BikingToronto - Information about Cycling in Toronto <data:blog.pageTitle/>



posted by Joe on Friday, March 31, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

Is anyone else getting the feeling that the spring, summer, and fall is going to see way more cyclists on the roads of Toronto (and other cities as well)?

I'm already noticing a ton of cyclists on the roads with me with this recent burst of nice weather, and after speaking with Darren at the CBN Event on Wednesday, I know I'm not the only one with this perception. The last couple days I've seen numbers of cyclists that I was seeing in mid-summer last year. If this is happening at the end of March... Toronto's cyclists may have a giant presence on the streets come May, June, July...

I'll give you two great examples of what I've been seeing:

1) Yesterday, on my normal commute home, I was in a mini-Critical Mass. I was stopped at the red light heading east at Gerrard and Parliament with 8 other cyclists, all going the same way (there were other cyclists going north and south, with the green light, at the same time...). When the light turned green, we all spaced out according to our own individual speeds. Some of us were closer to the curb, some of us were farther away, but it had the effect of making the usual "speedway" of Gerrard near Regent Park much safer. A couple cars wandered into the curb lane, but the vast majority of them stayed in the center lane... over the streetcar tracks.

2) On Wednesday, after visiting the Danforth branch of Grass Roots Store at Danforth & Chester in preparation for MAP (it starts tomorrow!), I cruised around the area for a bit. There's been a lot of talk about a Bloor-Danforth BikeLane named after Tooker Gomberg, but honestly, seeing the numbers of cyclists heading east with me on Wednesday, it may not be needed (although I am totally in favour of it) - cars were staying out of the curb lane. There were enough cyclists in it that it would've been impractical for a car to attempt driving in it.

Is that awesome or what?

Please leave a comment if you're seeing the same kind of things (or not), whether you're in Toronto or another city.



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posted by Joe on Friday, March 31, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

Ladies and Gentlemen... according to who you talk to, it's going to be anywhere from 18 - 20+ degrees celcius this afternoon (heck, at 8 am, it was 8 degrees already!). There's a chance of rain too, but that's just water, and water never hurt anyone too bad.

It's perfect weather for the last friday of the month... namely Critical Mass day. Come and participate in something that is free and fun - riding in downtown Toronto with a bunch of other cyclists.

There are no leaders, no routes, and no administration - just a bunch of people riding together, having enough presence on the road to displace some automobile traffic for a few seconds. You can stick with the group for as long or as little as you want.

If you bike Toronto, and want to know what the fuss is about, meet between 6:00 and 6:30 at the corner of Bloor & Spadina. The Mass leaves for parts unknown (but generally within King-Bathurst-Bloor-Parliament) at 6:30. The sun sets these days around that time, so be sure and bring your bike lights.

If it's super warm, you'll see me in a white iBikeTO shirt, but if it's a little rainy, I'll have a blue windbreaker on, riding a red & black Raleigh mountainbike.





I've come across a few cool Critical Mass links in the past few days... one is a excellent video over on Google Video called "We Are Traffic", all about the starting of and history of the San Francisco Critical Mass (where it all began in 1993). It's super interesting, but long (about 50 minutes) - I watched it in two sessions when I had some free time.

The other link is on Toronto Cranks, and is the text from a San Francisco flyer about "Why We Ride".



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posted by Joe on Thursday, March 30, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

I biked a lot yesterday. My usual commute is just less than 7 kilometres each way, but due to various things I wanted to do, despite being very sleepy due to a few days of sub-standard sleep, I covered 30 kilometres.

Here's a confusing map of my route, using Google Pedometer:

(you can click to see a bigger version)


I first headed downtown from the east end for work. After work I headed up to Yonge & Bloor and then out to Danforth & Chester to visit some Metropass Affinity Program stores in preparation for the start of it this Saturday, April Fools Day, because the TTC wants to make fools of their riders by hiking fares.

I then had a couple hours to kill before heading downtown, so I went north of the Danforth and cruised the sidestreets up to the Pape & Cosburn area where I ate dinner and read for awhile. I then headed downtown, via the Bloor Viaduct, Church (which is a lot of fun going downhill) and King, to MEC to attend the CBN Speaker Series on the history of the Bike in Toronto.

It was a good event, but I think it could've used more visuals. I was surprised it didn't have visuals, actually, since it's always cool seeing what Toronto was like a long, long time ago.

I ran into a bunch of people though. Darren, Vic, Herb, and Margaret!



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posted by Joe on Tuesday, March 28, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

I came across a great article on the CTV.ca website via GoogleNews today. It's called Spring brings cycling back to life in Canada but is so much more... about how more and more people in cities across Canada are choosing their bikes over cars and transit to get to work.

It mentions the health benefits, the financial benefits, and the time benefits of commuting by bike... that it's exercise you don't have to "fit in" to a schedule - it's in place of wasting time sitting in a car or on transit.

