Bike Posts Removed for Billboards

As if the indignity of having enormous billboards posturing as “information” signs blocking sidewalks and distracting drivers wasn’t enough, in some cases installing these ugly and useless ads meant the removal of bicycle parking.

The above “infotogo” pillar installed by Astral Media as part of their street furniture contract with the City required the removal of two or more post and ring bike racks. Located at the southeast corner of College Street and Manning, these racks were constantly in use and may even have been in use at the time of their removal.

The racks were simply sawed off at the bottom and in this case locked to another post and ring nearby:

Minutes after posting these images to Twitter, I was contacted by Councillor Mike Layton’s office. The good news is that these horrible advertising pillars and their disrespectful placement and displacement of sidewalk space and bicycle parking are being scrutinized by City staff. Several have already been ordered removed and hopefully we’ll soon see that list grow.

Val Dodge has a similar story about a new “info” pillar on the Danforth in front of the Carrot Commons.

Update: This one f-ugly and useless pillar required the removal of 5 post and rings racks…. FIVE! Thanks Bike Lane Diary

Bicycle Riding in Schools

Above is a photo from NYC in June of 1954. Police officers supervise a “bicycle safety program” on a painted figure-8 track. Now, I’m not so sure how often anyone on a bicycle will encounter a figure-8 (unless of course you’re racing on the Human Powered Rollercoaster) but I do remember a similar program at my elementary school involving painted roadways with stop signs, intersections, crosswalks and a working traffic light.

From what I remember these “bicycle rodeos” were hosted by the local police and we probably received a colouring book that further emphasized the rules of the road. The majority of my elementary school classmates all biked to school until at least grade 6. After that it was no longer “cool.”

Unfortunately, no such program for driving or bicycling was a part of my high school education. I did pay Young Drivers about $800 dollars for driving classes, which were useful, but from what I remember pedestrians and bicyclists were referred to mostly as unpredictable nuisances.

Now, before the comments on this post are flooded with “bicyclists don’t know the rules” rants, let me state that these group lessons are important not for teaching the rules but for getting people on bicycles to act as a group. Everyone knows what a stop sign means. In a car we’re forced to act mostly social not because a car makes us think in a group (actually quite the opposite) but because infrastructure forces us to act as a group. Narrow roads don’t allow for much “freedom” in a car and if you’re in a line of vehicles all stopped at a red you have no choice but to stop as well. Whereas on a bicycle we can act “freer.” And when there are only a few other bicycle riders on the road the temptation and the possibility of breaking the rules are both available.

I personally witness this change in behaviour a lot. When I’m with a group of bicyclists on one of Toronto’s busier routes, behaviour becomes more normalized. The group waits at lights, stops for stop signs and crosswalks and doesn’t pass open streetcar doors. However, when the group dwindles down to just two or three people I’m more likely to see someone defy the laws.

Do you remember “bicycle rodeos” or “safety” classes like these? Do they still exist?

Bike Messengers 1992-98

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From Trevor Hughes’ series Bike Messengers 1992-98.

See the full set on Flickr here.

Toronto Bike Life: Queen Street Part 6

Bathurst to Spadina

The few remaining fabric shops remind us of the area’s textile manufacturing past while the constant flow of hip bicycle riders reveals that fashion still defines the area.

In 2008, a fire ravaged a strip of century old buildings here, destroying apartments and one of Toronto’s oldest bicycle shops, Duke’s Cycle. In 2011, Duke’s has returned to the strip and a large condo has replaced a parking lot at Portland. Across the street the junk yard aesthetic of the
Bovine Sex Club balances the sterile new with gritty old.

 

Toronto Bike Life: Queen Street Part 5
Toronto Bike Life: Queen Street Part 4
Toronto Bike Life: Queen Street Part 3
Toronto Bike Life: Queen Street Part 2
Toronto Bike Life: Queen Street Part 1

A Bike Share Bicycle Built for Two

As you may have heard, there was a pretty big wedding in London, UK on Friday, April 29th, 2011.

While everyone was buzzing about a dress that looked like some other dress, a carriage that is over 100 years old (OLD!) and a convertible… there was one item that received very little attention and has pretty fantastic Canadian roots.

A specially commissioned tandem “Boris Bike” was gifted to the Royal couple by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson.

Via Bike Hub:

The bike was paid for by Serco, operator of the London Bike Hire scheme, and made by the Public Bike System Company, the same Canandian company that makes the standard Boris Bikes.

