Cycling Comparison for Canadian Cities

From CTV.ca:

Montreal

Cycling is just one of many reasons to visit Montreal, though the city is getting props for its forward-pedalling ways.

The city has more than 500 kilometres worth of bike paths and was recently ranked by ForbesTraveller.com as one of “North America’s most bike-friendly cities.” And visitors can now rent bicycles for only $5 per day, while they wheel around the city’s downtown core.

But according to one cycling expert, Montreal has been making its downtown biking better for some time and has been making path improvements to some of its suburbs.

“From what I know, I think Montreal is in a pretty good position in terms of recent developments, especially in the downtown area,” said Jean-Francois Pronovost, executive director of the Velo Quebec Association, when speaking to CTV.ca by telephone from Montreal.

Pronovost points to the addition of a year-round bike lane along Maisonneuve Boulevard that opened up about two years ago. It allows cyclists to travel a bidirectional lane that is separated from other road traffic as they make their way through the downtown area.

Looking forward, Pronovost said Montreal needs to continue to cultivate its cycling culture with more designated bike lanes and paths. Then, he said, it becomes a question of sitting back and watching the bicycles hit the city streets.

According to statistics from Montreal police, 663 cyclists received minor injuries in traffic and road collisions last year. An additional 33 cyclists suffered serious injuries and two others died on Montreal roads in 2008.

Toronto

With nearly a million Toronto residents claiming to be at least part-time cyclists, Canada’s largest city has taken strides to make cycling better.

There are more bike lanes than in the past, Toronto has opened the first of several planned public bicycle stations and Mayor David Miller has said it is the city’s goal to see Torontonians making twice as many bicycling trips as they do today.

And the city’s efforts have been noticed.

“Toronto has done a lot to try to become a lot more bicycle-friendly,” Greg Mathieu, the head of the Canadian Cycling Association, said in a phone interview earlier this week.

But the system is far from perfect. Toronto bike lanes often empty into very busy streets and there is a perception that cyclists and motorists are at odds with one another.

“It’s always the battle, it would seem,” Mathieu said.

So far, Toronto police have responded to more than 600 collisions involving cyclists since the start of the year, compared to 34,600 involving cars.

Ottawa

Bicycles are a common site in Canada’s capital city, during the warmer months of the year.

You can see them gliding along the lengthy Capital Pathway network, which has more than 180 kilometres worth of paved bike lanes that wind along the city’s public parks, museums, rivers and other attractions.

But Ottawa still isn’t perfect.

The bike paths can’t get you everywhere you want to go and city bike lanes are not available on all major streets, says Michael Powell, a cyclist who contributes to the Cycling in Ottawa blog.

And while Ottawans generally enjoy a relatively good relationship with other vehicles on city roads, Powell said that there are places where the infrastructure is lacking.

“Once you get up to the suburbs, it’s a little more scattershot,” Powell said in a recent phone interview.

But he admits that the city has a good long-term plan in place for city cycling.

According to the City of Ottawa, 262 cyclists were injured in collisions last year, out of a total of 4,115 people who were injured in traffic collision within city limits.

Vancouver

Residents of British Columbia’s largest city make an estimated 60,000 trips by bicycle each day, meaning that cycling safety is a priority issue in Vancouver.

The city says it has doubled its bicycle network over the past decade and Vancouver has identified cycling as its fastest-growing form of transportation.

The newest development in Vancouver’s cycling scene is the addition of a walled-off cycling lane on the Burrard Street Bridge — a packed downtown passage that sees as many as 8,000 to 9,000 cyclists, pedestrians and drivers cross it each hour during peak times.

In May, Vancouver’s city council voted to convert one lane of the bridge solely for bicycle use over an indeterminate trial period. The goal was to see if the bridge could be made safer for pedestrians while keeping traffic flowing.

The project was the brainchild of Mayor Gregor Robertson, a life-long cyclist who had long held misgivings about the busy bridge.

“I’ve been riding this bridge all of my life, and that’s the first time I’ve really felt safe crossing it on my bike,” he told CTV British Columbia after trying the bike lane for the first time in July.

So far, the project appears to have been a success.

Earlier this week, Robertson issued a pres release saying that 25 per cent more cyclists were making use of the Burrard Bridge than before the bike lane became operational.

Read the rest here.

Discuss this article in the Biking Toronto Forum

Don Valley Mountain Bike Trails in Crothers Woods

When you think of mountain biking, Toronto is rarely one of the major destinations that comes to mind. I mean, really, mountains in Toronto?

