Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How To Always Smell Fresh

... even when your workplace has no shower.

(This is a hot Bike Week special feature!)

1. Always shower in the morning so you start your ride clean.
2. Use a non-mild soap. (Something like Ivory is good. Dove is bad.)
3. After arriving at work, wait at least 15 minutes to cool down and stop sweating. This is a good time to stretch, drink cold water, read emails, etc.
4. Use a hot or warm wet facecloth to wash your entire body. Entire.
5. If you want to use cold water for your facecloth to cool yourself off, make sure you repeat using hot water on the facecloth afterwards. * (see note below)
6. Use a small towel to dry. A small towel can be carried with you every day and can be replaced at home with a clean one easily.
7. Apply deodorant liberally, not antiperspirant. My whole technique could be useless if you start messing with your body's attempts to sweat when it chooses. ** (see the other note below)
8. Put on a complete set of clean clothes.

* I don't know why exactly, but if I use cold water only, I'll sweat a lot more after changing into my clean clothes. My theory is that by using hot water the skin gets tricked into thinking its cold after you're done because it is now colder than it used to be, whereas the opposite happens if you cover yourself with cold water.

** For women, I think the only deodorants available (as opposed to antiperspirant) are the organic ones, which I find are less irritating on the skin anyways. I've found Tom's of Maine works well. A couple other brands do not work well at all, so it may require experimentation. For men, if you go for the organic stuff, it may mean using a scent like Honeysuckle Rose, which is not as bad as it sounds. You just may be more likely to attract flying insects instead of the opposite sex.

Darren J 5/30/2006 02:02:00 PM | 17 comments |

Disappointed

You would think on a day like yesterday, with cars parked in every southbound lane of the city, it would have been so painfully obvious how important cyclists are and that cyclists actually are people who need to get to work. It was just good fortune that the TTC strike came on the one day of the year that the city makes a big effort to get hundred more people to cycle. This is why I was surprised to read a statement like the one below from Royson James in the Star this morning:

"As Toronto police escorted Mayor David Miller and cyclists celebrating Bike Week along Yonge St. yesterday, further snarling traffic swollen by the transit strike, the conditions were there for political disaster."

Further snarling? Would it have been better if all those people parked their cars on Yonge Street too? It sounds like something I would hear on our local AM radio station 1010.

Too bad. I usually like reading what Mr. James has to say.

Darren J 5/30/2006 12:05:00 PM | 2 comments |

Successful Group Commute

The Unofficial Group Commute North was a success, in some ways. Most importantly, the group was larger than one. This was the critical since I didn't want to have to rename the event. The other cyclist was Serena Willoughby, the reporter from the York Region papers. She was interested in finding out about cycling in York Region. Serena deserves a lot of credit for doing her inaugural suburban ride of 18 km on a mountain bike, carrying a back pack, on one of the hottest days of the year.

I picked up the donuts nice and early. I forgot they changed the shape of donut boxes, which turned out to be not such a big problem with my fancy red strap.


While waiting at Yonge and Lawrence, there was some extra energy in the air due to the TTC strike that surprised everyone this morning. Yonge Street was packed with cars heading south. The sidewalks were busy with people looking for cabs. I watched all this going on, feeling sorry for the ones who looked entirely lost, especially the kids on their way to school (although the kids didn't look so disappointed).


People walked up to the subway station door, pulled on it, looked around, pulled on it again, then stood looking for something or someone to explain what was going on. Sometimes I would tell them about the strike, or someone standing waiting for a cab would pipe up. Most asked: "what am I supposed to do?" I recommended to some that they go home and get their bikes to join the crowd across the street. One woman who had just locked up her bike said "I guess I'll have to ride all the way to work." She wasn't happy.

As much as I like seeing more cyclists, mandatory cycling doesn't make for a good initiation. When I first started bike-commuting in Toronto, I took days to prepare: finding a route, figuring out clothing and primping supplies, making sure I could handle the distance. Hopping on a rusty bike last minute might not give a good impression.



We met with Blake at Yonge and Lawrence for a quick chat. (Thanks for swinging by, Blake. Great to meet you!) He had a short surprise interview. After watching him leave with the southbound crowd, we pushed off north.


Traffic was a bit heavier than normal heading north. There were many more pedestrians around, and cyclists. Being on bikes, this was just an observation and not a complaint.

The ride went well. We took a route similar to my usual one, along mostly residential streets, making for a fun and relaxing ride. That's something few people in cars could say yesterday.