Also, here's a quick reminder about the CBN Speaker Series Event going on tomorrow night at Mountain Equipment Co-op. It's about the history of biking in Toronto, and sounds interesting. 7:30 - 9:00 pm, 400 King St. West.



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posted by Joe on Tuesday, March 28, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

As I mentioned on Sunday, I did my first "recreational" ride of 2006 on Saturday, doing the Lower Don and Taylor Creek Park Trails in a small circuit, covering 17 kilometres.

Here's the map again to refresh your memory:







Here's the lovely Don Valley Parkway from the Riverdale Pedestrian Bridge. There are rumours (and signs) that the Lower Don Trail is closed south of Queen St., so I accessed the Trail from the bridge. There are steps.


The Lower Don Trail had a few joggers and bikers out on it ...


The Trail takes you under the Prince Edward Viaduct (known to Torontonians as the Bloor Viaduct). Subway trains run across it. Before the ugly suicide-barrier they put on it, it was the 2nd most popular spot in North America to jump to your death, behind the Golden Gate Bridge.


At this point you're between the Don Valley Expressway and the Bayview extension, both heavy with traffic and traffic noise. The valley at this point is a bit wider, and marshland has been "reclaimed". I could almost not hear the traffic over the chirping of hundreds of birds. I know in the summertime the traffic noise is pretty well gone because of the sound dampening effects of leaves on the trees.


Up at the turn-off to Taylor Creek Park (near Don Mills Road), you get to what I affectionately call "The Broken Elephant Statues", which are actually "elevated marshland" made with plastics. That is my bike leaning against the pole. This pole contained most of the signs I saw for the trails... there really needs to be more signs for where to go or how to get back up to street level for those unfamiliar with the ravines of Toronto.


I thought this was an interesting shot... broken elephant, old bridge, the buildings of Don Mills and Eglinton.


Here's a shot from Taylor Creek Park, before I went under the O'Connor Drive Bridge in East York.


This is just a sampling of the photos I took. See these in larger sizes, plus a lot more over on Flickr. I've described them all so you know what you're looking at.

I highly recommend exploring the trails and paths of Toronto's Ravine System. It's an often forgotten part of our city... this network of semi-wild parkland all throughout the city, always closer than we think, yet a totally different world. It's easy to forget that you're in a big city of millions of people while you're down there.

You can learn how to access the Ravines using the Toronto Bike Map, available online and at Bike Shops.



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posted by Joe on Monday, March 27, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

Is it just me or is Spring busting out all over today?

The sun is streaming in the windows here, the weathernetwork says it's 11 degrees (more than forecast), and I'm rarin' to hop on my bike for my ride home to enjoy it for myself.

The big question is if this is Mother Nature teasing us with a taste of genuine spring before hitting us with a snowstorm, of if it's here to stay.

I support the latter proposal. Obviously.



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posted by Joe on Sunday, March 26, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

The "famous" Vic Gedris has set things in motion for a get-together of some bike people for dinner tonight. HPV stands for "Human Powered Vehicle", in case you were wondering. I think "Hummus Powered Vacuum" is a far more intriguing name, but whatever.. ;)

I would've posted about this get together last night after getting home and settled after my ride but I had a bad headache, so I went to bed early.

If you're interested in good conversation, talking about bikes and biking in Toronto, plus anything else you're interested in, you're welcome to come too!

We're meeting at the Brownstone Restaurant (good selection of food, reasonable prices) near Yonge & Bloor at 6:00, so if you're interested, leave a comment below or email me or Vic as soon as possible so we can make an accurate reservation.

Courtesy of Vic, here's a photo from our last outing in February in Little India:
pictured are: Tanya, Chris, Darren, Vic, Jen, Me, Jason, and Doug. Two other people (John and Rob) were also there, but left before Vic snapped this photo.



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posted by Joe on Sunday, March 26, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

I was feeling a bit blah and housebound yesterday afternoon so decided to go for a ride and get re-aquainted with the Lower Don Trail as well as the Taylor Creek Park trail, the later of which I hadn't ridden before.

I printed off parts of the Toronto Bike Map from the city website and headed off, remembering that the Lower Don Trail is closed south of Queen St. due to CN bridge reconstruction, so headed across to Gerrard and accessed the trail at the pedestrian bridge near Bridgepoint Hospital.



I biked almost 17 kilometres (it felt like more, but I was biking very leisurely and stopping a lot to take photos), doing a small little "circuit" through the Lower Don Valley and Taylor Creek Park, eventually "surfacing" from our city's wonderful network of ravines at the north end of Main St. in East York. It was a great small ride to start off 2006.

I took some photos, and will share them as soon as I get them uploaded.



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posted by Joe on Friday, March 24, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

It's Friday (one week until Critical Mass on the 31st!), so let's get the weekend started right with some good ol' fashioned talk about how automobile dependence is not the "Best Decision Ever" by western society.

