Friday, June 30, 2006
New rear-view mirror
While on my way to the Cycling Cog Toronto bike ride, a woman in a smallish car zipped past me too close. She about a foot away from me. At the red light, I rode up beside her (as usual), and told her she passed me too close. She had an angry look on her face. Her response: "You almost hit me! You were riding like this far out into the road!" She indicates about a 2 foot length with her hands. She was visibly shocked to hear that cyclists can use the whole lane if they need to, and she didn't believe me. My attempts to teach her went on, but some students just aren't very receptive. Basically, the conversation didn't go well after the "you almost hit me" part.
I did some accessorizing last night. I bought a bar-end rear view mirror, which I installed along with some new yellow handlebar tape. I thought the yellow tape would look intense and serious. I'm not sure if it just looks a bit dorky. I'm not sold on the rear view mirror yet either.
That's all for now. Enjoy celebrating Canada Day, if you're in this fine country! And in case I don't write anything before July 4th, congratulations to any American readers on your independence from us! I like your country too.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Markham Cycling Master Plan Study - Open House
Markham is having an open house today, starting in about 1 hour and running until 9 PM. Stop by and make your voice heard! Make my voice heard too, if you don't mind, since I won't be able to make it.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Toronto to Ottawa - as the crow flies, almost
It would involve setting up camp late at night, waking up early, and taking a direct route, as short as possible. I'd like to ride on country roads that aren't too busy. As far as scenery goes, I'm sure I'll find beautiful countryside no matter which roads I use.
Brian Hedney posted his well researched route online which follows the waterfront for much of the trip. His route works out to 506 km. The lakeside route should be fairly flat, given that lakes have that well known feature. The problem for me is that if I leave from work, I'll already be well north of the lake. And I'll be north of the worst of the city traffic, so I'd prefer to start out by heading straight east, straight towards Ottawa.
The route I've drawn, involves very little or no research at all, other than looking at a map and picking the most direct roads, and avoiding major highways (never on Hwy 7). Here's my somewhat direct route. It works out to 392 km. Part of the trip is through the Kawartha Lakes district, which I've been told is very hilly.
Sometime soon, I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes.
Fortunately, the part of the shoulder I hit was the soft grass between the curb and the sidewalk. I felt my knee plunge into the earth as I rolled off my bike. The fact that I was moving slowly up a hill must have helped too. My new front wheel got scratched up, my chain rings are scratched, and my fender is out of wack. I'll need to check if my front wheel needs to be trued.
Since I was laying on the side of the road, it allowed a concerned citizen in his SUV to pull out of his residential street, complete his left turn and drive away. I checked that my knees would still bend, my wheels still turned and my underwear was dry. Pedaling my squeaky bike up to the top of the hill, I scanned the cars to find the right one waiting at the red light.
It was a light coloured Toyota Corolla that nearly hit me. Unfortunately I saw a Camry first, and thinking I must have misjudged the shape of the car, I talked to the woman driving. After a very polite exchange, (I have learned how to stay calm when confronting bad drivers, alleged bad drivers that is) I became fairly sure this was not the driver. I looked two cars ahead and saw the Toyota Corolla just as the light turned green. There was no chance I would catch up.
I let the Camry driver know that it definitely wasn't her. She agreed.
I had decided earlier that morning that I would make this morning's ride a slow one, since I was feeling a bit lazy. Even though I felt pretty calm after the crash, I thought maybe I was shaken and didn't know it. So finishing my ride slowly seemed like a good idea. Other than a stop along the way to straighten my brakes and fenders, the rest of my ride was routine.
Location: John Street in Thornhill, Eastbound, climbing the hill just west of Bayview.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
The Cycling Cog leads to a group ride
It'll be a fun cruise along trails and some roads. We'll start at Warden Station and take eastern Toronto bike trails, then through to the eastern part of downtown. Everyone is welcome. Look here at the event for details. If you're interested in joining us, but not signed up on the Cycling Cog yet, just let me know and I can help you sign up or give you the event details.
If you live somewhere other than Toronto, the cycling cog is still for you! It's basically a site that helps you co-ordinate meetings or fun rides with other cyclists, or co-ordinate group bike commuting. It has a whole bunch of other tools too. It costs nothing to sign up, and is there to be used. The more people who start using it the better. (I have no stakes in the site. I just think it's a good idea.)
