Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Markham Bike Routes

This is the sight that greets cyclists after passing north of Steeles Avenue into the town of Markham. This is a residential through street called Henderson Avenue half way between 2 major arterials (Yonge and Bayview).


I managed to get a branch in the way, but you'll notice that there's a new green informational sign on the side of the road. This is Markham's solution to creating an instant bicycle network.

You might also notice some motorized vehicles in the above scene. Those things are pretty damn popular in Markham, so us cyclists still have to share our bike routes with them.

I mentioned before that I think bike route signs are a positive first step. The signs do have their limitations. They probably do more to assist cyclists than change the behavior of drivers.

Marked bike routes can help a person trying to figure out if a road is going to lead in a circle or to a cul-de-sac. I can admit that I've done circles in neighbourhoods in York Region even after looking at a map pre-ride.

At the very least, the town of Markham is covered in polite advertising for a mode of transport that many people don't even consider.

Markham is also in the process of installing full bike lanes in some places. This was taken near a school on Green Lane. Bikes only, please!


Darren J 10/31/2006 07:45:00 PM | 5 comments |

Monday, October 30, 2006

The bike chase scene you've been waiting for

I meant to say: This is the bike chase scene for which you've been waiting. (I don't want to slide down the slippery slope of grammatical promiscuity).

Have you heard about this trend to make businesses and film productions carbon neutral? Syriana was one of them.

Here's a television show that's making a step in that direction. More clips and even full episodes of this environmentally sensitive tv show are available on YouTube.

Darren J 10/30/2006 09:45:00 AM | 0 comments |

Friday, October 27, 2006

Markham installs Bike Route signs!

This morning, following my usual route, what do I see as I cross north over Steeles Avenue? A Bicycle Route sign stood prominently on the side of the road, poking up over top of municipal election placards. As I reached John Street, there were more Bike Route signs, along with an aspiring councillor smiling and waving to people in their cars.

This is Bike Friday, the October edition, by the way. I started my route at the Yonge and Lawrence meeting point, but I was alone this time. No problem. It gave me a chance to read some Eye Magazine.

Back to the Bike Routes. I didn't see any particular signage at Bayview Avenue. They might have been there, but I was too focused on the SUV trying to tailgate me on a left turn through a yellow light.

I only take Bayview Avenue for about 100 metres though. Green Lane was next, and it too had Bike Route signs! A significant part of my commute route through Markham is now official Bike Route. This is all part of Markham's Bicycle Network construction (pdf).

Green Lane also featured a waving town council candidate, this time the incumbent. She was busy talking to a couple people. If I see her again, I think I'll stop and talk to her. She must have played a part in Markham's progress, afterall.

Depending on your cycling experiences, you might say "It's just a few signs. What's the point?" I would respond that this is a valuable first step. Not only can these lead to better or more extensive bicycle infrastructure in certain places, but the simple designation of Bike Routes is significant. This means the city has recognized that these roads are being used by cyclists. If some proposal is tabled to make these roads into 4-lane arterials or to increase the speed limits, I don't have to start from scratch trying to convince them that these are important to cyclists. It also makes it clear where the sort of "walls" in the network are for inexperienced cyclists. (more discussion here)

Not only does Markham have Bike Route signs, but there is evidence that part of my commute will feature an actual bike lane. I'm going to start carrying my camera so I'm ready for the day they arrive. It happens that the bike lane will be on a road that I feel comfortable on anyways, but I still like the idea. I think it'll help out at night and for the people who don't really know where to position their cars. Those drivers do exist.

This will be the only piece of Bike Lane or Bike Path (or even signed bike route) on my entire 17 km commute through Toronto, Markham and a tiny bit of Richmond Hill. I used to think that Toronto's bicycle network would slowly filter out into the surrounding towns of York Region, but it's starting to look like the flow will be in the other direction.

Darren J 10/27/2006 12:05:00 PM | 5 comments |

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Election Candidate Surveys are in

(Photo of St. Clair Avenue near Avenue Road)

Are you looking at a scene of chaos or progress?

This is just a quick heads up to look over at the Toronto Coalition for Active Transport web site. The highly anticipated Mayoral and Councillor candidate surveys have arrived.