It took me a while, but finally got around to reading some stories from Sydney, Australia (which isn't really western society, but close enough, eh?). The first is Cycling is a healthy way to break the iron grip of the car which responds (with examples) to a brainfart of an article by a guy named Michael Duffy who thinks that cyclists are purely a nuisance, not fit for acceptable transportation:
As a mainstream form of transport, the bicycle has proved itself the equivalent of communism: a lovely idea that failed dismally in practice. Bikes are dangerous to ride and slow traffic, which creates more pollution. For the good of all of us, we need to ban the bike.
I guess nothing intelligent should be expected from a guy who praises McMansions because they promote a Stepford-like clone culture.

There is always tons of great stuff coming out from New York too. Despite a hostile police force, an indifferent mayor, and some of the harshest urban drivers in the world, the bike culture is so strong that the New York Daily News (which looks like a pseudo-tabloid akin to the Toronto Sun) can publish a piece called "N.Y.C. is Too Good to Car Drivers:
The majority of us get around without cars. Why should we have to cede them valuable street space? Why can't we have wider sidewalks and smoother sailing for our buses? The rationale has always been that drivers keep our economy afloat. But a new Transportation Alternatives study shows only 6% of shopping trips in Manhattan are made by car.


Hope you're all doing well. If you're thinking of coming out to Critical Mass next friday (leaves from Bloor & Spadina at 6:30 - get there before that...) as a repeat or a first-timer, send me an email at bikingtoronto[removespamblocker]yahoo.com, and we can arrange to meet up. Critical Mass is lots of fun, and the weather is getting warmer, so there should be more riders out this month.

And yes, I think every Friday should be Car Free Friday.





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posted by Joe on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

I've been looking forward to the resumption of the Community Bicycle Network's Speaker Series all winter. I missed the 2005 events and heard they were very good, so am very excited at the news that CBN is presenting From Scorchers to Alley Cat Scrambles: the amazing history of the bicycle in Toronto.

Speaker Steve Brearton will give an overview of the history of cycling in Toronto... "the story of the revolutionary changes to transportation in the city and how the bicycle contributed to improving our roads, liberation of women and modernizing consumerism, tourism and professional sport."

It takes place at Mountain Equipment Co-op on March 29th (next wednesday) at 7:30 p.m. MEC is at 400 King St. W. (just east of Spadina). They have a ton of bikeracks out front, so don't worry about parking.


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posted by Joe on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

I posted some Toronto-centric links earlier today, so I thought I'd share some more general ones that I found elsewhere.

Okay, the first one isn't really a "find" as it is a heads-up that the Globe and Mail finally published the piece I was interviewed for about a month ago. It's called Plastic Fantastic and is about the Metropass Affinity Program. I come off looking rather well. I obviously have them fooled... haha.

Jill of Up In Alaska posted a fantastic entry about a week ago about how cyclists are like dogs Highly recommended if you haven't already seen it. I'm a Labrador Retriever:
Commuters are the Labrador retrievers of the pack. Throw them a good bicycle route, and they'll keep coming back. They love a good game of "catch"- that is, sprinting to catch green lights. They're highly sociable, largely domesticated and don't mind being leashed to the same roads day after day.
What kind are you?

A recent find of mine has been Commute By Bike, who recently published Top Ten Reasons NOT to Commute by Bike. It's pretty funny stuff. I like #3 a lot: You’ll lose weight and new clothes are too darn expensive!

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posted by Joe on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

Sorry for the lapse in posting. Visiting friends and wedding invitations have taken up a lot of time and created high levels of napping urgency in me. Haha.

What's New?

DarrenJ has just posted a great example of the influential nature of cycling... that people seeing you out there on your bike will inspire others to do the same.

Martino recently announced the opening of a new BikeShop at 349 Harbord (at Crawford) called The Bike Clinic

Darren Stehr posted this morning about an upcoming presentation on March 29 at 6:30 pm (Intersection - Community Bicycle Network – Suite 101, 761 Queen St W ) with an insurance professional about Ontario's insurance legislation as it effects cyclists:
Should you insure your bicycle? Who’s insurance insurance company would you deal with if you were injured in a collision with a motor vehicle? What does “no fault” insurance mean and how does it apply to cyclists?


As for me, I had my local Bike Shop overhaul my crappy Canadian Tire Raleigh mountain bike to replace all the parts I essentially killed last summer and this past winter commuting to work, plus he gave it a good cleaning, taking the whole thing apart.

Yeah, I know that mountain bikes aren't good for commuting (I'm thinking of getting some road tires this year), and I'm obviously not a "gear-head" buying it at Crappy Tire, but I'm probably like most cyclists in my philosophy that if it gets me from A to B, and it works smoothly, I'm happy. The Beater Bike Philosophy, I guess?



