Archive for July, 2010

Conscientious Consumerism and Bixi

July 29, 2010

Something beyond cycling that is near and dear to my heart is the idea of conscientious consumerism. In fact, my cycling habits come directly out of this philosophy. For me, I decided that I didn’t want a large portion of the income I work so hard for to go towards carbon emissions, dirty oil extraction, and in the end to unknowable parties who have largely been at war with the places I call home. I also am willing and able to live in a way, and in an environment that allows me to maintain a car-free lifestyle.

I don’t want to overstate the facts, I use auto share programs and travel by plane 5-10 times a year…and these things don’t totally fit into the plan, but Im working on it. The idea at the core though remains, the strongest vote you may have is the one in your pocket. Regardless of how you approach finances, i think the key is to develop a construct for spending that you feel delivers value. Whatever that thing is, whether you like cheap things, cat things, local things, green things, or any category of thing you will be happier with your money things when you spend on items you cherish and value. If they fit into your personal cause you get bonus points.

For me these “things” that I love are local food, car pools, bikes, public transit, places where people can be themselves, and companies that do their best to work within a mission that challenges them to be better. Always.

That’s why BIXI, which launched tonight in Toronto with the beginning of a membership drive, fits right in. The project demands support from the government (loan guarantee, infrastructure), corporations (need to secure 1.8M in sponsorship commitment for first 3 years) and, most importantly people (1000 annual memberships need to be signed up by November 30). With these things in mind, it wasn’t the need for another bike that had me buying a BIXI membership this evening at the Gladstone Hotel but the call to the voting booth. Rarely can you vote so strongly with your dollar as .1% of the collective force that will make BIXI real in Toronto. And regardless how you feel about the semantics of the program, it will help drive cycling forward in Toronto by increasing numbers of those that can and do cycle through the city.

Imagine telling your friend what a great cycling city this is over lunch at the St Lawrence Market. You met there, you on bike and the friend on foot as always. They bring up the usual worries: too dangerous, I don’t feel comfortable in the city, i don’t have a bike…and you do something that changes their life. $5 in the BIXI station for a day pass and a convincing plea to “try cycling here just one time…”

A year later that friend bikes everyday, is in he best shape of their life, gets to work with less stress and keeps $400 worth of car payments and insurance in the bank.

And the savings cycle goes on….


Healing Up – Big Cycling Week in TO

July 24, 2010

It was a week of very little adventure for me, personally. I left the house only once, on Thursday, to head over to Service Ontario for my new healh card and then sort out some next steps for care. My scrapes and cuts have healed up very well (thanks to all those who sent good tidings) but I’m left with what I’ve diagnosed as a broken left heel and probably some ligament damage in my right knee. Those are adding up to very little time spent on my feet…and moving very slowly when those times come up. I’ll be heading back to hospital on Tuesday to get stitches out and, hopefully, professional diagnosis on my lingering issues.

It was a much more interesting week in Toronto for cycling as the Jarvis bike lanes move towards completion (thanks @autom8 for the picture). lane markers on bike lanes? i'm certainly st... on Twitpic

BIXI Toronto got its own Facebook fan page and a launch party is coming up on July 28th. The party will be the first opportunity to sign up for an annual membership and actively help getting BIXI launches in Toronto next May. 1000 memberships must be sold to guarantee the system’s implementation so stand and be counted! Not often can $100 (annual membership is estimated to be $95) directly impact a city’s evolution.

Just for kicks…here’s an especially poignant bonus photo of the Jarvis Bike Lanes (well done @HiMYSYeD on this one).  Hit the link for the full sign view.

Unexpected positive unintended consequence of Trial Bike Lane... on Twitpic

No Rides this Week 😦

Total KM Ridden: 827.02

Total $ Saved: $290

Curent Savings: $125– 5 Burough Bike Tour ($165)z

Savings Cycle Service Interruption – More Photos Coming

July 17, 2010

This week turned out to be a challenging one and probably the last riding I’ll be able to do for a bit, hopefully getting back on the savings cycle before winter sets in. Everything started innocently enough with a Monday morning meeting at the Centre for Social Innovation and then completing the day jaunting about downtown. Tuesday included a great morning ride but a fairly disheartening ride home.

The issues with poor car pool infrastructure continue on Don Mills Rd. Just n of Sheppard, a silver sedan rode right on my wheel before, determining the coast being clear, zipped close enough to me that I was blasted 6 inches right by the passing jet stream. The driver than stopped at the next light, which has to be no less than 1200 m down, and I yelled through the closed windows that they were in a car pool lane. The driver motioned that they were intending to turn at the next light, again more than 1200 m down the road. The incident caused by the lack of right turn lane markers along the entire road…and bit too much of a rush home on the part of the driver.

Amazingly, only one light further down, I pulled in front of a line of cars that were turning right and came to the light just in front of a TTC bus. The driver took immediate exception to this yelling, “what do you think you’re doing?”

I, still agitated from the silver sedan, yelled back “the sign says bus and bike lane and this is the safest place for me to be. You’re turning right there” as i pointed the 300m to his next stop and a young woman waiting for her ride.

