herb's blog

After Cycle Toronto's Bagels for Bikes, is the Harbord BIA wavering in their opposition to the bike lanes?

Rain fell all day, but inside fresh baked goods greeted people at the Harbord Bakery for the Bagels for Bikes "buy-in" last Saturday. People arrived by bike hoping to persuade the Harbord Bakery to drop their opposition to the bidirectional bike lanes which would potentially remove about 20 parking spaces out of about 150 spaces on Harbord1. (Photo: Cycle Toronto)

Cycle Toronto members purchased bagels and other baked goods at the Harbord Bakery and chatted with the local merchants who had also provided some free pastries as a sort of olive branch to the wet cyclists who arrived to show their support for the City's separated bike lane plan.

It might bode well for the bike lanes that public works chair Denzil Minnan-Wong showed up to talk with cyclists and the merchants. Councillor Adam Vaughan, the councillor for that section of Harbord, was not there. It's unclear why.

The Harbord BIA's opposition may have wavered a little bit since the Star reported that the Bakery owner Susan Wisniewski figured the bidirectional bike lane was going to be a "horror story" that would lead to collisions. A bit of "father knows best" and the apocalypse rolled into one.

Neil Wright, Harbord BIA Chair, said that it was the BIA and not the Harbord Bakery which was pushing the anti-bike lane petition. It was unfair, he claimed, of the Toronto Star to put the Harbord Bakery as the leader in the fight against the Harbord bike lane. And even if the BIA was hosting the petition, Wright clarified that the Harbord BIA has yet to take an official stand on the proposed two-way cycle track. They will wait until the official proposal comes out in the next month or so. Is the BIA backtracking a bit or were they misquoted in the media?

We'll give you some love if you do the same

The Harbord BIA would do well to embrace cyclists as customers. Harbord is already the second busiest bike route in Toronto (after College), with cyclists representing 40 per cent of traffic during rush hour, according to a city report released in June. On any day, the Harbord Bakery and other businesses along the street likely see more dollars coming in from people who walked, biked or took TTC in then who drove. The evidence shows us that while drivers may spend more for each trip they make, cyclists return much more frequently and end up spending more.

With limited car parking and no more room for cars on the roadway, businesses need to look beyond cars for ways to attract customers. Green Apple Books in San Francisco realized this as well: "We're in a pretty congested neighborhood; parking is tough. There's no alleys, so delivery trucks have to do their business up front. On top of it, sidewalks are pretty narrow." Sounds like many downtown Toronto businesses.

Rather than killing business, the bidirectional bike lanes would make it easier for customers to arrive with a minimal loss of car parking (only 20 car parking spaces on all of Harbord). Between Queen's Park Circle and Ossington only 115 out of 195 (59%) of the parking spaces are occupied on average. Even after the loss of some spaces, the BIA will still have enough spaces nearby to meet all the peak demand. (The peak demand, by the way, is actually on weekday evenings which suggests that a lot of it is occupied by local residents and not even customers necessarily.)

Leave the predictions to the experts
Instead of predicting a coming apocalypse, businesses should be working with the City and with cyclists to better understand the risks of the various options and create a good plan with which we can all be happy. The best available evidence we have at this time suggest that bidirectional cycle tracks would be safer than the current door-zone cycling on Harbord. A study (Lusk et al.) of the bidirectional cycle tracks in Montreal and found them to be safer than the adjacent streets without any protection: “Compared with bicycling on a reference street…these cycle tracks had a 28% lower injury rate.”

No horror stories in Montreal: cycle tracks have made Montreal cyclists happier and safer. We can do the same here.

1. Yes, I'm talking again about Harbord Street. Not only is it a regular route for me (and many others), it is a bit of a bellweather of how political will in the face of merchant opposition for cycling infrastructure. If we can't bloody well finish the Harbord bike lane after a couple decades, then what hope do we have for Bloor or other downtown streets?

A built-in-America city bike: Detroit Bikes

Bike manufacturing might be making a comeback in North America in the cultural epicentre of the automobile if Zak Pashak of Detroit Bikes has his way. Zak came to town recently to launch his new bike and introduce his new company.

