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So long Bird Week, hello Bike to Work Week

May 11, 2015

raleigh-heron-01

At lunchtime today, in order to lock my bike and trailer where I’d be able to see them from my coffee shop seat, I had to spoon with a single white female Raleigh Portage 18-speed at a parking meter on the northeast corner of Broadway and Spruce.

What with bike racks, parking meters and street signs, I count something like 8 to 12 curbside opportunities to lock up one’s bicycle in each block of West Broadway Avenue between Cambie And South Granville Street.

That’s still not enough sometimes and cyclists often have to share “parking spaces”.

While I was locking up my bike and trailer, being ever so careful not to scratch the Raleigh’s finish with my bike lock chain, I couldn’t help but admire its distinctive red and blue head badge, which reminded me of the week of bird events just passed.

Vancouver Bird Week just ended on Saturday May 9 and Bike to Work Week doesn’t begin until May 25, which is two weeks away but don’t you think that all of our “awareness” weeks — for birds, bikes, and homeless people — all kind of run together? They do for me.

The British heron — common or not in Vancouver?

raleigh-heron-02

The Raleigh Portage was branded on the head tube with a distinctive die-cut, red and blue enameled head badge featured the name “Raleigh Canada” underneath a large “R”, which was topped by the head of a tufted Heron.

This was an elaborately ornate badge but only compared to other contemporary bicycle branding. Over its long history, the Raleigh heron badge has been more or less ornate; gaining or shedding curlicues for no discernible rhythm or reason.

A fine colony of great blue herons have made their home in Vancouver’s Stanley Park since at least 2001 but the British Raleigh bicycle brand goes back 130 years, so I would’ve bet money that, historically speaking, the herons most frequently seen in the city have been the ones riding around on the fronts and sides of Raleigh bicycles.

After all, for the first 44 years of the UK-based Raleigh bicycle company’s existence, from 1895 to 1939, when it was growing to become the largest bicycle company in the world, Canada was, in law, a colony of the British Empire. And from 1867 to 1940 Canada pursued a defensive economic protectionist course called the National Policy, which placed high tariffs in the way of imported finished goods from the United States, during which time, British companies naturally enjoyed preferential favour in the Canadian market.

Yet I can find no easy evidence that Vancouver streets were ever filled with Raleigh bicycles.

There are many fascinating historical photos accessible online from the Vancouver Archives which feature bicycles, such the 1898 studio portrait of proud young cyclist Eleanor Mills,but none demonstrably feature Raleighs. And the historical page of Cap’s Bicycle Shop (a New Westminster, B.C.-based bike seller dating back to 1932) doesn’t mention Raleigh bicycles at all.

Growing up in Saskatchewan, I was under the distinct impression that the National Policy had been designed by central Canada purely to screw western Canada and that Raleigh was the Canadian bicycle brand.

What I didn’t know then was that the Canada I thought I knew pretty much ended at the foot of the Rocky Mountains at the border between Alberta and British Columbia. Click the images to enlarge them.

From → Bicycles, Fairview

2 Comments
  1. Nelson Giles permalink

    I saw you take that pic! Pleasure meeting you today, Stanley. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk more. Nice Raleigh shots.

    • Thanks for stopping and saying hello Nelson. And thanks to the other friendly person that also joined in. That was a really nice moment in my day! I do love the Fairview neighbourhood.

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