A New Farmer’s Market is happening on Yonge St

July 25, 2012

There’s an awesome new farmer’s market, hosted by a couple of amazing farmers, outside of ING DIRECT at 221 Yonge.  From 3-6 on Thursday, you can pick up amazing, well loved local produce, bacon, eggs, and other meats…read below for more and come say hi!

I just got off the phone with a soaking wet Zak. He’s been washing beets on the farm, and it’s a wet job that lets you cool down, though you also get very muddy…

At market this week, Zak will be bringing the jewel toned gold, yellow and purple beets that stop people in their tracks, and filling a request for some Collard Greens*, which of course go very well with bacon from Wendy’s farm. Just saying.

The full list looks something like this:
Field and Vine Tomatoes
Cauliflower and Broccoli
Rutabaga (being dug up as I write)
Collards
Eggplant
Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
Russian Blue Fingerling Potatoes
White and Red Potatoes
White and Red Fingerling Potatoes
Beans
Kohlrabi
Zucchini
Cucumber
Carrots
Kale
Garlic
Celery
Romaine
Red Leaf Lettuce
A Little Corn

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I just got off the phone with a soaking wet Zak. He’s been washing beets on the farm, and it’s a wet job that lets you cool down, though you also get very muddy…
At market this week, Zak will be bringing the jewel toned gold, yellow and purple beets that stop people in their tracks, and filling a request for some Collard Greens*, which of course go very well with bacon from Wendy’s farm. Just saying.

The full list looks something like this:
Field and Vine Tomatoes
Cauliflower and Broccoli
Rutabaga (being dug up as I write)
Collards
Eggplant
Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
Russian Blue Fingerling Potatoes
White and Red Potatoes
White and Red Fingerling Potatoes
Beans
Kohlrabi
Zucchini
Cucumber
Carrots
Kale
Garlic
Celery
Romaine
Red Leaf Lettuce
A Little Corn

Prices on the vegetables vary with amounts for sale from $1 to $5. The meats are precooked or easy to cook, and are mostly $6 and under, again depending on amounts.

Zak also has a small number of Bizjak’s Ontario Apples and a small selection of pasture raised meats from Green Gate Farm. http://greengatefarms.wix.com/home. Wendy from Green Gate will be sending some bacon to go with the Collards as well as her meat loaf, some cabbage rolls, pepperettes, pork sausages, and a few chicken pies and shepherd’s pies. Quantities are limited, first come first served.

*The traditional way to cook collard greens is to chop them and boil or simmer slowly with a piece of salt pork or ham hock for a long time (this tempers their tough texture and smooths out their bitter flavor) until they are very soft. Typically, greens are served with freshly baked corn bread to dip into the pot-likker. Pot likker is the highly concentrated, vitamin-filled broth that results from the long boil of the greens. It is, in other words, the “liquor” left in the pot.It is said by southern grandmothers that “Pot likker will cure what ails you and if nothing ailing you, it will give you a good cleaning out.” – http://whatscookingamerica.net/Vegetables/CollardGreens.htm

Unions are Great. Bikes are Great. Cycle Toronto.

April 10, 2012

It’s been a bit since I communed through the ole’ blog, but as a director of the Toronto Cyclists Union I’ve now become very engaged in a healthy discussion with our membership about changing the name of the organization to Cycle Toronto, a change that I feel strongly will be a key catalyst for other changes we’re looking forward to implementing.  The founder of our group, Dave Meslin, wrote a nice piece about why we should “Stick to the Union”  that I feel overlooked some key issues with our current name as well as many of the objections that have been tabled.  In short, my response to that post can be summarized in a couple of points:

  • The board and staff are finalizing a plan for the marketing transition, and it is way less difficult than is outlined in the post.  It won’t be an immediate transition which means that Toronto Cyclists Union may continue to live on for a year and beyond in old “swag”. Our main resources including the tent (in need of replacing anyways), posters, and digital media will be updated quickly with other pieces entering circulation as the old ones need replacing.
  • Toronto Cyclists Union.  bike union.  TCU.  BU.   All are names that we are currently referred to as.  Our brand guidelines dictate bike toronto never be capitalizes, and that our name never be abbreviated.  Our logo puts Toronto Cyclists Union all in lowercase.  Essentially, we currently have very little brand control.  We have 2100 members in a city of 2.5 million. We’re not as visible as we sometimes feel internally and we have never had control of our brand or logo…which makes this a perfect time for a change.
  • Nothing in the letter from the board mentioned “raving right-wingers”, but Dave clearly understands that the term union can be alienating and points that fact out in his post.  In a city that is divided along strict geographic and political lines, our current name often unintentionally frames our advocacy on partisan lines. Wouldn’t it be nice to have at least one issue whose politics are seen as non-partisan?  If a raving right winger is killed on their bike, would we not still have a ride?  Are they not also important allies in the fight for a safer, better cycling city?
  • The other organizations that Dave mentions receive so little grant funding are named Transportation Alternatives, Active Transportation Alliance, Citizens for Safe Cycling, Bike Portland, Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and the Seattle Bicycle Club.  They may not get much in grants, but the majority are heavily sponsored by businesses and trade organizations.  Those are groups we are currently having trouble connecting with…seems they can’t get past our name.

I’m going to leave the response to that.  I greatly respect Dave and his opinion, as I do that of each of our members, which is why this very important decision will be made by our membership with 2/3 ratification needed to change the name.  Whatever that decision, I hope that we are even more united and prepared for strong advocacy in the years to come.

Remember this map? It sort of looks like our membership...less than 10% of our members are outside the downtown core.

More importantly, here’s why you should vote to change the organization’s name to Cycle Toronto:  we need to be representative of all parts of Toronto, even the ones that have only been parts for a decade or so, in order to make systematic change happen at City Hall.  We need 10,000 members (minimum) to have the voting clout we need to be a strong voice.  Moreover, we can be a unifying force for all cyclists in this city – that’s always been our goal – and having a polarizing word right in our name (our first impression) doesn’t help.  The bike union has received a lot of feedback via our comment email box: twothirdsmajority@bikeunion.to, and among the emails have been requests for specifics around when our name has been an obstacle to our success and growth.  Here’s three:

 

  • A large insurance company wanted to provide cycling courses for its customers as a perk of doing business with them.  After calling one of our partner organizations for help, they were directed to the bike union.  The next day, they called back and said that they could not work with us because we were a union.
  • During one of our BikeWatch events, a cyclist pulled over to speak with one of our team and said, “I love bicycles, but I would never support you because I would never join a union”
  • No less than three local bike shops have chosen not to post our flyers and/or join our member discount program because they felt our name wouldn’t sit well with their customers.

I love unions.  I would like to see them return to their hayday of activism that laid the groundwork for so many of the privileges that we enjoy in Canada.  I even really like provocative names.  But I don’t understand when or why protecting the idea of the union became synonymous with separated bike lanes, safe routes to school, and increased penalties for giving cyclists the door prize?  Do we want an organization that encourages participation only from self-selected union-supporting cyclists? Or do we want a group that includes cyclists from all of Toronto, creates a common narrative, and allows people to organize and advocate as loudly and proudly as is needed with a shared, powerful voice?

