Friday, March 31, 2006

That March Heat

Looks like I'm going to skip new pants and make the switch to shorts. I forgot how hot I get riding my bike, even if it was "just" 10 degrees C this morning.

I've been putting so much moisturizer on my hands for the past month that my skin has become soft and supple. My calluses that I built up over last summer with great pride are now gone. Leaning and pushing on my handlebars without gloves for the past few days has made it obvious that I have some work to do to build that thick skin back up again.

The sky is about to explode. I have my raincoat, but I hope it can wait a little longer.

Before leaving this morning, I knew that choosing to use my bike would mean there was a good chance I would get rained on tonight, but I didn't want to miss a great day like this by spending the whole day inside. It looked like there were still quite a few other cyclists who had similar feelings, as Joe has been noticing too. I'm going to start counting cyclists again. Last year at the end of the summer I would see somewhere between 8 to 12 during my ride to work.

Darren J 3/31/2006 03:30:00 PM | 3 comments |

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Do Bikes have Karma?

On Sunday April 23rd, the Community Bicycle Network will be holding a Bike Swap at Mountain Equipment Co-op in downtown Toronto. It sounds like a great chance to give your unused bikes a new life or to find your new wheels for getting around town.

They could use some help with running the event. Contact Herb (creator of the the Cycling Cog) if you're interested in volunteering. Email: toolworks@communitybicyclenetwork.org

If bikes do have karma, it can only be the good kind.

Darren J 3/29/2006 01:56:00 PM | 1 comments |

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Fashion Update: Pants

With the warm weather approaching, it's time to think about cycling fashion; specifically pants. For my British audience (there might be one person over there reading this), I'm not talking about women's undergarments, since we all know those are uncomfortable for the long climbs. I'm talking about the things that keep your lower half comfortable in a harsh wind, and help hide your hairy legs when you walk around your place of work or take a break in a cafe.

Personally, I've been sticking with a pair of khaki hiking pants made of a sort of soft nylon. I wear them just about every day. They're comfortable in cooler weather, have an extra zip pocket for my keys, and are thin enough that they're comfortable on my saddle area. They're clean looking other than the chain ring stains on the right leg, and somehow also on the left leg.

I'm not exactly one for huge clothing variety. I have an office clothing rotation that sometimes repeats after 3 days. (This may make you wonder why I'm writing a "fashion update", or why you should read it.) I've been considering branching out.

Last year, I started out spring cycling by wearing a pair of spandex padded bike shorts. I was under the impression that the only comfortable way to cycle was to wear a set of these. When I arrived at work, I would put a pair of regular shorts over top to avoid waltzing around the office and offending my coworkers. Plus, I thought: even if the aerodynamics don't help too much, they put me in a fast frame of mind, making me go faster. Eventually, I just started wearing loose-fitting shorts, which turned out to be a lot more comfortable and no less fast. I was happy since the breeze was nice, and, well, they were loose.

On the weekend I tried branching out by wearing a pair of loose cordoroy pants. After 45 minutes of cycling, I tore them on my crank arm. Now I have lots of cordoroy bike cleaning rags. So I need something a little different, not fancy, that's not going to get in the way of my chain or my crank arm.

This leads me to capri pants. For a year now I've had many of my closest friends like Eddie B, American E, Old N and my buddy G, telling me that these are the way to go. They will lead to lots of happy times spent with other people wearing capri pants. Fortunately, they look very practical for riding a bike. I would get a bit of air on my legs; they can have lots of pockets; they are loose and comfortable; and most importantly, they would keep out of my chain without needing to be tucked into a sock. On top of all that, I think they would make me look taller.

My concern with capri pants is that they have never looked very masculin to me. And lately I've been reminded that the plethora of gears on my bike should make me very concerned about my masculinity.

So I'm leaning towards getting a new pair of pants similar to my current ones, but maybe a little bit stiffer so I can roll them up instead of tucking them in my socks. And if I feel like blowing the budget next month I'll look for a pair of long shorts (totally different from capris!) made of a thin material, maybe synthetic, much like my current pants. The thick cotton that most khaki shorts are made of is never comfortable when it gets sweaty.

Oh, that's Jeanne Becker on the line ... This is your cycling fashionista, I mean fashionisto, signing off.

Darren J 3/28/2006 02:35:00 PM | 5 comments |

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A little bit more car-free

This past week, I made a small step towards car freedom. I reduced the insurance coverage on my car to “leisure” coverage. The idea of my car being labeled “for leisure” isn’t something I’m particularly fond of, but what it means is that I pay less for my car insurance because I put less than 10000 km/year on it. Part of it is a promise to myself to not use my car very much, but the other part is to avoid paying the insurance company for a risk that simply doesn’t exist. They got a big payoff from my low mileage over the past 11 months.

