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posted by Joe on Saturday, October 03, 2009 Share/Save/Bookmark

Great article from RaiseTheHammer.org:


Myth and Reality of Cycling and Safety
Too much of the car-vs-bicycle debate is overrun by myths and rank misinformation.

Myth: Cyclists don't pay for the roads and therefore have no right to use them.

Reality: Municipal roads are paid for out of property taxes, which are paid by all residents. Fuel taxes pay for freeways and highways that cyclists cannot use. As the Ministry of Transport's, Guide to Safe Cycling reminds us, "Bicycles are prohibited on expressway / freeway highways such as the 400 series, the QEW."

Myth: Bicycles are not vehicles.

Reality: The Guide states, "A bicycle is a vehicle under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA). This means that, as a bicyclist, you have the same rights and responsibilities to obey all traffic laws as other road users."

Myth: Cyclists must always stay as close to the curb as possible so motorists are not slowed down.

Reality: Cyclists should generally ride 1m from the curb "unless they are turning left, going faster than other vehicles or if the lane is too narrow to share", according to the Guide.


Full Article

Posted via web from bikingtoronto's posterous

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posted by Joe on Wednesday, July 29, 2009 Share/Save/Bookmark

Originally posted in the Forum:

Nice article in Streetsblog:SF about how cyclists deal with streetcar tracks... Toronto is mentioned as we have some railway tracks with firm rubber flanges (that contract under the weight of a train, but not under a bicycle) and Yvonne Bambrick of the Bike Union is quoted too:

In Toronto, where bicyclists also have to contend with a maze of tracks, several at-grade railroad crossings are equipped with a rubber flange filler that is jammed down into the cracks of trolley tracks. The rubber is firm enough that it doesn't compress when a bike passes over it, but when a streetcar comes it squishes down and doesn't cause the train to derail.
Read more and discuss in the Forum.

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posted by Joe on Monday, June 22, 2009 Share/Save/Bookmark

The Toronto Police Service is starting their annual "Safe Cycling" campaign today
http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/newsreleases/pdfs/16648.pdf (PDF file)

The campaign begins Monday, June 22, 2009, and concludes on Sunday, June 28, 2009. This one−week Traffic Services initiative is designed to promote awareness and education by reducing the potential for cycling−related injuries.

Traffic Services officers, along with Yvonne Bambrick, Executive Director of the Toronto Cyclists Union, will be on hand to support this initiative.

The Toronto Police Service reminds motorists of the dangers of opening car doors in the path of cyclists, and the importance of checking blind spots prior to making right turns. Officers will pay particular attention to those motorists who endanger the lives of cyclists, including vehicles parked in designated bike lanes. Attention will also be paid to cyclists whose aggressive riding puts themselves, pedestrians and motorists at risk.

Motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians have a responsibility to share the road equally by driving safely, riding responsibly, and obeying all the rules of the road.

The Toronto Cyclists Union has also issued a media release:
http://bikeunion.to/news/2009/06/21/toronto-police-cycling-safety-campaign-june-22-28

If you are stopped, please remember that the police officers is just doing their job enforcing traffic laws. The officer should record the details on the ticket, including the fact that this is a
cycling related offense.

More information on what to do if you receive a ticket can be found here:
http://respect.to/wiki/pmwiki.php?n=LegalInfo.HowToFightTrafficTickets

Highway Traffic Act:
http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h08_e.htm

List of violations (including local by-laws):
http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/pdf/hta.pdf


What do you think of the Safe Cycling Campaign? Should Toronto Police have 1 week out of the year where they concentrate on cyclists riding safely? Should they do it more than once a year?

Discuss it here in the BikingToronto Forum

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posted by Joe on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 Share/Save/Bookmark

DATE: May 20, 2009
TIME: 7:00 pm
WHERE: South-east corner of Bloor & Spadina

Join cyclists worldwide in a silent slow-paced ride (max. 12 mph/20 kph) in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways.

* To HONOR those who have been injured or killed
* To RAISE AWARENESS that we are here
* To ask that we all SHARE THE ROAD

More info at rideofsilence.org

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posted by Joe on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 Share/Save/Bookmark

Comment on Headlines: Cyclist Hit on Coxwell

I wear one headphone on my right ear and not loud. Music helps to pump me up to bike faster or to enjoy the ride when it's too boring. I am cautious though, looking over my shoulder all time and listening to cars and even other bike bells is very important. I think completely losing yourself in the music is very dangerous.

