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We’ve been staying in a mid rise apartment that is part of a new residential development in the Shinonome District in Tokyo Bay. It is an interesting planned neighbourhood that was put in about ten years ago. It is a block of ≈15 story buildings (a mix of rental apartments and public housing) ringed by a road and a series of condo highrises. Most of the residents do not have cars (it is very expensive to register a car in Tokyo). It has several bike share and car share stations, and is within a 1 – 1.5 km walk to three different subway stations on two different subway lines. Here is a view of the neighbourhood from one of the pedestrian bridges that leads to a subway station.bridge

At one end of the bridge is this bike parking facility.
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and here is the adjacent subway stop.
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This flyer gives you an idea of the pricing of condos in the highrise towers. Apparently the popularity of the 50 story towers went down after the Fukushima quake. prices At current exchange rates, this is $568K Canadian dollars for a three bedroom 77 square meter unit, which is a bit higher, but not double the price that you would expect to pay in downtown Toronto. It should also be noted that mortgage rates are currently at about 0.7% here.

Some of the mid rises have green roofs.
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This is what the corridor of the top floor of one of the midrises looks like. The architect has taken some care to let in natural light.
hallway
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This is what the interior of the development looks like at ground level.
courtyard There are small retail shops off the courtyard, and the entire block is anchored by a large “AEON” discount department store that has groceries, pharmacy and liquor on the ground floor, and varied merchandise on the second floor. The third floor has car parking, which is free for the first 3.5 hours.

All the mid rises have secure bike parking with two level racks.
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The units on the lower level slide sideways to allow for denser packing of bikes.
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The ones on the upper level hinge downwards to facilitate loading and unloading.
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Here is one of the bikeshare stations.
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This map shows the coverage of the bikeshare system, which is confined to these islands in Tokyo Bay.
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1000 yen a month gives unlimited usage. 1000 yen a month also buys a membership in the car share, but you burn through the basic fee in about 90 minutes of driving. You can rent a bike for the day for 500 yen, and take it for an hour for 100 yen. The kiosks have no instructions in English, but there is more information about the system on this page.

A quick touch of an RFID card allows you to take a bike.
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The handlebars have a basket, and a three speed shifter to the right.
handlebars

The left hand bar grip toggles the generator light.
headlight1headlight2 Note the Bridgestone headbadge.

Here is a truck restocking one of the bike stations.
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Here we are, ready for a bike outing.
offwego

Although I have misgivings about riding on the sidewalks, here the population density seems lower, and on this sunny Saturday, there is plenty of room for everyone.
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Still you have to take some care at bus stops.
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Crosswalks have markings separating bikes from pedestrians.
ride3 Also, I note that all drivers are very careful about bikes and pedestrians. At the same time, no one crosses a crosswalk against the signal.

This ramp was a bit steep for some of the rental bikes.
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Heading down towards another subway stop.
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There is a helmet law for kids, but is is not strictly enforced.
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This is the Ariake Tennis Stadium, which will be used for the 2020 Olympic Games.
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The Ariake district has a mixed of highrise offices and exhibition halls, with plenty of surrounding public space. This is the Big Sight Exhibition Hall.ariake1

Looking further to the southwest towards Odaiba.
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and back the other direction.
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Panasonic has a building here that has a science and math exhibit as well as a showcase for their consumer products. Here is a display of their e-bikes.
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There is still a lot of empty land here for further development. It will be interesting to see how this district evolves in the next decade, particularly since Tokyo Bay will be the primary venue for the 2020 Olympic Games.

In Chiba

In Japan for a few weeks. This is the first time that I’ve been able to travel to Japan when it was not the hot and humid summer. It’s the very end of cherry blossom season.
sakurachiba

If we time things right, we might be back to TO in time for the sakura in High Park as well.

Just a few views of bike related stuff over the first couple of days.

Here is some bike parking near Nishi-Chiba station. 30 minutes for free, or 100 yen for up to 8 hours. There are signs everywhere close to the station that forbid bike parking in random places.
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The blue pods do not lock down the bikes. They just have lights indicating if your time as expired.
bikeparking

Here is a bike share system that appears to be internal to the campus of Chiba University
minibike share

Liking this mamachari with 20″ wheels and e-assist. Got to get myself one of these rear mounted kickstands for the winter beater.
minimamachari

Here is a delivery bike, seen on a trip to downtown Tokyo.
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Looking around at a local budget department store “Aeon” (think Target), I saw a large bike department. Almost exclusively low end city bikes.DSC01506

Sad to see the Bridgestone brand on department store bikes.
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At least the kid’s bikes are colourful.
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Comparing these two mamachari, there is about an $800 price premium for e-assist.
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I passed by a real bike shop a block away. One of the mechanics showed off his personal ride: a very nice panasonic titanium bike.DSC01513

