First snow on ground 2014

Last night it snowed a bit, and this was the first morning where it was cold enough that it didn’t immediately melt away. It was hovering just around freezing, with mixed rain and snow, so it was a good time to break out the neoprene gloves. My experience with them is that they are good to about -5°C.


Must add the glo gloves.


Although it wasn’t that cold, I switched from the pink bike to the winter bike, just in case they broke out the salting trucks.  You can see that the streets are actually clear of snow.


I put this bike away wet last year, and so you can see that the chain is quite rusty, even though it was advertised as being galvanized. I put a coat of chain L on it a couple of weeks ago, and it seems fine now, even though it looks like hell.


-2°C when I started riding, so I was glad to have my earflaps (make your own pair here) which colour coordinate with my red helmet, quite by accident I might add.


It was much more rainy than cold on the way in, and I ended up having to dry some of my clothes in the office during the day.  On the way in, I was glad to see this city crew keeping the piles of leaves they raked out of the counterflow lane on Shaw.


On the way home about 9 pm, it was considerably windier and colder, but I was toasty warm with my usual early winter garb:

  • rain jacket
  • long sleeve wool jersey with a wool T shirt underneath
  • suitable gloves
  • rain boots (Strala Vinters)
  • wool socks (woolie boolie or equivalent)
  • Outlier pants (climbers in this case)

This setup is pretty much OK to around -10°C.

It looks like we’ll get a little more snow later this week, and perhaps a real winter commute.


as per the comment, here is a link to an excellent list of tips for winter biking courtesy of Michigan State University.

Baltimore by bike

When I go out of town, I bring a bike whenever I can, just so I can go exploring if I have a little spare time. A bike is the ideal platform to get a quick feel of a new place. This past week, that place was Baltimore.

Here is the Inner Harbour at dawn.

The Inner Harbor is ringed by a multiuse trail, much in the same way as False Creek in Vancouver.habor2
There are sections of this trail that are off limits to bikes during most of the day because of the high density of pedestrians. For part of this section, there is a segregated bike lane that parallels the path by the water.

Here is a sample of the wayfinding signage for bikes and pedestrians. I like the distance indicators, which are more useful than the bike route numbering system you see in Toronto.

Seeing my first on street bike lane.

More signage.

If you think streetcar tracks are an issue, try them in combination with cobblestones, like here in Fells Point.

They use sharrows here too.

And look at this most excellent bike lane, painted in green but very narrow, especially with traffic.

Another view of the bike trail on E. Pratt St.

The bike rack at the Convention Center is a pretty good colour match to my bike.

Later in the week, I rode north away from the Harbor. In the immediate downtown area, I didn’t see any bike lanes, but eventually I came upon this contraflow lane.

This lead me to the start of the Jones Falls Trail, which at this point was a glorified sidewalk.

Dropped by to check out Baltimore Bike Works, which is an interesting small shop that is cooperatively owned like Urbane Cyclist.

Heading further along the trail.

Here the trail crosses the road and then there are switchbacks up a hill.

Digging the fall colours.

More signage at the top of the hill. jf5

A left turn bike box, just like the ones just installed on Harbord at Shaw.

More fall colours, right near Johns Hopkins University.

Heading back south, I was having problems deciding which lane to take on the many multilane one way streets. I saw cyclists opting for both the right and the leftmost lanes.

You also need to keep an eye out for these very unfriendly grates. I saw at least one of them that was oriented the other way, which would be a deathtrap for cyclists.

One of the other reasons I wanted to bring a bike was to check out a Thursday night social ride that was listed on Facebook.

Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy that evening, but I rode up to the starting point anyway, just in case someone would show up. I was starting to curse my decision at the appointed hour, when one lonely, wet cyclist rode up Cheers, Andrew) Within a few minutes, we were joined by a few more hardy souls.

It was decided that we would do a short ride to a bar and then call it a night.

And we’re off. It is hard to tell in this picture, but the rider second from the right is on a marked bike lane.

We cut short the ride, and opted for a closer bar in Fell’s Point. It was fun to warm up and have a few drinks. It was the first time in a while that I had been out and about with a young enough crowd that some of them were carded.

At any rate, it was great to learn a little about the bike scene in Baltimore, which seems pretty lively. I was told that there was a Wednesday night ride that was faster. Also, they’ve rebranded their Critical Mass as the Baltimore Bike Party, and have managed to get more cyclists out this way. Note from this post that they sometimes have paid for police escort, and funded this through post ride beer sales. Pretty interesting way to run a ride.

We also shared common concerns about the lack of bike infrastructure. They assumed that we’re better off in Toronto, but from what I saw, the two cities are roughly on par. A quick glance at the official map shows a network that suffers from a lack of connectivity, and a notable lack of any bike lanes in the central area of downtown. We also swapped stories about cyclists getting hit or killed but still viewed as collateral damage.

