Friday, April 27, 2007

Two bicycles passing in the morning

Today’s ride was a relaxed one. Lately, I’ve been catching myself riding at a very relaxed pace, pushing my feet down and up like I'm in some deep mud. This usually happens when I’m looking around at whatever lines the streets.

A few days ago, it was different…

On my way to work, I’m riding North on Yonge Street, going up a very long hill. It’s between York Mills and the 401, for anyone familiar. I’m not going fast, but spinning smoothly and my heart’s thumping. I pass a cyclist who’s riding on the sidewalk. Then I pass a second. All of a sudden, the second cyclist is up on his pedals. He’s pushing hard and gets ahead of me. I hop up onto the sidewalk*, and speed up a bit. He’s on a mountain bike with knobby tires, but he’s moving at a good pace.

Now he’s tired. He just slowed down, and I’m about to pass him.

“I thought we were gonna race,” I say as I roll past him.

Oh, now it’s on. He hammers it and pulls ahead of me. This guy can accelerate.

I’m slowly catching up to him, and I can see him watching me out of the corner of his eye. I’m ready to pass him, but I see a sewer grate ahead, so I ease off on the pedals. Eventually I get around him and put some distance between us.

I pull up to the intersection at the 401 where I see the OPP waiting to catch red light runners. I hop off my bike to walk up the sidewalk, looking for a place to cross the on-ramp. Mountain bike guy zips past me and the police on the sidewalk.

He crosses the ramp further up and makes his way to the other side of the 401 well before me. … I figure the fun is over. I come out of the path between some condo towers and see him pedaling slowly down the street, looking back at me out of the corner of his eye. It’s back on.

He cranks it and takes off around the corner. The next two intersections have stop signs, so I lose some ground there. I manage to catch up on the straight-away, but I’m not sure if he’s tired out or he’s just being nice at this point. I pull up beside him and let him know he can have the win since he has the knobby tires. I don’t think he heard me over his I-pod.

It was a good way to start my commute. Next time, I won't let him break away at the start.

(*when I say "sidewalk", I really mean the paved area between the sidewalk and the curb. No pedestrians were anywhere nearby during this event.)


Darren J 4/27/2007 01:01:00 p.m. | 3 comments |

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Manic Monday in the North End

Today started out with the sad news that a TTC employee was killed on the job inside the subway tunnel. The whole story isn't in yet.

This led to the closure of the Yonge subway for a few stops. Interestingly, the city closed Yonge Street to car traffic south of Lawrence to keep it clear for the bus shuttles. I went to the intersection of Yonge and Lawrence to see what this would look like. I even had my camera with me, but I was surprised to see things in general order, and traffic not really backed up. I didn't bother taking a picture.

The shuttle buses were packed, and were leaving from York Mills. When I arrived there, I could see more evidence of the strange situation.

There was a steady flow of people and more than enough to fill the shuttle buses.

After passing York Mills, everything seemed to be relatively normal.

Then came the afternoon commute. A powerful thunderstorm hit the Toronto area in the afternoon, so strong it reminded me of hurricanes I'd seen in Florida. Power was out along parts of Highway 7 near Leslie. Even after power came back, the traffic signals were still out, which had the expected effect on traffic (car traffic, that is).

Highway 7 was absolutely jammed in both directions. As you can guess by the position I'm taking this picture from, I'm riding on the sidewalk. I don't ride on highway 7 often, but when I do, I take the sidewalk. I can confirm that sidewalk traffic was flowing beautifully.

That wasn't even the end of this strange day. After arriving at Bayview, to head south, I saw more backed up traffic. I assumed it was because of traffic signals again, but this time a hydro pole ("hydro" = "power" for any non-Canadians out there) was dislodged and dangling over the road.

The fire fighters blocked off the entire south bound Bayview Avenue. I don't understand why they didn't do one lane in each direction, but maybe they knew something I didn't. Fortunately, I managed to convince them that my friend and I would be fine riding down the left side of the southbound lanes, so they let us through.

After passing the danger zone, we moved to the right, and rode two abreast down Bayview Avenue! How often can that happen?! It was so nice riding down Bayview that after my friend turned off, I went past my usual turning point, and just continued south on Bayview all the way south of Steeles to Cummer Avenue.

I was one of the few people who were able to enjoy this whole situation. As I approached some people waiting for the bus, they waved at me to stop. I looked behind myself, and since I was the only person on the road, they were definitely waving at me. I slowed down to give them the low down. They were stranded.

The trip really was unique and enjoyable. Not only was traffic virtually non-existent, but it's so relaxing to ride on the relatively leveled out arterial roads. Amazing ride.

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Darren J 4/23/2007 09:47:00 p.m. | 2 comments |

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pushing Pedals

This song kicks ass. Pedal Pusher by Abdominal
"A big ups to all those pushin the 2 wheels."
I've been out of town for a while. Coming back here just reminds me why I like this city so much. It doesn’t hurt that it's 22 degrees and everyone is out walking around.

Here's my best photograph of Las Vegas.

Don't get the wrong idea. I had a lot of fun there, but I was happy to be coming home.

Darren J 4/21/2007 05:59:00 p.m. | 0 comments |

Friday, April 13, 2007

Opportunities abound

Until yesterday, I've been beat up by a cold. No cycling for me. My leg muscles are going to wither away soon.

