Sunday, 23 October 2016

I decided to post something here in response to a thread that has been going on in the Seaton Village Facebook group about this issue (linked to in article above), as the post is long. I will refer the group to the blog post with a link.

This is a long response as it is a complicated issue, glossing it will just lead to misunderstanding.

The problem with discussing this issue is that the Toronto cycling advocacy community is cautious about any negative commentary about bike infrastructure. I get why, new bike infrastructure in this city is hard won and years in the making, so any sort of negativity is pounced upon by both sides, by advocates as they feel it weakens their case and gives ammunition to the anti-bike crowd, and by the anti-bike crowd as evidence that bike infrastructure is a bad idea. Thing is, whether you can agree on the costs or not, if you can't discuss costs you can't solve the problem, .

What are the common responses to questions about lost revenues to business due to bike lanes?

For some it is to deny the costs, as they are seen as propaganda to use against bike infrastructure.

For others it is to take out the bike lanes, as they are hurting business.

Both responses are untenable.

The first response is mistaken as there are *always* costs, period. Any time technologies have changed they have introduced a new set of costs and benefits, that’s just the way it works. Sometimes they are monetary costs, sometimes otherwise, but they always exist.

When horses were the main mode of transportation in cities we had a horse manure problem, cities like New York had 5-12 tons of manure per square mile per day deposited by horses at the turn of the century. It was a public health hazard. Then we got cars, and eventually smog, greenhouse gasses, drunk driving and carnage on the highways… just no horse crap.

Every technology has benefits and costs, so if you introduce bike lanes and switch cars for bikes they will have costs too. In this case, a cost to businesses during an adjustment period is normal. I am still skeptical of the numbers given in the Toronto Star article, but that’s another issue.

The second response is a large part of the reason why we lack more green technologies and have so many environmental problems. Sometimes technologies create more costs for some users than others, that’s just the way it is. New technologies that are “green” for example, can put workers in other industries out of work. Sometimes that’s a net employment loss, sometimes a net employment gain.

What is interesting is that the response to the idea that there are costs to local businesses is to suggest the bike lanes should be removed. That is of course a solution, but it forgets that there was a problem being addressed by the change in technology in the first place, in this case pollution from cars, a general reduction in the level of physical fitness (e.g. driving rather than walking or cycling), traffic congestion, etc.

Ask yourself this, say the city had decided to rip up Bloor (to replace pipes beneath the roads for example) over the same space where there is now a bike lane, and parking was reduced by the same amount as it is for the bike lane. Assume the same business losses.

Would anyone be suggesting we should leave the pipes alone?

If the city builds a new road near an established neighborhood and suddenly cars start passing by that neighborhood, leading to businesses closing, would anyone suggest ripping up the new road?

If the loss in business is real, then businesses should be compensated. That’s one of the costs of putting in bike lanes. The neighborhood will eventually settle in to a new normal, with some businesses closing, and some staying open, and new ones moving in. 

If, however, you don’t pay those costs, and some businesses eventually fold (assuming the loss in business is sustained and real), and the anti-bike crowd can point to the bankruptcies and say, “there you go, bike lanes kill business”.

No, change kills business, and that’s fine. Businesses ebb and flow: technology changes, so do demographics, general prosperity, and a host of other things. You either think this is fine or you think that businesses should be compensated for the losses, but there is no point denying that there are costs.

And for those who think I’m being unrealistic, e.g. “money doesn’t grow on trees”, “who’s going to pay for this”, and “what mechanisms exist for this to be funded, you clearly don’t know how this works”, you are simply ignoring decades of evidence that government subsidizes technologies all the time, both directly and indirectly. There are obvious examples like governments bailing out the auto industry, the massive subsidization of  the nuclear industry, the massive subsidies given to the ethanol industry, etc, etc, etc. I believe in subsidies to get technologies going, and that should include bikes. 

If the technology is important, and its benefits desirable, then these costs, whatever they are, must be borne.