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posted by Joe on Thursday, March 16, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

Writing the 8 Secrets to Cycling in Traffic (which aren't really secrets if you're a cyclist...) all at once and then spacing out the posts spoiled me. I have to get back into writing every day.

I'll start by talking about a few links I've come across that emphasize the importance of human activity over vehicular activity.

Transportation Alternatives in New York City are currently campaigning for a Car Free Central Park this summer. It's actually a bit of a misnomer, as they're only calling for the "Loop Drive" (the white roads on the map to the right - you can click it to go to the GoogleMap of the park...) to be closed to traffic in the summer, not the east-west "transverses". Apparently Frederick Law Olmsted originally designed the Loop Drive to be for recreation only, but it has since been turned into a thoroughfare for drivers heading for Midtown Manhattan:
Central Park was created 150 years ago as a refuge from the street noise and bustle of the surrounding city. Tragically, the park’s status as a retreat from the urban din is compromised every weekday by the presence of drivers on the loop drive. Families with strollers, runners, bicyclists and tourists seeking respite must jockey for space in a narrow “recreational lane” inches away from the car traffic they are trying to escape.
Needless to say, I really hope they can get Loop Drive to be free from cars for atleast the summer months.

The Project for Public Spaces is based in New York but works all over the world helping people to grow their public spaces into vital community places. They are compiling tips on the simple steps people can take to improve their own neighborhoods, turning them into great public spaces. They even mention Dufferin Grove Park.

Places built with people in mind are good for cities and towns. Especially for attracting tourists. When's the last time you heard of someone visiting Woodbridge to drive around the crescents and cul-de-sacs? Uh... never.



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posted by Joe on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

As promised, here's all 8 Secrets in one post (I have them linked individually down at the bottom, if that's what floats your boat...). This is the easiest way to print out all of them into a poster you can hang in your bedroom, cubicle and on your grocery store bulletin board. Haha.

One secret I didn't include is the most important one:

While these 8 things will help you deal with car traffic in a city, you'll learn them with experience, so the most important thing you can do to make yourself comfortable on the roads is to bike a lot. You'll become more and more comfortable the more experience you have out there.

For instance, I have a 7 km route to work, and I know through lots of repetition of this route where cars tend to slow down and speed up... where I have to be extra-vigilent and careful due to drivers thinking they can pass me safely when they can't. This isn't learned through 8 tips on a website, but with experience.

These tips though, these tips will help you become more comfortable faster, as you have now essentially pulled out all the information I've learned over the past 2 years biking Toronto.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

These are geared towards downtown cycling, since that's what I'm most familiar with.

These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1. Drivers Don't Want to Kill You

It's hard to believe sometimes, because drivers can often do some pretty thoughtless things out there, and despite all the evidence to the contrary, it's true.

They may not like you... they may think you are in their way, that you are too slow, that you don't belong on the road, and that your tight cycling butt looks way better than their flabby one stuck in their car, but most of them are not homicidal.

This is mainly because they are seeing things from a drivers' perspective, and often have not given much thought to how vulnerable cyclists are. The vast majority of drivers don't want to kill you... they just don't understand you.

I bet any cyclist you know with a drivers license can tell you that knowing things from a cyclists' perspective has made them a much better driver.

Knowing this one thing will give you a lot of confidence.


2. Ride In A Straight Line

Don't ride in the gutters and then swing out into the road to avoid the drains. This throws drivers off-guard because they aren't thinking about the drains and aren't expecting you to do this. There's a very good chance you'll get honked at if you do this, because nothing scares a driver more than a cyclist swerving in front of their car.

Instead, imagine that the entire length of the road is lined with gutters. Ride at least that far away from the curb. It's hard at first, because you may be afraid of those cars driving beside you, but most drivers will pass you at a safe distance the further you ride out from the curb.


3. Play By The Rules

You and your bike constitute "a vehicle" according to the Highway Traffic Act. This means that you have to abide to the same rules that drivers do. This means stopping at red lights, stopping for people at crosswalks, and not passing open streetcar doors.

This is really important because if drivers see you respecting the laws, they are more likely to respect you. On the other hand, if they're stopped at a red light and you blow right through it because (hopefully) the way is clear, they are going to be mad at you.

Why should they treat you like a vehicle with a right to the road if you don't behave like one?


4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"

The next time you get to a red light before cars do, DON'T put your right foot down on the curb. I know it's tempting as it's a handy little footrest, but if you're right beside the curb, any drivers that come up behind you will drive up beside you (often too close) and you'll be "squeezed" when the light turns green, having to wait for that car to go before you can.

Instead, when you get to the red before cars, swing out a little to the left (I usually stop about 1/3 of the way between the curb and the next lane), and lean over to the left, putting your left foot down. This forces drivers to stop behind you, and gives you "first dibs" when the light turns green.