The choice for our members is:  Which one?  Do we want real, substantive change powered by the masses or a fringe group that fights and scratches with extremely limited resources to make slow and iterative change?

In January, 80+ members joined staff and the board for a wonderful 2-day strategy session, the outcomes of which will be shared in the next week along with our action plan for the next 12 months.  What came out of that session was that we want 10,000 members.  We want to increase our engagement with schools and safe routes to get there.  We want to have more members in the suburbs and to continue to support new comers or just new cyclists in starting to ride.  No part of our strategy had to do with preserving the glory of the word union.  In fact, reading our strategy, it seems we already are Cycle Toronto – a group that can operate in a wide range of activities from “learn to cycle classes” for large insurance companies, to leading protest rides and demanding equitable road share at city hall.

In a city mired in geographically and philosophically polarized partisanship, shouldn’t we, the lovers of the bike, lead the charge in being inclusive?  We can create bridges for discussions that can change this city.  We plan to only get louder, and advocate more boldly in the future and can do so equally well under either name.  The difference is that one name allows far more people to self-identify as part of our fold and that may just make all the difference in making Toronto the best damn place to ride a bike in the world.

Please vote for the change.  Come to the AGM or please send a proxy.  This is a great time to re-commit to the individual, person by person advocacy that can create real change.  Please make your choice, and then recruit two new members to vote with you in whichever direction you choose.  This is your union, but the opportunities to be a united set of cyclists as Cycle Toronto are too great to ignore.

 

Change the Conversation

July 9, 2011

With more cyclists (by my unofficial count) than any other N American city, Toronto continues to manage to have about the worst cycling infrastructure, and also the least love for cyclists, amongst those same cities.  After watching the conversation around Jarvis and illegal riding maneuvers over the last week, I think I’m starting to understand why.

We need unity and larger thinking from the cycling community.

For a brief moment earlier this year, when #bikeTO was rallying around the proposed separated bike lane plan, I thought we might just make it.  For the first time, we had a chance at a small piece of the many cycling-related improvements this city needs.  For a short moment in the sun, it seemed that most cyclists were supportive of this plan, flaws and all, much like they had been of BIXI’s launch in Toronto.  Remember BIXI?  It’s only here because cyclists were willing to unify behind the idea and even throw $100 of their own cash into the mix.  Before I circle back to the point, let me take you on a quick look back.

2010.  The biggest, most important issue on #bikeTO radar was getting separated, centre lanes installed on University Ave.  (Toronto Star – 21 April 2010)  I haven’t ever thought of University Ave as a place where there are many cyclists, but there are quite a few who cut through the park as there is no safe place to ride on road.  I never really found this to be the best use of our collective voice…one bike lane…on a little used bike road?  for a few blocks?  Nonetheless, University Ave became the rallying call for many TO cyclists.  How’d that work out?  Under a more friendly political climate, and only asking for a 3 month pilot of the lanes, cyclists got nada.  Nothing.  Not even some sort of “other plan” to move the lane east or west came out of it.  Cyclists were shut down and shut out, having spent their entire summer rallying for a now dead cause.

Need a little more from 2010?  Remember Darcy Allen Shepperd?  Did you catch the news story where all charges were dropped against Michael Bryant? (The Star – 25 May 2010).  Seems that the well-heeled lawyer was panicked by the incident, causing him to drive the cyslist from street lamp to streetlamp in order to detach him from the car.  Panicking is apparently a good legal defense for killing someone…and somehow the driver was able to claim some sort of self defense as the always-dangerous bicycle was threatening him.  At this point, it should be becoming clear that cyclists are considered second class citizens in this city.  Especially when silver spoon drivers are involved.

Let’s jump ahead to more recent history.  The movement to save Jarvis:

  • Lanes were installed at a cost of around $60,000 (although our benevolent mayor, in all his wisdom, did mention something about a $6M cost during his campaign).
  • Traffic patterns along Jarvis have not changed a bit, save for a 5 minute delay when heading northbound at rush hour during an eclipse (I made the last part up – the rest is from the city’s own traffic data)
  • The city is now voting this week on spending $600,000 to remove the bike lanes and replace the changeable centre lane.

Obviously, this is stupid.  There’s a fiscal responsibility issue, a safety issue, and a larger issue that is our new administration looking for ways to thumb its nose at the last administration, no matter how foolish or wasteful.  But there’s something else wrong with this picture as well. Why is it that we are repeating the same mistake of last year and focusing all of our political voice (as small and pedal powered as it may be) onto this single space….used by so few of the city’s cyclists everyday?  With the University Ave proposal, at least we would have gotten something new.  Now, we’re spending tons of time and energy just to save something we already have.  Worse still, the financial and traffic implications of this decision are so amazingly stupid and out of whack, that it shouldn’t even be cyclists rallying against this, but the same voters who put Ford in office to stop the gravy train.

I was able to travel to Chicago this week and did a ton of riding there, as I always do.  I saw them putting bike lanes down in new places, saw the city’s first separated lane, and saw cargo bikes with kids in them, tall bikes, trikes, and even small bikes.  That city, like New York and Montreal, Vancouver and now Ottawa did not waste its political capital on small, isolated battles like a Jarvis or University bike lane.  Over many years, advocates insisted that they be able to traverse the city by bike…anywhere…safely.  Similarly, that is the only answer for Toronto.  In order to move cycling ahead in this city, we need to support new cycling infrastructure wholeheartedly and use it…just like we’re doing with BIXI.  The separated bike lanes network proposed by PWIC may not be perfect.  As a cyclist, it might not even make sense…but it does start to shift the paradigm towards paying more attention to the 1000’s of us who bike here everyday and who are going to continue to squeeze into the 5-7 inches next to the curb on King St, or deal with construction on Dundas for months with nowhere to ride, and even those of us who only bike on the lakefront because the city is too scary and our spandex too clean.  All of those groups need to come together and support pushing this narrative forward rather than clinging to small, unimportant and un-impactful puzzle pieces.  As cyclists, we know the myriad of great reasons to bike.  But to our car-encased counterparts across the city, the following joys are still a mystery:

  • getting a workout DURING a commute
  • not spewing earth-killing emissions into our city
  • paying less in maintenance in a year than the average driver pays for gas in a month
  • not having to search for parking
  • being able to feel a part of the city, say hi to people, look them in the eye, and find new great places while we get lost on new backroads

These are the points that we should be making more readily.  We, the cyclists, need to do more to invite more and more drivers outside of their cars and onto two wheels.  We are in a city that sprawls as far as any on this continent and certainly the furthest of any sprawling city that also has winter to contend with.  There are huge challenges to making cycling the predominant form of travel here, but precisely for this reason we need to think and aim big.  Full networks of safe cycling are the only answer.  We may or may not end up Saving Jarvis, but it really won’t matter as we’re spending another year targeting small victories.

Separated Bike Lanes Now!

February 20, 2011

If you’ve spent a few minutes looking at this site, you’ll remember posts like Special Lanes Need Enforcement, Manhattan Cycling Scene, and A Dandytime and My First Bike Box – all of which deal with smarter, more efficient, and most importantly safer ways of structuring roads to take care of cyclists -and all road users.  With a plan for separated bike lanes up for discussion in the months to come for Toronto, I think it is important to speak for the urgency and necessity of improved cycling now.  Permanent infrastructure can, and perhaps should, sometimes take time to implement. Following the example of extremely successful projects in London UK, Montreal, and New York – Toronto must move quickly in embracing cycling as a part of the city.

