commuting

A business that understands bike parking is good for biz

Stone Canoe, an advertising agency on Richmond St. West, understands the need for good bike parking. Most of its employees bike to work. But instead of just buying a commodity bike rack they instead used their creative juices to build their own. The result was impressive: a quite functional bike rack that also represents the company's brand (a stone canoe no less). (Image: Jacques Gallant)

Stone Canoe commissioned a half-ton piece of artwork geared to give cyclists in the area a beautiful place to park their bicycles. The bike rack, reminiscent of a stone canoe, has been installed on the northwest corner of Walnut Ave. and Richmond St. West. The Toronto Stone Canoe team worked closely with Montreal jewellery designer, Pilar Agueci (pilaragueci.com), and Montreal metalsmith, Jacques Gallant (solutionsgallant.com), who designed and built the rack. It serves as a functional roadside attraction, and an indication of the boutique advertising agency’s commitment to creativity, and standing out.

Why the ebiker hate?

Nobody seems to like ebikers: not cyclists nor motor vehicle drivers and especially not pedestrians. Why is it that ebikers get all this hate? Is there a good reason to hate them? (Photo: Toronto Star)

Certainly there are jerks who ride ebikes. But that is not unique to ebikes. There are jerks who use any kind of wheels. So I don't think this is backed up in fact.

I hear from cyclists who hate ebikers. The reasons they give boil down to hating that they come up quickly and silently. And often in the bike lane. These are valid concerns. But these concerns are all wrapped up into a description of the kind of people who use ebikes. This concern seems to be shared by drivers. I heard a rural driver describe what he saw as a typical ebiker: fat, lazy, unhealthy, low income people. And because the people in this category are entirely "unsexy" it becomes all the easier to hate the mode of transportation and the choice.

The stereotype is accurate (except for lazy). In a recent survey by the City of travel behaviour, we can see that ebikers tend to be older, less healthy and have lower income. A stats nut, inkhorn82, crunched the survey data and spit out some interesting facts. The conclusion: ebikers tend to be older, less healthy and lower income than the average Toronto traveller.

So now we have an interesting picture emerging, with two parallel descriptions of who is most likely to ride E-bikes:

1) 50 – 64 year olds in not the greatest of health
and
2) Non University educated folks with lower than $80,000 income.

I hope that we can separate our concerns about ebikes and the stereotype of the riders. Who rides the ebikes - except for identifying individual jerks - is entirely irrelevant to the discussion as far as I'm concerned. Ironically, this stereotype had until recently been assigned to the lowly bicycle (at least in North America). With bicycles having attained elitist, latte-drinking status it seems the mantle has moved to the ebike.

When I look at ebikes themselves, I find it hard to believe that ebikes are as dangerous as some cyclists make them out to be. Like a bicycle they can be driven fast or slow (though only to a max of 32 km/hr). There are heavier ebikes, but then there are also heavier bicycles. Cargo bikes and bakfietsen, increasingly seen carting around children and groceries, are also heavy.

But more importantly, the people who argue that ebikes are dangerous back up their assertions with absolutely nothing, and compare this danger to nothing.

This outrage over ebikes seems to be another case of ignoring the elephant in the room. Motor vehicles are far more dangerous - they kill many more people than ebikes, weigh a lot more, can go a lot faster - and cyclists are forced to ride amongst these rumbling beasts constantly as if it was the most normal thing to ride in a herd of stampeding elephants.

The next time someone talks about something being "dangerous", if they fail to mention "relative to ...", you can safely ignore them. Everything we do has a risk and it is absolutely a waste of our time to consider "danger" in isolation. This is simply fear mongering. Instead a risk needs to be considered in the context of other risks (and also considered should be perceived versus actual risk). And in this case the risk of an ebike to cyclists pales in comparison to the risk of a motor vehicle.

Compared to the danger of motor vehicles I really don't have much time for this ebiker hate. And find it a waste of time to use this as a basis for transportation policy.

Rolling: a video

From Transportation Alternatives, New York. "For the past 40 years, Transportation Alternatives has been demanding (and winning) new bicycle lanes across the city. Now, it’s easier to bicycle than ever before."

Union Station might make it more difficult to reach by bike

[Update: PWIC accepted the Front Street EA Report with an amendment: "The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee requested the Downtown Design Review Panel to meet with the Acting General Manager, Transportation Services, the Director, Community Planning, Toronto and East York District, and the Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee to review the report on the Front Street West Reconfiguration - Environmental Assessment Study and provide comments to be forwarded to the March 5, 2012, meeting of City Council."

PWIC basically recognized there were some strong concerns about the lack of cycling infrastructure. Hopefully something improved can be figured out in time for the City Council meeting.]

Union Station is the busiest transportation hub in the country. For some time it's been known that something needed to be improved for the stream of people walking in and out of the station across Front Street. Today there is a meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee to look at the Front Street Environmental Assessment Report. It looks like a big improvement for pedestrians and as someone who occasionally uses Union, I will appreciate that cars will have more deference to me walking across. I continue to be flummoxed why cyclists' safety is being sacrificed to get there while motor vehicles will still get plenty of room. I ask the planners to imagine an 8 year old or an 80 year old on a bike navigate this section of Front.

