Duncan Wilcock

duncan@wilcock.ca

e-Bikes: No Traffic.
Easy Parking. Join the Fun!

Saturday, December 02, 2023

e-Bikes: No Traffic. Easy Parking. Join the fun!

I am so grateful I have found an alternative to sitting in traffic - for most of my trips.

eBike with Basket, Kid Seat, and Christmas Lights
Like most people, I don’t like traffic. I don’t like sitting in traffic, I don’t like knowing that I am traffic - when I'm driving a car. I see a lot of belly-aching about traffic in our local newspapers & social media. I fully agree that we in North Vancouver do have an epic problem of vehicle traffic.

We spent ~$300 million on the new interchange at 2nd Narrows ($70 million from the DNV's coffers*), and the delays are unchanged. This was predictable - the same things has happened with highway "upgrades" since the 1960s - add more lanes, and the numbers of cars using the roadway increase - so that the wait time is about the same. This is called induced demand. That's why the wait time is the same - people are willing to "pay" in the amount-of-time waiting.

* This article originally written to our local newspaper the North Shore News

Most Trips are Short

So I’ll say again - I am so grateful I have found an alternative to sitting in traffic - for most of my trips. Most trips are short - less than 10km and so most of my trips are short, and I have found joy on an eBike - and because I take up so much less space - I am no longer part of traffic. I whizz by gleefully with a smile on my face, knowing I'm getting some exercise, but also not so sweaty I can't do what I need to do when I get there.
    

Twice as Fast, Twice as Far

My ebike takes me about 2x as fast as when I tried the same trips on an "acoustic" old-fashioned pedal bike. This means I can go twice as far with it. I use my acoustic bike around Lynn Valley, but for trips to the Shipyards, to Delbrook swimming pool to get my 5yo to swimming lessons, to his soccer practice - it's the best. So liberating, so joyful.

Saving you Money & Time

I also know I am saving society money by looking after my own health - by building exercise into my everyday activity = "active transportation." The Dutch spend $0.75 billion on cycling infrastructure every year - because they know it will save them $27 billion in healthcare costs. Far from "not paying my way" quite the opposite - I am :
  1. One less car in front of you in traffic
  2. Saving you money by being healthier

Sometimes I drive

There are times when I’ll use our car. I prefer not to, but there are times when we do. It’s not about one or the other - that’s too simplistic. It’s about choosing to do something different so as not to wait in traffic. If we reduce the number of vehicles on the road - the roads are nicer for everyone - including those who need to drive.
I’m not a cyclist; I’m a person who drives a car at times. A person who walks at times. A person who rides a bike at times.

Some reasons not to bike:

  • Our roads sometimes don’t feel safe. That isn’t because being on a bike is inherently unsafe. It’s because we are sharing the road with machines 100x heavier. Yes - we need to improve our streets for bikes, and with the growing wave of people getting around on bikes & ebikes - we will. Faster improvements would be better, but we will. 
Riding a bike also is factually more safe than you might think it is.

eBikes For the Win

eBikes really are a game changer - a technological change that makes a 10x improvement to getting around on a bike compared to how things used to be - especially for the Northshore. You’ve seen how many more ebikes there are out there - it’s a growing wave. Give one a try - you won't regret it.


On my eBike: 

I never worry about traffic. I never worry about parking. 

Smiles, not miles. Join the fun!  

Monday, November 13, 2023

Biking with Kids - 0 to 5+ and Beyond

Getting around town with your kid on a bike is so magical.  

I believe my son knows his neighbourhood, all the many interconnections in our city - North Vancouver- much better for having gotten around on the back of my eBike for the past 5 years.   I love that we can stop in an instant to take a closer look at something if he asks about it - pulling the bike up on the sidewalk to look & talk.   And there is no better way to see construction sites with a little boy, than to walk or position the bike in the perfect position right up against a construction fence. 

 eBikes: No traffic.  Easy Parking.  Join the fun!

I wrote this up for a friend, and thought it was of enough general interest to publish a public version here.  Ride with your kids - it's so joyful. I wish you as much joy as we've had on the back of my bike - and him on his own bike.  Sun, Rain, and everything in between.

My goal of writing this is to share a  a lot of my learning and experimenting over the past 5 years to:

  • a) get around North Vancouver with my now nearly 6 year old by bike as much as possible.
  • b) helping him to learn to ride & to love biking around town, and beyond.

Here we go:

1.   I mostly accepted not biking with my kid until 1 year old.  
Their neck muscles are not strong enough younger than this age.   I did not try a "sling" or hammock type thing that can go in a bike trailer.   I have no experience or opinion of if they work well less than 1 year old.