Friday, June 23, 2006
My mom on her bike commute
She works about 7 km from home, a perfect biking distance. My parents live in Aurora, a suburban town north of Toronto. It's one of the few areas that still has a nice town centre, but her commute took her well beyond that older part of town.
She planned to be riding on the sidewalks on the busy streets, so I told her to make sure she stopped at every intersection to look for turning cars. In the end, she had to ride on the street on Bayview Avenue (a major street) in Newmarket because of construction. Everyone gave her lots of room, so she didn't mind.
Overall, it went well for her and she said she felt very good when she got to work.
Now I just need a photograph!
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Toronto Cyclist Meeting
If you want to meet up with other cyclists, talk about whatever cyclists talk about, and trade ideas on how the Cycling Cog website can be used to help more people ride bikes, then join us!
Monday, June 19, 2006
Pedaling into the future
The article (not linkable) looks at the affect of cars on pollution, respiratory health, collision injuries, global warming, energy supply limitations and more. It even gives compelling numbers for why we need to change our ways. The only problem with the article is the conclusion that is drawn. Not surprisingly, since the writer has been attending a convention on new and future car designs, the solution comes in the way of electric powered cars, the hydrogen economy, and hybrid electric-diesel.
A rebuttal to this way of thinking is best found in the response that Todd on Cleverchimp had to "An Inconvenient Truth." (An interesting discussion follows in the comments there) One commenter pointed out that better gas mileage is often used to justify living further from work (although my bike gets phenomenal mileage). China, who has been tailgating our tractor trailer for the past few years hoping to find an empty expressway, has finally tapped the brakes enough to see down the road where our tractor trailer is headed.
Interestingly, our provincial government seems to be aware of the solution and talking about it a lot. They're talking about higher density neighbourhoods and revitalization of city centres, while on the very same day announcing $3.4 billion (over 5 years) in highway repair and expansion. Car pool lanes are a positive change, but they only make a difference as long as the majority of cars are stuck in a traffic jam. It's not exactly an exciting goal to strive for.
Three billion, four hundred million dollars. The city of Toronto, the province's biggest city, is going to spend 1/1000th of that amount this year on The Bike Plan. If the province would dedicate a tiny fraction of the highway money to bicycle specific infrastructure, of the type that people of basic skill levels are comfortable cycling on, tens or hundreds of thousands of people would choose to leave their cars at home and have better lives.
In the meantime, riding my bike continues to be enjoyable. On Saturday, I rode the 40 km from Aurora to Toronto. The idea of riding a bike from Aurora to Toronto is probably one that would not cross the minds of most people in Aurora (or Toronto), but 40 km once in a while is no great achievement for anyone who rides a bike much.
Riding my bike at full speed on the country roads felt great. Everyone passing me was well aware that it was 34 degrees outside, since they had to put their air conditioning on maximum with recirculation. They may not have known that it was also a serious smog day for all of southern Ontario including York Region. For my lungs, and to publicize the smog situation, I wore my pollution mask while cycling down Bayview Avenue.
I'd guess that hundreds of people saw me that day. Most probably thought "He's poor and he has lung problems. That's so sad." But a small percentage of the people out there might have gotten my message. Slowly but surely.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Right of way in Texas?
In case there is any doubt regarding Texas law, the police officer is entirely wrong.
At least I know to never consider living in Beaumont Texas or visiting there.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Bike v. Car
I told my colleague I'd be biking there and, since I couldn't double him, he would have to drive. Thinking back, if I had put my bike in his car, we could have taken the car pool lane for a few kilometres, but it always seems so belittling to put my bike inside a car.
He left 15 minutes after me because he thought it was important to give me a head start, and I needed to cool off and change when I got there.
In the interest of science, I thought I should ride at a comfortable typical speed. Just kidding. I hauled ass. No running red lights, no weaving, just solid fast cycling.
I set off down Leslie and Don Mills, both major arterials. Don Mills has a bus-taxi-bike lane on the right, which I didn't like during the winter, but this time it worked well for me. Most taxis were very courteous and the buses just didn't bother passing me. The only annoying thing about those lanes are the people making right turns who have a hard time judging when to change lanes. I was on right-hook alert.