This saves me $10/month, which is peanuts compared with how much I make for the insurance company. The reduced mileage that comes from driving once per week on average must translate to a reduced risk by more than 7 or 8%. Maybe I’ll have to shop around in the near future.

Since I’m already practicing living without my car for most of the time, the biggest change could be that if I don’t feel up to riding to work, I’ll be more likely to take the subway/bus. And if I’m going on a long trip, my car will definitely stay parked. I’ll either carpool or take the bus or train.

As for full car freedom, I see my costs as being fairly minimal right now. My car is old, in good shape, paid-off, gets good fuel mileage, and sits parked for free. I feel satisfied with this commitment to have my car on the road as little as possible and keep my bum on my saddle as much as possible.

Darren J 3/26/2006 04:44:00 PM | 1 comments |

Spreading the love


Watch this video posted on Martino’s site! It’s a video by Bob Sinclair.

Or download here.


Darren J 3/26/2006 11:17:00 AM | 0 comments |

Friday, March 24, 2006

Cycle Ontario

The Cycle Ontario Annual General Meeting is this Saturday in Toronto at Metro Hall. Metro Hall is that building near CBC where all the skateboarders hang out. It starts bright and early, around 9 AM, so skateboarders might not be a good reference for finding the building. Here's a map.

I'm pretty sure I'll attend. I assume it's open to anyone. I know very little about this organization, but, as I've said before, I like the general idea of having a provincial group to talk to the provincial government about provincial traffic laws.

Darren J 3/24/2006 12:25:00 PM | 0 comments |

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Human beings and their transportation

With all the talk about the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (GTTA) that will be created in tomorrow's provincial budget, there was a timely story on the CBC radio program Ideas last night. It was all about traffic engineering and human responses to the design of road systems.

Since you probably won't be buying the audio cassette, I'll tell you one of the things that I took away from the program. You may have heard the idea before that if a new lane on a highway is built, it does nothing to reduce congestion because it will lead to more people using the highway. The capacity is increased, but the quality of life is not improved for any of the road users since they still end up stuck in traffic instead of "spending time with their families" (as the politicians like John Tory like to dream).

In order to consider the effect of adding tolls on a highway, like on the DVP or the QEW, the person interviewed in the show pointed out that the reverse is also true. If a highway is removed or limited with tolls (fewer people choose to take it), many politicians and traffic engineers have said that this will just increase traffic on neighbouring streets. This is something that concerned me on a personal level, since I don't want more people racing along on the streets that I ride my bike on. However, this expert (I wish I could tell you his name) indicated that this idea of increased local traffic is not true at all. The result is that car traffic may go up slightly on neighbouring streets, but most of the car traffic simply disappears. People find alternate ways to get to work.

The example he gave was in San Francisco where they chose not to rebuild the highway destroyed in the earthquake. They monitored traffic on neighbouring streets waiting to see the numbers spike. The spike never happened.

I better stop paraphrasing there, just in case I'm approaching copyright infringement. If you get the chance to listen to the show, I recommend it.

I suspect that the same principle would apply to public transit where a viable transit option exists. If there were an extra subway train running where a full subway corridor currently runs, the new subway would fill up soon as people moved into new buildings, sold their cars or made other changes to their lifestyle. In our situation though, for many parts of our city, a viable competitor to the car doesn't exist. This means we have the opportunity to create a whole new option for people in many parts of the city. Greater options can lead to real improvements in quality of life.

So when we consider how the GTTA should encourage money to be spent in the next few years, we have a choice to make. We can create a system that gives options to people in the suburbs and outside of the subway corridors, or we can continue to force car loans, car insurance, car collisions, and car pollution on the entire population.

Darren J 3/22/2006 11:06:00 PM | 2 comments |

Monday, March 20, 2006

First Day of Spring

While on my trip to work today,
I pedaled up behind a coworker.
He was on his brand new bike.
He decided to start cycling to work.
It was a good day.

Temperature: -5 C
Wind: 32 km/h North, gusting to 41 km/h
Windchill: -13 C

Darren J 3/20/2006 07:04:00 PM | 10 comments |

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Ottawa cyclists


I spotted this pair of cyclists on a busy street in Ottawa on the weekend. They looked like a father-son team, busy moving a serious load on a bike trailer.

