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A week after…

There has been a lot of chatter about inadequate snow clearance of sidewalks and bike lanes around the city, including a Star editorial and an ask from Cycle Toronto to email the Mayor and your councillor about this issue. After the near record breaking amount of snow that fell on the city just over a week ago, many pictures were posted of totally impassable bike lanes.

Granted that it is a good point that the city should reconsider the absolute priority that snow clearance of roads and highways has had over sidewalks and bike lanes. However, this winter is the first where there has been a significant expansion of the plowing of sidewalks across the city and so I can understand why it might take a while for everyone to be satisfied with what the city has been able to accomplish in a week.

The situation was made a little worse by the snowfall yesterday that made all roads a mess last night, but things looked a bit better this morning, and so with this in mind I biked into work with an eye to seeing how my commute was compared to last week.

The Bloor bike lanes were certainly in much better shape, and I had no issues biking eastbound between Lansdowne and St. George.

The only spots that were a little snowy were where there was no curb protection.

For my commute home, I decided to go back via the Martin Goodman Trail since it appeared to have much better snow clearance than any of the bike lanes, even a day after the blizzard. On the way there, University looked pretty good southbound.

The snowbanks at Elm give a preview of what a fully protected intersection would look like. Cars need considerably less space than they are actually given.

A bit of snow in the bike lane as I approach Queen St.

Richmond looked good.

Simcoe was fine as well.

I was somewhat taken aback by the blockage south of Wellington, but as it turned out, the bike detour was fine.

Simcoe clear all the way to the lakefront.

The MGT was in very good shape. The only comment that I would make is that all the runners were using the MUP rather than the pedestrian path.

It’s a bit of a mystery to me as to why the city is able to do a much better job on the MGT than on any of the bike lanes, but it could have to do with the fact that the MGT is wide and straight with a comparative lack of intersections. Perhaps they can use wider and bigger plows that what a bike lane accommodates.

I’m not implying that all is well in terms of the snow clearance of bike lanes. In particular I’m aware that the Danforth and the Yonge bike lanes were reported to be in bad shape today. Hopefully it is just a matter of a day or two more before all of the major bike lanes in the city are clear.

At the same time, I’ll take all of the chatter about snow clearance in bike lanes as a sign to all concerned that more people than ever are biking in the winter, and the city needs to get that message loud and clear.

Tailwinds, Janet Joy

Today, Janet Joy invited some bike people to ride on her annual birthday ride. It was also an opportunity to bid her farewell as she will be moving to New York City in the near future. Here are Dawn, Janet Joy and I at High Park.

This was the condition of the Bloor bike lane, so we elected to take the lane.

Near Keele St, we were joined by Lanrick, the newly appointed Bicycle Mayor of Toronto.

First stop was LaLa Bakeshop, which fit the theme of #VeryAsian. Several more friends were waiting for us there.

At Bloor and Spadina, just as Robin and Matthew also pulled up.

Off we go.

The bike lane was a little better near Bay St.

The Yonge bike lane just north of Bloor, on the other hand.

I do realize that city crews are working hard to clear snow. Here was part of a multi machine crew that was removing snow that had entirely blocked the curb lane on Bloor between Yonge and Parliament. They very kindly let us pass through while eastbound car traffic was still blocked.

The viaduct bike lane had been plowed, but with still a significant amount of residual ice and snow (the westbound direction was much better for some reason).

The Danforth bike lane was in much worse shape than Bloor. Again, this was probably due to the lack of experience with plowing the newer bike lanes.

Second stop was Sakawa Coffee, a place that serves Japanese comfort food. The menu had the kind of basic Japanese fare that would not be out of place at the Midnight Diner, as opposed to Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Group shot right beside the shop, noting the bike mural as well.

I opted for two onigiri, sake (salmon) and ume (pickled plum). They were generously sized and I was advised that two would be enough for lunch.

At this point, unfortunately I had to peel back to the office to take care of a few things. Here is another shot of my lunch with fake bokeh. Yum.

Later that day, Albert organized a get together to properly bid Janet Joy adieu.

Janet Joy told us a little of what she looked forward to in New York. She reassured us that we hadn’t see the last of her.

Thanks Janet Joy for all you’ve done for cycling in Toronto, and we look forward to seeing further adventures on social media.

Barges and supply chains

I spent a few days in Vancouver over the Christmas break and one thing on my list to do was to visit the latest tourist attraction in Vancouver, as described in this NY Times article. This of course was the barge that washed up on English Bay during a series of severe storms that hit southern BC, causing widespread flooding in areas further inland.