Serena said she enjoyed the ride and could see herself doing it again. It only gets easier and better as you get stronger and faster. Being a reporter who has to cover all of York Region, she acknowledged that it might not work so well on most days.

We ended up meeting with two more cyclists when we reached Highway 7 and Leslie. Ok, actually one more cyclist and one transit rider who will be a cyclist tomorrow. Donuts were eaten and a good time was had by all.

Darren J 5/30/2006 08:45:00 AM | 0 comments |

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Newspaper interest

The word is getting out about the York Region cycling and pedestrian meeting. It's now mentioned in an article called Changing Lanes, by Serena Willoughby in the York Region Group of newspapers (Liberal, Era Banner, Economist and Sun, etc). You'll even find some comments from local cyclists.

Come out to the Unofficial Group Commute North tomorrow morning! You can meet me anywhere along the way. There is a distinct possiblity of there being some media coverage.

On a related note, I see a lot of people find their way to this web site while searching for maps of cycling routes in York Region (especially when the weather is nice). Just so you don't spend too much time looking, I'm fairly sure nothing exists online. The closest thing I've found is map of trails mainly for walking, hiking and running. I know some of those routes work for cycling. You could try using Google Maps to pick out calm streets. Or there is a map that's for sale that I've seen at bike shops. I don't know the name of the company that makes it (I'll post it here if I find out).

Darren J 5/28/2006 10:20:00 AM | 4 comments |

Friday, May 26, 2006

What York Region Can Do

Next week on Wednesday evening, I'll be attending York Region's first set of meetings to discuss their Cycling and Pedestrian Plan. I work in York Region but live in Toronto. Before living in Toronto and a variety of other places, I lived a lot of my life in York Region, and I hope to see it make changes for the better. There are parts of York Region that I like a lot, and it would be sad to see it all lost to more wide suburban roads and traffic jams. This meeting could be the start of making the place welcoming to more cyclists and safer for everyone.

I've been thinking about what I would say at the meeting, since I expect I'll have to be concise and efficient with how I share my ideas. Yesterday I spoke to a reporter from the local newspaper group, which made me put some more thought into the issue. (More on that later. I'm really hoping I didn't say something supid!) I thought I would write down the key ideas that have come to mind.

1. Take advantage of the residential streets that cover the region.

The major arterial streets (highways) that form a grid in York Region are legal cycling space but not practical for the average or inexperienced cyclist. If the region wants more people to cycle for transportation, they need to ensure that there is a practical safe network of routes, bike paths and bike lanes that meet the needs of inexperienced cyclists. This may mean wide bike lanes on some of these higher speed streets. At the same time, residential streets are very comfortable for new cyclists to use, especially if the number of stop signs is reduced and replaced by speed humps.

2. Take advantage of the green spaces in the region.

Bike paths through green corridors (like the area south of Highway 7) could form useful, direct connections across the region. They would need to have traffic signals when crossing major streets. Ottawa has paths like this that are a major draw for people considering moving there. Ottawa's bike paths are often brought up in employment recruiting campaigns.

3. Connect disconnected neighbourhoods and industrial areas so cyclists can pass through without being forced onto major arteries.

Many neighbourhoods have useful streets that cross from one major artery to another, but when crossing to the next neighbourhood, that street becomes a dead-end or winds into a crescent.

There are also industrial areas which are entirely disconnected from residential areas. It's understandable that people don't want heavy car or truck traffic through their neighbourhood. All that needs to be changed in many cases is that a carefully located paved path is added to connect the two areas. It must fit with the rest of the bike network so cyclists are not weaving all over the place.

4. Provide safe crossings of expressways.

From a cyclist's point of view, York Region has huge barriers running through it that limit where we can ride. We're forced onto the major arteries to get across expressways. We need to have dedicated pedestrian/cyclist bridges (like those planned for Toronto along the Finch Hydro Corridor) or wide bike lanes along the major arteries. The major arteries should not have "on-ramps" onto them since these are terrifying for cyclists and promote drivers to speed and drive aggressively, forgetting that they've left the expressway.

5. Education for drivers and cyclists.

Cyclists will benefit from learning how to ride in traffic safely. Whether we are in a bike lane or not, it is important that we're aware of what the threats are that we face and how we can easily avoid them. Provide low cost cycling courses, and cycling education in schools.