2.  A seat on your bike is way more fun & feels safer than a chariot.
I found the trailer behind my bike felt less agile & I didn't feel as in control.  It would be fine for biking on trails with a kiddo, but for biking around town - having him on the bike feels way more solid to me.  A box-bike cargo bike could be ideal, but I also like the agility of a standard size bike & ebike.    I found a rear "Thule Yepp Maxi" worked well from age 1 to 5.75.  (40lbs).     


3. Details on the Thule Yepp Maxi Kids Bike Seat
There is a rack mount version of this seat - which I used and linked to above -  and I found it to be great.  Another choice is a  a "frame mount" that could also work well, and doesn't require as a strong a rear rack. My ebike had a built in rack that was part of the frame and could take 100+lbs of weight, so the rack mount was a good choice, and I see rack-mount seats on most of the long-tail cargo bikes I see around. 

Also: I only just found a month or so ago that there is a "Thule store" at Park Royal (West Vancouver, BC) that could be a great place to visit and see their many options in person, rather than only online.

4. Run Bikes:  
For learning to ride - run bikes are amazing.  Consider a Strider with the pedals that can be added later.     This reduces the transition to a different bike when it comes time to have pedals.  The transition & change was a barrier for us.   

There was a young girl in our alley who learned to pedal before she was three on a Strider made with the added pedals.  An alternative is to get the new bike and remove the pedals.   Let them use it as a run bike for a few weeks before adding on the pedals.  

5. Learning to ride expectations.
I've seen kids doing amazing things on run bikes at 18 months.  Run-bikes are definitely something many kids can learn by/at age 2.  
For pedalling - as I mentioned in point 4, I've seen happen at or even a bit before age 3.  My kid was riding several kilometers on his own at age 3 three. ( I was/am very proud 🙃).  When I was a kid -  I didn't learn to ride until I was 5 or so.  Not doing training wheels moves things way forward.

Also:  In 2022 or 2023 I've started to see  mini-electric bikes for 18 month-olds that might be a terrible idea.  They might also be amazing!  We missed that boat and we didn't try them. I have an open mind to the idea.

6. Bike-Trailers:
I have had good luck with the Thule trailer. We rarely used it for biking, although he loved the idea of it. It was more fun for us doing XC skiing.   We went with the 1-kid size, which was nicer to have a lighter load to tow for XC.   

We have had more use out of the trailer by using it as a cargo bike to haul stuff.  For that I would have liked the 2-kid size.  Now it's become useful as a "cargo bike" when I combine my ebike and the trailer, and I find I can't fit a garbage can of compost in my trailer - it's a bit too narrow - so in some ways I'd like a wider one.

7. Cargo bikes
Box bikes are the best - to my mind at least.   Seeing your kind in front of you, and you can loading up a lot of stuff!  But on the down-side, they do feel like driving a pick-up truck on the bike path.  You have to ride slower and defer more than on other bikes, because you are so big. They are also very pricey, and you might need a garage to store it in.   I don't have a garage, unfortunately.
Long tail cargo bikes are very popular, less expensive, and I think also very useful.  I haven't ridden many, but I think they are a great option right now.
A bike/electric bike + a trailer IS a cargo bike - so consider that.   We hauled our paddle board to Deep Cove in our bike trailer & back.  It was a bit of a trek from Lynn Valley - but when you make the journey there & back part of the outing - it's all part of the fun.  

8. Mac-Ride for Mountain Bikes
If you mountain bike - get a Mac-ride (or shotgun seat) and enjoy. It's SO MUCH FUN!.  We could have started a little earlier with ours - at age 2.  He used it through age 5.5

9. Towing at age 4-5 with a "Tow-Whee"
 A "tow-whee" is a great tool for mountain biking, and for when your kid rides on their own around town.  I tow my kid on his 20" bike up steep north van hills using my ebike.  It's worth having.

10. Getting Helmet fit Right
Helmets may be worth getting fitted at the store with your child. I've bought at least 2 helmets the wrong size & wrong fit.   100% worth buying at a shop with him/her with you to ensure a good fit.  Obsession bikes in North Van was particularly good at helping us.

11. Bike Seats for Bigger Kids:  Quibbel
 Beyond age 5, I want my kid to be able to ride on the back of my bike - I  have friends where kids rode back there to age 8 or even 10.   The RadRunner by Radpower has a nice setup for it,  but for me -  I have a standard length ebike with a solid, but standard rear-rack.  (My ebike, FWIW).   I've found and have a kid bike seat by Quibbel:  I think it's amazing and from the Netherlands.   Thule/Yepp makes a similar one, but it is not offered for sale in Canada at the time of this writing.  I've seen them in person in NorthVan when someone picked on up in Europe.

The only place in Canada I could find the Quibbel for sale was in Victoria, BC at Bishops Family cycles  It seems like a great store, and I have not yet checked the store out in person.  
They won't ship this seat to you, but will do online purchase and you can arrange your own shipping. I found I was able to do so for $70 with UPS - not cheap, but less than a special trip.  I was able to have family on the island pick it up, and my kindergarten kid is loving it so far. 

