Henry Ford making bicycles?

If Toronto wants to read the future of cars and bicycles in cities, it should look south of the border to Detroit. It’s common knowledge that Detroit saw the birth of the mass-produced automobile, boomed with the domestic production of cars for everyone, then collapsed and went bankrupt as production became unsustainable.

Abandoned Packard Automobile Factory

Abandoned Packard Automobile Factory

There are a few twists to this story that are not so well known.

First, Henry Ford didn’t give us the 40-hour working week, a living wage, pensions and vacation pay. The unions representing automobile workers fought tooth-and-claw for these, and they won. If you like these benefits, don’t thank your bosses, thank the unions.

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Second, Ford hated the world he created. In the end he couldn’t stand the cities that he helped to ruin. Desparate for the world into which he had been born, he spent his final years trying to create a utopian community without cars.

And finally, manufacturing is not dead in Detroit. What’s bringing it back is not cars, but – among other things – bicycles. Earlier this year Shinola commenced production in Detroit, manufacturing watches and leather goods, and assembling the bicycles they manufacture in their Wisconsin factory.

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On their web page they ask “Why not accept that manufacturing is gone from this country? Why not let the rust and weeds finish what they started? Why not just embrace the era of disposability?”

And the answer: “Because we don’t think American manufacturing ever failed for being too good. Our worst didn’t come when we were at our best. It happened when we thought good was good enough.”

If old Henry were alive today and blessed with the wisdom of his later years, perhaps he’d be busy in the Shinola factory making bicycles.


Freshly painted bike lanes on Wellesley

The buffer zone is thin, but much appreciated
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This is part of the planned Wellesley – Harbord corridor, which should be finished next year. Ultimately, the buffer zone will separate cycle from automobile traffic by flexible plastic bollards to prevent cars from interfering with cyclists.


Cycle Toronto Meeting on Protected Bike Lanes

Cycle Toronto is moving ahead with their campaign for protected bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide Streets. This would open up a safe cycling route into and out of the city centre from the west.

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From the Cycle Toronto website:

Protected bike lanes can help to reduce the stress and make cycling safer for people biking downtown, especially for novice cyclists. Richmond and Adelaide Streets are prime candidates. Richmond Street and Adelaide Street are high volume roads with average speeds above 40km/h.

The Environmental Assessment is underway. We anticipate its conclusion by December 2013. City staff will also explore ways to have the protected bike lanes connect to existing bikeways west of Bathurst Street and east of Sherbourne Street.

Meetings take place on Monday, November 18, and Tuesday, November 19, 2013 with the following schedule

9 a.m. to 9 p.m. – Materials on display
3 p.m. to 8 p.m. – Project team on site to answer questions
Monday, 6 p.m. – Spoken presentation of the materials

Location:
Metro Hall, Rotunda
55 John Street
Toronto ON M5V 3C6


Leaning Lock-up

Are you tired of scratching your beautiful shiny bike on Toronto city’s posts and rings? Try this:

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Reviving bike lanes on Bloor

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Bike-Lanes-on-Bloor is starting to resemble Subways-to-Scarborough. Maybe they’ll happen, maybe they won’t. But congratulations to Cycle Toronto for pushing to revive the initiative. As they say on their website, it’s good for people, good for business, good for Toronto. You can sign the petition here.


Protected Bike Lanes

There’s been a lot of talk in the Toronto cycling community about the city’s plans for separated bidirectional bike lanes on Harbord Street. The idea is to build a single, protected lane for cyclists travelling both east and west, extending all the way from Ossington to Queen’s Park. This would create at least one place in our city that looks like some of the more developed cycling lanes in the world’s more progressive and bike friendly cities, such as New York

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or Berlin

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or Rio

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In the August version of Ring and Post, Cycle Toronto comes out strongly in favour of the proposal. They give a cross-section of the road configuration planned between Ossington and Spadina:

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Cycle Toronto have even announced a Love-In at the Harbord Bakery (this being the business which, following an article in The Star, has come to be seen as the centre of resistance to the proposal).

The blogs are buzzing with discussions about the proposal. I’m not going to go into any detail here, since you can read the comprehensive run-down on ibiketo.ca and dandyhorse. As I see it, the more funding the city puts into projects like this, the better. Once drivers and cyclists begin to see how they can share our roads, we will find increasing support for safe roads. It may be true that, for the seasoned rider, unidirectional lanes on the north and south sides are better. But bike lanes protected by a physical barrier will get more people cycling, which means fewer cars on the roads. And it’s a small step toward realizing more comprehensive and progressive visions of what cycling in the city can be, such as, for example, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.


Dealing With Inflation

Do you ever have the feeling that your bike is handling more like a small sailboat? When you turn corners does it feel like the road becomes elastic and gelatinous? Do those little bumps and potholes jar your whole spine? It’s time to start dealing with inflation.

If you’re reading this, you probably know this already, but inflation is something that even the most experienced cyclists need to be reminded of from time to time. There are few things that are as consistently neglected, and few things that can improve performance and general riding pleasure as much as correct tire pressure.

Next to your helmet, the one accessory that’s really worth spending money on is a pump. If you have a good one, it’s easier to use, and you’ll find yourself taking advantage of it more often.

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Mine is the Steel Floor Drive model made by the California company Lezyne. It sells for about $60. I got mine from the helpful people at Liberty Street Cyclery, who use the same model in their workshop. It has a quick and easy coupling, and the gauge is easy to read.

If you’re not sure about the correct pressure, you’ll find its embossed on the side of the tire.

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And see those cracks? That’s another reason to make sure that your tires are always correctly inflated.