Drivers of cars and trucks need to know that passing a cyclist must be done with care, at a slow speed and with lots of room. If a cyclist needs the full lane, the cyclist is allowed it. Look for cyclists and pedestrians every time you turn. Be alert while you drive. Don't be a bully. This message should be short and simple and drilled into people's heads through a quality advertising campaign.

6. Enforce laws for drivers of cars and trucks

People speeding in their cars, people making dangerous turns in their cars, aggressive driving, people running stop signs and red lights, all pose threats to all of us, whether we're walking, cycling or in another car. A real change in attitude is needed on our streets which will only come if there are some repercussions for people who are putting the rest of us at risk.

7. Change zoning practices for future development (this sounds a bit off topic, and may not be relevant to the meeting I'll be attending, but it's all connected in the long run)

I'm not opposed to the single family home; it just shouldn't be the only thing around. What I would like to see is for areas to give people more choice with the type of neighbourhood they live in, and in general for there to be more density, allowing people to walk places and take fast public transit. I've seen some of this happening in York Region, but it's limited. One way of measuring success could be to ask: can a student (college or university) live in this area without needing to own a car? What about someone who is employed nearby? Could a family live comfortably with only one car, by walking, cycling and taking transit? I've read many times that this is achievable through a mix of houses and low rise building styles. It doesn't need to include scary high rise buildings.

Stop building places of employment in isolated office ghettos. Some buildings look like they've been banished from town. The huge new State Farm building in "Aurora" (I put it in quotes because it's out in the middle of nowhere), which is obviously intended to be a big employer, needs to have a bus dedicated to driving people right up to the building. This bus may work now, but what about when they put a Walmart across the street? Will people really sit on a bus that drives from door to door of every building? Right now, if a bus dropped people off on the street, they would need to walk 15 minutes to get down the driveway and across the parking lot. This means more car traffic that could have been avoided if this building was fit in town somewhere. What a horrible waste of potentially useful land (and everyone's time).

8. Cycling and pedestrian traffic is good.

A quality bike network in York Region could be a major asset to the area. It improves health and general quality of life. It reduces car traffic, saving huge amounts of money on highways. It would promote businesses to locate here instead of other suburban regions. Seeing cyclists and pedestrians along a street is a sign of being "somewhere" instead of at just another intersection.

That was long winded, so thanks for reading. I'll need to be more concise at the meeting unless I want stuff thrown at me.

There's my current train of thought. If you think I'm off on something or have any kind of advice or thought on this upcoming meeting, click on the little Comment link below and have at it.

Darren J 5/26/2006 12:54:00 PM | 1 comments |

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Should I stop flossing my teeth?

With my newfound pastime of bike repair, my fingertips have the perpetual decoration of black grease embedded in the grain of my skin. There used to be enough time between repairs that the dirty skin would wear away and my hands would look clean most of the time. Not so for the past month.

I wear the grease stains as a badge of honour, but I have some concerns. I'm starting to wonder if it's safe to put my hands in my mouth. Supposedly I'm meant to floss every day for oral hygiene purposes, but there must be a trade-off. If anyone is looking for a thesis topic for a PhD, I suggest comparing the effects of bicycle grease ingested orally to flossing on a less than daily basis.

This has come up again because yesterday I broke a spoke on my front wheel. I don't blame the spoke. It has held up for about 17 years and thousands of kilometres. Not bad for a tiny piece of steel taking hundreds of pounds of impact and tension. It means though that I really need to do something about the rest of the spokes on the wheel. Maybe it's time to start spending more money on this mode of transportation.

As a temporary fix, I took the spoke off another wheel from an old half-bicycle that was lying around my building (it didn't belong to me, but I've been given permission to scavenge). It was much too late to go to a bike shop by this point, so I knew I was on my own. I bent the old spoke out of its original home, then did my best to straighten it before sliding it into my wheel. It fit in well and was installed surprisingly easily. I didn't even need to remove my tire.

After a late night of truing the wheel, going for a test ride, and washing my hands, I decided to take my chances and floss my teeth. (I hope my dental hygienist is reading this.) Live with future gum problems or live with future unknowns? I choose the unknown. I floss because I like to live on the edge.

Darren J 5/25/2006 12:14:00 PM | 6 comments |

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Unofficial Group Commute North - Updated

On the upcoming Monday May 29th, the City of Toronto will be hosting the Group Commute event where hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people gather at selected locations around the city, then commute together to downtown. This sounds like a lot of fun. I wish my destination was near downtown so I could join in.

