Bells on Bloor - Queen's Park Montage

Is “bikephopia” a spelling mistake? Or is it a strange mish-mash word meaning a city where it is fear-inducing to bike in? Sort of a bicycle negative of utopia…

From The Toronto Star:

How to conquer bikephopia

A new study suggests women fear cycling in infrastrucutre-poor cities like Toronto. I’m trying to get over it

My bike is going to kill me. That was all I could think about as I rolled the thing out of my apartment and made those initial awkward pedal pushes in my first ride around downtown Toronto.

But gliding along Queen St., with no angry cars honking or getting too close to my wheels, I figured I might actually get home alive. If I could just remember the road rules.

Hand signal directional changes. Turn left on left lanes only, or get off the bike and cross the intersection like a pedestrian. If you’re changing lanes near streetcar tracks, approach them at a sharp angle so your tires don’t get caught in them. And for God’s sake, don’t pass cars on their right-hand side at stoplights.

You know the saying that you never forget how to ride a bike? Apparently I had. Or was too scared to remember. Either way, I’m not the only one. Studies from Australia and the U.S. identify me with a demographic researchers insist is key to promoting urban cycling: women.

Jan Garrard, senior public health lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, calls us an “indicator species.” Women are more likely than men to avoid cycling because they see it as dangerous. The extent to which women hop on their two-wheelers, or fail to do so, is a good indication of how developed a city’s cycling infrastructure is – how safe it is for biking, how accessible and extensive its bike lanes are.

Women in North America largely don’t ride bikes. In areas where they do, such as Europe, there are more cyclists on the road overall.

John Pucher, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has studied this trend for over 12 years. He found that in Denmark, where 18 per cent of all commutes are by bike, women make up 45 per cent of cyclists on the road. In the Netherlands, where women cyclists are in a slight majority at 55 per cent, cycling takes up nearly a third of all commuting trips.

We Canadians, however, aren’t doing so well at a 30 per cent bike share for women, and maybe a 2 per cent commute share for bikes. (The trend is similar in the U.S and Australia.) In Toronto, just 1.7 per cent of the population rode to work in 2006 – just 35 per cent of them female. But we’re not the worst city, laughs Pucher. “In Dallas, Texas, 95 per cent of bicyclists are men. Which is disgusting!”

Garrard, meanwhile, explores the psychology behind the numbers – why most women refrain from riding in the first place. She surveyed Melbourne’s cycling population by asking what situations kept them from the road.

“For just about every constraint we included in our item list,” she says, “women were more likely to say it was a constraint. And these things included traffic conditions, weather, lack of time.”

Sounds familiar to me. Though I’d have added fear of my face in the pavement.

A larger number of women also indicated they preferred off-road routes, or paths separate from cars. Last month, Scientific American reported on a Portland, Ore. study that coincides with this, having tracked Portland cycling commutes by GPS. When given the choice, women were more likely to take longer routes to a destination if it meant using a car-separate path.

Which is something cycling advocates in Toronto would argue we don’t have enough of. Most are intended for recreational use – not a lot of help if you’re trying to get to work, which is largely why I wanted to cycle in the first place.

Pucher points out that the idea isn’t to paint the non-cycling majority of women as timid creatures, and that other bike minorities, children and seniors, are also important in gauging a city’s bikeability.

“I’m pretty risk-averse myself,” he says. “I think anyone who is concerned with safety is going to want some kind of facilities that address those concerns.”

There are bike shops in Toronto that try to, by offering women-only programs that teach bicycle repair and construction and traffic laws.

Sherri Byer, co-ordinator at the Community Bicycling Network on Queen St. W., finds she still gets condescended to in unfamiliar cycling shops, even though she’s been fixing bikes for eight years.

“I think that’s why Wenches with Wrenches is so popular,” Byer says of CBN’s four-week program, which aims to provide women with a non-competitive learning space. “I kept thinking the market for it would dry up for it, but it’s not.”

I figured the Sunday sessions for women and transgendered people at Bike Pirates, a cycling co-op on Bloor and Lansdowne, was a good place to start. If I did the work they would supply me with the help, space and tools to build a bike of my own.

And as Lisa McLean, a Sunday volunteer, points out, there’s a certain confidence that comes from knowing how your bike works.

That may not stop me from slamming into the open door of a parked car, I think to myself as McLean shows me how to install ball bearings into a stem. But at least I can fix my bike afterwards.

Besides, I can’t imagine any of the women working at Bike Pirates fitting into the description of risk-averse or road-shy. With any luck (and a lot more riding), hopefully I will eventually count myself among them.

The War Against Physical Activity

An excerpt from the 1958 Disneyland TV Show episode entitled Magic Highway USA.

