New Westminster launches information bridge to the future

Photo by Mario Bartel Coun. Bill Harper, the co-chair of the City of New Westminster’s Intelligent City Advisory Committee, examines a section of plastic conduit that will house high-speed fibre optic cable to be installed throughout the city over the next two years. The city will operate its new BridgeNet network as a utility, leasing capacity to private Innternet Service Providers which will then sell connections to business and residential customers.

New Westminster is getting a new highway.

But this one won’t pour even more vehicles off and on the ageing Pattullo Bridge.

This highway moves data.

And, it’s hoped, move British Columbia’s oldest city well into the future.

Tuesday, the City of New Westminster launched its new BridgeNet fibre optic network. When it’s completed in five years, the network of fibre optic cable encased in bright orange plastic conduits buried in the ground will bring gigabit internet to businesses, agencies, industries and residents from Queensborough to Sapperton.

The initiative is the backbone of New Westminster’s “intelligent city” strategy to drive its economic growth over the next 20 years, said Bill Harper, the co-chair of the task force that developed the program in consultation with business, industry and residents.

“You’re going to have to have an intelligent city if you’re going to survive in the modern world,” said Harper.

Gigabit internet capability over fibre optic cable means data can be downloaded at speeds up to 940 megabits per second; conventional internet speeds over existing copper cables range from 10-50 Mbps.

That means more than being able to watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix without pixellating or participating in a multi-player video game without buffering, said Harper. “It’s a process of getting to the next stage of economic  development.”

That development will bring new knowledge-based jobs to the city in health care, high tech, innovation and even the film industry.

Nicholas Boughen has been champing at the gigabit since he opened his CG Masters School of 3D Animation and VFX in the Shops at Westminster Station four years ago. Creating digital effects for film, television and games takes a lot of computer power; a single frame of an explosion can take 1,000 gigabytes of data. Moving that amount of data over existing copper cables to massive “rendering farms” where stacks of thousands of powerful computers transform digital ones and zeros into orange balls of flame and roiling smoke is impractical. So Boughen built his own rendering hobby garden of 80 computers in house. Still, rendering a student project can take days.

Having a high-speed connection to the remote rendering farms will “mean our training program becomes more capable,” said Boughen. And that’s attractive to VFX giants like Sony Pictures, Imageworks and Industrial Light & Magic, who he foresees could one day occupy the empty floors of the Anvil Centre’s office tower.

That’s not just fanciful thinking said Alvin Chok, BridgeNet’s Chief Information Officer.

As young workers that drive the technology industries get priced out of the Vancouver housing market, they’re looking to more affordable cities like New West that also offer the big city amenities they value like access to transit and walkability. So are their employers.

“They want to stay connected to the world,” said Chok. “Their big motivators are rents and affordable real estate compared to Yaletown.”

The City will build and operate BridgeNet as a utility. It will install, maintain and own the network, leasing capacity to private Internet Service Providers that will then provide access to business and residential customers; to date four ISPs have signed on.

The network’s backbone will be completed in two phases; the first will connect Uptown, Downtown and Sapperton and next year’s second phase will extend  to the West End and Queensborough. The ISPs will then connect businesses and multi-family residential complexes to the backbone. The ISP’s at Tuesday’s launch event, like UrbanFibre, were advertising Gigabit internet connections for residential customers for $79 a month.

But it’s in the business sector the city hopes BridgeNet will really connect. High speed fibre will be an allure for upcoming developments at Sapperton Green, the Brewery District and Queensborough, as well as existing office space Downtown and Uptown, said Chok.

“We’ll have enough capacity so we can scale up,” said Chok. “We can accommodate future needs.”

Including the demands of a redeveloped and expanded Royal Columbian Hospital which will rely on high speed internet to move vast amounts of data like hi-res X-Rays, MRIs and even remote robotic operations.

“Jobs are being created in technology,” said Harper. “The innovation curve is huge; it’s going straight up.”

For more information about BridgeNet, including an interactive map of where and when it will be available, go to

Beer day!

I was recently commissioned to shoot some product photos for Steel & Oak Brewing Co., to be used on their various social media feeds. They’re a small craft brewery located about 400 meters from our condo. Needless to say, I’m fairly familiar with their products…

13 Reasons to join a group ride; a Fraser River Fuggitivi listicle

Hmmm, something looks familiar about the way the Fraser River Fuggitivi crosses the railroad tracks at Begbie St.

This article was originally published on Tenth to the Fraser

With apologies to the Eagles, there’s a new kit in town.

Actually, the Fraser River Fuggitivi road bike group has been rolling up and down the hills of New Westminster and beyond for about five years. But this spring the squadron has achieved a milestone coveted by every collective of roadie riders; they’ve got kit.

