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Help Plan – Le Tour d’Espresso

So for those who don’t know I’m a HUGE coffee geek. I do some barista work on the side, I roast, I host workshops, I drink more coffee in the morning than most people do in a day. Coffee is awesome. It’s a cheap and legal psychoactive drug that not only tastes great but helps keep us awake! There’s also a big cultural connect between coffee and cycling – folks like Jet Fuel and Dark Horse have their own cycling teams, many bike clubs meet or take breaks at cafes, and you’ll usually find at least a half dozen bikes locked up outside a cafe.

What I want to do is celebrate the cycling coffee culture and to introduce some of the best cafes Toronto has to offer. I want to do this in a fun and active way making good use of the upcoming summer weather, I call it Le Tour d’Espresso. Everything is in the very preliminary stages (read: my head) so any feedback on this will be greatly appreciated:

Le Tour will consist of three different events or stages: Ristretto, Full City Roast, and Lungo. Riders can either join a group and be lead by a volunteer rider or use the route map placed on a website to explore these cafes on their own time. These will not be sponsored by the cafes and will be done simply for the joy of coffee and they love of cycling.

Ristretto – Short but full of flavour, the perfect ride for someone looking for a quick spin

The Ristretto will be a short ride through Toronto going no more than 15km starting and ending at a cafe with perhaps one in the middle as a break. This will be a great chance for people who want to go out on a social ride and get some coffee without spending the full day out. This will be consisting mostly of bike lanes, bike paths and low traffic roads to make it pleasant and easy for anyone.

Full City Roast - Bold, with a lingering finish, for the rondanneur looking for a bit of mileage

The Full City is a longer ride boasting 5 or more shops spanning both the east and west sides of the city. The Don Valley, Humber River, and Martin Goodman Trails would be used to help get some distance in the ride and safely connect people from one cafe to the next. This will be a 20~30km ride lasting the afternoon.

Cafe LungoFor the jittery joes with energy to burn

Love long rides or have the need for speed? The Lungo will be a long distance ride starting at a downtown cafe then moving westward along the lake towards Dundas, ON to arrive at La Domestique, a cafe as rich in cycling culture as its espresso. This will be a 75km ride with minimal stops, riders have the option of taking GO back into the city or riding back for an afterburner.

What is needed: I will be looking for volunteers interested in helping organize this. I did this last year but very informally and between friends but I would like to open this up to anybody interested in participating. I will also need help in determining which cafes to go to and route planning as well as helping develop a website or do other forms of marketing.

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BIXI in Toronto

As most of us already know, the City of Toronto has recently joined the growing number of cities with a public bike sharing program. BIXI Toronto, based off of Montreal’s successful BIXI program, will be hitting Toronto’s streets as early as May 2011. Though there isn’t much information online about the program and how it will work I had the chance to chat with a City of Toronto employee to talk about some of the finer details of how BIXI will run in Toronto and what makes it unique compared to other bike sharing programs.

How to rent a bike:

BIXI Toronto will share many of the same aspects with BIXI Montreal from the docking stations to the bikes. In order to use a BIXI bike one must either have a membership or purchase a temporary pass. Subscriptions will cost $6 a day, $40 a month, and $90 a year. This will allow for unlimited access to the bikes during the subscription period. Subscribers will be able to take out a bike and use it for a maximum of 30 minutes, after the 30 minutes a small charge is incurred depending on how long the bike is rented out for. Subscribers can return the bike at any docking station which is perfect for multi-modal transport (for example: biking from one place to a subway station then taking a train) or for various trips in the City. Like the Montreal program, Torontonians will have 24 hour access to the bikes but they can use them all year, unlike BIXI Montreal which only runs during the spring, summer and fall seasons.

The docking stations:


To maximize coverage and access, 80 docking stations will be spaced 300 meters apart throughout the downtown area of Toronto in a grid pattern. The docking stations are portable needing no excavation work or alterations to the streetscape. The docking stations are 2m * 9m in size (for reference, an average parking spot for 1 vehicle is around 5.5m * 3m) and can accommodate a maximum of 12 bikes at a time. The pay stations have an easy to use touch screen which controls purchases, transactions and can be used to alert BIXI employees if a bike is in need of repair. Adding to the green concept of the bike sharing program, the docking stations will not be plugged into an electrical outlet as it will be powered using built in solar panels.

The bikes:


BIXI bikes are built around a rugged aluminum frame which can accommodate riders up to 120 kg (265 lbs) in weight and the front rack has a maximum capacity of 8 kg (18 lbs). It is a step-through frame is perfect for those wearing skirts or who have difficulty swinging their legs over the saddle and top-tube and features full fenders and both a chain and skirt guard to make it practical no matter what you wear and the low.

The bike is driven using a 3-speed internally geared hub with a chain tensioner to prevent accidental chain derailment and features drum brakes on the front and rear wheels for effective stopping power in all weather conditions. The brake and shifter cables are routed internally to protect them from the elements and from vandalism. The bike is completed with active front and rear lights which are dynamo (pedal) powered rather than powered by batteries for increased visibility and safety.

The subscriptions:

The success of BIXI Toronto relies on subscribers who will rent out the BIXI bikes. Initially, there will be 1,000 bikes and the City is aiming to have 1,000 subscription pledges by November 2010 to ensure that the program has the financial stability to keep it running. The initial cost of implementing BIXI Toronto will be under $5 million and will require $1.3m annually for operational costs. Despite the costs, large scale bike sharing programs such as BIXI Montreal and Vélib’ are successful both in addressing the need for more utilitarian cycling while proving to be financially beneficial.

BIXI Toronto needs subscribers so be sure to spread the word or get a membership yourself. At $90 a year it’s much cheaper than buying a beater bike with a lock and you don’t even have to worry about paying a mechanic for tune ups or doing your own repairs.

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