Bikes at the Live Green Toronto Festival

On Sunday, August 30, 2009, I hopped on the subway and ended up at Yonge and Dundas Square.

I took a quick walk around at the Live Green Toronto Festival, saw some reps from the Toronto Cyclists Union and couldn’t help but notice a few interesting bikes like this one:

Vert Catering Pashley
Vert catering had their Pickle Cycle on hand as they were cooking up vegetarian poutine and organic burgers. The bicycle is a Pashley Baker’s Bicycle and they will deliver catered lunches to you office, if you ask kindly.

You could win this bike if you signed up for a mailing list I believe:

Win this bikeAnd Courier Co-op Toronto had a cargo bike chained to the ring on this lamp post. No one was around, so I never found out what was in the giant bag.

Courier Co-op Toronto

How We Carry Stuff on Our Bikes in Toronto

trip #1

Before I gave up my car I can remember thinking to myself, “Without a car, how will I carry things?”

How would I carry a 24 case of water home?
How would I carry all of my groceries home?
How would I carry my latest IKEA purchases home?

I soon discovered the answers…

Don’t buy water in bottles, you’ve got a tap.
Don’t buy all of your groceries at once, and stop buying heavy frozen junk.
Don’t buy more stuff from IKEA, unless you’re with a friend with a car.

Just because a bicycle doesn’t come with trunk space it doesn’t mean that we, as Torontonians, are left unable to take anything with us when we ride. Here then are some of the ways we carry stuff by bicycle in Toronto.

Sometimes we like to keep an eye on our stuff and use a basket mounted up front:

Basket Bike

Sometimes we want to see the potholes ahead of us and mount a basket on the back:

Basket Mobile

Sometimes we like to carry more stuff, and have baskets both front and rear:

Petal power

There are times where we like to improvise the type of baskets we use:

Yellow Bike Basket

And then sometimes we fill our baskets with keytars in Accordion City:

The Scorpion King!

To keep our stuff dry we sometimes use panniers that match our helmets:

Newbikebags3_110606

Sometimes we rent trailers to carry even more stuff:

bike trailer

Sometimes we carry other people on our bikes:

EcoCab

Sometimes we improvise how we carry people on our bikes:

Improvised Tricycle Pedicab

And then we sometimes like to carry our children on our bicycles:

Group Commute

Or we take the whole family on a four-wheeled bike while visiting Toronto Island:

Bicycle Built for Four

And then sometimes we have a really big family, but we still travel by bike (click for larger version):

Awesome 7 person bike I spotted.#bikeTO on Twitpic

How do you carry your stuff on a bicycle in Toronto?

Photos via the Biking Toronto Flickr Pool and photographers in Toronto on Flickr

NYC Commuter Helmet – Let’s see a YYZ version

Bicycle helmets can be really ugly. And personally, I think the super-vent, NASCAR colour versions that are saturating the market all sit too high on my head. While I’m using a skate-style helmet now, I’m not too sure how my ears are going to hold up once the temperature drops.

A project commissioned by the City of New York has set out to encourage the average commuter to wear a functional, and in my opinion, pretty good looking helmet.

Designed by fuseproject, cyclists can customize the look and function of their helmets by adding and removing visors and full covers depending on the weather.

NYC Helmet Visor

NYC Helmet Green Cover

This looks like something that could really take off outside of NYC.
What do you think of the NYC Helmet?

Via Greenwala

Updating a Bike Theft Success Story in Toronto

well locked bike

Having your bicycle stolen is an emotional roller-coaster.
Anger, disbelief, regret, denial… you’re going to experience it all. The only sure things in life are death, taxes and bike theft; although many people strive to avoid all three.
In July, Spacing Toronto told us the amazing story of a stolen bicycle recovery.
Heather McKibbon’s story involved undercover police, disguised friends and the use of social media sites Facebook and Kijiji to rescue her stolen ride.
The Wall Street Journal has picked up on Heather’s story and they look at the growing trend in bicycle theft:

San Diego saw a 45% increase in reported bike thefts in the first half of this year from a year earlier. The police station covering the central part of downtown Los Angeles has seen a 72% increase in stolen-bike reports so far this year, the city’s police department says. Austin and Philadelphia have seen increases for the past two years. The incidence of theft is likely even higher, cycling advocates say, because many victims don’t bother reporting bike thefts.

The reasons for the theft boom are complex, including population growth in some locales, but generally, more people are biking these days—and they are riding pricier bicycles. Also, the economic downturn is contributing to the increase.

“Harder times mean more thefts,” says Bryan Hance, founder of StolenBicycleRegistry.com, where people can list their stolen bikes free. Last month, the site received 335 listings, about twice as many as a year ago. “Bikes are a lot more expensive than they were five or 10 years ago,” he adds. “The fact that they are worth more makes them more of a target.”