There's a discussion on the post about a cyclist being hit on Coxwell, after he (reportedly) turned in front of a truck while wearing headphones.

Do you wear headphones while cycling?

Did you used to wear headphones while cycling, but decided not to?

Do you say anything to others who wear headphones while cycling?

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posted by Joe on Friday, July 04, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmark

You may have seen this news in your local paper, or in yesterday's "Headlines" post, but in case you haven't...

The driver who opened their car door and
hit a cyclist in May, resulting in that cyclists crashing and then getting run over by a van is being fined $110 for it.

The Toronto Cyclists Union has been active in getting police to charge the driver with something, but a fine of $110 for "Open Vehicle Door Improperly" is falling rather short of what should be done. Wouldn't something like "negligence causing death / bodily harm" be more appropriate?



The Highway Traffic Act doesn't agree with me:

The Highway Traffic Act, Section 165, requires that:

No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on a highway without first taking due precautions to ensure that his or her act will not interfere with the movement of or endanger any other person or vehicle: (Fine $110 and two demerit points). [source]

If a driver was backing out of a parking space without looking and ran over a child, they'd have some answering to do, wouldn't they?

I'm glad to report that yesterday's "Headlines" post alerted TreeHugger to this, and they've posted about it here.

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posted by Joe on Thursday, June 26, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmark

A Toronto Star Article picked up on these results yesterday, but it's interesting to have a look at the breakdown of the numbers:
Officers issued 6,671 tickets to motorists and cyclists who were found committing offences. Of the tickets issued:

• 3,691 tickets were issued to motorists for offences such as opening vehicle doors improperly, and failing to yield to cyclists,

• 2,076 tickets were issued to cyclists for disobeying traffic signals and failing to yield to pedestrians,

• 904 tickets were issued to cyclists for bicycle equipment offences,

• 113 parking tickets were issued for parking in designated bike lanes,

• 1,891 motorists and cyclists were cautioned with respect to a variety of related offences,

• 89 bike rodeos/lectures involving 3,410 participants were held across the city.

The Toronto Police Service reminds motorists of the dangers of opening car doors in the path of cyclists, and the importance of checking blind spots prior to making a turn, especially for large trucks. All road-users have a responsibility to share the road equally by driving safety, riding responsibly, playing smart, and obeying all the rules of the road.

For further information on the ‘Safe Cycling – Share the Responsibility’ initiative, please contact Traffic Services Programs Office at 416-808-1919 or Traffic Services Communications Office at 416-808-1920

The title of the campaign is also telling... drivers are often told to "share the road" with cyclists, and this campaign is telling drivers and cyclists that they have to "share the responsibility" of operating both motorized and non-motorized vehicles safely on our public streets.


You can discuss this campaign in the BikingToronto Community.

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posted by Joe on Thursday, April 10, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmark

This isn't really about cycling safety - it's an interesting graphic taking American statistics and plotting out the odds of dying from different activities:



Motor Vehicle Accident = 1 in 84
Pedestrian Accident = 1 in 626
Bicycling Accident = 1 in 4,919

You can also find more detailed stats like these on the National Safety Council site.

Originally posted on Pixdaus.

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posted by Joe on Tuesday, April 01, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmark

This video has been everywhere over the last couple of weeks - a video from Transport for London that illustrates the need for drivers to be aware of cyclists:



While it's been everywhere, what I haven't seen explained is that it is a demonstration of how the human brain works.

Give the brain a task like "how many passes does the white team make?" and the brain will focus on that - seeing but not registering the moonwalking bear.

The point of the video (yes, the point is something other than "wow! a moonwalking bear! that's funny!") is too change the task of a driver's mind from "don't hit other cars" to "drive carefully, don't hit other cars, and watch for pedestrians and cyclists".

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posted by Joe on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmark

Remember the case of the Sikh man in Brampton charged for not wearing a motorcycle helmet for religious reasons?

Baljinder Badesha, above, who was charged by Peel police in September 2005 with failing to wear a helmet, said he understands the inherent dangers of riding a motorcycle without a helmet but is willing to take the risk to follow his Sikh tenets.