Darren J 10/24/2006 10:02:00 PM | 1 comments |

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Saturday morning trip downtown

Today started off as planned. I woke up early and set off with my friend Shawna, a published photographer, to meet up with another friend who was meeting us outside the CBC building. We would be attending Go, a Saturday morning radio show.

We decided to take Yonge Street since it was early morning and Shawna, hardened by the streets of Hamilton, was ready to deal with whatever traffic we might face. All was going bikingly (that’s kinda like swimmingly but even better). We were riding and chatting during the times traffic was low, then going single file when we saw a pack of cars arriving from behind.

At the traffic light at Yonge and Davisville, the light turned green and a guy pulled up behind us and started honking. We were already single file at this point and in the right half of the lane. This was our first time seeing him. The guy pulled up beside me and started honking and was trying to yell at me through his windows. He was right beside me, close enough for me to knock on his window with my gloved hand, so I did. He then pulls ahead a few feet and swerves to the right. I brake and avoid him hitting me. He stops on the side of the road. I pull up on his left. He winds down both his windows. Yes, both his windows, as if he wanted to include both me and Shawna in the discussion.

The first thing he says (screams) is “You’re a f---ing goof!” “You ride your f---ing bike on road.” “You’re a f---ing goof!” “You’re on the f---ing street and road and street.” I made a few comments like “Excuse me sir, but do you mind if I ask how it is possible that you passed your driver’s license test without knowing that cyclists are required to ride on the road?” Ok, my comment involved a little less politeness and a few more profanities, but you can understand after he swerved his car at me. He responded with “You’re a f---ing goof!” I found it hard to believe this was happening, probably just like you are right now. I'm not a psychiatrist, but "mentally stable" is not a label that would be applied to this guy. I told him I would call the police. He said “go ahead”. After a little more of being called a goof, I told him to think about his children (he had car seats in the back) just before he drove off. Admittedly, I didn’t give him much context as to how he should think about his children, but things were a little too heated to connect all the dots for him.

Shawna was waiting calmly behind the whole time, and told me his license plate after he drove away. I called the police. I assume they didn't stop him because they didn’t phone me back.

We continued south down Yonge. Things were going bikingly again. We turned right on Bloor (which, for some strange reason, doesn’t have a bike lane), then turned south on Bay Street. Bay Street was empty so we rode comfortably and talked the whole way down.

After passing Dundas Street, Shawna says “This is a bumpy road.” The next thing I know, I’m moving forward but my bike is no longer pressing up underneath me. Instead, it’s lying on its side just below me, flying through the air at the same speed as me. I hit the asphalt on my right knee and left hand, then stood up shocked that I wasn’t hurting.

I got a bump just below the knee and a small scrape on my hand. There was almost no blood, thanks to the fact I was wearing gloves and long pants. Actually, my clothes weren’t even torn.

Shawna pointed out a pot-hole that I most likely hit. There were quite a few large gashes in the asphalt. Somehow I didn’t notice it beforehand. I’ll take it as a very gently taught lesson to ride carefully in the future.

The chain broke off my bike, my seat got knocked out of alignment, and the wheels need to be trued again. Other than the wheels, this was all easily fixed at a bike shop after the show was over.

I don’t know how I got off so well.

We left the bike shop, and Shawna and I were able to ride around the city for a few more hours. We made a quick visit to Bike Pirates, an "anarchist, non-profit, do-it-yourself bike repair construction space". Apparently, they’re working on a web site. (email: bikepirates@resist.ca) In the meantime, here's a photo.


The ride finished off well with lots of eating as we slowly worked our way back north.

The high points of the day more than made up for the two brief low points. (That might not be obvious from the number of words I used here for the low points, but you know how these media outlets work.)

Darren J 10/22/2006 01:26:00 AM | 8 comments |

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Metropolitan travels

Lately, I haven’t had much exciting to write about. Is it because of my changing definition of “exciting”?

I doubt it.

I’ve barely pushed my bike around at all; only once to work, plus a few short trips. Instead, I’ve needed to be pulled around by my car for 3 work days out of five. I say “needed” because I’m covering huge distances around the metropolitan area, and I like my job. I don’t expect it to last long.

