Tag Archives: toronto

Other Cyclists II: Bike Boxes

They’re known as Advanced Stop Lines (ASL), or bike boxes, and they found their way from Europe to North America a few years ago. My route between home and work has seen the introduction of bike boxes in two intersections in the past year or so. What a great idea. Here’s the theory behind them…

Research in various European cities has shown that this simple device makes cycling considerably safer and reduces conflict between cyclists and motorists. But, they have to be used correctly. For once, when it comes to cycling safety, I have to put the blame squarely on my fellow cyclists. In Toronto, they just  refuse to use bike boxes. This is Spadina and Harbord, in theory…

Image by Wikipedia

This is Spadina and Harbord in practice…

Bike box

The white blob on the right is my T-shirt. I’m the only cyclist in the bike box. Every time.

What’s going on?

My fellow-cyclists of Toronto, dare I try to read your minds? Canadian to the core, no-one wants to look impolite, aggressive or pushy. No-one wants to look like they are trying to get off first at the lights. So what do we do? Line up as if there were no such thing as a bike box.

Bike Lane Blues II

When they straightened Dufferin, they created what is probably Toronto’s shortest bike lane. Riding downhill toward Queen, it took less than 1/2 a minute to go the full length of the lane.

But who’s complaining, at least someone in the city planning department remembered bikes. Then the TTC decided to shift the bus stop from the south to the north side of Queen. Now the buses have no choice but to block the lane.


The shortest bike lane just got shorter.

Planning a Route with BBBike @ Toronto

Normally, I don’t like to be told what route to take across the city. If it’s my daily commute, I’m a creature of habit, and cling almost superstitiously to my 4 or 5 standard variations on home – work – home. And if I’m going farther afield, I like to explore at random. But this little device has really captured my imagination.

BBBike @ Toronto announces itself as “your cycle journey planner! We’ll help you find a nice, safe and short bike route in Toronto and around.” And it’s true. Type in your location and destination, and it plots the bike-friendly route. First it lists a turn-by-turn cycling guide…

… then a map (note the elevation chart, so you can look forward to the up and downhills).

Then you set your preferences, and it modifies the route accordingly.

BBBike.org was developed by two Berliner cyclists, Wolfram Schneider and Slaven Rezić …

Ah, Berlin, where they understand cycling. Speaking of which, I’ll be reporting from Berlin in May.

Mountain Biking for the Road Bike: Safe Riding in Snow

Before I came to Toronto from Cape Town, my daily bike ride on my beloved (stolen-in-Toronto) Cannondale M700 took me up to Tafelberg Road on the northern slope of Table Mountain, then down the zig-zag of loose sandy paths toward the city.

Anonymous rider at the top of my old trail

I never dreamed I’d be riding in the snow one day. Nor did I realize that the years of mountain biking would serve me well in the snow.

From driftlessbicycle.org

Here are a few simple snow-riding tips that come straight from the mountain bike

  1. Look ahead. Concentrate your attention on the middle distance. Brake before you need to
  2. When you’re in the snow, or crossing slippery ground, slow down using your rear brake
  3. Get into a low gear. Use the smallest front chain ring if the snow is thick
  4. Keep moving, not rolling, but pedaling (hence the low gear)
  5. If you start to slide, stay with the bike, keep your feet on the pedals, lower your centre of gravity
  6. Stay inside your comfort zone

The above doesn’t apply to ice. For ice there are only two rules

  1. Use ice tyres
  2. or else, stay off it

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.


Frankfurt: Population 5.6 million


Berlin: Population 4.9 million


Toronto: Population 5.5 million


City to Raise Fines for Blocking Bike Lanes

This just in from the city’s Cyclometer report. Now if only they start enforcing it!

Public Works and Infrastructure Committee Recommends $150 Fines for Motorists Illegally Stopping, Standing and Parking in Bicycle Lanes

On January 4, 2012, Public Works and Infrastructure Committee adopted a Transportation Services staff report which recommended that the fine for stopping, standing or parking in bicycle lanes be increased from $60 to $150.

The Transportation Services staff report responded to Council’s request to consider ways to alleviate traffic congestion caused by motorists and delivery vehicles obstructing traffic lanes and bicycle lanes during rush periods. The transportation report recommends that stopping, standing and parking fines be increased to $150 for motorists during rush periods and that the increased fines apply to bicycle lanes at all times of the day.

The report will be considered by City Council on February 6, 2012.