Thursday, September 29, 2005
Boy on bike hit by car, driver drives away
The driver was getting out of her car but clearly reluctant to walk towards the boy. I wasn't sure what had happened at this point. I crossed the road to see if the boy was OK.
As I approached him, he was mostly interested in getting his chain back in place. I said, "Are you OK?"
He took a few seconds to reply, then said "Yes."
I said, "Did you get hit?"
"Yes." He continued to work on his chain.
I looked back at the car, where the woman was getting back into her car. She drove away.
I couldn't get the license plate. It was a medium-dark grey new looking sedan. Possibly a Volvo, judging by the size and shape of the logo on the centre of the trunk.
I told the boy he needed to report it to the police. He didn't answer me.
The boy started to leave. I asked if he was sure he was OK, and he said yes. He didn't seem to want any help or to talk to me.
I talked to a woman walking her dog as I left. She saw the boy get hit. She was shocked that the driver didn't even go talk to the boy.
I've reported it to the police, but it sounds like nothing will happen since neither the boy nor the driver reported it to the police. The police confirmed for me that the woman was required to make sure the boy was OK before she left. Since it seems that he may not have been hurt (enough to complain), she may be in the clear.
(For Toronto folks: this was at the corner of Maxome and Cummer)
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Pedal Power films and discussion
Tonight at the Pedal Power event, a short but enjoyable discussion followed the movies.
People talked about what makes cycling good in
One of the questions asked was about why Bike Plan money is being spent on the suburban parts of
Suburban cyclists are faced with huge challenges that the Bike Plan will help with. The big challenges I see every day are:
- Riding on fast moving major arterial roads, and
- Crossing expressways like the 401, usually while riding on fast moving major arterials.
Both of these challenges are extremely intimidating and frightening for inexperienced cyclists. I’m sure many wouldn’t even consider riding on Yonge St. The Bike Plan will help people ride on some of the arterials by providing bike lanes. Even better, in some cases people will be able to avoid major arterials all together. And of course, providing safe places for people to cross expressways will lead to more cyclists being seen in the suburbs.
I have no studies to back me up, but I’m convinced there are many people out there who have entirely ruled out cycling as a way to get to work because of one or two of the challenges I mentioned above. These difficult areas may make up a tiny fraction of their overall commute, but as far as they’re concerned, their bike commute is impossible because of it. I can say that I almost gave up on my bike commute early this year until I found a better way to cross the 401.
Councillor Adam Giambrone did a good job of fielding the question about suburban Bike Plan spending. He pointed out that it was important to give people in the suburbs the option of riding to work or to transit stations, and that there are potential cyclists all over the city.
I don’t know of any more scheduled bike events like this. I hope they keep coming. I’ll do what I can to go and represent the suburban
Monday, September 26, 2005
Report on the Bike Plan meeting
Flashback to last Wednesday night. (warning: potentially boring local stuff coming up)
I arrived hot and sweaty to the meeting. It’s a bike meeting, so everyone will be hot and sweaty, right? Wrong. From what I could see, I was the only one with a fresh helmet print on my forehead and sweat dripping down my back. Maybe it’s just my paranoia, but it looked like everyone else arrived early and must have made not as many wrong turns on their way there. I really need to learn the best bike routes through downtown.
The bulk of the discussion was focused on projects in the downtown of the city. The one part of the discussion about a project that I would see every day is the Finch Hydro Corridor bike path. Daniel Egan proposed this be finished in the next 3 years. This will be expensive (relative to other bike projects, but dirt cheap compared to all the road repairs) and involves a crossing of both the 404 and the 400. This path will be great for anyone in the north of the city traveling to either the Yonge and Sheppard offices or the Finch subway station.
Daniel Egan talked about how the planning for the bikeway network is being creatively budgeted by paying salaries through capital budget instead of the operating budget. This should help to make things happen faster than they have been in the past. The goal is to get as many projects planned and ready to go as possible, so the planning doesn’t hold up construction. Makes sense to me.
One point that came up from Charles O’Hara and the audience was to keep in mind the democratic process. If a particular project or general concept is important to you, write a personal letter to your councilor. If your councilor doesn’t respond how you like, make sure you vote accordingly in the next election. Someone mentioned that the next election is in 2006, so the election will be critical in the accelerated Bike Plan of the next 3 years.