The final travel time for me, the cyclist, was 50 minutes. I arrived in the area after 45 minutes, but got a bit lost trying to find the building. It turns out the temperature was very comfortable, so I got changed after locking up my bike. I was ready about 3 or 4 minutes later.
I sat down, then wandered around looking for my competitor. After the entire head-start time had passed, I found the driver. He reported his drive also took 50 minutes, which includes some time because of trouble with the one way streets.
His trip was almost entirely on a major expressway. No part of the trip was in the downtown core. In fact, most of the trip was through suburban Markham and Toronto. We both averaged 26.4 km/h (16.4 mph).
As well as being a competitor, I'm also the judge. In this competition of bike versus car, the bicycle is the clear winner. I arrived in the same amount of time, and enjoyed the trip, paid near nothing, got some exercise and got to brag about it here.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
New Highway Through Where?
Jim Flaherty, the federal finance minister, is announcing from Dublin that the federal government is going to back a highway that crosses the GTA north of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Exactly where is he talking about? The area between Aurora and Newmarket is quickly filling up with homes. Passing north of Newmarket seems like the most likely location, but that area too has been developed extensively in the past decade. Any further north would lead through the Holland Marsh, some of the richest farmland around. Then there's Lake Simcoe.
Maybe this seems like a good idea when you're standing on the other side of the world, but if you actually visit Newmarket you'd see that it has near gridlock every afternoon and weekend. A new highway will only add to the mess by encouraging low density development in the north-east of the GTA. (West of Newmarket is King Township which has managed to remain surprisingly rural and a popular cycling destination). Instead of empty asphalt, it will bring more car traffic.
The Star is putting a positive spin on the announcement by saying that a "transitway", ie bus lanes, will be included in the highway. I guess these bus lanes will be filled with an expanded Greyhound service between Newmarket and Oshawa, and Newmarket and Guelph. Right now, the Newmarket train service, still recovering from cuts during the provincial conservative days, only runs into the city in the morning and out in the evening. Reports I've heard say that the four trains are full, and parking lots are overflowing.
On top of it all, I'm not quite sold on this dedicated bus lane on the highway. It seems like an attempt to help a bus "keep up with" the cars. The real advantages of public transit come when the bus runs often and stops in places where people want to walk to, not where they can wait for another bus on the side of a highway. This means giving priority to buses in areas of higher density.
So I have to wonder about the motivation behind this announcement. Jim Flaherty represents Whitby and Oshawa, where people are annoyed that it takes them a long time to get to the start of the 407, and when they get there, they have to pay for it. This announcement simply feeds the illusive dream of an open road that bypasses Toronto traffic and costs nothing.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Police will be ticketing motorists
The focus is on "aggressive" cycling and people parked in the bike lane.
Thanks to Margaret Hastings-James for spreading the word. The details of the news release are below.
On Monday June 12, 2006, the Toronto Police Service will be launching a one-week traffic safety initiative entitled Safe Cycling – Share the Responsibility. This will be the second initiative undertaken as part of the Service’s comprehensive traffic strategy, “Operation Safe Journey”.
The Toronto Police Service is continuing to focus its’ efforts on encouraging safe cycling as a practical mode of transportation in our city. Safe Cycling – Share the Responsibility will commence today and conclude on Sunday June 18 2006. This initiative is designed to reduce the potential for cycling related injuries, through awareness, education and enforcement.
The Toronto Police Service reminds motorists of the dangers of opening car doors in the path of cyclists and the importance of checking blind spots prior to making right turns. Officers will pay particular attention to those motorists who endanger the lives of cyclists including vehicles parked in designated bike lanes. Attention will also be paid to cyclists whose aggressive riding puts themselves, pedestrians and motorists at risk.
Each year about 1,200 cyclists are involved in collisions on Toronto roadways. Cyclists are vulnerable road users. The last 5 cycling fatalities have involved commercial motor vehicles. Motorists and cyclists have a responsibility to share the road equally by driving safely, riding responsibly, and by obeying all the rules of the road.
For more information on Safe Cycling – Share the Responsibility, please contact Sergeant Brian Bowman at 416-808-1926 or Constable Stephen Burns at 416-808-1919.
Constable Stephen Burns
for: Superintendent Stephen Grant
Friday, June 09, 2006
World Cup Poll
Does Iraq have WMDs?
