Exploring New Territory

Sarah Ripplinger IconSarah Ripplinger portrait by Terry Sunderland

There’s an element of excitement when traveling abroad, or even when taking a new route to work or the grocery store. This experience is particularly special when you are the navigator and primary engine of your voyage. At the end of the day, though, the enjoyment factor of any given trip often depends on what you use to get there.

My excursion to Richmond, Virginia, for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (February 26-28, 2010) involved a tour around the historic city with some veteran local cyclists. I felt the bumps in the cobblestone streets, the gusts of wind coming off the James River and enjoyed the camaraderie of traveling with a group of like-minded individuals. Similar to our travel story writers, I was exploring a distant land, learning about the local culture and tackling the challenges of the landscape.

That adventure involved a harrowing introduction to a classic 1985 road bike that would have been perfect for someone five inches taller than me – which gave me a deeper appreciation for how much what you ride affects how you feel. In comparison, my most recent adventure with an electric-assist bike was a breeze.

I have several hills to contend with on my trip home. Riding an e-bike, however, I no longer opt to cool my heels on the bus after hoisting my bike onto the front rack, but zip up the longest series of hills on my route with a little help from the electric-assist. Similar to our e-bike riders in this issue’s subculture story, I am testing the waters of one of the newest arrivals in the North American commuter cycling scene. And if China and the Netherlands are any indication of things to come, there are likely to be many more cyclists venturing into e-cycling territory in the future.

In many ways similar to Richmond, VA, urban cycling is starting to get a foothold in Detroit, MI (city feature). Both places have plenty of road space for bicycles – as a result of the removal of some large industrial complexes and decreased or stable population numbers – which has left a lot of room to incorporate bicycle infrastructure. Many barriers will need to be overcome before these cities reach the ranks of “bicycle-friendly,” but the future of cycling in both locations looks bright.

Happy spring cycling,

Sarah Ripplinger

Editor, momentum magazine


Originally published in the May/ June 2010 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

Why the Cycling Movement Matters

Sarah Ripplinger Icon
Sarah Ripplinger portrait by Terry Sunderland

By Sarah Ripplinger

As I contemplate what to type for my first editorial, my thoughts turn to the question of why I am so passionate about working for Momentum. Really, it comes down to values. As a commuter cyclist, I want to see better road infrastructure, safer and healthier communities and cleaner air. Being part of Momentum Magazine is one way for me to realize these goals.

Increasing cycling mode share on urban roads is a mission shared by millions worldwide. Indeed, the commuter cycling movement was forged by men and women who have fought long and hard for better bike infrastructure, a fair share of the road and safer, healthier communities. It’s a movement that began at the grassroots level and is now becoming part of mainstream culture.

From my point of view, cycling is the perfect mode of transportation. For me, it’s a reason to avoid the gym, enjoy the outdoors and save money and the planet at the same time. It’s also a way to meet people and develop lasting friendships.

But there are still challenges ahead. As cities densify, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are increasingly competing for a scarce resource: road space. This can lead to tragic consequences.

On January 8, Christopher Thompson, a 60-year-old doctor, was sentenced to five years in prison for slamming on the brakes in front of two cyclists on a narrow road in Brentwood, LA. One of the cyclists, Ron Peterson, suffered a broken nose, broken teeth and cuts to his face; the other, Christian Stoehr, a separated shoulder. The judge presiding over the case called it a “wake-up call,” noting that cyclists are particularly vulnerable on roads and adding that local members of government need to be proactive and create more bike lanes.

There is an urgent need for better cycling infrastructure in our cities. Not only painted lines on pavement, but bike lanes that are separate from busy roads, provide enough space for cyclists to pass one another safely, incorporate road crossing signals into the design, include clear signage and accommodate a variety of cycling abilities and needs.

In this issue, we take a look at trailblazers in the US and Canada who have lobbied, educated, rallied and collaborated to lay the foundations of bicycle advocacy and positive change in local communities and on a national and international level. Jeff Mapes, author of Pedaling Revolution, taps the roots of the innovative and courageous individuals who forged the path we are presently pedaling. It is because of their work and the work of so many others, including people like you, that commuter cycling has become an integral part of modern lifestyles.

Keep those spokes spinning,

Sarah Ripplinger

Originally published in the March/ April 2010 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

Bikes Belong in Buses

Shawn Bird

Photo courtesy of Lane Transit District

Shawn Bird Lane Transit District Shawn Bird positions his bike inside a new Flyer EMX articulated bus in Eugene, Oregon.