That’s cycling speak for fancy custom-designed jerseys and shorts emblazoned with the team’s name as well as the logos of various local sponsors. They’re not just riders anymore; they’re rolling billboards for an elite selection of supportive businesses. They’re also ambassadors for the city (minus the talent competition or commitment to wave from a parade float).

The Fuggitivi was formed by New Westminster roadie and New Zealand expat Guy Wilson-Roberts. He lives along the Quay and he got tired of trudging up the city’s interminable hills and rolling all the way into Vancouver to join a peloton of like-minded weekend athletes. By the time he got there, he was already pooped and of a mind to head back home.

So he put out a call on social media for fellow riders to come to him.

A few did. Those early pelotons were pretty modest; sometimes Wilson-Roberts’ group ride was just him.

But his persistence paid off; the group is growing.

This year there are about about 20 Fuggitivi (it’s the Italian word for fugitive) escaping the responsibility of their everyday lives twice a week for a few hours of freedom on the road; the group does a long ride of about 80-100 km every Sunday morning and a shorter, more intense climbing ride on Tuesday evenings.

There’s plenty of advantages to riding with a collegial group:

1. Camaraderie

In a group, you never ride alone. Unless you’re off the back early on a major ascent like Mt. Seymour. Then you’re left to the bears.
Actually, a good group ride will often splinter into smaller pelotons to accommodate different paces. And confuse the bears by giving them too many options.

In the Tour de France, the last rider in the pelton is known as the Laterne Rouge. On an FRF group ride up Mt. Seymour, he’s called bear kibble.

2. Beer

The FRF’s official hashtag is #moremilesmorebeer. And more refreshing than the Wayans’ brothers’ movie Mo’ Money.


3. Mechanical assistance

See how the group pitches in to help a fellow cyclist who’s flatted get back on the road as quickly and cleanly as possible. Face it, best to leave the complicated repairs to the expert wrenches at The Original Bike Shop (shameless sponsor plug #1)

It’s all hands on handlebars when an FRF rider has to repair a flat.

4. Beer

Yes, some FRF rides make pitstops at craft breweries. Heck one of the group’s sponsors is a brewery!  It’s in our DNA.


5. Aerodynamics

Riding into a cool headwind, it’s actually an advantage to be off the back. Because that’s where you’ll be able to take advantage of the rest of the group slicing a path for you through the breeze. You can conserve about 30 per cent of your energy that way, giving you more endurance to bend your elbows for no. 6. Some group’s call such opportunists a “wheel suck;” in the FRF, that’s just smart riding.

This is how to stay out of the wind and conserve energy on a group ride.

6. Beer

Really, it’s just a four-letter word for carbo-loading.


7. Sightseeing

Every week a new captain is responsible for the ride’s route. That means discovering new ways to reach familiar destinations. And sometimes subjecting your lithe road bike to knee-rattling gravel. That’s called channeling your inner Flandrian.

Channeling our inner Paris-Roubaix on a stretch of gravel in Richmond.

8. Um, beer

A traditional post-ride beverage favoured by cyclists is a radler. It’s a refreshing mix of beer and fizzy lemonade. It originated in Bavaria, where the drink was called a radlermass, which means “cyclist mass.” Lore has it an innkeeper just outside Munich was running low on beer during a cycling party, so he extended his dwindling kegs by mixing in lemon soda. BTW, Steel & Oak mixes a killer radler (shameless sponsor plug #2).


9. Food

Cycling burns calories. We know this because our Garmin computers tell us so. Ride 100 km with your buddies and eat whatever you want the rest of the day. Especially if you crave delicious tacos at El Santo (shameless sponsor plug #3).

The lunch break or snack stop is a key highlight of the group ride.

10. Yup, beer

According to Bicycling Magazine, beer is an excellent natural source of folic acid, which helps reduce the chances of developing a cramp as you ride. If you stay cramp free, you’re less likely to try to ride through it and risk injury because your suffering body wasn’t up to the challenge. Unfortunately that means you won’t need to be taking advantage of the excellent rehab care at Trailside Physio anytime soon (shameless sponsor plug #4).


11. Cool swag

Cyclists were wearing cycling caps long before it was cool to wear cycling caps. FRF’s cycling caps are amongst the coolest around. They’re even made by one of the group’s own members, Richard Lee of Red Dots Cycling (shameless sponsor plug #5). Richard also designed the FRF’s stylish new kit.

Oh yeah, you’ll also likely appear in cool photos like this at some point.

12. Navigation

When you ride with the FRF, you never get lost. Especially in Delta, the Bermuda Triangle of Cycling. Nobody gets lost in Delta. Ever.

