Some Stones Unturned

Knitting, Biking and Some Sober Second Thoughts

Hello 30. You’re looking just swell.

Today I’m celebrating being on this planet for three decades. I’m pretty excited about it. Last year, when I turned 29, I panicked a little about it being the last year I could really lay any sort of reasonable claim to youth. My grandparents’ generation is almost gone in my family and both my parents retired and it seemed like it was maybe time to stop watching Kim Possible and wearing jeans to work every day and take on a little bit more responsibility. But when the panic subsided, it actually turned into a pretty good year. I tried a few things I never had before and learned a lot from all of them.

Knitting and blogging

I can’t declare these a total success since I took time off from both these things over the summer.  Still, there’s been a lot of progress. Even though I learned to knit when I was younger, it’s only over the last couple of years that I’ve started bigger projects.  After making socks for my entire immediate family last Christmas, I ended up taking on a sweater, a couple of shawls including my first lace project and lots of socks. Each project seemed to involve new techniques.

Similarly, it has been fun to get my thoughts on some books and movies out, even if they’re a little strange or incoherent at times.

Weight loss

Weight loss

June: 189 pounds
Dec: 165 pounds

I haven’t blogged about this, partly because I just reached my goal weight and everyone knows that maintaining weight is as hard or harder than losing it, so it probably makes sense to do a more thoughtful and reflective post in a year if this success is still holding. I also was leery of blogging about this because I do have a number of friends who talk about dieting a lot and I’ve always found it incredibly boring.

I didn’t initially intend to lose weight, even though I’ve been about 15 pounds overweight for quite some time. I’ve been that heavy even back when I used to swim competitively at a pretty elite level and I’m still around the weight I was in high school, so I never worried much about it. I was happy with how I looked and I worked out regularly and felt pretty healthy.

But I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth and also had problems with blood sugar crashing and it seemed that both of these things were becoming more and more problematic, making it hard to work late or irregular hours. So I decided to try keeping track of my sugar intake. This being 2012, it turns out there’s an app for that. And it also turns out that I was taking in more than my RDI of sugar just at breakfast some days with a giant bowl of Raisin Bran.

I may write a separate post at some point about various stages I went through and revelations I came to (as I say, if the results hold up). But for now I’m happy to report that I went from 189 pounds to, as of a couple of days ago, 165, which for 5′ 8.5″, puts me in the “healthy” category of BMI. I know lots of people will tell you BMI is nonsense, a vague correlate with body fat, average for the population, lots of outliers if you’re muscular which I like to think I am. But it feels good to be able to say I’m in the healthy range now regardless of that and I’m even happier with how I look and feel.

Nanowrimo

This one kind of snuck up on me. I wanted to be a writer as a kid, lots of ideas, etc. And one bit of advice I’d seen online about turning 30 was “Hey, time to write that novel you’re always thinking about.” How did they know that? I guess because it’s not that uncommon for people to wander around with what they think is a great novel idea. But very few people take the time to flesh it out and develop an actual plot.

As it happens, I was reading many of these posts about turning 30 near the end of October and November is National Novel Writing Month. And I figured “Why not?” I took one of the ideas I’ve had floating around forever and started to outline. I’ve always thought I was a big planner, but actually I think that’s my problem: if given infinite time, I would just rewrite bits of outline forever because I would never be prepared enough.

And that’s where Nanowrimo came in handy. Once November starts, you have to get 1667 words a day down (on average). I tried to stay ahead of the game, writing 2000 a day whenever possible. And it was really a revelation how much you can write this way, in relatively short chunks, and it isn’t that much time out of your day. I can’t say every word was a gem, but they really emphasize that it doesn’t have to be. The value of it seems to be in convincing you that first drafts don’t have to be great, but they do have to be written. Also, I learned the difference between having an idea and having a plot. BIG difference.