Did the optimism of super-speed travel indicate just how unsatisfied everyone already was with suburban living? My future fantasies involve car-less avenues, spacious parks, dense and sustainable work spaces and no silly magic highways or conveyor belts.

The World Now Knows Toronto Has Cycle Chic


Every pole becomes a bike rack

While many Torontonians know that the post and ring racks that line many of our streets aren’t fool-proof, their simple design is unmistakable.
The major benefit of their design is that they give cyclists options when locking. Different bicycles require different locking positions to secure a wheel and frame at the same time and the curved loop allows this, although you are encouraged to lock to the centre pole.
Currently a pilot program in London, UK, the Cyclehoop transforms street signs and poles into usable bicycle parking. The bright colours attract are a lot of attention, which is the point. As more and more bicycles are found on streets around the world, transforming existing space into useable bicycle parking is a “quick-fix” while other initiatives (like large-scale parking stations) are in the works.

Photo via

Bloated Roads and Bloated Bellies


The problems are obvious. Our manufactured environment is detrimental to our health, when done wrong. Physical activity not only makes you smarter, it helps improve our lives. Yet, when we let our built environment get in the way, well, the results are clear.
From The McGill Daily:

Walking life
Max Halparin outlines steps to a healthy city

Overlooking Autoroute 20 on Angrignon one July afternoon, my friend Elizabeth and I decide it would be a good time to dismount our bikes and document our relative danger. As more and more cars rush to the on-ramp leading to the Turcot, the sidewalks and pedestrian lights seem increasingly out of place in the blatantly car-oriented area. But it’s not just highway interchanges surrounded by industrial parks, barren land, and mega-mallas that are ill-suited to bikes and pedestrians. It’s anything designed beyond the human scale. Riding north toward Montreal-Ouest, I wonder how many four-or-more wheelers even noticed the two non-motorists crashing their hurried, gas-guzzling routine.

Any trip beyond the extended McGill bubble reminds me that this is exactly what has defined Canada’s (predominantly sub)urban landscape for the past 60 years. While trekking around Montreal for the better part of the summer and fall conducting a walkability survey of neighbourhoods in nearly every borough, I was struck by how much of the city resembles the stereotypical suburban layout I thought I’d escaped after bidding farewell to the sprawling, monotonous blob that is “outside Toronto.” This would be far less important if the issue was purely one of aesthetics. However, as study after study shows, the way we build our environments can have a significant influence on our health.

Sprawling cities have lead to sprawling waistlines. Our reliance on cars as opposed to our feet or pedals is central to the decreasing rates of exercise – especially that which is incorporated into the daily routine. Automobile emissions in turn affect air quality, leading to smog days in cities and respiratory illnesses in residents.

“It’s probably not that my grandparents went to the gym more, or that our genetic disposition has changed significantly over the past 30 years,” explains University of Washington pediatrics professor Brian Saelens when I ask him why he focuses on understanding the built environment’s effect on health. “If I’m to explain increased rates of obesity and inactivity, the only plausible thing is that we’ve changed our environment.”

“A fantastic amount of energy has gone into making the cars happy and providing capacity for more traffic, as if there were no other important issues in the city,” explains architect and urban designer Jan Gehl. Recorded by CKUT-Radio, Gehl’s talk at McGill this past July draws heavily on his experiences making Copenhagen one of the world’s most people-oriented cities, as an example for Montreal to follow.

Businesses, however, often claim that if customers can’t park, they won’t shop. Though this line of thinking is often used to derail the installation of bike lanes, data proves these fears illegitimate: other modes of transport increase the number of passersby – to the tune of 8,000 more per year on some Copenhagen streets, Gehl says.

Proponents of more liveable cities can find common ground with environmentalists who decry the increased carbon emissions and energy use predicated by suburban living; so can local food advocates fed up with the conversion of arable land to parking lots, buildings, and chemical-addicted lawns. The same is true for teachers and parents who see a correlation between their child’s health and academic performance. “There’s lots of synergies there, but if [the message is] splintered, it’s not going to be nearly as effective,” Saelens notes.

Since the implementation of all this information produced in academic fields still rests outside institutions, connections between public health researchers and other advocates for liveable cities are key. There are encouraging signs that this message is getting out there: the U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recently published 26 different strategies for preventing childhood obesity suggested by researchers, and the Active Living By Design organization links planners with public health researchers to advocate for healthier living through infrastructural change. Further, Projet Montréal’s success in the mayoral elections suggests the growing popular appeal of people-oriented planning.

At a conference discussing the CDC report, Saelens was asked what change would have the greatest impact over the built environment. His response? “Making gas $10-12 gallon, and the reason isn’t because I don’t want people to drive – there is some utility in it.” With people paying the real price for their behavioural choices, Saelens argues, “then you can have serious conversations about land use and true public transportation.”


