Since the winter cycling season is likely over now, certainly for the next few weeks anyways, it’s probably time to introduce our heroes so far. I’ve done nine interviews since the end of October. Most were from contacts made through our winter cycling survey, but there were a couple that I knew beforehand. The heroes I’ve chosen to interview were selected based on their answers to the survey; so a little bit about the length and type of commute, a little bit about their demographic, and mostly on who I could get ahold of. I tried to followup with everyone that asked to be included in the project, but sometimes communications and schedules failed to work out in our favours.
My very first interview was with Kimberley Nelsen, President of Bike Calgary, and one of this years Top 40 Under 40. She gave me some very useful guidance about our project and encouraged me to include a survey about winter cycling as part of it. We also talked about her commute at that time, although I wasn’t able to photograph her until mid-January. Kimberley rides from Bridgeland to University Research Park every day. She also rides her bike everywhere else because she’s one of a growing number of Calgarians that make do without four-wheeled transportation of their own.
Fa-Linn Woolings was the next hero that I interviewed. I talked with her on a Monday afternoon towards the end of November. It was starting to look like winter by then, but the streets were still mostly clear. Fa-Linn commutes from her apartment in the Beltline to her workplace which is also in the Beltline. It’s not too far, but going by bike is certainly the fastest way to get there. Fa-Linn is also noted for her ironic Facebook post about “hardcore, specialist cyclists” and how they dress, as expressed by some City Councillors. We also met with Fa-Linn a couple of weeks later to film her Sunday shopping trip by bike. You see, Fa-Linn also is without four-wheeled transportation.
A couple of days later I met with Kevin Dalton, a longstanding business acquaintance, about his commute. Kevin rides into the downtown from Westgate which butts up against Sarcee Trail on the west side of Calgary. He usually comes via the trail that drops down the southside Bow escarpment by the Shaganappi Golf course, but he’ll switch to a more circuitous route through Edworthy Park and along the river pathway when the ice starts to build up after a warm spell. The only thing that keeps Kevin from riding his bike into work is a Calgary Hitmen game, which is more of a scheduling thing. We also met up with Kevin in mid-December to film his commute into work.
To cap off a busy week, I met with Brandon Evans as he was completing his morning commute. It had snowed the night before so navigating some of the streets to get over to the west end of the Beltline was a bit of challenge. We had planned to meet outside but it was a bit chilly that morning to do an interview en plein, so we headed over to the closest Starbucks for a bit of warmth. Brandon doesn’t have a very long commute, from Shaganappi to the Beltline, but it has it’s own idiosyncrasies. He started winter biking as soon as he arrived in Calgary a couple of years ago. Brandon does most everything on bike since he, too, is a Calgarian without a four-wheeled transportation option.
It was December now, and it was getting colder and the snow was getting deeper. I arranged to do my first couples interview with Samantha Etherington and David Mills. Both work downtown, although David was between projects at the time. I met them downtown and we rode together to their home in Richmond. The idea was to film them riding home together and then do the interview there. Unfortunately, technical problems resulted in a dud video, but the interview went very well. Their ride home was a bit of challenge for me since they appear to live on the top of a snowy mountain. Both Samantha and David are bike aficionados and have a sizeable collection of bikes. When they were renovating their home they built in a bike room where they store and work on their bikes. They commute every day in the winter. Like everyone else, they agree that commuting by bike seems to be the cheapest and fastest way to get to work in the morning.
Scott Walton was my last interview for 2014. I met up with Scott after work on one of the days when he didn’t ride since he’d been nursing a slight cold for a few days. I came back in the New Year to take some pictures and met him on his ride into work that time. I think Scott has the longest commute of all the riders that I’ve interviewed so far. He rides in from Cougar Ridge through downtown and up to the middle of Crescent Heights. His route takes him through Edworthy Park too, although it’s somewhat more direct. Like about half the people I’ve talked with, Scott wears cycling gear for the ride. Unlike the others, though, he has a wardrobe at his office where he keeps his “work” clothes so he doesn’t have to carry them to and from the job everyday.
I met up with Michael Scullen in the later part of January. Mike works downtown and rides in everyday from Renfrew. I met him at his office one day after work and we managed to get in a few pictures afterwards. Mike and his whole family ride their bikes everywhere, although they still use the family car for a few things. When it’s his turn, Mike will drive his children to school, park the car there and then ride his bike into work, reversing the journey on the way home. His workplace doesn’t have the best of facilities but, like all the other winter cyclists that I’ve talked with, that is not a deterrent to getting to work by bike. Mike is one of only two of the people I’ve interviewed who ride fixies in the winter.
Colin Sproule is my other fixie rider. I met him one afternoon in late January at the Kaffeeklatsch in the Community Wise centre. Colin rides in everyday from Parkdale to downtown, summer or winter. He also does some serious recreational riding, but not during the winter yet. He’s ridden the Great Divide trail, and has biked the Yellowhead from Jasper to the coast. Like some of the others that I’ve interviewed, Colin does not have a car, although his partner has one that they use to get to the mountains. Otherwise, they both ride their bikes everywhere, for everything.
My last interview was another cycling couple. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ellen Ann Hadley and Andy Sharp at the end of January, after they got home from work, and of meeting up with them again to take pictures as they headed off to work a couple of weeks later. Ellen commutes down Elbow Drive everyday from Elbow Park to Southwood where she teaches, and Andy heads up and over the hill on 8th Street for a short commute to downtown. Both are tri-athletes of the Ironman variety, and adventurous cyclists. For fun they rode from Calgary to Fernie one day which I thought would have been an awfully windy ride. I used one of Andy’s great quotes, about infrastructure being for the cyclists yet-to-come, in my last blog post.
That’s all of the heroes that I was able to interview about their winter commuting stories for this season. As I said at the start, it looks like things are winding down for winter cycling in Calgary. We will pick up the filming and stories again next year. In the meantime, I’ll be blogging each of our heroes stories over the next several weeks (months? perhaps).
This year we’ve also been privileged to interview and film Tom Babin at the Calgary launch of FrostBike, Rene Potvin who gave us a Montrealer’s PoV on winter cycling in Calgary, Will Lawrence at ShelfLife Books who hosted the book launch, the women of Commit2Commute, Gerald Wheatley from Open Streets Calgary and Gerardo Marquez from Cyclepalooza, both at the 2015 instance of Winter Bike to Work Day.