I even broke out of my introvert shell and went to an event. It was a walk around Mount Pleasant cemetery to hunt for character names (which is a great idea. I will always love the name Dalrymple and never would have come up with it on my own). And I got to meet fellow participants, which was interesting since most of them seemed to be returning Wrimos who could expertly summarize their plots and discuss their current problems and character dilemmas. At the midpoint of the walk, one girl took out a bag of leftover Hallowe’en candy and offered it around. It’s weird the things you do in a big city that would seem weird other places. I remember thinking afterward that I had just literally taken candy from a complete stranger, whom I had met as a result of recent discussion online, in a cemetery. It was like the trifecta of childhood warnings ignored.

Anyway, I technically “won” Nanowrimo since I wrote 50,000 words, but I still had about 10,000 words to get to the end I think. I said I would keep writing past the end of November to finish, but actually didn’t (sigh). I still may come back to it, although I’m not sure why. I don’t think what I wrote is really amazing or captivating, or even that it’s as strong or coherent an idea as I thought it was. But I think that was the most valuable lesson for me. A lot of the time I take things to seriously, as though if I’m not going to be the next Dostoevsky, there’s no point in writing anything. But the development of an idea and those moments when writing a scene and it really takes off, writing is incredibly fun. And when you start to stress about what it all means and whether it’s important enough and whether you’ll make people feel about reading the way all those really great books you’ve read have, you can’t have fun. You just have to write the things that inspire you and put yourself out there and maybe it works for other people and maybe it doesn’t.

Summing Up

That’s sort of the common thread in these experiences: I tried new things and that mostly paid off. Taking risks isn’t really my strong point; I don’t like setting myself up for possible failure. This is really holding me back for my biggest challenge in the coming year: a career path. The biggest thing that happened to me this year was I defended my PhD, which was a huge relief and my supervisor was kind enough to let me stay on with him afterward, leaving me in a comfortable enough spot to do a lot of these things. But the intention was that I would start looking for post-docs elsewhere and every time I think about it, I start to get stressed. What if I choose a project and find I’m not capable enough to finish it? What if I don’t get along with the people in the lab? What if I move somewhere and find it’s not bike-friendly and actually have to buy a car? All of these things keep me locked in indecision about where to apply or what I want to do.

But I need to remember that really it’s an opportunity. A short-term one since most post-docs are only a year or two. If it turns out I don’t like it, I can always find something else, but if you don’t take a chance, there’s no opportunity for anything new and great to happen to you. Why, just today a friend reminded me that if I find a post-doc in the States, there are way more opportunities for free shipping on yarn. How can that go wrong?

So, time to open myself up and be vulnerable to failing I guess. After 30 years, it’s about time I realized that that seems to be the only way you learn anything.

ETA: For some reason this didn’t actually post on my birthday even though it was scheduled to.

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Tidings of Joy!

I feel fantastic. At the risk of seeming like a terrible jerk to those of you who aren’t quite there yet, I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. I got a couple of things at the end of November, but most of it I got last weekend. I had a list, made a plan about where to go and went out for about five hours last Saturday determined to get it all, no matter how busy it was or how long I had to stand in line. And actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I didn’t make the rookie mistake of going to any Toronto malls. And I set out as early as I dared based on opening hours to try to get the downtown stuff in the morning. My plan was a walking route that took me down to Bloor and back, which is about 7.5 miles, so it was like my (very low-intensity) exercise and Christmas shopping all in one.  Multi-tasking!

The longest wait was actually in line for lunch at Tim Horton’s where, amongst many other problems in the comedy of errors I seemed to have entered, a bagel caught fire in the toaster. I don’t mean the bagel was a little burnt. I mean there were flames inside the thing for a good minute and the whole cash area filled with smoke. So they turned down the speed, but not enough and burned the next bagel they put in. Twice.