And, unfortunately, Heather’s story doesn’t have a happy ending:

Ms. McKibbon, who recovered her bike in Toronto, also faced new problems. Last weekend, her bike’s rims, gears and other components were stolen on a busy street in Toronto.

But she has a message for bike thieves: Watch your back. “The world isn’t as big as it once was,” she says. “You never know who’s watching.”

Have you recently had your bicycle stolen? Post your details in the Biking Toronto Stolen Bike Listing

Photo by random dude on Flickr

I hear it’s "pants optional" – Dandyhorse #3 Launch Party

Launch Party! See you there… from dandyhorse.com:

Dandyhorse No. 3 is ready to pop!
Join us at the launch party on August 31.

Celebrate summertime with our full-colour 48-page homage to the most beautiful machine in the world: the bicycle!

In this issue we have original art by Marlena Zuber, Darren O’Donnell and Chimo Chan, hot photos of bmx tricksters and fast women delivering packages, Clare Barry’s “perfect commuter”, pedal pooches, a behind the scenes look at the making of the Bicycle Film Festival trailer, a sampling of rockers who roll in the T-dot and a feature on cover artist Elicser who rides and writes all over Toronto.

We also go “behind bars” with cops on bikes, take a look at mechanic certification and both sides of the e-bike debate.

Come to our Bike Art Dance Party at The Gladstone Hotel August 31!

The party starts at 7 pm and $10 admission includes the magazine and a raffle ticket for a limited edition print (of two) of original cover art by artist Elicser.

See who else is going in the Biking Toronto Forum

Learning to Travel Like a Cyclist in Toronto

Traffic Accident Blues

It’s been about 4 years since I first moved to Toronto.

I came here with a car and the intention of furthering my career and learn to survive in the big city. Over the past four years I’ve established a career, lost a car along the way and learned that survival on the streets of Toronto is achieved in more ways than one.

I really can’t say I miss my car. Even when it’s raining or snowing or when I have to buy a lot of groceries, I can honestly say I don’t miss my old green menace one bit (green as in the colour and not as in some environmentally beneficial quality of my old car, so I guess it was a “green menace” in a few ways).

However, my car (and my time as a motorist) has left me with a few personal habits that I’m trying to kick. When I set out on my bicycle, I have to remind myself that I no longer have to travel like a motorist. I’m no longer confined to the routes that cars and trucks must follow. It’s difficult at first, but freeing myself from my “motorist habits” is one of the most liberating aspects of becoming a bicycle commuter or, more simply, a cyclist.

There are some habits I can’t give up. Like stopping for red lights, signaling my intentions and not driving the wrong way down one-way streets. Those are good habits that I developed behind the wheel. And I still follow these today.

However, finding the most direct and fastest route to my destination is a habit I’m trying to break. Whether I take the main arterial roads or if I choose to discover a few quiet side streets and paths through parks, the time difference is often negligible.

Toronto’s lack of safe and consistent cycling infrastructure provides the opportunity to be more creative with your route. In cities like Amsterdam, cycling infrastructure is so prominent it makes more sense to take the main routes. Side streets in Amsterdam are cobblestone-paved, car-parked, child-playing areas that simply don’t offer the opportunities to escape main street mayhem like the park trails and side streets of Toronto.

For example, to get from Davisville to Parkdale I could follow the subway and street car lines. Taking Yonge south to King, and then King west to Parkdale is an option. There’s a lot of traffic and a lot of obstacles along the way, but it is direct and a route that the motorist in me would take.

On my bike it’s a whole other story. I can cut through the quiet streets of Summerhill, bypassing the traffic throttling barriers to keep motorists from cutting through this area on their way from Yonge to Avenue road (or vice-versa). I can follow the bike lanes down Bedford or wind my way through the quiet streets in the Annex. Further south I can get from Dundas to Queen Street through Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Sure, I’ve taken a few wrong turns, but these never end in disaster. A wrong turn on a bicycle becomes a chance for discovery. New routes are always possible by bicycle, and rarely will they be blocked by rush hour traffic.

In Toronto, surviving the city streets on a bicycle means developing the habit of seeing possible connections between our side streets and park trails and the places we want to go.

Have you made a few “short cut” discoveries in your travels through Toronto? You can share them in the BikingToronto Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki.

Photo via the_lake_effect’s Flickr

Rad to the Power of Sick – Sell Your Bike with Creativity

Recently, I told you about when I was a shady bike seller on Craigslist Toronto.

My ads were pretty straightforward, but they worked. Maybe next time I’m looking to sell a bicycle I’ll try using eBay and make sure I’m “rad to the power of sick.”

Looking to make more profit selling your old bicycle in Toronto? Here’s a video that could help:

Via Cycling Maven

Where Are You Go @ Bicycle Film Festival Toronto – Fri August 21, 2009

I’m really looking forward to this!

Directed by Benny Zenga & Brian Vernor.

Four months on a bicycle between Cairo, Egypt and Cape Town South Africa is not your typical African safari.

