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A public sign of damage

This afternoon there is again a Yield To Bicycles sign standing in its rightful place on the Oliverbahn, the stretch of mostly protected bicycle lane that runs along 102 Ave in Edmonton's Oliver neighbourhood. The sign is now dog-eared, as if to mark a page that contains a lesson worth re-reading and thinking about. The sign is again doing what it was designed for, which is to remind motorists not to turn left into the path of bicycle riders like me. This is all very remarkable. 

It is remarkable that Edmonton has a mostly protected bicycle path in the neighbourhood. Last year, there was no bike lane here. Riding east on 102 Ave toward downtown was a take-your-chances proposition for bike commuters who became skilled at threading the needle between parked cars on the curb and moving cars in the lane. It’s something, too, that the asphalt is clear in winter. This is because the City sends out pickups with calcium chloride sprayers onto the bike lanes before the morning commute. The …

Calcium chloride for cycling people

I'm Glenn. That's me, too. #4. Playing hockey on the rink I grew up on in northeast Edmonton. In Canada. About 50 years ago. That rink was our universe. Out in the elements—the ice, the snow, the cold—we were pretty certain we were as great as Bobby Orr.

My universe expanded when these guys showed up on TV. The Soviet Red Army hockey team. Valery Kharlamov. Aleksandr Yakushev. The coach who always smirked, Tikhnov.  And the great goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. All with the mysterious C-C-C-P on their sweaters.

C-C-C-P.  I will try it: Soyuz. Sovietskikh. Socialitschekikh. Respublik. For us watching, it simply meant a new way to move on the ice. Passing, skating, working together as a team. That team was able to bring down the temperature of the game. They had a kind of chemistry.

Now, C-C-C-P is Cold War history. And cold weather chemistry. I believe it now stands for calcium chloride on cycle paths. Calcium chloride, you remember from school, is a salt, crystalline solid at r…

I feel so frickin' free on this!

Here’s one thing about riding a bicycle that’s worth being honest about: it takes work.
Yes, riding a bicycle is all those other oft-celebrated things, too. It’s relaxing, fun, healthy, it’s sustainable and eco-friendly, nostalgic, convenient and social. Riding a bicycle is economical and efficient and therapeutic. Pedalling a bicycle makes a connection between city and rider not possible in an automobile. Riding a bicycle is exhilarating. Riding a bicycle is freedom.

It's also work.

The work of riding a bicycle can be hidden under the poetry of riding a bicycle. I will always remember the day a friend at work texted me, after having renewed a lagged friendship with her bike, a message that was music to my ears:

I knew immediately what Laurie meant. I felt it in my old bones. A green Mustang two-speed was my first declaration of independence growing on the streets and alleys of northeast Edmonton. That precious bike took me out of the orbit of domestic surveillance, such as it was i…

Margot Frank

I was doing sort of okay emotionally in the Anne Frank House until the instant I wasn't, and, since the instant I stopped doing sort of okay in the house at 263 Prinsengracht, Amsterdam, February became for me the month that Anne's sister, Margot, died.

The month she died, that is, because no one knows the day she died. The punctuation mark that closes the story of most human lives—the day of death—is lost to history in the sad story of Margot Frank. Margot Frank was born on February 16, 1926, and died in February 1945. She was either 18 or 19 when she died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Nazi Germany.

Either 18 or 19. That "either" hit me unexpectedly hard. The fact of her death was monstrous. But for her family and her community to be stripped of the knowledge of the day of her death struck me as a fraction of victory for those who aimed at her total annihilation, including her memory.

In February, I will remember Margot Frank.

A trip of a lifetime

Russia has tugged at me for a long time.

As a boy in a house with a Bible and an Edmonton Journal subscription, I followed the acts of a small number of characters in the bigger world: the Apostles, the NHL stars, and Russian and American politicians. My young imagination was peopled by, basically, St. Paul, Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr and Ken Dryden, with room for Nixon, Ford, Brehznev, Gromyko, Chernenko, and, later, Reagan, Andropov, and Gorby.

The Canada-Russia hockey series in 1972 captivated us. We watched games in assembly in the school gym on giant TVs that sat on wheeled legs. After school, when a friend in net made a great save during a road hockey game on 67 St, someone would invariably yell "Tretiak!" It was the highest compliment. Indoors, we spent hours and hours playing Coleco table hockey. My friend across the lane, Brucey Straka, spray-painted red a squad of plastic players. We replayed the 1972 series until some time in late 1979. Valery Kharlamov was unstopp…

Wave of thanks

It is difficult to feel nostalgia for that which has not yet passed away. Difficult, but not impossible. This is the conclusion drawn from a silent encounter with a motorist  on 103 Ave this morning.

I realized I will miss the wave of thanks.

The wave of thanks, for those who don't know the arm I sing of, is the short wave that motorists in Edmonton still give, primarily to other motorists, but also to pedestrians and, in my case, bicycle riders, for kindnesses received in the give and take of automobilized travel. I am not sure if the wave of thanks exists in cities bigger than mine, Edmonton. The wave might simply be a quaint remnant  of the glory days of motoring, when we still tried to communicate car to car as human beings.

My grandfather would wave hello to other motorists in the early 1970s. I remember that vividly.

The wave of thanks happens when a motorist feels gratitude to another commuter for being allowed to merge, or to get into the flow of traffic, or allowed into …