Fortunately I don’t have too many people to buy for. I’ve gradually convinced old high school friends we probably don’t know each other well enough to do gifts (at least not meaningful gifts that aren’t junky or conspicuous-consumption-type things) and work people are fortunately not that into Secret Santa, so it’s just immediate family and while they’re getting tougher to buy for, they also seem happy with anything I’ve come up with. But I did find the perfect birthday card (that is to say an incredibly inappropriate and curse-filled card) for a good undergrad friend, so I picked that up intending to send it by regular mail. Remember like in ancient times when you put stamps on stuff and had to leave your house and physically drop it in a box? Ugh. Two extra minutes worth of effort there. But anyway, I messaged her for her address (remember when you didn’t have Facebook and had to keep addresses and phone numbers all carefully up-to-date in a little book?), but felt compelled to warn her that it wasn’t anything big and not to get too excited. And then I started thinking that maybe there was something small I could make that would fit in an envelope.

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Face, Meet Pavement

I’m fine.  My Mom told me once when I phoned her to pick me up early after a fire at the gym that you should always open these sorts of stories with that so: I’m fine.

Bike crash injuries

My bike and some streetcar tracks had a disagreement about whether my face needed more colour.

I was trying to get a headstart a sort of on time-ish start on Christmas shopping and took a bit of a tumble off my bike.  I was moving to change lanes to go around a large parked truck and my wheel got caught in the streetcar tracks and I went into a skid and ended up on the pavement.

I credit a generally clumsy nature and several years of gymnastics training when I was younger for my being a good faller.  Seriously, the art of getting your hands underneath you and twisting to avoid major organ and bone damage is underappreciated by many, but is a valuable skill.  However, I don’t have quite as much practice with falling while a 40 pound bike limits your ability to move.  I am taking that as the explanation of how I must have contorted myself to end up with a scraped pinky, swollen thumb and small bruise on my knee on my left side, but two cuts on my face on the right side.  That and about four layers of winter padding protecting my rib cage.  Although how I ended up scraping my pinky through thick mittens will remain forever a mystery.

I’m sure that most folks would tell you that if you fall off your bike on a major city street and all you lose is a couple chunks of skin and some patellar capillary integrity, you should count yourself pretty lucky.  And I do.  You know, thank goodness there were no cars coming behind me.  Thank goodness I wasn’t going that fast.  It could certainly have been worse.  So I do feel very lucky.  But there is another feeling that people don’t seem to talk about quite as much.  Not directly.  Not as loudly.  The other thing you feel is this: incredibly stupid.

I’ve listened to friends and family who have been in car accidents tell their stories over and over.  A friend took a turn onto a gravel road too fast and the car spun out, causing her to warn everyone she saw for the next while about slowing down on gravel.  My Mom went into a ditch after hitting a patch of black ice and she swore over and over she “should have known” it was there even though it is the nature of black ice to be invisible.  A friend got rear-ended in a lineup of stopped cars on a bridge by someone who just plain wasn’t paying attention and caused a domino effect of three or four cars being jolted into the car in front of them.  They all got charged with following too close and the nature of this law and the inattentive driver were subjects for many discussions that followed.  I never really understood the tendency to relive these terrible moments repeatedly.  Until now.

I wish there was someone or something I could blame.  I’ve tried pretty hard to find one, replaying everything that I remember.  It’s not just a cliché that “it happened so fast”.  Everything before the accident, the warning signs you saw or should have seen, the ways you could have been more prepared, those are all burned into your brain, but the moment from when my tire went into the track until I ended up on the ground is pretty unclear.

I wonder if this is why tensions run so high on the road sometimes, especially after accidents and near-misses.  Of course people react to the danger and potential damage, too, but if you’ve been in an “accident” like this that was avoidable, but you’re confused about what exactly happened and you felt stupid, you want someone or something to blame.  I know the dangers!  I’m a good cyclist!  I’ve been riding over three years here accident-free!  It can’t possibly have been my fault.  And so if there had been a moving car around, or an illegal parking job or a poorly maintained road, I am certain I would be hurling many insults at all of them.