Not so nice parts

From #2 above about the bike seat - I have in fact dropped the bike with him in it a handful of times. I know - awful - but I think the truth is important to out, to both reduce fear and guilt - we parents have plenty of both.    I've been lucky - he didn't have an arm out in a way that he got very hurt.  I think part of that is good seat design, but a lot of it is good luck.

More than once there were no tears at all. I can think of 2 times where there were some tears, but I felt much worse than he actually wound up feeling.    If my bike had better, more stable kick-stands - like a long tail or box-bike cargo bikes - I don't think it would have happened. My bike has a side-kick-stand, which is  not ideal for kids in a bike seat.  For the most part I always had a hand on the bike when he was in the seat, and this is an advisable rule.


In Summary:

Wow - long post.  It's been a journey, and continues to be a fun one!
Happy Riding!  ðŸ™ƒ⚡️🚲💪

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Bike Lanes are Good for Business in North Van: Lynn Valley Road, and everywhere

In early June, at Lynn Valley Road & Dempsey, I chatted with a group of about 10–12 retirees on ebikes about the planned bike lane, and I was surprised they were not in favour of the second phase of the mobility lane on Lynn Valley Road.

Two boys biking - The're not in the way of you driving, you're not in the way of them living

In fact - only one person spoke -  but she expressed concern about The End of the Line store & café – “I want that store to remain open” – or something similar, that others in the group didn't contradict. And I thought:

  • Wait: don’t you know bikes are good for business?    I guess she didn’t.


Why bikes are good for business - this is well established:

Improving access to people on bikes, people on transit, and people walking is good for business. This has been proven many times locally and globally, including by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) - who initially opposed bike lanes a couple of decades ago, and have since become strong advocates in favour of mobility lanes – because they increase foot-traffic, and result in healthier retail business.

Here are some of the facts, as I see them:

1. End of the line is not sustained by a few parking spots. It’s people - not cars - that go to the shop. The more people that go there - the better the business will do - which is obvious, but in our car-centric world it clearly needs underlining. Specifically - many more people who come in cars park in:
  • Kilmer parking lot
  • Dempsey Road
  • spots at Lynn Headwaters.
  • and more 
2. However, there is only so-much space on any road and two or three spots for cars aren’t going to move the needle. What will move the needle for this store is enabling more people to come. The only ways to do that are: 
a. Better Access via Transit = Buses
b. Better mobility lanes, so that:
    • More people can feel safe travelling there by bike - especially those who are not yet biking
    • More people know there is a safe bike route so that they feel safe biking there


This is why mobility lanes that are obvious, simple, and “feel safe” are so important. The mobility lanes aren’t for me - they are most important for the people who are not yet biking there, so that they feel safe to start. Moreover, so they are safe for all the 15 to 25 year olds on Lime bikes - our kids! that are already using so many Lime bikes. That is why great mobility lanes, and more frequent bus-service - will bring more people, and be better for businesses across North Vancouver. Even better, they will help reduce our infamous traffic-jams.


____

Too Many People?

Now if you feel “there are already too many people there” - that’s another topic. I suggest you spend some time reflecting on equality. Specifically: Why are you so special you deserve to access all that nature, when another person travelling there by bus, bike or otherwise doesn’t deserve the same access and privilege you enjoy? A topic for another day.

____


The bottom line for End of the Line: Better mobility lanes are not going to cause it to close - quite the opposite!

The most surprising thing about the interaction to me was to find a group of people like me - who just enjoy getting around on their bike and ebike, and - whose leader at least - didn’t understand how good mobility lanes are for all road users:

  • people who walk
  • people who take transit
  • people who roll in other ways (eg. 4-wheel mobility scooters)
  • people who bike
  • yes - even people who use cars & trucks (less cars on the road, because of the above!)

If you don’t believe me that mobility lanes are good for business, here are three other sources:

  1. The downtown Vancouver business association figured out mobility lanes were good for business
  2. This Canadian YouTube guy (@NotJustBikes) will help you see our urban & suburban choices differently.
  3. It’s not just Canada. Here is a 2023 Wired article recapping that “...installing bike lanes and making streets more pedestrian-friendly boosts the economic fortunes of a place.

My family & I love End of the Line. The coffee & treats are great, and the gift section is simply amazing for all kinds of occasions. We often show up there on our bikes, and I look forward to seeing you there soon.


Duncan Wilcock
Lynn Valley
I ride & love my e-bike to get around town. No traffic & no trouble parking – join the fun!

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Making Change in NorthVan - for People on Bikes

I didn't think I would become a cycling advocate.

However, it doesn't take a lot of riding a bike on the roads of any North American city to have some conflict and frightening experiences that can leave you feeling angry.  (To be clear - I do believe it is safe to ride bikes in Metrovancouver see footnote 1 below.)