5. Signal Sensibly

Drivers are trained to look for signals. Stoplights, stop signs, turn signals, brake lights... all of these things catch the attention of a driver. It's what they look for to make sure they don't hit anyone. Letting them know that you're planning on turning, or coming out into the road more to pass a parked car is just courteous (see #3 above).

Biking hand-signals are traditionally confusing... pointing up means turning right? Pointing left means you're going straight? That's confusing - especially for drivers who don't know about cycling.

Apparently, it's now acceptable to point in the direction you're going (it makes sense), so point where you're going. It keeps everyone on the same page. Do it well ahead of any turns, so that drivers know that you're planning to turn, and they can act accordingly to avoid you.


6. Take That Lane

This is just what it sounds like. Taking your place in the middle of a lane because it's unsafe at the edge of it.

This is mostly done on streets where the curb lane is filled with parked cars. You can't ride in the curb lane right beside the cars because of the possibility of getting "doored" (also called "winning the door-prize") by someone getting out of their car.

Therefore, you ride in the other lane. Most of the time (especially downtown), you'll be moving at the same speed (or faster) than vehicular traffic, so you'll fit right in to traffic.

If you're moving slower than traffic, remember that you're a vehicle and have a right to be there if you're abiding by the laws, and move out of the lane whenever you get a chance.


7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable

This is something that I've learned only recently. If I'm in a stretch of road where drivers are passing too closely or I just want more room, I look over to my left or over my left shoulder. Sometimes I'll be looking at a store, or someone on the sidewalk, or down a street, but most of the time I'm just looking left for the sake of looking left.

I've found that the simple act of looking over to the left is enough sometimes to give me more road space. Drivers, if they see you do this, seem to think that you're thinking of moving to the left (even if you aren't) and are checking to see if it's clear.

If they think you may be coming left, they'll give you more room. They don't know you're responsible and predictable and would signal before doing anything.


8. Ride With Others

I don't get a chance to do this often (especially lately because it's been winter) but the biggest factor when riding with cars is having a presence. It's easiest to do this if there is more than just you biking.

Cars are more likely to see 2 bikes than one, 4 bikes than 2, 10 bikes than 4, and so on. The more bikes, the more chances that one of the people riding them will do something unpredictable, so drivers give groups of bikes (even those riding single-file) much more space than single riders.

You don't have to know everyone you're riding with either... when the weather is warm, there are lots of bikes out on the street, and often you'll find yourself riding with other people out there on the road. Notice that you'll hardly ever have a close call with a car passing you too closely if there's atleast 2 of you riding along. Not to say it never happens... it just seems to happen less.

The main thing to do is get out on your bike as much as you can... the more people see you out there having a good time, going faster than traffic in a fun, cheap, and pollution-free way, the more likely they are to try it too. The numbers of cyclists on the road has the potential to grow exponentially this way.... the more cyclists people see out there, the more people are curious to try it. Imagine if you saw groups of cyclists riding by you all day every day... you'd want to know what all the fuss was about!

This is also the concept behind Critical Mass and the Ride Matching (or BikePooling) section of the Cycling Cog... it's easy for a driver in a car to bully one cyclist off the road, but stick a few (or more) cyclists on the road, and they take on the presence of a car... perhaps more than one car. There is strength in numbers.

Note: Thanks to everyone who has left comments in this series of posts, and to everyone who has linked to them. I'm happy that you are finding them useful. I'll be putting all of them into one post sometime tomorrow for easy reference, feel free to tell anyone you know who is new to biking (or is thinking of taking it up) about them.

Individual Secrets:

1. Drivers Don't Want to Kill You
2. Ride In A Straight Line
3. Play By The Rules
4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"
5. Signal Sensibly
6. Take That Lane
7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable
8. Ride With Others

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posted by Joe on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

8. Ride With Others

I don't get a chance to do this often (especially lately because it's been winter) but the biggest factor when riding with cars is having a presence. It's easiest to do this if there is more than just you biking.

Cars are more likely to see 2 bikes than one, 4 bikes than 2, 10 bikes than 4, and so on. The more bikes, the more chances that one of the people riding them will do something unpredictable, so drivers give groups of bikes (even those riding single-file) much more space than single riders.

You don't have to know everyone you're riding with either... when the weather is warm, there are lots of bikes out on the street, and often you'll find yourself riding with other people out there on the road. Notice that you'll hardly ever have a close call with a car passing you too closely if there's atleast 2 of you riding along. Not to say it never happens... it just seems to happen less.

The main thing to do is get out on your bike as much as you can... the more people see you out there having a good time, going faster than traffic in a fun, cheap, and pollution-free way, the more likely they are to try it too. The numbers of cyclists on the road has the potential to grow exponentially this way.... the more cyclists people see out there, the more people are curious to try it. Imagine if you saw groups of cyclists riding by you all day every day... you'd want to know what all the fuss was about!