For what its worth (and this is anecdotal), the parking may not be the issue. I park on Bloor between Clinton and Bathurst, and around Spadina, several days per week and on the weekends, all year round. I have been able to find parking on Bloor or on nearby streets every time since the new lanes have been put in, but I am willing to park on a side street. So what you are really losing here, I suspect, is a portion of the car population, one that is only willing to go somewhere if they can park very close by, so those with mobility issues or those who just prefer to be closer.

I think the far bigger issues are that:

a) The traffic congestion on this stretch of Bloor feels worse to me, others can add their experiences to the discussion, but I’ve found it much worse since the lanes came in.

b) The traffic on surrounding streets has also worsened.

c) Pedestrians, motorists and cyclists are not sure what to do (turning cars at intersections, passengers exiting cars and pedestrians wandering into the lanes are problem areas)

It’s entirely possible a) and b) are due to some other cause, but they could be due to the lanes. c) is clearly due to the new infrastructure.

I believe that a), b) and c) will all readjust over time, and all will improve. The only one I’m not sure about is a), as I have seen other areas have traffic increase and not go back down.

So my response to the concern that businesses may be losing money would be to say that the new bike infrastructure may be the cause, if so, there should be some form of compensation for businesses over an agreed upon period, to reflect this cost of adjustment to the new flow of customer traffic. This should be done as all technological change brings costs, and we have an obligation to consider protecting businesses against these costs, at least for a period of time.



Friday, 22 July 2016

So, I've been shooting tons of GoPro footage, whenever I get the chance, and I had the opportunity to use the camera at night recently. It just so happened to be windy as a storm was coming in, so I cycled into the wind on my way out and out of it on the way back.

The only way to fly.

I'm often asked how safe I feel riding at night. This footage should give you an idea of visibility and traffic volume; I feel very safe at night. The "dark" portion of my trip through High Park looks scary, but it was better for me than the camera shows. The vast majority of the trip was lit.

I used cycling infrastructure for about 3/4 of the trip, Dupont and then Annette have bike lanes, the park has a bike trail, the waterfront has a cycling trail, Strachan has a bike lane, Trinity Bellwoods has a trail, and I use Harbord and Shaw to finish up. I think night riding is a great way to ride, the lighter traffic and cooler temperatures make it much more pleasant than daytime riding exposed on the road to the full blaze of sunlight. It's a 16km ride, nothing too crazy, and clocks in around an hour or less. Ideal for a night ride to finish off your day. Everyone complains about finding the time to ride, well, I shot this video from 10:30-11:30pm on a Wed night. I'm sure you can find time for that.

The video is in 5 parts, and the first 6 min of part 2 (when I enter High Park) is like one of those "Toronto at Night" postcards, very dark. Other than that visibility is pretty good.

The map is here:

High Park to Waterfront

MapMyRide used to make it easy to export maps, no longer, I think I have to upgrade to premium...

The videos are here:

Part 1

Part 2

- note the first 6 min of this are "dark"

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5



Thursday, 23 June 2016

I’ve been uploading GoPro videos and processing them, so I’ll get back to them after this post. I have been varying my route home to show some different options, and I’ve renewed my membership to MAPMYRIDE so I will be posting the routes along with the videos soon.

In the meantime…

Cycling In Utrecht

Two years ago I had the opportunity to spend a week in Utrecht in the Netherlands. My office was transitioning across the ocean and I was sent over to help set up the new operation, make sure everything made it over, etc.

I was on Canadian time, so when everyone else went home for the night I was wide awake with nothing to do.

So, natch, I rented a bike and cycled everywhere.

The bikes were, unsurprisingly, “Amsterdam” bikes, one gear, built in wheel brake and chain lock, built in lights and back rack, big wheels and enclosed chain.

This was a “cruiser” bike, I did a lot of coasting around, as the Netherlands is rather flat. I averaged about 4-5 hours a night on the trails, criss-crossing the city and wandering out to the suburbs and the outskirts. And since I was working during the day, this was all done in the evening and during the night.

During the day I rode the bike to work and home and everywhere else, and since the Netherlands has a bike culture rather than a car culture, it was exceedingly safe. No one, and I mean NO ONE, wore a helmet, and no one used mirrors on their bikes. I have NEVER ridden without a helmet here, I rode everywhere there without a helmet.

