Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Portable Copier

Anyone need a photocopier?

My neighbour is One Of The Most Impressive Cyclists I Know. Although, he's not the kind of guy to care about being given such a title. If I gave him a steering wheel cover, he would care just as much.

Yesterday, he gave me a photocopier. He found it, and thought I might be able to use it, so he carried it back to our building in his wagon that he towed behind his bicycle. This piece of office machinery weighs over 130 pounds!

As much as I appreciate his work, I can't make use of it. I thought this would be a good chance to experiment with craigslist.

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Darren J 11/29/2006 10:55:00 PM | 2 comments |

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fog flows into Toronto

Today started and ended with fog.

The morning ride -


The ride home -

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Darren J 11/28/2006 10:50:00 PM | 2 comments |

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Cuban practicality

My wife was in Cuba recently. She met a friendly man who worked at their hotel. Any story that starts off like this sounds like bad news for me, but it turns out that as well as being an amicable guy, he had an interesting bicycle. My wife took a photo for me.


It's a single speed, probably with coaster brakes, but I can't see the actual brake. Could it be a fixed gear? Possibly, but I doubt it, since this is a popular model there. The land is generally flat in this part of Cuba, so the one gear gets the job done.

The steering is unusual on this machine. It looks like the carrying platform rotates with the front axle, which means that to turn right, the handlebars would need to be pushed to the left.

Apparently this is the standard workhorse of a tricycle in the hotel area. Strangely, my wife said outside the hotels, she didn't see a lot of bicycles. Gasoline is expensive and the most popular solution seems to be to walk or hitchhike.

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Darren J 11/25/2006 11:48:00 AM | 2 comments |

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Car-captive

I've been growing a big metal box on my bum lately. It's quite embarrassing really. The box is actually so big that it entirely encases me (and up to four other people). It's a good thing I never claimed to be car-free. The main reason for driving has been related to work. I try not to discuss work here, so I'll leave my reasoning out of this, and it's not so interesting anyways.

I haven't started packing on the reserve fuel yet, at least not in a noticeable way. My pants that I bought over a year ago are still too big for me, but I guess I should expect small changes after only 4 days of passive transportation.

My car route home takes me along a road that I always avoid cycling on. It's a major arterial avenue where the speed limit is 60 km/h (most people do about 70 or 80 whenever they get the chance), with 2 lanes in each direction, and often a turning lane down the middle. I think it's good for me to drive once in a while so I'm reminded of how things appear from a car driving point of view.

Surprisingly, every day, I see at least two cyclists along this major road. In the more new-suburban area, they're almost always on the sidewalk. In the old-suburban area, they're usually on road. The only difference I can see is that in the new-suburban area there are more turning lanes, and cars move slightly faster.

The thing that worries me the most for cyclists along this road are the people who are constantly jockeying for position in the currently-fastest lane. These people are not necessarily weaving, but are constantly judging the speed of each lane, and switching as each one varies by 5 or 10 km/h. This seems to save brake pads rather than actually save time, but I don't think they see it that way.

In the car, a lot of people are driving like their cars are pieces in a sliding tile puzzle, moving left, right, up and down as needed to get their piece of the puzzle to the other side. The problem with tile puzzles is that the tiles are very close together. These people drive like it's imperative that they stay as close as possible to the car in front, or else the other tiles won't slide by properly. It leaves very little room for anything unfamiliar to happen.

When I'm in the right hand lane, I'm often thinking to myself that a curb-hugging cyclist could pop out from the right at any moment. I consider moving to the left lane, to avoid any chance of being close to a cyclist. But if I do that, someone else will just take my place. So I often stay in the right lane, ready to slow the cars down and pull far to the left when I see a cyclist. Maybe I overdo it, but I don't really care.

It's this car driving experience that reminds me that I'm making the right decision to cycle on the smaller streets, stop a little more often, and turn a little more often, but arrive with as little stress as possible.

Back to the last post's topic of lights: I know there's some mild debate over whether a flashing or solid rear light is best. I guess the argument for the solid light is that a bicycle is a vehicle and a solid light is what is legally required. The solid light adds to the impression of the bicycle as a proper vehicle that should be treated with respect by other road users. The flashing light is widely perceived to be more visible. At the very least it catches people's attention easily, even if it is more difficult to use to judge distance.

I passed a cyclist yesterday who was wearing a jacket with reflective stripes, had a flashing light on his seat post, and had a solid light near his rear axle. I suspect the solid light on the axle was powered by a generator. From 200 metres away or more, I saw the flashing light. As I got closer, I noticed his reflective stripes. It wasn't until he caught up to me again that I noticed the solid low-positioned light.

Right now, I have a solid light on my seat post, flashing lights on my body and helmet, and wear reflective gear. I think the most important thing is to get noticed well in advance, so the drivers snap out of their trance and prepare to pass safely.