Did John Kerry fight hard in Vietnam?
How many countries are there in Africa?
Let the people decide.
This week's poll decides which World Cup team has the most support in Toronto (or at least along my bike route). Over the past week, cars have passed me with flags flying from their windows. I've seen the flags of Germany, Argentina, Brazil, England, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Mexico, all flapping proudly from the rear window. Some people obviously love their countries more though, since they fly flags on both rear windows.
Surprisingly, I haven't seen any flags of Croatia, a flag that is usually popular on car bumper stickers around here. And I haven't seen any Korean flags either, which I mention because there is a sort of Korean area here in the north-central part of North York, judging by the restaurants and storefronts.
The country, though, that is receiving the most support from Torontonians, is ... now I don't want to scare you or cause mass hysteria of US congressmen ... the country with by far the most flags flying from cars in this part of Toronto is Iran.
An important point to make is that all the Iranian flags I've seen are the pre-revolutionary flags. Everyone supporting Iran in Toronto flies the flag from over 26 years ago, before the current government system took over. Maybe that will help diffuse the tension that is sure to come up on talk shows this weekend after this news gets out (on segments titled "the enemy north of the border").
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Celebrate Clean Air Day 2006
I've been trying to keep on top of the air quality where I live and work. As a cyclist, the air quality is often plainly obvious, especially when stuck in traffic behind a car. To confirm my suspicions, I sometimes have a look at the air quality site from the Ministry of the Environment for Ontario. It's sad to see how often the air is at the "moderate" level in a part of the world that has an image of being clean.
From my own observations of the Ministry of the Environment site, the air quality downtown is often better than the measurements made in the suburbs. I can only guess this related to the fresher air from the lake. As a report released yesterday confirmed, the air in the regions surrounding Toronto is often similar or worse than downtown.
To avoid the problem of inhaling what an engine is exhaling, I've been consistently and carefully sliding up the right hand side of a line of cars stopped at a red light. I used to wait behind the vehicle first in line to avoid angering the drivers, but this practice is being thrown out the window. I now pull as far forward as I need to go so I avoid the worst of the fumes.
On smog days, the air is polluted everywhere, not just at the tail end of a car. Feeling desperate for a breath of real air, I've tried putting my t-shirt over my nose and mouth. Not sure if it was useful, I did some research and found that the size of the pores in typical cotton material is 80 microns, while many of the pollutant particles are less than 2.5 microns. The pollutants pass through with ease. So the t-shirt trick only changes the smell, not the number of harmful particles.
I'm left with only one choice. To celebrate Clean Air Day, I've decided that I should give myself some clean air. This weekend, as much as I don't like the idea of wearing one, I'll be stopping by a MEC store to pick up an air filtering mask.
(I see that I'm not the first person to have this thought, as they're already sold out in Toronto!)
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Ye Olde Wheels
I bought a rim with full double walls (some just have double walls on the side, but this had double walls along the bottom too), which cost about $10 more and I'm sure is heavier. On the other hand, it's supposed to be stronger, and my bike already weighs a few dozen pounds (that's how they're measuring bike weight now). It also weighs a few stone, another appropriate bike weight unit.
I hope the extra wall helps with making the wheel less likely to dent or need to be trued. The rim is made by Alex Rims. Looks good to me. The ride was smooth.
In the wheel world, I'm thinking of starting to resurrect an old Italian road bike I have sitting around, and the first thing it needs are new wheels. Really, my neighbour had this bike sitting around, but he doesn't want it and said I could have it. It's made by Atala. The wheels, saddle, cables and brake hoods all need to be replaced. The bottom bracket and headset, however, are solid and rotate as smoothly as the old man stirs the spoon in his espresso. (I was badly in need of an Italian metaphor there).
That said, I don't know how good of a bike this is. To refer to Sheldon Brown's site, the Atala bikes are not necessarily that special. I can't find much information about them online. I still like the idea of making this bike work again and hopefully having it as a fair weather exploring-the-city bike.
The Atala has 27 inch rims. Replacements are available at the local shop, but I can't see any reason to stick with the old size. So I think I'll get a set of new 700C rims that will let me install a new cassette, and give me lots of choice in tires.
Monday, June 05, 2006
One of the officers laughed out loud after seeing me come to a complete stop including one foot on the ground.