In  both examples, projects were completed quickly and were immediately successful.  Don’t wait for any more “accidents” – aka life-threatening collisions – to start making cycling safer.  Sign our petition for Separated Bike Lanes NOW,

Let’s all grab a shovel and make a neighbor – Part 1

January 9, 2011

Yesterday, Toronto had a chance to wake up to something that it hasn’t seen for quite a while…an actually substantial amount of the most fun stuff in the world: snow.  It made it a great day to spend time outside, to prioritize what it is one needs to do, and to simplify and slow down to the point where life is just made up of:

“Let’s smile and say hi to everyone who looks back with a smile”

The best thing about yesterday was that as I walked and played outside, I ran into many other people who wanted to do the same thing.  I started chats and overheard conversations about all kinds of things, most of the louder ones being of the happier sort.  (another way you know it’s a good kind of day).  I saw a potential new apartment, dealt gracefully with streetcar delays, and walked all across the lower east side and thought back on my blog posting about “It’s Harder to be Kind Than Clever – watch the video“.

I saw new conversations happening where it was clear that two new friends – having been living next door to each other for who knows how long – were finally speaking after multiple near misses, enabled by their shared plight of having to shovel.  I overheard snips of conversations along Yonge St about…well…Banjo mostly, as people just talk about him alot.  There seems to be plenty of unrequited dog adoration happening in Toronto.  But the other thing that people were discussing everywhere was the network of separated bicycle lanes  (Toronto Star Article) that there is an excellent opportunity, right now, to make happen.

While this is going to end up being a long blog post, I hope you’ll remember first and foremost to please email your councillor, info@bikeunion.to, and pwic@toronto.ca and support these bike lanes, so that less people need to be hurt trying simply earning a living and moving themselves throughout Toronto.

Cyclists, and any driver who has ever had a nervous moment on the road, and all pedestrians know that these lanes will make the roads safer.  Anyone who has had the extreme privilege of exploring Copenhagen or Amsterdam knows that traffic will flow more freely around central Toronto if these lanes are installed.  As shown in New York (Read about my visit to NY ) it is possible to install entire vast systems of infrastructure.  Poetically,  Mayor Ford’s office announced the day prior to our snowfall that it had no objections to the separated bike lanes plan supported by Councillor Minan Wong (new chair of the public works and infrastructure committee).

Mayor Ford’s office should support separated bike lanes.   The Globe and Mail‘s reporting that “it is not a priority” does not say they are against them and is extremely irresponsible by the Globe and Mail.  I never look to them for news anyways and will not link to that paper on this blog. Reporting direct quotes on indirect responses to things helps no one. If they would like to ask Ford’s staff, in addition, whether they would be against bike lanes if and when it comes up, i will feel better about their directing my readers to consider them unbiased.

Every councillor in this city has an opportunity- in supporting this plan – to show solidarity on an issue that is an actual, legitimate improvement for everyone who uses Toronto’s streets.  It enables more people to get around the city without being at risk while they simply move about.  Cars collide more with other cars than anything else, and insurance is set up to take care of these situations.  We call them accidents.  They also collide with other things, but only when a pedestrian or a cyclist is involved is there a high risk for injury no matter what the situation.  Few are mad about the costs and inherent risks of making cars a normal part of our transportation system because the genius of cars also allows me to travel great distances and see places that I simply cannot take the time to bike or walk to in today’s society.  That’s also why I love trains (I find them awesome in an almost uncomfortable way) and planes as well.  It’s the same reason I like spaceships.  I’m ok they blow up once in awhile because we as a society have weighed the risks and rewards and said yes they are useful and we can deal with a crash or a failed mission in search of greater growth.  After accepting these risks, we’ve built a good system for making sure that cars hit cyclists and pedestrians far less than each other.  I’m fairly certain that the risks of being either a storefront, a lightpost, or a cyclist hit by a car are pretty much the same.  Cars hit each other, despite our great system for preventing them from doing so, because they are driven by humans.

And lets face it, we all sort of just suck at being perfect at anything.

Sometimes i try to touch my nose and I touch my ear…or the side of my head, or someone’s side mirror instead.  I’m not perfect.  When me, or say 99.9% of the “friends I haven’t met yet” are driving around the city, and we feel less-than perfect, we don’t drive.  But then once in awhile,we have things occur like what happened in this story.  Did you click it?  I’m spoon-feeding you here…the thinking is still ahead.  All I’m asking is click the link…I know you got  a computer virus like this once…but do it.  It’s why the internet is cool.  Note the effect on the driver’s health.  Note the effect on the storefront’s health.  Whether the storefront is a storefront or a 60 year old woman didn’t matter in the state less-than-perfect that this driver was in. Now note the last line.  The one most memorable to those who think this story matters:

“Police are still trying to determine the cause of the accident.”

Of course it was an accident.  I know that the elderly woman struck by the car wasn’t being attacked, as if by some other weapon.  The reason it’s a weapon is that the last line again…the one the media should end the story with (and, for the record, if someone would please do this just once, I would love it):

“Police are still investigating what turned a previously sane person, no different than readers of this paper, into a driver with skills equal to those of an untrained goldfish to cause this accident”

Drivers do not drive into banks.  Sometimes a stroke or a something or other causes them to do so. The reason the word struck is important is that it’s been decided at some point that CP24, who reports news SO FAST (amazing, really) that they need to use the word struck when the driver is in danger of more than likely being liable for legal, rather than insurance panel, claims.  Again, this all makes sense because that’s the system we’ve all agreed on…and it works.  There are downsides, like the fact that this also drives CP24 to end with the accident line…not the goldfish line, even though its just as true, it is much less defensible in court.  That wouldn’t be fair to the driver.  That too, I know…presuming he wasn’t drunk which doesn’t seem to have been the case in this story.

Turns out, in this story, when picked up mere hours earlier by  a blog on the, National Post, the woman had changed (80 years old) and the mall proper, not the storefront was to blame.  All of this makes me actually think that the last lines of both stories should read, in what I hope is Onionesque fashion for all the good work they do running the world’s longest tongue in cheek joke series without smiling,

“Police are still investigating the death of the Pinko 60 Year Old Woman who was turned into a purple butterfly and is no longer living.  The driver, and the editors of two major news magazines are under investigation in the transmogrification.  The editors of the newspapers are filing class action lawsuits against the universities of the world for their continued unwillingness to teach students how to fact check things that aren’t already on google or in a library.”

The point is that despite this critical flaw in reporting new happenings – probably turns out that everyone was busy trying to save all of the “friends who we haven’t met” lives. Then they can go and have a beer together.  The man in the car could tell the woman how it felt to suddenly have the driving abilities of a goldfish.

And now, to get back to the wider reaching intentions of this tome, here is a main point:  Voting occurs not just in elections, but in communicating with government.  The same goes for communicating with the media.   In both cases, we must first be conscious of the gaps and flaws in the systems we build.