En route with the Tour d’ Afrique, the world’s longest bicycle race and expedition, the Zenga Bros. (CAN) and Brian Vernor (USA) make light of this physically daunting trip by sharing a universal love of the bicycle with Africa’s roadside mechanics, sporting racers, and innumerable curious strangers.

Traveling more than 70 miles per day, 50 racers and expedition riders experienced the boundless Nubian desert of Sudan, the great majesty of Victoria Falls, and finally the cold rush of the Atlantic Ocean.

Where Are You Go captures the 7,000 mile expedition as a constant adventure full of playfulness and mysterious beauty, and is a testament to the endurance of human curiosity.

Toronto Bicycle Film Festival info can be found here.

Freakonomics on Bicycle Prices

Bicycle Inflation in Paradise?

Portland, Oregon, the current darling of America’s food and environmental writers, is arguably the county’s most bicycle-obsessed city. Bike use was up 28 percent in Portland between 2007 and 2008, and on the Hawthorne Bridge, a main thoroughfare, bikes now make up 20 percent of all vehicles. The New York Times estimated in 2007 that there were 125 bike-related businesses in Portland employing 600 to 800 people. There’s even a store in the city that sells only tricycles.

Still, what’s up with this bike micro-inflation? Why does there seem to be no market in Portland for used bikes that are actually cheap? Portland is otherwise a pretty cheap city. Beer is cheap. Used clothing is cheap. By major urban standards, housing is cheap too, unless you compare it to the strip-mall-type cities. And certainly there are plenty of people in town who can’t afford to spend $475 — never mind $1,000 — on a bike.

In Toronto, when I was first looking at used bikes on Craigslist in 2007, the price was around $100 for a 20+ year old beater bike 10-speed. In 2008 I didn’t notice much of a price jump. This year, prices have certainly jumped. However, the quality of bikes for sale has also increased as Craigslist Toronto has transformed from an online yard sale to a trusted way of selling high-end used (or new) items.

Have you noticed inflation in bike prices with the growing popularity of cycling in Toronto? Share your thoughts in the Biking Toronto Forum.

Quote from the Freakonomics Blog

By Bike or Bus: My North Toronto Commute

Ride

Recently, a cyclist in Brisbane put together a fun cartoon to compare the time, effort and money spent on commuting by bicycle versus bus.

After recording times he discovers there is little difference in the time taken cycling versus taking the bus. He saves more than $600.00 a year on bus fare. And he gains the fitness of cycling 2,100 km.

Now, without the cartoon (which makes his version far more readable) I want to compare my own commute in this way.

Here’s the details of my commute:

I live at Yonge and Davisville in Toronto.

I work just south of Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan.

That’s a distance of 23.3 km (according to Google maps tracing my bike route)

To get to work by TTC I have to take the subway from Davisville station to Finch station, transfer to the Steeles bus, and then transfer again to the Jane bus.

I can do this by spending $47 per week on a GTA pass, or by forking over $9 a day should I choose not to buy the pass and pay as I go.

Since I have yet to bike to work in the winter, I’ll take 20 summer weeks as my example.

My average bus commute is typically 1 hour and 30 mins each way. I commute to work 4 days a week.

That’s 12 hours on transit each week. 240 hours over 20 weeks spent sitting on a bus or train. And, should I buy a GTA pass, this will cost me $940.00

240 hours and $940.00!

Since I started biking in to work I tend to average 1 hour and 10 mins each way. But, by the time I get home I need a shower. So, tack on another 10 mins showering and another 10 minutes changing at work (morning and afternoon combined) and my bus and bicycle commute times balance out.

However, my bicycle cost me just under $600. So, right off the bat I’m saving $340 this year alone. And by cycling 23.3 km, each way, I gain the physical fitness benefits of cycling 3,728 km over 20 weeks.

So far so good. But, let’s look at this a little further. My transit route by bus and train is relatively safe. The TTC isn’t known for losing passengers on a regular basis, so I can assume that aside from not getting any physical activity, my health will remain as is while taking the bus (the odd cold aside).

On my bicycle, it is a whole other game. My route takes me along major arterial routes for the majority of my trip. These routes have posted speed limits of 60 and 70 km/h. On long stretches between stop lights it is not uncommon for motorists to greatly exceed these postings. There are no bike lanes and there is barely enough room in the existing lanes to fit a mid-sized car and my bicycle safely. So, when the pickup trucks, cube vans, dump trucks, garbage trucks and transports try to share a lane with me, well my life flashes before my eyes.

My safety is greatly reduced by taking my bicycle. So, is the trade off worth it? My safety on the bus without any health benefits or the health benefits gained by placing myself in countless dangerous situations a day?

I keep riding, so I’m certainly not turned off by the dangers. That story could change any day though, but I’m hoping it won’t.

Share your own bicycle and bus commuting stories in the Biking Toronto Commuting Group.

Bicycle v Bus in Brisbane via Copenhagenize
Photo from flickr user gbalogh