This is also the concept behind Critical Mass and the Ride Matching (or BikePooling) section of the Cycling Cog... it's easy for a driver in a car to bully one cyclist off the road, but stick a few (or more) cyclists on the road, and they take on the presence of a car... perhaps more than one car. There is strength in numbers.

Note: Thanks to everyone who has left comments in this series of posts, and to everyone who has linked to them. I'm happy that you are finding them useful. I'll be putting all of them into one post sometime tomorrow for easy reference, feel free to tell anyone you know who is new to biking (or is thinking of taking it up) about them.

Past Secrets:

1. Drivers Don't Want to Kill You
2. Ride In A Straight Line
3. Play By The Rules
4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"
5. Signal Sensibly
6. Take That Lane
7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable
8. Ride With Others

These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.



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posted by Joe on Monday, March 13, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

While this is a news item from last spring, since it's almost "officially" spring (1 week!) here in Toronto, I thought I'd link to BikePortland.org once again to see the great things going on in Portland that we can emulate here in Toronto. I love the idea of a "Bunny on a Bike" ride. Imagine hundreds (or thousands?) of Torontonians riding around the streets en masse wearing pink bunny ears!

Meanwhile, Down Under (no pun intended) a mayor in New Zealand wants a Naked Cycling Race to be stopped because the cyclists don't wear helmets. The race aims to promote safe cycling and alternative energy.




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posted by Joe on Monday, March 13, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable

This is something that I've learned only recently. If I'm in a stretch of road where drivers are passing too closely or I just want more room, I look over to my left or over my left shoulder. Sometimes I'll be looking at a store, or someone on the sidewalk, or down a street, but most of the time I'm just looking left for the sake of looking left.

I've found that the simple act of looking over to the left is enough sometimes to give me more road space. Drivers, if they see you do this, seem to think that you're thinking of moving to the left (even if you aren't) and are checking to see if it's clear.

If they think you may be coming left, they'll give you more room. They don't know you're responsible and predictable and would signal before doing anything.


Past Secrets:

1. Drivers Don't Want to Kill You
2. Ride In A Straight Line
3. Play By The Rules
4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"
5. Signal Sensibly
6. Take That Lane
7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable
8. Ride With Others

Note: These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.



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posted by Joe on Sunday, March 12, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

6. Take That Lane

This is just what it sounds like. Taking your place in the middle of a lane because it's unsafe at the edge of it.

This is mostly done on streets where the curb lane is filled with parked cars. You can't ride in the curb lane right beside the cars because of the possibility of getting "doored" (also called "winning the door-prize") by someone getting out of their car.

Therefore, you ride in the other lane. Most of the time (especially downtown), you'll be moving at the same speed (or faster) than vehicular traffic, so you'll fit right in to traffic.

If you're moving slower than traffic, remember that you're a vehicle and have a right to be there if you're abiding by the laws, and move out of the lane whenever you get a chance.

Past Secrets:

1. Drivers Don't Want to Kill You
2. Ride In A Straight Line
3. Play By The Rules
4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"
5. Signal Sensibly
6. Take That Lane
7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable
8. Ride With Others

Note: These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.



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posted by Joe on Saturday, March 11, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

5. Signal Sensibly

Drivers are trained to look for signals. Stoplights, stop signs, turn signals, brake lights... all of these things catch the attention of a driver. It's what they look for to make sure they don't hit anyone. Letting them know that you're planning on turning, or coming out into the road more to pass a parked car is just courteous (see #3 above).

Biking hand-signals are traditionally confusing... pointing up means turning right? Pointing left means you're going straight? That's confusing - especially for drivers who don't know about cycling.

Apparently, it's now acceptable to point in the direction you're going (it makes sense), so point where you're going. It keeps everyone on the same page. Do it well ahead of any turns, so that drivers know that you're planning to turn, and they can act accordingly to avoid you.

Past Secrets:

1. Drivers Don't Want to Kill You
2. Ride In A Straight Line
3. Play By The Rules
4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"
5. Signal Sensibly
6. Take That Lane
7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable
8. Ride With Others

Note: These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.



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posted by Joe on Friday, March 10, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"

The next time you get to a red light before cars do, DON'T put your right foot down on the curb. I know it's tempting as it's a handy little footrest, but if you're right beside the curb, any drivers that come up behind you will drive up beside you (often too close) and you'll be "squeezed" when the light turns green, having to wait for that car to go before you can.

Instead, when you get to the red before cars, swing out a little to the left (I usually stop about 1/3 of the way between the curb and the next lane), and lean over to the left, putting your left foot down. This forces drivers to stop behind you, and gives you "first dibs" when the light turns green.

Past Secrets:

1. Drivers Don't Want to Kill You
2. Ride In A Straight Line
3. Play By The Rules
4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"
5. Signal Sensibly
6. Take That Lane
7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable
8. Ride With Others

Note: These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.



