It’s April, which brings me to 6 years in Regina, 5 years of doing #30daysofbiking. Well actually, I think I’m now up to 80 days of biking in 2018 now. But anyway, you get the general idea!
Here’s this year’s adventures in photo form:
Dramatic change from one end of the month to the other! I’ve certainly been snowed on during April’s biking adventures before, but I don’t think it’s ever been this cold before.
Today I pedalled into work on the longer route around the lake – a luxury I can now afford because I didn’t have to drop Theia off then rush through traffic just to get in on time. Because… Carl is home!!! WOOHOOOO!!!!
Despite asking repeatedly to be allowed to work from home, the response from the Prince Albert job was always “we don’t have a work-from-home-policy”. Erm, well, you could make one? It’s 2018 and even Prince Albert has the Interwebs now. There is nothing he was doing up there that couldn’t be done remotely, sitting in his underpants on the computer at home. But no… so, finally, he decided the 800km drive on remote highways at 4am, the unfurnished apartment and the whole week away from the kids wasn’t worth it and he quit. Their loss, our gain!
He’s got some GIS freelance work lined up which will keep us going, and hopefully one job will lead to the next etc. Check out eclipsegeospatial.com – now accepting new clients!
It’s sunny and he’s home, and all is cheerful. And he’s decided he wants to get his bike out again too! So, we found a good way to get us both out pedalling again.
30th April was Rohan Day – that is, the day my brother Rohan died, 20 years ago now. He had a very rare form of cancer that was only diagnosed when it was too late. He was 12.
This year Carl and I are riding the the The Great Cycle Challenge Canada in Rohan’s memory, to raise money for kids’ cancer research and support. We’re aiming for 500km in 30 days. Please sponsor us if you can! Thank you.
Last week I attended a workshop on Tactical Urbanism, held by the Warehouse District and Downtown Business Improvement Districts. I was there partly for work and partly for personal interest, and it was a fascinating session from both angles!
Very briefly, the whole ethos of Tactical Urbanism is creating vibrancy in urban areas and treating city spaces as places where you actually enjoy spending time in their own right, rather than just as areas you pass through on route to somewhere more interesting. There’s a difference between a street and a road: roads are for transport, streets are for people. It’s simple but also something that doesn’t seem to occur to many people – especially town planners!
Tactical urbanism can be installing small, cheap and temporary initiatives (constructed by anyone with an idea, all very grass-roots and ‘citizen-led’) that are publicly accessible and very visual, and if successful, creates a momentum that leads to permanent change. This can be anything from just putting up planters and getting flowers along the streets, chalk art on the sidewalks, to pop up art displays in empty buildings, painting alleys between buildings, to food trucks and pop-up outdoor shops and markets, or roping off a section and creating temporary bike lanes and holding a group ride or a walking tour of the area etc. (Guess which bit I was most keen on?). Anything that gets people out of ‘the commuter mindset’ and gets them walking/biking/hanging out on the streets.
We discussed Park(in) Days as a good example of this type of event. The Downtown BID tried this back in 2016 – they plugged the parking meters outside some businesses on 11th avenue downtown (my café being one of them) and got the business owners and interested groups to decorate their parking spot. We turned our cafe inside out: put some squashy armchairs on a rug on the road, a bookshelf, coffee table and made a comfy reading room outdoors,and then filled the front of the cafe with flowers and pot plants and a bike rack indoors. It was a pretty simple set up, and we even gave out free coffee, but even with the freebies it was by far the most lucrative day we ever had at the cafe. People attract people. Getting people to sit outside your business instead of just driving past can only ever be a good thing.
For the workshop, they’d printed a couple of huge banners with fake shop fronts. We marked out a rough intersection and then a bike lane along the store fronts and then designed our own Park(in) displays – loads of flowers in planters, someone got some Yoga mats out so you could do yoga on the street, deck chairs and some sand, and we made “pede-vision”- a sofa area with a huge frame where you could sit and watch the world go by (instead of sitting indoors, alone, watching TV). It totally transformed our imaginary street.
Inevitably, the conversations turned to cycling, and I was pleased to discover that the bike-activist contingent was not just me, Andrew (sorry, ‘Councillor Stevens’) and the guy from Bike Regina! There were a lot of people interested in making Regina more cycle-friendly, or at least, more ‘walkable’ too. Clearing the sidewalks of snow would help right now! I’ve always believed that if an area is made safer and more appealing to cycle through, then more people will cycle. This workshop actually had the stats to back that up. As Leasa from the Warehouse District BID pointed out, you can’t use today’s cyclist numbers (with no cycling infrastructure) to assume how many more people would actually use cycle paths *if they were there*.
