Scenes from Toronto’s Group Commute – May 31, 2010

Bike to Work TorontoWhile I no longer bike to work, (I actually roll and then step to work in my home office) I still wanted free breakfast pancakes and chose to join the hundreds of Torontonians in the Bike Month Group Commute.

A whole lot of cyclists on the same route sure slows things down, but unlike when this happens with cars (every day), you can chit chat with your neighbour, sing a song or two and simply enjoy the fresh morning air.

Every day should be bike to work day for you. If it isn’t, ask yourself why? What is keeping you from biking to work? Is it because you feel you live too far? Is it because you don’t want to get sweaty? Is it because you don’t have a bike?

Remember, there are no good REASONS for not cycling to work, there are only EXCUSES.

Police Escort

Taking the Lane on Bloor Street

Join the Group

Into the Light

Congestion

The Meet Up

Cyclops in the Morning Light

Cyclops Dance

Political Will

Ontario Transportation Minister

Bike Union Mobile Service Station

Social Cycling: Go Green, Go Dutch, Go Bike! Toronto 2010

Go Dutch ShirtWhen people mention nations that are leading the way for cycling and cycling infrastructure, most often you’ll hear a thing or two about the Dutch.

In the Netherlands, 60% of the population prefers to make daily trips by bicycle. There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are people (1.11 to every person) and you don’t have to look far to find some of the best and most-used cycling infrastructure on the planet here.

Started in 2007, the Dutch Consulate in Toronto has been organizing a annual bicycle ride to raise funds and provide bicycles and resources for city children whose families are unable to afford them.

Go Green, Go Dutch, Go Bike! is also an excellent opportunity for Dutch ex-pats to get together, ride their bikes and enjoy some Dutch foods.

My girlfriend, mother and I rode our bikes to Etienne Brule park along Toronto’s Humber River on a sunny Sunday:

Orange Shirts

Mom and Cat

King of the Dutch

Speedy Gazelle

Dutch Family Car

Orange Under the Bridge

Orange Over the Bridge

Green and Orange Path

White Bridge Orange Shirts

Orange You Glad You Bike?

Lake Ontario

Snaking Along the Martin Goodman Trail

Looking Back Along Martin Goodman Trail

Riding Together

More Bike Lanes Please

Dutch Pride

Dutch Parking at City Hall

Kroketten

Presentation

Cycle Chic

Fourth Floor Cycle Chic

Deadly Nightshade Prairie Cycle Chic

And, did you know that as part of the Lets Go Ride a Bike Summer Games you could win your own Batavus BuB? Participating is fun and easy, in this post along you saw me join a group ride and go cycling with my family. Click on the image below to learn more and participate as well:

Every day I hear Bells on Bloor

Every day I hear bells on Bloor.

Bike Lanes on BloorWalking down the street, I hear bells. Sitting and sipping in a coffee shop, I hear bells. At the library, running errands, meeting with friends, and all the time, I hear bells.

Each one of those bells is connected to a cyclist. A mother riding her bicycle to work. A family riding their bikes home from the park. Students riding their bikes to class.

And each one of those bells is asking so little of you. That bell is a kind request for a little attention and a little space. “See me,” says these bells.

On Saturday, May 29th, 2010, a symphony of bells launched from High Park and made its way with music and joy to Queen’s Park. Bells on Bloor brings together the individual bells you hear on Bloor Street each and every day and asks for attention, we ask you for bike lanes on Bloor.

Orange and Yellow

Speaker

Speaker 2

Performance

Supporters

She and Him

Sing a Song of Support

A Symphony of Bells

Group Riding

Downhill

Uphill

Pirates Sing

Musical Accompaniment

Tutu

ToddT

Eye in the Sky

And the band played on

Little One

Queen's Park

Bells on Bloor Cycle Chic

The End

Show your support, sign the petition: Bike Lanes on Bloor

These Kids Biked to School in Brooklyn, You Should Bike to Work

Bike to School Brooklyn via Streetfilms.org

This is fantastic. Now, they didn’t just set these kids loose on the streets of Brooklyn. Prior to this event the school ran programs instructing them on how to safely cycle in traffic.

And Matthew Modine was there!

On Monday, May 31, 2010 it’s Bike to Work and the Toronto Group Commute to kick off Bike Month. Take some inspiration from these kids and leave the car at home.

There’s more over on Streetfilms.org.

Short Flick Friday: Unlocked (2005)

Unlocked - Lost love, Kensington, bike locks, HONK!