I tried being angry at the truck for being so wide (the width of an entire lane?  Really?).  And I tried being angry at the streetcar track with its need to be all tire-sized (what is with vehicles that move large numbers of people efficiently requiring wheels?).  But in the end there’s only my own stupid, idiotic self to blame.  I know those streetcar tracks are a death trap.  I know they have to be crossed at an angle.  Add to this the fact that I probably shouldn’t have been out in the first place since I’m sick (good news: I bought the Christmas presents before crashing and they survived intact.  The art of falling well, I tell ya) and I seem even stupider.  I saw the truck in plenty of time and checked the lane was clear.  And yet I still ended up on the pavement.  I just somehow didn’t get the wheel turned quite enough.  Or something I guess.  I’m still not sure.  It happened so fast.

I jumped up after the crash.  A fellow cyclist happened to be travelling the other way and asked me if I was okay.  I assured her I was, but in the way you sort of do when you’re in shock and embarrassed and just want to hustle off the road.  Not sure if she was experienced in such things, but she crossed the road and asked again if I was okay.  I peeled off my left mitt since it felt like my fingers might be broken, but there were just the cuts and I told her again it was fine, muttered about the “stupid streetcar tracks” and made some excuse about not being used to riding downtown.  She told me about crossing at an angle and I said I knew that but I guess I just hadn’t managed it.  She asked again if I was okay (why so awesome #bikeTO?) and said I had dirt on my face, although it turned out there were cuts underneath that.  Assuring me that it was totally normal to be shaken up from the scare, she eventually rode off.

I got on my bike and realized the chain had fallen off.  I fixed that and then realized I’d lost my mirror.  So I went back and grabbed that off the road, remounted and discovered the cockpit was completely crooked.

handlebars misaligned

When the handlebars are lined up, the wheel is off about 15 degrees and vice versa.

I must have yanked really hard on the handlebars when I got stuck in the tracks and twisted it, but whatever strength I’d called on when trying desperately to get out of the skid along the tracks was no longer with me and I couldn’t straighten it up without tools.  I actually tried to ride it in a “get back on that horse” attempt at courage, but holding the handlebars crooked to go straight goes against everything in your brain and I gave up after a block, figuring there was no need to compound stupidity with more stupidity by doing something unnecessarily dangerous.  I did the walk of shame onto the subway, and was reminded of how long it’s going to take to get places now as we waited for quite some time at Bloor.  In fact, we waited long enough that my face began to thaw and the cuts there started  to sting.  But eventually I made it home and for that I’m grateful.

Cyclists in Toronto are very aware that if they get in an accident on the road, it’s their fault.  The mayor, back in the days he was still a councillor, made that very clear to them.  And yet even in cases like this when it’s true, it’s completely unhelpful.  One could say the same about many car accidents I’m sure, but I’m not aware of any politicans who do as a general statement.  We are all responsible for our own safety and need to be aware of the risks any time we choose to get on the road, of course.  We should ride and drive responsibly for our own sake.  But we should also do it for everyone else out there.  Because if you spend any number of hours on the road, at some point, you will mess up.  You will do something stupid, something you should know better about, even if only momentarily.  And that moment of stupid could be trouble.  Or maybe, like me, you get lucky.

Please ride and drive safely as things turn colder and slipperier.  Your extra attention could compensate for someone else’s momentary lapse.  Help make the world luckier.

In autumn, a young woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of deliciousness

Oh, hey there fall vegetables…Yeah, it’s been a while. Listen, I just wanted to say that…I’m really sorry and I love you. I mean, it’s always been you. You know that, right? That dalliance with summer produce was nothing but a fling. I know what it looked like, but you have to believe me. The plump tomatoes. The juicy strawberries. The sweet sweet peaches just off the tree. They tempted me and I was weak; I admit it. But I swear they meant nothing to me. Not like you do.