I tried to prove a point about how unfriendly this area is to cyclists – by cycling up there. Pain points included bumping violently over the train tracks (pedestrian bridge over that would be nice!?), and drivers passing me with just inches to spare on Dewdney, despite the road being easily wide enough to accomodate a bike lane if only one could be built. To my surprise, there was actually a bike rack at the building when I arrived. But getting to it required heaving the trike up 3 steps, or trying to bend it round a too-narrow, cornered wheelchair ramp. Tactical Urbanism fail: infrastructure added thoughtlessly, with no real expectation that people will use it.
The workshop was held on the second floor of the enormous, empty old Sears warehouse. For the final part of the workshop, someone helped me get the trike into the freight elevator and bring it up to the workshop. So I spent my afternoon slowly pedalling around a home made street with a hand drawn bike lane, on the upper floor of a disused, slightly creepy building. Surreal experience!
The other main discussion was city design that incorporates the microclimate – as in, should Regina embrace itself as a Winter City? And how would any of these ideas work in winter? We sidestepped the shared frustrations about city hall not clearing snow off sidewalks (because of the unwavering belief that if you have a car, your journey must therefore be more important than the journeys of pedestrians). Sidewalk clearing is an activity we can all share in, even if most would prefer City Hall to do it. Most interestingly, we also talked about how a lot of building designers don’t take into account the fact that their buildings often create huge wind tunnels (the Victoria and Albert intersection springs to mind – Capital Pointe would make it a whole lot worse down there). Doesn’t matter if you are in a car, but it does if you are walking or waiting at bus stops. What could we do about that? (Wind turbines on the rooves, used to power heaters in the bus stops below, I thought!)
Tactical urbanism is about Doing, not just Talking though. So, we built things! There’s a marketing company called Sleek, and they’d designed some MDF furniture (patio tables and chairs, park benches, a bike rack etc) and cut it out using a CNC cutter, and we just had to slot it together. It was very easy and effective, and Judith pointed out how cheap it was: about 25 pieces of solid, useable and custom furniture made from MDF came to about $5000.
The next day got more involved: we made a bar out of old wooden pallets. Jessica (from work) and I got to play with power tools! We had a guy from a construction company supervising us, but seven people most of whom had never used an electric saw before ‘recycled’ a few old pallets into a bar in an hour and a half. It was really fun! The point of all this was just to show how easy and affordable it is to construct little, temporary things – patio seating on the plaza, large planters to go on the edge of a sidewalk, or a small bike rack etc – that make a big impact, making places more visually appealing and encouraging people to linger and actually spend time on the streets.
Anyway, in trying to relate this all to work and Science Centre projects, I guess my main take aways from this were:
There is a great community of people out there who are willing and able to embark on ‘tactical urbanist’ projects – and the residents’ associations and Business districts will support them.
Keep it simple and cheap to start with – it can always get more elaborate later.
Building things isn’t actually as difficult as it first appears.
People attract people – as soon as someone starts something, others will follow.
I have a ton of ideas for projects already, and I also met a load of like-minded, useful people from companies that would be excellent to collaborate with for our Ignite! science festival in October. On a personal note, I would love to keep in touch with this group of people and plan some projects together. The workshop was inspiring – and I know I wasn’t alone in discovering a new passion for making Regina a fun, safe, creative and more liveable city.
It seems the internet is currently filled with clickbait articles that are ‘life changing’ and inspirational, with the sort of headlines like “7 things to do to kickstart your morning routine” and so on.
I appreciate that most of them are designed with good intent, but as with a lot of supposedly motivational rhetoric, I find it just makes obvious how much of a chaotic mess my own life is.
This morning was a prime example. Here is what greeted me on Instagram today:
(I am very sorry to borrow you, Kyle… but as the founder of Wheelhouse Cycle Club, I figure you know a bit about getting people motivated in the mornings!)
Here, in contrast, is the 5 odd things I ended up doing this morning:
1.) Attempt to insert Fruitloops into two decidedly not-awake children at 7.40am. While they are eating, I realise that when the husband left the house at 4am, he inadvertently locked my house keys in my bike basket *inside the locked garage*. Scramble around madly looking for the automatic garage door opener, only to find it helpfully clipped to the outer door handle on the back door. Which is the *obvious* place to look for it… Stand in the alley in barefeet and eventually get into the garage, reclaim keys, find shoes, packed lunches, backpacks and shunt kids out the door.
2.) Arrive at daycare 8am. Smaller beastling is fine right up until we are inside the entrance way, then she realises where she is and that Mummy will be abandoning her there. She starts howling and literally clinging on to my ankle so I can’t leave. Detach her and transfer her into the arms of one of the poor women who have to deal with regular tantrums and snot all day. Make a break for it with the bigger beastling, who is now complaining that her backpack is too heavy.
