Archives for October 2009

TAVIS – Visible, Approachable Police Officers on Bikes and Foot

From The Globe and Mail:

Transforming crime hot spot into sea of tranquillity

Josh Wingrove

After eight murders and the non-fatal shooting of a five-year-old girl, crime in the old city of York seemed earlier this year to be out of control.

In most cases, police linked either the suspect or victim to one of two local gangs. Booze cans had sprung up, and the drug trade was in full swing. It left residents of the once-peaceful neighbourhood at a loss. Suddenly 12 Division, the area policing district, had become Toronto’s new crime hot spot. The division’s veteran boss, Superintendent Brody Smollet, called it “unheard of.”

Police sought a solution, turning to a three-year-old community policing strategy developed in the aftermath of 2005’s Summer of the Gun as the brainchild of Chief Bill Blair – the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS).

The Toronto Police Service dispatched 75 officers as part of its summer TAVIS deployment, split between 12 Division and their neighbours to the north, 31 Division, which encompasses the long-maligned Jane-Finch community. The philosophy was two-pronged: let the Guns and Gangs Unit sweep in with arrests, then dispatch TAVIS, the friendly, visible foot-patrol and bicycle officers who would hold the peace while neighbourhood leaders worked to reclaim their streets.

The impact was significant.

According to numbers provided by police crime analysts, in the 165 days of 2009 before TAVIS showed up, 12 Division had eight slayings and 18 shootings. In the 130 days since – including the summer, typically a period of increased crime activity – the neighbourhood has had just one homicide (a domestic dispute on the second day they arrived, with no gang ties) and nine shootings, none of them fatal. Since TAVIS, the gangs of York are quiet.

“I expect we’ll be successful when we put these programs in place, but I’ve gotta tell you, the numbers are way more than I expected,” said Staff Superintendent Glenn De Caire, who heads up the TAVIS squad from the TPS College Street headquarters. “That’s pretty impressive for that division, that neighbourhood, that geography.”

In 31 Division, the number of shootings dropped to 11 from 30.

This year’s summer surge drew on the failures of a similar initiative last year, when it was 31 Division and the downtown 51 Division that received extra summer officers. In 31 last year, TAVIS quelled the violence only to leave and see it flare again. The area had seven homicides before TAVIS came, one with them, and six after they left.

“That indicated to us we needed a longer period of time, and greater capacity… clearly that we just cannot withdraw from an area. It has to be a phased approach supported by a maintenance strategy,” Supt. De Caire said.

“Not only to get control of the neighbourhood, but to get those [community] partnerships,” added Sergeant Jeff Pearson of TPS command.

They point to partnerships such as the one built with the Eglinton Hill Business Improvement Area, led by local Variety & Video store owner Steve Tasses. The BIA staged a community barbecue over the summer and oversaw the revamping of Coronation Park, located just northwest of the Keele-Eglinton intersection. When TAVIS arrived, the basketball hoops had no nets and an equipment building was run down and covered in spray paint.

Next Friday, 230 youngsters from nearby schools will carve pumpkins in the revamped park, in another event organized by Mr. Tasses.

“TAVIS went in there and cleaned out the park. We went in there and cleaned up the park,” he says. “We did a whole bunch of things in the summertime to get the community to come together. Now that this initiative is over, it’s up to us – the BIA, the homeowners, the tenants – it’s up to us to fill the void [police] created when they got rid of the gangs and the dealers.”

Local councillor Frank Di Giorgio said he’s heard the booze cans have been cleaned up. “I’ve been very happy with the success of the [TAVIS] program,” Mr. Di Giorgio said.

The summer surge has been slowly phased out since last month, an ongoing departure. There are also TAVIS officers stationed year-round in every division.

TAVIS has caught the eye of the province, which has shelled out money to other police forces willing to adapt it for their own communities. So far, 17 have, including Ottawa and Hamilton. However, TAVIS is entirely an Ontario phenomenon (“I’ve never even heard of it,” said Rick Parent, a criminology professor at British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University and co-author of Community-Based Strategic Policing ).