One of our local free weekly newspapers comes out with it's Bike Edition this week. They kicked it off with a "Town Hall" meeting to talk Bike Plan. I wasn't there, but BlogTO was. I like that Tanya suggested putting signs up that say cyclists can use a full lane. Those signs need to be on many of the narrow arterials around the city.

Which way is faster? Now Magazine looks into that too. The bike wins in this 9 km competition. It starts in a dense urban part of the city, and finishes in a dense suburban part. Anyone else think the TTC guy would have done way better if he took the University-Spadina line? The Yonge line is overcrowded, not the University side.

I did my own bike v. car competition in the suburbs last year. It was much less dramatic, and didn't end with the cyclist eating ice cream. The race was also skewed because the motorist assumed he would kick my ass, so he gave me a head start.

If you have a lazy Friday afternoon, you'll want to watch this video starring the president of Trek Bicycle. Here's the non-executive summary (not all of us have time to hear a president talk for 20 minutes!):
- The bike industry was propelled in recent decades by the mountain bike trend and Lance Armstrong.
- Very few people in most US and Canadian cities ride bikes.
- If people rode bikes, it would solve many of the western world's major problems, such as obesity, traffic congestion, and pollution.
- Government will start to recognize how good bikes are and bike companies will soon sell many bikes.
- BUT to make this happen, the bike companies need to support bicycle advocacy groups, so people see real bicycle infrastructure. He gives examples of where bike infrastructure made a real difference in bicycling rates (U.K. and Louisville, Kentucky stand out).

Found on Spinopsys

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Darren J 4/13/2007 08:30:00 a.m. | 4 comments |

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Energy in the news

Since I missed most humanities courses in school and stuck with technical stuff, I have to listen to CBC as much as possible in case I get to hear an author's name and it sticks in my head. It comes in handy in other ways too.

This week on The Current, they've been all over climate change. (It's probably part of a conspiracy which will lead to vast wealth for them, like most CBC employees.) On Tuesday, they covered "Food Security". This featured a speaker who pointed out that corn prices are reaching their oil equivalent. This means that the market is already adjusting to a scarcer oil supply while most people aren't even aware of the looming problem. He points out a couple other things: the war in Darfur is caused by a clash of herders forced off their land by the expansion of the Sahara, and the farmers on the more fertile land further south. Also (you may have heard this one), that the corn needed to fill one tank of an SUV with ethanol fuel could feed a person for a year. That's probably one of those slightly manipulated statistics, but it gives a good sense of what we're dealing with here.

Listen to Part 2, Food Security.

If your preferred medium is video, swing on over to the oil drum for some talking heads. The quote that stands out is from Matt Simmons, an oil industry expert and investor (he has said he invests in small infrastructure companies, since there's going to be a lot of drilling in the near future.) Matt Simmons says:
"The best new oil basin we will ever find is the one called 'conservation.'"
Interesting. But, how?


Darren J 4/05/2007 01:04:00 p.m. | 3 comments |

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Babes on Bicycles

I have a friend who has both a bicycle and baby. Naturally, she wants to spend time with both. She put a rear seat carrier on her bike, and is now looking at finding a helmet for her wee one.

A friendly looking woman, although not the friend I'm talking about. source

Most stuff I've seen says that a 1 year old is the absolute youngest baby that should be on a bicycle. Maybe she'll wait that long, but I haven't asked that question. I know very little about the anatomical durability of a child, but I do automatically wonder about any kind of blanket-rule like "no child under 12 months".

Does anyone have any advice for where to find a good helmet for a small head? If you have any other advice, it would be great to hear that too.


Darren J 4/04/2007 01:01:00 p.m. | 11 comments |

Monday, April 02, 2007

Other people cycling and writing

I'm usually apprehensive to give myself a title, like "writer" or "cyclist", but I'll imply both as I point out a few other cyclists who write. As it warms up and many people are considering starting to ride bikes to commute or generally get around, it helps to see some examples, and how others enjoy it.

A newish blog called Planetary Gears had a post last week about bike commuting. I like the philosophy. Don't worry too much about special equipment, just figure out a way to do it.

"If you wish to ride your bicycle to work, two things are necessary:
1. A functional bicycle
2. A functional bicycle route

Number 1 is easy. If you have a bike, pump up the tires and you're ready to go...."

Over on Open Hand Open Eye, we're reminded of the joy of cycling. It's true that the main reason I started cycling to work was because I enjoyed riding my bike, and this seemed like the most likely way I would get to ride my bike often. There's also the sheer satisfaction and feeling of independence when you can get yourself around by your own strength. It's one of only a few forms of exercise that I've been able to keep up regularly. So cycling just falls into place.

Cycling for transportation does benefit society, and the reason for cyclists bringing it up often is not because we want to preach, but just because it seems to not be noticed by our governments. If it were noticed, and some money was spent on it (or if it was considered in city plans), many more people could enjoy it, leading to more good stuff for everyone. Everyone would be happy. QED.

Best of all is the story on BlogTO of Kevin who is starting to ride a bike to get around in Toronto. He posts his story of Bike Noob Adventures: The Two-Wheel Bandwagon, and he promises a follow up.

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Darren J 4/02/2007 12:37:00 p.m. | 0 comments |