Conditions were better than those during this epic video of a cyclist biking by the barge shortly after it washed up.

Also, unless you actually visit, it is difficult to appreciate how large the barge is. In this photo, it is some distance back of the SUV that is parked in front.

Apparently it will take some time before they can remove it. In the meantime, the Vancouver Parks Board posted that wonderful sign seen in the first picture. Additionally, some wag had labeled the spot as “barge on the beach” on Google Maps but that tag got removed before I could get a screen shot of it; this of course is a reference to “Bard on the Beach” which is held on the other side of English Bay each summer.

Also while I was downtown, I saw this footrest on the Hornby bike lane at Robson, but it appeared to be a one off since it looked like it had been there a while, and I didn’t see any others along that stretch.

The other reason that I wanted to ride down to the water had to do with the fact that I had ordered a Swytch kit to convert one of our bikes to electric assist. The order went in back in July, and when the item was ready to ship, they sent me a tracking website that was more interesting than usual. When they said “ship” they literally meant putting it on a boat bound for North America as the first step. They provided real time tracking of the container ship.

The first thing the ship did was to dock for about a week at Tacoma, Washington. Afterwards it headed up to the coast where it lay at anchor in the Burrard Inlet.

Sure enough, you could see the ship in this photo taken from Jericho Park. It was helpful that there was “MSC” lettering on the side.

It spent a while at anchor, and then it docked at Tsawwassen where presumably the container containing my item was offloaded.

This gave me a new appreciation for transport logistics. Imagine stacking those containers in an order to facilitate unloading at the correct port in the correct sequence. It also gave a view of how much time was spent at anchor waiting as opposed to sailing. The actual crossing only took about ten days.

While I was in town, I was determined to keep my continuous days with biking streak going. This entailed a couple of days biking through a rare snowfall. I was happy that UBC did a decent job of snow clearance.

At the moment, MSC Francesca is headed to Vietnam via the Panama Canal.

I wish it and its crew safe voyage, and I await arrival of the kit, at which point I will post a review after installation.

the day after

It was brilliantly sunny this morning and I saw it as a chance to pick up some textbooks that I needed from my office. Also a chance to check out how well the city did in the past 24 hours with snow clearance. I was thankful that the side streets in our neighbourhood had been plowed more than once. Side streets were passable to varying degrees, depending on how much packed snow was left by the plows.

As per my usual habit after a significant snowfall, I took major roads wherever possible since they were generally much more clear of snow.

Here is Annette. Although the painted bike lane is not clear, the roadway is perfectly fine, although the owners of the cars to the left might disagree.

A sign of the troubles that the TTC had to deal with.

Taking the lane on Lansdowne, and thankful that traffic is very light.

Turning east on Bloor, the bike lane has clearly been plowed, and I am a bit hopeful.

However it quickly becomes clear that I would have been much better off taking the traffic lane, which is what I did after one block.

Snowbank as kickstand at PAT central market.

The Bloor bike lanes at Spadina. I thought that this wider section might be in better shape, but no….

Overall, although I am glad that the city plowed the Bloor bike lanes, it is clear that whatever equipment they are using leaves a huge ridge of snow down the middle, making the lane unusable. Now if we could just have the snow in the bike lane melt back while leaving that lovely windrow to the left intact, that would be great.

Ride safe, and take the lane today!

Update: Shaw north of Bloor has been blocked due to demolition associated with a house fire that happened a while ago. This means little or no car traffic, and also limited plowing, and so it is basically impassable for bikes.

So we got a bit of snow overnight into this morning. TDSB called for a snow day, delaying what was supposed to be the first day back in person. There were reports all over the city of stuck vehicles, and the TTC was a mess. Still, major arterials were plowed, and traffic was very light.

This is Runnymede.

Also Bloor. Because of the lack of cars it was easy to take the lane.

Snowbank on Bloor built up from the repeated passes of plowing.

Of course the side streets were impassable, even those that were advertised as having been plowed within the past four hours.

You can check things out on the city plowing map here.

We’ll see how things are by tomorrow. In the meantime, stay safe everyone!

I already have several options for pants when I bike in cold weather, but I was curious about the Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Lined Pants since an ad for them with a 40% off code kept appearing in my FB feed. At the regular price, not such a good deal, but tolerable at 40% off.

They weigh in at about the same as my Makers and Riders winter pants. However, they are stretchier than the M&R pants.

