I am now finished my final exams for the semester so I have a lot of free time to kill, so the other day I decided to sit on a patio at a busy downtown street and watch the intersection. Intersections are tricky for riders as it is where various users of the road all interact with each other. Statistically, intersections are also where most cycling collisions occur usually as a result of poor visibility or unpredictable behaviour. Below are a few techniques on approaching and navigating an intersection safely.
Approaching an Intersection:
-When approaching a stop sign or a red light glide to the intersection and slowly/gradually apply the brakes to come to a stop. Slamming on the brakes will wear out your tires, brake pads and rims quickly and may result in skidding which is especially dangerous in rainy/snowy conditions.
-Shift down one or two gears as you approach the intersection that way you are in a lower gear ratio when you begin pedaling again. Far too many cyclists stick to the high gear that they were on which means they will be struggling to bring themselves up to speed or they find themselves weaving around to maintain balance while they attempt to gain speed for momentum. Hammering on your pedals to gain speed is not only a waste of energy but can slow you and others behind you.
-If there is a vehicle waiting at the intersection hang back a bit so that you are not in the driver’s blind spot. There’s no point in squeezing beside the driver unless you are making a right turn and it places you in an uncomfortable position as you are boxed in if the driver is attempting to make a right turn. It’s best to either be slightly ahead or behind a vehicle in the same lane as pictured below rather than be caught in their blind spot.
Photo courtesy of the City of Toronto
Waiting at an Intersection:
-Put your left foot down instead of resting your right foot on the curb. It’s very tempting to rest one’s foot on the curb but doing so places your bike closer to the part of the road where debris such as glass accumulates and where there are sewer grates. By putting your left foot down you not only keep some distance away from the curb but it also gives drivers behind you the perception that there is much less space in the lane so they will not be tempted to squeeze beside you. Squeezing is dangerous since you enter their blind spot and vice versa which increases the chance of getting a right-hook.
-Look around you, especially behind you. Take the time to look at what other road users are doing or preparing to do as the driver behind you may be signaling to make a right turn or gun it when the green light shines. Also watch for pedestrians who may be straggling behind while crossing the street or trying to make a bolt for it as the light changes. You are still operating a vehicle even while stopped at a red light so try to be aware especially at an intersection.
Posted: April 28th, 2010
Filed under: How to
Tags: blind spots, cycling techniques, intersections | 8 Comments »
Every so often a friend, peer, or family member would ask me “I want to buy a bike, should I buy new or used?” The short answer is whichever is a safer investment but how one determines what is a better investment can depend on various factors. I’ll take the opportunity to discuss to pros and cons as well as some helpful tips on buying your first, third or fifth bike.
Maybe it’s time to retire your old clunker in pursuit of something just a bit more road worthy or you’re just getting into commuting, either way buying a new bike may be a better option over purchasing a used one.
-Quality: The bike you buy at an LBS will usually be brand new (unless otherwise mentioned) and built up and inspected by a qualified mechanic before you roll it out the shop. Having a qualified person make sure your bike is mechanically sound avoids costly repairs in the future and any potential accidents that may occur from mechanical failure.
-Variety: Your LBS will have a large assortment of different bikes in different styles to match your needs. Whether you’re investing money in a road bike for charity rides or if you want a hybrid for commuting chances are they will have something for you. If you aren’t sure on what type of bike is appropriate for you or your needs don’t hesitate to ask.
If you found the right brand/model/style of bike you want you can count on your LBS to have it in an assortment of sizes and colours to suit you. An ill fitted bike can lead to discomfort and an unpleasant ride. Sales folks at your LBS can be helpful in identifying what is the ideal size and fit on your bike so you can feel comfortable in the long haul.
-Extras: LBS not only want you to buy a bike from them but to continue shopping there so it’s natural to get some perks in purchasing a bike from them. Usually buying a bike from a LBS will include free tune ups as well as discounts in accessories such as lights, bells and locks. Always be sure to check with the sales person to see if there are any discounts or whether or not the bike comes with any warranty or tune ups.
For those on a budget or those wanting to buy an older bike such as a vintage cruiser or a classic steel mountain bike then buying used may be the way to go. Deals are to be had in buying used but there is always the risk of buying a stolen bike or a dud. It’s important to inspect the bike thoroughly and shop with diligence to get the most out of your money.
