A Google Street View Tour of Bike Lane Parking on College Street

At the Begining

The College Street bike lane is quite possibly one of Toronto’s most used. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cyclists use this east/west bike lane to go to work, school, shop or simply get across town. Unfortunately, this bike lane is also a perfect place to let your car idle while you quickly run into one of the many shops and businesses that line this busy street.

The bike lane starts at Bay Street at its east end. In the image above we see a cyclist using the lane, a parked bicycle and another cyclist peaking into a window, a nice little slice of daily life.

Heading west, we pass the long intersection of University Avenue. And we find our first bike lane parker. Sure, a delivery truck may only park for a few minutes at a time… many times a day, every weekday… oh I guess that adds up:
Special Delivery

Moving further west, we see things are as they should be at Henry Street:

Bikes in the Bike Lane

But then we spot a van on the south side of the street just east of St. George:

The White Van

A little further west and it’s another white truck, only this one is much larger:

Big Delivery

On the north side of College, east of Spadina, the bike lane ends as the road narrows. On the South side we see the bike lane makes the perfect place to park or wait for your next fare:

Double Parked

Even when not parked in the bike lane vehicles pose a risk… watch out for the “door prize”:

Door Prize

Just because you’re making deliveries in the bike lane doesn’t mean cyclists can get by you… you just make it more dangerous to do so:

Another Delivery

Another delivery truck, another squeeze out for cyclists:

Brown Truck Blues

Delivery trucks could use empty parking spaces, but, since they don’t buy parking permits they could get a ticket, better stick to the bike lane:

This Truck Gets Around

As we continue our trip we see things get back to normal:

More Bikes in the Bike Lane

Parallel parking also poses a risk. Sure, it is a temporary risk that does come with the added benefit that cars are equipped with reverse lights, so you know they’re coming. I assume this car was waiting to park:

Backing Up?

But after we pass by and look behind us, the car is still there and the way is perfectly clear. Possibly they are just very slow parallel parkers… hopefully:

Still There

On the south side it looks like a biker has met with a cyclist:

A different kind of bike

Is this a stand-off? I’m not sure what’s going on here, but that biker is quickly outnumbered:

Blocked!

And I bet you thought only parcel delivery trucks used the bike lane… All cube-shaped trucks are welcome of course:

The Bell Tolls

And just a few more metres beyond Euclid, it’s delivery time:

Purolator... PuroNow

And then we reach the end of the bike lane as College narrows and on-street parking is a must:

The End

For cyclists using the College Street bike lane, I’m certain that the above images come as no surprise.  The fact that the Google Street View car was able to capture this many bike lane parkers in such a brief amount of time shows just how prevalent this illegal activity is.

It’s Your Ride

I’m at odds over fixie culture. Sure, it’s great that bicycles are receiving so much attention from young trend setters (or followers, be that as it may). But, laying a big skid mark isn’t really a “trick” or “cool.” Maybe, when I was 5, sure, skids were cool. But now, when I know that skid just significantly reduced the lifespan of a $50 or more tire… well, waste isn’t “cool” in my books.

And, when it comes to racing through traffic and ignoring all rules of the road… give me a break. As someone who has been involved in “extreme” sports for more than 15 years, I can tell you that if what you’re doing poses major risks to people who are not involved with you… then your behaviour is simply reckless and irresponsible. I may have put my life on the line for a stunt or two and been kicked out of more spaces than I can remember, but not once was anyone other than myself at risk of serious injury. When you blow between cars and act like the road is your own personal obstacle course this isn’t “sport,” it’s foolish.

That said, this commercial for Hutchinson tires is really pretty:

It’s Your Ride from Cinecycle on Vimeo.

Bikeway Network Event Public Notice


Bike Path By Night
Originally uploaded by sniderscion

Make your voice heard and show your support for more cycling infrastructure in Toronto:

Bikeway Network Event Public Notice

Date: Monday February 1, 2010
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Metro Hall, 55 John St. Room 308-309

The objective of this meeting is to get community input on proposed new downtown bikeways that the Transportation Services Cycling Infrastructure and Programs group is working on for 2010.