It has electronic shifting which has now trickled down to the ultegra level. Note also the flimsy bike lock.
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This tiny shop carried a variety of lines, including tern folding bikes, but I was even more surprised to see this Koga. A dutch company, but I guess that it is easy for them to ship them over from Taiwan where they are built.
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I’ll keep posting pictures if I can avoid getting run down by the many cyclists riding on sidewalks here.
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These markings would suggest that pedestrians and cyclists are somewhat segregated, but I didn’t see any separation in practice.
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The team is planning to hit the road for Orlando on Thursday morning. Unfortunately, I will not be able to join them. Nor will I be able to witness the final stages of completion as I am travelling (elsewhere).

Here are some pictures of earlier stages of construction, taken over the last couple of weeks. (even earlier pictures here)

The team busy at work.
busy

That’s a looong checklist.
checklist

The sanded shell. The similarity to Vortex is evident.
shell

but Vortex didn’t have these holes.
holes

Building parts.
parts

The drivetrain structure is similar to Vortex, but is much lighter.
orca

Setting up to make a disc wheel.
wheelbuild

One of the finished wheels.
wheel

Calvin working on swingarms.
arms

Victor shows up to apply his imaginative design. This time, he’s thinking about the suspension (while yelling in Klingon).victor

Upate: Here is a photo from the Rose Hulman FB page of the completed bike in action during the endurance event. Congrats to the hosts, University of Central Florida, for winning the overall event!
danielle

Update 2: U of T finishes 7th overall. Full results below:
8446.2014-HPVC-East-Results-20140413

some photos are starting to appear on the HPVDT facebook page.

Update 3: photos from the weekend are here.

Harbord Bike Lanes

Thursday night there was a final public consultation session for the upcoming revision to the Harbord St. bike lanes.
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This session was scheduled after city staff changed their proposal for enhanced bike lanes on Harbord from a separated bidirectional bike lane on the north side of the street to a more conventional layout with unidirectional bike lanes on both sides.You can read the official documents here.

Dandyhorse has prior coverage here.

Bike lanes on Harbord have been a hot button issue, especially after the city made their original design for a bidirectional bike lane known. At the event, Dan Egan told me that the feedback on that proposal from cyclists was split down the middle, with many people strongly in support or bitterly opposed. Those in support liked the idea of a separated bike lane, while those against preferred the existing state of things over the new proposal.

Just to place this in context, the current state of affairs on Harbord between Ossington and Queen’s Park is a bike lane in either direction, with the exception of a section between Borden and Spadina, where the bike lane devolves into sharrows due to the wishes of local businesses (notably the Harbord Bakery) to preserve on street parking.

The new proposal maintains unidirectional bike lanes on both sides of the street, with some enhancements to safety made possible by the space vacated by some reduction in on-street parking.

Here are a series of cross sections, from east (just west of Queen’s Park) to west.

Between Queen’s Park and St. George, one lane of parking is being removed in favour of wider bike lanes with buffers. What I like about this design is that on the south (eastbound) side, a line of parking spaces separate the bike lane from traffic.
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Between St. George and Spadina,

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Between Huron and Spadina, and Borden to Ossington, the roadway is slightly less wide, and so I was told that there was not enough to do the same scheme as above.

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Between Spadina and Borden (the section that does not currently have bike lanes), bike lanes on both sides are put in by eliminating parking on one side.

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Note that in both of the above diagrams, the bike land on the south side has parking at the curb.  I was told that there was not enough space for putting the bike lane between parking and the curb because of the necessity to have a buffer zone between the ride side of parked cars and the bike lane to prevent dooring. The other issue is that a curb side bike lane has to have a minimum width of 1.8m in order for it to be able to be plowed.

However, I would like to see the following: we can have fully separated bike lanes on the eastbound (south) side along the whole length of Harbord with the following compromise: swap the positions of the bike lane and parking on the right hand side of the above diagram, and make space for a door buffer zone by eliminating the buffer zones that flank the traffic lanes on both sides. This will make all of Harbord look very much like the section between QP and St. George, except that the westbound bike lane would not have a buffer zone along most of its length.

Here is a crude cut and paste mockup of what I am talking about, copying over the bottom row of the diagram above, and reshuffling it in the lower half, with the parking and the bike lane swapped:
IF

I feel that this would be a reasonable compromise in that it will create a continuous, protected bike lane in one direction, and that there will still be a continuous bike lane in the other direction, which is still an improvement on what we have now.

My understanding is that cars would be kept out of a curbside bike lane with plastic bollards, rather than a rigid curb.

This is a real opportunity to test this type of separated bike lane (protecting the bike lane with a line of parked cars) that has not been tried in Toronto.