Police will wait on updated statistics before deciding which areas next summer’s TAVIS surge will target. Mr. Tasses hopes they won’t have to come back to Keele and Eglinton.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the area will take a turn for the better,” the store owner said. “But it’s got to be a conscious effort from everyone.”


SPIN at Buddies in Bad Times – Sunday, October 25, 2009


Spin — A Workshop Presentation

8pm, The Chamber, PWYC
Written and Performed by Evalyn Parry, with Anna Friz and Brad Hart
A musical, poetic and theatrical investigation of the Bicycle as muse, musical instrument, and instrument of social change. Taking inspiration from a series of amazing-but-little-known cycling ladies from history (Annie Londonderry, the first woman to ride around the world in 1895! Amelia Bloomer, 19th century sufferagette, advocate of dress reform, and name sake of bloomers!), Parry spins a story that encompasses proto-feminism, the invention, evolution and marketing of the bicycle, Toronto’s most notorious bike thief, and a life-changing accident.
Photo via ArtSexy

MEC Encourages Active Lifestyles

Mountain Equipment Co-op, Toronto

There was a short while at the end of the 90s when many employers took an interest in their employee’s lives beyond the 9-to-5 work day. But, with budget cuts it seems that these “perks” are drying up faster than puddle on Queen Street in August.
Via The Vancouver Sun:

Mountain Co-op walks the talk

Environmentally friendly initiatives extend to encouraging staff to cycle to work

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco, Financial Post

“Most people would be hard pressed to say the people they work with are good friends,” says Karina Benavides, who has been working at the Mountain Equipment Co-op, or MEC, store in Toronto since 1998.

“But we have people’s roommates here, husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, partners, people who have been through thick and thin with each other, who’ve grown up together. There are long-term relationships here,” she says.

The camaraderie that exists at Vancouver-based MEC is not coincidental. “I think there’s a passion for MEC that begins at recruitment,” says Cathy Smith, senior manager of human resources at the company.

“When you have people who work with you and support you, meaning co-workers and management alike, I think that’s very, very important. If you take care of your employees you will see better engagement from your staff. They will support you through the good times and tough times,” she says.

Most companies strive to achieve this, but hit a disconnect between policy and the frontlines. However, 2010 FP 10 best employer, MEC — with 1,400 employees and 13 stores spread across British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, and three million members worldwide — has put a lot of thought and effort into making sure that theory and practice are connected.

“Our bosses and managers are really encouraging,” Ms. Benavides says. “If we have a problem, it’s always, ‘let’s step into my office and see what we can do for you.’ Nobody is scared to talk to anybody. I very much feel we’re respected, appreciated and cared for. In retail, benefits are not common, but we get benefits if we’re full-time or part-time.”

The company pays attention to details that make a difference to employees’ day-to-day experience. “We have a kitchen where we can cook our own lunches and dinner, so we don’t have to eat out. We have showers, which is great if you’re riding your bike in for long distances , or if you’re running into work. They’re encouraging you to do what you like to do and be who you are,” Ms. Benavides says.

Employees also have what Ms. Benavides describes as “a big treasure chest of products” they can borrow to try out. The benefits are twofold: They allow employees access to outdoor gear for free and employees can better tell customers about the products.

While the retail industry has been hit hard in the recession, MEC continues to grow, expanding its operations this September into Longueuil, Que.

“There’s no question it’s been a challenging year,” says Tim Southam, MEC’s public affairs manager. “But compared with other companies, we’ve done quite well. There was a commitment by senior management that we do everything we could to retain as many of our people [as we could].” MEC managed to not lay off any workers.

“In a recent survey we did, 86% of our employees said their health and well-being was well managed by MEC. I think that speaks for a lot of what we’re trying to do here,” says Ms. Smith, adding that the its commitment to the well-being of the environment is also valued by employees.