Photo via Flickr

Cyclists Are Smarter

High Park1

Personally, I feel that choosing to start my day with an hour and ten minute bike ride makes me smarter than everyone in their cars who are eating processed foods and stressing over the fact they have to try and pass me (a difficult task for countless people so I’ve learned).
As it turns out, I’m somewhat right… if only a little arrogant…
From The Globe and Mail:

The link between exercise and more brainpower

Neuroscientists say parents who want to boost their children’s mental performance should encourage kids to hit the road before they hit the books

It is first period at City Park Collegiate Institute in Saskatoon, and the Grade 10 students in Allison Cameron’s class are priming their brains for an English assignment.

They strap heart monitors on their wrists and climb on a treadmill or exercise bike for a 20-minute workout. When they’re done, they move to their desks and start writing. The students are taking part in a program that aims to help them improve their focus, concentration and, ultimately, their academic performance through regular exercise in class.

The results have been startling: On standardized tests, the children in Movement Matters have dramatically outscored students in classes in which the program wasn’t offered.

Today, Movement Matters is in its third year and most classes at the school take part. Companies have donated equipment, as has cyclist Greg LeMond, who offered Ms. Cameron six top-of-the-line spinning bikes. A number of schools across the country are interested in setting up something similar.

Fifteen-year-old Benji, whose guardian doesn’t want his last name published, goes twice a day to the room with the exercise equipment. He alternates between the bike and treadmill, and usually gets his heart rate up to 140 beats a minute.

“When I first started, I was real tired,” he says. “When I got used to it, it woke me up more. I kind of got better at doing math and reading.”


Photo via BikingToronto’s Flickr Pool

Yellow Fenders and Stickers

Spotted on Roncesvalles. Increasing visibility and freeing the cyclist of a distinctive “skunk tail” with bright yellow fenders.

City of Cyclists

City of Cyclists:

Don’t worry Toronto, we’ll get there.

Jameson Avenue Impressions

From Jameson Avenue Impressions

What gives a bicycle personality? What gives a neighbourhood its charm?

The answer is simple; it’s you and me, the people who power cities and bikes.
Within the apartment buildings lining Jameson Avenue you’ll find a diverse cross-section of the world in the people who live there.
Jameson Avenue Impressions is a series of portraits on ceramic tile presenting the people and places of Parkdale to those who may not venture into the homes and shops of this area.

From Jameson Avenue Impressions

“I think of Jameson as this launching pad, people come here and you have different languages and cultures. So why not try to capture those kind of people and do a passport-style idea?”
Jameson Avenue Impressions artist, Jim Bravo

From Jameson Avenue Impressions

Many of the neighbourhood residents use bicycles daily. Parking can be a problem as many buildings often prohibit bicycle parking along their fenced front entrances. There are almost no post and ring racks to be found here either.

From Jameson Avenue Impressions

From Jameson Avenue Impressions

From Jameson Avenue Impressions

From Jameson Avenue Impressions

From Jameson Avenue Impressions

The artists behind the project, Jim Bravo and photographer Kate Young:

The artists with their street gallery

For more information visit Mural Routes

Quote from InsideToronto
Final photo via Flickr

18 km Cycling Trail as part of Waterfront Development for Pan-Am Games in Toronto

The newly-constructed Toronto 2015 Pan American Village will be located at the heart of the Games on an 80-acre site next to the Don River in Toronto’s waterfront district. The Village will be the Games-time home for up to 8,500 athletes and team officials, and will incorporate a full range of conveniences and amenities. Located just east of downtown Toronto, the Village is within 45 minutes of almost all Games venues and less than 25 minutes from the airport. All Village facilities in use during the Parapan American Games will be fully accessible and provide a barrier-free environment.

Construction of supporting infrastructure is already well underway, ensuring that the Pan American Village will be ready for the Games.

* Toronto 2015 will create designs, policies and practices that respect the traditions, cultures, abilities, languages and cuisines of all residents.
* The Village will meet the requirements of the IOC’s Technical Manual on Olympic Village.
* It will meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification standards.
* The secure perimeter of the Village will enclose an 18-acre park featuring running and cycling trails, a recreation/fitness centre, a 400m track and a 50m pool.
* 24-hour service will be available throughout the Village.
* A large transport mall and accreditation services will maximize convenience for athletes and officials.
* The Village Polyclinic will offer a full range of health care services and professionals.
* The Village manager will be a senior member of the Toronto 2015 staff with direct experience in managing a village in a multi-sport games environment.
* The Village will be a safe environment for all residents and visitors.
* After the Games, the Village will become a diverse and sustainable residential and mixed-use development that offers affordable housing on a previously underutilized site.

Speaking of the underutilized site, here’s what it looks like now (click on the image for a better view):

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