Slightly more original myths...

NOW magazine published an issue on cycling. In addition to some well thought out proposals from Cycle Toronto, they included the usual set of shop-worn "myths" motorists and cyclists supposedly have about each other.

I have read most of these supposed "myths" before, in fact many times and in many articles. I consider many of the supposed "facts" provided by Now as flat out wrong as the so-called "myths". To try and make a positive contribution to the discussion, I propose a series of "myth-fact" pairs that I haven't read quite so often before.

Loans help expand Bixi business to more cities worldwide: Bixi

There's been a lot of negative press the last while about the Public Bicycle System Company and the recent deal with the City of Montreal. It wasn't just rant radio outlets like Newstalk 1010 (which invited a rant radio host from Montreal to rant about the deal) but even the CBC was calling it a "bailout". The Montreal Gazette had a hate-on for Bixi and attempted to make it seem like a huge scandal. La Presse was a bit more sympathetic. Many forgot that the large car companies - GM and Chrysler - needed government intervention into the "free market" to keep them from failing. Those billions of dollars could have been used profitably for any number of uses that actually benefit society, environmentally and socially. People also forget that our society subsidizes cars with billions for highways, healthcare costs and environmental costs while providing next to no money for cycling, pedestrians or transit.

Warning: car may cause climate change, resource exhaustion, pollution and sprawl

An open letter to the Wheels Section of The Toronto Star by Hamish Wilson:

There is no reason to celebrate the gross waste of resources and environmental destruction of automobility, so aptly pictured on the cover of the Wheels 25th anniversary section.

There's a massive parking lot leaching salt, wiper fluids (perhaps with TeflonTM?), spilt oil and radiator fluids directly into Lake Ontario and our drinking water; energy hog power cars are spewing their exhausts and fine burnt particles from tire-burning starts to sensationalize often-deadly speed; and valuable urban land is covered only with asphalt, not houses.

And while the Star doesn't really notice such anomalies as near-record warmth and rain on this 25th Anniversary, let alone draw dots from billions of particles of fossil fuel combustion to climate change, at least we know of a lot of extreme weather events going on in the world, and some media are less "carrupt" to at least mention that these extreme events are consistent with climate change. But any message of conservation might be less "seasonal" as it could mean buying less, and interfering with profits - and not just yours.

Getting bikes into the "Wheels" sections of newspapers

It's a bit of tilting at windmills to try to push newspapers into cover more than just the latest, shiny car or gas-guzzling SUV. Local quixotic advocates (such as former courier Wayne Scott) have been trying to get the media to play fair by pushing for inclusion of even a little bit of cycling in the automobile sections of newspapers (not to mention television or the internet). It would be a big accomplishment, given that our local Toronto Star "Wheels" section is the largest such car fetish read in the country.

Recently the Ride the City folks suggested that the New York Times could dedicate one day a year to a Bicycle section in place of their Automobile section. They even included a mockup of what it might look like. It's all very utopian, but it can be useful for us to dream.

Replace the New York Times Automobiles section with a Bicycling section once a year. That would be just one week devoted to bicycles and bicycling—the remaining 51 weeks would continue to be devoted to cars.

Book Review: One Less Car - a look at the politics of the bicycle and car

Photo by velomama.

During these dark Toronto days (both literally and politically) it's good to step back and take a look at the landscape of the insurgency and the counterinsurgency of cycling. Whether we like it or not, the simple act of riding your bike in Toronto (and North America) is a political act. Some cyclists are more intentionally activist and involved in changing the system, but the mere presence of a bicycle on the street makes a political claim to that road and to the institutions that support it.

As Toronto shifts into a new era where the Mayor sees all cyclists as irresponsibly "swimming with the sharks" (as if we had decided to climb Mount Everest), it's helpful to read One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility, which analyses how we got to where we are, as Torontonians and North Americans. The author, Zack Furness, assistant professor in Cultural Studies at a university in Chicago, happens to both an academic and a bit of a bike geek. You don't have to wait for the book to arrive in the mail as you can read some of his interesting writing online, including the first chapter of the book, an engaging analysis of the politics of cycling in the turning point of the 2004 Republican Convention in NYC and the Critical Mass ride that sparked a massive and harsh crackdown by police as the peaceful rides became criminalized. Only now is NYC shifting towards spending more money on installing bike infrastructure than clamping down on Critical Mass.

Editor of car fetish Wheels joins ranks of cyclists

A few weeks ago a positive cycling article came out in - of all places - Wheels, the Toronto Star's car fetish section. The author, Mark Richardson, rode country roads alongside Eleanor McMahon, founder of the Share the Road coalition. The article is interesting for not only its focus on McMahon's strong push for better cycling infrastructure and her experience working with politicians and policy-makers, but also for the fact that Richardson has had an increasing personal interest in cycling. As he notes in a May article, Cyclists aren't leaving, and add Editor to ranks:

Yes, the editor of Canada’s largest automotive publication also rides a bicycle. I wrote here last summer of how my cruel and unusual wife, a keen cyclist, has been prying me from the broad saddle of my Harley-Davidson and onto the spindly seat of her old Fisher hybrid. My kids bought me Lycra cycling gear for my birthday, and on a pleasant afternoon, the two of us will head out on the country roads near our home in Milton.

And then in July, Richardson's wife convinced him to go on the 730 km Great Waterfront Trail Adventure from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Quebec border.

Second annual Pants-optional Dandyhorse Launch Party, Thursday Oct 7

$6 for the Dandyhorse magazine plus a donation at the door.

Featuring: DJ Triple-X and some nice door prizes (so we've been told). Taking place at Parts & Labour, 1556 Queen St W (in Parkdale).

Despite dandyhorses being mostly useless first-generation machines, pushed by the upperclass men by scooting their feet in a "dandy-like" way, which met a dead-end until someone came up with the idea of pedals and cranks, the Dandyhorse magazine is simply great and this should be a great party.

More of my anti-hobby horse diatribe some other day, but just one last thought. It's interesting to think now how during the time of the dandyhorse, no one could imagine how to make a more efficient machine with even mechanics believing that nothing could be more efficient than a walking man. Little did they know.

The cargo and child-carrying bakfiets getting noticed

Mari on bakfiets with kids: Photo by Andrew Tolson for Maclean'sMari on bakfiets with kids: Photo by Andrew Tolson for Maclean's

There aren't any statistics, but it certainly looks like there are lot more "bakfiets" / cargo bikes out on Canadian streets ("bakfiets" is Dutch for box bike and is a general term for any bike with a box for cargo or kids). Mainstream Maclean's magazine rarely pays any attention to urban alternative transportation, let alone bikes, but even they've noticed a proliferation of cargo bikes. It's not exactly booming but these bikes stand out in a crowd, particularly if a slight woman is pedalling a large bike with kids in the front. The cars move out of the way and pedestrians stop and stare.

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