There were two officers guarding a film set in a north Toronto neighbourhood. They were blocking traffic from going down one street at a four way stop. Traffic was light, so they seemed to be enjoying their morning. I don't see many police officers around, so I thought I might as well show off my best complete stop, especially given the fact that Cycle Right might be coming up. I could see one of them smiling as I stopped, but when I unclipped from my pedal and my foot touched the ground, he couldn't keep it in anymore.
I hope they're there tomorrow. I'll be demonstrating a complete stop along with the slowing and stopping hand signal.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Spreading freedom, one suburb at a time
Andrew provides thorough coverage of a lot of the issues that I thought were the most important from the meeting. Including our 6 million dollar line.
Not so surprising: According to the study on display - more students get driven to school in York Region than take the bus.
Strange: There were maps on display of the current cycling infrastructure and the proposed infrastructure. Richmond Hill shows a map of completed bike routes covering the city. I have never seen any evidence of this in all of my cycling in the area, and one of the "routes" passes by my office. I've seen one bike lane in Richmond Hill, 1 or 2 km long. It makes me wonder if Richmond Hill considers itself done with the matter. I don't mind the idea of designated bike routes on bike-friendly streets, but if the only map of them is sitting in a city office somewhere, then the route is like the proverbial tree that fell in the forest. Quiet or loud, the only person who knows about it, tripped over it.
The big question I was asked: If they build this network of trails and paths, will people actually use it? Right now, people give all kinds of reasons for not riding a bike. If you break it all down and look at where people do ride bikes often, the real reasons are distances are too far, and people don't feel safe on the road with cars. Everything else can be easily overcome by an individual who doesn't want to bother paying for car expenses or dealing with public transit, and improve their health.
I would say that if there is a major piece of infrastructure, like a dedicated bicycle pathway that crosses the dense part of region, and a reasonably safe way to get to the path, people would use it. I've seen this in Ottawa, and from what I've heard in online, it works in Minneapolis also. People would use it for a casual weekend ride with friends or family, and they would use it to get to work, as long as they didn't work "too far" away from home. A Highway 7 Hydro corridor path could serve exactly this purpose.
Intensification: In order for the population of a city to live closer to where they work or where they would like to visit, the density of the city must be higher. Obvious, right?
This was the part that bothered me about the meeting. In the news and from politicians, there is all this talk about getting people to use public transit, walk and cycle. At the same time, I hear about more car-focussed development up in Keswick and the rest of Georgina. From the sounds of it, this development will not be at a high enough density to support public transit, even though many residents will be commuting south. This development will come with widening of Leslie and Woodbine to get people to the 404. While Viva gets accolades for innovation, the current system keeps chugging along working against it. As was expressed by a developer lobbyist:
"We're trying to make a super tanker turn and they don't turn on a dime," Mr. Rodgers said.
In reality, this ship doesn't turn unless it hits a rock.
The rock in this case is the Green Belt legislation. (Turns out it's a cushy, forgiving rock) The Toronto Green Belt of the McGuinty government is going to force developers to look more at developing with some amount of intensity (even if the government has backed off on full protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine). A point mentioned at the meeting is that every piece of legal developable land in York Region is either in development or ready to start.
The region is forcing intensity in some locations. Unfortunately, some of that intensity will be in new developments that are nowhere near effective public transit or existing town centres. I suppose I need to be patient. Also, there was mention of infill projects, so it's almost like development is going full steam ahead in two directions.
A plus for cyclists is that developers will be expected to conform to the bike plan if they modify a street that is part of the bike network. This helps minimize the financial burden on the municipality and pass it on to the new home buyer.
As Andrew mentioned, the success of this bike network will come down to political will in the municipalities (Richmond Hill, Aurora, Newmarket, Vaughan, etc.). Even if developers foot much of the bill, as we've seen in Toronto nothing will go forward unless there is some initiative from the politicians.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Video from Monday Morning Commute
Go to the Video Section of the York Region newspaper site. Click on the link beside the picture of the fireman (since it's much more dramatic than the story of my commute). If you want to see the video I'm in, click on the one beside the bicycle wheel. A word of warning: at the end of the video, those are my acting skills hard at work.
(My name isn't given anywhere, but I'm the guy with the orange shirt.)