A main one right now is that there are 1000’s of cyclists (CBC Story)   These numbers are awfully low.  Like all stats, it just depends on what the parameters of the survey are and this one is only tracking cyclists that ride across certain boundaries in the city.  It’s not all of the cyclists but its a good start when you understand the data.   Seems like they don’t bike much where I bike, but that’s ok..I guess.  But the important story is that there ARE 19,000 human beings riding bikes to pick up groceries, to get to work at the hospital, to play or practice  for one of the professional sports teams in town, or to help police our streets from the saddle and all of them are in danger to the human condition which is this: we’re all human…and there’s a bunch of us.  The best system in the world only limits injuries and deaths.

This data and commentary suggests that counting just major crossings is a good predictor of cyclist behavior.  Investments have been made in this area to increase cycling, and we find that it is now a dense cycling area.  College St is used as one example.  Cyclists will go wherever the paths of least resistance are through the city.  They’ll go where they feel safest.  Today, those areas are streets like College, Harbord, Shuter, St George, and Greenwood.  Cyclists like me are actually more inclined to take a route with other cyclists rather than just the fastest route.  Its safer.

I hope you’ll at least stick with me here and agree that I’ve given all of these topics a lot of thought and now feel that:

The separated bike lanes system means that Toronto can step up and be among the best transit systems in the world.  It will limit injuries and deaths.

In the case of the bikelanes I feel the challenge we will face is perspective, in this case the ability to be empathetic to a road user that is currently most exposed to injury and death.   Bike lanes are a simple place to be kind.

ALL ROAD USERS: DRIVERS, CYCLISTS, AND PEDESTRIANS BENEFIT FROM A PHILOSOPHICAL SHIFT TOWARDS PROTECTING THOSE AROUND US IN OUR SHARED CITIES.  PLEASE EMAIL pwic@toronto.ca – the Public Infrastructure and Works Commission , info@bikeunion.to, and especially your local councillor and make sure that people are kept safe.

Have you got a shovel? Part 2

January 9, 2011

…continued

On the freeways, cars collide and cause damage.  This damage is limited by the cars themselves, and people are relatively unscathed. Because of the psychological systems we’ve built around driving, the crash is addressed as part of a system.  For a variety of reasons, people are hurt very rarely despite many many crashes on our freeways.  The roads, built for the cars only are able to help limit serious injuries.  The media, focussed on getting the news fast cannot always get it right, for the exact same reason that driver’s cannot always get it right.  These incidents are called accidents, partially due to the legal system which gives the media firm parameters on what it can and cannot say.  Then the most important system, our ethical one…which varies a bit from person to person, gets its chance to weigh in with what the media should do.  Combine all those 4 systems and we have an amazing system here for making sure the right things happen, but it doesn’t cover everything…it just makes all the holes really small.  At the end of the day, all of these systems only work when we, as individuals, hone our own ethical systems through thought and focus, knowing all the while that we can never know if we’re getting the answers right because the problems are honestly just too complicated and there’s always a way to find a pretty solid-seeming defense on why to do something differently.

On surface roads in the suburbs and outer areas, there are multiple lanes of traffic as most residents (citizens and taxpayers) choose to use cars where cyclists are generally welcome to use the sidewalks that go largely unused.  This unspoken agreement, combined with the natural motions of the area, manages to create a barrier between different road users.  It’s important to note that even sidewalks are considered part of the road – or street – by the city.  Freeways belong entirely to the cars and cost tons of money.  But because they are also critical for shipping goods that we all need, and because lots of cyclists and pedestrians who live downtown use them and love them too, although more sparingly for whatever reason.

In the downtown core things are different.  Super dense numbers of road users of all types.  Cyclists – who are given no quarter on current Toronto road designs in which to amass – continue to have small numbers compared to pedestrians and cars.  At many intersections, buildings placed too near corners can cause pedestrian passings to be blind engagements.  Some don’t react quickly (goldfish moment) and bump into another.  Colliding. Crashing.  They are accidents, but it would be silly to call it so.  It simply is.  Its a fact of sharing tight spaces with other people. And because, for just an instant, we can smell the other person, feel the fabric of their jacket, and whether their arm is squishy, hard, or somewhere in the middle, these interactions are called other things.  Unless someone has an especially hard area or someone is going especially quickly, everyone leaves unscathed.

Meanwhile car drivers have stress-relief techniques taught to them so that they can properly remember their accidents with the other drivers.

Get all of the details right.

Make sure to get the insurance information, exchange phone numbers.

Avoid being angry and wait for the police.

Many of these collisions result in private, drawn out investigations but, so long as no one is badly hurt, the insurance agencies which both parties have by law – simply for cases like this.  While the incidents are called “accidents”, the multi billion dollar industry full of lobbyists and fine print used by automobile owners as a government/public-imposed, self regulated, capital-based legal decision that surrounds its surely cannot be.

The insurance dues paid by auto drivers exist completely because of accidents. Politics, I think, can actually be seen as working really well here.   The Auto users pay into a pool that settles as many “accident” disputes as possible without clogging the legal system.  And auto users, for good reason, pay out the nose for this system.  Cyclists and pedestrians don’t pay because their disputes also don’t tend to clog up any legal systems.  Having hit a pedestrian once who just didn’t see me as he stepped into the well defined Chicago bike lane I was riding in (defined with paint), at high speed (25k) on a bike only to both stand up slowly, make sure we were both ok, and move along, I’m fairly certain that not too many cyclists are handing over 500 quick bucks in order to avoid going to court (as might sometimes happen when a really nice car hits a less nice one, resulting in minor bumper damage…the insurance industry charges luxury premiums).

The point is that the separated bike lanes are inherently good as they make more of our road surface safely usable for all road users. Pedestrians will have extra distance between the building they are striding past and the cars, instead having an area of greatly less risk, so that if they forget themselves and take a step too far, they will stand up and shake hands with the person who’s day has been ruined by hitting them (cyclist), instead of possibly not standing up for sometime as medical help is called (driver).  Other scenarios are possible, but this is the most likely.  Drivers benefit as the curbs make them take more acute right turns, instead of the gently curved corners, where curbs disappear, that are still found around downtown.  This will help them avoid hitting cyclists and pedestrians.  While there is a name on the insurance cheque stub given to me at the end of last year, i do not know if it was a man or woman that hit me on July 14th, corner of Queen and Jarvis.  The piece of paper they handed me as I left the hospital some 4 hours later, where I had woken up…really happy to see my wife and not sure how i got there…said that’s where I was hit.  I remember biking East past King and Bay…red truck on my left, guy in sunglasses….looked like a stern but considerate guy.  I notice those things as I check people out in their side mirrors before trying to pass them…on either side…there is no “correct side” for bikes to pass cars on.  If we go on the left, we’re daredevils…going  between cars.  If we go on the right, we “shoot out of nowhere” just as their about to turn right on our shared green right of way. Shared.  Seriously…i got struck by a car.   But now I’m ok, so we had an accident.

