Walkers and Cycles and Scooters, Oh My!

This time of year always brings the fair weather cyclists like me out into the fresh air for a spin. Having been e-bike enthusiasts since our retirement a couple of years ago, my husband and I have enjoyed a lot of the trails and try to get out for a good ride at least once a week.

The pedestrians and dog walkers are out in big numbers at this time of year too. It’s getting crowded out there, and that leads to the occasional “situation”.

It was no surprise to me when I saw the story about an accident between a pedestrian and a cyclist on the E&N Rail Trail recently. We’ve witnessed a few incidents on the bike trails that could have lead to more serious consequences.

When my husband and I ride up behind a walker or a slower cyclist, we ring our bike bells to let them know we’re coming. Just common courtesy. When cyclists who are a lot faster than us quickly come up behind us, many of them will say “coming up on your left”, or something like that, so that we are forewarned. (I’m guessing they think bicycle bells are for babies.)

I always thank them for warning me. Although sometimes they’re going so fast, they might not hear my reply.

But then there are those who don’t have any sense of courtesy. Or even common sense.

I have a rear view mirror on my bike and I do keep my eye on it. But sometimes I’m coming around a bend and can’t possibly see them approaching from behind.

I’ve been startled a few times. How do they know I won’t suddenly swerve to miss a pot hole or a branch or something else? Or lose control of my bike? I’m not exactly 20 any more. Or even 30.

The truth is that they don’t know. They just carry on at their unbelievable speeds, heads down, elbows back, eyes straight ahead, trying to outdo themselves or something. I’d like to have some kind of radar unit to measure exactly how fast they’re going.

Their exercise apps might love them for their speed, but I don’t. As the cliché goes, it’s an accident waiting to happen. And of course, it has.

I also like to walk twice a day 4 or 5 days a week, and have experienced not only speeding cyclists but also scurrying scooterists (is that a word?) whizzing past me. Stand up scooters, called LSM’s, are supposed to be licensed but sometimes I wonder if they are. Some models are capable of reaching speeds of up to 145kmh.

They seem to be mostly driven by young males with the need for speed. And no helmet. What drives me nuts is when I see them riding on the sidewalk, trying to skirt traffic.

Then there are those electric unicycles. They’re not as common as the other modes of transport, but they go insanely fast. There used to be a fellow in my neighbourhood who I regularly saw riding an electric unicycle. He didn’t have a helmet on, which didn’t surprise me. But one day I saw him carrying his little girl in his arms while riding it. She didn’t have a helmet either.

That should be an absolute no-no.

One of the trickiest parts of being a cyclist can be interacting with vehicles. I would say that MOST drivers are careful and courteous, but every now and then…

I’m a driver too, so I know how difficult it can be to navigate around cyclists in some places. The new rule is that there should be at least 1.5 meters between us, but if a cyclist decides to ride in the middle of a lane, then it can get contentious.

Let’s face it, we all have to find ways to live with and respect each other on the roads and trails. In July a campaign begins where park rangers, bylaw officers and police will be out in force on the trails keeping an eye out. I’ll be happy to see them.

Otherwise, forget lions and tigers and bears…it’s walkers and cycles and scooters we’ve got to worry about. Okay, maybe a couple of bears.

There’s Nothing Wrong With “One And Done”

“One And Done”, for those of you who don’t know, is the new catch phrase for couples deciding to have only one child and that’s it, that’s all.

I can certainly understand what is behind it for a lot of young people. These days, the cost of raising a child to the age of 17 is estimated to be anywhere from $230,000 to $360,000. I hope that’s not in U.S. dollars.

I know of one young family who were spending more than $200 a month just on specialized baby formula.

Add to that the cost of living – rent, mortgage, gas, groceries – all of these have skyrocketed in the last year or two. My husband and I’ve had one of our adult children move back home to save money, as I’m sure many people of our age have.

Young people who have families or friends to take them in are lucky. Their only other choice these days seems to be living in a tent.

Some couples are deciding not to have any children at all, and I don’t blame them either. It’s hard to be positive about the future with climate change and wars and…well, let’s not go down that rabbit hole.