“I would say 90% of the staff bikes to work,” Ms. Benavides says. She says the company bike room encourages employees to ride to work because they don’t have to worry about expensive bikes being left outside.

Encouraging staff to be environmentally friendly is only a small part of MEC’s commitment to sustainability, which began more than 10 years ago and is now integrated into corporate decision-making from LEED certification for many of its locations to ethical sourcing.

“It’s always been a joke in our store that if you got fired, it means you screwed up really big. But it’s such a nice place to be, you don’t want to do anything to hurt the co-op,” Ms. Benavides says.


Photo via Flickr

Winter Bike Storage at Bikes on Wheels

For those without a shed or garage or extra room, there’s another way to store you bike for the winter (if you don’t plan on riding it that is).
Bikes on Wheels offers winter bike storage with pick up on April 1st, just in time for Spring.
How do you store you bicycle in the winter? Tell us in the BikingToronto Forum

The Humour of Bicycles with Winston Spear

Google Street View – On Bikes!

Have you been exploring the streets of Toronto using Google Street View?

Wouldn’t it be great to escape further from the shots taken by the car camera and actually explore the paths and parks in Toronto?
I mean, Toronto is “A City Within A Park” after all.
Well, Google may soon help you explore the great outdoors of a city near you… from the comfort of your computer.
The Google Street View Trike:

Found over on Bike Hugger

Share your thoughts on places you’d like the Google Street View Trike to explore in the BikingToronto Forum

One Step Closer to a Bike Park in Toronto

2 Aug 2008 - Cummer Park

1st Donut Ride

Late night donuts

While I have yet to join one of Toronto’s famous Donut Rides, local runner and cyclist Bruce Bird shares his experience on his blog:

My first Donut Ride

I took part in my first Donut ride yesterday. The donut ride is probably one of the most famous group rides in Canada; it even has a wikipidea entry:

The Donut Ride is an informal Toronto road cycling tour run every Saturday and Sunday as well as public holidays. Typical summer numbers range from 100 to 125 riders forming a large pack, and weather permitting the ride continues year-round and often sees a dozen riders even in mid-winter. The ride is known for being fairly fast paced, often reaching speeds of about 50 km/h on straightaways. It is also known for being fairly unforgiving; riders who are dropped from the pack are on their own. –

I left my house at around 8:30am and it was a beautiful but chilly fall morning. There was virtually no traffic on the roads as I made my way across town to meet of with some of the Wheels of Bloor riders near the shop. Wouldn’t you know it I was running late and I had been warned that the group leaves at 9am sharp. I exited High Park at Bloor street at 9:05 and turned West to ride down to the meeting location. I saw a group of unfamiliar riders meeting outside the store from the Lapdogs cycling club and asked if they had seen the Wheels of Bloor group leave. I found out that the group had left heading east on Bloor at 9am of course. If I had only glanced right as I left the park I probably would have seen them. No one from the group knew which street they headed North on. I called my friend Ian, who had already sent me 2 emails, and found out that I needed to head North on Keele street. Ian told me that the group was now at St. Clair.

I rode off from the shop determined to do my best to catch up to the group. When I hit St. Clair ave I realized that I was 5 minutes behind. A few blocks further North I spotted Ian who was waiting for me along with Tony and Mike. I apologized to the three of them and followed as we wound our way through the streets on our way to the eventual meeting spot further North on Keele. I tried to take as many and turns as I could in the front as I felt badly for being late on this my first time out with the team. I did really appreciate that the three of them waited for me. A few km’s up the road we caught up with another small group of riders, I was surprised by the relatively small numbers; but was informed that we would join up with the main group further North.

We stopped at a Gas station at an intersection on Keele, north of the city and waited for the main group in the Donut ride. After standing around for a few minutes someone called out the peleton was coming and we all mounted our bikes and headed north. I looked back and saw a group of around 80 riders. A few riders passed by me and then I decided to follow Tony’s wheel. Tony stuck near or at the front of the group and so did I. We were travelling in two’s at a moderate pace. As the riders in front of me peeled off the front it became my turn to lead just as I settled into a pace, I heard voices calling out for me to join a newly forming group that were turning left.