From the moment I saw that zucchini sitting in the produce aisle, I realized what a fool I’d been. No crunchy salad could give me what a fall vegetable stirfry offers, what I need. I knew then what a terrible mistake I had made.

And then there were those stuffed sweet potatoes, their pale orange skin calling to me, tempting me.

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FO Friday: Orion’s Belt Shawl

Orion's belt shawl

Maybe a shawl or maybe another scarf for winter. Anyway, I’m pleased with it.

shawl pre-blocking

So I finished the knitting…

shawl being blocked

…then tried to pin it out into a crescent shape as best I could, even though I didn’t have enough boards and tried to just keep part of it in place with reference books. And it was all sticking out where it was pinned and I thought “Don’t those blocking wires curve?”

shawl during blocking

Yes. Yes they do. So I unpinned it, inserted the blocking wires and repinned it all back out. Bit easier to get a crescent shape, although I still don’t think it’s quite even.

Pattern: Orion’s Belt by Paulina Popiolek

Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label Fingering in Cobalt and Shadow

Needles: 3.5 mm

Size: 11.5″ x 62″ (or maybe not that wide. I measured that stretched straight, but if you let it droop in a crescent it would be smaller) before blocking; 13″ x 59″ after. Probably didn’t really need to be blocked as it came out nice and even, near the right size. Also note that I skipped some stitches/rows (see Modifications below) so the full shawl would come out slightly larger for me on these needles.

I really liked this pattern. It’s reasonably quick in terms of number of rows (though the rows are long) and has some short rows, some slipping of stitches in the colourwork (I think I mentioned I found this surprising and a cool way to do this, but then I looked at the pattern description and it says right in there. Good memory, just short apparently). And since it’s a space-inspired pattern, I took some time to contemplate the big mysteries of the universe. Things like “Where the heck did I put those blocking pins?” The answer was, of course, “At the bottom of the bag with all the half-skeins and bits of yarn so that I would have to make a huge mess on the floor emptying it out to find them.” The answer would obviously never be “Right in the top of the craft bin with all the other pins and needles and small things you often need easy access to, where they would be easy to grab when you’ve got a damp shawl sitting in the middle of your living room.”

Modifications: As expected, I ran out of Cobalt yarn, so I stopped doing the edge increases on row 39 and on the last garter section, I only did eight rows (and even one of those I had to finish the last bit with a different blue yarn, though I don’t think you can really tell the difference). Then I switched to the Shadow and did those seven rows garter plus cast off.

See more FOs at Tami’s.

FO Friday: Skew Socks

Ugly Skew Socks

Completed Skew socks. Funky Christmas yarn was one thing, but apparently it’s possible to go too far.

Skew socks

For the person who found my blog by Googling “ugly socks Toronto,” I’m sorry you had to wait so long, but I hope these are satisfactory.

Pattern: Skew by Lana Holden

Yarn: Patons Kroy Socks Jacquards, Rouge

Size: 8 shoe size

I had to finish these and just get them off the needles so I could start a new sock pattern. I said when I started that I was addicted to this pattern, but I think I kind of cured myself of that. Or maybe I just got distracted by other projects (shawl is almost done). When I did sit down to knit them, I got huge chunks of them done. Somehow these ended up being knit on the subway, at an ultimate game and on the train to my parents. I am not a big knitter-in-public, so I’m not sure why this ended up being the project I subjected everyone to.

Modifications: The ankle size on past knits has come out a bit too big and this yarn is even thicker than usual, so I modified the gusset decrease to try to compensate. Round 1 is supposed to start with k1, k3tog and round 3 with k1, k2tog. And you repeat 4.25 more times. Instead I did k3tog on rounds 1 and 3, k2tog round 5, k3tog round 7 and 9, k2tog round 11, then went back to alternating k3tog and k2tog until I had the specified number of stitches (36), finishing with a k2tog row before starting the short rows. The ankles still feel a bit big, but I haven’t worn them around much since it’s sandal weather. With the right combination of yarn, the more frequent decreases would probably be a good fit for me.

