Archive for June, 2010

G20 Makes for Great Cycling

June 26, 2010

With all of the changes that have hit Toronto in hosting the G20, from fences to secret laws to earthquakes, one unexpected but welcome return has been the reduced traffic and streets blocked to traffic downtown.  Simcoe and other streets, walled off to cars, became boulevards for pedestrians and cyclists (albeit not great for crossing the street as the median fence made that difficult).  Even the increased police and security presence helped with cycling as hundreds of extra bike cops hit the streets in groups ranging from the three to twenty.  One of our friends told a story that seems fit for a cartoon.  A group of about 12 bike police were passing in front of Nathan Phillips Square when the leader turned to his colleagues yelling “ICE CREEEEEEAAAAAMMM!” a sentiment they all echoed back loudly in a near-militant confirmation of the direct order.  One reportedly yelled that ahe wanted to get chocolate wasted (that part isn’t true…but it should be).  The bikes stopped abruptly for a mid day brain freeze.

G20 critical mass also brought a different sense as around 500 cyclists got together for the monthly event.  The build up to the ride was a bit tense, with some asking nervously about where the ride was going and whether it would become part of the protests happening near College and Bay and moving from there through the city.  Others were on high alert for those in the group that would certainly try to direct the peloton towards the protest.  As Cyclops entertained the crowd with a few recently improvised, slightly politicized chants a group of around 20 bike police showed up to join and help direct the ride.

During the ride the police were really proactive in blocking cross traffic so that the mass could roll on.  Within the herd, many whistles, drums, and bells rang with the back up on a trumpeter.  National colors were flying from the day’s football matches and the procession seemed to stretch for around 6 blocks as it rolled through town.

Many of those on the sidewalk seemed convinced that the mass was a protest.  One streetcar driver even asked the police escorting the group whether the mass WAS the protest…which was hilarious.  We had the normal dose of frustrated people in traffic but, as usual, most of those that were held up by the ride were smiling to see our bike mob.  A great mass ride all-in-all.

Hopefully someone with a keener sense of direction than I will add this week’s mass to MapMyRide so i can add that in as I can’t seam to stitch the locations together.

Thursday’s Ride to/From Work
Home to STC

Friday’s Rides:
Friday Before Mass

Total KM Ridden: 540.07
Total $ Saved: $200
Curent Savings: $35 – 5 Burough Bike Tour ($165)

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Toronto Cyclist’s Union Annual General Meeting

June 20, 2010

Thursday, June 17th was a lovely if not too warm day in Toronto that saw me mainly jaunting about downtown. The day’s rides were none too eventful, except for dealing with the major blockages connected with Much Music awards this weekend and the general blocking of the bike lane that occurs on King St. The latter is nicely dealt with by an easy ride up and over the curb as I go between Bay and Yonge.

The evening proved much more interesting as I attended and participated in the elections for 6 new Executive Board Members to serve the Toronto Cyclists Union. The TCU made huge waves in the past year with a constant voice in the media as cycling has rightfully become a hot topic in discussions ranging from quick chats in the streets right up to the mayoral election. The Union’s 2009 Annual Report highlights successes including a Toronto Cyclists Handbook, now available in 17 languages, the approval of bike share launching in 2011, and financials showing a growing membership and appropriately increased investment into TCU operations. All of this in only 2 years of operation is very promising for the TCU, and while it comes up on it’s 1000th member the future is bright for large growth and increasingly large impact on cycling in Toronto.

The election featured 10 qualified and very passionate cyclists who each spoke for about 2 minutes on why and how they are looking to lead the TCU and support its members. All of those who ran seemed very deserving and I hope that each of them will find ways, whether on the board or not, to work for better cycling in Toronto. In the end 62 ballots were cast by those on hand and I was very happy to find myself among the new members elected to the board! The complete list of 2010 board members is below.

After the event we had a bike union brouhaha at the Rivoli where I had some great conversations with other members including Herb from IBikeTO and James who writes Urban Country. It was really nice to put faces with websites with those two and I’m really looking forward to chatting Bikes at more Union events over the year ahead.

New Bike Union Executive Board Members
Bob Brent
Leehe Lev
Peter Lipscombe
Patrick Brown
Simon Strauss
Nick Cluley

Thank you to all who ran for their interest in making cycling better in Toronto!

Thursday’s Rides
Jun 17th Around Town

Total KM Ridden: 484.49
Total $ Saved: $188
Curent Savings: $23 – 5 Burough Bike Tour ($165)

Make Your Cycle Heard – Elect a new Cyclist’s Union Board

June 15, 2010

So this post will be a bit different…no cycling or savings to report on.  Instead, I hope that a few of you will take part in the second most important election to hit Toronto this year…that of the new Toronto Cyclist’s Union Board of Directors.  There are few reasons you should partake:

Reason 1:  Because you’re a member of the Toronto Cyclist’s Union*

*If not yet a member, please ask yourself “Do I like riding a bike?”  If yes, join for the mere $25 a year and add your voice to the rest of us that feel the same way in hopes that the city evolves to become even more bikable (bike-likable) in the future!