For anyone who lives somewhere in central/north Toronto and commutes to the business centre north-east of the city near Highway 7 and Leslie, I'd like to invite you to join me in my Unofficial Group Commute North. This is in no way a city sanctioned official bike week event. We'll just be a group of independent cyclists enjoying a bike ride in the morning.

The ride will start at the corner of Yonge and Lawrence at 7:30 AM (May 29th). This is the same time and location as the official ride to downtown, so you'll be able to get pumped with the excitement of seeing so many people ready to ride their bikes. We will gather on the north-east corner, the other side of Yonge Street.

We'll ride north on Yonge until we get to the 401. We'll cut through a path taking us to Sheppard and Willowdale. We'll continue on comfortable and direct streets like Willowdale, Henderson, John St, and Green Lane.

The final destination will be the north-west corner of Highway 7 and Leslie, where there is a bench and some grass in front of the Times Square shopping centre.

This is the route I plan to use.

Here are some time estimates if you'd like to join up somewhere along the way:
7:30 - Yonge and Lawrence
7:48 - Sheppard and Willowdale
7:54 - Willowdale and Bishop
7:56 - Maxome and Cummer
8:00 - Steeles and Maxome/Henderson
8:06 - John St and Henderson
8:09 - John St and Bayview
8:18 - Green Lane and Leslie
8:30 - Leslie and Highway 7
(if you wait somewhere, please be patient since I want everyone to travel at a comfortable speed)

What do I have to offer? Well, I can't make pancakes, but I promise to provide some donuts. We'll relax and eat when we get to Highway 7 and Leslie. If there's any interest I'll pick up some meat-filled Chinese buns from a nearby bakery at the end of the ride.

If you think you'll join me, please send me an email so I can look out for you. Whether you work somewhere near Highway 7 and Leslie, or you just want to go for a morning ride in the suburbs, you're welcome to join in.

Please keep in mind that you'll need to ride on Yonge Street and Leslie for short distances. Since I can't look out for you, make sure you are at least comfortable enough with your cycling skills to take care of yourself on these busy streets. All I can do is promise not to leave anyone behind. I don't in any way intend to sound heartless, I just don't want anyone to come out expecting a police escort or some other professional care. Everyone must take care of themselves, which is advice I would recommend for any group ride.

I'll be wearing a yellow jacket and a light blue helmet, and the back of my bike will have blue-green panniers and a box of donuts. Hope to see you there!

UPDATE: The Northbound commute grows! You can start riding North from Yonge and Davisville at 7:00 AM with Blake.

Darren J 5/24/2006 07:36:00 AM | 7 comments |

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bike repair continued

I left work a little bit early on Friday, around 5:30, thinking it was appropriate because of the long weekend ahead. It turns out I was the last person to leave work in Richmond Hill. Traffic was very light on the way home.

Ten minutes into my ride, I squeezed my rear brake and I felt a snap as my brake lever nearly pressed up against my handlebar. The cable was still somewhat intact, but my braking strength was very low. I decided I could manage to get home, but would have to look for a new cable on the weekend.

A few minutes later, I arrived at a four way stop. I stopped at the same time as a minivan across from me that I needed to turn left in front of. It looked like he was waiting for me, so I went first, then he went first. I slammed on my brakes snapping what was left of my rear cable. I steered right and missed the van.

Luckily I was just down the street from the only bike shop I know of anywhere near my work. Also luckily, they were still open. They often close at 6 PM. They were very helpful and took care of the repair right away.

The mechanic pointed out that my cable was severely corroded. When I told him that I just replaced the cable last year, he told me that I probably need to replace the cable housing. Apparently my housing might be so old it doesn’t have Teflon lining. I have a feeling that if Teflon existed when my bike was made, it was only used in applications like the Space Shuttle.

This all meant that I had to spend 30 torturous minutes inside a bike shop, looking at bikes and bike accessories. The horror! Lately, every bike shop I go to seems to have more and more space taken up with various models from DeVinci. I like the look of the DeVinci Performance Hybrids (with names like Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam). They look practical (with mounts for racks and fenders) and fast. They seem to be reasonably priced. I better shut up or else DeVinci will never pay me for writing stuff like this.

I’ve been thinking about buying a new bike for a long time, but, as my wife points out, I would no longer get to spend time fixing my bike.