There's more information about the accelerated Bike Plan here. And I have to expect there are people out there giving much more detailed reports than I am. I was surprised to see a number of people around me making notes on everything being said. I didn't even think of bringing a pen.
Last Thursday was Car-Free Day. This was not publicized, and there was no great public response to the day. The only reason I knew about it was because I put a reminder on my computer for it back in the spring when I was reading about Bike Week. Bike Week, scheduled at the beginning of the summer has much more potential to make a difference than Car Free Day. Simply the fact that it takes place over more than a week allows it to do more to affect peoples’ routines. Just declaring a day “car-free” isn’t going to do anything for someone who already knows that taking the bus will make their morning routine take three times as long.
There was an interesting article in the Toronto Star about Car Free Day. It gives a sample of the kinds of attitudes that bike advocates are up against in city hall. If you’re not familiar with
One of the intersections I regularly ride through was closed off by police for an accident investigation. It was clearly pretty serious, involving a car that smashed into a house at least 30 feet from the road. I found out later that three people died there at 5 o'clock this morning.
The police tape blocked off the sidewalks, and I knew the neighbouring streets were undergoing a big-dig. This route was already my second choice because of the construction. I didn't want to go over to Yonge St in this weather, so my options were limited.
While standing at the intersection trying to figure out what route to take, I heard a little girl behind me crying (sobbing uncontrollably) for her mom. She was walking her bike, and I saw her chain dangling between her peddle crank arm and the rear cogs. Taking note of the 680 News truck behind me, I quickly went over to help the little girl. Finally, my chance at the Order of Canada and meeting the Governor General! I talked to her for a minute until she calmed down, then told her I could probably fix her bike.
She waited patiently as I yanked with all my strength on the chain to get it out from between the rear cogs and the frame. I was unsuccessful. Whoever designed this bike so that a chain fit perfectly between the frame and the cog was not being very kind to this little girl. She told me that it had been caught in there before. I contemplated removing her back wheel to get the chain out, but I wasn't familiar with the way her rear derailleur was attached and didn't want to put her bike back together in an unsafe way. (something I've done enough times on my own bike) I gave her my phone to call her mom. Her mom didn't answer, so I ended up interrupting a police officer from his crossword puzzle, explaining everything to him and leaving her there, hoping he would be able to get a hold of her parents or give her a ride to school. I was pretty disappointed that I couldn't help more.
I continued on my way, walking my bike across a field to get around the closed off intersection. The rain was still heavy but began to ease up towards the end of my ride.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Canadians cutting back
So even if 50% of Canadians start riding bikes and install wood stoves in their homes (and use them), our resources would still be used up at about the same rate.
This is important because it sounds like our politicians are on the verge of being up front with Canadians. They are recommending that we tighten our belts. I hope some specific suggestions and programs start to come to the surface.
If we do make some big changes, whatever the motivation, then it seems like our government better also have a plan to do a little fancy accounting with our oil and gas, and basically use up our yearly fraction by putting it into storage so we have it for the future. If that sounds like too much work, they could start a program where every Canadian household is given an energy efficient light bulb, 20 jerry cans for gasoline and huge tank for natural gas. Then as resources get scarce, people could sell their cans of gasoline to the local grocery store, and we can continue to transport goods and heat our homes. This sounds a little wacky, and I’m being at least a little bit facetious. At some point though,
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Acting locally, freaking out globally
If you aren't familiar with the Bike Plan, the basic idea is to have a grid of bike lanes and bike paths all over the city so that anyone on a bike has to travel no further than 2 km to get to the "bikeway network".
And for everyone's interest, gasoline prices will be going up again, so put that brochure for the Toyota Sequoia back on the shelf. 99 cents/litre might look like a steal of a deal, but it won't last long as oil went up this morning to US$67/barrel, and refining facilities will be hit again by hurricane Rita.