The new bike lanes proposed would eliminate some of the blindspot that exists as a bike rides into a car’s field of vision….there’s no debate about it.  It’s the principal of “how mirrors work” that makes the space directly behind the car, like a snowman built on the back left or right corner of the bumper, harder to see than a snow man moved 2 feet further out to either side.  My head reportedly smashed the windshield of the car that hit me, leaving glass embedded in my face. I’m sure that the person that hit me called the hospital to see if I survived, when their busy day demanded that they trudge on, doing the best they could, even though I was still unconscious…leaving in the ambulance for St Michael’s, who treated me so very well.  When her insurance company and I, after months of missed exchanges and voicemails (a couple each way), got ahold of me in December and told me they hadn’t yet received the police report they requested I realized I hadn’t followed up on that report either.

Funny thing though, after laying unconscious for a little over an hour and moving from Queen and Jarvis to a bed at St Mike’s, I woke up.  And despite not knowing why I hurt so badly, or really where I was.  I knew it was a good thing.  I also knew that I wasn’t ready yet to look down at anything and that my whole body hurt from the outside in.  I only remember thinking that i had a body for the first little bit, and vaguely that a doctor asked me a question…i’m pretty sure that’s where they got my wife’s number from as they couldn’t have easily deciphered that from my cell phone listing.  When she got there, and I posed for pictures, the magnitude of the thing hit me.  I had just come as close to death as I’d ever come.  I made it, but wow.

I didn’t wear a helmet when I rode that day and I’m lucky that, in the end, I don’t have to regret it. As best I can tell, I am going to be ok.  I get dizzy sometimes still but its improving and doctors said that was normal for up to 6 months when you get a concussion.  I somehow have no scars on my face and the ones on my shoulder and knee seem like worthy badges for whatever the collision it was i endured.  I seem to remember one of the docs saying I was hit about 45kph, but i can’t really even recall that conversation clearly….most of that first day after getting hit is a bit of a blur.  I cant recall if I had xrays or an mri….i had one, and I’m pretty sure it was x-rays…but there was definitely a machine.  But other than that, my memory before the collision and after seems fine.  I’m riding my bike again, although was relegated to transit for about 2 months overall, able to ride shorter distances again after about 2 weeks.  My awesome, well loved Batavus BuB –  big slow, beautiful city bike was destroyed (MSRP $675).

I consulted with a lawyer who advised me that head things are serious, and while it might take a long time to exhibit issues, i should get papers filed to make sure I can, essentially, keep myself under legal observation until such time that it would make sense to take legal recourse for my damages.  But I don’t pay into the auto driver’s insurance co-op, and I can’t even remember what happened. I could have caused the whole thing.  I might be due damages even if I did cause the whole thing.

It doesn’t really matter who’s fault it is.  Since I don’t remember anything, having a helmet might have changed some things.  Instead of my head smashing breaking her windshield, maybe it bounces off and goes in front of some other thing.  Maybe then I break my leg.  Maybe the impact on my neck from whiplash is enough that I can’t use my legs anymore.  Maybe I still get the concussion, just not the face lacerations.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

From now on, I’m going to wear a helmet because I think it will help send a message to those who would first ask “did they have a helmet on?” when hearing of a cyclist getting hit by a car. It’s not about the helmet, it’s about making sure goldfish moments don’t kill people. I’ll wear a helmet from now until I feel the discussion changes, then I’ll do whatever I’m most comfortable with again; enjoying my own traversals about Toronto.

And I told  the insurance company what I did know about the accident, the conversation quickly turned to money.  I added things up in my head and tried to think of the exact actual cost to me: bike – $675 plus tax.  2 months of transit…say…$30 a week (i don’t do monthly passes…bike makes it so it would be a waste of money – $240.  That’s $925.

Then the woman on the phone said “and of course we’ll pay for your medical damages”.

I am originally from the US, but was invited to Canada to help on a project for work and am extremely grateful for the OHIP program, especially as this was the first time I was able to use it.  -So far, so good in terms of my quality of care etc…and my wife and I are applying for permanent residency here as the city has become our home.  I pay taxes here and feel more than covered by the system.  I can’t guess what “medical expenses” would have been covered.

I’m assuming that the person that hit me with their car hates the fact that it happened, that they might still have nightmares of me bouncing off their windshield.  I also know that there is no chance in hell that i rode purposely in front of any cars.  I ride my bike everywhere, and until now have always been safe.  I  didn’t wear a helmet for the same reason drivers sometime don’t wear a seat belt.  If this collision was my fault, then it was surely an “accident”.  I had a goldfish moment.  That’s the story i’m telling myself anyways because I know it can happen to anyone and I’m not sure I really want to hear the details.  Ignorance; bliss.

That all being true, I received a settlement cheque.  The cheque came a day after I signed off on closure for the incident and was in the exact amount I requested.  I came to the amount after a good deal of thought and philosophical struggle with the actual monetizing of my injury.  In my mind, it was far lower than what I “could have got” but was as close to fair as what I think anyone could get, being that no one knew my injuries and risks in this decision better than me, and that I requested it.  For their part, the insurance company did nothing to stand in my way, so I have peace of mind that it was fair to them and to their clients, the auto owners.   For my part, I’m going to donate the amount to charity – it’s really not much.

It is the blinders that we willingly strap on, blocking out the other, that is preventing the world’s cities…not just Toronto, but certainly including Toronto, from making complete streets and also in extreme cases, for all kinds of other failures to act.  There is no reason, fundamentally, why bikes are bad…in fact, there are so many reasons why they are good that I don’t even care to mention them here.  Yet people continue to block out the fact that cyclists are going to continue to make mistakes, they are going to continue to be hit by doors opening on cabs when someone didn’t look, they are going to continue to be man-slaughtered by automobile drivers, having goldfish moments, not trying to kill anyone.

Now we are immediately seeing shenanigans like quick objection to what is clearly a really good plan, including a quick blurb about a $40M Pricetag from a guy who is also committed to cycling, yet has something standing in the way of reaching out an olive branch on this system.  There should be cease and desist orders requested on comments like this from the cycling community as now one cyclist (Mr Vaughan) has a chance to scrap a plan purportedly because his ward constituents don’t want it.  I think they do want it and, honestly, its on those people in Ward 20, and in every other ward across this city to tell their councillors what they want.  That’s the way the system works and for all of the disagreements I may or may not have for about how Mr Ford runs this city in the time to come, i totally support that he was elected and that there will be no excuses for taxpayers that don’t take the time to talk to their local councillor.  It’s what the government system, built by many years and many people can only work correctly if everyone is engaged.

The media should must better job of being even handed, especially with SunTV now making their way north based on a business model that, after yesterday, should at least give people pause if not fits of anger (the business model…hopefully SunTV will actually be “fair and balanced” and offer news).  But if they don’t, it’s not really their fault.  Because that means that individuals still turn that channel on.  Those individuals who are willing to be increasingly lax with their expectations of decency and good work (which is what good media should be) are responsible, who continue to click their tongues when something is a bit too offensive, but not changing the channel and who change their political opinions without doing the best they can to find, and then decide on, the best information.

Mayor Ford has asked for Torontonians to tell him what they want…he’s promised to lend a listening ear.  He might even listen too well, jumping into the news because some guy apparently told him that he didn’t like the plastic grocery bag fee.  Notice anything funny about that link?  Check again?  Nope?  Well then I’m sorry, you’ve missed my point.  Check out this article.  I think there’s issues with both articles…but I read them both.  Would you have normally?

