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This has been a very long winter, especially for commuting by bike. Not that much more snow than usual, but there have been no breaks in the cold weather for any significant degree of melting back.  My commuting route has been altered by a temporary relocation, and I’ve been biking along the Queensway, through High Park and Roncy, and then along College St. into downtown.

There are bike lanes along both sides of the Queensway, and the city has been doing a decent job of keeping them plowed. It is easier here than along a route like Harbord St. since there are not parked cars to block the straight path for a plow. At intersections, the plower portion of the bike lane can get a little narrow.

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However, a little further on, the bike lane is more clear, and you can see one lonely cycle track preceding me this morning.
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I cut through High Park via some multiple use trails. These were pretty icy up until this week, but they have recently been salted and plowed.IMG_1368

There is a short cut here, and I’m surprised to see several cycle tracks, since the ground is very bumpy ice from slush and snow having been trod upon and then refroze, covered by about 5 cm of fresh snow.
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This is pretty treacherous riding without studded tires.

From High Park Avenue onwards, I’m back on pavement and things are fine.

Here on College, you can see that the sharrows on the south side are rendered mostly useless by snow banks. A bike lane might be only a simple line of paint to some, but it also means that the route gets some priority for snow clearance.
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The weather forecast calls for warmer temps from here on in, although still a bit colder than historical averages. I’m certainly ready for spring at this point!

I don’t often repost stuff here, but this article is too good to pass up.

Highlights:

It can be difficult to compare safety between cities because of the lack of consistency in data collection and because of the need to frame injuries and deaths within the context of ‘exposure’ – the overall numbers of trips, total distance or time spent cycling. Under-reporting of cycling crashes is also a well-documented problem. Nevertheless, Pucher and Buehler’s book listed figures for annual fatalities per 10,000 daily cyclists:

  • ​Copenhagen 0.3
  • Amsterdam 0.4
  • Vancouver 0.9
  • Toronto 1.3
  • Portland 1.9
  • Montréal 2.0
  • Paris 8.2
  • London 11.0
  • New York 37.6.

(All 2010 except Paris, London and New York, 2009.)

“Toronto is not an unfamiliar city to me – I lived there for more than a decade – but returning to cycle downtown is not a pleasant experience.”

“One of the most interesting insights the Danish researchers share is how they’ve discovered that many Danes don’t consider cycling exercise. “People here can easily be riding back and forth 5 km per day, and if you ask them on a questionnaire if they are physically active, they will say ‘No, I don’t do any exercise’,” says Ledgaard Holm. For many here, she says, it’s not a choice of activity, but your mode of transport.”

I dropped by the Toronto International Bike Show for the first time in several years. As per usual, it was a hodgepodge of vendors and other bike organizations, along with a vast array of bike shops mainly clearing out old stock.
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Wandering around, the first thing that caught my eye was this suitcase trailer for folding bikes at the Wike stand, made out of a Samsonite F’lite case. Here it is shown with a Dahon folder inside. If I didn’t already have my bright orange F’lite case, I’d be tempted. At $399, it is pretty competitively priced, considering the Bike Friday trailer kit without F’lite case is $225. However, they couldn’t absolutely tell me that it would work with a Friday. I guess this is a case of try before you buy. DSC01174

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I also couldn’t help notice that they were selling bakfiets type bikes from China that were pretty aggressively priced.
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There were a couple of e-bike vendors. I’m not sure if this was just a self selected set of vendors, but most of them were showing bicycle type e-bikes, rather than the scooter type. The sales rep couldn’t tell me how much the black one in this photo weighed (I could lift it without too much trouble). It retailed for just over $900.
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Allo vélo, a bike shop from Montréal, had all sorts of cool stuff on their stand. They are now the distributor of Bullitt cargobikes for Eastern Canada. DSC01181

Behind the cargo bike was a Triobike, a tricycle with a large plastic tub for carrying kids that they import from Denmark.
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They were selling a line of city bikes called Creme from Poland that you see in the background. They also had the Cleverhood rain cape that I had only seen in magazines and on the web. Being a big fan of raincapes, I couldn’t resist getting one. Here in this flash photo, you can see the reflective lines in the pattern they call “Electric Houndstooth”.
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Around the corner was a large stand featuring both Ynot and Gallant Bicycles, which I did not realize were sister companies. Ynot makes their stuff in a studio in the neighbourhood, and I’ve had my eye on their pedal straps for a while, since mine on the Xtracycle have gotten pretty beat up.
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Also at the end of their stand was this sign, showing that they are testing the waters of the economy cargobike market. From the outline, it looks like the same bike that Wike is already selling. I was told that this is a pilot project. I heartily agreed with them that getting a decent quality cargobike at this sort of pricepoint would be key to their much wider adoption.
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One more company selling brightly coloured fixies.
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Finally, it was good to see Joe and Bob from the Human Powered Transportation Association in Brantford. Here they are showing off Joe’s latest velomobile: an e-assist sociable trike in a shell from Reg Rodaro.
DSC01187 These are the good folks that bring you the Niagara Velomobile Happening, a great event that I haven’t been able to attend for a couple of years since it happens the same time as Battle Mountain.