"I know it is for safety, but people die in car accidents all the time," the 39-year-old owner of a used car dealership said yesterday outside a Brampton court. He is fighting a $110 ticket he received for wearing his turban instead of a helmet while riding his motorcycle on Queen St. in Brampton near Hwy. 410.

"Telling Mr. Badesha to choose between his religion or participating in the normal life of Ontario is discrimination," Scott Hutchison, an attorney for the human rights commission, told a Brampton court yesterday.


Well, the judge ruled against him. I wonder what this means for Sikh cyclists if mandatory bicycle helmet laws ever come to Ontario?

A judge in Brampton, Ont., rejected a human rights challenge to an Ontario law on Thursday, ruling that motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding because safety concerns outweigh religious rights....

Blacklock said "no accommodation appears possible" under the law because there is no question that helmets reduce the risk of head injuries suffered by motorcyclists in crashes.

He said allowing Badesha, along with other Sikh motorcyclists, to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet would put "undue hardship" on the province to maintain safety standards.

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posted by Joe on Thursday, March 06, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmark



At first I thought this new Litroenergy thingy from GloPaint had to be toxic to be able to glow for so long, but apparently it's non-toxic and cheap. Perfect for helping light up you and your bike at night:
“The Litrospheres are not effected by heat or cold, and are 5,000-pound crush resistant. They can be injection molded or added to paint. The fill rate of Litroenergy micro particles in plastic injection molding material or paint is about 20%. The constant light gives off no U.V. rays, and can be designed to emit almost any color of light desired.”



Via Ecoble.

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posted by Joe on Monday, March 03, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmark

This is a really cool product that I saw recently on BikeHugger:

Glo gloves are simple, reflective over-gloves which will help you survive your night time rides. Here’s a good review by the Gadgeteer, but you won’t need too much convincing once you understand the value of the gloves.

These are the same gloves you see police officers directing traffic with, although there are 3 models, only one of which has the ‘stop sign’ on the palm. You can get this model online or at uniform stores here in Seattle and elsewhere.

The gloves will help you stay visible during one of the riskiest road maneuvers for a cyclist — turning. Signalling is a great way to improve your safety, but if drivers can’t see your signals they don’t count for much. Glo Gloves increase your odds of being seen. At around $20 they’re incredibly cheap insurance.


More on BikeHugger.

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posted by Joe on Thursday, February 28, 2008 Share/Save/Bookmark



Interesting story last week about a Sikh man named Baljinder Badesha who can't ride his motorcycle because according to his faith, he can't wear a helmet (either instead of a turban or on top of a turban).

Baljinder Badesha, above, who was charged by Peel police in September 2005 with failing to wear a helmet, said he understands the inherent dangers of riding a motorcycle without a helmet but is willing to take the risk to follow his Sikh tenets.

"I know it is for safety, but people die in car accidents all the time," the 39-year-old owner of a used car dealership said yesterday outside a Brampton court. He is fighting a $110 ticket he received for wearing his turban instead of a helmet while riding his motorcycle on Queen St. in Brampton near Hwy. 410.

"Telling Mr. Badesha to choose between his religion or participating in the normal life of Ontario is discrimination," Scott Hutchison, an attorney for the human rights commission, told a Brampton court yesterday.

This brings up interesting questions if a mandatory bicycle helmet law ever comes into effect in Ontario.

If this is a human rights issue and Sikh cyclists don't have to wear helmets when biking, isn't mandating non-Sikh cyclists to wear helmets also discrimatory?

More at the Star.

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posted by Joe on Friday, July 20, 2007 Share/Save/Bookmark



This will be in the news forever.

Today, it's a Globe & Mail news item about mandatory helmet use by all cyclists.

What these articles NEVER mention is that in accidents involving car occupants and/or pedestrians, the injured are NEVER wearing helmets. If it's much more likely that someone will be hurt while in a car or as a pedestrian, shouldn't helmets be mandatory for them?

I've posted about this before, using official statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, but if you don't feel like reading my earlier post, here's the most important bits:
I find it interesting that only about 10% (~500 out of ~5000) of traumatic head injuries suffered by children happened while cycling - yet helmets are mandatory for them. 90% of child traumatic head injuries did NOT happen while cycling.

only about 2.5% (~300 out of ~12,000) of traumatic head injuries suffered by adults happened while cycling. 97.5% of traumatic head injuries did NOT happen while cycling. In fact, most of them happened in motor vehicle accidents.