The traffic jams on the major highways are unbelievable sometimes. I'm glad it's a rare occurence for me to see them. I can't understand how people choose to spend hours there every day.

At least on the weekends, I’m getting outside. Last weekend I rode down to meet up with the fine people from Human Powered Vehicles Toronto (we’re working on a new name, albeit slowly). It’s always a fun time, and anyone who likes to eat, drink and/or talk about anything bike related is welcome to join us.

On the way there, I passed one cyclist towing around a trailer with a huge laundry sink. The sink obviously wasn’t enough of a challenge for him because he had stacked all kinds of other stuff on top and in front.

Then I pulled up to a red light where a guy collecting money from passers-by asked me if I wanted to buy his bike. He said it was a birthday gift from his friend. “It’s a really nice bike, but it’s too small for me.” It was a mid sized hybrid bike and he was a mid sized guy. I guess I could have explained to him how to adjust his seat height, but I wasn’t sure my time would have been well spent.

After I reached a bike lane on College Street, I got distracted watching the way a guy on a fixie was pedaling. He was approaching a red light and was sort of hopping his rear wheel up and down. I was dazzled trying to figure out how this affected his pedaling and if it was for any particular purpose. I snapped out of it when I realized that I had just passed a car that was stopped in the rightmost-car-lane with its right turn signal on. Not so smart, I thought to myself.

Tomorrow, I’m riding downtown with a friend of mine. We’re meeting up with one more person to go watch a radio show be recorded. The show is Go. I'm sure it'll be exciting since those people on Oprah always look like they're having a good time. Although I think they're a little drunk from the anticipation of being given a new car or house.

I was talking to my cousin recently about language. He mentioned the roots of the word “Metropolis” and the modern words connected. Here’s my summary -->

Darren J 10/21/2006 12:50:00 AM | 1 comments |

Friday, October 13, 2006

What will those Royals do next?

Lord Linley sounds like a royal family member I'd like to meet. He brings his daughter to school aboard his bicycle, previously a Strida folder, now the appropriately named Pashley Sovereign.

Since his daughter is 14th in line to the throne, public outrage over his dangerous actions were particularly strong. I mean, think about the stability of the kingdom, my lord! Granted, he didn't choose the best method for carrying her. If you look at the photo, the small folding bike is definitely doing poorly at providing the comforts that a young royal should expect, like not having a bum in one's the face. But "foolhardy to the extreme"? Those are strong words.

The viscount, son of the late Princess Margaret, was branded "foolhardy to the extreme" after he was seen negotiating a busy London road with his four-year-old daughter, Margarita, perched precariously on the luggage rack of his fold-up bike last month.

Linley, 44, refused to apologise in the wake of the public outrage that followed his actions.

Pedal on, Viscount!
From, your loyal colonial subject, Darren.

Darren J 10/13/2006 04:31:00 PM | 2 comments |

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Snow!

It just snowed here! But that's what happens way up north in Richmond Hill. People are probably still concerned about UV indexes down south in Parkdale and Riverside and the Financial District. It must be nice.

3 degrees C. I should have brought my balaclava.

Darren J 10/12/2006 05:26:00 PM | 1 comments |

Mount Pleasant Bike Lane Update

Some progress has been made on the Mount Pleasant bike lanes idea.

Here's a summary of what I know about the three councillors that currently represent the wards along Mount Pleasant Avenue:

Cliff Jenkins - Ward 25, the north end of Mount Pleasant
Councillor Jenkins is the first person I heard the idea from. He fully supports bike lanes on Mount Pleasant, and I've heard from him directly a number of times about it. He is encouraging Cyclists in our area to get in touch with each other so we can pass our thoughts on to the other councillors.

Michael Walker - Ward 22, the central part of Mount Pleasant
I don't know his position. His assistant passed on the idea to the Transportation department for analysis.

Kyle Rae - Ward 27, the south end of Mount Pleasant
Kyle Rae supports bike lanes on Mount Pleasant. I was told this by Cliff Jenkins.

Not only because of councillor support, but also because of the way Mount Pleasant is used, I would guess that bike lanes on the north and south sections would be easier to implement than on the central section. The central section has more on-street parking.