Here are the purchases from today. I’m very glad that both items were made in North America!
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Blaze Laserlight: followup

I’ve been riding for a while with the Blaze Laserlight, and I thought that I would add to my initial impressions. In particular, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the intensity of the laser pattern as seen from the rider’s perspective: here are some shots from a ride I took a few weeks ago. You can barely see the green outline of the bike,
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although it is somewhat brighter when reflected back from a vertical surface such as the side of an SUV.
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Granted both of the above photos were taken under the most unfavourable conditions, where there is a lot of background lighting, and my point and shoot camera adjusts exposure accordingly.

After thinking about this a bit, it was obvious that what the rider sees is highly dependent on the degree to which the road surface scatters the light in the backward direction. Laser light being what it is, if the road was a perfect mirror, the rider would not see the image at all since all of the laser intensity would be in the specular direction. Therefore, I took some pictures with a better camera at fixed exposure settings, which would be a fairer representation of the Laserlight’s performance.

Here is the view from the rider’s position
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from the side
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and from the front
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As expected, the view from the front is by far the brightest image, which is why most of the images and video of the light are shown from this position. For this particular road surface, the view from the side is particularly dim.

Nevertheless, the image is highly visible to oncoming traffic, and in a very different manner than a regular bike light. I definitely get comments from pedestrians and cyclists when I ride by at night. No comments from motorists yet, but maybe that’s a good thing.

Here is a video taken under two different conditions: a medium dark street (Queensway at Windermere) and the brightest street I could find: Bloor at Bathurst, just by Honest Ed’s.

A couple of other comments:

  • battery life degrades when it is cold, like all other bike lights. However, the light has no problem working at -15°C.
  • the blink mode for the laser is much less intense than the full on, so I don’t think that I will use it at all.
  • more than a few people have asked where they can buy this gadget.
  • I see that Blaze has taken the trouble to ship some upgraded components for the light mount. Fantastic customer service, although I have had no complaints. Shipping thicker shims to fit smaller handlebars seems to be a bit overkill; nothing a few wraps of electrical tape wouldn’t fix.
  • others have noted that it would be great to have the laserlight project to the rear. In this case, it would have to be red.  I will note that the Blaze laserlight is superior in all respects to this other laser taillight that I’ve seen around town.

Icycle 2014

It was a comparatively balmy night for Icycle 2014, barely below zero.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As per usual, all proceeds for the evening were directed to a worthy charity, this year the Bicycle Messenger Emergency Fund.

Race director Derek.
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Martin was flagman, here looking very serious.
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Looks of fun equipment on the rink.
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Wood and plexiglas would not be my first choice of materials for a suspension fork.
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Some last minute fine adjustment.
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Inevitably, some vendor would make a carbon fat bike. Could have used this for my ride last week.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Ice Emperor and the Ice Stud.
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Start of a women’s heat.
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The crowd gets into it.
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Vic is shooting for Dandyhorse.
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Nick reloads his camera.
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I see that Tino has already posted some great pictures.

The BMX heat.
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The women line up again.
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New this year: a chariot race, with the surprise appearance of “Raymond”.
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Pool noodles are apparently the method of choice for encouraging your steed.
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At the finish.
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Thanks to everyone for a fun evening!

Updates:

some more photos posted on Flickr.

video from Toronto Star.

Derek being interviewed for the video.
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video of the preliminary heats

biking on the Humber river

It’s been a cold winter, the first real winter that we’ve had since we moved back to Canada. Over the last week or so, I noticed that people had been walking and skiing on the Humber. DSC01104

Today I thought that if the snow was just right, I might be able to bike across the river. You can see here that someone has cut a hole, and that the ice is easily 8″ thick.
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Unfortunately, the riding on snow bit didn’t work out so well, but we had a fun time.
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We moved a little farther down where an overpass had kept the ice clear of snow, and I had my own little preview of the iCycle race.
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Here’s a screenshot of my little adventure.
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Note that there are still some areas of open water near drain pipes, etc, and so one should exercise all due caution.

February Critical Mass

Only three of us met up at the appointed time, even though it was a lovely night for a bike ride.
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Two more riders showed up a little late, and then the five of us went for a short group ride. It was fun to be trying out the Laserlight, although using it under bright streetlights was not the best demonstration. Here we are crossing Bay.
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On Bloor approaching Sherbourne, you can see the ghostly green bike, making it look like there are extra sharrows on the street.
DSC01000 I could make the bike brighter by tilting the light pattern closer in front of my front wheel.

The bike outline was much clearer on darker streets. In any case, it was a kick riding around chasing a cheery green bike. Not sure yet about the ultimate utility of the laser as a “be seen” light under the bright street lighting of downtown Toronto.

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