I got into advocacy to channel that anger into something productive.   We're lucky in Metrovancouver in that a structure is already in place to work through as part of team - it's called HUB Cycling.  This link is the NorthShore HUB group.  

I'm writing this as a "how-to" get more involved, with my suggestions for getting started, as well as how I have learned to use the the tools to make it fit in my life, and not be too overwhelming or time consuming.  I'm likely to have shared this with you as a link & as summary.  I hope it's helpful.

1. Facebook Group

The easiest way to start getting involved is join the North Shore People on Bikes Facebook Group.   As of July 2023, it gets about a post per week on average I'd say, and is a good place for some discussion in public.  I visit and post from time to time, and think it's great.

2. Groups.io

Aside from coming to meetings & volunteering, groups.io is one of the best ways engage with other people on bikes in North Van.  I had a tough start with it, and wanting to share how I use it is one of the primary reasons I am writing this post.  

 It's a group email list, and my key learning to make it work for me is to access it on the web, and to only get a 1 per-day email-digest.   

By using group.io on the web, it's more like a "message board" or "forum" for me.  When I first signed up for it I think I ignored it for literally years due to too many emails.   You-do-you, but I get a lot of emails in my day job, and I work at keeping the inflow to my personal email inbox to only a handful of emails per day.  

Once I changed to the once-per-day digest, and access it on the web, as well as through their dedicated iPhone & iPad apps - it changed my relationship to groups.io and it became much more effective, as well as sometimes even fun.

The setting to change to "once-per-day digest" is in Subscriptions->Email Delivery->Daily Digest.  See this screen snip of that setting:

Screenshot of setting


Also, hot tip:  

You can permalink (permanently-link) discussions from groups.io with the little chain icon in the top left (and message number).  For example #3480 in this image, that links to this example message. So if there is a good discussion you want to share on social media, or link back to in a past discussion, you can use that to do so. 

3. Attend a HUB meeting

No pressure.  If you start with some facebook and/or groups.io - excellent.  

After a time however, I found I wanted to meet some people in person, and have some more full conversations.    The meetings are a great way to dig in a bit deeper, and also to relieve your family & friends from hearing you talk about bikes-bikes-bikes, as I confess has happened in my family...

Since the pandemic, online participation is way more feasible, and a part of every meeting - so if you're a busy parent and evenings out are precious, or for whatever reason - this lowers the barrier to trying it out..  I have a 5 year old, and I was able to start in with online attendance when he was younger.

In person is even better of course, because we often go for beer after

  • Time:  First Thursday of every month
  • Location: CNV Library, off Lonsdale.   
  • Full details linked here, including online meeting link.

4. Volunteer, and perhaps attend some City Council Meetings

Again - no pressure.  Doing 1 or 2, and maybe 3 can be enough.

It took me a year of attending meetings before deciding to take on some greater responsibility.  I was attending some of the DNV council meetings already, and it wasn't much added time.     I haven't had to attend every council meeting, and many parts can be viewed online either live, or later as recorded video - so the work on council meetings is more doable than it was a decade or more ago. 


5. Consider joining my email list

Only if you are a DNV resident (District of North Vancouver) - I'm starting now on an email list for the electiions in 2026.   Local government can have some of the greatest impacts on your daily lives, but only around 20% of people voted in October 2022.   I am gathering emails now looking to unite progressive minded folks like me and you.   Have a look here and consider adding your email to the list.    

bit.ly/ChangeDNV

Thanks for reading!  I hope we can work together to make NorthVan safer and better for everyone by prioritizing safe ways for all ages to get around by walking & biking - ride safe!


_____

Footnote 1:  Here is a study that convinced a very stats & logic focused friend of mine that biking in Vancouver is safe!   Perhaps safer than walking.  In fact, not biking is hazardous to your health if you consider in-active transportation in cars.   Anyway - I digress (welcome to my blog). 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Why I am Passionate About Micromobility


Climate Impact is a Huge Motivator

I am strongly motivated by climate change. My day job is with British Columbia's leading sustainability focused engineering firm, and I am passionate about working to reduce the scale of climate change.  Here in BC, 40% of our provincial emissions are transportation related, and 1/2 of that is private car/truck use. Many find it surprising that about 70% of of all private car trips are 15km or less (see the chart below).  Distances of 15km or less are the the sweet spot of micromoblity, meaning personal electric vehicles, weighing 30 to 60lbs - very commonly electric bikes (ebikes) and scooters.

Most Trips are Short - log-normal distribution

Win-win-win-win...