Zak plans to reinvigorat mass bike manufacturing in America. He purchased a large factory in Detroit and equipment to ramp up to 40,000 bikes a year (cross fingers). Most bike manufacturing in North America is now on a much smaller, mostly custom, scale and most mass production has moved offshore to Taiwan and China.

After selling two successful bars in Calgary and Vancouver, Zak uprooted to Detroit with no definite plans. Detroit bars turned out to be already quite excellent so Zak decided to jump into bike manufacturing. Though Zak had no previous experience in the bike industry he is nothing if not ambitious. Looks like he's made a good start though there's always room for improvement.

Zak (on the left) chatting about Detroit bars? Bottom brackets?

Bikes on Wheels is carrying the bikes in Toronto. For TIFF goers, the word is that you'll also get a chance to purchase a Detroit Bike. So keep an eye out for them on the red carpet.

I tooled around a bit on the matte black bike at the launch and found it comfortable and simple to use. They kept it simple: back pedal and/or use the front brake to stop; and choose one of three speeds from the internal gear hub. The basics is how I like to have it for my many short bike trips.

The design looks like it was inspired by traditional cruiser bikes like the old CCM. The Detroit Bike looks like it was designed to fit into the same price point and appeal of those looking at Linus, Public, Bobbin and similar lower-end city bikes.

A plus for women is that the top tube is shorter than on a Linus bike which puts the rider in a more upright position. Women typically need a shorter top tube and longer seat tube then men.

To make it feel unique, they gave every bike gets its own metal tag with a number. I didn't check but I hope that each also gets a unique number stamped into the bottom bracket for identification in case of theft.

The rack looks great with its laser cut logo and would appeal to those who are already purchasing Linus or similar bikes. These racks, however, only hold about 35 pounds max. I can easily exceed that on a grocery shopping trip. The Detroit Bikes rack may also not fit some pannier clips as the tubing is a fairly thick, though it will work with baskets as seen in the photo above of the bikes at Bikes on Wheels. If you're considering the bike as a utilitarian machine I recommend bringing a loaded pannier or basket to see how it handles.

For everyone else just enjoy it.

Let's all move to the Hammer! Hamilton approves separated bike lanes while we keep plodding along

Hamilton City Council just approved a separated bidirectional bike lane along the length of Cannon Street, a distance of over 5 km in downtown Hamilton. And did so despite it being controversial (Photo: Raise the Hammer)

"This is a tough call," said Councillor Bernie Morelli, who added he's heard from bike-lane supporters as well as residents enraged by the plan. "But I want (councillors) to know you're doing the right thing."

Over in Hogtown, our new Transportation General Manager Steven Buckley - who originally oversaw the building of 250 miles of bike lanes and trails in Philadelphia - told Kuitenbrouwer of the National Post saying he doesn't want to offend anyone when a bike lane is proposed.

“I try to site a bike lane where nobody ends up feeling that they are a loser,” he says. “Where pedestrians or businesses or drivers start seeing that they are losing something, you have a problem. Many cities are seeing that now and even New York is in that boat.”

That's just depressing. Just mentioning bikes is enough to bring out the crazies. Even a bikeshare station bizarrely offends some people, such as seen with the launch of Citibike in New York. A bike lane always breeds controversy in car-fetish cities.

I really hope that was just Buckley's way of saying he is listening carefully to the community and not a signal that he will roll over and play dead whenever a bakery or bank wants to preserve its primordial, god-given right to a curbside parking spot.

And while Hamilton councillors praise the amount of community support for the separated bike lane plan, Toronto has had to push back against the likes of Councillor Vaughan who has resisted separated bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide (unlike Councillor McConnell's strong support) and even now seems to be angry and resentful that he has been forced into supporting them, according to the National Post:

But Councillor Adam Vaughan is no fan of these bike lanes. Recently I sat on the public benches during a council meeting, chatting with Mr. Minnan-Wong. Mr. Vaughan came up. The two councillors went at each other hammer and tong, with me in the middle, about bike lanes on Richmond-Adelaide.