I love short films. Maybe I’m just a product of my generation, but a well crafted short film is aces in my books. Unlocked was co-produced with the National Film Board (NFB) as part of Shorts in Motion (SIM). SIM are short films meant to be viewed on cell phones, hopefully not while driving or cycling.

Also of note from Bravo!FACT:

Bravo!FACT Presents

Sundays 7:30 pm ET/4:30 pm PT on Bravo! is your chance to catch cutting edge Canadian short films by up-and-comers as well as established filmmakers and performers. Tune in for an eclectic mix of dance, drama, animation and spoken word.

Bravo!FACT Presents is repeated Fridays at 8:00pm ET/5:00 pm PT and Saturdays at 8:00 am ET/5:00 am PT on Bravo!, and Saturdays on ‘A’ in Barrie, London, Windsor and Wingham, Ontario; and on Vancouver Island, BC. All time subject to change; check your local listings.

Bravo!FACT Presents celebrates our favourite mode of transportation this sunny season: the bicycle! Featuring Mio Adilman’s Unlocked trilogy The Note, The Zen Master, and The Bicycle Thief; as well as Jonathan Bensimon’s tour of Havana Fall Apart Again; and Sook Yin Lee’s look at relationship woes in Unlocked.

Via bravofact on Twitter.

Commuter Bicycle Review: Marin Hamilton 29er

It’s been about a year since I purchased a Marin Hamilton 29er from The Cycle Shoppe on Queen Street West in Toronto…

Marin Hamilton 29er Commuter Bicycle

…and boy, oh boy, what a year it’s been.

I weighed about 30 lbs more back then. I wanted a bicycle to take me around town at night. I wanted a way to get around the city without relying on public transit. What I got was an entire lifestyle shift. What I got was a simple tool that has helped me change my life.

Now, can I place these miraculous events squarely on the shoulders of a bicycle? Certainly not. I say all of this just to prepare you for why I’ve grown to love this bicycle. The Marin Hamilton 29er may not have the latest in cycling technology and may not be the coolest kid on the block. But the Marin Hamilton 29er is a darn good bike and here’s why:

Simplicity.

You get big, round wheels. There’s just one speed. The simple, sturdy u-brakes and levers work well. There are braze-ons where you need them most (so you can mount racks and fenders). Everything is painted black. And the frame has a proven mountain bike geometry that is at once both aggressive and comfortable. Out of the box this bicycle will take you to work, it will take you along paths and trails and it isn’t fussy about spending a few hours locked to a post and ring.

Simplicity defines the Marin Hamilton 29er

Simple, effective, fun

As you can see above, I’ve added a few accessories to make this bicycle a commuting machine.

First, I added a pair of Planet Bike Cascadia Hybrid fenders purchased at Mountain Equipment Co-op ($29 CAD). The “29er” in the bicycle’s name refers to wheel size. In simplest terms, 29ers seem to be 700c only just a little wider. Unfortunately, this made fitting the fenders a little difficult. The Planet Bike Hybrids fit up to a 28 inch wheel, so I had to do a little bending and tweaking to get them to not rub my tires. I also had to flatten a basket clamp in order to mount the front fender as seen below:

Flattened Basket Clamp to Mount Planet Bike Cascadia Hybrid Fender

In the end, the frustration was worth every second of it. The fenders are made of a resilient plastic and bend and squish when I have to lock the bike up at odd angles. I’ve ridden through intense downpours and this fenders handle the rain and dirt exceptionally well. They complement the bike in their simple design and overall effectiveness.

Second, I added a rear rack, also from MEC ($15 CAD). Again, simple, sturdy and black. MEC panniers fit on these racks very securely, and a bungee along the top is essential for small bags and other loads.

Seat mounted lock and MEC rear rack

And third, I replaced the terrible plastic pedals that all lower-end bicycles seem to come with. After getting wet once and with just a few dozen kms on them, the pedals wouldn’t spin properly and felt as though they’d been greased with sand. A quick swap, but a shame those stock pedals are such poor quality.

Last year, I wrote a post about my North Toronto commute. Since then, I’ve moved to a different part of Toronto and started working from home. I did manage to get about 4,000 kms of cycling in on my Hamilton 29er and I continue to add to that number now, although not at 50 km per day as before.

Over those 4,000 km I’ve crashed once, had 4 flats and replaced the brake pads. That’s it. 4,000 km and I’ve spend under $100 on maintenance and replacement parts. I have had sheltered, year-round bicycle parking, so your costs may be higher if you leave this bicycle out in the rain and snow. But, I’m pretty impressed. I still think of repair costs in terms of my long-gone car. A tick or growl would mean I’d be out $500 at least.