It was pretty much cycling Nirvana.

There was the new signage:

Bike trails of all different stripes, this one was along a line of trees that lined a divider between the roads in front of my hotel:

There were canals everywhere, and the trails criss crossed them, it was lovely:

As well as brick and cobblestone streets, often long and narrow:

 And a lot of bikes locked up by canals:

The sidewalks were very wide, allowing lots of room for cyclists and pedestrians to get around each other.

And then there were these, massive bike lock ups:

But perhaps my favorite thing, found while wheeling around at 2am one night:

Late night bike repair place, AWESOME!

During the evening I decided to try some video while I was riding. As I rode a one speed cruiser mainly on trails and paved roads I spent a lot of time with either one hand on the handlebars or none. Eventually I decided to take some video with my IPhone 4 camera. All the video is at night and taken while riding and holding the phone in my hand.

Translation: it’s crappy, but it contrasts with the GoPro footage I’ve been taking, and they were fun to make.

These are all fairly short.

Night Riding in Utrecht – Canal Ride Downtown

You can hear the city bells in the background, this is a downtown street by the canal around 10 at night. Lots of shops around, pretty touristy.

Night Riding in Utrecht – Cycling Tunnels

This one is fun, I like how the cycling infrastructure just cuts a swath through the city and everything accommodates it. Note how dark it is before I enter the tunnel…

Night Riding in Utrecht – Highway Trail Part 1 and 2

These are kind of like those gag cards, “Toronto at Night” and it’s a field of black. It got pretty dark in places, and at one point when I heard the crickets chirping and looked around I realized I was miles away from the city and a storm was on the way in. Needless to say I boogied back to town. 

Night Riding in Utrecht – Main Road Part 1

There were several “main drags” in the city where people would accumulate, pubs, restaurants, clubs, etc., outside of the city center. This was one of them, the infrastructure for bikes is literally on every street, here I’m clipping along a bike path beside the main road, it’s fairly late so even the bike traffic is light.

Night Riding in Utrecht – Main Road Part 2

This is probably the best lit video of the lot. One thing I didn’t capture was the mass of people leaving the pubs and clubs and restaurants at night and climbing on to the back of someone’s bike, riding side saddle on the back rack. Everyone did this at night, and surprisingly, despite the high spirits, I didn’t see one collision the entire time I was there.

It was an amazing trip, for a cyclist it was awesome.



Thursday, 16 June 2016

On to the next video.

June 9th Northbound - Part 2

June 9th Northbound Part 2

A few things interesting in this one.

The video starts when I am just above the 401 on Keele. This part of Keele is well travelled by large 18 wheeler trucks and other commercial vehicles. The speed limit is 60 kmh and there are four lanes (two in each direction).

For many, riding this stretch is the epitome of craaazzzyyyy.

Hopefully the video will help to show otherwise, LOL.

So jump in around 1:30, and note a few things.

First, look ahead of me in the lane I’m riding in, and note the distance between the cars in front of me and the curb. There is more than enough space there for me and my bike.

Around 1:43 a large commercial truck passes me, but notice how he pulls out into the next lane to give me plenty of room. When vehicles switch to the left lane, pass you and switch back again this is an example of a motorist giving a cyclist what I call “respect” on the road. The fact that he switched back means he wanted to be in my lane, the fact that he goes well around me to get there means he is treating me with respect, like another vehicle on the road.

Unlike many of my brethren, I am far more concerned with small cars than I am with large commercial vehicles.

This is an excellent example of what happens when I cycle outside of rush hour. In this case I’m on the road at 9:30 or so, rush hour is winding down. When this happens, I essentially get a lane to myself on a major artery in the city.

I think that this, like bike trails and secondary or residential roads, represents the “hidden gold” of safe cycling. Major roads can be safe cycling option  at the right times, but this requires a shift in perspective.

At the 3 min mark I arrive on the stretch of Keele I like the most from a cycling perspective, from Calvington to Sheppard. It’s a long straight stretch beside the Park so there are no parked cars and few turn offs from the main road on the East side, so the cars go fast. However, it’s downhill, the view is lovely, and it’s a nice fast ride before the next major hill.