As the new smaller group headed West, the pace quickened as the terrain descended. We turned North on Jane and the real push began. I was already up near the front as I continued to try and stay near Tony. The front riders began to take small turns at the front working through a cycle that maximized the groups overall speed through reduced exposure to the wind. As I worked my way through the cycle a few times I noticed that the number of riders taking part was gradually reducing. Some riders skipped a few turns and then rejoined the cycling at the front after resting up in the draft of the main peleton. I made it a point to try and never miss a turn. After a good stretch of this we turned East on Aurora Rd and the only person left cycling through the front with me was Tony. I knew that there were a few hills ahead but I also figured that we had at least reached the halfway point of the ride.

I took the lead up the biggest hill on Aurora Rd and then began to suffer as a few riders including Tony passed by. At this point I was unable to cycle through and had to recover in the peleton about ten riders back. As the terrain evened out I gained back some strength and made my way back up front again. The peleton turned south and the organization of the pack started breaking down as the pace reached its height. Riders now began attacking the group trying to create a gap. There were now about 5 riders taking turns attacking at this point including Tony, Darko (a well known strong rider) and me. This was the first time that I had ridden with Darko, but I had seen his results in the Senior 1 category for the past several years. I thought that he may have been toying with the group treating it as I sort of training exercise based on the ridiculously small gear he used; I was later informed that that is just how he rides…Amazing! The best attack of the day came from Tony after Darko had taken a turn at the front. I was unable to grab Tony’s wheel but I did have enough strength to catch Darko, who then bridged the gap to Tony.

The racing stopped as we rode through some local streets on the way to a Polish pastry shop for a social break. I had a great apple treat. I rode back into town with 4 other riders including Bobby, Ian and Mike from the Wheels of Bloor team. It was a great day of riding and I look forward to the next Sunday Donut ride.


Photo of Tiny Tom’s (another Toronto donut institution) via Flickr

On the Dangers of Cars

smog free car

Aside from the sensational headlines, this article brings to light many of the dangers of private motor vehicles. Dangers that are so common we mostly ignore them until they affect us individually.


Cyclist’s death highlights auto hazards

Cars are death traps in many ways.

by Albert Koehl

Darcy Allan Sheppard accomplished this year what almost 3,000 other Canadians will fail to do: get more than fleeting public attention for his death on our roads. If Sheppard’s death had not occurred in downtown Toronto, in gruesome circumstances, and under the wheels of a car driven by Ontario’s former top law-maker, the public would already have forgotten his name.

While the tragedy on Toronto’s Bloor St. may have highlighted the frailty of the human body in conflicts with the car, the fact is occupants of cars are hardly safe from the danger on our roads.

Polluting emissions from car and truck traffic claim 440 lives in Toronto alone each year.

Although cyclists are over-represented in road fatalities, the most common victims of road accidents are drivers and their passengers, comprising three quarters of all deaths. Motor vehicle occupants also count heavily among the 20,000 Canadians wounded so seriously by motor vehicles each year that they require hospital care, often for long terms.

So routine are serious traffic accidents that we more often hear about them as obstacles in the morning traffic report than in news headlines.

Cars aren’t deadly just because of collisions.

Polluting emissions from car and truck traffic claim 440 lives in Toronto alone each year, according to the city’s public health authority. Climate change, which is caused in significant part by transportation emissions, will claim more lives still. Over 35 percent of Toronto’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are from motor vehicles.

The tragedy of these numbers is not that we accept them so willingly, but that we accept them despite the obvious alternatives.

First, buses and streetcars are many times safer than cars, while emitting a fraction of the air and climate poisons. A 30 percent reduction in traffic emissions would save 190 lives in Toronto each year and result in $900 million in health benefits, according to Toronto Public Health. Mass transit can be improved quickly with better and more frequent bus service.