Fortunately I'll be able to ride tomorrow. It is Bike Friday, after all. And the weather has been beautiful. I'll be waiting at the corner of Yonge and Lawrence at 8:00 AM in case someone out there wants to join me.

If you haven't had a chance to sign Tuco's petition yet, now's a good time! The petition is to "Promote Cycling in Canada". If you can pass it on to anyone you think might be interested, that helps too. Word is spreading, as I can see it's up to 714 signatures, and they're from all over Canada.

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Darren J 11/23/2006 01:20:00 PM | 6 comments |

Monday, November 20, 2006

Headlight

The latest addition to my lighting system (center).

I bought this LED headlight last weekend at Mountain Equipment Co-op. It's bright enough to light up the road surface. I know there are brighter headlights available, but this one is good for a low cost solution, and I like that the batteries last weeks in an LED headlight. Most of the roads I ride on have street lights.

I set the blue-cased headlight on flashing.

Darren J 11/20/2006 07:56:00 AM | 8 comments |

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Non-Motor Vehicle Magical Skill

Forget about parking in the bike lane (well don't really forget, but...), this guy is driving in the segregated bike lane in China. A woman decides to stand up to him. (Found through BikeLaneDiary)


I've talked to some well informed people who tell me it's far from surprising to see someone drive their car in a bike lane in China. Apparently, one of the problems in China is that government officials have different license plates from other people. Few police officers have the courage to stop a car with a special license plate. Coincidentally, I found a similar example online. It makes this woman's actions that much more admirable.

On a more important note, babelfish appears to translate "bicycling" in Simplified Chinese to the English "non-motor vehicle magical skill". No complaints here.

Babelfish Translation of the article from Nan fang daily

On October 20, rides the bicycle the foreigner smiled has been blocking the modern automobile which drove in the non-motor vehicle magical skill, hoped it returned to on the mobile traffic lane, suffered the driver crudely to treat.

When on 20th 8 AM of 50 minute, 网友, free photographer Lao An after Beijing east bridge street intersection (blue island building opposite), saw pushes a bicycle to a middle-aged foreign country female to block a modern Iraq Lante. "The original foreigner in requests it to leave the cycle track," Lao An said, after "several minutes, the driver fire, alit points at the foreigner to reprimand, and carried foreigner's bicycle on has fallen toward the side."

Finally, the compact car stubborn only "is tenacious" the foreigner, turned into the mobile traffic lane. "网友 sends the card said that vehicle finally or to continue in the non-motor vehicle magical skill to drive, this possibly is to my group of picture misunderstanding." Lao An said.

That very evening, Lao An has sent to the photography picture on own abundant guest, the topic is "Foreigner Helps People To improve Quality". Afterwards 网友 have joined, trades the title is "Which on October 20 the Beijing Street corner Occurs, Each Chinese All Want To think deeply!" Initiation warm discussion.

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Darren J 11/16/2006 08:45:00 PM | 2 comments |

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cycling, coffee and pho

It was a busy weekend of bike riding for me.

Saturday morning, I departed for the west end of the city to meet up with the Take the Tooker folks. Car traffic was entirely jammed westbound on Bloor for about 4 km past High Park. How people can be satisfied with the status quo, I don't understand.

There were 5 of us starting the ride from Kipling Station. We left a little late from Kipling, which was fortunate for me since I was late by 10 minutes after the slowdown on Bloor. I can only go so fast when I'm squeezing between "parked" cars and the curb.

We picked up more people along the way. Martino joined in, and we probably reached 10 or 12 people by Spadina. At University Avenue, we met the people traveling in from Scarborough, bringing us to 20 or 25 people. It's not a bad turnout for such a drizzly day. Cookies were eaten and group photos were taken.

I met the real life Tuco. He's working on a petition that everyone should have a look at. The idea is to get the federal government actively involved in promoting bicycle commuting, through tax credits or financial support for bicycle friendly businesses. If you have suggestions, he's open to them.

Martino, Steeker and I went to Ideal Coffee (I Deal Coffee?) in Kensington. It was an ideal café with good coffee and friendly people. Strangers talk to each other there! So many people; so many on bikes.

Sunday, after spending the afternoon waiting for a candidate to knock on my door and ask me how to make the world a better place, I rode off to meet up with the human contingent of Toronto Human Powered Vehicles. The Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown was packed.

We talked bikes, biking, trikes, triking, trailers, trailering; among other things. Talking to other people who are pushing through long bike rides in the cold weather is always reassuring that I haven't lost it. We need to meet more often.

My ride home took me through the quiet University of Toronto. A guy asked me what direction the Paramount Theatres were. I pointed, but told him it was a long walk. I think he was offended, like I suggested he and his girlfriend couldn't handle it. I can understand.

