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Top eleven posts of 2011

Photo: Herb. Bells on Bloor 2011, popular as ever, even though City Council voted to stop the Environmental Assessment

Cycling and politics were a hot item in 2011, from the vote to remove Jarvis Bike Lanes, the vote to install protected bike lanes, the launch of Bixi, and the politicians who took cheap shots by trying to make cyclists into urban terrors. Here's a recap of 2011's top 11 blog posts, ranked by the number of comments. It's not the only way to rank blog posts, but the easiest to come by.

  1. Separated bike lane proposal and battle heating up
    Bixi bikes are on the streets and the fight continues to get separated bike lanes approved for downtown. Some lefty councillors oppose, some support.
  2. Few bike lanes: the cause of most sidewalk cycling
    A pedestrian dies after colliding with a cyclist in North York. There is a strong call to crack down on cyclists yet the pedestrian's family say he was an avid cyclist and understood how bad cycling infrastructure is in the burbs. And where are the critics when a pedestrian is killed by a motorist?
  3. Public Works committee votes to take out Jarvis bike lanes: total -8 km bike lanes this year
    The vote to take out the Jarvis bike lanes made international news. What big city in this era votes to take out bike lanes?

Parking at Queen and Portland: is the city taking bike parking seriously?

The new Loblaws, Winners, Joe Fresh at Queen St West and Portland have been open for a few months. In the inscrutable ways of the City, the stores opened with absolutely zero bike parking. The sidewalk was finished, trees were installed out front but no one felt the need to install bike parking anywhere surrounding the building. I like trees but wouldn't it have been even more important to install bike parking? Now we've just got people slowly killing the trees by locking to the trees.

I followed up with planner Lisa Ing of Street Furniture at the City, the area which is now in charge of post and rings (you can email your bike parking request to them). They are still figuring out how they will deal with post and rings. Lisa Ing told me about this location by email:

The post-and-ring locations were approved as part of the Site Plan Control process for this development. Our staff are typically not involved in this process. However Forestry and Urban Design staff do take into consideration bike parking issues.

I do not know the reasons why post-and-rings were not identified on Queen Street West as part of the site plan process. I am presuming there may be other street elements proposed or it could have been for aesthetic reasons.

Anyways, we can list this location in our database for future review.

Mayor Ford ends the 'war on the car' and starts one against motorists

True words by Albert Koehl in Rabble of how Mayor Ford is doing more harm to drivers than good with his archaic, anti-city approach to moving people:

Don Cherry has a lesson to teach Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Cherry has spent a career promoting the hockey fighter, sometimes known as the enforcer or goon. The problem is that the science of brain injuries has caught up with (and passed) his assertion that the violence of these bare-knuckle encounters doesn't really hurt anyone, and helps the game. Indeed, the very fighters whose role Cherry has championed are increasingly turning out to be the game's victims.

The cause that Ford championed most loudly during the election was that of motorists. On taking office he declared that the war on the car was over. He eliminated a small vehicle registration tax, then moved forward on his congestion relief plan by getting transit out of the way of motorists. Two of three streetcar lines approved by the previous administration were shelved and a third line would go underground at significantly higher cost. He even promised to build a new subway line. Cyclists, too, were targeted. The council he leads voted to eliminate three bike lanes at a projected cost of $400,000.

Science, and experience, makes it clear that Ford's solutions won't work -- and the main victim will be the motorist.

Reducing bike theft

John Taranu, volunteer of the Bike Union, provides some tips in helping to reduce bike theft. John also introduces the isthisbikestolen.com app created at the Random Hacks of Kindness / Open Data Hackathon on December 5-6 in Toronto. It lets you check if the bike you're buying has been stolen.

More on fighting bike theft, see bikeunion.to/theft

How to find the serial number of a bike:

How to register a bike:

No more dirty pants: upgrading a city bike to chaincase

My new chaincase came from Hoopdriver Bicycles and made by Velo Orange. Not cheap but good quality.