They were heading down Woodroffe Ave, for anyone familiar with the area. Like many of the suburban arterials in Ottawa, it has bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes in each direction. Nearby, on Hunt Club Rd, there are actually bike lanes in each direction, plus a bike path off to one side.

Darren J 3/19/2006 10:50:00 PM | 2 comments |

Friday, March 17, 2006

J'ai retourné

It's been a rough week for cycling. The cold has been harsh with such a strong wind. Unfortunately, today was the first day I got on my bike. It felt good to be moving again.

The roads are clear, so I've switched to my road bike now. My winter bike is put away. I really hope I don't need to pull it out any time soon.

This site was up and down for the past few days. This may have been a good thing because it stopped me from posting a long boring rant about how annoyed I was from spending so much time in my car. Thank-you blogger.

Here's some good news on the solar panel front. 20 years is a long time to pay off such an investment, especially when so much can change over that time period. Still, the province is pitching in a lot of money to help individual homeowners make this happen, so it could be very effective. The other thing they really need to do is stop subsidizing the price of power, so people are actually paying for what they use and are encouraged to conserve. Then give a targetted subsidy to those who need it.

Spring is here! Really ... very close ... I can feel it.

Darren J 3/17/2006 02:57:00 PM | 11 comments |

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lady to Harness Power of Her Wind

…and cast a glow over the harbour like an angel; a bluish-green one.

The Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum will be powered by wind turbines located in Pennsylvania and New York State.

From the article in the Guardian:

But environmental campaigners say almost half the renewable programmes signed into law last year remain unfunded. "The president's pollsters are telling him that high energy prices and his drill-only energy policy are driving his job approval numbers down. So he's decided to go out and tell Americans what the polls tell him they want to hear," said Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust. "It's just the same old oil guy doing photo ops at solar plants."

What is democracy if it isn't about appeasing public opinion? The missing piece is that the public opinion should be an informed one. (It's especially good if the public is given the information I want it to be given). This good news is at least slightly manipulative.

To help keep things in perspective, here are some numbers on New York power generation sources based on a report by the EIA after the 2003 power outage. In 2003, 51% of electricity used by people in New York state came from burning fossil fuels. Wind power must be somewhere in the "other" category at 1%. New York isn't the only place with very low numbers for green power sources.

It's still good news even if it is on a very small scale. Maybe it will serve as an advertisement for wind power, letting people know that it is real and it is available now.

Darren J 3/15/2006 10:17:00 AM | 0 comments |

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Folding bikes and more

A professional reporter would have given you a thorough review of the Bicycle Show by the middle of last week. Since that's not me, I'm delivering bits and pieces that seem relevant to what's currently passing through my head. (What does it mean that I haven't posted anything for a few days?) Hope it's still of some interest.

One item that caught my dad's eye at the Bicycle Show was a low price folding bike called the T-bike. We didn't take it for a test ride, so if you're looking for a review, I found this in the Globe.

It's pretty darn affordable at $190, which seems like a good thing to me if you're not really sure if the folding bike scene is for you. "Folding bike scene?", you say. Yes, there is a folding bike sub-culture. I give all responsibility for it to this guy from Wales. I suspect he could keep the scene alive on his own enthusiasm.

Unrelated: one of the most exciting things to see at Bicycle Show was the BMX track in the Ricoh Colliseum. My dad and I got front row seats after entering mid-competition. The first few moves were decent, but only a bit more crazy than what I might have tried when I was 8 years old. I gave a polite clap, and wondered why no one around could have the courtesy to make some noise. Then I saw what we had been missing. They started to spin and flip like I couldn't have guessed. One guy did front flips! The front flip on a BMX looks so unnatural that you have to be amazed at it.

Even more unrelated: sometimes the postings on Craigslist give me a chuckle. This person should go into advertising, if not there already.

One more item: Torontoist gets it. Thank-you for caring.

Darren J 3/14/2006 03:30:00 PM | 1 comments |

Friday, March 10, 2006

Helping out our brothers and sisters

NK from the Bolts and Nuts bike gang gets published! Maybe that means Leah McLaren will be able to read his blog now. Click through his site to read the article in The Varsity (I didn't link directly to the article because of the registration, but you might be lucky and not need to register).

Joe of Biking Toronto has given away 3 of his 8 cycling secrets. Great advice so far. Hopefully I won't need the other 5 secrets this weekend.