Oddly enough, there has been a little bit of backlash to this idea of One And Done. Some say it’s not a complete family with only one child. It’s not healthy. There are still stereotypes about only children being spoiled or lonely or having “only child syndrome”.

What’s that? you might ask. “Only Child Syndrome” means being unable to share, becoming annoying, entitled, weird or peculiar. I was pretty sure someone made that up, but there was apparently some research done in 1896 (!) that came to that conclusion. When I find the study, I’ll let you know.

I have experienced first had what it’s like to be an only child. And yes, over the years I’ve been told I must be spoiled or lonely, or both. But maybe I was lucky, or maybe it didn’t matter, because I had a great childhood.

It was pretty rare growing up in the 60’s to be an only child. Contraception was in its infancy (pun intended) and most families had at least two children. Everyone I knew had a brother or sister or both. My husband came from a family of six kids.

But my parents were a little different from most of the other parents I saw. They were in their late 30’s when I was born. My mother was 37, and that was pretty unusual for a first time Mom back then. When I started school, most of the other Moms I saw were in their mid-to-late 20s.

My Dad never called it One And Done; he referred to it as “Started Late and Finished Early.”

There were great advantages to not having any brothers and sisters. Christmas presents were ALL FOR ME. I almost always had my parents’ complete attention. I didn’t have to share a bedroom or wait in line for the bathroom.

The only thing I can think of that I didn’t like about being an only child was being all alone in the back seat of the car. I kid you not (sorry, another pun).

Brothers and sisters? I had plenty of friends – neighbourhood friends, school friends and even my cousins. And sometimes we fought like siblings, but we also had great adventures together. As far as I was concerned, these were my brothers and sisters. And many of us still keep in touch.

In conclusion I would just like to say that I have met a few people who grew up with siblings and who definitely acted entitled or weird, or who were certainly lonely. So there goes that old research.

If you want one and then want to be done, all the power to you.

That’s one lucky kid!


The Best Christmas Gift I Can’t Recall

You often see local papers or other media asking the public to submit their stories about Christmas. It could be about your favourite moment or the best gift you received, or anything like that.

Well, the best Christmas gift I ever got is one I can’t even remember.

Let me explain.

I might have been 5 or 6 years old when this happened. Because my family was originally from Denmark, we always celebrated our Christmas and opened our presents on Christmas Eve, as is part of the Scandinavian tradition.

All of my neighbourhood friends were clearly envious of me getting my gifts a day early. But it was actually tortuous for me too.

That’s because I had to wait ALL THROUGH Christmas Eve dinner before opening my gifts. I could barely eat sometimes, never mind think about dessert. I would shuffle impatiently in my chair all through the meal. All I could think about were those gifts sitting there under the tree, waiting for me.

On this particular Christmas Eve we were finally finished the meal, and my mother was clearing the plates and dishes from the table. My Dad went to put the garbage outside at the back of the house, and I just sat there, beside myself with excitement.

Please! Please! I want to open them NOW!!

Suddenly, I heard something. Was it a voice? Yes, a man’s voice. It was coming from outside the front door. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” the man said. “Merry Christmas!”

I couldn’t believe my ears! Santa was here. HERE! At MY HOUSE!!

I yelled to my mother and ran down the stairs to the front entrance. “It’s Santa! Santa’s here!!” I screamed.

When I flung the front door open and raced out, I didn’t see anyone. I peered into the darkness, straining, hoping to see the sleigh, the reindeer. Anything. The street was still. The sky was silent.

I ran out to the lawn and looked up at the roof of our house. Nothing. My mother came and stood at the doorway watching me, smiling.

And that’s when I saw the gift sitting on the sidewalk leading up to the front door. Santa left me a present! I looked around again, but no sign of the red suit. Never mind. He left me a present!

I grabbed the gift and went inside, breathlessly gushing about Santa actually coming to MY HOUSE and leaving me a present. We went inside and upstairs to the living room.

When I finally saw my Dad, I excitedly told him what had happened. I couldn’t believe that my Dad missed it all.

Because he was putting the garbage out.

To this day, I can’t for the life of me remember what the gift was that Santa brought me. But that didn’t really matter.