On Toronto Island; Pedal Powered School Buses

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I found these fantastic photos of the new “school buses” on Toronto Island at Sarah Rosensweet’s blog, sweet thing(s). Here’s the story behind them:

Many of you know that the Island we live on is a car-free community (about 700 people in 250 houses on one end of Toronto Island- a skinny 6 km piece of mostly parkland, a 10 minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto)

Service vehicles are allowed, including schoolbuses, but Asa’s school recently gave up their little bus.  Last year the one teacher who had a bus license left the school, and instead of getting another licensed teacher, the whole school walked everyday to and from school.  it is a 20+ minute walk from the ferry docks to the school- great exercise for the older kids but a bit hard for little 2 year old legs twice a day- and sometimes in heavy rain, wind, or snow.

through grants, donations, and fundraisers- like selling t-shirts and lemonade and bike-a-thons the school raised enough money to buy the cargo bike and bicycle cart (built by an Islander with a custom bike cart company)

these bikes and the commitment of the school to car-free living make me so happy!

For more photos visit sweet thing(s) here.

Cargo bikes are going to be big in Toronto this summer. BikingToronto contributor cFletch has also introduced one to her family’s life, check it out on her blog Fletcher Five.

Cruisers, Cargo bikes, Handmades and More – The Toronto International Bicycle Show

On Sunday, March 7, 2010 I took a bike ride down to the Toronto International Bicycle Show held in the Better Living Centre on the CNE grounds.

For the most part this show is a spectacle of the latest road racing, BMX, trials and mountain biking products and accessories. Major Toronto and GTA retailers set up shop here to blow out last year’s inventory and highlight the latest designs from top brands.

While I recently started mountain biking again (I know, an oxymoron in Toronto) I was looking for the day to day cycling options at the show. Road bikes made of carbon composites and mountain bikes equipped with long-travel suspension are impressive, but I wouldn’t give them more than 20 minutes locked up to a post and ring downtown Toronto. And I think rear racks would look a little out of place on the back of a Trek Madone.

Much to my delight there were plenty of exhibitors who understand that cycling isn’t just about sport. Although, looking back of some of my morning commutes, I’d say a trip to work on Toronto’s busier streets can be a sport itself. Here are photos by Huy Le with a few words about what I discovered at the Toronto International Bicycle Show.

Until Sunday I had never straddled an electic-assist bicycle. The Sanyo Eneloop Bike looks like a regular step-through commuter with a battery pack tucked nicely behind the seat tube. And that’s the point. This is a bicycle first and foremost yet it also provides battery assistance to help commuters take on challenging hills and headwinds.

The battery connects to a surprisingly powerful front hub-motor as well as both front and rear lights. I took the bike for a quick spin around the carpeted test area at the show. As I lined up to head out I had the battery on and after a half pedal forward the motor kicked in and I thought the bike was going to take off on it’s own. Applying the brakes quickly kept me from taking an embarassing flat land spill. The reps from Sanyo suggested waiting until I was in motion to turn on the battery, and I recommend it.

Actually riding the bicycle was a pleasure. The motor is on the front wheel hub, so after a few pedals the electric-assist starts up and you feel a gentle pull forward. The first couple of boosts were a little terrifying on the short test track, but I quickly learned when to anticipate them and use them to my advantage for building up speed with little extra effort on my part.

In the manufacturer’s showcase Opus brand bicycles from Quebec had their commuter rides on display. If you speak/read French then be sure to check out their Urbanista Blog.

For cyclists with kids and basically anything else they need to haul around, WIKE from Guelph, ON had their line of trailers on display.

Around the corner and also from Guelph, True North Cycles had several handmade touring and cargo bikes on display.

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Trek had some bright and shiny Madones on site… but the multi-thousand dollar price tag makes for expensive roadie dreams. On a more affordable note Trek also had their Eco steel bikes on display.

As part of the Globe blogger team I was hoping to see a few models at the show. Unfortunately all I found was this Globe Roll.

Sweet Pete’s had up on high, overlooking their booth, their Kona collaboration bicycle, the “Door Prize.” With tongue planted firmly in cheek this bike is named after the unique to Toronto term for colliding with a car door is outfitted with city riding essentials and is priced under $600.

On to accessories. Zef Kraiker (not pictured) was at the Urbane Cyclist booth with plenty of WIPT (Wear It Proud Toronto) cycling caps and Push The Envelope bags for sale.

Energetic reps introduced me to the iBert safe-T-seat that allows you to carry small children up front, improving rider stability and giving your child a view of more than just your back. The seat can be removed quickly and easily when not in use and is made of 10% recycled materials.

Introducing his alternative to panniers, Winnipeg year-round cyclist (you read that right!) Aphirath Vongnaraj had his Hybrid Backpack on display. He demonstrated the pack’s ability to secure all sorts of items to a rear bike rack. The unique “velcro” locking system ensures that what you want to carry stays with you for your whole journey.

I was pleasantly surprised to see so many commuter cycling options on display at this year’s Toronto International Bicycle Show. Of course, there was much more to be seen, but I’ll save that for another post.

Things You Can Do By Bike – Go To IKEA!

There’s a long, boring story that leads up this sunny, Saturday morning ride to Etobicoke. It involves hidden inventory and an obsessive search for a very simple piece of organizational furniture. That said, I had an exchange to make at IKEA. The Etobicoke store being just 13 km from my home, my girlfriend and I loaded up our Globe bikes and set off.

Shadows! Even after such a mild winter in Toronto, the first time you really see your shadow again is exciting.

Because traveling like a Toronto cyclist involves more than just roads, we took a detour through High Park.

Seriously, spring shadows are great!