For the ribbing, I don’t have a smaller size needles so I compensate by skipping every fourth LLinc or RLinc on the first set-up row, leaving me with 68 stitches, down to 66 after the second setup row. This seems to work pretty well.

See more FOs at Tami’s.

Biking as portrayed in the Newspaper

The Toronto Star is featuring bikes in the Wheels section of today’s paper (I would love to link you to the actual articles, but all I have is my iPad-hence all the typos you will be seeing-and Wheels is not part of their mobile site nor could I find it clicking through to their regular site. You can click through from there to wheels.ca, but I couldn’t find any of the same articles there, though there is a link to a video of one of their writers talking about why he loves biking). If this doesn’t seem that exciting, keep in mind that Wheels typically features motorized vehicles. Also keep in mind that they didn’t put out this special issue because it’s some official sort of “bike-to-somewhere” day or because there has been an unfortunate run of accidents involving cyclists or because some politician got all het up about the “war on the car” and decided to talk about licenses and insurance for cyclists, which are some of the more common reasons newspapers have had in the past for focusing on cycling. Nor does the decision appear to be related to the ongoing Tour de France, which is covered in the sports section, but not really the kind of cycling they’re talking about here (in spite of the picture on the front of the section, which appears to be of a race).
No, they put together this section because, in their words, “If it belongs on the road-and bicycles do-then it belongs in Wheels”. I could not be more thrilled about this. It is like saying, we are talking about bicycles because people ride them and care about them and that’s reason enough. I am also pleased they seem to have avoided the common trap of taking a writer who hasn’t been on a bike in ten years, throwing them onto one of the busiest streets in Toronto and having him write about how harrowing this experience was. I know those sorts of articles are often supposed to convince folks we need better cycling infrastructure and while that’s a laudable goal, an inexperienced rider on a busy street is obviously going to give a biased report and rather than changing minds may just end up scaring off people who were thinking about giving biking a try.
No, they seem to have found a couple of writers who are also riders, one seemingly mostly on the city’s trail network and another who has an $8500 bicycle (crazy) and rides it along Steeles (crazier).
They avoided all these traps and yet I’m still not happy. A minor quibble, if you will. It would be such a shame for me not to uphold the stereotype of the angry self-righteous cyclist given such a golden opportunity.
The amazingly informative article on websites and resources for cycling around the city (did not know about bikesandtransit.com, but I’ve been contemplating a longer, possibly-overnight trip recently, so I’m very excited to check it out) is on page 12 (not page 14 as the paper suggests). The article on fancy shifters and lightweight components and expensive tires? That’s on page 16. And the article on the best cars for transporting bikes, which is kind of a cool idea for an article that I don’t think I’ve seen before, is on page 20. The editorial stating everyone should wear a helmet? That’s on page 2.
Let me get this out of the way since it seems to be a compulsory thing for some people if you want to discuss cycling with them: I wear a helmet. I grew up when the mandatory helmets for under-16s law came in, so I feel naked without one. Although I should note that it’s over three years old, when some manufacturers recommend replacing (but there is some suggestion this is a cash grab). Also I’ve dropped it a few times, which means it may need to be replaced, but all these editorials that claim to be so interested in the skulls of cyclists often fail to mention this for some reason. (Other thing the Star fails to mention: the guy with the fancy bike worries about his speed, but speeding laws in Ontario only apply to motorized vehicles, although obviously they can still charge you with careless driving so 90 kph in a 50 isn’t recommended. I’m just trying to indicate that sometimes these bike articles seem poorly researched).