I wonder if Hamilton can sell us some of their multivitamins that's giving their councillors so much backbone and clear heads.

Note: Buckley also noted that they just don't have the capacity and a shortage of staff. To be fair this might be an issue in Hamilton as well for all I know. Only 1% of Toronto transportation staff work on cycling and they're stretched to the limit. Buckley suggested he'd be open to using consultants to help with capacity though he didn't mention why he hasn't done it already. This is not new: for years the cycling budget hasn't been spent because they are short-staffed.

Cyclist seriously injured on Harbord: is a painted line still "good enough"?

A cyclist was seriously injured on Harbord near Euclid on the weekend. There weren't a lot of details on how it happened but from the photo we can see the cyclist hit the windshield. Currently Harbord has a painted bike lane next to parked cars along that stretch.

With events like this it gets a bit frustrating that we have some road warrior cyclists who claim that Harbord is "good enough" and that all plans for separated bike lanes for the street should be stopped immediately. Is Harbord good enough because it has some painted lines and bike symbols? I don't think anyone believes that a painted line is going to ensure someone's safety, especially if that painted line is right next to a parked car.

While there are plenty of other major streets that need separated bike lanes - my personal favourite is Queen Street - Harbord needs to be safer too. Peak hour bike traffic is already at about 40% so by making Harbord safer we're improving the lives of a lot of cyclists.

Separated bike lanes (bidirectional or unidirectional) are safer than painted bike lanes and definitely safer than just sharrows (see footnotes here). While we don't know for sure if it would have helped this guy, we do know separated bike lanes do make streets safer for cyclists.

Boosting cycling and walking key to solving transit woes

The following article is a reprint of an article by Albert Koehl, an environmental lawyer and cycling advocate. He was on the Ontario Chief Coroner's stakeholder panel for cycling safety.

By process of elimination, simple means of getting around like walking and cycling must be looking increasingly attractive to Ontario's provincial and municipal politicians as they struggle to fund new
transit to unclog roads.

The need for better transit is obvious. How to fund that transit: not so much. That's why it's a good time to invest in relatively quick and cheap measures to increase walking and cycling safety to get more people out of their cars and to provide clean and affordable ways to get to new transit once it's in place.

Cars

In step one of our existing car-dominated system an individual forks over big bucks to buy and operate a transport product (the car). Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), estimates that the average household spends over $9100 annually on car ownership.

In step two the individual, whether car owner or not, pays various taxes that ultimately fund highways and roads as well as associated costs like policing, health care, and environmental degradation.

In the final step, the individual gets into a car in order to travel just a bit faster, but often slower, than a bicycle.

Transit

The Metrolinx plan for rapid transit expansion in the GTHA calls on each household to contribute an average of $477 per year. It's a relatively small amount but still a hard sell, particularly to grumpy motorists already burdened by vehicle costs. It doesn't matter that only two of the proposed funding tools target motorists or that low-income earners, who benefit most from transit, would be compensated by a mobility tax credit.

Walking and cycling

Fortunately, walking and cycling improvements don't require multi-billion dollar investments. Equally important, once the Metrolinx plan is fully implemented over 70 per cent of GTHA residents will live within two kilometers of rapid transit service -- close enough to cycle or walk to a station.

Building our cities to accommodate cars has meant creating public roadways that usually aren't welcoming to cyclists or pedestrians, even for short trips. In Toronto more than half of all trips are actually less than seven km and therefore easily manageable by bike (or on foot for shorter distances). Simple investments like marked mid-street crossings (which could address some of the 31 per cent of mid-block pedestrian deaths recently identified by Ontario's Chief Coroner), more bike lanes, and slower speeds are a good and inexpensive start to improved safety.

Bike lanes are often attacked as being too expensive. The claim has a hollow ring for homeowners (like me) who cycle to get around --- and therefore put minimal demand on the road system --- but pay the same amount in property taxes as neighbours with two or three cars.

Painting a bike lane on a street isn't expensive. It's the complex studies, including environmental assessments (EA) that are expensive.

These EAs often have little to do bicycles and much to do with figuring out how to accommodate every potentially displaced motorist or parking spot.