Topics will discuss concepts and criteria for new projects, including:

• 2010 bicycle lanes
• Rush hour sharrow bicycle markings on streetcar routes
• New bicycle lane intersection treatments at signalized intersections
• Locations for bicycle boxes at intersections
• Updates on the West-End bikeways project

Participants are invited to attend for a brief presentation and question period with City Staff from 6:30 – 7:00 p.m. From 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. the floor will be open for the public to view maps, talk to staff about projects, and submit comments and suggestions.

Visit our website at www.toronto.ca/cycling

How to Get Teenage Girls on Bikes; Focus on Something More Than Beauty

Recently, Scientific American released a much talked about article stating that in order to assess the “bikeability” of a city, you simply count the number of women on bikes. The conclusion is that the safer the city is for cycling, the more women you’ll have on bikes.
In Canada, women make up just 30 percent of cyclists and in Toronto under 2 percent of the population choose bicycles as their main transportation choice. Needless to say, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
To make cycling a more “attractive” option for women in the UK, campaigns are popping up that place emphasis on looking good while cycling. However, is this the only concern keeping young girls off their bikes? Sarah Phillips says, “no.”
What’s stopping teenage girls from riding bikes?

Campaigns to get women cycling seem to focus on how to look good over other concerns. Is this really all girls care about?

Posted by Sarah Phillips

Teenage girls don’t ride bikes. Or so says the Darlington Media Group, who have set about trying to rectify the problem with a campaign to get young women cycling.

Several years ago, the National Children’s Bureau published research that revealed that on average, boys cycle 138 miles a year and girls only 24 miles. This still rings true. Christie Rae, 16, from Newcastle told me: “I do have a bike, but I don’t really use it. Only sometimes in the summer when my friends and I cycle round to see each other. I don’t know many girls that do, actually.”

Darlington’s project began with the production of a documentary called Beauty and the Bike, chronicling a trip made by a group of teenage girls to Bremen in Germany, where they met their cycling-loving peers and found out about the joys of the open road. It all sounds slightly twee, but addresses the important issue that girls tend to get to a certain age and it’s no longer the done thing to get about by bike.

I have every admiration for such attempt to get women enjoying the numerous benefits of cycling, but what is frustrating is the focus on appearance that is often so integral to said schemes. Aside from the title, BATB, which incidentally has been used for a similar scheme in the past, Darlington’s site makes it clear they are keen to address the important issue of remaining fashionable while cycling. But as I recall, it was an overprotective mother that stopped me from spending too much time around the bike sheds in my teenage years, rather than any personal concerns over the way I looked.

Another offender is the site Bike Belles, run by the otherwise excellent charity Sustrans, which encourages women of all ages to take up cycling. One helpful section dedicated to beauty tips provides such gems as: “Use waterproof mascara when it’s raining on your bike, and take a powder compact for a quick refresher on arrival.” Admittedly, I write as someone who occasionally arrives at the office sporting a minor oil slick on my face, but I sincerely doubt that women are so image conscious that this is what is stopping them. As many a female cyclist will confirm, it is more hassle than it’s worth looking attractive while travelling by bike.

Aside from fashion tips, the beauty bikers and belles both voice concerns over the lack of decent cycle lanes and safety issues that make our roads a wholly unappealing prospect. Those two are serious issues that would put inexperienced riders off, and are much more worthy of a campaign to get people, regardless of gender, on their bikes.

Discuss this topic in the BikingToronto Forum

Did you get your bicycle "Safety Check"?

These days, a bicycle is often deemed road-worthy not by its level of safety, but simply by how it looks and functions.
Would we have “bicycle shaped objects” like those available at the big-box stores we love to hate if there existed a safety certification program ranking bicycles for safety?
The above photo was taken on Roncesvalles. The bicycle was locked with a rusty chain that was more than likely as old as the bicycle itself. Not much else remained on the bike to hint towards its origins, but this “Safety Check” sticker sure brings about many questions.
Was this sticker just a marketing tactic used to appeal to the want of having a safe bicycle? Or, was this sticker a requirement at the time. I’ve read that the city issued licence plates back in the 1950s after the bicycle was brought in to an officer who would then inspect the bicycle for safety. Although I haven’t found much else on what requirements needed to be met in order for a bike to be deemed safe.
On second thought, maybe this bicycle is even older than that. The peach basket on the rear rack could indicated that this bicycle was once owned by James Naismith… although I didn’t check to see if there was a hole cut in the bottom.
Do you know more about this bicycle or bicycle safety checks? Share your stories in the BikingToronto Forum

Bikephopia?