This environment, at least the one Mayor Ford is creating by asking for engagement, is what democracy is all about.  We need Rob Ford, Denzill Minan-Wong, Adam Vaughan, and all our councillors…as well as the media that reports on them…to pick up some big shovels..

We need them to plow through the layers of stories commenting on the place of cycling in cities and get back to ensuring that Torontonians can leave their houses alive with an expectation that their neighbors, colleagues, and friends they haven’t met yet care about them getting to their destination alive as well.  Not choosing to be pro-cyclist with regards to the bike lanes means that you are taking full responsibility for the collisions that happen in the future that this system can prevent now.

Please PLEASE email council, Rob Ford, your councillor, and especially pwic@toronto.ca (the Public Works and INfrastructure Committee), and cc info@bikeunion.to and demand that we stop talking about who gets where faster and we start helping our friends we haven’t met yet to get where they need to alive.

This, like snow, is a great issue to take outside of politics.  Use it instead to make the guy that lives next door your neighbor.  I lived in Tucson for a summer and got enough of a sense of the “system” in place there to get have a bit of  an idea of the challenges and interests that Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was clearly asking for help with in his press statement.  I suspect that there are a lot of people in Tucson soul searching as words suddenly seem to actually affect actions and thoughts again…at least for today.  Let’s get ourselves some shovel, say hello to the people we share this city with, talk, and build new separated bike lanes.


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car owner = tax payer?

January 2, 2011

Yesterday, Mayor Ford posted this to his twitter account (@ToMayorFord)

There are several major problems with this announcement…the main one being that somehow “taxpayer” is synonymous with “car owner:” for our new mayor.  None of the $64M in savings will go to non car owners including those residents depending on the TTC for their transportation, or on their own self-generated, carbon free volition through walking, roller blading, or cycling.  While this may just be poorly thought out semantics, it seems a dangerous and slippery slope.

In addition to the thousands of Bike Riding PInkos who won’t be benefitting at all from this new policy, there are thousands more whose income levels don’t allow for them to own a money and gas-guzzling car.  This change will only benefit the lower middle class on up to the super rich.  It seems safe to assume that the removal of this fee will also benefit a higher proportion of people in the inner suburb ring that voted for Ford (see map below) where owning a car is a near requirement of life as transit service is less and distance to most destinations greater than for those who predominantly did not vote for Ford who live downtown.  This might appear at first to be politics as usual, playing to supporters but the effects of $64M in revenue being removed from the city makes Ford’s promise not to reduce services all the more unlikely.

The “savings” represents nearly 20% of the $300M 2010 budget surplus (Toronto Star on the Surplus) and exceeds the $60M TTC surplus, effectively handing money from transit users to car owners in a move that goes against modern environmentally friendly common sense.  In a related New Year’s news story, the Toronto Library is facing service cuts (Toronto Star on Proposed Library Service Cuts).  Certainly the librarians whose jobs will be lost, as well the avid readers who enjoy access to free knowledge that for millennia has been a hallmark of great societies, could find a use for the $64M that the city has just taken from itself.

Interestingly, there are no proposed cuts to libraries in the areas where Ford’s support base reside.  They will again only affect downtown, including the Urban Affairs branch consisting of thousands of books and theses on how best to run a city.  Irony run amok.

All of this combined begs the question: where is our city?  Is it the downtown core with its culture, arts, transit, professional sports, and the density of an extremely diverse group of people who through their daily walks and rides interact and converse with each other?  Or is it the Pro-Ford horseshoe made up of a higher percentage of car owners who, through no fault of their own, are isolated from many of the effects that result from policy at City Hall?

In research released recently by U of T professor David Hulchanski and reported by Steve LaFleur on NewGeography.com,, Toronto’s wealth distribution has inverted to the downtown core since the 1970’s (Oil Crisis, anyone?).  The world’s top talent and heroes of tomorrow no longer want sprawling houses located along major freeways…they want livable cities (as reflected in the map below)and they are taking their high earning power back to densely populated urban areas.  While the ability to connect from anywhere continues to expand and change, the human need to be around other people is getting stronger as well..  This is a trend reflective of how cities in the rest of the world work.

If Mayor Ford really wants to build subways (CTV on Transit City), the $64M he has just taken away from city taxpayers and given to car owners could have been a great start in overcoming the broken contracts that will result from his plan to kill Transit City.  Amalgamation made Toronto a bigger city, a more populous city, and a city with much much larger coffers because of that increase.  Sharing those funds equally amongst the parts of the city is critical for it’s success but so is making all residents of that area feel like they are part of the same, collective city through shared spaces, shared connections, and the ability for all residents to reach all parts of the city efficiently.  It looks like we have much work ahead to reach that point.

I Dream of 2011…

December 31, 2010

After only 4 months of not posting anything to this blog, I’ve decided it’s time to speak again albeit with a bit of different focus for 2011. While my one remaining, not-destroyed-by-a-car, bike is still saving me tons of money over the TTC, and definitely over having a car, I think there are more important things to proselytize about in the year to come than my personal savings successes from cycling. Rather than spending this last day looking back at the year that was, I want to look ahead…at the year that could be.

January: The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meets for the first time and thanks to hundreds of emails from city voters, the idea of a network of separated bike lanes is tabled for the March meeting.  This prompts thousands of Bike Riding Pinkos to trade in their pink buttons for blue “It Takes Bolls” buttons.  (Referring, of course, to the bollards that would be used initially to pilot bike lanes on Sherbourne). Letters and emails continue to pour in supporting bollard-separated lanes along Sherbourne first…which is up for reconstruction in 2011.

February : The coldest month of the year is the perfect time for the city to embrace cycling as a great way to reduce event-related congestion.  The Toronto Cyclists Union works with a key partner to bring staffed bike valet to all Raptors and Leafs games with the goal of becoming ever-present at major city events by June.  Suddenly, cyclists get to park right by the door at events rather than searching far and wide for an open ring and post.  As a result, the number of people riding to events soars and the Maple Leafs, inspired by their helmet-wearing brethren, go undefeated in February.

March: Mayor Ford joins Toronto Cyclist Union members on a bike tour of Toronto and sees first hand how challenging yet rewarding (and fun) cycling in the city can be.  When he tries to return to City Hall following the ravine-based trail system he promoted during his campaign, he finds himself completely lost somewhere in Riverdale for several days before he comes across several other lost cyclists looking for Evergreen Brickworks.  Ford vows to build a real cycling infrastructure with separated lanes should he ever escape and immediately calls the councillors on the PWIC to make it happen just in time for their March meeting.

April: Toronto Cyclists Union announces that, as a result of the new member benefits it unveiled in January, it has reached 2000 members. When all 2000 show up to use the Bike Valet at the last game of the season, it marks the highest single game attendance of the entire season and prompts the Leafs to plan a 2012 promotion at which the first 2000 fans receive an official Leafs bike helmet.  Inspired, Don Cherry finally collects his pink bike from Curbside Cycle and commits to cycling to every leafs home game in 2012.