My passion for reducing my carbon footprint has led me to the electric bike pictured above. There are many types - including cargo ebikes, and that is part of the magic of micromoblity; what I like best is that micromobility is a rare win-win-win-win - in that I believe greater use of micromoblity will result in:

  1. reduce our individual and collective climate impact
  2. improve health outcomes for individuals and collectively by re-embedding light exercise in our day-to-day activities
  3. improve our societal cohesion and interpersonal trust - by promoting quieter, calmer streets with fewer cars by reducing car dependence - resulting in greater connectivity within neighbourhoods
  4. Access to more equitable transportation options (in terms of the poverty/wealth divide) than the current car-dependent culture so dominant in North America and much of the western world.  In a nut:  A car is a  financial barrier to freedom and access to opportunity, and for practical purposes, to fully participate in modern life in the western world - most people feel they need to own a car.
  5. result in cleaner local air quality and quieter cities - places that people will enjoy lingering more of the time
  6. result in safer streets by right-sizing a vehicle (30lb to 200lb) to transport 150lb to 300lb humans - instead of the status quo of using a 5000lb+ metal box to move 1.25 humans. (Most cars move 1 person almost all the time - the average over time is ~1.25)
  7. improve outcomes for our kids - key outcomes such as autonomy and independence. By making it possible to use fewer cars in our lives, our streets will be safer, and we will be able to permit our kids more freedom of movement - rather than being effectively imprisoned in suburban homes - dependent on  someone to drive them to most activities and friends.
  8. increase the number of smiles-per-mile for many - honestly - it's just way more fun getting around this way! 🙃

An Exciting Future

A lot of my enthusiasm for micromobility starts with the person who coined the word in 2017 - Horace Dediu. He is an outstanding thinker, shared through podcasts and writing. He describes micromobility as a disruptive innovation - in the business sense - meaning "a worse car," that will eventually supplant and obsolete cars/trucks for most short distance journeys. He speaks about "what is fast is slow" meaning that cars typically take 5 years+ to design and produce a new model at volume - where a new version of an electric bike can be designed and built at scale in 6 months. 

 This faster pace of innovation is likely to result in vehicle that solves the "jobs-to-be-done" better and better than the one-size fits all choice of travelling in a (ie car/truck). Fast iterations allow products (and biology) to evolve much more quickly.   This is exciting! I can't wait to see what we will come up with next!

I truly believe the innovation of micromobility is a wave of technological change, that on balance is going to make our cities a LOT better.   It will add mobility choices, increase equity, and I hope help rebalance a century of car-dependence. In doing so we will move forward into a better future together.

So let's get on our ebikes! Let's re-make our cities for the 21st century and beyond to be more walkable, bikeable, and friendlier for all of us.  

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Rain Gear for Biking in Vancouver

Father and 3 year old son in full rain gear with ski googles riding in a rain storm in North Vancouver. No bad weather, just bad clothing!

I didn't think I would ride in the rain.  

Four years ago, when I got my ebike, I was excited by the potential for avoiding bridge traffic, reducing my climate impact, and helping my son and I move around North Vancouver by bike.  I didn't think I would ride in the rain much, and I certainly didn't expect to find myself riding in almost all weather. 

Gradually - after trying to drive home from work in the pouring rain, having cars whizzing past with poor visibility, spray, and feeling less safe on Highway 1, or at busy car intersections - than when I'm on my bike and able to position myself with agility in safer places - I found I kept wanting to be on my bike - and gradually I began to experiment with biking in the rain.  

These days I ride in some serious deluges, all winter long - and as you can see - my little guy enjoys coming along too (3 yo in that photo).  I'm not intimidated by almost any rain storm.   Mostly it's just frost and ice that I avoid riding in, and I might take the bus to work once or twice per winter for that reason.

It rains less than you think it does.

I live in Lynn Valley, North Vancouver.  We are one of THE rainiest places in Metro-Vancouver.   Not infrequently, it's cloudy here, while sunny in Richmond or Point Grey.  However, I found that when I rode less than perfect weather it's often - "a bit grey," or "light mist," or "marine rain" - that doesn't get me that wet.  Moreover, on "a rainy day" - it's often only raining for an hour or two - a lot of the rest of the day it's perhaps misty, or just grey.  In short - it rains less than you think.

On eBikes, you don't sweat

You'll notice I wear rubber boots and non-breathable stuff.  I find this is a-ok because I'm not sweating under my clothing from exertion.  This is why ebike rain gear is different -  and less fancy - than fanatical cyclist rain gear. I tried those rain galoshes many bikers wear - yuck & what a pain.  Half-height rubber boots for the win!


On to the Gear:

You're reading this for the photo and the gear list, here it is:

I wrote more about my rain pants and boots in this blog post about Rain pants

You don't have to buy all this stuff to get started. This is what I found myself working up to over time.  I didn't expect to be a rainy rider - and you can see my son (3 yo in that photo) loves it too.  (We have adventures. 🙃)

I would start with waterproof:  rain pants, rain coat, rubber boots, gloves, and at least the glasses to start.   See how it goes for you, and if you find yourself liking it more - those are some more options of things we have found work well.