Bike lanes actually present the opportunity to increase a road's traffic capacity. After the installation of bike lanes on Jarvis St. in downtown Toronto, traffic increased from 13,300 to almost 14,000 vehicles per day. The bike lanes were nonetheless removed and a car lane re-installed (at huge cost) because civic leaders cared little about the vehicles without exhaust pipes.

Getting more kids out of the back seats of cars and onto their feet on the way to school will cost little more than the price of putting the initiative in place. In a Metrolinx pilot project at 30 schools, kids were given the opportunity to walk to school as part of a supervised program. As a result, car drop-offs in the morning fell by 7 per cent and kilometres driven were cut by 100,000 in a single year. Lower speed limits in neighbourhoods around schools would give even more parents the confidence to send their kids to school on foot (and take advantage of the obvious and long term health benefits.)

The monetary savings created by walking and cycling might also create a greater willingness (and capacity) to contribute to transit projects.

While we resolve the bickering around transit funding there are great opportunities to make small but valuable investments in cycling and walking that will serve us well today ... and tomorrow when the new transit finally shows up.

Harbord Bakery, you're right. One-way protected bike lanes are better. So let's build them and remove all the parking

You know what? One-way protected bike lanes are probably better than two-way for Harbord. Thanks Harbord Bakery for bringing up the issue. But the Harbord Bakery failed to offer any alternative so I will: let's build one-way protected bike lanes on Harbord.

While bidirectional is the best way to accommodate some curbside parking while also providing safe protected bike lanes, this option has been obviously rejected by the Harbord Bakery (and their allies) as "dangerous". So that just leaves one-way (unidirectional) protected bike lanes as the best remaining option.

While bidirectional is certainly not dangerous, it is safer than nothing at all1, I will agree that unidirectional is even better2 for Harbord.

Everyone is safer with separation
As in the above diagram you can see that a protected bike lane on each side of the street provides a nice buffer for both cyclists and pedestrians, improving safety for everyone. Protected bicycle lanes have been shown to reduce injuries for all street users - pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. In New York City the protected bike lane install at Prospect Park led to a 21% reduction in injuries across the board; no pedestrian injuries during the 6 months between the installation and the study and a huge drop in sidewalk cycling.

This all results from providing dedicated space for cyclists on a major street. Motorists no longer have to worry about cyclists swerving in front of them; cyclists don't have to worry about cars blocking their path or swerving into their lane; and pedestrians don't need to worry about a bike coming down the sidewalk. A win-win-win situation.

Parking
It's unfortunate but necessary that it requires removing all the curbside parking, but isn't that a small price to pay for saving people's lives? The Harbord Bakery is not important enough to sacrifice cyclist and pedestrian safety anymore.

Adjustments can be made: off-street parking exists or extra can be built3. Suburbanites can still drive in and get their bagels. It's just that we'll no longer consider their convenience as more important than our lives.

We need a safe continuous route
Harbord is the second busiest cycling route in the city. Cycling represents up to 40% of all traffic during peak hours. Right now Harbord is our only real chance for a continuous, unbroken cycling route through the downtown. Completing a safe cycling route on Harbord would be a major boon for both street users and for businesses along the route.

If you agree you could consider sending a note to the Harbord Bakery to let them know, whatever it looks like, we prefer protected bike lanes to no bike lanes. Even if it means taking out all the curbside parking. We're not trying to punish anyone. We just want to be safe.

Footnotes:
1. Though bidirectional separated bike lanes are still safer than nothing at all. The research backs it up (as I mentioned in my previous post).
2. Veló Quebec recommends one-way cycle tracks over two-way when there are many cross streets. The new Ontario Bicycle Facilities guide lays out some mitigation measures including a dedicated signal phase; improving the sightlines by moving parking and street furniture away from intersections; clearly marking the intersections and banning turning if needed. Montreal, Vancouver and Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam still have lots of bidirectional cycle tracks that work well enough.
3. Parking can be accommodated off-street. Where there's a will, there are means. At Hoskin and Spadina there are two parking lots on the east side of Spadina (U of T Graduate House). At Bordon and Harbord there is a large school parking lot. I'm sure the school board could be enticed to create public parking there as an additional revenue source.