While we may not have mountains here, we do have ravines. And, if you’ve ever climbed up one of the steep roads leading out of the Don Valley, you know that a ravine can feel like a mountain at times.
Recently, I dusted off my old mountain bike and made my way to Crothers Woods in the Don Valley. Crothers Woods has the designation of being an Environmentally Significant Area, and this poses a problem for trail users. How do you continue to use trails on bicycles and foot when repetitive use adds to the problem of erosion?
Since 2004, the International Mountain Bicycling Association has been involved in building sustainable trails in this area. By using special tools and carefully planning routes, these trails are meant to reduce user impact throughout the woods, while still providing challenging terrain for all users.
Below are photos from my recent ride through Crothers Woods, click on each photo for a larger view.
At the bottom of the Bayview Extension and Pottery Road is where the trail begins:

Trailhead

The map in detail:
Map Detail Crothers Woods
The trail starts with a steep climb, turn back to the south and you get this view of the Don Valley from the top of the hill:
Overlooking the Don Valley, Bayview Extension, Pottery Road
Trail maintenance is ongoing, here’s one of the tools of the trade:
Sustainable Trails
The choice is yours:
Advanced or Intermediate Trails, the choice is yours
Hmmm… the advanced trail seems to be blocked:
The Advanced Trail Gets Difficult Right Away
Trails wind up and down the ravine walls:
The challenge of creating sustainable trails in the eroding Crothers Woods
To further challenge cyclists, many man-made obstacles are found along the route, this one crosses a gully:
The Valley of the Log Rides
And to get across you have to keep your bike straight:
Keep your line straight and fast
Duck!:
Not all obstacles are under you in the Don Valley Crothers Woods
No children playing on this teeter-totter today:
This teeter-totter is not for children
At the end of the trails I wanted to find the dirt jumps I’ve heard about. Taking a hidden path from within a parking lot leads you first under a bridge:
Under the bridge to the dirt jumps
The trail follows the west side of the Don River, and you can stick to the trail, or get creative along the way:
Why go around, let's go through the trees
The dirt jumps are impressive to say the least. This spot has been active for at least 15 years, with changes to the jumps happening all the time. This one was less dirt, but all jump:
A dirt jump, now with less dirt
Watch for overhead power lines:
Watch for power lines
The jumps get plenty of use:
Enjoying the jumps
You can learn more about Crothers Woods here and here.

Tell the World, "I Bike T.O."

I Bike T.O. T-shirt
Do you commute daily to work by bicycle in Toronto? Do you ride the Don Valley trails with your family on the weekends? Do you love your bicycle and biking the streets of Toronto? And, are you looking for a way to support cycling initiatives in Toronto?

ibikeTO.org is the charitable arm of BikingToronto, founded by Joe Travers. 100% of the proceeds from t-shirt and button sales, as well as a portion of the advertising revenue generated on BikingToronto.com, are donated to cycling-related charities in Toronto through the BikingToronto Fund.

Charities benefitting from the BikingToronto Fund are:

* Bikes without Borders
Bikes Without Borders serves marginalized communities in both the developing and developed worlds where bikes and bike-related solutions can have a significant, positive impact on community development.

* Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation
The Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation (TCAT) was formed in 2006 to give a unified voice to the many groups working for a better cycling and pedestrian environment in Toronto. The TCAT plan for active transportation emerged out of consultation with environmental, health and transportation groups from across Toronto. The result is a practical yet visionary plan for how Toronto City Council can make active transportation a central part of transportation planning.

* TrailBlazers Tandem Cycling Club
The TrailBlazers Tandem Cycling Club provides people who have limited or no vision the opportunity to experience cycling with our sighted volunteers, using tandems.

I Bike T.O. Buttons

Video of Sheppard Bryant Collision

Warning; this is a very disturbing video…

More on this video and the event in the Biking Toronto Forum

Why Some Cyclists in Toronto Break the Rules

Cyclists Dismount Sign

I’ve stopped reading the comments from readers on almost all news articles on the topic of cycling in Toronto.

The anti-cycling advocates make my blood boil:
“Once, I saw this guy on a bike and he was going the wrong way, he deserves to die!”
That’s not a direct quote, but I’m sure you’ve read the same sort of comment.
And, the pro-cycling team also has been contributing their own leaps in logic:
“Cars are destroying our planet and you are selfish for owning one!”
While, I tend to agree with this to some extent, this argument has nothing to do with the article on cyclists you were just reading. And it has nothing to do with expressing the fact that both vehicles of all manner and size and bicycles are allowed on Toronto’s streets.
As the major media outlets try to find more ways to talk about the Sheppard/Bryant case, we’re starting to see more articles on cycling in general. For the most part, I believe they all read like they were paid for by the manufacturers of automobiles:
“Cyclists deserve to be fined and imprisoned! There’s no room on OUR roads for them! They need to stop behaving like children and follow the rules!”
Why do some cyclists choose to break the rules? Please, note my wording here. Breaking the rules is a choice made by people riding their bicycles. We all know the rules. Two-year olds know what a stop sign means. Anyone who has ever even seen a road knows which side goes in what direction. Anyone claiming ignorance of the rules is lying to you…

A police officer on his bike chased down and fined the first-year U of T student yesterday on St. George St. after he ran a red light on his bicycle. The visibly upset student, who wouldn’t give his name, said he was from China and didn’t know the rules.

The above snippet is from an article in the Toronto Sun. The writer also adds this pull quote:
Cycling organizations should also speak out more against their “radical” members, Burrows added.

“We know that 99.9% of drivers will stop at a red light. We don’t know that with cyclists,” he said.

I ask again, why do some cyclists in Toronto break the rules of the road?