It's Kinda like Skiing

I love skiing.  We love skiing as a family.  I love #stormdays on the mountain.  The fun part of biking in the rain, is it has started to feel like that for me.   I have my swishy pants on, my warm dry helmet and googles.  I move at a similar speed biking and skiing.  The cool air on my face.  It feels not unlike skiing.

Cautions

Wet leaves.  In fall, when the leaves are wet - watch out for wet leaves, and even for a few hundred meters after riding over a patch of wet leaves.  I think there are oils or debris that can stick to your tires for a bit and make them slippy.  I did have a scare on my own once, and am now very mindful of wet leaves.

Final thoughts 

1. There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.

2. You're not made of sugar

I hope this inspires you to explore what your comfort level is.  Enjoy!  ðŸš²ðŸ™ƒ


___

Update 31-Aug-2023:

1. On a reddit thread I where I shared this, a few people have commented on the importance of fenders.  100% - its so foundational to me I didn't think to mention it.   For me - as a person who bikes for utility (ie getting around town) - having fenders on my bike all year round is how I roll, and I definitely recommend it.  There are also great options for temporary fenders - check your bike shop or MEC.

2. Proud dad here: Here is my little dude biking to his daycare at 5 years old a couple days ago - on a rain day, as he has done for years.  No bad weather, just bad clothing! 

Five year old biking in the rain in full rain gear

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Who to Vote for in North Van & Rest of BC - 15-Oct-2022

Why Vote on 15-Oct-2022

 BC municipal politics matter to me because they can have a big impact on decisions that affect:

  • More Housing Options
    • Land-use Policy and zoning, which are huge drivers of the housing crisis
    • Think "six floors and a corner store" 
  • Active Transportation Networks (Walkable Cities, Transit, Bike Lanes)
    • Have you tried an electric bike yet?  Game changing.  Ask me sometime.

These are two big issues that can have a direct impact on my quality of life.  Even more important, my north-star is climate change, and these are also key building blocks for making a difference to climate change.

I live in North Vancouver, and I'm going to focus this article on our candidates.  I'll also include some links at the bottom for help identifying who to vote for in your municipality.   In my day job I'm lucky enough to do work having a positive impact on climate change. Being focused on climate change a long time, I know politics has an outsize role to play, and local governments can lead faster and better than other governments on these key issues.

So:

  1.  Please vote on 15-Oct-2022 in your local government elections.
  2. I'm hoping to make this easy for you - here is who I plan to vote for & why.

Who to Vote For: DNV

In the DNV (District of North Van) staff have been bound by a split council this past 4 years. Three councillors fairly in favour of active transport (Mathew Bond, Jordan Back, Megan Curren), Two mostly opposed = Mayor Mike Little, Betty (Pigeon) Forbes, and also not reliably in favour = Lisa Muri and Jim Hanson.

The choices on Oct 15 really matter in terms of how fast housing policy and bike infrastructure can move. Do get out to vote, and encourage your friends and neighbours to do so too. Both for CNV and DNV. 
The younger (50 & under - especially 18-35 vote) are especially important to try to get out to vote.

For what it's worth,  my voting dance card for DNV so far looks like this:

  • Mayor: Matthew Bond

Council:

  • Jordan Back
  • Greg Robins
  • Elison Mallin
  • Catherine Pope
You need 1 mayor vote, and up to 6 council votes. People tell me better to only vote for 4 if you're not sure about the other 2

 This is my current list. I may add to this list as we get closer to 15-Oct. 

Here is the full list of DNV candidates in 2022


Don't just trust me. In prior years I've used the HUB cycling advocacy candidate list, and found that the people that are in favour of their policies, are progressive and usually in favour of more housing options as well.

Last note: Incumbent mayor Mike Little says "thoughtful growth and some transport options" - but his record that I've observed is of minutia, status quo, and not rapid improvements.

Who to Vote For: CNV


If I lived in CNV (City of North Van) my dance card would be:
  • Mayor: Linda Buchanan
Councillor:
  • Tony Valente
  • Jessica McIlroy
  • Angela Girard
  • Holly Back
  • Don Bell
  • Kathy McGrenera


There may be another candidate or two aligned fairly directly with Linda Buchanan. I'm sure she's not perfect, but I definitely want more of the "walkable city" and bike priority work that has been happening for the past 4 years.
Our family goes to the CNV by bike routinely. The destinations are great (Shipyards, Moodyville Park, Grand Boulevard), and the routes are palpably better when we cross the DNV/CNV border.  I want more like them in the DNV too!

Here is the list of CNV candidates in 2022

Who to vote for - other Municipalities in BC

If you live in the Lower Mainland, HUB Cycling has put together lists of candidates who have endorsed their platform. (Same link shared above) As I said above, I have found that the people that are in favour of their policies, are progressive and usually in favour of more housing options as well.