May: Construction on Sherbourne begins prompting Spacing Magazine to offer a free button trade-in.  Local stores are overwhelmed as thousands exchange their “It Takes Bolls” buttons for “We Got Bolls” buttons in celebration of the new bike lanes. BIXI finally launches in Toronto, making the need for safe infrastructure all the more important.  In a totally unexpected move, the city closes all streets within the BIXI boundaries for May 30 to promote the kick-off of Bike Month – the group commute.  BIXI memberships immediately soar and Mayor Ford becomes an international media darling…even getting congratulatory calls from Mayor Bloomberg in New York and Copenhagen’s Mayor Mikkelsen.  Gil Penalosa, founder of 8-80 Cities, takes this opportunity to promote an ongoing Ciclovia….

June: Based on the success of the Group Commute and at the behest of Mayor Bloomberg and Mr Penalosa, Mayor Ford announces that Yonge St will be once again closed to automobile traffic.  In a nationally televised ceremony, Ford puts the first bollard in the new separated bike lanes running down the west side of Yonge St from Dundas to Front.  The Eaton Centre and others immediately add street level retail, tourists and locals swarm as the tables and chairs from Yonge/Dundas Square begin to migrate into Yonge itself creating the city’s busiest public space.  Daily usage of Yonge St actually increases and city health officials report that the thousands of Mole People who previously stayed in the Path and Eaton Centre everyday are finding huge health gains from exposure to sunlight.

July: With international tourists flocking to Toronto to experience what is increasingly the world’s most livable city and Yonge St packed with cyclists everyday, Lance Armstrong’s Radioshack team forms an unexpected alliance with Ryder Hesjedal’s Garmin squad as the two tech companies buy out all of the digital screens at Yonge/Dundas for the month to show the Tour de France.  Multiple screens allow for multiple viewpoints from within the Peloton.  Not wanting to miss out, CBC signs a last minute deal with VS. network to show the whole event.  The penultimate mountain stage becomes the most watched event in Canadian history and Hesjedal, against all odds, makes his first podium, finishing 2nd behind Andy and just ahead of Frank Shleck.  Phil Leggett’s voice echoes across Yonge/Dundas square and thousands book flights to Bordeaux after hearing him talk about wine and cheese for hours.

August:  It’s hard to stop a moving train.  Fueled by the successes of BIXI, the Sherbourne bike lanes, and June and July being the two busiest tourist months in Toronto’s history, Mayor Ford declares that the separated bike lane network must be immediately completed.  The network is finished in 1 week at almost no cost.  As an added bonus, Bay St gets separated lanes from Richmond to the lakeshore, immediately increasing visits to the Islands and traffic on the Island ferry.  Businesses scramble to apply for ring and post installations and some even remove car parking in favor of bike corral’s.  Cities the world over start talking about how they can best Torontoize.

September: The Blue Jays, on the cusp of making the playoffs, sell out every game in September helped largely by the cycling community as BIXI and the Toronto Cyclist’s Union buy out 3500 seats (the number of members each organization has) for cyclists.  The entire lower side of the Rogers Centre along Bremner becomes a permanent bike valet area and several Jays players begin to commute to games by bike as well.

October: Surface Parking lots in downtown Toronto beg for BIXI stations to be installed as auto traffic to the city’s core continues to decline with the rise of cycling.  Newly designed streetcars add bike racks to the front and back and plans are made for bike escalators and cyclist-friendly cars (no seats) on the subway.  Mayor Ford is declared Toronto’s greenest mayor ever and honored around the world for his foresight in building a better city.  The cycling changes that have hit downtown begin to stretch to the inner suburbs as bollard-separated bike lanes are added along Sheppard, Eglinton, and Finch.  Rush hour car-pool/bike lanes are made wider to accommodate separated bike lanes and all are made 24 hour across the city.  Not surprisingly, Cyclist and Pedestrian deaths show a 50% reduction over 2010 levels.  Drivers report smoother traffic into and out of the core as cyclists stick mainly to the separated paths rather than riding on every street.

November: The Blue Jays, having just won the world series, throw the first green ticker tape parade using no paper and riding bikes instead of standing atop buses and trucks.  The entire city is invited to ride with them.  The parade ends up being so successful that it lasts for 3 days.  Local pubs report record sales.  Auto traffic is stopped completely from the lakeshore north to the 401 as a million bikes circle the city.

December: I finally wake up from my 11 month nap (which is really only 10 minutes in real time if you’ve seen Inception…) to find, sadly, that none of these things really happened…but a guy can dream!


A Call to Pedals

August 29, 2010

Have you signed up for BIXI yet? If not, consider this: paying $100 for your 2011 Membership to BIXI may be the loudest vote you can cast this year for better cycling in Toronto. With the mayoral election shaping up to be a bit frightening for the cycling populace as most of the front runners seem completely at ease with pandering to the drivers in town, talking about tearing up or painting over bike lanes, or stopping the cycling infrastructure plan completely, this is truly our chance to show that we are committed to making cycling a safe choice in this city. As of yesterday, there were approximately 450 BIXI sign-ups…nearly halfway to the 1000 membership goal outlined by the city.

Just for kicks: See how Rob Ford felt about cyclists in 2007 – apparently he feels that if there are no bike lanes, the cyclists will leave too. Well said, Rob….Well said…

In an effort at being even-handed, here’s most of the frontrunners on BIke Lanes from an April Toronto Sun story:
TORONTO — – Here’s what mayoral hopefuls have to say about the proposed bike lanes (http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2010/04/13/13574506.html)

Rob Ford: “I can’t support something that’s going to congest traffic more than what it is … I don’t mind trying it but I know it’s going to be a traffic nightmare. The people are going to be freaking right out. They’re going to be very upset.”

-Highlight is that “people” apparently only includes drivers…interesting.

Giorgio Mammoliti: “I can promise you this: When I’m the mayor of the City of Toronto, if they succeed with these bike lanes, I will take them down and that will be the first thing that I do … All you’re going to do is create accidents. The agenda for the bike needs to be there but it is not going to take over the car. It’s not going to do it in this city. Not in this lifetime.”

Highlight: This guy’s all but disappeared…not going to comment.

Joe Pantalone’s executive assistant Ann Ball: “Joe Pantalone strongly believes that cycling is an essential part of Toronto’s transpiration solution. He is reviewing the proposals from that perspective and will subsequently be commenting on the proposals.”

Highlight: High five for Joe!

Rocco Rossi: “Pulling two lanes of University Avenue out of commission, particularly right now with our transit funding in doubt, is sheer madness. And there is a larger issue of democratic fairness here, too. Bike lanes on arterial roads have emerged as a major issue in this election campaign. I am calling on the mayor to acknowledge the basic rights of the people of Toronto to choose their own future.”

HIghlight: Rocco stretches to show that the $50K that would have been spent on the University Bike Lanes could derail our transit planning ($7B spent on St Clair streetcars…which means that the bike lanes may have prevented the city from installing an extra garbage can there for $50K)

George Smitherman: “I say take a timeout on new bike lanes. Use the money to improve the existing ones, some of which are barely passable.”

Highlight: Well, he’s not wrong…but playing the fence sitter usually just means you end up with a hole in your pants.

Sarah Thomson: “I think there’s a safety issue. I think when you look at all of the ambulances coming in and out along University (Ave.) there, I really think (the protected lane) should go down the centre, the landscaping area along the centre, the boulevard … I believe we need a bike lane there but I would prefer to see it in that centre area.”