The bikes used in London were first used by PBSC in Montreal, Canada and is known as the BIXI. The bikes are designed by industrial designer Michel Dallaire and built in the Saguenay, Quebec region by Cycles DeVinci.

The tandem has an oversized downtube, seven speed gears, an adapted braking system, a greater wheelbase (1800 mm vs 1111 mm) and two bells.

Roger Plamondon, chairman of the Public Bike System Company said:

“We are very proud of the work we have accomplished to make this special gift a reality and are delighted to find our BIXI at the heart of the royal festivities.”

But why just a one off? With Toronto’s Bixi launching on May 3rd let’s get a couple of these on the streets for real!

Image via Mayor Boris Johnson’s Twitpic
Story via Bike Hugger

Cargo Hauler in NYC

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Spotted on John Prolly’s Flickr photostream. According to Google, Coco-Mat is a mattress company whose products are now available in NYC.

Update: More googling has turned up these videos of the delivery bicycle in action:

Sharrows Miss the Point on Harbord

In the cover of night, workers began installing sharrows along Harbord.

A point of contention for years, the disconnected bike lane between Bathurst and Spadina has inspired Urban Repair Squad intervention and left Councilor Adam Vaughan singing the same old tune that the very sparse car parking on this strip is essential to the survival of the businesses here.

Ignoring the fact that this is one of the most direct east/west bicycle routes connecting west end residents to downtown work and school this gap reflects the overall disinterest in the City of Toronto for providing continuous, consistent and much needed bicycle infrastructure.

Like placing a band-aid over an axe wound, sharrows, painted stencils that encourage motorists and drivers to ride right over them, now “fill” the gap.

There’s no denying that space is limited along this street. Yet while further west street parking alternates sides of the street to accommodate bike lanes this effective use of space is ignored and instead pictures of bicycles place cyclists directly in the door zone:

And to make matters worse, the boxed in parking space designations are too small, maximizing the potential for door prizes:

It is clear that steps to improve this route for cyclists have been taken. Repaving the curbside lanes has eliminated sticky seam sealing and countless potholes meaning that cyclists can spend more time looking ahead than scanning below for hazards. Bike boxes have also been installed in the heart of the University of Toronto at Harbord/Hoskin and St. George to increase the visibility of cyclists and decrease the possibility of right hooks.

Yet, while the effectiveness of sharrows in Toronto is currently being studied, including part-time sharrows in use along the west end of College Street, it is clear that these stencils are a compromise. Sharing the road is a feat accomplished day after day by most motorists and cyclists. Sharrows offer up a reminder that space is limited and we must do what we can to make room for everyone. However, sharrows ignore more issues than they address. In the case of the new Harbord sharrows, they do nothing to prevent the problematic door prize and do even less to convince aggressive drivers to share space.

I must note that I am not a city planner and I am not diligently studying the road use along Harbord or College, however, I do ride along these streets almost daily and in my experience sharrows do little more than remind me of where better bicycle infrastructure is needed and how poorly our demands are being met.

More photos of the sharrows on Harbord in the slideshow by Martinho below:

Bicycles on Bloor?

Construction on Bloor between Avenue Road in the west and Yonge Street in the east is starting to be cleared. Revealed beneath the trucks and equipment are bicycle stencils on the fresh asphalt.

Now, these aren’t sharrows as they are missing directional chevrons.

And these aren’t bike lanes as they are missing painted lines and the diamond.

Best guess is that these are sharrows simply missing their hats as there are sharrows on Bloor east of Yonge. After studies and continuous calls from the public for better bicycle infrastructure on Bloor, it looks like all we’re getting for now is a little paint that cars can soon park on.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Let the Learning Begin; Bike Boxes at Harbord and St. George

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Considering how many cars I see stopped in the middle of crosswalks, there’s obviously going to be a few growing pains with these new bike boxes in Toronto.

What are bike boxes and what do they do? Bike Boxes allow cyclists to move to the front of the line at red lights and position themselves for faster/safer left turns. In addition to dedicated space for turning cyclists, bike boxes are paired with no right turn on red light restrictions, reducing the chances of right hooks at busy intersections.

More photos of the new bike boxes by Martinho below:

Updated October 12, 2010: Here’s the info card distributed by the City of Toronto explaining the use of Toronto bike boxes:

The Light Bicycle

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Very cool light “painting” captured by cycleographer.