At this point he actually inched the bus up about 4 feet so as to be right behind me and continued, “get out of the way!”

“you’re being paid to get around safely in that thing and I hope you’ll do so”

As the light turned, I shot easily in front of the bus, my companion deciding to move to the right and let the bus pass, putting her in the path of traffic about to turn right as the bus moved on. As I passed the next bus stop, young woman still waiting, the bus flew around me, 3 feet or less to my right and pulled to the following stop another 500 meters down.

From there I just rode casually past the bus and continued on, soon enough I was far enough ahead of the TTC vehicle that it was nowhere in sight as I turned off of Don Mills onto Overlea. My infrastructure struggles would continue on Thursday after a day of carpooling to and from the office in between.

I worked from home to start the day and then headed to lunch at The Spoke on King W. My next meeting was at B Espresso on Queen between Church and Jarvis. I headed down King, past Bay and then something must have happened that caused me to miss my usual route, turning down Yonge, or any one of the other preferred routes I would usually take from King to Queen. In the end, I was on Jarvis where bike lanes would be installed starting the next day. The new lanes promise to turn Jarvis from one of the worst cycling streets downtown to one of the best and may make the street a front runner to form the initial eastern boundary of Toronto’s new BIXI system starting in May 2011. At any rate, I crossed Queen and Jarvis at 1:50 or so pm.

Laid up/Messed up

The problem is, I cant remember anything after crossing Bay and King and when I came to at St Michael’s Hospital around 2:55 I could only think about staying very still as my head started to catch up with my senses. It turns out that I was struck by a car going around 40kph. At this point, I don’t know anything beyond that with certainty but an officer at the hospital told my wife it didn’t appear anyone was at fault…an accident. I really am not a risk taking cyclist, especially on the city bike that I ride downtown, and judging the from my many scrapes, bruises, stitches, holes, road rashes, and swelling I’ve come to a bit of a hazy story that I will get more clarity on when I heal.

The best I can figure it, I crossed Queen heading north on a yellowing light, keeping to the right and watching the crosswalk as the red hand turned solid. At that point I must have checked for my left turn, seen nothing, and begun my turn onto Queen heading west. Apparently I failed to see a gray car continuing through the orange light. The rest of the information I received indirectly from the police via Erin pieced together with the map of my wounds that I’m currently living with and my having seen many episodes of CSI.

It seems that I either came to be perpendicular with the car or that I was caught at about 45 degrees by the corner of the car. In either case, the 6 stitches in my front left shoulder suggest that I struck the bottom, jagged parts of the windshield near the wipers. My head continued into the windshield, leaving bruising all along the left side as well as cuts on the left side of my forehead, eyebrow, and nose. I cant tell, but i may have lost a small patch of hair. The police told Erin that the windshield shattered and collapsed, but did not break. My sincerest apologies to the person that hit me for leaving that memory with them.

From there it seems I slid off of the hood and across the lane, skidding off of the back of my left shoulder and flipping onto the outside of my left arm and knee. I kept flipping and received a blow to my inside right knee where the medics debated putting 2 stitches, opting not to when a then more serious trauma came to the ER. The bottom of my right elbow got some great road rash at that point as well. I’m extremely grateful, if this scenario proves anywhere near correct, that I was unconscious for an hour so that my wounds were cleaned already when I came to…that is certainly not an experience I would want to remember. It seems I blacked out at the impact given the 5-10 minutes I can’t remember leading up to it, but Ill have to determine later whether I was kept unconscious by artificial means by the ambulance which I assume picked me up, or from the trauma itself.

I owe the tremendous hospital staff a post to themselves, but my care was a great experience…given the circumstances.

The glaring thing about all of my challenges cycling this week is that they seem to be fixable. In the case of the first silver sedan, the answer (I feel) is a better carpool lane including 24
Hr designation and clearly marked right turn areas. For the TTC vehicle, education is key…and a better focus on picking up the passenger he left roadside would be good too. In the case of my accident, If i end up being correct in my assumptions about what happened it is almost certain that a bike lane would have allowed the collision to be averted. It would have been a wider area for me to turn through, giving precious extra seconds to identify the car coming through the yellow light. The good news is that those lanes on Jarvis are going in. There is much more work to be done though as even these bike lanes are being challenged. Despite a plan that wont impact traffic flow and treats street users as equals for being people, rather than for being cars, mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi swore that he would take the Jarvis lanes if elected.

Who does this help? It obviously doesn’t help me but does it help the woman (from the vague police record I have at this point) driving the car that hit me? I’m fairly certain she could do without the image of me bouncing off of her car when you closes her eyes. If not that, then the broken windshield has to be an inconvenience. Does it help the general system to have cyclists in the hospital consistently as the result of accidents? No matter what protection cyclists use, they will continue to lose -sometimes badly- when colliding with cars. Its just common sense that one is much much bigger, stronger, and faster. And why wouldn’t a city want to encourage cycling? It increases the potential for population density and allows for more green so ace with the reduction of parking space needs. It keeps people much healthier, is a proven stress relief, and encourages a more human-scale interaction with the urban landscape as well as basic things like weather which combine to add a more people-centric sense of a city. Additionally, the money you save by foregoing the car – which is an option that many don’t consider realistic given our infrastructure and their own thoughts on safety – can assist in social mobility and increase spending available for local goods and services, rather than oil that we either import or gruesomely extract from tar sands.
Long story short, fighting bike lanes especially when they don’t even impact auto traffic flows in a meaningful way, seems inane if not insane.