Us North Americans tend to underestimate the lowly chainguard (and fenders for that matter) on the bicycle. I'm a firm believer in clean pants and figure it can't be all that hard to produce a good chainguard that's going to keep them clean. Instead we've now got plenty of "city bikes" on the market (commendable for sure) that still lack a good chainguard. For example, Linus and Public bikes are two popular city bikes being seen all over Toronto. They've got fenders, racks, upright handlebars and simple, rational gearing. Yet they still lack a proper chainguard. Instead all they do is protect pant legs for just a small part of the turn. If your pants can still get oily or get jammed in the gears why bother at all?

I had previously blogged about my first attempt at clean pants using auto loom to cover the chain. It wasn't a failure though it might require occasional replacement of the loom as you can see how mine cracked (though it still worked), or find more flexible loom.

chain cover falling apart

I wasn't sure how it would stand up in winter so I decided to splurge for the chaincase.

How can we make the intersection at Dundas and Sterling safer?

How can the intersection at Dundas and Sterling (and at Dundas and College for that matter) be made safer? People are thinking about this since Jenna Morrison was killed there recently. City staff have been to visit; The Urban Country and Mez have built a temporary "trash" bike lane and tested it with drivers; and Hamish Wilson has drawn his idea for improving the intersection:

Not so much driver/cyclist, nor the lack of sideguards, but how the City failed to do the intersection for cycling safety. This includes how the short bit of marked by centre line road at the intersection actually creates a pinch point at the rightwards curve, and this combines with normal practices of curve-cutting and then how trucks can kinda shift/occupy more space as they turn eg. signs that mark "Wide Right Turns" on some trucks.

I've put in to Councillor Layton and Bailao and some others this redesign idea for the intersection, ideally to be done this fall, with colour, and I didn't put in the concept of a marked sidewalk for the pedestrians, silly me. I believe there may be a motion arising for this Council meeting, but it won't necessarily be to add 12M of bike lane on the southbound lane, but focussing on sideguards is not the only prevention.

Gathering fruit by bike: Toronto non-profit gleans local trees

Two favorite topics of mine: fruit and bikes. Not Far From the Tree is a Toronto organization that goes to homes and other locations to pick fruit. The fruit is then divided into thirds among the tree owners, volunteers and local food banks. All of the fruit is transported by bike trailers and cargo bikes.

More recently Not Far From the Tree purchased a bunch of Babboe cargo bikes (not shown in this video) from Curbside. The director, Laura, told me that some of them have electric motors to help volunteers bike up the steeper hills in Toronto.

Toronto needs more bike parking: here's how we can push for it

Post and ring bike parking is lacking in many heavily cycled parts of Toronto. The City of Toronto was once in the forefront of supplying short-term parking for cyclists and this may help explain why so many people bike despite the poor cycling infrastructure otherwise.

We've got to hold onto the parking we've got and push for more. Currently the City is slow to re-install the parking removed when sidewalks are reconstructed (or for other construction). And they seem slow to put in enough parking otherwise.

Here's a neat website, SeeClickFix, that allows people to post issues with their city and to get crowd-support. If people mark down where they think bike parking is critical, use the keywords "bike parking" or "post and ring", or vote on an existing issue then we can gather all this information to send to councillors and staff.

It's clear that there's more demand for parking than is being met. If the city doesn't want cyclists to lock to gas meters, trees or fences then we want them to take bike parking seriously.

Try it out! And while you're at it also submit your suggestion directly to the City through their online suggestion form. It would be good if they also get flooded with requests.

BIXI stations moving to cover more territory

BIXI Toronto and the city of Toronto will be relocating 17 stations to accommodate snow removal operations. BIXI is taking advantage of this to relocate under-performing stations to busier locations outside of the original service area to as far west as Euclid and far east as the Distillery District.