So with that out of the way, let me now say what I really want to. Cycling is so much more than helmets. To me it is fun and physical effort and getting to know new corners of the city and the pleasure of owning a vehicle simple enough that I can do basic repairs myself. And I’m sure to other people it’s even more than that. And I know that if they hadn’t mentioned helmets, someone in the comments would have (if I could find it online). And I know that if they had dared to show a picture of a cyclist without a helmet, it would be basically the only thing anyone in the comments mentioned. It’s frustrating as a cyclist to have something so minor dominate so much of the talk. It gives the impression that cycling is much more dangerous than it really is and that feeling safe is more important than being safe. And so I wish that the Star had left it out of their special issue. Or at least that it wasn’t the first thing they brought up about cycling. Or at least at least that they could mention it without the fear-inducing anecdotes.
But since they did, let me turn in my scientist card for a few minutes and fight anecdotal evidence with anecdotal evidence. Less than a year ago, a girl I worked with was walking in a quiet residential neighbourhood on the sidewalk when a car that had somehow lost control (still not clear on the details, but witness reports were of the car driving wildly through a stop sign beforehand) ran up on the sidewalk, knocked her through a fence and she landed on her head. Her brain shifted several centimetres; there was blood on it and she was in a coma. Several weeks later she died from her injuries.
Even just writing this out I feel silly using her death to try to demonstrate some point about safety, but no one ever seems to feel this way about using bicycle accidents, so I’ll press on. No one at her funeral suggested she “looked stupid” (as the editorial put it) for not wearing a helmet when she was hit. No one suggested they had a right to tell her what safety equipment she ought to have been wearing even though she needed the health care system and was thus “costing them money”. Because that would be silly. And because people are reasonable when it comes to pedestrians (mostly).
People get that when you leave your safe little home and poke your head out in the world, you are taking on a certain level of risk and that you wouldn’t have gotten hurt if you had elected to just stay home, but that we as a society have decided that this really isn’t a practical way to live. So we let some people walk without safety equipment and some people with further to go or more stuff to transport drive large motorized vehicles right alongside them. And we understand that when we let people do that, sometimes someone loses control. And sometimes someone else is, tragically, horribly, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I don’t know if wearing a helmet would have saved my friend. The same way everyone with a near-miss bike story who claims the helmet saved them can’t know that that’s true. But I am pretty confident that newspapers that have chosen to run features on pedestrian issues have not opened by suggesting all pedestrians should encase themselves in protective gear because walking is dangerous and it just makes sense.
But helmets so dominate the cycling conversation in North America that people do think it’s the most important thing to ask or mention any time cycling comes up. First, before anything else. Even if the original conversation was not about safety to start with. Look, even if the talk is about safety, helmets shouldn’t be the first thing mentioned. The best way to stay safe is not to get hit. And the best way not to get hit, assuming you’re not willing to stay home, is to be visible and predictable and follow the rules. Take a course if you need to.
So to take my own advice, I hope this is the last you’ll hear about helmets on this blog. Let’s try to offset that big rant with a more positive cycling story. I played Ultimate this week at Fergy Brown Park and decided to bike there from work. I have been over it a few times and can’t figure out a reasonable route that doesn’t take me a few kilometres down Eglinton Ave. This section of Eg is six lanes wide and, although that mean traffic moves freakily fast, there is also a lot of room to pass. Except now they are starting construction for the Eglinton crosstown and it’s down to two lanes, one each direction. Which is how I found myself facing down a row of pylons at rush hour on the Thursday before a long weekend with a huge line of cars behind me. And I ended up totally fine. Thanks to the kind drivers who let me in and didn’t try to sneak past when there wasn’t room to pass safely. Thanks to everyone who waited behind me. I’m sure some of you were cursing the 30 extra seconds it took you to get through, especially Eastbound where I swear I biked my little heart out to get up that hill. I know it can feel like forever when you’re slowed down so much, but know that I very much appreciate you not honking impatiently. Seriously. I’ve been biking here a little over three years and only had a few bad incidents, but those are the ones that stick with you. So glad this was not one of them. You all made my day.

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