Highlight: What’s the best way to improve bike safety? Numbers. Pure and simple. And BIXI helps with those.

The issue here is clear, politicians don’t believe that enough cyclists care enough about their transportation choice to make it a part of their ballot…these are car-centric “speak to the masses” responses. Paying for BIXI is like participating in a city-sponsored critical mass. It’s only 1000 people, but that’s a voice with a size similar to the Toronto Cyclist’s Union…which seems to get to weigh in on every cycling issue in the city. Why not another representative bloc of BIXItes? Toronto says we need 1000 people and we have to make it…between this and the mayoral race, it feels like the city is coming to its cycling tipping point.

BIXI doesn’t launch this way in all of the cities it goes into. In London, Barclay’s bank bought the entire system outright and delivered it on-time, and in convincing fashion, to the people of that city. In Minneapolis, government commitment meant that no early sign-ups were needed, just corporate sponsorship. But here, in Toronto, we the cyclists have been given the onus of ensuring this system launches and it will be a sad day in May 2011 if we are unable to represent our over 200,000 daily bike riders by launching the bike share system that this city deserves. The tough part to swallow? It only makes sense that the initial 1000 members will be people who already love cycling in the city…and most often will already have their own bike. This is not a reason to pass the buck (or the $100 bucks) onto the next person…let’s take a quick look through some of the reasons that being a BIXI member makes sense and cut out some of the very sad excuses for reasons not to ante up:

1) The BIXI launch area is too small: Yes, I know that the area from Lakeshore to Bloor and Spadina to Jarvis is only a small portion of Toronto’s overly massive sprawl and that this may cut out many from being able to fully utilize BIXI off the bat. However, this is the densest, most gridlocked (actual gridlock…like on Spadina at 5:30 – not the Rocco Rossi kind) part of the city as well as the area that has the most commuters arriving by train or bus each day. For those people, BIXI means a shorter walk to the office, a tastier further away place to eat lunch, and a great way to get around downtown for meetings cab free. I can almost guarantee that no matter how far the BIXI system expands, this initial area will always be the most highly used

2) I already have a bike: Sure you do! But do your friends who visit you from out of town? Have you ever left home in the rain only to find it beautiful in the afternoon and wish you had a bike? What about when your bike is in the shop? In short, for those of you that read this blog, you’ve seen the money I’ve saved this year over taking the TTC (not to mention a car?) Certainly, you can thank your bike for this tremendous financial enhancement by giving it a day off once a week next year to ride your BIXI!

3) Helmets aren’t included: Get your own! Who would want to share a helmet with the rest of the city anyhow?

4) I want to wait and see how it works: Go to Montreal, Paris, Minneapolis, London, Denver, Washington DC, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, or one of the many other bike share cities on this map and try a bike share…it works every bit as amazingly as it should. But if you don’t fork over $100 to give it a chance to live, then you may not get the opportunity.

This weekend, you can actually sign up for BIXI onsite at the Live Green Festival at YOnge/Dundas Square and take one of the bikes for a spin. You can also sign up anytime at the Toronto BIXI Website. The system has a major sponsor in ING DIRECT (my employer for the record) which means that the city is closer to its sponsor goal than its member goal…BIXI needs your help. This is where dollars meet democracy. Stand up and be counted!

Recent Rides:
I got back on my bike in Chicago on a recent visit. Lucky me, I scored a 5-speed 1984 Japanese-made Sears bike with working kinetic lights. Now I’ve got great rides in two countries! I’m so far behind on my mapping that I’m going to skip adding the maps this time…that feature will be back soon!

Chicago Day 1-2: 12.94 KM – $4.50 Saved
Chicago Day 3: 17.06 KM – $4.50 Saved
Chicago Day 4: 18.90 KM – $4.50 Saved

Sunday back in TO: 2.02 KM – $0 Saved
Thursday: 14.45 KM – $6 Saved
Saturday: 5.39 KM – $6 Saved
Monday: 6.24 KM – $6 Saved
Wednesday: 12.23 KM – $6 Saved
Friday: 3.97 KM – $6 Saved
Saturday: 7.46 KM – $6 Saved

Total KM Ridden: 927.68

Total $ Saved: $339.50

Curent Savings: $74.50– 5 Burough Bike Tour ($165), New Bike in Chicago – $140

It’s Much Harder to be Kind than Clever

August 2, 2010

It’s been 2.5 weeks since my Savings Cycle was interrupted and I am really excited to report that I am feeling much better!  While I still have a bit of a nagging right knee injury that I’ll continue to have examined, and a broken left heel I am amazed that almost all traces of my wounds have disappeared.  So what’s next?

Well, first off, I promised myself that I would share my “right after it happened” photo if and when I healed so as to not appear a zombie any longer.  That day is here and so is that lovely photo.

Did someone say bike lanes on Jarvis? Yay!

The roughest part of my recovery, to be honest, was driving a Zipcar on Friday to get to work.  I never like driving, but have never been uncomfortable doing it.  While I have no conscious recollection of my accident, my unconcsious certainly has some ideas about what and how I should be navigating the city.  As I drove extra skittishly making sure to leave lots of distance for pedestrians and cyclists and realizing that drivers in the city have way too many things to pay attention to, my mind wandered to how badly I would injure a cyclist or walker if I struck them in my shared Honda Element.  I actually had to pull over twice, crying at the thought.  I have no issue or fear that I can foresee with climbing onto my bike, the rest of the world able to safely pass by me with no threat from me but I no longer want to be in a position where my own human error, or that of another, could make me and my car a killer.  By selecting my bike instead, I feel that I am ensuring that I am not a threat to others and that i am being kind to the world around me by doing so.  It’s much harder to be kind than clever.  Much harder to take lanes from the cars that endanger the humans that live in our city and give them to bikes and skaters who want nothing more than to power their own way through life rather than sit back and watch it roll past them with a flick of the ankle. It is much harder to change our city to be kinder to mother earth than to come up with clever new ways to relocate pollution through electric cars or hybrid technology.  It is harder to ride the train or carpool than to drive alone…but all of these choices can be better made by thinking about the other (all of them) and their needs, safety, and the promise held in each person’s life than it is to think only of oneself and what is easiest.  Making the world better is hard work…but there are plenty of us here to share the lifting as long as we engage.

I actually think the rest of what I have to say is said far better by Jeff Bezos in the commencement address he gave this year at Princeton (Jeff comes on at about 6:00).  Since recovering, I’ve had good reason to be extra thankful for…well…everything. Walking is now bliss and cause for contemplation.  Standing up without groaning immensely is another small pleasure.  My wife and rest of my family and friends are reminders that you always get the best out of people by treating them with love, charity, and kindness.  I’ve got some changes to make…a stressful year at work sees me getting a bit agitated with situations more than I like and I want to be more mindful to ensure that those around me know just how much I value them.  I want to floss more, drink less booze and more fresh-squeezed juice.  I can’t wait to be able to do Yoga everyday…a goal I had before, but never held in such high esteem.  Most importantly, I can’t wait to be back on a bike.  The BuB is no more…crushed by the car so I figure a change might be good.  I may grab a folding bike…maybe a new Batavus….or a Biomega with shaft drive…regardless of what the type, I can’t wait.


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