If you don't use gas pumps, you might heat your house with natural gas. To get you really freaking out, Kunstler has gotten pretty specific that this winter will be a bad one for everyone. I tend to think that we're more likely to see a major economic slow down, and slowly a shift in energy consumption (for transportation, heating, shipping of food and other products) rather than a disasterous decline in everything we know. Here's a graph of the Canadian prices for natural gas. I'm sure the increases are similar to the US. Looking at the consumer price index from Statistics Canada, it shows a 9% increase in energy spending since July last year. In Canada, I can only imagine that we use more energy for heating in the winter, than cooling in the summer, so it'll be interesting to see this number in January.
UPDATE: I corrected the date for the Toronto Bike Plan meeting. It is tomorrow night.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Amateur urban planning
I'm sure it's to the dismay of many who just bought condos there that the roads are often backed up between their parking lots and the 401 ramps. I don't live there but the traffic back-up has gotten in the way of my car-commute. Driving home, simply traversing the off-ramp of the highway can take 20 minutes.
So today, as I arrived at the base of the condo towers and found myself in the middle of perfect gridlock, I hopped off my bike, walked it on the sidewalk past the jam, and continued on my merry way.
I like all the new growth in this area. My concern is that the benefits from all this intensification are not going to be fully realized unless companies begin to relocate in the city. There are all kinds of studies on this problem of businesses locating in the suburbs, and the most common explanation seems to be Toronto taxes and real estate costs. I'd say that impractical development of the suburbs should take some of the blame also.
As much as people may be annoyed with the traffic jams, I've seen them enjoying other aspects of the area. Every evening when I ride past, the park is filled with kids and parents playing on the swings and people out for walks. It looks idyllic, and probably not too far off from how I imagine the architectural drawings of the buildings must have looked, usually showing more pedestrians and children playing than is realistic.
I'm sure the same traffic jam will be there tomorrow morning and people will be getting angry with each other as they jockey their way through the four-way stop. I wonder if they realize how perfect their neighbourhood is for riding a bike.
Terry Fox results
It was satifying to complete, and a good time talking with my friend who ran with me. It was great to see so many people out enjoying the fresh air. We passed three 5 year-olds running beside each other. One of them said "I'm doing like Terry!". When Terry Fox ran through my part of Ontario when I was 5 years old, he was an inspiring news item. For these kids, he's a legend.
Towards the end of the run, a guy passing me on a bike gave a little toot of a horn. It was quite a good sound: a clear, strong tone. He told me it was called a Mega Horn. I found it at a local bike shop a few hours later for $35. I thought it was a bit steep, and decided to hold off until I looked into it some more. I'd like to find something better than my little bell. I have strong doubts my "ping ping" is being heard inside the cars that pull out in front of me.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Rain ready ride
With a fully clear mind, I can say that it was a very enjoyable ride. I looked down with satisfaction at the brown water splashing from the top of my fender back down to my tire. I had no skunk stripe up my back. And with my new bright yellow rain coat, even the driver who was talking on his cell phone and reading the newspaper couldn't help but notice me. I ended up being given more than half the lane by almost everyone who passed.
Dutch Flower Market
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Pedal Power Theatre
Featuring: 'Return of the Scorcher' (1992) and 'We aren't Blocking Traffic...We ARE Traffic' (1999)
As if that weren't enough! They'll also be having a discussion afterwards. According to the Public Space site, the panel will include Darren Stehr and Martino Reis.
Bring on the rain
When I finish with the fenders, I'll take some pictures and put up a "how-to" here. This will be the first of a series. I'm hoping to regularly make how-to postings where I can give my advice to people who are actually voluntarily receiving it (maybe you!). This should appease my need to give advice in general and do wonders for my social life.
I also picked up some rain gear on the weekend: a snazzy new yellow rain coat made specially for cycling. Thanks to my friends who gave me the gift certificate for it!
It looks like I'll be getting a chance to test all this out this afternoon.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Low profile at the office
After an hour in socks, I'm switching to the cycling shoes. I don't know a lot about fashion, but I know this violates a rule as far as matching my brown leather belt with my black leather (pleather) shoes. I wonder how reflective silver stripes and velcro fit in.
It'll be a good day to spend a lot of time with my computer.
Monday, September 12, 2005
Another point for cycling
Yesterday I ran my first 10 km race in probably 3 years. The only running I've been doing this summer has been about 2 times a week, with nothing to improve my speed like I would have done in the past.