1) Safety

How can running a red light increase safety? How does not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign increase anyone’s safety?

It is unfair and unreasonable to assume that just because I’m on a bicycle, I have some sort of twisted death wish. If I really wanted to die in Toronto, I’d get in a car. When approaching a red light I know there’s going to be a stream of cars piling up behind me. Some of the drivers are going to try and push to get in front of me at the light, the rest are going to push me in the intersection as I’m trying to build speed again. This is why you see so many cyclists in crosswalks, when you’re being tailed by monstrous steel machines, you’re going to move to where you know they aren’t going to go.

Why then, would I run a red light? If the way is clear, running the red gets me through an intersection without impatient drivers riding my ass or trying to squeeze me out of the lane. Once through the intersection, I can now establish my line, so the drivers coming up quickly behind me can react and pass me safely.

Same goes for stop signs. I proceed safely without coming to a full stop and I preserve some momentum and get to continue on in a predictable fashion. And that’s what motorists want, isn’t it? Predictability.

2) Lack of enforcement

Even Toronto Police Services admits to this. They are lack on enforcing the rules of the road when it comes to cyclists. And, we can all see why. Cyclists very, very, very rarely kill people. Cyclists, even with our growing numbers, are still a minority. And what’s more dangerous? The guy in his car eating a breakfast sandwich and speeding along a side street, or a cyclist, going less than 20 km/h, who doesn’t fully stop at a stop sign? It’s not like either of these are rare occurrences on our roads.

3) Laziness

Even though it takes far more physical energy to operate a bicycle vs. a car, cyclists can be and are often lazy. We want to get where we’re going as fast as possible.

Motorists, doesn’t that sound familiar? Isn’t that why we have drive-thru banks and coffee shops? Isn’t that why there are HOV lanes on highways? Isn’t that why your car can go 160 km/h when you legally should never reach speeds greater than 100 km/h, and much lower in our city?

We go the wrong way on streets because it is simply easier than trying to get into a turning lane, then wait for oncoming traffic while watching behind us for anyone who doesn’t see us and then get honked at because we turn too slow. We go the wrong way because our destination is on the side of the street we’re on and we don’t want to deal with street car tracks. The reasons are numerous, even if they aren’t in the name of safety and following the rules.

So, the next time you see a cyclist breaking the rules, ask yourself why they are behaving in this manner. There is always a reason for a cyclists behaviour. Cyclists aren’t always making the right choices, and we do need to address not only the problem action, but also the reason behind why this action was made.

What do you think of the rules of the road and why cyclists break them in Toronto?

Photo by ammiiirrr posted to Flickr

On Passing – What Are the Rules?

My Bike Wheel Meets A Useless Toronto Driver

A little room, please!

That’s all I ask. You, in your car, you’ve got airbags and steel and power brakes and power steering and mirrors. To pass me, all it takes is a simple set of movements. Check your mirrors, check your blind spots and slightly move your hands on the steering wheel.

Honest, that’s all it takes.

Why then, do the motorists who pass me on Keele, on Bathurst, on Jane, streets with at least 2 lanes running in each direction, fail to give me room?

When I confronted a driver about why he didn’t yield at all, he said, “You get 18 inches of space, you need to stop weaving.”

I was dodging pot holes and sewer grates, oh and I get 1 metre, that’s 40 inches of space. And I get an additional 1 metre of space around me to protect me when you pass.

Or do I?

The Ontario Driver’s Handbook suggests this of drivers (emphasis mine):

Bicycles and mopeds that cannot keep up with traffic are expected to keep to the right of the lane; however, they can use any part of the lane if necessary for safety, such as to avoid potholes and sewer grates. Cyclists need a metre on either side of themselves as a safety zone. When passing a cyclist, allow at least one metre between your car and the cyclist.

If the lane is too narrow to share, change lanes to pass the cyclist. When turning right, signal and check your mirrors and the blind spot to your right to make sure you do not cut off a cyclist. When parked on the side of the street, look behind you and check your mirrors and blinds spots for a passing cyclist before opening a door.

I like the sounds of that, sounds like a rule to me!

But, it is only just a suggestion. One that many drivers simply choose to ignore, or have forgotten. Aside from just now, I hadn’t looked at a Driver’s Handbook in over a decade. And for the drivers failing to give me space, who often appear to be much older than I am, well it’s probably too long ago for them to remember at all.

Perhaps there’s something more concrete in the Highway Traffic Act:

Vehicles meeting bicycles

(4) Every person in charge of a vehicle on a highway meeting a person travelling on a bicycle shall allow the cyclist sufficient room on the roadway to pass. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (4).

“Sufficient room?” To the motorist I encountered, the 18 inches I supposedly was to occupy, was his definition of “sufficient room” and by “weaving” I was forfeiting my access to more “sufficient room” when he passed me, so close his mirror passed below my handlebars.

What we need is a concrete definition of “sufficient room,” one backed by law.

Groups like 3feet2pass are working towards establishing such laws across the United States. Isn’t it time we saw this in Ontario?

Share your thoughts and developments on this issue in the Biking Toronto Forum

Photo from Erik Twight’s Flickr Photostream