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posted by Joe on Friday, March 10, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

I was "surfing" bike weblogs the other day and came across this post on Dan On Bike's page about how "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive", a well thought out piece which offers alternatives to the arguments for autocentric lives. Arguments such as There is inadequate public transit, or I have children:
Dealing with our car dependency is not an issue of all or nothing. Any step we take to lessen our use of cars is a positive one, and as long as we continue to think, one positive step will probably lead to another.
Thanks for the link, Dan!



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posted by Joe on Thursday, March 09, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

3. Play By The Rules

You and your bike constitute "a vehicle" according to the Highway Traffic Act. This means that you have to abide to the same rules that drivers do. This means stopping at red lights, stopping for people at crosswalks, and not passing open streetcar doors.

This is really important because if drivers see you respecting the laws, they are more likely to respect you. On the other hand, if they're stopped at a red light and you blow right through it because (hopefully) the way is clear, they are going to be mad at you.

Why should they treat you like a vehicle with a right to the road if you don't behave like one?

Past Secrets:

1. Drivers Don't Want to Kill You
2. Ride In A Straight Line
3. Play By The Rules
4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"
5. Signal Sensibly
6. Take That Lane
7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable
8. Ride With Others

Note: These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.



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posted by Joe on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

Great news everyone!

The yellow and black buttons I ordered from the iBikeTO store came in. I ordered two colours just to see how they turned out, and now wish I had bought more (I will) because not only did they turn out just like I hoped, but they are actually kind of cute. These are the "small" size... the 1 inch ones.

I gave a few out to co-workers today who I know love to bike (and have been biking in to work through the winter) and they were thrilled with them. Even some non-biking co-workers love them, being impressed by my "skillz". Haha.

If you want to get some for you and your friends, here's where to go to pick your colour, and you can also get some nice white or black t-shirts too. If you want to know more about the graphic, that's okay too.

I'm expecting to get the t-shirt I ordered any day now, so I'll take photos when that comes in too.



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posted by Joe on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

2. Ride In A Straight Line

Don't ride in the gutters and then swing out into the road to avoid the drains. This throws drivers off-guard because they aren't thinking about the drains and aren't expecting you to do this. There's a very good chance you'll get honked at if you do this, because nothing scares a driver more than a cyclist swerving in front of their car.

Instead, imagine that the entire length of the road is lined with gutters. Ride at least that far away from the curb. It's hard at first, because you may be afraid of those cars driving beside you, but most drivers will pass you at a safe distance the further you ride out from the curb.

Other Secrets:

1. Drivers Don't Want to Kill You
2. Ride In A Straight Line
3. Play By The Rules
4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"
5. Signal Sensibly
6. Take That Lane
7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable
8. Ride With Others

Note: These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.



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posted by Joe on Tuesday, March 07, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

Note from Joe:
Last night I started working on a list of 5 things that I've learned over the past couple of years biking Toronto. I figured writing them down may help people just starting to bike. My list of 5 things turned into 8, and I had so much to say about each one that I'm going to put each of them into their own post, because if the readers of this page are anything like me... their attention span is not the greatest. Haha.

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

Here are 8 things I try to do every day, every ride to "hold my own" in traffic against cars and drivers, sometimes not the most selfless people in the world.

These are geared towards downtown cycling, since that's what I'm most familiar with.

These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.


1. Drivers Don't Want to Kill You

It's hard to believe sometimes, because drivers can often do some pretty thoughtless things out there, and despite all the evidence to the contrary, it's true.

They may not like you... they may think you are in their way, that you are too slow, that you don't belong on the road, and that your tight cycling butt looks way better than their flabby one stuck in their car, but most of them are not homicidal.

This is mainly because they are seeing things from a drivers' perspective, and often have not given much thought to how vulnerable cyclists are. The vast majority of drivers don't want to kill you... they just don't understand you.

I bet any cyclist you know with a drivers license can tell you that knowing things from a cyclists' perspective has made them a much better driver.

Knowing this one thing will give you a lot of confidence.

Other Secrets:

1. Drivers Don't Want To Kill You
2. Ride In A Straight Line
3. Play By The Rules
4. Avoid The "Stoplight Squeeze"
5. Signal Sensibly
6. Take That Lane
7. Make Them Think You're Unpredictable
8. Ride With Others



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posted by Joe on Monday, March 06, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

Just over a week ago I mentioned Darren and I meeting with someone who was putting together a new website. That website is The Cycling Cog.



"The 'Cog" (as I call it in my head) is in it's infancy, but has awesome potential. Brought to life by Herb V. (formerly of the Toronto Cycling Committee and presently of CBN and Toolworks), it's a place where Toronto's (and Canada's... and other places?) cycling community can not only share tips and resources, and learn about upcoming events, but welcome and encourage people new to biking.