To cyclists, Delta is the Bermuda Triangle that swallows whole groups whole and never releases them.

13. Beer

You’ve read this far; you’ve earned a beer. Then, oil the chain on your road bike, join the FRF and enjoy more beer.


To learn more about the Fraser River Fuggitivi, check their website or follow their Twitter feed @frfuggitivi. Cap’s The Original Bike Shop also conducts group rides on various days.

The day Strava forgot about me

Not even a week off the bike and Strava has already forgotten about me.

The following article was first published on The Big Ring

Strava has forgotten who I am.

It’s six days into June and I’ve yet to throw a leg over the Lapierre. And already my mileage barometer has forsaken me.

I’m working again. That means trying rediscover a balance between working, riding and life.

A new job means adjusting to new routines that have a ripple effect on other aspects of our busy lives, like getting Little Ring to and from daycare, when to get groceries, managing household chores, finding time to binge-watch Silicon Valley. Too frequently in the past few weeks, it’s been the riding that’s been left behind.

My mileage on the bike is taking a hit.

In the months after my newspaper closed, I settled into a pretty simple routine; I still got up at 5:30 a.m. to shower and prepare breakfast for the family, get the household going. Once their days were established, I put time into scanning job sites, targeting possibilities, preparing resumés, drafting cover letters as well as crafted stories for my various blogs and freelance accounts to maintain my writing and social media chops. If there weren’t any other pressing errands, I was then free to ride.

Minus the niggling little problem of no income to replenish a dwindling bank account, it was a good routine that kept the household in order, my spirits up, my legs fit and my Strava account active.

While searching for new employment, I kept an eye out for opportunities that might allow me to commute by bike. As a journalist, I’d been denied that chance my entire career because we’re pretty much on the job once we step out the door, and during the drives around town or on the way home. That meant packing along the camera gear in case I was diverted to some sort of breaking news story or last-minute assignment. Or just scheduled to cover something on my way in or from the office because it was convenient.

A number of FRF members are regular bike commuters. I look at their Strava accounts with envy; those 20 km pedals to and from work really add up. And inevitably they’re the guys off the front during our weekly recreational rides.

I did manage to join one of the Tuesday climbing rides. But I thought that meant pedaling up and down hills, not riding elevators!

My new gig is a 400 metre walk from home! Which is awesome! But doesn’t afford me the chance to join the bike commuting culture.

I’m four weeks into the new position and I’m still getting my legs under me. Now I just have to figure out how to get those legs pedalling more frequently.

Drummer expresses cycling passion in photos

This story was originally published in Tenth to the Fraser

Jesse Cahill doesn’t think he’s “weird enough” to be mentioned in the same breath as David Byrne.

But the New Westminster drummer and the Talking Heads’ frontman known for his herky-jerky dancing and shock of white hair share a similar passion for bicycles.

Byrne expresses his love for two-wheeled transport in prose; he authored a book about his experiences riding his folding commuter bike between gigs around the world. Cahill uses a medium-format film camera to photograph bikes he’s encountered while traveling through Europe, Asia, and the Americas with his rockabilly band, Cousin Harley. In June, an exhibition of eight of his photos will be on display at the New Westminster Public Library in conjunction with Bike Month.

Cahill, 40, says he’s been commuting by bicycle for as long as he can remember; to school as a kid, to McGill University where he studied music, to his job in Downtown Vancouver where he teaches at the VSO School of Music.

He never really considered his bike as more than a cheap way to get around until he started photographing other bikes he saw during road trips with his band. In places like Belgium and the Netherlands, where the bike is essential transportation, he regarded bicycles as the solution for moving lots of people in a small space.

“Everybody has one,” says Cahill. “They’re utilitarian and egalitarian.”

They can also be stylish, with flourishes to their form that give them a timeless quality and bely their function to convey people or parcels or often both.

“They have a certain style to them,” says Cahill. “When it’s all over, there will be nothing left but cockroaches and old steel bikes.”

Cahill’s bike photography became a serious project a few years ago. He sets aside time at every stop while on tour to seek out distinctive or unique bikes leaning against walls, locked to trees, chained to fences. He tries to photograph them in isolation, standing apart from the hustle and bustle of a car-centric world.

“I want people to consider the possibilities of cycling,” says Cahill, who often builds narratives in his head about the owners of the bikes he photographs but rarely encounters them. “It can be transformative. It can be an escape. You can ride for the pure joy of it. You can be yourself.”

Cahill’s exhibition of bike photographs, Escape Plan, is on display in the upstairs gallery at the New Westminster Public Library through the month of June.