All in all, the ride was a perfect way to cap off the week. It reinforced all our views that as cyclists, we share common concerns where ever we are.

Ride on Baltimore, and stay safe!

Another cyclist was killed last week, right on the boundary between East York and Scarborough, at the intersection of Victoria Park and O’Connor. We were not able to get any information about the cyclist other than the news report that he was 71 years old.

Quoting CP24: “The cyclist, police say, was travelling southbound on Victoria Park Avenue and was struck as he attempted to cross O’Connor Drive from the north side to the south side on the west side of the intersection. The 49-year-old driver of a Ford F-150 was heading southbound on Victoria Park Avenue and was making a right-hand turn onto O’Connor Drive when he hit the man. The victim was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries but later died.”

This is in the same general area of the city as the last memorial ride, and it points out both the dangers that cyclists face when riding on arterials with high speed traffic, and the lack of on-street bicycling infrastructure outside the downtown area.

Ghost bike being prepped by Geoffrey.

Here we gather at Matt Cohen Park.

Today I was riding with my daughter on our kid back tandem.

Arriving at the crash site, we discuss where to put the ghost bike.

Installing the ghost bike.
We noted that there was one faded bunch of flowers already on this spot. A memorial to the unidentified cyclist, perhaps?

Decorating the ghost bike.

Showing the banner.


Thanks to Geoffrey, Joey, Derek, and all those who rode, including many of the “usual suspects”. It is deeply frustrating that we keep having to meet like this.

It’s time for me to sell my trusty Novara commuter. SOLD This is a 80’s era Japanese lugged steel bike, a Novara, which is the store brand for REI (the US equivalent of MEC). I’ve had this bike for more than 15 years, and when I first moved to Toronto, it was my main commuter. A couple of years ago, I put studded tires on it, and it was relegated to winter duty. Last year I got a Louis Garneau Sub Zero, and since then the Novara has been hanging in the garage.


I’ve blogged about this bike numerous times: Dec 2012, March 2013, April 2011, Oct 2010.


  • lugged steel frame. 55 cm top tube, seat tube is roughly 49 C to T, but the top tube is sloped.  If I took off the electrical tape, you could see that there is a decal stating that this frame was designed by Scott Nicol of Ibis Cycles fame. Cantilever brakes. The fellow I bought this from in LA claimed that this was one of the first ever production hybrid bikes.
  • 26″ wheels with Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires. The rims have some wear. The rear rim is 24h since it has a 24h Alfine rear hub that was original built into a set of Shimano OEM wheels.
  • Nitto Periscopa stem.   Chris King headset.
  • I converted this bike over to the 8 speed Alfine rear hub in 2010, eventually settling on a JTek bar end shifter as well.

I reason that I am selling the bike is that it has been replaced by a Louis Garneau Cityzen Sub Zero, which was being blown out by Urbane a couple of years back. The new bike has a more upright riding position that suits me better in the winter.

The one thing about this bike that I would caution the new owner is that the rear brake is not that effective due to the dodgy way I routed the straddle cable over the rear fender.

DSC00773Here are some more pictures, showing the worst of the surface rust on the frame. The bike is perfectly serviceable, and it you really care about appearances, there is nothing that a coat of tremclad paint wouldn’t address. No dents on the frame that I am aware of.





Update: It has found a good home, and is now sporting new handlebars for a more upright riding position.

Oct 27 Harbord Update

Today was a red letter day for biking in Toronto, not so much because of the election, but because a new section of bike lane went in between Borden and Spadina sometime over the weekend. This completes a continuous bike lane from Ossington to Queen’s Park and beyond.

Here are some before and after pictures, with the before pictures taken last Thursday.

Approaching Brunswick, eastbound.
near brunswick

Right by the Harbord Bakery, which led the fight to block this section of bike lane for over a decade. Last week, the sharrows were scrubbed out.

Now the bike lane is in, while preserving almost all the parking for this business.

To put in bike lanes in this section, they did have to remove parking from one side of the street. Across from the bakery, you can see that this van is blocking the new bike lane in a spot that used to be parking.

The city is getting smarter about the installation of these bike lanes. This time, the parking signs were removed or covered over at the same time that parking was removed. You can see a covered parking permit machine on this new section of bike lane.
Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.22.03 PM

Equally exciting is the activation of the new bicycle traffic lights at the Hoskins/Queen’s Park intersection. You can see the two phase crossing in the video below. This traffic light fixes the car/bike conflict that was noted in a video linked in this earlier post.

Quite a bit of progress since two weeks ago.

A ride in memory of Jim Carr

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 10.52.35 AMJim Carr was a bike advocate in South Etobicoke who passed away entirely too young in June of this year. There was a ceremony in his memory at John English Middle School on Saturday.