The result was a time that was just 2 minutes off my fastest 10 km run ever, and it was more than 5 minutes faster than I was expecting (based on weekly jogs, and a bit of guessing). I can only attribute this to my bike commute. I don't think anyone would question if cycling was good exercise, but I was surprised at how well it served my running.
Now if only all this exercise would help with climbing the stairs today.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
The short version is this: he lost a leg to cancer, then decided to raise money for cancer research by running from one end of
The run this year is on September 18th (next weekend). I’ll be running along the
Friday, September 09, 2005
Money for Toronto!
Something must be wrong when our politicians make so much sense. Mayor Miller said:
"With gasoline prices going through the roof, funding for public transit has never been more important. The best way to keep people from being held hostage at the gas pump is to give them a real alternative to driving."
Unfortunately, I know that reasoning won't shut up the CAA.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
My Viva Experience
Here's how it went:
8:00 - leave my place
8:10 - On the TTC subway (walk to the station, include a stop at the bank)
8:31 - at Finch station (longest subway ride ever. I was watching the holes in the concrete wall slowly creep past the window)
8:34 - arrive at wrong bus platform
8:36 - arrive at right bus platform (there were no signs other than "buses" and "exit". Apparently I should choose "exit")
8:41 - pull away from Finch Station on VIVA "Rapid Transit Vehicle"
9:00 - Arrive at Richmond Hill Station (watched the "purple" eastbound bus pull out of the station as my "blue" bus pulled in). Sign say 16 minutes until the next bus. So much for the 10 minute minimum.
9:16 - VIVA bus arrives and leaves reasonably quickly
9:25 - At my stop (Leslie). Begin walking
9:30 - coworker passes me in his car and gives me a ride the rest of the way to work. He commented that I was walking like I was in the sad musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. I haven't seen this musical, but it sounded accurate. I appreciated the ride.
9:32 - arrive at work
I really wanted this to go well. I think this system is the best thing York Region has done for itself in a long time. And I would like to have a back-up for my bike, other than a car. But I have to say, I'm going to need to wait at least for "stage 2" in October before this is any use to me. Judging by the number of people riding it into the city, it's definitely useful for many others right now.
Conclusion: time to install those fenders and buy myself a raincoat.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Until the end of their "lockout", the local CBC employees are putting on a show through CIUT, the university of Toronto radio station, to bring local news and discussion to the airwaves.
It's an interesting strategy by the employees. There is no real competitor for CBC radio in Toronto, so they are creating one. The problem with this tactic is that I'm sure the CBC management realizes that this competitor will not exist as soon as they bring their employees back to work. And, I believe the concern of the management is that they lose listeners to other stations or media for the long term. That won't happen here since CIUT will soon return to playing extremely funky music or lectures by authors and professors.
This will also help maintain the loyalty of the listener with the CBC hosts. But if they're considering giving up their fight and starting a show on their own through the internet, they should take note of Christopher Lydon's battle with WBUR in Boston a few years ago. Different circumstances, but relevant. I'm sure the listership on The Connection was much higher than his Blogging of the President online show. It was all very unfortunate, since I thought The Connection was one of the best shows on the air.
Just get the CBC back on the air. Well, at least now I can hear something instead of "More great music!" Aaagh, not Joni Mitchell again!
Bike lanes in York Region
I dropped off my car to see if it can get through the emmisions test then rode a different route to work. There is in fact a bike lane on Bantry Ave. It happens to be improperly marked, and leads the cyclist into the right turn lane at Bayview Ave., but it's better than nothing.
This leads me into the debate of whether or not bike lanes are really needed or safe. Read this if you don't know what I'm talking about. I was shocked the first time I read it, and thought for a while that I must be reading something written by Dick Cheney on cycling. After more reading, I started to realize that there is a lot of sense to the argument. The problem is that it is very intimidating for a new cyclist to get on the road with fast cars. My opinion: I like bike lanes, whether they're on the road or raised beside the sidewalk. The reason is basically that it makes people feel more comfortable on their bikes and more likely to consider riding. And it makes drivers a tiny bit more aware that there could be a cyclist nearby and how much room is safe to give. They are definitely not the best and only solution.