The stupid part was that this was the second thing to break on my bike on Friday. On the way to work, my downtube shifter for my front derailleur got damaged. It looks like over the years I’ve been pushing the lever too far forward and slowly breaking it. I made a temporary repair today, but in the long run I need a replacement for this virtually antique part. It can be ordered by bike shops for $50 to $60 (for a pair). The only place I’ve seen them online is at Rivendell.

So the story of me trying to keep my bike on the road (and somewhat safe to ride) continues.

Darren J 5/22/2006 12:11:00 AM | 0 comments |

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Friday in May

On this Friday morning ride,
A car does pass right by my side.
The driver listens at the light.
He learns from me, one metre's right.

Thumbs up he gives and drives away.
I pedal on and enjoy my day.
Content I am with this model exchange,
I ponder how fast the world could change.

Next a truck comes from behind.
He's not moving. Is he blind?
I make things clear; I take the lane.
He sees me now and slows in pain.

Giving me my begged for space,
His tires pass just by my face.
"What's your problem?" he demands.
Our back and forth was not so grand.

Hey! My friend's ahead on his bike,
I'm glad he didn't see my fright.
The light turns green and I'm calmed down.
We're back on slower side streets now.

The air is fresh; the conversation light.
A cloudy day is turning bright.
We pedal on and I remember why
It's always best to go by bike.

Darren J 5/19/2006 02:08:00 PM | 4 comments |

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Overhauling my wheel hub


I saw this bike on Dupont a couple weeks ago. On top of the fact that this vehicle carries three people, I like how it seems to be designed to lock to exactly two post and rings.

My bike is back in working order. Overhauling a wheel hub takes time, but the actual difficulty is not high.

This was my third time repacking a hub. The previous times were when my bike got soaked. It was gliding on old bearings, dirty black grease and water.

There are lots of sites online that will guide you through the process if you ever want to do it. I recommend Sheldon Brown's site. Here are my pointers:

1. Get some wrenches. Officially you need cone wrenches. They must be narrow wrenches with sizes like 13, 14, 15 and 16 mm. Proper tools are expensive, and when I was trying to find them, I found an alternative. Canadian Tire has some specialized bike tools that are probably considered low quality. I picked up some some cheap wrenches that came in a pair and were intended for something other than hubs, probably pedals.

2. Do your best to clean out the old grease and dirt.

3. Use lots of new grease. If you put too much, it just squeezes out.

4. Count the number of bearings being used. Don't use too few or too many when you replace them. If you use too many, your wheel will spin and allow you to ride a few kilometres, but you'll feel like there's a massive headwind even though all the branches on the trees are perfectly still.

5. Don't give up. If your wheel doesn't spin well afterwards, you probably need to separate the cones on the axle a little. Pull the hub apart again. It's not as bad as it sounds.

6. It's a messy job. If you do it inside, put lots of newspaper on the floor, and try not to get grease on your new rug.

7. Make yourself comfortable. It'll take a while.

Darren J 5/17/2006 08:02:00 AM | 4 comments |

Monday, May 15, 2006

My Monday Night

If Sunday brings are broken rear axle, Monday brings a trip to the bike shop for a replacement, along with a bit of grease on the fingers.

Anticipating success at the big repair job, I rewarded myself with some ice cream beforehand.

As for food:

I've now had a couple avocados. Ripeness is key.

The fish snacks are actually very good and not fishy tasting. I tried the herring in tomato and basil sauce.

Cinnamon on the oatmeal is tasty, especially with some chopped up apples.

I even had some Indian buffet.

Darren J 5/15/2006 10:31:00 PM | 2 comments |

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Conversations about gasoline

Instead of the usual 3-word statements of complacency or anger you hear on the evening news from people pumping gas into their cars, you can hear some worthwhile interviews on internet radio this week. Jon, our hardworking cycling audio blogger from San Francisco, talks to cyclists about gas prices, then rides his bike up to a gas station and interviews people at the pumps. (plus he seems to have no end to his library of bicycle music.)

Darren J 5/13/2006 10:20:00 AM | 0 comments |

Friday, May 12, 2006

Streets are for picnics

Toronto's Bike Week is not so far off anymore. Actually, if you look at the official calendar, it has already started! This is a PDF of all the scheduled events.

I'd like to make it to what I see as the official kick-off event: Critical Mass on Friday May 26th, which is followed by Critical Ass (how rude!). I don't know if I'll actually do Critical Ass, but I'm hoping to make this my first successful Critical Mass. What would happen if I got the schedule backwards on those two events?