-Price: Arguably the main point in buying a used bike is the price. Used bikes can easily drop 20% of more of the retail value depending on age and condition, but there are risks that should be taken into consideration. Do some homework on the specific bike you are buying beforehand; check what the retail value is and check to see if any changes were made to it such as replacing of parts for better (or worse) ones. If you think the price is too good to be true, maybe it is. The bike may be stolen or may have a major mechanical problem that may not be evident at first glance so be vigilant and don’t hesitate to trust your gut instincts.
-Quality/Condition: Older bikes are great to use since they are usually cheaper and are less attractive to bike thieves. In addition, a lot of them use simple components that are easy to maintain and cheap to replace making these bikes desirable to commuting. On the flip side, these bikes have been sitting around for ages so they may not work as well as they used to. Ask the seller to test ride the bike and take the time to fully inspect what you can. Perform the ABCs on the bike to make sure you can pedal, shift gears and brake safely. Check to see if the seat post can actually be adjusted and hasn’t seized to the frame. Some sellers are upfront about any issues and some may try to hide it so buy with diligence and ask questions.
Personally, I love used bikes. If you know how to haggle and have a hand for wrenching then you can save some money if you are willing to take sometime to do your own handy work. I’ve had good experiences buying old bikes as some just needed very simple work like inflating tires and oiling the chain and I’ve also had some bad experiences with bikes requiring far more extensive work than they are worth.
I bought this bike last year, with the replacement parts I put about $250 on it. It was in great condition right off the bat and I was able to ride all over Ontario with it on charity rides and some light touring.
I bought this bike last winter, with replacement parts it cost me $180 but it has had a LOT of problems with it. The shifter broke so I’ve run it as a single speed bike, the bearings in the hubs and pedals needed to be overhauled and the seat post it came with was the wrong size for the frame.
If you do decide to buy a used bike be sure to bring it into a bike shop for an inspection/tune up just to be safe. Don’t forget to register it with Toronto Police and most importantly, have fun riding it.
Posted: April 18th, 2010
Filed under: How to
Tags: bike shop, new bike, used bike | 1 Comment »
Apparent cyclist, Rocco Rossi, has shown time and time again that he is not only a non-cyclist but not a fan of cycling. His plans to remove existing bike lanes and fight bike lanes on ANY arterial road is an example of transportation planning from the 1950s. Without any opportunity for actual civic input on the matter it seems as though he has put his foot down on what he believes to be a matter of “civility”. I have decided to take his latest blog post and criticize elements of it, not to be a troll of some sort but to stimulate an actual discussion on the matter and not this one-sided preaching:
A City Hall staff report this week recommending the installation of bike lanes on University Avenue this summer is a recipe for gridlock.
<Really? But didn’t the City just state that the traffic load is manageable? Did you conduct a traffic flow analysis or conduct any actual analysis to have any concrete proof that it is a recipe for gridlock? There are plenty of examples both here and abroad where this kind of intervention has been manageable in the traffic flow (Think Embarcadero in San Francisco, 9th Ave physically separated bike lane in New York City, I could go on) for all users.>
With our transit funding in jeopardy, Toronto will be approaching complete and total gridlock in the next few years. We will need to use all of our smarts and all of our civility to get to work and to get around peacefully.
Pulling two lanes of University Avenue out of commission to install bike lanes is madness, particularly when a great north-south bike lane already exists three blocks west on Beverly-St. George.
<First off, it’s Beverley, not Beverly. This is Toronto, not California. Second, in case you haven’t looked at a map recently you will notice that the lane ends at Queen St. and there lacks any connectivity south of that unless you propose cyclists ride on a major arterial road such as Queen St. which doesn’t fly in your books. No bike lane, no arterial road, where is a cyclist to go, the sidewalk?>
And running a pilot project at the height of the biking season is cold comfort to drivers who will be struck on University Avenue in January gazing at an empty bike lane.