My preference would be lots of designated bike routes along residential streets, low on stop signs, that may or may not include bike lanes. In a way, I could just ride on my own bike routes, pretend they're officially designated and be perfectly happy. Actually, that's almost what I'm doing, and I am very happy with the route I've found and how little I have to deal with cars.
A simple change that everyone could benefit from would be if cities would put short paths in residential areas to connect cul-de-sacs. Lot's of places have these paths, but where they're missing, a cyclist might be forced onto a major road (and probably just won't cycle). This makes a big difference in opening up bike route options. It can easily create a network that covers the whole city, without the cost of a huge network of bikeways. Please bring on the bikeways next though!
Monday, September 05, 2005
Inukshuk, sailing ship, and Toronto
Is Toronto already utility cycling?
The parks along the
During the first kilometer along the bike path, I noticed a lot of the cyclists I was passing had rear racks or baskets on their handle bars. Some even had old milk crates attached to their racks. I’ve always thought that a lot of people had bikes sitting in their garages that they only get out for weekend rides, but this seemed to suggest that many people at least considered putting some groceries or a bag of clothing on the back of their bikes. During the 25 or 30 kilometers I counted at least 55 more bikes with racks or baskets. I’m guessing this was about ¼ of the adult-sized bikes I went past. (It would have been more scientific if I had also counted the number of bikes in total, but I don’t get paid that much for this)
It made me wonder: Are Torontonians already utility cycling? Are these people already thinking about using their bikes for practical trips? Maybe they aren’t but they’re ready to start.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
The other thing they've become experts at is the gas pump interview. How many times have I seen on TV: "Have you seen the price of the gas you're filling up with?", answered with "what're you gonna do?" This is repeated about 3 or 4 times at a few pumps, then the reporter goes on to conclude that gas may be high but people are still filling up and not changing their habits. What? I mean that may be true, but you can't exactly conclude it from a survey of people at the gas station. Sounds hard to believe, but I see this over and over on TV.
I finally found an article about this that looked at it from a more realistic point of view. It may not help people with solutions, but it actually looks at some of the numbers for transit use. It looks like there have been some very small changes in behavior.
I've thought for a while that the gas prices would need to go much higher before people would really start looking at alternatives to driving every day. At last months gas prices, I would have probably paid $120 to $150 per month to drive to work every day. This figure is up to $200 per month now. That sounds like a huge amount, but like DesRossiers points out (in the article), there are many other expenses in owning a car that are higher. And what matters more is how much it cuts into someone's paycheque and what they see as an alternative.
Friday, September 02, 2005
I live inside the edge of the pedestrian friendly part of the city. About 200 metres away, the major roads have cars going 80 km/h (not legally), and the closest bike path is probably 2 km away and goes nowhere useful for me. So the things that I've learned over this summer of riding my bike from here to Richmond Hill have been unique to someone outside of the downtown core, or along the lakefront. And I'm sure I'll keep finding out more as I make this a bigger part of my life, and continue into the colder weather.
I'll start bringing my camera along on my ride soon. I love riding my bike to work. I wish more people realized how good it feels, and how beautiful and relaxing it can be to ride every day in northern Toronto and York region. We may not have bike paths, but we do have neighbourhood streets that are very comfortable to ride on.
I also hope to make notes here about interesting ideas I see people with around the world. Many people are opening up to living more efficiently and independantly, and the more ideas, tests, failures and successes, the better.
And finally, I wanted to have somewhere to write down whatever seems important to me, giving a reader something decent to sample from and get an idea of what goes on in my head. Then next time I make an inflamatory comment on someone else's blog, a reader might be able to look here and say "Hey, maybe that guy isn't as crazy as I thought!" Or maybe not.
I barely drive now, so I don't exactly feel guilty about the emissions. I wish I could use this opportunity to park my car and just leave the renewal for a year, but I don't think I'm quite ready for that. The winter will be here in 3 months and I haven't had a good chance to test my riding in the snow yet.
On a more encouraging note, I got a thumbs up from a woman passing me in a minivan today. I think she liked how quickly I climbed a hill. It felt so good I think my average speed went up by 8 km/h after that.