Some of the information I have comes from a letter written by a Ward 25 cyclist to the current councillors. The letter led to a quick email discussion. A response came from Daniel Egan, Manager of Pedestrian and Cycling Infrastructure: They will consider the feasibility of Mount Pleasant bike lanes in the spring of 2007, to be possibly implemented in 2008. (this is far from meaning it is a done deal!)

There will be a lot of factors to be considered, including the fact that Mount Pleasant was not included in the Bike Plan.

-- Updated! --
If you want to want to be contacted in the future about this, send me an email (if you haven't already) or contact Veronica, the ward 25 cyclist mentioned above. Veronica's email address is bikesorblades@yahoo.ca . We'll need opinions from as many people as possible in the near future.

Darren J 10/12/2006 12:51:00 PM | 1 comments |

Three deer and a cyclist

I saw three deer in a small ravine this morning. I noticed one of them while I was riding along, then I stopped and saw her two friends. It was in the exact same spot where I saw deer last year, which is only about 1 km from two major expressways, the 407 and the 404.

They were enjoying eating and sniffing around and whatever else deer do. When I walked onto the sidewalk, they raised their heads and pointed all of their noses and ears at me.

A bunch of cars drove by while I stood there. I was hoping a kid would walk past who would enjoy the sight, but it must have been after school started.

The deer remained frozen in place with their leaf shaped ears, operating like satellite dishes of a perfect ancient design, aimed straight at me, triangulating my position and determining I was not a threat. They watched me intently but decided not to run. I didn't think I was making much noise, but I suspect that when I left, they snorted at each other about the grumbles in my stomach and what I must have had for breakfast.

Eventually I decided it was a staring contest I had no chance of winning, so I returned my bike to the road and pedaled off.

Darren J 10/12/2006 12:23:00 PM | 2 comments |

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bikeshare on CBC

Bikeshare, the program no sane person can say anything bad about, needs some money. I guess that can come from personal donors, or from a steady government supply. See if you can help out by writing a cheque or a letter.

The world is a better place because of Bikeshare.

Heads-up: The program will be discussed on CBC Metro Morning radio here in Toronto tomorrow (Wednesday).

Darren J 10/10/2006 11:27:00 PM | 1 comments |

Poetry

Paradox
Submitted anonymously

Cycling home from the pub
three sheets to the wind.
Which is the lesser of two evils?
Wobbling down the road, or
through the park?

No, don't go through the park.
It's dark. It's not safe.
Monsters live in the park after dark!

Deciding that the fear of the unknown
is safer than the known fear of dodging vehicles with senses finely blurred, i choose the park.

The park is dark, quiet, empty.
There are no cars in the parking lot.
There are no people about.
Why would there be?
The park is unsafe - bad things will happen!
Don't go into the park after dark.

But if there's no one here,
who will hurt me?

Darren J 10/10/2006 10:31:00 PM | 0 comments |

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Music

***

"Buy this car to drive to work.
Drive to work to pay for this car."


Metric - Live it out - Handshakes
(I love the song called "The Police and The Private" on this album.)

***

"I raise my hand in Peace
I never bow to the laws of the thought police
I take a holy vow
To never kill again"

Neil Young - Living with war - Living with war
Check out the boo-ometer, on the Neil Young site:
"...No other cities had booing that was loud enough to register on the Boo-ometer. In Atlanta, the boos were still not as loud as the cheers. "

***

On the Living with war subject, in case you had any doubts about Rumsfeld, you must read this article in Newsweek. It's one thing to hear about Rumsfeld, but to actually read the quotes and the way he handles situations is deeply disturbing. Tuco picked out a very Rumsfeldian quote.

Darren J 10/07/2006 12:30:00 PM | 0 comments |

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mount Pleasant Avenue as a North-South Route?


To all Toronto cyclists who travel in the central part of the city between Bloor and York Mills:

What are your thoughts on the best north-south route through the area? If bike lanes were added to one North-South road, which one would be the best road?

There are currently no real bike lanes anywhere north of St. Clair Avenue. The designated north-south route is called route 35, which travels through 4-way-stop-land and zig zags through Forest Hill.