I used to wear a helmet. Now I don't.

Wearing a helmet does not determine whether I get hit by a car or not. Whether I get hit or not depends on the driver, and that I ride my bike in a safe manner (which I do).

It's a given that if I suffer a head injury, it will be less serious if I am wearing a helmet. However, given that according to the CIHI, only about 300 adults are hospitalized per year with cycling-related head injuries... the chances of me being hit and suffering a head-related injury that a helmet could mitigate is very small.

Of 2500 Major Head Injuries Annually in Ontario
49% motor vehicle involvement - including pedestrians, excluding cyclists
35% falls, 6% homicide, 2% suicide, 6% other causes
less than 2% Cycling
(Source: Canadian Institute For Health Information 2001/2002) [link]

I base my behaviour on the statistics. Not the hysteria.

Also, and this is a biggie... biking is a lot more fun without a helmet. Try it on some quiet sidestreets and you'll thank me.

Good links:






[source]

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posted by Joe on Wednesday, May 09, 2007 Share/Save/Bookmark

Yes, the driver in the road rage incident yesterday (the one in which a driver lost his bananas on a cyclist who didn't bike through a yellow light) is a policeman. A suspended policeman.

I'm tempted to give some "props" to the cop for turning himself in... but wonder if he would've if a video camera didn't catch the whole thing? Let's be positive and assume he would have.

Interesting coverage (and subsequent coverage) in the Toronto blogs today too:

Spacing Wire - comments are generally supportive of the cyclist, with some discussing ways to discourage automobile use on smog days.

BlogTO - comments are mixed ... some are saying that the cyclist wanted to throw his bike on the hood of the car (which somehow justifies the behaviour of the driver?)

The cyclist does pick up his bike, but seeing as how it's AFTER the driver has already kicked it, I think the cyclist was just trying to get the bike out of harms way. Add this to the fact that the cyclist was trying to get away from the psycho driver hitting him... well, it doesn't seem like the cyclist is that confrontational.

Now, having made that argument... if a driver kicked or hit your bike with the intention of damaging it... why is intending to damage their car viewed as worse? Because the driver spent more money on their vehicle? That's their mistake.

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posted by Joe on Tuesday, May 08, 2007 Share/Save/Bookmark

Students Accidentally Catch Cyclist Assault On Tape:

"It was supposed to be a class project on public spaces in Toronto. But it turned into an amazing education on the legal system for a group of Grade 12 students Tuesday. Their cameras were rolling when they caught a startling crime on tape - a road rage incident in which a man physically attacks a cyclist."

More on CityNews

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posted by Joe on Thursday, May 03, 2007 Share/Save/Bookmark

Marc Lostracco of Torontoist asks a great question: 9 years after the Coroner's report recommending sideguards for trucks for cyclist and pedestrain safety, why won't Transport Canada set requirements in the Highway Traffic Act that all new trucks be designed with side wheel guards to deflect cyclists in a collision?

In the U.K. and Europe, the deflectors have been mandated by law since the 1980s. According to the City staff report, Transport Canada advised that there is currently "no similar Canadian regulation because the nature of the traffic mix in Canada is different to that in Europe." So? With few bike lanes and so many construction and utility vehicles, Toronto cyclists are at particular risk at a rate of about ten injurious collisions with large trucks annually.

Tons more great info and links at Torontoist.

(Cross-posted to I Bike T.O.)

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posted by Joe on Friday, April 13, 2007 Share/Save/Bookmark

You may remember me posting about a month ago about MyBikeLane.com, a site "conceived after repeated frustration at having to dodge cars illegally parked in the bike lanes. Several near crash experiences as a result of people too lazy to find valid parking motivated [the creation of] this site."

