My Edmonton Story.

August 29, 2009

I've been keeping track of how my bike video is doing in the Edmonton Stories contest (with a grand prize that includes dinner on a vintage street car). It's not looking good.

I'm 5th in 15 videos, which isn't bad. I'm not close enough to 1st place for my liking. It's not the winning that is really the biggest issue for me, it's the other stories I'm up against. Some of them are cute because they feature kids with high pitched voices reaping in the delights of summer and West Edmonton Mall. Others seem like Edmonton marketing videos. Yes, I enjoy all the various festivals and the variety Edmonton offers, but when I read the brief for the contest I suppose my interpretation of what constituted an Edmonton story differed from others.

I thought the point was to capture MY unique and specific Edmonton story. Fact is, several years ago Don and I were going to move to Toronto. I was planning on hopefully teaching music there, or maybe slumming it and interning at a magazine for a while (our friend was working as an editor at OWL, so cool). Don was looking at a possible position in marketing and business development with University newspapers.

That is actually how we decided to get engaged. Amongst all this talk of moving was also the talk of real estate, what we would do with our properties (I was living in a duplex, he was in a loft downtown), and how we would consolidate the proceeds from the sale of our Edmonton properties to buy a wicked condo/loft in Toronto. The lure of the 'big city' was largely the urban lifestyle of not needing to own a car, being able to walk to get groceries, taking the train or street car to meet friends for drinks... all that good stuff you see in movies where everybody is so attractive, fit, and stylish because of their active lifestyles. That's what we wanted, minus the movie-drama with interpersonal relationships.

We realized that moving and buying property together meant that our relationship had reached a maturity date without us even noticing. Long story short. We decided to get engaged, and subsequently get married. This is not so much a tale of love as it is a tale of property and lifestyle. Since we decided to get married, the possibility of having kids together one day also surfaced. Edmonton has one of the best public school systems in North America. Also, back when this was all happening our purchasing power in Edmonton was far greater than in Toronto. Instead of getting a condo or loft, we could own a wicked bungalow here. Plus, both of our families live here and we're all about free dinners and babysitting.

We figured the urban living in Edmonton was something we could work on. You know that saying where you should be the change you want to see? That's what Don and I are about.

The one caveat of staying in Edmonton was that we were going to try to make this place better. Fast forward several years and Don is now a city councillor. He's got his business up in all sorts of things, but his game is largely environmental. We're all about trains, busses, walking, and bikes. Enter Sarah Chan, the girl who scrunched up her nose at cycling because all the bikes she saw were ugly and unsuitable for the urban lifestyle she coveted so greatly.

You all know what happened after that. Lots of research. Buying the right bike. Riding it. Falling in love again with cycling (it really makes you feel like a kid - so happy)!

That's what I was trying to get at with my Edmonton story. Don and I stayed here to try and have the best of many worlds. Family. Real estate. Good schools and a great place for raising kids. Less driving. Active living. My bike story isn't merely, "look at me, I ride a bike in high heels!" It's a statement on how Edmonton can be lovely, engaging, educational, and social. The whole point of this blog is to show regular people that biking not only looks fantastic, but more importantly, it makes you feel fantastic. I ultimately hope that I can encourage more people to bike too, then I can have lots of bike friends join me out on those Edmonton streets. The reason Don and I do all this now, is because when Dexter is older I want him to be proud not only to have grown up here, but to perhaps continue living here. I want it to be a cool city where he can take the train or ride his bike because it makes more sense than driving.

The day on a bike depicted in my story isn't some weird scripted thing. Those are places I ride to/past several times a week. It isn't a festival or a marketing thing, it's my every day life.

So the disappointing thing to me is based on the votes, people seem to be identifying with the lowest common denominator. Edmonton is known for its big mall, summer festivals (which I attend on bike, might I add), and its river valley. Funny, my sister got a "welcome to Edmonton" brochure from her speech pathology orientation this week. We opened it up and there they were... Edmonton attractions such as the mall, the zoo, the festivals, etc). I suppose for a lot of people that's what Edmonton is for them. A list of attractions. I suppose my being different doesn't necessarily mean my being popular.

Point is, I suppose it's not likely for my video to win now. But there's still 2ish weeks of voting left and it's not over until it's over. I like a challenge. You can help me conquer by voting daily! Shout outs on your various networks might be pretty wicked too:)

How about a naked picture of Dexter as reciprocation?


Maggie said...

I loved your video (saw it when you first posted). I tried to vote for you, but it was more than just a vote that the site wanted. I wasn't willing to give up all my personal info.