<Assuming that cycling is only a 3 season mode of transportation is misguided. Yes there are less cyclists out in the winter in comparison to summer months but the number of winter cyclists has been increasing over the years especially in the downtown core.>
Yet that is exactly what the city proposes to do as early as July on University Avenue. Our best information is that the city will also install the fully approved bike lanes on Jarvis Street sometime in late May or June, even though a wonderful bike lane connecting the waterfront to the Rosedale ravines and beyond exists two blocks east on Sherbourne Street.
<Are you really a cyclist? Have you ridden on Sherbourne St.? It’s quite possibly one of the worst downtown routes to use due to poorly maintained infrastructure. Besides, why can’t you look BEYOND the bike lanes on Jarvis and look at the big picture which is a revitalization of an entire neighbourhood which has lost its sense of identity, community and safety. The bike lane is part of a grander scheme that will have a huge impact on the health, security and longevity of this community.>
I was the first candidate to question the common sense and safety of putting new bike lanes on arterial roads. As a cyclist I have gone on record as favouring the completion of Toronto’s bike lane network on quieter streets parallel to arterial roads. I am the only candidate to commit to completing Toronto’s bike lane network.
<Bike lanes on roads is supposed to be a safety measure, a cyclist on an arterial road without a bike lane will feel much less safe without one. As a cyclist I would figure you of all people would understand that. Yes, not every road is ideal for a bike lane but to completely dismiss any future plans for bike lanes on arterial roads without an opportunity to public input or an opportunity for transportation planning is undemocratic, short sighted and a far call from your demands for civility.>
Bike lanes on arterial roads have emerged as a major issue in this election campaign.
In a comparable situation, David Miller asked that work be stopped on the Island Airport Bridge because it had become a major election issue during the 2003 campaign. I am calling on the mayor to take his own advice and let the voters of Toronto decide this issue themselves on October 25th.
<I’m calling non-sequitur on this one. What does the TPA bridge back in 2003, which was a multi-governmental and community specific issue, have on your bike lane issue? Miller’s call against the bridge’s construction actually made sense from a planning perspective unlike your bike lane issue which seems to lack any concrete facts or good planning sense.>
Posted: April 14th, 2010
Filed under: 2010 Election, Transportation Issues
Tags: Toronto mayoral elections | 5 Comments »
Over some drinks at the Pilot last week a challenge was issued at the table of Biking Toronto Bloggers (Bloggees? Blogsters? Bloggites? Bloggonauts?): find the best bike lane in Toronto (Sure the answer can be pretty subjective but I think that’s sort of the point). I’ll be writing about my nomination: the St. George St/Beverley St bike lane. This bike lane, marked as route 35 in Toronto’s bike lane network, is the best bike lane for cyclists downtown and here’s why.
Source: Transport Canada
Running north/south in downtown Toronto, the St. George/Beverley bike lane is an important connection for those coming from midtown to downtown. A great bike lane is a bike lane that connects to other bike infrastructure making travel safe and efficient for cyclists. From the north, the bike lane connects to a series of sharrowed lanes including Balmoral rd/Tichester st (route 20), Russell Hill rd (route 35), Old Forest Hill rd/Dunvegan rd (route 33), and Barton/Lowther (route 16).
There are also several bike lanes which either connect to or are within easy access of reaching the St. George/Beverley lane such as Davenport rd (route 18), Harbord st/Hoskin rd (route 14), and College st (route 12). All of these connections easily make St. George/Beverley one of the best connected and important bike lane in the bike network.
St. George Street was originally a busy thoroughfare for drivers adding danger for cyclists and pedestrians a like. In 1997, St. George underwent a “road diet”, narrowing the lane width for cars, increasing sidewalk widths, adding a bike lane as well as speed controlling infrastructure. These changes came in response to an increasing amount of drivers using a road with a really high flow of cyclists and pedestrians. Not only does the uplift look great but it has also increased safety for all users. This route may also be one of the faster alternatives; using St. George/Beverley from Dupont St down to Queen St W there are only six controlled intersections (some are semi-actuated and most of the time you will encounter them as green lights) and a handful of stop signs.
Heading downtown during rush hour can be daunting for some since an increased volume of all types of traffic funnel into what little road space we have. Without the St. George/Beverley, cyclists would have little choice in terms of north/south connections into the downtown core: Spadina Ave, McCaul St, University Ave and Bay St are all examples of less than desirable routes for cyclists and the use of side roads which twist and wind all are not practical.