Through Forest Hill, I saw where Jane Pitfield was getting her support. Fortunately our votes don't count based on property square-footage. Near Davisville, I passed a guy on a bike who was singing (I use "singing" loosely) "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! I will rai-aise him up! I will rai-aise him up!" I have no response to that.

At home, I was fully wired from biking and Vietnamese coffee.

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Darren J 11/15/2006 12:02:00 AM | 5 comments |

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Election Day Street Party

Passing on this announcement. If you have Monday afternoon free ...

It's all happening tomorrow...! Bring a videocam, if you can.

Green Toronto Now - street party!
Monday, Nov. 13 (3 - 5pm)


MUNICIPAL ELECTION DAY

Pedestrians, cyclists, drummers, and people concerned about public spacing will be jiving it up at Bloor and Yonge to remind politicians we want a green, clean, people and bike-friendly Toronto – and about their promises to make the Bloor-Danforth bikeway a reality!
We will be gathering at the NE corner of Bloor and Yonge Streets. Folks from Drummers in Exile, Streets Are for People, and others will join in this call for environmental action and informed democracy for a safe, healthy, prosperous, and green Toronto.


=> Bring your crazy bikes, coloured balloons, flags, banners, favourite noisemaker / instrument, (flash)lights, CHALK, and...!

Organizers: TakeTheTooker.ca

-----------------------

About Take The Tooker

The Mission

Create a continous bicycle expressway along Bloor St. and Danforth Ave , connecting Mississauga to Scarborough through the city core, helping to shape a bike-friendly and green Toronto as a living legacy to environmental activist Tooker Gomberg (greenspiration.org). Gomberg was runner-up Toronto mayoral candidate in 2000; he passed away in March 2004.


Spokesperson

Hamish Wilson
(City Councillor candidate, Ward 29 Toronto-Danforth)

416-531-3746 ext.1, hamishw2@hotmail.com




City Transformed

The video(s) below clearly demonstrate that far-reaching change *is* possible (even in a city of 8 million people!) - yet vision, leadership, and innovation are necessary.

12 min. video interview with award-winning former mayor of Bogota, Columbia, Enrique Penalosa
http://www.nycsr.org/nyc/video-view.php?id=19


(If you don’t have QuickTime, try this link: http://homepage.mac.com/trorb/TOPP/iMovieTheater144.html)


Short article: 'The Politics of Happiness' by Enrique Penalosa and Susan Ives.
http://yesmagazine.org/article.asp?id=615

Darren J 11/12/2006 11:07:00 PM | 3 comments |

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Taking the Tooker To-Be

I'm pretty sure I'm going to go on the Take the Tooker Ride this Saturday. I always like riding with other cyclists, and I figure I should back up an idea I like with some action.

Now I have to decide where to start. I can ride through Etobicoke, over the Humber River and past High Park, or I can ride through Scarborough, the Danforth, and over the Don River. I'm leaning towards the Etobicoke ride, since I barely ever ride there.

I rode out to Scarborough last weekend and had a surprisingly good ride. I went to the Bluffers Park area to meet my parents. I've done this ride a few times, and it usually goes well until I find myself stuck on St. Clair Avenue. Once on St. Clair, some moron in a 3/4 ton pick-up pulls up within inches of me, revs his engine and glares at me. Then I pull up beside the moron at the red light. With the value of his pick up truck in question, he proves its practicality by squealing the tires when the light turns green. There's also usually a little bit of yelling regarding where my bike should be. I usually ask him if he finds his underwear isn't quite as filled-out as it used to be since he started taking the injections, but he's long gone by then.

Since that interaction was getting boring and predictable, I chose a different route. The first half of the route was along the Don River, then up Taylor Creek. (There were quite a few joggers out for this chilly morning. There was even another cyclist who I had a brief chat with.) After leaving the bike paths, I followed back roads just north of the Danforth and Kingston Road. It's nice to see the parts of Toronto where a corner store still survives in the middle of a residential neighbourhood. Some places reminded me of the small towns in central Ontario where the town is made up of rows of similar houses with one shop built into what is essentially a larger house with a front deck.

The route was somewhat direct, but not perfect. Taking the bike paths along the rivers, and then taking back roads made my ride 21 km, instead of 18 km. For a weekend ride, it was well worth the extra distance.

If anyone out there wants to ride with me to the Tooker starting point, leave a message here and we'll get in touch. I'm probably going to go south on Yonge to St Clair to Russel Hill to Davenport to something to Bloor, then head west.

Darren J 11/09/2006 05:21:00 PM | 6 comments |

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Clean Brake

I've covered municipal and international politics. Now to move onto a subject where I have absolutely no authority: bike mechanics.

I replaced my rear brake pads late last week. I finally decided that metal on metal wasn't stopping me as well as I needed. This became obvious when I approached a red light at the bottom of a big hill (Hoggs Hollow) and had to make an abrupt right turn.

