Tag Archives: cycling

Off to Mexico

Cycling in the snow

is surely lots of fun,

but down in Mexico

it’s almost never done

courtesy of unhblog.com

Actually my fishing days are long gone. Instead I plan to rent a bike.

courtesy of bikemexico.com

There will be a post about that when I return.

Meanwhile, enjoy your February, and ride safely!


Cyclists on Sidewalks: Part II

Analysis of social phenomena can be a complicated business. Sometimes you look at behaviour patterns and you think: “That person is an idiot.” Then you look a little deeper and you see that they are behaving rationally, given the structural constraints on their choices. So, instead of criticizing the “idiot”, think about what needs to change if the choices available to them are going to change.

If you fail to see this, you can easily draw the kind of conclusions this well-meaning cyclist does when debating when, how, and why to ride on the sidewalk:

Urban Scrawl: Confessions of a Sidewalk Cyclist

Cycling on the sidewalk

Cycling on the streets of Toronto is at best stressful, at worst dangerous. Not everyone wants to subject themselves to the risks you’re exposed to when you share our streets with cars. So cycling on the sidewalk seems to be a good alternative. You could even say that in the car-dominated city it’s a rational choice. Particularly in parts of our city that were designed and continue to be maintained as if cycling were not an option. Unfortunately, these are often the poorer areas, where cycling is an important means of transport.

There’s just one small problem, pedestrians. The sidewalks were made for them, and they include the frail, elderly and children.

It is in the interests of all cyclists to keep the sidewalks safe and enjoyable for pedestrians. The more people walk, the more liveable our city becomes. Walking needs its own advocates. It slows down life, it opens the senses to the world, it creates social encounters, no matter how fleeting. Michel de Certeau put it so beautifully in 1980 when he called the walkers the “ordinary practitioners of the city.” In his view, walkers write the text of urban life. “Their knowledge of space is as blind as that of lovers in each others arms,” and their movements are like poems, “in which each body is an element signed by many others.”

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally a pedestrian will be injured, even killed by a cyclist. In New York City, the estimate is that between 500 and 1,000 pedestrians are injured by cyclists annually. I couldn’t find statistics for Toronto, but it could be between 150 and 250, going on population alone. Over the past several years, there have been some high profile cases of pedestrian fatalities caused by cyclists riding on the sidewalk.

Last year, Nobu Okamoto, a 74 year old man died after being struck by a cyclist on a sidewalk in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood. But cyclists are afraid to go onto the streets.

Sidewalk Cyclist

You can legally cycle on the sidewalk if your wheel size is less than 24 inches. A City bylaw allows cyclists with a tire size of 61cm (24 inches) or less to ride on the sidewalk. The intent of this bylaw is to allow young children to cycle on the sidewalk while they learn to ride. But the spin-off is that if you ride a folding bike, you’re OK.

I stay off the sidewalks at all times. As far as I’m concerned, sidewalks are pedestrian spaces. Well, there’s one exception. If I’m pulling my daughter in the bike trailer (which I do twice daily, between home and day care), I take the sidewalk. Then, I stick to a few simple rules, which are rather nicely formulated at Commute by Bike.

U.N. Climate Change Summit Global Day of Action

Not all cyclists are on their wheels because they are worried about climate change. But it’s one of the reasons I bike.

Oh, dear! Now that I’ve put that down on the screen, I see how futile it looks. A drop in the ocean. Bland conscience stroking.

Then again, maybe it’s important not just to imagine alternative lifestyles, but to act in a way that shows these lifestyles are viable.

On the other hand, I could be investing in an armoured Hummer, building a bunkered house in a gated community and stockpiling weapons. It’s just, that’s not the world I want to imagine. Which brings me to tomorrow’s U.N. Climate Change Summit Global Day of Action. The call to action is timed to coincide with the Durban summit on climate change, and its wording is:

“We demand that world leaders take the urgent and resolute action that is needed to prevent the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate, so that the entire world can move as rapidly as possible to a stronger emissions reductions treaty which is both equitable and effective in minimising dangerous climate change.

We demand that the long-industrialised countries that have emitted most greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere take responsibility for climate change mitigation by immediately reducing their own emissions as well as investing in a clean energy revolution in the developing world. Developed countries must take their fair share of the responsibility to pay for the adaptive measures that have to be taken, especially by low-emitting countries with limited economic resources.

Climate change will hit the poorest first and hardest. All who have the economic means to act, must therefore urgently and decisively do so.”

As Canadians, we count among the worst climate offenders on the planet. What does that mean for our everyday lives? How does it change our perceptions of what we do when we climb onto our bikes or into our cars?

12 Dec. 2009, Copenhagen, Denmark - Global Day of Action for Climate. Greenpeace/Lauri Myllyvirta

Rainy day

When I peered out over my cup of coffee this morning I saw the weather report was right. Rainy day. OK, a choice, do I take the TTC? Dufferin Bus to Bloor, subway to Bay.

The thought of another crowded ride on Toronto’s hopelessly underfunded, aging transit system is too bleak, bleaker even than this grey day.

So, onto my bike.

Harbord Street rain

I arrive damp and invigorated, mulling over yesterday’s budget announcement. Rob Ford inherited what the Toronto Star calls a “$139 million windfall from this year’s unexpectedly high revenues” but he’s decided to cook the books so it looks like his imaginary crisis is still threatening our well-being. His proposal includes

  • reduction of hours at some libraries
  • cutting funding to some 14,000 children and youth who take part in 58 student nutrition programs
  • hiring freeze for Toronto Police, Fire and EMS
  • closing 5 of the city’s 105 wading pools and two of the Toronto’s 59 outdoor pools

Oh, and I almost forgot, reduced service on buses and streetcars. Those who have no other options but the TTC will have to get used to waiting longer for more crowded rides on increasingly aging vehicles.

As Adam Vaughan said (quoted in the Star): “We have the mayor running around saying the sky is falling, and the money is there not only to provide the services Torontonians love — everything from sidewalk clearance to libraries to suburban bus routes — the budget shows there’s actually the resources available to build a better city.”