The road itself is in fantastic shape. Unlike roads such as Harbord it’s rare to encounter any potholes that can lead to a bumpy commute and the speed bumps on St. George between Harbord and College and cyclist friendly while slowing down traffic to a safe speed for everyone.
One of the best things about St. George/Beverley is that it connects cyclists to where they want to go; it isn’t a road to nowhere. Neighbourhoods like the Annex, Queen West, University of Toronto, Chinatown, Kensington Market, and Hospital Row are either adjacent to or are a stone’s throw away from the bike lane. In addition, there are a lot of attractions within proximity from the Bata Shoe Museum to the Art Gallery of Ontario. And if you run into any bike problems there are a few bike shops nearby such as Urbane Cyclist, Bikes on Wheels, La Carrera Cycles and Curbside Cycle.
Posted: April 12th, 2010
Filed under: Transportation Issues
Tags: bike lane, Toronto bike network | 5 Comments »
For some of us, having photos of our bikes is as normal as a parent with photos of their kids. Sure it’s an inanimate object but the bike can be a liberating, self-empowering means of transportation/fitness/pleasure so a lot of us take pride in our steeds especially those who have taken the time to customize and build it to their own liking. I’ll be posting a few posts on my bikes which I use for commuting, training, fitness, and anything else in between.
First up is the bike I put more ride time in than any other bike – my KSH Flite 100 track bike AKA Free Bird.
Bought in 2008, it was my first big bike investment I’ve ever made. Previous to it, I was riding a single-speed road bike I built out of a Canadian Tire frame which wasn’t bad but was far from good. I have used this bike for nearly everything from everyday commuting, road rides with the bike club and track cycling in the velodrome. Riding fixed gear in the city and on the velodrome has helped improve my cycling and made it much more fun. This bike opened up a whole new world and I suddenly found myself engrossed in cycling culture and biked to places all over Toronto and even Ontario. This bike literally took me places my education couldn’t, which is why it was nicknamed Free Bird.
The current configuration is for road riding use, it has a low 48×19 gear ratio which allows me to tackle a lot of the rolling hills I face outside of Toronto
This is the bike’s old track setup. This one has a gear ratio of 48×16 which is around the same range as most beginner track bikes. Like all track bikes, this bike does not have brakes installed since you cannot have brakes when riding on track (ironically, brakes in the velodrome is less safe).
Lastly, my bike as my commuter. The simplicity of fixed gear bikes means less finicky parts require maintenance which is perfect for riding in adverse conditions, I just swapped out the clipless pedals for flats with toe cages and I slapped on a fender and it’s ready for anything.
Taking photos and talking about my bike is fun and all but I think riding it is even better so I’m off to go for a ride!
Posted: April 11th, 2010
Filed under: Uncategorized
Tags: fixed gear, fixie, KHS Flite 100, single speed, track | 2 Comments »
As mentioned in my previous post, doing a pre-ride check is important in preventing any major issues your bike may have, but once in a while something may happen during a commute that may require road-side repairs; it could be a flat tire or a loose bolt falling off. The following post is a simple run-through on must-have items which can save minutes from your commute and prevent costly trips to the bike shop.
For information on how to use any of these tools and do the repairs yourself visit: www.bicycletutor.com or www.parktool.com
The following are a list of things you should always have on you during your commute or leisurely ride.
The bare necessities for my commute: Multi-tool, CO2 Inflator, levers, wrench, tube and wet-nap
-Multi-tool – these little tools are very light and compact but can do a lot. Use these to tighten any loose bolts, re-align brake pads, tighten brakes or just about anything else that requires a hex-key set or screw drivers. Make sure the multi-tool you get can actually be used with your bike, for example: If your bike uses bolts with a TORX head (some disc brakes use them) then it would be good to have a multi-tool with a TORX wrench.
-Wrench – for those of us riding older bikes or have wheels that use nuts instead of a quick release skewer then having a wrench is also a must (you can’t fix a flat tire if you can’t remove your wheel from the frame). If only your wheels use nuts then you’ll most likely need just a 15mm wrench, but if you have an older bike that uses various sized nuts then an adjustable wrench would be better.