Lovely Bicycle! said...

A riveting post : )

We can't control what attracts people and we can't control the way people make choices. But we can learn from those choices. Maybe you and your friends can change "the lowest common denominator" of what your city is known for, and in five years the Welcome brochures will feature photos of stylish cyclists pedaling through the main streets and the river valley.

Nik said...

I can't believe that you entered this City of Edmonton contest. Your HUSBAND is a city counselor and because of this your entry shouldn't have been accepted. I believe there is a conflict of interest and while I love cycling and want to get the word out in Edmonton this isn't the way to do it.

miss sarah said...

Hi Nik,

I'm not really sure what the problem is with Don being a city councillor... can you elaborate? I read all the contest rules and regulations and didn't see any conflict. It's my Edmonton story, it doesn't really have anything to do with his job except that we both advocate cycling. Tell me more.


miss sarah said...

One more thought. It's a publicly judged contest so it's the general public that decides the winner... it's not like being married to Don gives me an unfair advantage. On the contrary, there are probably a lot of people who disagree with his politics and might hate me.

Does Don working for the city exclude me from being able to talk about why I live in Edmonton and like riding a bike? Wouldn't this whole blog be an issue? I am genuinely perplexed.

Fiona said...

@Maggie All I was required to give to vote was my email address. I already have a shuffle so I wasn't required to give any other personal inforomation.

@ Miss Sarah~ I've voted but I forget sometimes that I can do it everyday:(


James said...

I've voted a couple of times. I think you should win. I ride, and have my own cycling blog, but I don't look good in a dress. Unlike you.

All the best Sarah, and keep up the good work.

Maggie said...


Thanks for the clarification! When I voted I would receive an e-mail advising that I must verify my address. I would click on the link and be sent back to the website with a 'Thanks for verifying my e-mail address.' message. I guess what confused me was the 'Contact Information' that was typed underneath the thanks message. I guess I should have read more carefully.

So Sarah, It turns out I did vote for you....twice.

miss sarah said...

Fiona, Maggie, James,

Thanks for the votes! I really appreciate them:) If it turns out we don't win, well... who said social change was easy?

Your encouragement and support mean the world to me, thank you for reading!


miss sarah said...

Lovely Bike,

Love your sentiments. Hopefully when Dexter is grown up it won't just be sports enthusiasts and hippies who ride bikes! Perhaps it will just be a bunch of us regular folk:)


Liza said...

hi miss sarah.i'm liza from malaysia,browse thru ur blog..very interesting.i am 49 year old granny to a 6 month old baby boy n believe it or not,i just started to learn to ride the buke.but my bike is a tricycle for adults but what the heck,i just love cycling n hope to ferry my grandson v me one day.
pls keep on posting,i feel happy reading ur wishes to ur hubby n son..n keep on cycling!!

Kathy said...

Great post Sarah! And what a cute pic of Dexter.

MamaVee said...

I swore I made a comment!

Basically I love this post. I am trying to regain my urban roots while living in the suburbs by cycling and it's working. The whole lens I use to get around has changed.

phuong.chau said...

Hi Miss Sarah, I wanted you to know I've been regularly reading your very interesting and fun blog ever since I stumbled upon your online picture in the Edmonton Journal. You probably don't remember me, but my son (Marcus) was in your Beginners Piano class a couple years ago. He is now in Suzuki and doing swell, but he still thinks you're the best teacher. Anyways, I hope you win. I've been voting for your video almost everyday. Good luck!

BTW, I would love to see more pictures of Dexter...He is so cute.

2whls3spds said...

Yes it is hard to be a forerunner, but someone has to do it. FWIW I am voting daily. (I also suspect you can vote multiple times if you use different email addresses ;-D )

I point many people to your blog just to show what can be done. Keep up the good work!


Dottie said...

I loved reading the story behind your "story." The idea of living an urban life in a smaller town is interesting. My husband and I are sure that we can't live in Chicago for a very long time - we love it but the crime, expense, and crowds will get to us eventually. We absolutely love city living without a car, though, and it will be hard to leave. People like you and Don give us hope and remind us that it's not so much where you live, but how you live. Rock on :)

LPendzich said...

nice bicycle story, Sarah.

someone should do a story on why the city wanted the image of Heath Ledger as the Joker painted over. oooh they're such jokers the city, har har!

it's great that you chose to live in Edmonton and are trying to bring about change. it's difficult, but I'm glad some people find it worthwhile :) keep it up girl!

burrito said...

I've been voting every day - has your standing improved??

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