Then on the Sunday May 28th from 1 to 7 PM is bike racing in High Park for all ages and skill levels. This sounds like something I'd like to check out. I could be convinced to race if there's a skill level like "has trouble with pedals and changing gears".

Finally, and most mysteriously, is an event that I'll do my best to seek out:

Sunday June 11
Streets are for Picnics
Secret time @ secret place
Giant street party with music by the New Kings. Bring your bike, your kids, your
sweetie and your mom. BYOPB (picnic basket that is). Dads also welcome.
www.streetsareforpeople.org 416-929-4900

I picked up The New Kings' CD last year, and listened to it non-stop for a couple weeks. I found myself riding my bike around the city afterwards, singing parts of Street Fighter to myself (probably screwing up most of the lyrics). It's great music and these guys have something important to say.

You really need to hear it.

By riding our bikes, by choosing carefully what we buy, we make a difference. In my mind, who you give your money is more important than who you give your vote.

Darren J 5/12/2006 05:15:00 PM | 0 comments |

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Group rides


I live in a bike city. I may live on the edge of it, but I still see that there's something special going on here. Cyclists have some valid complaints and concerns in Toronto. We also have a powerful trend that is worth enjoying. When I spend any time in downtown Toronto, I see cyclists everywhere, which makes me think of how pervasive cycling is in Toronto culture. Cyclists cruise down main roads or slowly wander through neighbourhoods on the narrow streets. Bikes locked to posts or patio railings line every street.

This week I spotted something that must be of some significance: groups of young guys out riding their bikes together. I'm not talking about racing clubs, just people casually getting from one place to another. There have been three groups in four days. It's anecdotal, but that's what blogs are for.

One was a group of four teens cruising through downtown sidestreets on Sunday evening. They rode four abreast, spanning the entire street, with no concern for oncoming traffic, and no need to be concerned. Everyone around was either a pedestrian or on a bike. They talked and weaved as I followed them until they made their way to a slightly busier street, where they grouped to the right and sped north.

Another was a group of younger boys on their way to school near Yonge and Finch (the north suburbs). Maybe they could have walked or gotten a drive from their parents like so many of their classmates. Instead, they chose to ride, again slowly, with lots of talking and goofing off.

The last group was in their late teens, also in the north end of the city. This was the only group that crowded themselves onto the sidewalk even though the road was a slow residential street. They were talking and joking around with their friend who appeared to want to be on the road.

Did all these groups of guys say to each other, "Hey, let's go for a bike ride!" "I'll swing by your place, and we'll head over to Mike's house on our bikes!" Or, "Do you want to ride bikes to school tomorrow?" Obviously I don't know how it all went down, but I imagine some conversation like that took place, and everyone responded with "You betcha." At an age when little else is more important than what is cool, it's nice to see that the bicycle passes the test.

Darren J 5/11/2006 12:45:00 PM | 2 comments |

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

To the drivers of York Region,

Another beautiful spring is here in our leafy and green part of the world. I've been happy to see quite a few more cyclists out on our streets.

About one year ago, I started cycling to work. At first, I rode once a week. I felt healthier and stronger as time passed. It wasn't long before the ride was easy to do, and my car was sitting in the driveway most of a month.

York Region may have some high speed streets that make cycling difficult, but it also has plenty of calm residential neighbourhood streets. If you look on a map, you may find most of the distance between your home and work can be covered on these bike friendly streets.

If you're considering cycling to work, I recommend learning about vehicular cycling and, if you can, take a course like Can-bike. Vehicular cycling means to ride like you would drive your car. Don't get caught between cars and the curb, and never pass a right-turning car on the right. Ride at least 1 metre from the curb, so drivers see you clearly. You might be surprised to hear that cyclists are allowed to use the whole lane, if they need it. This requires some care, but is useful over narrow bridges, or near potholes.

In the meantime, I'll do my best to not slow you down, but please remember that you'll easily catch up to the cars ahead after you wait to pass me safely.

Hope to see you outside.

Darren J 5/09/2006 04:24:00 PM | 0 comments |

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Man in Red

Cyclist in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Darren J 5/07/2006 09:18:00 AM | 2 comments |

Saturday, May 06, 2006

National Post talks to cyclists

An article titled "Why are cyclists so angry" in the National Post today features locals Darren Stehr and Tanya. Much better than their last "discussion" of cycling.