And while I'm linking everywhere, here's an article in Wired about bikes. I learned a new word from it: crank-forward. It's sort of like a recumbent without the seriousness. So you can be more comfortable on it, but your local recumbent bike club probably won't let you join, and may make fun of you. The Rans version shown in the article was shown at the Urbane booth at the Bicycle Show this past weekend.

Darren J 3/10/2006 02:01:00 PM | 5 comments |

Safe passing law and Cycle Ontario

I saw on Cycling Dude that California is considering passing a law to require motorists to give at least 3 feet of space between the car and cyclist when passing.

It's not unheard of for a certain cyclist to remind car drivers that they must give 1 metre of space when they pass too closely. Is this actually a law in Ontario? Or is there a court precedent for charging someone with reckless driving if they pass a cyclist too closely? If a police officer is driving right behind someone who passes me 6 inches from my elbow, is there any point in that officer pulling the car over? The parts of the Highway Traffic Act that I have read only talk about passing so as to "avoid a collision". That's a very naïve way to write a law given the unpredictability of road conditions and human actions.

If 1 metre of space is not a clear law, or if it is only based on court precedent (I don't even know if precedent is what matters in traffic law), having it written clearly into law would be a good move for cyclists in Ontario. If this became a law, and it was well advertised (advertising and education is critical), it would be much clearer that a car must actually wait for some space in the adjacent lane, so it can pull into that lane, at least partially, while passing the cyclist.

I stopped by the Cycle Ontario booth while at the Bicycle Show on the weekend. The focus was on a province-wide network of bike routes (using signage and possibly bike lanes?). You can look at some of the map on their web site. Judging by the locations, the routes appear to be aimed at bike touring more than every day cycling. I like the idea, and I hope it gets somewhere, especially since signage like this is so simple and cheap. I've been thinking of going on a bike ride up around Lake Simcoe, and it would be nice to go on a trip like that and have some confidence that the roads will be comfortable on the bike. However, a provincial cycling group would be a good place for advocating for useful everyday cycling routes that are coordinated between our cities.

Cycle Ontario is also interested in increasing membership. They mentioned something about how they are a tiny fraction of the size of Velo Quebec. On the Cycle Ontario web site, it says one of their goals is to increase membership to 200.

Many of the things that cyclists need can be addressed at the provincial level. This is true for laws and infrastructure. I'm starting to think I need to stop whining and start writing letters to provincial government members.

Darren J 3/10/2006 09:05:00 AM | 7 comments |

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Numbers

A few interesting numbers came up in our local newspaper, The Toronto Star, yesterday.

A. Every 5.5 days someone is killed in a "car crash" on Toronto streets. That's more than one per week.
B. There is a collision every 9.3 minutes!
C. 1200 people showed up for the funeral of a horse killed in one of these collisions.

The first two are unfortunate to see, and what's more unfortunate is that so many people take these collisions for granted.

The third item gives me hope. I know many of the people who went to the horse funeral may have been there because they are animal or horse (or police officer) lovers, but I imagine there might not have been so many there if people didn't see it as such a senseless death. A horse may seem out of place on Kingston Road in Scarborough, but that doesn't mean a car driver shouldn't be able to avoid hitting it (and avoid driving away after hitting it, but that's a separate anti-social act).

I was reading parts of the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario after Vic brought it up in a comment on BikingToronto, and I was surprised to see how prominent a role equestrians play in the law. That doesn't mean that I would want it changed. Keeping in mind the varied use of our highways (streets, roads) is important and should be advertised so we can encourage people in cars to drive with a totally different level of caution from what we're seeing out there today.

And now for my little personal anecdote related to this topic. This morning, a friendly woman was driving her car behind me on a slow residential street. The street was not slow for me since I was booting along at 30 km/h (only 10 km/h below the speed limit), but it was clearly too slow for the genius behind her in the Ford Explorer (or Ford Exsomething). When she felt the oncoming traffic was too close to pull around me and pass, he honked his horn at her, then pulled around her into the oncoming traffic lane, drove past her, past me (and past my middle finger; sorry mom) and pulled in front of me just before the oncoming cars arrived. He didn't gain much, but he had a busy morning planned since I am pretty sure I saw him 1 km later parked in front of a school dropping off a child. The part that frustrates me is that nothing will come of this antisocial act, and this driver will never face any repercussions for the risk he created for the oncoming cars, simply because no one was hurt. The level of risk driving, biking and walking on that street was undoubtedly increased many times over because of the decision that driver made.