The locations moving:

From To
Shuter St/ Bond St SW corner Sherbourne/ Carlton (Allan Gardens)
CNE SW corner Trinity/ Front (Distillery)
Peter/ Queen SW corner Bathurst/ Queens Quay (Island Airport)
Duncan/ Queen NE corner Queen/ Van Auley
Mutual St/ Gould St SW corner corner Gould/ Mutual
Hayter St/ Bay St NE corner Euclid/ Bloor
Beverley St/ College St SE corner Bathurst/ Lennox
Beverley St/ Grange Ave SE corner Queen/ Portland
College St/ Roberts St NW corner College/ Major
Hoskin Ave/ Devonshire Pl SE corner Bloor/ Brunswick
Surrey Place/ Grovesnor Ave NE corner King St/Princess Ave
Yonge St/ Dundonald St NE corner College St/ Borden
University Ave/ Richmond St SE corner Wellington St/ Portland St
Church St/ Granby Ave NW corner Church St/ Alexander St
University Ave / Charles St NE Bay St/ Scollard Ave
Mutual Ave/ Dundas NE corner Sherbourne St/ Wellesley St
Jarvis St/ Shuter Ave SE corner Bathurst St/ Dundas St

BIXI Toronto will also expand the station at Phoebe Ave / Spadina Ave by adding 24 news docking points. BIXI Toronto area has 8 km2 and with these relocations, the area will now have 12 km2. BIXI Toronto will then enlarge its territory by 50%.

For the schedule, visit our website at toronto.bixi.com or follow our BIXI Toronto Facebook page.

BIXI Toronto Statistics

BIXI Toronto has 3936 members and is really proud to almost have 4000 members after only 6 months of service!

Since May 3rd, BIXI Toronto users have done 372 417 trips. Even if the temperature is slowly going down, the average number of trips per day has almost not decreased.

BIXI Toronto wants to remind all its users that the system is up and running all year around and is the first system open all year in Canada.

Dutch Cycling Embassy

Video by the Dutch Cycling Embassy, modeled after the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, which has been promoting Danish cycling expertise and industry for the last few years.

A reminder that women are not well served by transportation tools

In the wake of the death of Jenna Morrison because of a large truck on a dangerous stretch of Toronto road and the road rage incident where a male driver assaulted a woman with his car just because she was in front of him making a legal left turn, I'd like to reprint a op ed article by Heather McDonald responding to the decision by an all-male Public Works Committee to remove the Jarvis bike lanes, ignoring the voice of the vulnerable. Cycling infrastrucure, Heather points out, is a women's issue.

Every day on my way home from work, my last bit of the journey involves making a left hand turn onto my quiet street. I take a deep breath, check my shoulder, signal, and brace myself for my most loathed part of my trip. On several occasions, as I extended my arm and safely merged into the lane, I’ve been shouted at by a passing car driver. Twice I’ve been called the “C word”—just for turning the way they teach in a CanBike course. I come home near tears and lament to my partner how awful it feels to be treated so poorly just for using my bike for transportation. It’s downright insulting.

More insulting: we’re being shoved out from having a role in making the decisions that affect us.

A preventable death

P1120533
All photos by Tino

Jenna Morrison died this week. A mother, wife, cyclist and yoga teacher, Jenna was crushed by a turning truck at Sterling and Dundas, near the entrance of the Toronto West Railpath. There was a strong outcry from cyclists and other Torontonians on Twitter, newspapers and blogs. Most people agree it was preventable, and have suggested a number of ways to have prevented it, including truck side guards, bike lanes, safer intersection. Some have also stressed that Jenna should not have been next to the truck and that she was in the blind spot. That may have also contributed but it doesn't obviate other ways to prevent cyclists from getting into these tough spots or ways to minimize the danger if they do.

The Torontoist details how the fight for side guards on large trucks has been stuck in limbo as MP Olivia Chow has championed them for years. A ten year old coroner's inquest recommended side guards when determining they would help save some lives. But an intransigent federal Ministry of Transportation has figured that “side guards would result in ‘decreased competitiveness for Canadian trucking companies'", thus putting a price on these human beings equal to the cost of the roll out of a relatively inexpensive safety measure.