Strange bedfellows and petitions galore!

anti-bike lane petition

In a funny twist, a handful of Harbord businesses have become bedfellows with a couple of activists, including one who previously fought for Harbord bike lanes, and are now trying to stop separated bidirectional bike lanes on Harbord. Meanwhile activist group Cycle Toronto has launched their own petition buttressing support for the lanes.

We the undersigned

On the anti petition side we've got a guy named Marko and a self-described "carmudgenly" cycling activist, Hamish Wilson. Their petition asks Councillors Layton and Vaughan to halt the plan for bidirectional separated bike lanes on Harbord, calling them "dangerous", citing Transport Canada (1). A reader sent me the photo above of the petition displayed prominently at Harbord Bakery and said they saw about 100 signatures (and there might be another hundred or so signatures captured elsewhere).

Meanwhile Cycle Toronto's petition in support of the separated bike lanes has over 220 signatures (here and in paper versions going around).

But even this isn't the only petition. In 2010, a petition for the separated bike lane network was sent to the public works committee and included the call to "complete and separate the Wellesley/Harbord bicycle lanes system and end the gaps in the system at Queens Park and on Harbord." It has about 150 signatures on it. A number of organizations and groups also sent letters of support at that time which if we counted all the people involved in those groups would add up to thousands of people (2).

Both councillors for Ward 19 and 20, Councillor Mike Layton and Councillor Adam Vaughan, have stated publicly that they support the separated bike lanes on Harbord. We'll see what these petitions mean for their continued support.

The centre of the battle

This is what it looks like near the Harbord Bakery currently: squeezing between moving and parked cars, and token sharrows. And where there are bike lanes they are typically treated by motorists as free parking.

I'm not alone in that estimation. People who signed the Cycle Toronto petition had similar comments. From Bradley:

I frequently bike on Harbord, and although it is a very good street for cycling, I don't believe Sharrows do anything to help cyclists, and separated lanes are the way to go to improve cycling in Toronto today and in the future. Bidirectional lanes are my preferred option for both safety and ease of movement, allowing easier passing and a mix of cyclists of different skill and comfort levels.

And from Jennifer:

I live in the West end and commute by bicycle daily along Harbord to the downtown core. Harbord/Hoskins is a well used biking route. While the current painted lines offer cyclists some amount of protection, the fact that cyclists must ride in between parked cars (which are often pulling out into traffic) and the busy roadway, and the busyness of the bike lanes, makes this route a perfect option for separated bidirectional lanes. I also use the Sherbourne Street bike route on occasion and the painted separated route makes cycling much more visible and predictable for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

These responses are typical of people who are not "hardcore" cyclists used to mixing it up with the elephant herd. Most people, studies have shown, prefer separation.

Running with the elephants by bikeyface.com

I don't think the anti group has clarified that they are fighting for a street that is already frustrating, unsafe and not even connected. Is that the kind of street they think most cyclists prefer? If so they're deluded.

Strange bedfellows

The businesses opposed to this plan seem to be led by the owners of the Harbord Bakery and Neil Wright, Chair of the Harbord BIA. They've been vocally opposed to bike lanes for decades. In the 1990s they fought off bike lanes in their domain and managed to do it again a few years ago.

I had thought that this opposition had softened when I attended a public meeting last fall organized by Councillor Vaughan, writing in my blog post that it was a mostly positive, albeit lukewarm, response from business. In fact, the owner of the Harbord Bakery even stood up to announce they have always been pro-bike, they had been one of first to install a bike rack! Alas, it was not to be. Instead a strange alliance formed to oppose the proposal.

Hamish Wilson was a key person in fighting for a complete Harbord bike lane in the 1990s. Wilson and a number of other activists worked doggedly for the bike lane. They measured out the street width to ensure that bike lanes could fit, talked to merchants, worked with City staff. But in the end City staff caved in to business concerns about losing some curbside parking and left two disjointed bike lanes to the east and west. And now the activist is fighting against bike lanes.

Why the opposition?