While my regular commute doesn't take me on a lot of bikelanes, I have started carrying a camera most days, so when I saw 3 trucks parked in the bikelane on the north side of College between Bay & Elizabeth (a 100 metre stretch), I started snapping, and I just posted them to the Toronto MyBikeLane site:

Purolator
Canada Post (which pulled right up behind the Purolater Truck as I was taking photos)
Fed Ex

More info about MyBikeLane, from the site:

MyBikelane is built on the notion that:

  • Cyclists are sick of having to dodge cars and trucks using the bikelane illegally.
  • These illegally parked cars force cyclists into traffic, making their commute more dangerous.
  • Those cyclists have cameras or cell phones w/ cameras.
  • Using the power of the community, we can hopefully make the problem more obvious and get the city to do something about it.
  • This makes it safer to cycle for fun or to commute.

How MyBikelane works:

  • You the cyclist see a car parked illegally.
  • You snap a picture, taking care to capture the license plate of the vehicle and proof that the vehicle is parked illegally.
  • You upload the photo, tell us when and where the incident occurred and the license plate info.
  • We make the site available to media, city officials, and the web to show the problem.
MyBikeLane.com

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posted by Joe on Thursday, February 08, 2007 Share/Save/Bookmark

After a bunch of winter riding last week on snowy and salty roads, my gears and chain were all gunked up with dirt and salt. I finally got around to cleaning them last night so that I could bike to work today without worrying too much about damaging them.

I also bought a new bike helmet a while ago, because my old one was showing it's age (I bought it in 1998) but had been in good condition since I always treated it well and never had the occasion to need it (no falls on my head). The shell had begun to crack a little, so I figured it was time to get a new one.

Now, anyone who knows me (or has had occasion to hat shop with me) knows that I have an enormous head. Like, freakishly big, almost... okay... maybe not THAT big... but regular hats and helmets don't fit my noggin.

I eventually found a nice looking helmet that just fit me... but this morning I found out that when I'm wearing my very-cold-weather headgear (balaclava and wool hat), this new helmet does not fit.

So, I biked to work helmetless for the first time. I take a lot of sidestreets in the winter, as it's quieter and more peaceful, with less fighting with cars, and no slush and crap being sprayed by tires.

Not like helmets make a lot of difference anyways. Someone my age is over 20x more likely to suffer a head injury requiring hospitalization from being in a car during an accident than riding a bike.

Anyhow... I just went on a coffee run over to Tim Horton's, and it's BEAUTIFUL outside. While the WeatherNetwork is saying it's -8C (-18C with windchill), it feels warmer... maybe just below O... the ride home tonight is going to be great.

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posted by Joe on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 Share/Save/Bookmark

No doubt you've seen the recent news items about some politicians getting their panties in a twist about mandating helmets for kids going tobogganing.

Akin to the whole "cyclists should wear helmets, to avoid a brain injury caused by a direct hit to the head" thing, because a few stupid kids (and we're all stupid as kids, aren't we?) get hurt, let's slap helmets on everyone.

Is full-body armour next? I'm surprised "safety experts" aren't mandating that for cyclists already.

Anyhow - to avoid this post being full of just my incensed rage at a society that thinks that helmets will prevent dumb accidents on a toboggan hill (or on a bike), I went out and found some hard numbers for you:

This is from the Canadian Institute for Health Information - a very reputable source.
Traumatic head injuries were sustained during sports and recreational activities in 28% of children and youth admitted to hospital for traumatic injury, and 8% of adults. Cycling is one of the leading causes of sports and recreation–related head injury. Of the 4,605 cycling injury hospitalizations in 2003–2004, 18% were due to head injuries. The highest proportion of hospitalizations due to cycling-related head injuries was seen in children and youth (60%).
Let's look at what is implied, but not said in the above paragraph:
  • Traumatic head injuries were NOT sustained during sports and recreational activities in 72% of children and 92% of adults.
  • Of 4,605 cycling injury hospitalizations in 2003-2004, 82% were NOT due to head injuries.
Oh yeah... I can't forget this part of the study, from the same link:
Among Canadians between 20 and 39 years of age, more than half of traumatic head injuries were due to motor vehicle incidents in 2003–2004 (1,867 admissions), followed by assault and homicide, which accounted for one-fifth of cases for this age group, or 722 admissions. For Canadians between the ages of 40 and 59, motor vehicles also accounted for the largest proportion of traumatic head injuries (40% or 1,308 admissions), followed closely by falls (39% or 1,290 admissions).
The CIHI site also has some good tables and charts about this issue.