P1120538
Banner along Railpath

Yorkville undermines their minimalist agenda with crappy bike parking and lanes

As is common with BIAs in Toronto the Bloor-Yorkville BIA was given a lot of control to decide the public realm priorities in the redesign of the stretch of Bloor between Church and Avenue. This included in letting the BIA decide if and how they would accommodate cyclists on their territory: how they would lock up their bikes and how they would bike along the roadway. The BIA chose to remove cyclists from the equation in the name of a minimalist and modern-looking design. Their choice, predictably, backfired.

The Bloor-Yorkville BIA's initial position during the redesign was to provide zero bike parking along this stretch of Bloor, presumably because bicycles are considered ugly and would take away from their preferred minimalism, much like the provision of bike lanes would have taken away from the wide marble sidewalks. The BIA was eventually forced by the City to at least provide some kind of temporary bike parking along the sidewalk, but they were given some control over the type of bike parking. Predictably they chose a design more for its aesthetics than usefulness; a design that cyclist to lock their bikes in awkward ways.

Cyclists alarmed over proposed bylaw to restrict bike parking on the street

There's been a flurry of alarm among cyclists after this last week's Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting, that a vote on harmonizing of street by-laws seems to be banning cyclists from parking their bikes to anything in the public realm, unless authorized by the General Manager. If something is locked for more than 24 hours then it may be removed (it's not clear from the the text if the 24 hours applies to post and rings as well as "illegal" parking.

It's not clear if the alarm is justified or not, though understandable given the anti-bike bent of those in control of city committees. Councillor Mike Layton was frustrated by the vote:

As part of the streets bylaw, PWIC voted to make it illegal to park a bike anywhere but a bike post. How much bike parking will this lose?

Though city staff have said that in practice things won't be as bad as cyclists fear. Christine Bouchard of of Transportation Services said on Facebook:

Decision on Richmond/Adelaide separated bike lane - send your responses by Nov. 2

A decision will be made at Public Works and Infrastructure Committee this week about whether to approve Transportation staff's recommendation regarding Richmond/Adelaide separated bike lanes. The bike lanes have been in the official Bike Plan for the last ten years, but there are some obstacles. Instead of doing a pilot project sooner, staff is recommending we go straight to the required EA and install them in 2013:

City Council authorize the General Manager of Transportation Services to initiate a Municipal Class Environmental Assessment study for separated bicycle lanes within the Richmond-Adelaide corridor, between Bathurst Street and Sherbourne Street, which could include consideration of a pilot project to install and evaluate separated bicycle lanes on the preferred alignment during the course of the study.

For those who wish to make a deputation regarding the project, please contact Ms. Candy Davidovits of the Citys Clerks Division at pwic@toronto.ca or at (416) 392-8032 by 4:30 p.m. on November 2, 2011. For more details on submitting comments or requesting to speak, see the City web page: Have Your Say! (www.toronto.ca/legdocs/tmmis/have-your-say.htm)

Given all the construction on Richmond and Adelaide it seems likely that PWIC will approve this report to delay and do an EA. One noted improvement they could make to the EA is to extend the study area to connect to the Eastern Avenue bike lanes. Why have separated bike lanes on only part of Richmond/Adelaide?

Public consultation to Front Street at Union Station, Nov 3 - what's in it for bikes?

Cyclists and BIXI users who dock at Union Station might be interested in the proposed changes to Front Street at Union Station meant to better accommodate growing pedestrian traffic. A second public meeting will be held Nov 3, 2011, 3-7 pm at Metro Hall, 55 John Street, Room 309 (here for more info). It will be the second and final public consultation event for this project.

Recommendations include the existing two travel lanes in each direction being reduced to one wider travel lane in each direction, marked with sharrows; expanded sidewalks, with lay-by parking for taxis, buses, etc.; new mid-block pedestrian crossing; and bike parking rings on the north side of Front Street (moved from the south side of street). The report also recommends that BIXI docking stations be placed immediately east of Bay Street and west of York Street on newly expanded sidewalks.