3.) Miss 8.07 bus to the Science Centre for day camps. Cross road, find another bus ten mins later. Get downtown. Bus does not meet up with connecting bus, despite what it says on Regina Transit’s schedules. Start fuming. Sit downtown waiting for the next one and playing I Spy.
4.) Discover that this bus does not actually go right to the science centre. Persuade a shy and tired Big Beastling to walk about half a mile across Wascana Park. Discover that some fricking idiot has set all the park’s sprinklers to soak the entire sidewalk for a good 200 yards, and that there is no way to avoid them. Try to convince daughterling that it is an obstacle course and we have to run and duck between the sprays. She thinks it’s fun until she gets hit in the face with cold water.
5.) Arrive at Science Centre dripping wet. Successfully drop off daughter only 5 minutes late, but see the direct bus drive off before I can make it to the official stop. Make my way back to the other bus stop, and get drenched again. Bus appears… and sails past me, as it is an Express bus and won’t stop at minor stops. Sit for another 20 minutes drying off in the sun, and use the time to write an official complaint email to the Wascana Centre about the sprinklers.
5.5) Arrive back home, 10.07am, and realise that not only did the whole ordeal take TWO FRIGGING HOURS, I haven’t had any coffee or any breakfast yet.
I’ll go to the library, I think, I’ll collect the books I ordered then treat myself to coffee and reading time at the coffee shop to relax.
Forget that it is Monday and the library is closed.
Come back home again amidst silent screams of despair.
I’m sure at least some of you are aware, the answer to that question is a resounding NOPE! As such, I could use some help from any local folk who happen to be reading this. I’ve recently decided to look for work again after a very long period of self-employment followed by some maternity leave. I am still involved with my coffee business but unfortunately I am no longer in a position to be able to work there full time. With the added financial pressures and responsibilities of looking after a toddler and a six-year-old, I am also looking for a degree of stability that I cannot get from entrepreneurship.
As I dive into the job search in Regina again, I’d love it if you could keep your eyes open for people I could connect with and positions that might be a fit for me. Below is a bit about my background and what I’m looking for, and if anything related comes to you please keep me in mind!
As a serial entrepreneur, my self-employed experience spans the last decade; I have opened two coffee shops – one in the UK and one here in Regina, I also had a mobile coffee van in the UK and I currently run a coffee cart business using my bicycle on Regina Farmers’ Market.
With over 12 years experience in small business development, I’m looking to translate those skills into project management in the creative industries.
My biggest strengths are my creativity, and my research and communications skills that I developed during my social science PhD.
What I’m Looking For
A full time, (salaried) and challenging position in a creative environment where I am encouraged to use my initiative.
Project management, communications, marketing, and anything that involves writing.
Some flexibility with work hours would be wonderful!
My Humble Request:
Even if nothing comes to mind at the moment, I would be grateful if you could keep your eyes and ears open, and even forward this message to any companies you hear may be looking to hire, or who could benefit from my rather unique skill set.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for keeping me on your radar!
It is December, and right up until last week, I was still cycling to the cafe. This is unheard of!
People are betting on the likelihood of a “brown” Christmas, which amuses me greatly since I remember how hard we used to wish each year for a white one in Darlington. The last no-snow Christnas that anyone in Regina can remember was 1998. So odds are we should be good…
The bunnies are all confused though. There are giant Jackrabbits (technically, hares, I think!) that live downtown, and a couple of them have taken up residence in the car park behind the cafe. We named them Wayne and Waynetta Wabbit and I even have a seasonal Christmas coffee on the menu called “confused jackrabbit” in their honour. They are confused because they have gone white already. Each year, they grow their winter coat, changing them from grubby grey-brown bunnies that match the general downtown concrete, into pristine white bunnies camouflaged against the snow. Except this year, they are white already but there is no snow hide in, and they look very, very out of place.
I want to stick out like a snow bunny.
I mentioned I am still cycling: Theia can now sit up well enough that she can ride in the forward-facing kid seat on the front of the Taga bike, so after another conversion effort (20 seconds to convert it? My arse! More like 20 minutes. With swearing.) – we are happily pedalling about on what has to be one of the most eyecatching vehicles in Regina, avoiding the seasonal idiots who have forgotten how to drive in ice. The advantage of the Taga bike is that I can pretend it’s Mainly Stroller and ride on the sidewalks with it and thus not risk Death by Idiot-in-SUV quite so frequently. Unfortunately in Regina most sidewalks are in worse condition than the roads, and having 3 wheels means hitting every slope, hole, chip of broken glass, lump or inexplicably unpaved patch City Hall wish to challenge me with. So, sometimes the road is a better option, but there, I am small, and low and slow and vulnerable, and because I lack a petrol engine, I mysteriously become invisible. This is a car-obsessed land, and unless you have one, you are a nobody, despite freakish hybrid kid-transportation devices.