Dan et al said that they would consider this idea if it had backing from the public, and that it would be especially helpful if larger groups such as Cycle Toronto would endorse the idea.

I realize that some would prefer to have fully protected bike lanes in both directions, which entails removal of considerably more street parking. However, the above idea is a minor tweak on what is the current proposal.

Here is the timeline for the project:

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There is still time to give them input into the final design before it goes to PWIC in May.

If you would like to see a fully protected bike lane on at least one side of the Harbord bike lane, contact the good folks at bikeplan@toronto.ca, and let them know (by April 7)!

Update: Dandyhorse has some more coverage here.

Update 2: Hamish points out that connectivity of a bike network is key, and that Harbord still dumps cyclists off at the west end with no particular safe route beyond. He has sent me a map of preferred bike routes in the west end as compiled by cyclists. Some of these routes are being implemented in a piecemeal fashion over the next year or two.
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There was some buzz about the intersection of Dundas St. W, and Sterling Rd this past week. This is of course the site of the death of Jenna Morrison a few years ago.

DSC01311Since that time, the city has tried to address some of the bicycle and pedestrian related safety issues at this intersection.

NOW Magazine did a nice piece, and the tagline says it all: “Stopgaps are failing to address hazards at problem corner three years after cyclist’s death”

What went live a couple of days ago was bicycle signal lights, to supplement the red light that had been added to the intersection a while back.
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What I did not fully appreciate were the road markings that had also been added a while back. Here you see a bike box intended for bicyclists turning left from Southbound Sterling onto Dundas. At best, the marking is totally counterintuitive, since it seems to extend far enough across the road so as to place bikes in the westbound traffic lane on Dundas. WTF?
DSC01310 Also, the pushbutton to activate the light is nowhere within reach of a cyclist, and is only useful for pedestrians.

Proceeding east on Dundas, this sign directs bikes to avoid the left turn directly onto the connector that leads to College St, and instead tells you to make the left turn at Lansdowne.
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However, Landsdowne and Dundas is not a very bike friendly intersection either. Taking the lane for a left hand turn forces you through streetcar tracks. If you elect to cross in two stages, there isn’t much room on the southeast corner for bikes. I generally ride through, and then turn left on one of the next couple of streets.
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All the more reason to push hard for the southward extension of the Railpath, including a pedestrian/bike bridge across to Sorauren. This way, everyone can safely navigate this high traffic intersection regardless of where you are headed.
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Blaze sent all of their kickstarter buyers a new mounting bracket in order to address some issues reported by users. My new mounting bracket arrived by express post from China, just like the light itself. This is the enclosed note outlining the changes:
blazenote

Here is the new bracket to the left, in comparison to the old one. The new bracket came with a much thicker shim as advertised, but also with an additional shim that was thinner that the thickest one shipped with the light. You can also note that the mounting bolt does have a slightly wider head.
newbracket

Here you can see the black rubber nubbin that has been added to the light socket.socket

The new shim (to the left) is thicker than two of the other shims originally supplied. I guess that this means that new lights will come with five shims in the box?shims

I’m not complaining, as I have had no issues with the old mount. The thicker shim is nice, but it solves a problem that I fixed with a few wraps of electrical tape on my bars. In fact, I’d argue that the light with the thickest rubber shim is going to be less stable than one with a thinner rubber insert and the difference made up with tape. I’d also be interested in knowing if some people have actually had their Laserlight come off the mount. As it is, I’ll be using both mounts so that I can switch the light between two bikes.

Sending out a new mount seems like fantastically good customer service, verging on overkill. I’ll report back if I do have any issues with the old mount, but I’ll use the new one as my primary just in case.

I’d really like to see this product succeed, but I think that they need to make it in plastic, and not quite so pretty so that they can hit a more competitive price point. It’s nice to style a premium product à la Apple, but it look years of Apple being hammered for being overpriced before enough people finally decided that their products warrant the extra cost.

Things have been moving along with the building of this year’s ASME bike Valkyrie. What was just a bunch of 3D renderings a month ago is rapidly taking shape. Here is an early stage in the layup that shows the embedded wiring for lighting.

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Calvin is standing beside the vacuum bagged shell, showing off his newly acquired iron ring.
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The guys work on removing the male plug from the shell.
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The door section is similar to, and yet much deeper than the one for Vortex.
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Here they are pulling on embedded hot wires that will slice up the plug to make it easier to remove… or so goes the theory.
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Success!
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Here is the removed section of foam.
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In the meantime, Marc is measuring the rolling resistance of a tire as a function of speed and other variables.
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and here are some previously measured tires.
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The team will be burning the midnight oil on their design report, which is due Monday.

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