After a quick ride along still icy and tree covered paths in High Park we arrive along the Queensway. Bike lanes here take you into Etobicoke.

Just as things get roomy with space between the bike lane and other traffic…

… our bike lane travels come to an end.

In Etobicoke they want you to know that there is to be no cycling on the sidewalks. Sidewalk cycling is illegal in Toronto too, but these signs at every sidewalk intersection almost appear as though there is simply no cycling allowed at all. Which isn’t the case, of course.

Once the bike lane ends the motorized traffic gets heavier, and closer. The vast majority of drivers did change lanes to pass us and only when we were close to intersections did a few motorists pass a little too close for comfort.

It’s amazing how wide the Queensway is. I didn’t stop to take a photo, but the road quickly widens to seven lanes across. There are new condos and townhouses lining much of the Queensway, but I simply couldn’t imagine living along a highway. The area is rapidly changing and is just a short bike or transit ride into the city, so this area does have many benefits. (Note: The photo below is from the less wide section of the Queensway).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from simply too many IKEA trips it’s that you never use the front entrance. There may be bike parking at the Etobicoke IKEA, but since we had a return, I decided to get a little creative and lock us up near the service doors.

Exchange made, bungees secured and we set our sights on home.

Looking back at our simple trip, it’s amazing just how much we were able to accomplish in the morning while on our bikes. We got to experience one of the sunniest days of 2010 in Toronto so far. We got a little bit of exercise, especially when crossing the bridge just before you get to IKEA. We got the best parking spot. And we smiled the whole way there and back… when’s the last time you did all of that on a visit to IKEA?

Globe Live 1 Review by my girlfriend!

As I have mentioned before, Globe, a new sub-brand of Specialized, has loaned a few Toronto cyclists bicycles try and blog about. Here’s my review of the Globe Haul 1 I’ve been riding around since late October (I know, that’s a strange time to start trying out a new bike in Toronto. Luckily, the weather has been great).

My girlfriend, Cat, has also been participating in the Globe Revolution. She’s riding a different model, the Live 1, and has just recently posted her review.

Photos and her review can be found on the Globe Revolution site here.

A cargo bike that changes lives

worldbike

The Springwise newsletter is an excellent resource for ideas that are used to move businesses towards sustainable, ethical practices. In the latest issue, we learn about World Bike:

California-based Worldbike’s bicycles are designed to handle large loads, rough terrain and inclement weather. They’re configured to be not only affordable, but also maintained and repaired locally. Through partnerships with international and local agencies, private companies, foundations and NGOs, Worldbike even helps arrange microcredit financing for bike purchases and supplement sales with support from funders and private donors. Its bikes have already been brought to Cuba, Mexico, Rwanda, Senegal and Thailand, among other areas. However, as the company also notes, “the same cargo bike we deliver to rural Africa also turns heads on the streets of Seattle.” An official US version of the bike is now being configured, and proceeds from all purchases will help support bike distribution efforts in Kenya.

A similar initiative has been up and running here in Toronto. Bikes Without Borders, who continues to work to support their Pedal-Powered Hope program:

Bikes Without Borders is working with a Malawian-based NGO (YONECO) to establish a program that will provide Community Health Workers in 7 districts with 400 new bikes and 100 bicycle ambulances. Providing a bicycle or bicycle ambulance to a CHW allows them to reach up to 5 times as many patients, reach remote communities with patient support and HIV/AIDS prevention education, and do their work more efficiently and with greater impact.  400 bikes and 100 bicycle ambulances will allow our network of CHWs in Malawi to reach an estimated 15,000 additional people with lifesaving medication, prevention education and additional support services.

Just $150 purchases a reliable, durable bike for a Community Healthcare Worker in Malawi. $400 is enough to purchase a bicycle ambulance. Visit our donations page to make your investment in the future of African healthcare!

For more information about World Bike visit: http://worldbike.org
For more information about Bikes Without Borders visit: http://www.bikeswithoutborders.org

Image via World Bike

You can take it with you

A trike plus a shopping cart plus milk crates plus buckets and assorted “green” bags and you can take it all with you.

Spotted on Bloor Street West near Palmerston. (Click on the photo for a better look)

Fall Flowers a Fire Escape and a Cargo Bike

What’s not to love about fall colours?

Hauling Cargo from St. Lawrence Market

On quite possibly one of the last sunny Saturday’s of 2009, I made a quick trip to St. Lawrence Market to shop for a BBQ.

First on my list was a crate for the rear rack of the Globe bike I have on loan.
I spotted a stack of small crates at one of the vendor’s tables. Not surprisingly, I was the first person to ask to buy a crate from her. A few dollars later and I had a wooden crate… then a whole bunch of dollars later and I had lamb’s shoulder from Rowe Farms, some asparagus, sweet potatoes and an apple strudel.
Bungee cords and a wooden crate are all it takes to turn your bicycle into a grocery hauling vehicle:
Globe Haul 1 with a crate and bungee cords on the rear rack
How do you carry things on your bike in Toronto? Share with us in the BikingToronto Forum.

My New Ride: Globe Haul

The kind folks over at Specialized Canada have loaned me a Globe bike to ride around town for a couple of months. I’m starting to take a shine to the upright riding position and I’m looking forward to finding things to haul around on the huge rear rack.

Here’s my new ride:
Globe Haul 1 in Toronto
The built-in rear light has three settings; the third one I like to call “dazzle”:
Globe Haul: Integrated Tail Light
This rack is so huge that I’m tempted to call it a trunk:

Globe Haul: Nice Rack
UPDATE: I’ve posted a review of this bicycle here — Globe Haul 1 Review