The new ones look pretty slick. I know that's very important when it comes to brakes. The shiny metal backing holds replaceable brake pads. I have always just bought the cheap rubber ones from MEC in the past, but this time I thought I'd try something different. They weren't much more expensive, especially if you consider the trouble of heading all the way to MEC.

The pads have a large surface area, so I've convinced myself that they're stopping me better than the regular short rubber ones. Stopping power comes a close second to shininess when comparing brakes.

Darren J 11/07/2006 08:44:00 AM | 6 comments |

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Eve of Extraction

In 48 hours we'll be in the middle of the beginning of the end for George Bush the Second. Or at the least for Donald Rumsfeld. Even if the Republicans win the Senate and Congress, any Republican Congressperson would be stupid to not point fingers somewhere. They have another election to worry about in two years.

For George Bush, it'll be a long drawn out decline. I doubt he'll be impeached. There could be an inquiry, but he can drag that out for long enough that he can head off on the speaking circuit in two years with an impeachment-free record. Maybe he'll make a movie!

If you had an inkling that a new congress or a pressured president will change things in Iraq, this Guardian report might change your mind. I doubt a president can turn around the culture of the US Army in less than a decade, even if he is the chief. If the video represents anything common in Iraq, that country's troubles haven't even started to begin to end.

Darren J 11/05/2006 01:08:00 PM | 0 comments |

Friday, November 03, 2006

What does Starbucks think of bike commuters?

I heard this story a few days ago, but didn't read the whole thing. It's been discussed extensively online, so I just want to pass it on in case you didn't see it.

Summary: Manager at Starbucks store in Portland rides his bike to work regularly. When he shows up at a manager meeting by bike, he gets confronted as being unprofessional and is transferred to a store 16 miles from his home.

Shocking result: Starbucks provides an alternate story.

This story in EV World provides good coverage.

Darren J 11/03/2006 07:44:00 PM | 1 comments |

The Strength Within

Toronto needs a little pat on the back. We're told growing up to love ourselves first before we worry about others paying attention to us. Growing companies are told to focus internally before customers will appreciate a good product. Toronto should take some advice from the self-help book The Strength Within (it got 5 stars, after all) and concern itself with its own needs, and appreciate the beauty it already has.

Toronto is in a panic right now because of the missed opportunity of the 2015 World's Exposition. Before you get too worked up about it, tell me where Expo 2005 was held. I looked it up, and not so I could buy an airline ticket there.

If we want to improve our waterfront, let's improve it. When we're done, if we want to have a massive house-warming party for our new "cottage near downtown", let's do that. The idea that we need to be intimidated by an impending crowd of visitors is just conceding defeat to the people who say we can't organize anything. The best progress is made through openness and well defined goals. We need to be honest that our real intention is to create an attractive city for ourselves and visitors.

If we want to create a place that people are eager to see and spend time in, let's do that. I'm not sold on the idea that a bunch of massive structures designed to accommodate the huge impulse of Expo explorers would have been an attraction in the future. People visit cities for a few reasons, but rarely to go see where Expo nineteen-blankty-blank was held.

People go to cities to see life. Life is in art, entertainment, bustling urbanity, exploring unfamiliar shops, a quiet meal with people you care about, or dancing with people you've never met before. A city is shaped by its buildings, streets and parks. That shape can accentuate the city's life. Have you ever seen the steps of the New York Public Library at lunch time? They're packed with people eating sandwiches talking to each other.

Beautiful structures that are part of our every day life are the ones that are interesting. The Eiffel Tower, admittedly built partly to accommodate a world's fair, provided communications, while being a fascinating sight. Lion's Gate Bridge is an impressive structure, but if it wasn't being used every day, it would only represent waste. The train station in Amsterdam along with the streets spilling out of it with trams, cyclists and pedestrians can provide days of stimulation. I would guess that St. Lawrence Market, one of Toronto's real functioning food markets, is one of the more popular tourist destinations. In order to interest tourists, we need to be a little bit self-interested and create what will work well for us.

If we want to create jobs, we'll do that as we build our city the way we want it, not the way it's needed for a single massive event. We can improve our parks and squares, so that people gather just to see what's going on. We can build transportation systems to accommodate the throngs of people moving here. We can create fascinating and practical streetscapes that let people feel safe on foot or bicycle. This is what it means to create a city that's a real expression of Toronto, somewhere that's unique and worth taking the time to visit.

Those of us who spend time here know Toronto is more than just another franchise of The North American City. It's a city that has so many people loving it. Let's dream about what we can do with this city. Let's make the city we want, a city that exposes the beauty of the lives lived here, and welcomes people to join us. We can do it on our own.

Darren J 11/03/2006 06:33:00 PM | 2 comments |