Pamela Gough, the local school trustee, had these words to say on the invitation:
“It was really due to Jim Carr’s efforts that the TDSB has started a Bike to School Day. Jim first introduced me to Safe Routes to School in Etobicoke Lakeshore and facilitated my understanding of the issues of active transportation. My involvement in developing the Charter for Active Transportation and Bike to School Day at the TDSB was a direct result of that early gesture on Jim’s part. I have dedicated my latest enewsletter, which contains a report on operationalizing Safe and Sustainable Active Transportation to 586 TDSB schools in Toronto, to Jim’s memory. He has shown us the power of one to change an entire city.”

Thomas Hasan of Canada Bikes organized a ride to deliver the memorial bike rack by human power. Here is the group at the start.

Riding along the Lakefront Trail in Mimico.

Arriving at the School.

Now around to the back.

The plaque on the rack.

The family admiring the plaque, along with Thomas, and Dave from the South Etobicoke Cycling Committee.

Pamela Gough recounts how a chance first meeting with Jim lead to her interest in developing an Active Transportation Charter for the TDSB that has started to be rolled out. There will be over 500 new bike racks installed at TDSB schools over the next year or so.

Principal Howe describes how Jim was a very active parent volunteer at the school, and how one lonely “wheel bender” bike rack was replaced with these existing bike racks with Jim’s urging.
racks He couldn’t imagine a more fitting tribute than another bike rack.

An account of the first TDSB Bike to School Day at John English:
“More than 100 students, parents and staff at John English Junior Middle School celebrated Bike to School Day on May 26. The bike racks were filled beyond capacity. Safe biking to school continues to be a wonderful form of exercise and healthy activity that is encouraged for all students. During the week leading up to the Bike to School day students had an opportunity to learn about safe biking techniques and how to ensure that their bikes were safe for the road. Students without a bike also had the chance win a bike by submitting an essay stating why they need a bike and the benefits of biking. Thanks to the wonderful support of an anonymous donor and the Canadian Tire on the Queensway, three lucky students were given a bike to enjoy during the warm weather of the summer months to come.”

Two other people spoke about Jim’s work at the sailing club, and the Friends of Sam Smith park. All noted his energy and enthusiasm to contribute to the community at large, and of his devotion to his family.

I’m sorry not to have ever met Jim. I hope that in his memory, we will be able to follow through with safe routes to school and better biking facilities for kids in our own ward.

The last ascent of Atlas

Every since the Sikorsky Prize, Aerovelo has been trying to find a home for their human powered helicopter, Atlas. Their first choice was to find a place where the whole aircraft could be displayed. Regrettably, this turned out to be impossible, and so an agreement was worked out for it to be hung up at the Ontario Science Centre. Today was the day for it to be put together for display.

I thought that it would be appropriate to show up under human power, so I plotted a route using Google Maps. I noticed that on the last section, I was being routed along Eglinton, but in the reverse direction, it was taking me down into the valley, so I decided on the valley route.

Here are some fall colours on the way across town: Yonge St. as seen from the Beltline.

Here is what Google Maps is telling me; the trail comes off the end of a small stub of Leslie St.
Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 10.15.24 PM

Here’s what the entrance to the trail looks like.

It turned out that running this trail downhill on a road bike was a bit hairy. A bit steep and muddy was OK, but I didn’t expect this:
trail2 The first ramp was OK, but I had to bail on the second one because of a low hanging branch.

Of course, once I was down in the river valley, the trail was paved, and the fall colours were a wonderful bonus.

Interesting looking bike racks on the back of the Science Centre.

This section is closed.

Here’s the crew.

Here’s a top view of the plan. Two sections of the truss and two rotors are all that will fit.

By the time I got there, two sections of truss had been lifted into place, although there was more fiddling to be done.

Todd working near the central joint.

Preparing to mount one of the drive spools.

Cam keeps an eye on things.

Final adjustments.

Working a bit on the bike.

I’ll never stop marveling at this 8 spoke wheel.
Maybe that’s why they thought 20 spokes was plenty for Eta.

Here comes the first rotor blade.

Waiting for the lifts.

The blade lifted and being secured.

First blade done. The position of the whole truss was different from the original plan, so this blade protrudes into the entrance way.

Lifting the next blade.

Securing the next blade.

First rotor complete.

This is what it looks like from the entrance.

At this point, I had to leave, but thing were going pretty smoothly. You can see from this figure the plan for hanging the bike, and what a side view of the complete installation will look like.

Checking out more fall colours on the way back to work.

This intersection where Kilbarry crosses Oriole Parkway is the only signalized crossing for bikes that I’ve seen in Toronto that is comparable to what I’ve seen in Vancouver.

Sad to see Atlas hung up incomplete, but I can’t imagine a better home for it.

Update: this picture came across the Aerovelo twitter feed this morning.



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