Three months ago I went out with Martin Newman and Penny Deck and we placed 20 large weatherproofed photographs
along Penny Lane
and Good Sir Martin
on the North Shore of Vancouver, BC, Canada. The photos were culled from 21,262 that I took over 9 months documenting the process of building those trails. They show everything from hiking around in the bush deciding where the line should go to celebrating at the end with champagne. We said that they would be up until September, and last night we took them down.
Before the project went up I was scared. Scared that the Internet would become overrun with haters, or that the photos would be vandalized, or that — worst of all — no one would care. But instead, it’s been fantastic. I’ve never talked to so many people on the trails before. There’s been everything from a quick hello to exchanging contact information to a half-hour sit-down where we got lapped multiple times by the same rider. Then going home afterward and reading more kind and heartfelt comments online have made it even better.
Heat map of Seymour from 2012 - 2014, before Penny Lane and Good Sir Martin opened.
Heat map of Seymour from 2015 - 2016. Penny Lane opened in March 2015, and Good Sir Martin opened in July 2015.
This seems like a good opportunity to reflect on the impact that Penny Lane and Good Sir Martin have had on Seymour in the past year. Before they existed, if you wanted to ride up Seymour you had to either take Old Buck
or the road. Both start on the eastern side of the mountain and neither is an especially pleasant ride. Now there’s an option starting further west that is very pleasant.
In these heat maps, taken from Trailforks data, brighter red means more rides. Aside from the overall increase in the number of people using the app we can see that Penny Lane and Good Sir Martin have quickly taken their place amongst the most popular trails on Seymour. The whole area with Severed D
, John Deer
(both of which were adopted by Martin and Penny), and Asian Adonis
have become a very popular part of the mountain, with many people doing multiple laps of the new climb. There are also plenty of stalwarts still taking Old Buck, which has been great for spreading people across the mountain.
It’s pretty obvious to us that bikers get along well with hikers and runners 99.99999% of the time, but the larger world hears only about the most extreme cases of conflict. When I mention mountain biking and hiking to a friend who does neither, I find it’s pretty likely that they’ll reply with something like “oh, did you hear about the person who was setting traps?” It’s a sad reality that in no way reflects the actual situation on the trails. I spent a lot of time thinking about what to say to the public if we were given the opportunity and, in addition to telling people about the unsung work of trail builders everywhere, I wanted to tell people there’s no conflict because it seemed like a simple thing to say but a rare opportunity to say it.
Pre-interview nerves: Penny and I just before appearing on BC1 News. We were in a small studio with the anchor in a different room. It was extremely intimidating. Photo by Martin Newman.
We were very fortunate to have this opportunity on Global News
, BC1 News
, Our Vancouver
on CBC, and in a number of online and written publications. I never got used to it, and before every interview, I was a sweaty, pacing, bundle of nerves.
Excited to see the info posters for the first time! It took 6 trips to hike everything in. Until we were ready to put it all up, I kept everything hidden off the trail in black garbage bags to make it harder to spot and to protect it from the elements. Photo by Kathryn Toews.
I was surprised by how quickly the photos would attract pine needles, dirt, moss, sap, and bird droppings. Photo by Kathryn Toews.
I was also pleasantly surprised that our jerry-rigged rope system worked pretty well despite none of us knowing very much about knots.
During the build I bought a ladder, named Laddie, to try and get a different view of the action. It looked bigger in the store. Photo by Penny Deck.
It’s fitting that the photos come down now: mid-September marks exactly two years since I first approached Martin and Penny about the project. As I took a recent ride through the photos, I was struck by how intertwined my life has become with this project and these two trails. Whether it’s the photo I took shortly after the death of my friend or the spot where I cuddled with my girlfriend when we snuck up mid-week to take pictures of the project for its debut, these photos, these trails, Martin and Penny, and I have become linked forever.
When I first set off with Martin to hike around in the bush, I never guessed that we’d be back in the same spot almost two years later to hang a sheet of plastic on a tree. Or that we'd be back again to smile nervously for a TV camera. Or that I’d feel so sad to be back once more to take that sheet of plastic down.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to talk on the trail, who emailed me, or who posted about the project online. Your kindness has made this project a wonderful experience. Thank you.