The Bike Plan indicates plans for bike lanes on Bayview Avenue from about Moore (St Clair) to the 401, but all the messages I get are that Bayview Avenue is untouchable due to the volume of car traffic it carries. This doesn't mean I'll give up on it.

The most dense part of our city is based around Yonge Street. However, any change to Yonge Street is bound to face endless scrutiny. This isn't an excuse, but merely a fact to consider in making some progress. Another thing to keep in mind is that there's a huge hill at Yonge and York Mills that most people aren't interested in climbing.

Avenue Road serves as a veritable expressway from the 401 to downtown. Traffic is fast and heavy.

Mount Pleasant Avenue is close to Yonge and roughly parallel. It's hilly south of St. Clair, and traffic tends to move a bit faster on that section of the road. However, traffic isn't quite as heavy as the other central arterials. The other factor to consider is that Mount Pleasant ends near Lawrence Avenue. After you pass north of Lawrence, you are forced out to Yonge Street. However, to the south, unlike Bayview, Mount Pleasant would provide a direct route all the way south to Bloor.

The reason I bring this topic up is because my local councillor, Cliff Jenkins, has asked me if I would support bike lanes on Mount Pleasant Avenue. He proposed them one year ago, and was turned down. The issue has come up again, and he believes he'll get more support for them now. He has also received support on the idea from Kyle Rae, the councillor who represents the ward at the south end of Mount Pleasant. There is another ward in the middle, currently represented by Michael Walker.


There could be factors I haven't considered, so I'd really appreciate any input people have. One thing I'm concerned about is the simple fact that Mount Pleasant was not intended to have bike lanes in the bike plan.

My preference would be to have bike lanes on Mount Pleasant, which go from Bloor to Lawrence, then have bike lanes on Bayview from Lawrence to the 401 (at least). This would give people a practical, direct route through the center of the city towards the north east. If they're heading north-west, they can cross the 401 at Avenue Road.

Feel free to comment below, or send me email. I'm sure any of the councillors I mentioned would be happy to hear from you too.

Since there's a local election coming up, I should mention that I'm not campaigning for anyone. This is part of my effort to decide where to send my vote.

Darren J 10/04/2006 08:54:00 AM | 8 comments |

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

One-speed Commute

On Friday night, the bottom bracket on my old peugeot started to grind with every stroke of the pedal. I'm pretty sure that's a bad thing. It's been a year, and quite a few rain storms, since I last had the bottom bracket packed with new grease and bearings. It's a job that I know I put off too long in my attempts to avoid doing it too often. Because of a loose bottom bracket, the peugeot could benefit from repacking the grease every 3 or 4 weeks.

Yesterday, I rode my one-speed Atala to work instead. This is the longest trip I've taken the Atala on. Unlike the other bikes it lives with, it usually only makes carefully orchestrated weekend appearances during grocery shopping trips or visits to a pub or friend's house within the neighbourhood.

The Atala is like an old well-groomed greyhound. It looks graceful and elegant gliding through my neighbourhood, like it has so much potential, but just chooses to move at a leisurely pace. It's not intimidated when it sits at the top of the big hill on Yonge Street. It's eager to let loose, but half way down it's begging to slow down. I let it slow to a comfortable speed, then cruise along the flat base of the valley, ignoring the distraction of the hill ahead. Climbing up the other side of the Hogg's Hollow valley is managed through some forceful encouragement and the promise of friendly streets to the north that will be quiet and level, just like the familiar territory of our neighbourhood.

By the half way point on the trip to work, the Atala is limping along. I guess I didn't do such a professional job of taking care of its wheels. I knew the front wheel wasn't perfect. It was the old wheel from my other bike, after all. But the back wheel was supposed to be brand new and checked carefully with my own hands and eyes. It didn't take long to put a sideways wave in it. The remainder of the ride was done with no expectations of a downhill sprint.

In a few minutes longer than normal, the commute was completed, as was the trip home. The old Atala may have topped out downhill at a slower speed than I wanted, and may have made me work harder than usual going up some hills, but there's something very relaxing about the freewheeling pace that it forced me to do as I rolled through the quiet streets in the north of our city.

Darren J 10/03/2006 05:10:00 PM | 5 comments |