Darren J 5/06/2006 02:55:00 PM | 1 comments |

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bicycles under the seats of power

If you haven't seen it already through Cleverchimp, check out this story in the International Herald Tribune (New York Times). I found it encouraging, and I hope some of our local politicians take notice of all the changes going on around the world. Maybe Bogota can teach us a lesson.

Bike Guy does have some influence, so I'm all for getting him on our side. We are freedom lovers, after all.

Chicago gets a mention in the article as a city with one of the most active cycling programs in the US. I've never cycled there. After reading the experiences of Chicago cyclists at Critical Mass, I have a feeling they aren't so encouraged by the way city operations are being run.

Locally, York Region is making some moves for starting a bicycle plan (Thanks for pointing this out, Darryl). I'll have to look into this some more.

Darren J 5/05/2006 04:02:00 PM | 1 comments |

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oatmeal, raisins, fruits and nuts

I'm curious what other people are eating.

When I first started cycling to work last year I lost quite a bit of weight quickly. I lost 15 pounds in 2 months, if I remember correctly. If you're going for the heroine-addict-model-look, and you don't like the taste of your own stomach acid, I highly recommend riding a bike as much as you possibly can (or going for a different look).

This led to a lot of comments from the people around me about how I was wasting away. I had no interest in losing any more weight so I started to make an effort to eat a lot more. I ate large portions more often and started having a much bigger breakfast. The other thing I did was made sure I had a beer with dinner every night. At one point I wrote down all the additional food calories in a spreadsheet and it worked out (sort of by chance) that I was getting the 900 calories more that I needed.

This was in no way an exact science, since my tastes change with time, and I only seem to keep a routine going for a few months at the most. Since then, my breakfast has changed from eggs to a bowl of oatmeal with raisins (it's like oatmeal raisin mush and it tastes great). My lunches vary all the time. The beer has become more voluntary until I get around to brewing my own. And, I've increased my snacking during the day.

I figured, if I'm going to try to eat a lot, it's better if it wasn't chocolate bars and potato chips, since they aren't so healthy and cost quite a bit. So my snacks have been made up of some apples, oranges and lots of nuts.

At first I started out by buying a bunch of unsalted cashews. These were tasty, but started to get bland after a while. I switched to cashews with a tiny bit of salt. Then I thought I would mix them with peanuts, to cut down on the salt. Then I switched to peanuts alone. Whatever I have, I get a bit tired of it after a couple weeks, so today I'm mixing it up again. I'm onto cashews, almonds and peanuts.

Whatever nuts I have near me, I eat all day long. I probably end up eating a good sized handfull by the time the day is done. I don't know if I'm overdoing it, but I don't expect a doctor to log on here and give me medical advice. At least I'm fairly confident I don't have an allergy.

There must be some of you out there who make an effort to eat a decent amount of food without living off of 3/4 pound hamburgers. Any snacking suggestions or other ideas?

Darren J 5/03/2006 09:36:00 PM | 13 comments |

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

So tempting

After my week of sipping the US News Media cocktail, I became well informed that paying $3 per gallon of gasoline really sucks. CNN and Fox News had nearly round the clock coverage of how much it sucks and how much it will continue to suck because all the politicians are doing nothing. This featured heavyweights on both sides of the political spectrum, including Ted Kennedy, with a lot of talk about "middle class families". (I know there are other sources of news in the US, but this was all that was available to me at the time).

Fox Fact: Regulations requiring ethanol to be added to gasoline raises gas prices.*

Relevant Fact: 3 years ago, the price of oil was about $27/barrel, and it's now $74/barrel. That new price is 2.75 times the old one. 3 years ago, the price of gas in the US was about $1.45/gallon. The price of gasoline is now $2.90/gallon. The new price is 2 times the old one. Gasoline comes from oil. (I know that doesn't fit at the bottom of the TV screen so well. It may actually need to be spoken.)

Go here and draw yourself a chart with the oil price box checked over 3 years. You'll see how the prices follow each other.

Let's do some math: About half of what people pay at the pump is for the cost of the oil. If people paid $2 for a gallon of gas, $1 went to oil. If the oil costs double to $2 and all the other costs stayed the same, the price of gas becomes $3. But all the other costs don't stay the same. Sales taxes are going to increase along with the overall gas price depending on where you live. And if there's a hurricane on top of some refinery, then the refining costs go up.

If you do the same example calculation using the real numbers for the past 3 years, it works out that gas should cost $2.71/gallon, assuming there was no hurricane Katrina or Rita and taxes stayed the same per gallon.

So is $2.90 that unbelievable?