I find it interesting that only about 10% (~500 out of ~5000) of traumatic head injuries suffered by children happened while cycling - yet helmets are mandatory for them. 90% of child traumatic head injuries did NOT happen while cycling! What about the 90% of the time they aren't on their bike and their heads get hurt? Shouldn't they be wearing helmets then too?

There are some provincial politicians who think that helmets should be mandatory for adult cyclists too, yet only about 2.5% (~300 out of ~12,000) of traumatic head injuries suffered by adults happened while cycling. 97.5% of traumatic head injuries did NOT happen while cycling. In fact, most of them happened in motor vehicle accidents.

Why don't people in cars wear helmets? They are MUCH more likely to hurt their heads in a car than on a bike.

Combat the hysteria with common sense and cold hard facts.

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posted by Joe on Sunday, January 14, 2007 Share/Save/Bookmark

Whenever a cyclist is killed on Toronto's streets, the cycling community bands together to remember them with a memorial ride and sometimes a ghostbike installation to bring attention to the fact that cyclists are vulnerable road users, and that all road users (but especially car drivers) should always be careful.

NYC's Streetsblog asks "Memorializing Killed Cyclists: Is it Good For Cycling?", pointing out that sometimes memorial rides and ghostbikes actually scare people away from cycling:
With a new year having just arrived, perhaps it is a good moment for bicycling advocates to take a step back and ask what our goals are and whether heavily publicized memorial rides and prominent Ghost Bikes are helping to achieve those goals. Is there a way to advocate for bike safety improvements and acknowledge cyclists' deaths and injuries without sending the message to potential new cyclists that New York City is too dangerous to try biking?
Fortunately, another Streetsblog post lists all the good points of memorial rides and ghostbikes. Here's a partial list for you:
  • The Ghost Bikes memorialize people who deserve to be remembered for their bravery, both physical and cultural.
  • They are an antidote to the sad, ordinary fate of deaths by automobile -- to "flicker briefly across the city's consciousness and then flutter away, leaving in their wake only grieving families and friends."
  • The Ghost Bikes and Memorial Ride create an opportunity for victims' families and friends to engage publicly and politically.
  • The Memorial Ride promotes cyclist solidarity.

Personally, I find them bittersweet. It feels good remembering a fellow cyclist who was out there trying to make our city a more livable place with cleaner air and safer streets... but it feels awful knowing that they died doing this.

What's your opinion?

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posted by Joe on Thursday, December 07, 2006 Share/Save/Bookmark

All of us who bike Toronto know our roads are dangerous - and it's because of cars. Drivers going too fast (on some streets, 40 kmh is way too fast for the neighbourhood), not thinking of others, taking unneccessary chances to save a few seconds.

Cyclists are always aware of being almost killed all the time because a driver speeds right by them with inches to spare, all in an effort to save 2 seconds driving to work.

Drivers can do this because they are the bullies of the public roads. In a conflict with a pedestrian or cyclist, they always win.

The recent increase in pedestrian fatalities is all over the news, with reports that pedestrians are now being hit in signalled, lighted crosswalks. I saw this on the news this morning, but of course the "hosts" of a show like Breakfast Television encouraged pedestrians to be careful... not just drivers.

What the hell?

If someone can't cross the street at a lighted, signalled crosswalk, WITHOUT fearing for their life, there is something VERY wrong with this city. ESPECIALLY when the "news outlets" (fearmongers) admonish pedestrians for thinking that they, taxpayers, may have a right to use the PUBLIC space that our PUBLIC streets are.

Tomorrow's Weekly Carnage post is going to be huge. It's depressing.

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

A Korean newspaper reports:

Nothing is more exhilarating, efficient and enjoyable than getting on a bicycle zipping through the crowded streets of New York City, provided the rider does not mind assuming the role of transit pioneer and cycling soldier… there is a daily battle taking place on the streets of New York City between automobiles and bicycles.

Photo: Cody Lyon, Ohmy News International
Via Streetsblog.

I've been feeling like I've been more and more at war with the car drivers of this city, especially over the last week. Dangerous passing, inattentiveness and general being selfish slaves to their cars have "put my back up" lately.

After checking out the newmindspace event on my way to work this morning, I paced another cyclist up University from King to College and effectively took the lane with his help, screwing any drivers behind us.

It felt good.

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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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