The BIA Chair and the Harbord Bakery seem to be dead set against bike lanes in any form, perhaps thinking that the bike lanes will hurt their businesses. But with New York City and elsewhere experiencing booming business revenues where bike lanes were built (revenues up 49% compared to 3% elsewhere), this has become more of an outdated notion. We now know that cyclists have more disposable income and shop more often).

It's easy to imagine why the Harbord businesses are opposed even though misguided, but I can't really understand the passion with which Marko and Hamish are fighting against this proposal. Perhaps it's fear of the unknown. In cities where bidirectional has been built I have found no such outcry.

Risky game

What the petition writers gloss over is that risk is always relative risk. We can't just label something "dangerous" and something else "safe". Is climbing a ladder "dangerous" or "safe"? It doesn't make sense to ask it that way. Instead we should be comparing the risk to something else. For instance, is climbing a ladder more or less risky than taking a shower? Likewise is a bidirectional separated bike lane riskier than riding next to the threat of car doors opening? To answer that question we need real data, not just opinion.

The UBC Cycling in Cities studies, for instance, are helpful in that they have shown that separated bike lanes are significantly safer than bike lanes next to parked cars. And Dr. Lusk's studies of separated bike lanes in Montreal showed that not only is cycling on bidirectional separated bike lanes more popular, they are** safer** than streets without any bicycle provisions (3). And this is despite the fact that Montreal's bike lanes lack many of the measures now used to make them even safer: green markings through intersections, set back car parking and so on.

The petition writers are just bullshitting if they claim they know a bidirectional bike lane is more dangerous than what we have currently on Harbord. They don't have the evidence to make such a claim. Transport Canada references a Danish study but no link to the study. We don't know the context, when it is relevant, how to compare it to other dangers, or how various cities have made modifications to make them better.

Furthermore, their claim of "danger lanes" begs the question, if they're so dangerous why do numerous cities still have bidirectional bike lanes and continue to build them? Montreal, New York, Vancouver, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and other cities all have bidirectional with no evidence of cyclists dropping like flies so far as I tell.

Bidirectional versus unidirectional - either is fine so long as we get them

Funnily, the anti petition could perhaps hurt the anti cause. The petition says they are "in favour of keeping Harbord's current unidirectional bike lane setup".

The bidirectional bike lanes remove fewer parking spots than a unidirectional bike lane. That's one main reason why City staff are proposing bidirectional: to save some parking. If some people are against the bidirectional, perhaps we should all push for unidirectional. If it means taking out all the parking between Bathurst and Spadina so be it. Isn't that a small price to pay for increased safety?

I wonder what would happen to the unholy alliance in that case?

The world has moved on

Meanwhile, we could have had this already (photo by Paul Krueger):

While we're still fighting old fights in Toronto the world has moved on. In the last few years we've seen North American cities move far beyond painted bike lanes by installing separated bike lanes all over their downtowns. New York, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Chicago and other cities are all building separated bike lanes. City officials have official guides. Studies show that separation is both safer and more popular. Dutch and Danish cities have had them for decades.

It seems to me that by teaming up with anti-bike lane businesses the petition writers are playing a dangerous game (or should I say risky?) that is going to make it harder to build bike lanes of any kind anywhere in this city whether it stops the bidirectional lanes or not.

Footnotes:
1. The petition claims "According to research conducted by Transport Canada, experts conclude that bidirectional bike lanes are more dangerous than unidirectional bike lanes." I didn't receive any additional information, though I believe it's this link, which includes a reference to a Danish report that recommended unidirectional over bidirectional separated bike lanes saying bidirectional could create more conflicts at intersections. What the reference does not say is if the Danish compared bidirectional to painted or even no bike lanes at all.
2. Letters of support from: Cycle Toronto, the York Quay Neighbourhood Association, The U of T Graduate Student’s Union, University of Toronto Faculty Association, the Toronto Island Community Association, the St Lawrence Neighbourhood Association, the ABC (Yorkville) Residents Association, the Palmerston Residents Association, the Bay Cloverhill Residents Association, the Parkdale Resident Association, South Rosedale Residents Association, the Moore Park Residents Association, the Oak Street Housing Coop Inc., and Mountain Equipment Co-op.
*3. The study states: "our results suggest that two-way cycle tracks on one side of the road have either lower or similar injury rates compared with bicycling in the street without bicycle provisions. This lowered risk is also in spite of the less-than-ideal design of the Montreal cycle tracks, such as lacking parking setbacks at intersections, a recommended practice."