Not once in all the discussion did I hear anyone say anything about public transit. There was some talk about selling your Hummer or Escalade, and buying a hybrid. Thanks for that useful bit of insight. The only mention of the bicycle came from a woman driving a Hummer who said she wouldn't want to be seen in a hybrid. She'd rather ride a bike everywhere, and she actually sounded like she was considering it.

In the meantime, the commenters on Peak Oil web sites are stocking up on canned goods. I have to admit, this did cause me to buy an extra can of beans last night when I was at the store, but it was probably just because I had canned food on my mind. And I'd like to make some of my new favorite soup: spicy black bean.

On the peak oil subject, Fed Chairman Bernanke made some comments that were relevant. He pointed out that the high energy costs would start to have a detrimental effect on the economy once they start to be translated into higher priced consumer goods. This was not part of his official speech, but one of his responses to a question. This response didn't draw any attention from the CNBC commentators while I was listening.

As for gas prices, the latest solution is to tax the oil companies' profits and distribute it to the people. This idea seems nice on the surface, but I expect there to be some hole in the plan. It would at the very least give the US less of a leg to stand on when trying to stop countries from forcing majority ownership of their resources. It wasn't clear whether this profit-tax would be applied to worldwide profits, meaning the US citizens would receive profits from the gas buying public from around the world. That would be something worth whining about. Or, all of a sudden, the oil companies will be doing a lot of reinvestment, so the profits would no longer exist to be taxed. I don't mean that in a cynical way; it would be expected of any corporation to do that.

The massive profits of the oil companies comes from the fact that they have access to a limited resource that is in high demand. If prices dropped, consumption would increase meaning production would need to increase, but production is already at its limit. Pumping the oil costs about the same as it did back when oil cost $27/barrel, so it's easy to see why selling the product for $74 leads to a lot of profit.

Instead of a tax, one part of a solution is for everyone to do what they can to own the world's limited resources. This doesn't need to mean that we should send soldiers into our nations' oil fields. Fortunately for most of us, we live in free countries where we can own part of that profit by owning part of the company. (Yes, I'm just one more guy speculating on the energy market).

The other solution is for everyone to support bicycle plans and public transit infrastructure so we have choices now and in the future, assuming energy costs get even higher.

I'm getting preachy, so I should stop now. Thanks for reading this long-winded comment.

* By the way, the Fox Fact about ethanol in gasoline is probably referring to the switch from using MTBE in gasoline to using a product created from ethanol. MTBE contaminates ground water and it's eventual removal from the gasoline supply is not really up for debate any more. Canada does not ban it, from what I understand, but Canada never required it to be added either. It was originally required to be added in California and elsewhere to reduce emissions. I only just learned about this MTBE issue from a friend this weekend. Do a search on MTBE and I'm sure you'll find more.

Darren J 5/02/2006 08:21:00 PM | 3 comments |

Monday, May 01, 2006

Left Las Vegas


I've spent some time in Las Vegas this past week. I didn't get to go for a bike ride, but I was really hoping to rent a bike and ride out to Lake Mead. The plane flew over it on the way in, and I thought it would have been cool to see up close. Unfortunately the only rental place was far away and my schedule was too tight with work.

Las Vegas, probably the strangest city in North America, is entirely designed around getting cars from place to place. The cars will unload tourists in front of one of those places, where they will hopefully go inside and lose lots of money. And it looks like this is working, sort of. People are obviously losing a lot of money judging by all the high end cars cruising up and down the street. The cars are getting from place to place, but often at speeds slower than those motorized scooter-chairs that are so popular there.

Cyclists do exist in Las Vegas. It's not like downtown Toronto, but I saw them. They would usually ride on a side street, almost always on the sidewalk. Sidewalk cycling must be treated differently there since it was common for police and security guards to ride bikes on the sidewalk. One big difference is that sometimes the sidewalk would be extremely wide, and fully separated and elevated from the road, so riding on the road might feel like being on a slow expressway.

Also, Vegas cyclists like lights. Every cyclist I saw at night was using lights, and usually a headlight and taillight. This is an obviously good idea in a city where there's a well established rush hour at 1:00 AM.

If you're planning on visiting Las Vegas, my first bit of advice is: don't go for the cycling. And second: if you want to know a guaranteed system for winning at roulette, send me $39.99 + tax and a return address. That is a small investment with potentially limitless returns!

Happy to be back.

Darren J 5/01/2006 12:54:00 PM | 3 comments |