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.

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.

From StraightGoods.ca:

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

Getting Over the Struggles of Biking in Toronto

The Struggle

There are times when you feel absolutely alone on your bicycle. The cars keep streaming past you, closer and closer. The hill feels as thought it is never going to end. The rain starts to fall harder. The temperature goes from a slight chill to a bone-numbing deep-freeze.
We all face struggles when biking in Toronto, or anywhere else for that matter.
Yet, many of us, thousands upon thousands actually, continue to take our keys to locks, plant our feet firmly on our pedals and take to the streets. You’ll see us in the rain. You’ll see us during that first snowfall. You’ll see us when it seems like everyone else on the road wants us gone.
Even though there’s a warm fall week ahead of me, I’m still contemplating when I’ll put the bicycle away for winter. I’d love to think that there is a way to go all the way through, but a 23 km journey on very busy, icy and snowbanked roads is going to be just too dangerous for me.
Until that dreadful day arrives, I’m still convinced that cycling in Toronto and not buying a car or taking the TTC is best. Here’s why:
My health: Aside from the fact that being run over would be really bad for my health, since May I’ve seen a drastic improvement physically and mentally. My stress levels have dropped now that I’m more active. I get a better night’s sleep and I’m losing the fat and flab caused by early morning drive-thru runs. I’m feeling better than I have in years.
My finances: Sure, this year I’ve spent more on cycling clothes, bikes, parts and other essentials than I have in more than a decade. But, that is nothing compared to the money I was spending on gas, car repairs and tune-ups. And even better, come next year I won’t have to spend more money on a bicycle, since I’ve already got one. So my biggest travel expense related to my bicycle commuting simply won’t exist next year.
My outlook: This one is good and bad. First, the bad. I have to admit that I look down on people who rely on their cars. Sorry, I know some of these people are my dear friends. But, I will never let a massive hunk of steal and problems run my life again. I’ll never have to think, “Oh, I can’t go on vacation this year, the car needs repairs” again. Some day a car or truck may again be a part of my life. But, I’ll go in to my new relationship with this vehicle knowing that I have the choice to not use it. I have the choice to sell it and take it off the road. I’ll never let a car take as much of my life (and money) as it once did.
And now for the good. I now look at life from the perspective of a cyclist. What I mean is that I can see that it is my own power, be it my legs or my mind, that can take me places. Cars make us rely on gas prices, mechanics and complicated machinery to bring movement to our lives. A bicycle may be an engineering marvel, but it requires one of the most impressive biological marvels to power it.
When faced with the struggle, how do you overcome and keep on biking in Toronto?

Let’s Get Visible – Safety is Sexy


Be it helmets, bike lights, reflective tape and countless other accessories there are an infinite number of ways to improve your safety while on a bike.

The problem is, safety isn’t cool.
And well, it isn’t really sexy either.
But, leave it to the “blogosphere” to tackle this head on… literally.
The Safety is Sexy Campaign ties safety to fashion and through their blog, point us towards ways of looking at safety equipment as something you can look good in, too.
Of course, it’s about fun too. While I’m a little late on this, here’s a parody video by Momentum Magazine and the B:C:Clettes who teamed up in late 2008:

Photo via BikeCommuters

In Chicago, We Share the Road

Excellent training video for Chicago Police Officers that could easily be converted for cyclist and driver education in any city… oh, and how about a 3 feet for passing law in Ontario???

Traffic Enforcement for Bicyclist Safety from Chicago Bicycle Program on Vimeo.

Via Streetsblog LA

Discuss this video in the Biking Toronto Forum