Second, bicycles produce zero climate and air pollutants — while posing minimal risks to other road users. Cycling fatalities can be reduced. In certain European countries where bikes have been given dedicated space, cyclists (despite shunning helmets) are much safer.

“Good fences make good neighbours” wrote the poet Robert Frost. Painted lines for bikes make good relations on our streets.

Yes, cyclists must obey the rules of the road, although this doesn’t help cyclists injured by motorists in so-called “doorings” that are all too common. When I cycle, I fairly diligently obey every rule of the road but sometimes marvel at the irony of it all: complying with the rules of a society that has already carelessly passed through urgent warning signs of climate change and unnecessarily wasted so many innocent lives.

Third, cars are transportation products, not necessities. Other personal transportation products would make our cities safer and healthier. Power and speed, along with polluting emissions, are car design features, and consequences, that kill.

We may be able to justify the use of a car to carry groceries, take kids to soccer practice, or pick up grandparents — but do milk and eggs really need to leave the mall in a machine capable of achieving 0-60kmph in 6 seconds? Low cost, low emission, low speed vehicles, similar to the electric ZENN car, provide another logical alternative, especially since city traffic doesn’t average even 40kmph anyway.

Finally, when our roads are safer and more hospitable places, people will walk more.

The car may be part of our culture but this is no reason to stand in the way of safer and more efficient options. The facts support a war on traffic deaths and injuries, traffic pollution, and vehicle GHG emissions that have made us all —- motorists, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians —- victims.

Albert Koehl is a lawyer with Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal), a Canadian environmental law organization.

In November 2007, Ecojustice and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, a church-based social justice organization, demanded that Canada’s Auditor General investigate the government’s oil and gas subsidies and the cuts to programs for poor households.

Photo via Flickr

New Pedestrian and Cyclist Bridge in Ajax


New pedestrian bridges on Bayly and Church span Duffins Creek

By Reka Szekely

AJAX — A new bridge and paved pathway means it’s about to get easier for pedestrians and cyclists to travel along a busy stretch of Bayly Street in Ajax.

Workers installed the bridge over the Duffins Creek on the south side of Bayly, west of Westney Road, late last week and they also created a paved pathway leading from the bridge to Church Street where another bridge, also spanning Duffins Creek, will be installed within the next two weeks.

The new pathways and bridges mean interruptions to the Duffins Creek Trail and the Trans-Canada Trail system in Ajax will be eliminated.

“You’ll be able to stay on the trail system without going on the road all the way up,” said Reg Lawrance, a member of Ajax’s trails committee.

Before the bridge, residents could take the Duffins South Trail from the waterfront at Rotary Park north past Lions Park until Bayly Street. They would then have to proceed along Bayly to Church, either cycling on the road or walking on a dirt path. On Church, residents also had to use the road to cross the creek near Hwy. 401 before connecting to the Duffins North Trail which starts near Mill Street and winds almost to Rossland Road.

Mr. Lawrance said the bridge and pathway will be particularly helpful on busy Bayly.

“That was pretty scary along there, that’s for sure; that’s a big, big improvement,” he said. “A lot of people use it for transport, you’ve probably seen them walking along there.”

Fara Namjoy, project manager of the installation for Rankine Construction, said the Bayly bridge has a 54-metre span and is three metres wide. It was brought in two pieces to the site where large cranes lowered them into place.

“It’s a huge operation today,” said Mr. Namjoy on Friday. “These are some of the biggest cranes available in Ontario.”

The Church Street bridge will span the Duffins Creek on the east side of Church just south of Hwy. 401. It will be a seasonal bridge with a 35-metre span.

“It will be lifted during the winter to prevent ice jamming,” said Mr. Namjoy.

A plan to address the potential for ice jams was a requirement of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. A portion of Church near the bridge will also include a new pathway.

Rankine was awarded a $1.2 million contract in July to complete the projects.

For more information on Ajax’s trails system, visit