Back to the news items. The first article in the Star was focused on new technology to help advise drivers that they are driving on a wet road, and to be careful. And it will help them choose another street if the one they're on is slow. I've seen this used in Europe, and the dynamic mapping part of it is pretty nifty, but really it's only going to benefit people in cars, and those people must be in high end cars or else the option isn't available.

Les Kelman, Toronto's traffic management director, brings some sense back to the discussion when asked about future infrastructure projects:

"Clearly the focus will be on transit, pedestrian movement and cyclist movement. This is showing how this all fits together."

I'm not exactly sure how that is related to the technology under discussion, but I hope he's right about 'the focus'.

By the way, I made it to the Bicycle Show on the weekend, and I'm planning on writing down a few of the interesting booths I checked out while there.

Darren J 3/07/2006 05:46:00 PM | 4 comments |

Monday, March 06, 2006

Cycling Cog

There's a new tool available for cyclists today. It's called the Cycling Cog. The idea is to create a way for cyclists to connect with others who may have similar commutes, or would like to go for recreational rides with other people. The purpose may be for an online discussion, or to actually meet up and ride together. Every cyclist knows how much more comfortable it feels to have a few more cyclists around you.

You may be considering starting up with using your bike to get to work, and it would help to get some advice on routes, cycling technique, or equipping yourself for your commute and work day.

Or you may have lots of experience and think you could help others out who are new to riding their bike on a regular basis.

This is aimed at cyclists everywhere. You can imagine how it could help cyclists in big cities or small towns. Either way, it's very easy to ride at a slightly different time from the other cyclists and never know you have friends out there.

Check it out. Create an account. Connect with others. Meet cyclists on the road. Start creating small critical masses everywhere every day.

Thanks Herb!

Darren J 3/06/2006 10:16:00 AM | 3 comments |

Friday, March 03, 2006

Making the Tooker

As most of you are probably aware, today is the day that the Tooker bike lane on Bloor and Danforth will be born. The birth will take place at 2 pm today (Friday).

I'm all for more practical bike routes through our city, so I hope this bike lane is fully installed in the near future, and many more like it.

As I've heard mentioned in the discussion about the Tooker bike lane before, there are quite a few reasons that this bike lane is so practical. Here's what I've collected over the past few months:

1. A relatively dense population already lives and works near Bloor St and Danforth because of the subway, so this bike lane is likely to be well used.
2. Bus routes do not primarily run along the street so there is not a problem with the lane interfering with ground level public transit. Also, there are no street car tracks on Bloor or Danforth, making shifting of lanes simple.
3. The bike lanes can be installed so there is still street parking on one side of the street in most places. Also, I guess like most parts of Toronto, there are public parking lots nearby anyway. No one expects to go to the mall and drive their car right up to the front door of the store they want to go to. I don't know why it is such an imperative to have a 5 metre stroll to the store in the busiest parts of our city.
4. The route is straight, making it fast. Bikes deserve some direct routes through the city.
5. It's such a small amount of money to make such a big difference for our city. This applies to all bike lanes and paths.

Here's a quote I especially liked from the press release today from the Take the Tooker collective.

The City is aware of the hazards of biking, especially east-west cycling in the core where most car/bike collisions happen, but has failed to address the problems. Link . "Toronto cyclists can't wait for more inaction. And there's really no reason to. Bike lanes are dirt cheap--only $200,000 brings 8 kms of bike lanes to the Bloor/Danforth. This compares most favourably to the $125,000,000 a km cost of the Front St. Extension" says Darren Stehr, another member of the Take the Tooker collective.

Good luck today painters!

Darren J 3/03/2006 01:22:00 PM | 1 comments |

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Cyclists for peace

I just noticed these photos from a Los Angeles protest during the State of the Union speech. Old news, yes, but I liked the protest signs.

No War, Screw Big Oil, Ride a Bike, Peace.

Here's the story on CICLE.

Read this too!

I currently don't have cable, so the bulk of my news comes through Canadian sources right now. I feel slightly disconnected from the general feeling in the U.S. on all these issues. However, the little I see and hear gives me the impression that the attitude about the war in Iraq is changing significantly.

I should probably start listening to NPR again online. I'd like to click on Foxnews once in a while just to see what they're saying but then I end up helping their advertising numbers. At the NPR site, the biggest risk I face is accidentally putting myself on a mailing list for a jazz appreciation club.

Darren J 3/01/2006 10:34:00 PM | 0 comments |

On Review

Scratch yesterday’s comment about the Hummer. I made a difference, even if it was a small one.

I don’t want to be a cynic. It’s too easy.

Darren J 3/01/2006 10:20:00 PM | 0 comments |