Outside the Lower Mainland of BC, I haven't yet found as good a resource. Please send it along do duncan@wilcock.ca if you find one. I've asked the BC Cycling Coalition if they have a similar list, but they have not responded after a few days. Feel free to ask them on twitter at @bccycle :) 

Ride on!  ðŸ™ƒðŸš²

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Cars Dehumanize Us


I don't love cars. I drive one fairly often, and have since I was 16. So I'm a driver too, and not always an angel behind the wheel.

With a long time passion for sustainability, that was a key reason I bought an eBike 4 years ago.  I quickly started to notice however how much more engaged I can be with the people I see biking or walking when I'm on my eBike.  Also how much more engaged my 4 year old son is with the world around him.  Not to mention healthier, more fun, and in most cases faster - yes, faster door-to-door than driving!    

A quite complete vision of "more livable" cities is outlined in this book I highly recommend: Curbing Traffic. Here I'll focus on one aspect of a more livable city life: communication, and how we treat each other on our streets.  As both person riding a bike, and a person driving a car -  I've observed how hard it can be to communicate - both for conflict, and even for pleasant/friendly interaction - through the walls of the metal-boxes we use to cart ourselves around our cities.

Communication is our Super Power

The complex and nuanced communication we have evolved is one of the most defining features of being a human, and therefore surrendering our ability to communicate effectively - makes us something less than we are - it dehumanizes us.

Some specific examples, of typical (ineffective) communication in a car:

  1. Communication is reduced to honking, or gesticulating - rudely or otherwise.   Consider the attempt to "beep" vs. HOONNNK - it's absurd!
  2. Eye contact is hard at best, often impossible due to glare and speed
  3. You are reduced to "body language" of "inching forward," or moving the vehicle aggressively (or if you are kind - perhaps allowing someone to pass)
  4. You often only have fleeting moments for that communication because:

a. You are likely travelling at some speed so only are close enough for audible or visual communication very briefly

b. The press of the queue behind you, including the large amount of space your vehicle blocks in the road way, and the willingness (as well as cultural acceptedness) of blaring horns behind you, doesn't permit you to stop and communicate more clearly.

No wonder many drivers seem frustrated and inconsiderate!  Compare that to walking on the sidewalk, or biking at lower speeds (10km/h to 20km/h):

  1. You can speak to someone - in a friendly voice, or urgently, sharply, etc - the full-range of human vocal communication & nuance
  2. You can clearly make eye-contact, and any body language you want to communciate - the full range of human gestures & body language.  Perhaps a bit less if your hands are steering a bike.
  3. You can stop, and engage in a fuller communication - either friendly or to express your discontent.  Assert yourself.  Even if the person walks away - you have a much more innate sense of whether you were heard.

More effective communication potential

I'm writing this from a place of self-reflection. I drive a lot at times, and do try to ride my bike a lot, as well as transit, but I'm very much pointing the finger at myself too. I'm not always a friendly driver.

Cars are great at times.  They are useful for medium to longer trips. However the more people populate a given city, the bigger problem they become.   Cities get less pleasant to be in.  More space, bollards, sidewalks, and infrastructure needs to be built to keep the rest of us safe from the cars & trucks.   If you think about it - bollards, sidewalks, "pedestrian overpasses" are all car infrastructure.  We wouldn't need them if we didn't have the cars & trucks there!

The reason we have that infrastructure is to protect the people who aren't in cars, from people who are in cars -  behaving badly.  

Why are the people drive cars & trucks behaving badly?  Because we have become less human.

So walk more. Take transit more. Get a bike, or an eBike, and be the change you want to see in the world.

I'm trying. ✌️

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Rapidly Digitize 35mm Slides: My Workflow

I've recently taken on digitizing 35mm slides taken by my prolific-photographer of a father - Ross Wilcock.   It's a quite a job, I estimate about 25,000 photographs. I'll share a photo of the storage drawers later in the post.

I've worked out a process that is proving much faster than I initially imagined, and I'm now optimistic it's a job I could complete in the next 12 months.   It might be 100 hours of work, or perhaps a lot less, as I've been getting faster.

This post is to document the tools and a few tips I've learned so far.    The short version is to buy A & B below & off you go!


A.  Capture Device: Wolverine Titan 8-in-1 High Resolution Film to Digital Converter 



Quick Review and Disclaimer:

This Wolverine product is, I would say:  so-so.  