-Spare inner tube or patch kit – in the event of a flat you could just lock up you could bring it into a shop to fix it but that could take hours depending on how busy they are and it will cost you. Fixing the flat yourself can save time and money and gives a good empowering feeling. Make sure the tube matches your tire and also be sure you know how to replace a tube or patch it.
-Tire levers – these are needed to remove the tire from the rim, you will need these to replace a flat unless you want to MacGyver your way through it and use your quick release skewer as a lever.
-Pump / CO2 Inflator – no point in having a spare tube with you if you can’t inflate it. Pumps come in different sizes depending on your needs. They can be big enough to mount to your frame or compact enough to fit in a saddle bag. A CO2 inflator is a much more compact and quicker option to a pump but is costs more in the long run. Be sure your pump/inflator is appropriate for your tube’s valve stem (Schrader or Presta).
-Tire boot – if there is a large gash or tear in your tire you cannot use it or else your inner tube will protrude out of the opening and pop. A tire boot is a good temporary fix until you can reach a bike shop. You can either buy an actual tire boot or just use a folded up Canadian Tire bill as the fabric is thick and strong enough to keep the tube from coming out from the tear.
-Zip-ties – zip-ties make great temporary substitutes for missing bolts or can be used to keep things secured such as bike lights if something were to break. It’s good to keep a few of them just in case something happens.
if you’re planning a ride out of the city or if you know you will be far away from any bike shop then these items are great to keep with you in case you need to do more extensive repairs.
-Chain tool – some multi-tools have these built in but if yours doesn’t you should have one in case your chain breaks and you need to reinstall it or cut a link off.
-Extra chain links – if your chain does break and you do lose a link or two, having a few spare links can help keep you rolling. Ideally, having a quick-link or master link in your tool kit will save space and make installation a snap.
-Moist towelette – it’s a good idea to keep a few of these on you to clean your hands after doing any repairs.
-TTC token or change – in the event that the damage is irreparable it’s always good to have a backup means of getting to where you need to go.
Posted: April 8th, 2010
Filed under: How to
Tags: bike commuting, fix, How to, repair, tools | 6 Comments »
One advantage car drivers have over cyclists during the morning commute is the ability to sip a cup of coffee/joe/java/liquid cocaine during their ride, but not anymore. Canadian Tire began stocking wares from what appears to be a new company called Everyday and one of Everyday’s new products is the Traveler Handlebar Cup Holder. At $7.99 this simple contraption beats the price of other similar products such as the Felt Café Coffee Cup Holder which retails in the $20′s and looks eerily similar.
Using a single bolt, the Cup Holder mounts onto most handlebars allowing riders the option of carrying their coffee with them. The mount does not fit every handlebar out there, but it will fit the common 25.4mm handlebar used on mountain bikes and hybrids as well as 26mm handlebars on some road bikes. Don’t bother trying to fit it on any 31.8mm OS (Oversized) bars, though. The ring is one-size fits most so it may not be able to fit every coffee cup or mug (adding one of those tree-wasting hand protector thingies may help). Bikeroo recommends you use a re-usable coffee mug as it not only helps the environment, but since it is sealable, it prevents any unnecessary spillage as you hit a pot hole or hop a curb. Another possible issue is interference with your cable housing. As you can see in the image below the Cup Holder was installed facing the rider instead of away so as to not interfere with the cable routing.
During my initial test-ride, the Cup Holder did a fantastic job keeping a medium sized, Tim Horton’s Iced Cappuccino in place. Despite running over some potholes and sewer grates the drink remained upright with no spillage. Unfortunately, when hopping off a side-walk curb I did spill some of my Iced Capp (again, opting for a re-usable mug is ideal).
Overall, the product is definitely worth the money, especially if you want to enjoy your morning brew like our commuter counterparts in their cars or on the subway. Despite its limitations in versatility it’s a welcome addition to any commuter bike and just makes the morning ride a bit more awesome.
Posted: April 4th, 2010
Filed under: Review, Uncategorized
Tags: bike accessory, Review | 15 Comments »