April 24th, 2006


An epic tale of bicycles

Let me set the scene. It was a lovely Friday morning. The sun was
shining, the birds were singing, and there was a crisp breeze in the
trees. I was merrily biking to work, navigating the treacherous streets
of Ottawa with a smile in my heart and a song on my lips.

Then the seat fell off my bike.

Now, before you worry too much, I was unharmed. Startled, but unharmed.
A kindly individual who happened to be walking by helped me pick up the
pieces of my bike seat, which I stowed in my pannier. I then walked the
rest of the way to work. I was rather less cheerful, as you can

What had happened was that the bolt which holds the seat in place had

Now, I know that this is fixable (how do I know, you ask?) -- it has
happened to me before. Not six months ago, in fact. A brand new bolt
was used to fix my bike not six months ago. Given that I don't bike
during the snowy bikes, this means the brand new bolt had been worn
through by the seat-post in record time.

I thought about this. I could fix the seat again -- it wouldn't be too
big a deal. But if this has happened twice recently, it seemed likely
that it would happen again. And the sudden absence of a seat is the
kind of thing that could result in me being hurt rather badly. And my
bike is getting on in years, and has been much abused. So I eventually
decided it was time to buy a new bike.

So I did. I got a lovely little mountain bike, on sale, and brought him
home yesterday(*). His name is Bill (because inanimate objects must
have names!). He's a sturdy little bike, and quite a nice ride. He
handles hills beautifully. And I'm reasonably confident his seat isn't
going to come off anytime soon.

(*)There's another epic tale here, about buses. But it's a grumpy tale,
so I'll tell it separately.

An epic tale of buses

Or, we hates nasty OC Tranpo, yes we does my precioussss.

So Friday afternoon rolls around. And although the day is sunny, and I
would really like to be riding my bike home, my bike is not in a
rideable condition (refer to my earlier post for the explanation). So I
plan for alternate transportation.

The bus system in Ottawa -- OC
-- has a nifty system for encouraging cyclists to ride the
bus: they put bus racks on the front of buses on major routes. It even
has a fancy name: "Rack & Roll". They generally take the bike racks
off for the winter, and put them back on over the course of April, and
there aren't racks on all routes, or even necessarily on all buses on a
given route.

Being aware of these facts, and being a clever, prescient individual, I
decide it would be wise of me to check ahead of time which buses have
racks on them. After all, there are several different bus routes that
will get me close enough to home for walking the rest of the way to be
reasonable. So I check the OC Transpo Web site. Specifically, I check
their fancy new "Travel
", which purports to find the best route from point A to
point B given certain specifications. I specify that I only want buses
with bike racks on them.

The travel planner gives me a number of options. I make mental notes of
all of them. I can take one of several Transitway buses, or I can take
a later route down Bank street. So I go and wait for the Transitway

Several go by. None of them (that are going where I want to go) have

In despair, I walk over to wait for the Bank street route.

It doesn't have a rack either.

I do ultimately make it home, albeit with rather more waiting & walking
than I had hoped for. I grumble and conclude that I should have just
walked the whole way -- it would have been faster.

Fast-forward to Sunday morning.

Before going on the shopping expedition that would ultimately gain me
Bill, I want to take my swanky race-bike in to the shop for a spring
tune-up (it's under warranty until the end of the month). Again, I
check the OC Transpo web site, and am assured that a bus will be along
shortly with a rack on it. I wait patiently, with my bike, in the rain,
for said bus.

No rack.

I return home, slam doors, and distress fairplaythings

At this point, I was seething. I wrote an angry letter to OC Tranpo,
which fairplaythings graciously edited for me. I sent it off
in a fit of righteous indignation. I felt better.

I decide I am not going to be able to take the race-bike in today. I'll
have to do it later this week.

We go shopping that afternoon. I buy a bike. Now I am once again
needing to get on a bus with a bike rack.

Since we're already out and about, there is no checking of the Web site
this time, so I don't know if I would have been lied to yet again about
the availability of bike racks. What I do know is that I had to bike
part of the way while my shopping companions took a bus to the nearest
station, and that we wait so long for a bus with a rack that they have
to ask another bus driver for a fresh transfer (theirs were about to

So, in summary, for all their good intentions, the whole thing is more
trouble than it's worth. Sigh.

(*) What really upsets me is not just that they don't have racks on all
the buses. I expect that. What upsets me is that, knowing there are a
limited number of racks, I took steps to find a route that would have a
rack. And they lied to me about the rack's availability. I do not take
well to being lied to.