By Sarah Ripplinger

Some cyclists embrace the cooler, wetter winter months as an occasion to make use of rain gear long stowed away in bins or tossed to the back of coatrooms and closets. Others, like me, find the drip drip of droplets on our faces (and foreheads) to be a somewhat more subdued form of water torture. When the rain really starts to pour, some of us may opt to strap our trusty steeds to the front of a bus. Fumbling with the heavy racks, we smile as the rain soaks us toe to ear and the hydraulic arm that is supposed to reach over our front tire feels like it’s rusted through and through. It doesn’t have to be so. When I was living just outside of Dresden back in 2000, I rolled my bike right on through the sliding doors at the back of the bus. The ride was really smooth and there were plenty of handholds to keep me steady. This service was mostly offered on buses headed to outlying areas and not as much for short-distance travel within the city. So, for the most part, there was plenty of room for bikes because the buses were not packed with people. Lane Transit District in Eugene, Oregon (www.ltd.org) is presently testing out a bike rack system at the rear of their New Flyer EmX articulated buses. The same could be done in Metro Vancouver. While major bus routes like the 99 and 98 B-Line are always packed to the brim, buses headed to the North Shore, Richmond, Surrey, Burnaby and New Westminster would better serve cyclists if there was enough space for them to bring their bikes on board. Not only is the service easier to use, it could allow more than two cyclists to hitch a ride – at present, only two bikes can fit on Metro Vancouver’s bike racks. Another plus is that your ride stays dry and safe beside you! More needs to be done to make cycling infrastructure a priority in Vancouver. Even the new Canada Line light rail service allows only one bike on each car, even when more space is available. Integrating cycling into mass transit services means people can commute without cars from further distances. It also means less congestion on roads both in the downtown core and on highways heading into city centers. It’s time that we start talking about how to better integrate the two services. Too often it seems that bike and bus routes are at odds: competing for road space and not necessarily converging where they should. Yet both are important alternatives to the automobile. For transit and bikes to effectively serve the masses, a symbiotic relationship must come to pass. Keep those spokes spinning,

Sarah Ripplinger

BC Editor

Momentum Magazine

Originally published in the Nov/ Dec 2009 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

Change Is Blowing in the Wind

Red Bike in Fall
Photo by Marc Bjorknas

Bicycle riding in the fall.

By Sarah Ripplinger

What groundbreaking changes can one summer bring! Vancouver’s Burrard Street Bridge bicycle lane trial entered into full swing in July – with much praise from the cycling and non-cycling community alike. In addition, Vancouver hosted several car-free days, now called Summer Spaces, and the Museum of Vancouver presented an art exhibit dedicated to exploring the city’s many biking subcultures. The city of North Vancouver is considering installing a bike escalator to help cyclists ascend Lonsdale Avenue – a harrowingly steep stretch of road – and the SFU Community Trust is considering installing a gondola to carry transit passengers to campus up Burnaby Mountain.

In this issue, we take a look at the appropriateness of cycling for today and tomorrow. Why are more people being drawn to the saddle and what changes and innovations are likely to be made to meet their needs in the future?

Apart from finding new ways to encourage people to ride, it’s interesting to contemplate the future of bike design. As we see in this issue, greener bikes could be the way of the future; plus, we learn about how environmental awareness, bicycle-riding theatre troupes and audiences are attracting crowds on Vancouver Island. Critical Mass was almost too popular for its own good in Vancouver this summer and, as contributor Zan Comerford reveals, CM in Victoria is using new techniques to attract attention to its rides. In keeping with this month’s theme, we take a broad-stroke approach with a feature article about the state of cycling in BC and we also hone in on what’s buzzing in the interior with a snapshot of Kelowna’s bike and biz scene. This and more coming at you at 16-42 kilometres flat.

Keep those spokes humming!

Sarah Ripplinger

BC Editor


Originally published in the Sept/ Oct 2009 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

Canada’s Cycling: Roots + Shoots

Sarah Ripplinger IconSarah Ripplinger portrait by Terry Sunderland

By Sarah Ripplinger

Happy Canada Day Momentumites! As we celebrate our country’s 142nd birthday, now is a good time to reflect on how far we’ve pedalled as a nation. For starters, Canada has been home to bikes since confederation, with many notable trailblazers leading the way to our modern, cycle-friendly cities.

A June 1895 account describes one “Lady Bicyclist” whose forward-thinking landed her in Newfoundland’s Daily News. She was cycling on a foggy day in St. John’s beside a young male companion when a reporter asked about the “propriety of the sport.” Her response: She believes in “woman suffrage and all the other privileges which the advanced woman says unjust laws deprive her of.” Her female contemporaries in Victoria might have agreed, as they cycled along the myriad of bike paths running across the city.

Today, women cyclists are as free to roam streets and pathways as their male counterparts. British Columbians have also extended our bike paths to stretch from one end of the province to the other. The Trans Canada Trail winds from Victoria, through the Cowichan Valley, over to the mainland (with the help of a floating conveyance of course), and all the way to the Alberta border. But, getting to where we are today hasn’t been a cakewalk. It has taken foresight, commitment, and cooperation both on the part of individuals and their broader communities.

In this issue of Momentum BC, we take a look at the inventive and innovative ways that British Columbians have adapted cycling to fit their unique needs. We hear from one Roberts Creek resident who has increased his profit margin by strapping a flour-mill to his front wheel. A Vancouver-based couple finds the answer to their commuting woes by souping-up an old bike. We also hear from Chris Johnson, who used his keen environmental sense and entrepreneurial spirit to spearhead a groundbreaking composting business. Likewise, an island-grown coffee shop owner takes on a business ethic with the planet in mind. We also learn how to capture candid moments from the back of a bike, get the scoop on cycle-centred political news in the province, hear from our legal expert, David Hay, on why it’s important to keep an eye on the speedometer, plus get the low-down on cycling events in your neck of the woods.

Slap on that sunscreen and keep those spokes spinning BC!

Sarah Ripplinger, BC Editor


Originally published in the July/ August 2009 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.