Reason 2:  Because you’re interested in the way cycling infrastructure and awareness improves in Toronto.  It is improving, but the Cyclist’s Union is a great way to help that process along and make sure cyclist voices are heard as municipal decisions are made.

And, lastly, Reason 3: Because hanging out at CSI for 2 hours always sounds fun…but this time it’s fun AND Democratic (did I mention the vote is Thursday at 6pm…and while anyone can attend, only members can vote…it’s not too late to sign up!

Why is this all relevant to this blog?  Well, I decided to really put myself out there and run for a position on the Board.  I think the Cyclists Union is doing some amazing things but that we might be getting a bit too caught up in the politics of today rather than focussing on the ever-present joy of pedaling one’s own transport around town.  In that, I’ll bring a voice of openness, acceptance, and encouragement towards all cyclists (this means you low-rider chrome cyclist, and you mountain bike lady, and even you unicycle guy….as long as there is a second unicycle right behind you so that it looks like a bike).  I think that with nearly 1000 members, and cycling being a hot topic in Toronto and the world right now, the Union should try to skirt the politics and focus on getting to 2500 members as soon as possible…and then 5000…and then 10000…

After the masses are in the saddle with us, we can then better partake in the political process.  20-30 cyclists wearing helmets in the city council chambers has helped on some big decisions…but 10000 cyclists crowding queens park can have quite a different impact, we just need not rush to get there.  In other places, joining organizations like the Cyclist’s Union has become part of enrolling for nearly every bike event in the city…and there is reason to do this here too.  We need to do more to publicize the benefits of the Union, and to make sure that everyone on a bike knows that they are already a member in spirit, but that a bit of financial support can go along ways to making their commute easier.

I’ll be reciting a bit of this on Thursday and hope you’ll consider voting in the election and that you will do so after reading a bit about the candidates.  Here’s a bit more information on the election and those running for seats:

Annual General Meeting Schedule: http://bikeunion.to/2010-agm

Parties Nominated for the Board of Directors: http://bikeunion.to/sites/tcu/files/Nominees%20for%20Board%20Positions%20-%20AGM%202010.pdf

Please check it out…but more importantly, please join the Union and help make Toronto better for bikes!

Back in a new, wider saddle!

June 15, 2010

The past month has been a whirlwind…seems like I just landed at Pearson, coming back from NYC but there has been much to do in the meantime. I did some work (put our first major marketing in place for the project I’ve been leading), some play (spent 4 days in LA and a week relaxing in Hawaii…a week that faded from memory way to quickly upon my return), and just recently started exploring the city again…from a different angle. After my last run in with the street car tracks (at Queen and Patrick) and considering the 4-5 other near-falls I experienced with them, I decided that what I needed was another bike in the stable. I decided a fat-tire cruiser was the way to go –editor’s note…if you like Fat Tire Beer, be sure to check out one of New Belgium Brewing’s Tour de Fat celebrations this summer…one of my favorite summer fests- It also happens to be in Chicago the weekend of the G20…road trip!

There was precedence for my decision on the cruiser. While living in Chicago I purchased an Elektra Amstredam prior to the bike I currently ride (Kona Jake). The Amsterdam was truly a piece of junk. In 1 week, i lost my back wheel in the middle of 3 busy intersections, falling twice and being terrified the 3rd time. I chalked the experience up to a mismatch of riding style and bike. Perhaps…At Curbside Cycle, I found a new Batavus Utility Bike that seems to fix the issue. First things first, the bike has a piece of hardware installed to prevent rear-wheel slippage (my track bike friends will know a bit about this as well.).

The Bright Red BuB

So far, no lost wheels. Additionally, the tires are around 2″ wide…which means I don’t care at all about streetcar tracks any more…i can run over them, on them, along them, beside them…no worries! Lastly, I really love the 3 speed hub, the long-distance cruising that the oversized tires provide, the stability to easily (easily is key) ride to the store, grab groceries, and carry them home on my bike (literally in my arm…), and especially the more-visible, upright riding posture that makes sure I’m seen (the fact that I chose a candy red bike also helps). In short, I am not feeling at all limited now with my cadre of bikes…one for the long and aggressive hauls, one for cruising quickly and smoothly through the downtown core…

I’m just reconnecting my brain to this blog, so this Savings Cycle only includes rides from June 14…I can hardly remember what I did the day before, so there is going to have to be a lost month…

Total KM Ridden: 457.96
Total $ Saved: $182
Curent Savings: $17 – 5 Burough Bike Tour ($165)

Monday’s Rides:

To Luna Cafe and Back
To David’s Tea, grocery store, and back