Pros:
  1. The resolution is high at close to 6000 pixels on the longest side (quoted as 20 megapixels...)
  2. The workflow is relatively quick (although my slides don't slide through the feeder properly, so I'm putting them into it one by one.)  In all, it's still quite a fast workflow.  
  3. Seeing them on the screen immediately allows some adjustment and framing.  It also means that the device is stand alone, so I can work without a laptop.  Combined these two things are nice for my mom and my 4 year old son, so we can also set up and do it in different places, and they get to see the slides as we scan them.   It's also useful for a quick close up, if I can't see details from the light table. (see next major heading)

Cons: Criticisms are mostly about photo quality.  
  1. The digital photos have "digital noise" in them.   This is a technical way of saying that the scan quality could be better.  Lots of pixels, but unfortunately close-up the images aren't as good as I think they could be.   Alternative #1 below might do better, but would add time & expense - so much that I wouldn't actually get the job done.   I'm setting aside the best of the photos, and at a future time I may find a way to do them at even higher quality, but  - we'll see.  I'm choosing to decide this process is good enough.   They are very much better than not being scanned at all.
  2. The above mentioned slide feeding not working for me is disappointing.  It might work better with thinner slides, perhaps if they were mounted in paper, rather than the plastic mounts my father used.
Alternatives:

  1. A fancier rig I've seen, but I've decided I don't currently have the patience or time for is linked here.
  2. I had London Drugs scan some for me a few years ago, and the quality was also not good. Much lower resolution, and I don't recall being impressed by how they turned out. It was also relatively expensive, and the lack of control in the process I found frustrating.

B. Inexpensive Light Table



Here is a link to buy this on amazon.ca

I've only had it a few days, but so far it's been cheap & cheerful.  I bought the A4 size and it was $30, delivered the next day.   Amazon is amazing (and also crazy.)


Some of the Results

My father, my mother and brothers, beside the Bow River in BC, Canada - in summer 1976.   New Canadians at the time!


Us with our "yellow submarine" - a VW camper my parents were thrilled to be able to drive off the lot in Vernon, BC (8 month waitlist in England at the time!).  All five of us lived in it, our first few months living in Canada.


Overall Slide Capture Commentary

I promised a photo of the job ahead, and here it is:  32 drawers, I think about 800 photos in each, for a total of 25,000 photos.   One thing that is speeding it up, is that so far about 90% of the photos I'm finding are not worth scanning.   They're still fun to look at, and see what drew his attention at the time (he passed in 2008, so I can't ask him).  It's a fun way to connect with him and what was in his mind at these ages.   My 4 year old is enjoying the process, and including my mother is really nice for her too.


The job:  About 25,000 slides.  I'm hoping to complete this in 100 hours or less.  Ask me in about it in 2023......!!  (Note: this photo taken with iPhone - not with the slide converter, much less digital noise.)


Friday, April 15, 2022

Get Rain Pants

In recent years, I've embraced rain pants.  ðŸŒ§ðŸ™ƒ

Nearing 50 years old, I'm not sure why I resisted them. Mostly a mix of these reasons:

  • Too much hassle to put on
  • Kind of ugly/not fashionable
  • Makes swishing sound

Now that I have a 4 year old, and life goes much more smoothly outside, I've taught myself that wearing them is so much more easy, freeing, and in fact - fun.  I wish I'd gotten over myself earlier in life and worn them more often.  Here are some reasons it's great to have them on.  In summary, FREEDOM:

  • Sitting on wet benches or anything wet is not longer a barrier
  • It rains here.  A LOT.  My legs stay dry. (Wow - who woulda thunk it).  "There is no bad weather, just bad clothing"
  • Overall I'm just more free to be out in whatever weather.
  • A wet bicycle seat isn't a barrier.  No need to wrap it in an ugly pastic bag.
Simple enough, and admittedly I sometimes hesitate whether to put them on or not. I've taught myself to just put them on most of the time whenever there is dew on the grass, or anytime it isn't summer (so Oct to Apr pretty much)

Throw in a pair of more comfortable rubber boots, (and of course a rain coat) and rain is no longer a barrier. I'm more free to be out in it & simple as that sounds - it's wonderful.

Below are some recommendations for rainpants, and a bonus link to the low-cut rubber boots I have found fantastic for almost all weather, and for biking long distances on my ebike.

In summary:  Get Rain Pants!  ðŸŒ§ðŸ™ƒ


Note: I live in North Vancouver, BC - and so am used to a LOT of rain each year.  Even places where it snows more than rains, I think rainpants will still deliver a lot of freedom in the shoulder seasons - Oct to Dec, and Mar to May (for the northern hemisphere)

Also - these are not affiliate links.  (Maybe I should work on that...!)

_______


Helly Hansen - Moss Rain Pants$50 CAD.  
Solid, effective, fully waterproof. 
Not always flattering.








MEC Drencher Rain-PantsMEC Drencher Rain-Pants 
($50 to $90 CAD)
The ones I use for everyday wear & ebiking in serious rain.


($80 to $160 CAD)
A $30 version is available at Mark's Work wearhouse, but I prefer the look & grip on these.