Union Station would constitute a ”mobility hub” under Metrolinx’s mobility hub guidelines, which calls for "Balanced Access to and from Transit Stations":

  • Create safe and direct pedestrian and cycling routes to rapid transit stations from major destinations and regional cycling and pedestrian networks.
  • Provide secure and plentiful bicycle parking at station entrances with additional cycling amenities at high volume locations.
  • Provide clearly marked and protected access for pedestrians and cyclists at station areas to minimize conflicts, particularly at passenger pick-up and drop-offs (PPUDO), bus facilities, and parking access points.

Toronto Committee to give cyclists late Christmas gift

Everyone loves to park in the bike lane

City Hall is back in business after the holiday season, but the gifts keep on coming. Parking on busy streets during rush hour, or blocking a bike lane any time has been increased by $150 fine if passed by city hall.

Public works and infrastructure voted 3-2 Wednesday to hike the fine from the current $60 for parking in a no stopping or standing zone and $40 for parking in a no parking zone.

The two dissenting votes were cast by councillors Shiner and Parker, who worried the hike is a “feel good” motion when the real problem is enforcement.

Tickets are issued by parking enforcement officers who work for Toronto police.

Shiner said their quota system — called “targets” by police — that sees parking officers expected to issue a certain number of tickets per day means they hit lots of cars at expired meters or on side-streets, rather than one car blocking busy traffic and causing a huge headache.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the committee's chair, agreed with the dissenters and said city staff will talk to police about better enforcement.

“We are moving forward in trying to address congestion,” said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong chair of the public works committee. “This is a positive step forward.”

The increased fine is one part of attacking the problem, he said, and proper enforcement is another.

The fine hike would need to go to council for approval before coming into effect.

Traffic congestion is not increasing in central Toronto: it's a suburban problem

The Mayor has jumped onto the traffic congestion crisis bandwagon: "Toronto’s economy loses billions of dollars every year from gridlock and traffic congestion. We need to make the situation better – not worse." (for example, by adding another car lane to Jarvis). Councillor Parker at least seems to understand the issue by recognizing that we "cannot grow enough roads to accommodate every new resident in a private car; alternative means of mobility will be required" but still figures that we have to be "fair" by making "the most of the motor vehicle carrying capacity that our roads can provide". Presumably this means in order to be "fair" to car drivers Parker would have to oppose any proposal that takes away an existing car lane.

Even though facts never get in the way of the mayor having his way, we can at least investigate this further into this congestion thing. Fact one: traffic into and out of the core has been virtually stable. In-bound vehicles (excluding bicycles) has hovered around 100,000 vehicles and in-bound person trips have hovered around 300,000 during the peak travel time of 7am to 10am between 1985 and 2006. Traffic congestion may be getting worse in other parts of Toronto - the number of in-bound and out-bound trips has increased for city's boundary, but we shouldn't confuse the rest of Toronto with Toronto's Central Area.

Number of vehicles entering/leaving Toronto's central area
Number vehicle trips are stable in and out of Toronto's Central Area.

BixiTO stations and bike lanes map: navigating your way around Bixi in Toronto

[Update: I've linked below to the casa map, due to popular demand. Thanks Antony]

Some people (particularly those without cellphones) have been asking for a printable map of BixiTO stations. I've cobbled one together - nothing pretty but functional.

Credit goes to Ride the City which is producing a great bike mapping site for a whole slew of cities. And credit to Bixi for publishing their data so other applications can easily be created to show the station locations as well as the activity at those stations. It enables Ride the City to show all the stations and it also allows us to look at cool activity maps like the following shot of Toronto, Saturday, May 7, 2011. Compared to other Bixi locations, Toronto is doing really well, especially given that it's not even a week old:
Activity map of BixiTO

Portland is by far the bike-friendliest city in North America, but Toronto is still okay

Por Que No on Mississippi

Portland is tops for cycling in large North American cities, BikePortland.org reports on a new study, Analysis of Bicycling Trends and Policies in Large American Cities: Lessons for New York, by John Pucher of Rutgers University and Ralph Buehler of Virginia Tech. Toronto, while still higher up in terms of percentage of cyclists commuting (especially in the core), it seems to be falling behind in other measures. Pucher and Buehler make comparisons among American cities on a number of different cycling statistics, including cycling levels, safety and policies. They then compared the data from the large American cities to three large Canadian cities, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Canada overall came out looking good in some areas. Even though cycling rates have been rising faster in the US, the percentage of bike commuters in Canada is still double that of the US.

The number of bike commuters in the USA rose by 64% from 1990 to 2009, and the bike share of commuters rose from 0.4% to 0.6%. Over the shorter period from 1996 to 2006, the number of bike commuters in Canada rose by 42%, and the bike share of commuters rose from 1.1% to 1.3%. From 1988 to 2008, cycling fatalities fell by 66% in Canada and by 21% in the USA; serious injuries fell by 40% in Canada and by 31% in the USA.

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