Archive for August, 2010

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

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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.