That said, it looks like I’ll be replacing the tires on my Marin soon:

Toronto Roads Wear You Down

A few months back I rotated my tires, Continental TownRide come stock. The rear tire was a little worn and has large gashes every few inches. Toronto streets are mean. I’ve ridden over glass, scrap metal, broken bricks and anything else that falls from cars and trucks. I’m impressed with the durability of these tires over 4,000 km.

One is Fun

If you’re more interested in the very specific technical details and geometry of this bicycle, you can head over to the Marin site. While I’ve been riding the 2009 Marin Hamilton 29er, the 2010 model is almost identical.

And, if you’d like to give one a try head on over to The Cycle Shoppe at 630a Queen Street West in Toronto.

UPDATE: Since writing this initial post I’ve made some changes to the Hamilton 29er including the conversion to a Nexus 8-Speed Redline Internal Hub. Read about the upgrade here: Recent Upgrade to Nexus Redline 8-Speed Hub

You Can Help Design the Next “Beater Bike”

Beater Bike Diamond Frame via beaterbikes.ca

Beater Bikes wants your help!

Last year, the company released a diamond frame and a step-through model. Did you want a step-through but didn’t get one before they sold out? Is there something about the diamond frame that you just didn’t like?

Well, have your say, fill out a survey at Beater Bikes web site. Click on the image of the form below to be taken to the Beater Bikes survey:

Beater Bikes survey

Image via BeaterBikes.ca

Cycle Chic as Advocacy?

First Cycle Chic Photo

Is the simple act of riding a bicycle in your everyday clothes a form of advocacy? Capturing these moments and sharing them online may be more than just bicycle voyeurism. See why in the video below:

The Ethical Implications of How You Bike

Screen shot 2010-05-18 at 4.11.12 PM

Streetfilms consistently put out informative and entertaining videos. Here’s a bike ride through NYC with Randy Cohen, New York Times “Ethicist”:

More with Randy Cohen and Streetfilms here.

Bike Route Blues – Crawford Needs Some Help

Crawford and Dundas North SideYou’ve just finished a tennis match/drum circle/swim/ball hockey game/Frisbee session/baseball practice at Trinity Bellwoods Park and now you want a continuous street to take you North beyond Bloor Street.

Well, you could try Bathurst with its awkward intersections, streetcar tracks and speedy drivers. You could head over to Ossington, a street with more potholes than parking spaces. Or, you could simply head North on Crawford, a one-way street with a gentle uphill grade and even a touch of cycling infrastructure.

Although there are blue bicycle signs along Crawford, you won’t find this residential street listed as part of Toronto’s Bikeway Network.

Toronto Bicycle Map Detail - No Hint of Crawford

No YES No

While not an official signed route, there is signage alerting drivers to the presence of cyclists.

Who You Callin' a Bike Route?

Just north of Dundas, Crawford is spacious and their are speed bumps and stop signs to help slow motorists who are also supposed to keep their speed at or below 30 km/h.

Although the extra space on this street often encourages illegal parking:

Parking Infraction

A slight uphill and a few minutes later and you reach a controlled intersection at College Street:

Crawford at College Street

If you’re turning left, stand on the dots:

Dots

There are no dots here, but if you’re going straight this may set the traffic signals in motion. I’ve never waited here more than a few seconds:

No Dots

Just north of College, Crawford takes a twisty turn lined with street parking. The right curb side has uneven manhole coverings, so take the lane:

Narrow Take the Lane

Here’s where it gets strange. Where do I go?

Where Now?

If you can spot the cyclist on the left of the above photo, that’s where Crawford continues. Head right, and you’ll end up on Montrose. There’s a blue circle bicycle sign hidden, too:

I See You Now

A few short minutes later and you’ll reach Harbord where you can connect to bicycle lanes. Should you want to go straight through this is where Montrose one street over to the East is a better option. At Harbord you have a stop sign, yet the east/west traffic does not. Depending on the time of day you may have to wait awhile to get across:

At Harbord Wait Wait Wait

Watch out for right hooks while you wait:

The Right Hook

And then carry on:

Slow Bike Movement

And once again, prepare to wait at the even busier Bloor Street:

Waiting at Bloor

Walk it on Bloor

As bike lanes continue to be a major issue in the upcoming Toronto mayoral elections, it is important to consider our entire network. Bike lanes are needed on major arterial roads and bicycle-friendly infrastructure is needed on our secondary street routes. That includes signaled crossings, something that would improve Crawford and earn it a permanent role in Toronto’s Bikeway Network.