I am having similar issues with the cafe. Not that people are running us over, but just that we seem to be equally invisible because no one gets out of their cars. We thought our spot on 11th would be pretty good because there is a lot of passing traffic headed downtown. We have a bright purple 26ft sign over the equally massive window, chalkboard outside and over the summer, even a little patio table out the front. Yet people drive straight past; I’d like to say they are concentrating on the road but often or not, it’s their phones… And then, 8 months after opening, we get the surprised, “oh, are you new?” questions along with “I didn’t know you were here!”. Yes, this is partially our lack of marketing budget, but also because so few traverse downtown on foot or by bike. Peoples! This winter is incredibly mild! Get out of your cars and take advantage of it!
Three years in Regina, and I still, defiantly, don’t have a driving license. I’ve survived quite happily walking or cycling everywhere, and even managed to do epic shopping trips picking up supplies for the cafe without driving. However, a few weeks ago, my beloved two-wheeled bike, Yoshi (don’t judge, it was green and fast) was stolen from it’s spot chained up outside the cafe. Some little **** didn’t just pick it up, they actually cut through my lock, implying it was premeditated: someone had obviously clocked that I lock it up there every day and had deliberately turned up with bolt cutters or something. Grr! Even worse was how quickly it disappeared. About 40 minutes prior to discovering it had gone, I had been out to load it up with all the dirty rags from the cafe to wash at home. The thief carefully removed the milk-crate bike-basket I’d made and placed it tidily on our back step, (thus leaving me the dirty kitchen rags) and even put the neatly cut lock in the basket too. AAAARGH!!
But this is Canada! I hear you cry…Things like that don’t happen here! Whereas there is no comparison at all with the petty crime rate in Darlington, UK, there are still some arseholes in my little flatland utopia, it seems.
I reported it to the police, but they weren’t really optimistic. Next, I posted this all over the internet:
56 retweets on Twitter, and about 80 shares from the cafe’s facebook page. My online followers are wonderful!! I never got the bike back, but I’d like to think with enough people on the look out for it, the thief will have a hard time selling it on at least. Then I got a message from someone who I think I’ve only met in the flesh on one brief occasion – he’d set up a ‘Go Fund Me’ page to collect donations and buy me a new bike!!! So, so sweet of him, and that restored my faith in humanity a great deal. To be honest, it wasn’t the money that was the issue. Yoshi was cheap and second hand three years ago and worth virtually nothing anyway. It’s just the inconvenience since I don’t have any other option: my trike was in need of repairs (after doing some serious damage hitting potholes too hard) and walking any distance while this pregnant is increasingly agonising, especially when I had to carry milk deliveries to the cafe. I could have got myself another secondhand bike I suppose, but there didn’t seem much point since I can’t fit the newborn baby on it in a few weeks time.
Instead, Carl managed to bodge a repair job on the trike so I at least had those wheels back again for now. And then I thought, I could treat myself. I need a new stroller (Look! I said stroller not pushchair!! I’ve gone native!) but, I couldn’t get a normal, conventional one, could I? And I miss Yoshi and the trike’s back wheel configuration makes it difficult to attach any newborn baby seats to anyway…
Then, I found this!
It’s a e-guruma (or rather, “Taga” bike, as the original company appears to have been bought out!) and it cleverly converts from a backwards trike with two wheels at the front to a “normal” stroller. You pull the seat off and the back wheel flips up over the top and pokes out the front, so you end up with a three wheeled “jogging” stroller thing. The Parents even got me an adapter for it so we can clip in the baby’s car seat until it’s big enough to sit up in that seat by itself. (Yes, “it” – still not sure!)
Miranda can just about sit in that seat and absolutely LOVES it. But she is a colossal weight nowadays and it’s very, very hard work cycling her on it, because the wheels are so small! Steering is very odd, it feels like the love child of an exercise bike and a supermarket trolley, but even when faced with Regina potholes and terrible road surfaces (Rae St and 12th, I am looking at yooooou!) it is remarkably stable, and in comparison with the big trike, it feels far less scary when it tips, because you are only 6 inches off the ground. I feel like I can go much further with it than I could walking with a pushchair, so hopefully when Baby arrives I have plenty of freedom to get around – and I still don’t need a driving license. MWUHAHAHAHAHAAA!