Around 7:30 or so I hit construction, and I’ve come to appreciate the beneficial impacts of construction on cycling. Yes, it does sometimes mean you have less room on the road, but it also slows down the ambient traffic, which can work to your advantage. So for example, by 7:40 I’m in a restricted lane, but the cars behind me wait until it opens up again to pass. I’ve been honked at before in that circumstance, so it’s nice to see that sometimes motorists are helpful.

Also, every time the camera dips down and to the left I’m checking my mirror, by my estimation I check about once every 10-15 seconds.

Around 11:38 or so I lane change to the left and turn on to the sidewalk. I normally minimize sidewalk riding, but in this case there was construction ahead that narrows the road and makes it unsafe to ride.

Around 15:57 I arrive at York and jump on to the trail network that runs around the school. 

I took a different route home earlier this week, so I'll post the video from that later.



Wednesday, 15 June 2016

I’m taking a few moments to point out some things in the videos above.

June 9 Northbound Part 1

I start in a park. Park riding is both easier and harder than it looks. Its easier as there are no cars, its harder as there are more people, and dogs.  I used to ring my bell when cycling through parks but now I prefer to just slow down and coast through and around people. When I ring my bell I have had people panic, move directly in front of me, I had a dog chase me when I sounded the bell too.

No matter what, slow is the rule on a trail, even a bike trail, when pedestrians are around.

Note that I’m three minutes in before I actually hit a road.

A few other highlights:

Merging with oncoming traffic: 5:16

How I handle right turn lanes when they are empty: 5:30

How I handle left turns when there is a left turn lane: 9:00

The box “L” turn: 9:50
- A box “L” turn has you signaling left but initially going straight then making a very wide turn to allow the turning cars lots of room to go. It’s a bit counterintuitive when you first do it as you have to cycle straight for a bit before you turn, but its about being where the cars are not.

How you can use the space between vehicles, in this case buses, to your advantage:  10:02

How I handle off ramps to the highway (right hand side of middle lane): 17:00

Crossing the highway: 17:30

I’ll document the next video soon.


Sunday, 12 June 2016

Hello Again,

It's been almost 2 years since I was posting regularly, lots of reasons why I stopped, but I needed a break.

I finally got around to buying a GoPro camera for my bike, and I've spent the last few weeks experimenting with different camera mounts and such. I've finally found a combination I like, mounted on the helmet. I may or may not grab a microphone as well, depending on how the acoustics work going forward.

I'm currently recording my daily commute to work, 18 km from downtown Toronto to Jane and Steeles. I will be posting those videos here as part of a "cycling safety tutorial" series. I've mused about how to put pointers and tips on the web for cycling, I've found many other online sources to give out dodgy advice based on my experience of road riding. I'm an experienced rider, so I'm indifferent to a lot of riding infrastructure, I agree that it is needed, particularly for new riders, but I'm also interested in knowing how to cycle where there is no infrastructure as well. I hope to address this in the videos.

Rather than film individual situations artificially, I decided to just record my regular commute for a few weeks and I can point out issues and suggestions as I ride.

After I have a few of these posted, I'm planning on hitting the city's many known and unknown bike paths to show some of what Toronto has to offer. Not just the main bike lanes in the city but also some of the lesser known trails. Toronto has a ton of cycling greenspace, free of cars and free of charge.

I'm of the somewhat unpopular opinion that Toronto should be a cycling destination, I think that it is an ideal city to cycle in, and hopefully showing some of the wider options will make it more interesting for potential visitors and residents that have been wanting to ride but don't know where.

I'm experimenting with Youtube right now to get the videos up, here is the first sample. I start in the park along the Beltline Trail just north of Eglinton near Dufferin. The video takes me through that park and up to Keele near Finch. At around the 9 min mark I make a left turn from Caledonia to Lawrence that is worth a look, it took me a while to turn with traffic at major intersections, but I wouldn't do it any other way now.

Cycle Commute June 9th Part 1 Northbound:

Youtube Link

Cycle Commute June 9 Northbound - Part 2

Youtube link

Cycle Commute - June 9 - Northbound - Part 3

Youtube Link