Bike mechanics may finally get some respect: Ontario working on a certified apprentice program

derailleur close-up

Bicycle mechanics get little respect yet we demand much of them. Everybody wants their bikes in perfect running order but we typically under value the complexity of the mechanics, at least in North America. Thus bicycle mechanics get paid little and many accomplished mechanics I know have talked about moving into other technical trades where the pay is higher and where there is more respect. (Photo by backonthebus)

That might be changing as Ontario is working on a provincial apprentice program for bicycle mechanics. The apprentice program is currently hanging in limbo as different departments work to approve it. The province has invited potential bicycle mechanics apprentices to participate in a 45 day waiting period before it becomes official. Roy Berger, a bicycle mechanic from Brantford, ON, was one of those invited. Yet Berger told me that the province has yet to start the waiting period.

Between March 2013 and April 2013 the Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities made a Training Agreement with 113 Bicycle Mechanic Apprentices in Ontario and provided a 30 page Schedule of Training.

For the longest time bicycle mechanics has been undervalued as only fit for teenagers and people who can't get a real mechanical job. The low pay has matched that expectation. With an apprentice program bike mechanics might finally become a respected profession which might also result in better pay, conditions and also safer repairing, maintaining and building of bikes. Or as Berger told me:

Papers, if you got papers, you like papers. People covet trade papers in all countries. I see this trade paper in the same category as a certificate for a gastronomical chef. You don't have to hire the guy but you figure that fellow is up to a certain minimum standard. It begins to set a bar and perhaps some day form a trade association same as chefs, hair dressers and other trades that require skill, dedication and interest. This one, our thing, is in the public interest. It's good for little Johnny, Susan and Mohammad. It's good for baby polar bears and tiger cubs. It's all about reinforcing the green and saving the planet. It's a decent moral trade. Now we have a real opportunity to step up to it. We've been wanting this for decades.

Currently Berger and other bike mechanics are just waiting. Berger received a apprentice card in the mail but now is just waiting on the government. The provincial ministry has designated bicycle mechanic as a new apprenticeship program but is hanging in limbo by another act. As explained by a ministry spokesperson:

The trade of Bicycle Mechanic was designated as a new apprenticeship program under the Apprenticeship and Certification Act, 1998 (ACA) in 2012. However, the trade is yet to be prescribed (named) under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009 (the Act).

When the new Act came into effect on April 8, 2013, the previous apprenticeship legislation and regulations governing apprenticeship programs, including the ACA, were revoked.

Before the Ministry can name the trade in a regulation under the Act, a 45-day consultation period with industry and training stakeholders will be required to confirm support for Bicycle Mechanic to be named as a trade under the Act.

Once support is confirmed the following events will need to occur:
· the trade will need to be named in Ontario Regulation 175/11 (Prescribed Trades and Related Matters);
· the College will need to develop the scopes of practice in regulation (O. Reg. 278/11 – Scope of Practice - Trades in the Service Sector); and
· the College of Trades Board of Governors will need to establish a panel review to determine compulsory or voluntary designation.

As of April 8, 2013 and until these events occur, no new training agreements can be registered for the trade of Bicycle Mechanic.

Active training agreements with existing apprentices will continue to be honoured; they continue to be registered apprentices with the Ministry until such time as the trade is designated or not. Please note these apprentices cannot be members of the Ontario College of Trades until the trade is named under the Act.

Once the apprenticeship program is running it will require the apprentice to put in 2000 hours of time which is followed by an exam with both practical and written components "at an institution and with an instructor yet to be named". Those who pass are certified but it will still be up to the bike shop to choose someone who is certified.

So here's crossing our fingers for bike mechanics. I know I like having the people who work on my bicycle to be good at their jobs. My life depends on it.

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