Something I really like the looks of is the Ride Matching section. Basically, it allows for experienced and inexperienced cyclists to meet up to share knowledge about all things cycling. Best of all, users can be "filed" into categories depending on how much experience they have, and where they live (right down to postal code), making it easy to find someone knowledgable near you. It would also be useful for the purpose of "bike-pooling", matching up people who have similar commutes to ride together and become more of a presence on the road.

Go by and visit and become a member (it's free!). The more members on The 'Cog, the more useful a community it'll be, and the more cyclists we'll have in our great city!



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posted by Joe on Monday, March 06, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

I went to bed last night after looking up the "long-range" weather forecast on the Weather Network site and was ecstatic to learn that the end of this week may see temperatures in the "double-digits".

As much as I've enjoyed learning how to ride and dress for winter cycling (although I did still wimp out on the really cold days...) and significantly lengthened my cycling period into colder weather, I have been waiting excitedly for the days when I can bike around wearing a t-shirt and shorts again. There's just something about feeling the wind and not worrying about it freezing important body parts off.

Yes, I fell asleep last night biking in my head. I biked parts of the Martin-Goodman trail, the Humber Valley trail, and the Beltline.

It was a bit cold this morning biking, but my dreams of warmer weather kept me toasty.



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posted by Joe on Sunday, March 05, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

I found the great BikeTV site through BikeBlog. BikeTV is based in Brooklyn but also goes to other cities and rides around, looking at cycling infrastructure and culture.

The latest vid is an introduction to biking in San Francisco, but my favourite so far is the one called "Kid-ical Mass". I was laughing a lot at that one. The Portland one is also really good, and there's a great quote from a cyclist who is asked "What's the best thing about biking in Portland?" and answers with "Because there are so many bikers on the roads, drivers are more aware of you and watch out for you".

It's basically the same idea as what I wrote about 5 weeks ago (has it been that long?)... how when I'm on the road with other cyclists cars give us a wider berth.

There's a lot of videos still on there I haven't watched yet... so I've gotta go do that. Let's hope they come up to Toronto soon!



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posted by Joe on Friday, March 03, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

I was home sick from work today (and actually slept right into the afternoon), so although I've got a couple posts in draft stage, I thought I'd post about an idea I literally just had that may not only encourage biking, but raise money for charity.

I can't help but think of Portland when I think of organized rides. It seems to be a biking wonderland for cyclists interested in biking around their city in groups. If you take a look at the Rides & Events Category of BikePortland.org, you'll see fun looking things like The Worst Day Ride, rides celebrating the birthday of a riding club, and the Super-Legal Ride, amongst countless others (there were at least 3 rides on New Years Day alone!)

I've gotten all sidetracked looking at all those links (plus I'm watching Law & Order, plus my Tylenol Cold pills are severely shortening my attention span...), but here's my idea, in point form, since I'm very scatterbrained:

  • Set up a monthly ride that goes on the weekend, so you can get families and kids and people that don't bike-commute to work to take part.
  • Organize it somewhat like the Toronto BikeWeek GroupRide, where a group of cyclists will start at Yonge & Lawrence, meet up with others (coming from the east and west) at Yonge & Bloor and go on to City Hall for some snacks.
  • Finally, we legitimize it, get media and politicians behind it by getting a $2 or $5 donation per rider for charity.
  • The charity can be the Canadian Lung Association, who already runs something similar called BikeTreks, 1-2 day rides through rural Ontario.
I honestly believe that something like this will not only help remind people that streets aren't just for cars, and encourage people to use their bikes on our streets (instead of just recreational trails) but also help raise money and awareness of air pollution problems for the Lung Association - not only a worthy and "feelgood" cause, but something media outlets will do stories on.

I guess I'll start looking into what will be involved in getting this going, although that could be the pills talking. Haha. It's not like I have a lot of extra time hanging around.



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posted by Joe on Thursday, March 02, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

You know there's a vibrant cycling community in Toronto when there are 3 things happening tomorrow, March 3rd.

I'll start with the "biggest", and that's the Toronto International Bicycle Show, at the National Trade Centre at Exhibition Place. It's "the best place to shop for bicycles and accessories, preview the newest trends in cycling from the top manufacturers and distributors plus enjoy thrilling action-packed events." and runs from Friday March 3rd to Sunday March 5th. Admission is $13 for adults, or $34 for a family of four. Kids under 5 are free!

The second thing going on is the opening of "We Are Traffic" at the Ontario College of Art & Design. It's a cycling-focused art show that is organized by the Bicycle Friendly Campuses Project. Thanks to Dave for the reminder about this, and I've just noticed thatMartino has posted about this today too!

Thirdly, join the nice friendly people running the Take The Tooker campaign (they're pushing for a Bloor-Danforth bikelane... a continuous east-west route across the city - something badly needed) in a bikelane line-painting demonstration. They are meeting at 2 pm at Yonge & Bloor.

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