning a bike is part of the experience, and the downside of bikes is that they break.

Most international students buy cheap bikes, and along with this comes the risk that bikes are going to break down. From the beginning I knew that my bike was not a beautiful new machine carefully built and examined by trained mechanics. It is more likely that mine has been owned by a few too many students who don’t know the first thing about bicycles. The brakes aren’t everything they could be, nor is the chain but all in all it gets you from point a to point b.

Unfortunately, I got a flat tire — my tube went flat and then fell out of my tire and then got caught on my fork — and I got to explore the inefficient part of bikes. This is taking your bike on the S-tog to a station that you know has a mechanic and then dragging your bike to the mechanic — it also taught me that I lack upper body strength — maybe I should start doing pushups. My bike should be back up and running soon, and the repairs were not terrible expensive.

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I want to ride my bicycle

There are bikes everywhere in this city. It is impressive to see how many people ride bikes and get used to it being their main way of getting around.

Unfortunately I have as of yet to get buy a bicycle but I am working on it. It seems like a bit of a scramble has been going on so far to buy bikes. Lots of people are just buying the first one they find and it seems like a crazy system.

Perhaps I know too much about bikes and have a specific idea of what I want and that is why it has been harder for me. I want one that is mechanically sound, has a more aggressive fit than the upright town bikes that are so popular here (I think there is a good chance I will compromise on this one), preferably an old school road bike or a hybrid style one, that is inexpensive, and fairly mechanically sound. It will also be nice if it fits me reasonably well.

I think these are questions that people who have not been taking their time buying a bike may have missed. But then again it would be nice to just bike the first bike I find and be done with it.

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I went to a shop this morning that is supposed to have good bikes but unfortunately I could get a new bike for less than the used ones there. The process of finding these stores, and then going in and looking around at what they have on offer is quite disappointing. You want to find something cheap and moderately good. If only there was a Tiger used bike store.

Most of the used bikes I’ve encountered are the upright townie style and unfortunately you have to pay a premium if you want something else. I think it is time to settle, that or raise how much I am willing to pay for a bike. Or I can buy a town bike and see what I find. The process continues.

That is the downside of only being here for four or five months, you don’t want to spend a whole lot of money on a bike you will only be using for a short period of time.

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I bought a bike. I can now stop looking and going through Facebook groups and waiting for replies to posts, and finding shops to discover that they do not have any good deals despite what the Internet claimed.

I am finding Danish bikes strange to ride. You can not back peddle them to get the peddles in your preferred position like you can in Canada so I’ve noticed a lot of people do a bit of a running start and hop on. Luckily my bike is a step through so it is relatively easy to get on and off of in a pinch. It will be an adjustment and I don’t think spending more money on a bike would really solve that problem. It’s funny how even bikes have little differences between countries.

It is nice to finally have some wheels. It felt strange to not have a bike in a place that may have more bicycle parking facilities than it does car parks. If you sit at a cafe during rush hour — or pretty much any other hour — you can watch all the bikes stream by. It was weird at first watching all the cyclists stream by but I am now one of them. You get used to it, and in a good way. Back home you would never see that many cyclists, especially not outside of rush hour. Something for Canada to work on.