As for me, I’m feeling far better after almost 48 hours than i should. I’m not much to look at, and am in a lot of pain, but I can only feel joyful at my good fortune to be here writing this. So long as my ring knee heals up, I will be back in the saddle sooner or later…I need to check out the new bike lanes on Jarvis.

This Week’s Rides

Monday Around Town – 17.65km, $12 saved

Tuesday to Work – 44.01km, $6 saved

Thursday Ride n Wreck – 6.17km, can’t really put a price on surviving this one.

Total KM Ridden: 827.02
Total $ Saved: $290

Curent Savings: $125– 5 Burough Bike Tour ($165)

Wheeling the Dog

July 10, 2010

One of the greatest benefits of riding a cruiser downtown is that it”s much more stable frame allows me to easily run Banjo, my 70 lb Austrailian Shepherd.  While it’s been way too hot the last week for him to be out mid-day, a 15 minute morning and slight longer evening run next to the bike puts him in a calm state all day long!

Gratuitous Banjo Picture

Between runs with Banjo, this week has been one of my biggest in terms of total distance of the summer.  Riding 3 days in a row to the office at Finch and the DVP put most of the mileage in, but free events and summer fun around downtown kept me in the saddle as well!  Last night I was able to see The Heavy and then Kid Koala for free at the Sirius Stage as part of the Breaks and Beats fest at the Harbourfront.  I’m not sure how more people don’t show up for these things here, but the 1200-1500 that were around got two fantastic shows…and much more to come over the next week.  Having been totally disappointed for not knowing The Roots were playing a couple of weeks ago at Nathan Phillips Square, I’ve recommitted to tapping into the local scene.  These events seem to be only so-so at getting the word out, but a little digging yields some great events throughout the summer.

One of my other bike rides brought me the Spacing release party, my 3rd in the ten months I’ve been in Toronto.  Always a fun time, the release parties have great music, great people, and you leave with a world class magazine about the Urban Envioronment in Toronto.  They are a really big change agent in the city and always do great work…make sure to check them out.

This Week’s Rides

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday To Work and Back – 122.1 KM, $18 saved

Thursday Around Town – 13.19km, $12 Saved

Friday concert – 7.73km, $6 Saved

Total KM Ridden: 759.19
Total $ Saved: $272

Curent Savings: $107 – 5 Burough Bike Tour ($165)

Special Lanes Need Enforcement

July 1, 2010

Don Mills Road is really not a terrible place to ride should you have to commute in or out of the city’s east side. Most of the road is 4 lanes in each direction which are completely separate in many places. The far right lane is reserved for car pools (3 or more), taxis, motorbikes, and bicycles from 7-10am as well as 3-6pm. The same type of carpool lane exists on Overlea…which I use to get to Don Mills.

Riding to work between 7-8am allows me to see first hand that a complete lack of enforcement, or even threat of fine, has rendered these lane designations moot. On Don Mills Road, I saw no less than 50% of the lane users in cars by themselves, often trying to get ahead of traffic at major intersections, swooping around my bicycle and speeding to be first off the line. It is hard for me to resist pulling casually in front of them and proceeding to take the lane going away from the light…and often i do just that to protest-filled honking and the occasional shout. Later in the week, carpooling up the DVP, I saw the exact same scenario as the majority of cars in the full-time HOV lane contained only drivers.

The result is the same as when a car is parked in a bike lane…disruption of traffic that most affects the rightful users of that space. In both cases, cyclists are of course most endangered, being the most exposed users of the road.  Recently there has been alot of talk about motorists, even police!, parking in bike lanes…both this problem and the ones on the DVP, Don Mills Rd, and other special lanes around Toronto require enforcement for these lanes to be used by the reduced carbon-per-person transport they were created for.

The idea of HOV lanes and shared transit/HOV/bike lanes is a great one, but without a promise of a stiff fine and some enforcement, they don’t work. In many places, HOV signs are accompanied by promise of fines of $250+ for using the lane without the required amount of passengers. Local police enforce these fines and ensure that single auto operators are held accountable for staying where they belong…in the painfully slow normal flow of traffic. Don Mills Rd would also be helped by making the car pool lanes permanent, and not just for parts of the day. If three lane of traffic is sufficient at the rush hour times when the right lane’s restrictions are in effect, it should certainly suffice the rest of the day. Taking the guess work out of whether one can or cannot use the kane based on the time of day would better train driver behavior to ignore that lane completely unless carpooling. If the city could help enforce this, Don Mills Rd could become a much more popular route for long commutes…and my commute would be much safer.

June 28 Rides – 9.33 Km

June 29 Rides – 58.73Km 

June 30 Rides – 4.72KM

July 1 Rides – 3.32Km

Total KM Ridden: 616.17
Total $ Saved: $236

Curent Savings: $71 – 5 Burough Bike Tour ($165)