There is a Facebook group. And you can send comments to Jason Diceman at FrontStUnion@toronto.ca.

Ontario's chief coroner to review cycling deaths and wants to hear from you

The Chief Coroner of Ontario, Dr. Andrew McCallum, announced this morning that his office would be investigating cycling deaths over the last four years to determine ways to prevent them, reports the Star and CBC (read the announcement). Ten to twenty cyclists die every year in Ontario as a result of injuries on Ontario streets. A coalition of cycling and senior groups - Toronto Cyclists Union, Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists and the United Senior Citizens of Ontario - wrote to the coroner requesting the inquest, and an opinion piece was written in the Star in August by lawyers Albert Koehl and Patrick Brown, along with former president of the United Senior Citizens of Ontario, Marie Smith, explaining why they wanted the inquest.

A similar review of 38 cycling deaths in the city of Toronto over an 11-year period was completed in 1998. That review led to a number of cycling initiatives in the city, including the Bike Plan, the city-wide network of cycling lanes, and the establishment of the cycling advisory committee, which was disbanded earlier this year.

A chain cover that will work in a pinch

My homemade chain cover

I'm always tweaking my bikes. For some time I've been looking for a good chain cover; something to protect my pants while riding my trusty city/beater bike, which was born as a 80s Norco yellow mountain bike and which I overhauled. Somehow I ended up going to an auto shop to whip up what you see in the photo above; a chain hugged by some wire conduit.

My current chain guard came from CBN's DIY tool rental where I installed it a couple years ago. It sort of works but I still get oil on my pants when the wind picks up and blows the fabric into the chain at the bottom. Or worse, the fabric gets caught between the chain and the chain guard. So I've wanted something better for some time, and I thought I was finally onto something better but cheap.

On Bicycles: a review

On Bicycles: 50 ways the new bike culture can change your life, edited by co-founder and former creative director of Momentum Magazine, Amy Walker, has high ambitions to be a volume that you can pick up and learn something new about bicycles and how it can fit into your life (if it hasn't already). The book is a collection of 50 essays (hence the title) by 33 contributors that covers the bases from bike style to internally-geared hubs to understanding "fixies" to cycling and Buddha to designing cities for bikes. The book is more about breadth than depth. You'll get a good overview of many topics to help people learn more about cycling and its growth in North America.

In her position at Momentum, Amy has met with a wide range of people involved in cycling in some way or another. I've had the pleasure of sitting down with her and colleagues at Momentum when they came through town and always found Amy - and others at Momentum - to be full of energy and passion for their unique position as both chronicler and driver of cycling "culture". You can see that reflected in this video in her speech on cycling.

Yehuda Moon: entertained cyclists for over 3 years

Yehuda in 2008 with headwind versus Yehuda in 2011 with tailwind

Rick Smith has laid down his pen indefinitely, and his comic strip, Yehuda Moon & The Kickstand Cyclery, is no more. Smith's comic strip covered the tough-but-rewarding life of bike store owner / cycling activist / tilter-at-windmills Yehuda Moon and other friends, including former owner (but now a ghost) Fred Banks; unibrow co-owner / mechanic Joe King, Amish fixie-rider Sister Sprocket; sometime employee, engineer, mother Thistle Gin and many others. From its start in 2008 until just last month Smith dedicated a lot of free time over three and a half years to making a successful comic, if not financially, at least culturally. Ultimately, however, Smith found it too tough to make the comic financially sustainable, and drawing and writing, in addition to holding down other jobs, became too much.

Yehuda was loved by many people, whether they worked in the bike industry, cycling advocacy or just liked to ride their bike. Having spent time Inside the interesting and imaginative world of the Kickstand Cyclery where an Amish community built exclusive frames for Yehuda's shop, where a ninja existed that threw sharpened chainrings, and where Yehuda instigated many projects of DIY bike lanes, bike share and racks, there were a lot of aspects that rang true to the issues faced by both bike stores and advocates trying to gain a toe-hold for bikes in a continent dominated by automobiles.

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