You can tell that they are not cycling specific since the leg opening is a little wide. Here I show a comparison with the cuffs of my Swvre midweight pants. My cargo bike has a chain guard so this is not an issue, but YMMV.

One thing that I didn’t realize when ordering is that they have extra pockets on the thighs like cargo pants. Not really a problem, but they can’t really pass as office wear.

Yesterday and today were unseasonably cold, so it was a good time to test them out. In particular, this morning it was -20C, and I headed down to check out the ice on Grenadier Pond.

The black ice is completely clear of snow, and I’m definitely headed back tomorrow with my skates. When you’re on the ice, you can hear it sing: there is a cracking sound and then an otherworldly ringing when the ice shifts somewhere on the pond and the vibration is carried long distances.

I also did some Bike Brigade deliveries this afternoon for good measure.

photo credit: Dave Shellnut. image source.

Verdict: these pants are a tad warm for biking in -10C weather, although they would be perfectly fine for standing around at that temperature. Today, for temperatures between -20 and -15, they were great. In fact, during the TBB deliveries, I was out in -12C to -15C temps for 2.5 hours, and my legs were warm the whole time. I did end up overheating a bit, but that was mainly because I was wearing my winter coat.

From about +5 to -10C, the Swvre midweight pants are ideal since they are warmer than regular jeans or my Outlier Slim Dungarees. I’m waiting for them to come back into stock before getting a second pair. However, when it gets colder, these Eddie Bauer pants will be good for temperatures as low as I am willing to bike.

Here’s a quote from nine years ago. I must admit I’m feeling the cold a bit more nowadays.

Just a note about all of my personal favourites for bottoms: shorts MEC Mochilero, Long pants: Outlier slim dungarees, when it’s a bit cold: swvre midweights, when it is really cold, these EB or the Makers and Riders. In reality, 90% of my four season commuting is with the Outliers and the Swvre pants. I have multiple copies of my Outliers and the shorts, and my wife thinks I’m always wearing the same thing.

Dogwood Designs Pogies

I’ve mentioned that I’m a fan of pogies to keep my hands warm for winter bike rides. I’ve also known about the pogies by Dogwood Designs ever since I spotted a pair on a past coldest day of the year ride. Santa was very kind and finally provided me with a pair. Given that it was -18°C this morning, I figured it was a good time to give them a try. This was also my first ride of the season with balaclava and goggles.

This is what the new pogies look like compared with one from rockbros.

This is what they look like on the bike.

Like most pogies, they are really intended for straight bars, in which case people have said that they extend a decent distance back towards the elbows. My winter bike has swept back bars and so the coverage is considerably less; just about 4 inches back of the end of the handlebar. Here is a picture of part of my handlebar, also showing the buttom placement for my hornit horn. Bells don’t work that well inside a pogie.

So how did they do this morning? I’ll preface my comments by saying that my commute is about 9 km, and that on a cold day like today it takes me about 40 minutes. I was wearing a pair of light gloves inside the pogies. For the first five or ten minutes my impression was that the pogies weren’t that much better than the rockbros. However, once my hands warmed up the air trapped inside the pogies, then they were just fine for the remainder of the ride.

Outstanding.

The real difference with these pogies, aside from the large volume, is that there is an adjustable shock cord that makes a good seal against your arm.

Compare this with the rockbros that does have a fabric barrier, but with loose elastic.

I do recognize that the dogwood designs item is much more expensive, given that it is sewn in Alaska, but if you are looking for the ultimate in pogies, I would recommend them. The rockbros item is available online and gives probably about 75% of the performance, and they are perfectly fine down to at least -10°C.

Just a couple more notes about the ride in. One thing was that I was trying out a new pair of goggles, but at this time I found that they suffer from severe enough fogging that I had to take them off after about 10 minutes.

I’ll have to do a comparison with the ski goggles that I’ve used in the past.

Otherwise, I was using my usual gear for cold but not super cold weather, including:

  • a wool T shirt
  • a wool shirt
  • Proviz jacket (could be any windproof jacket)
  • fleece lined pants
  • thick wool socks in Blundstones on flat pedals.
  • bike helmet earmuffs from this vendor

A number of my fellow cyclists have been posting pictures of the new bike lanes between Jane and Weston Rd, including significant improvements at Jane & Eglinton. I decided to bike up there to take a look for myself.

On the way up, I note the black crumbly stuff on the Humber River trail that has also been seen on some other ravine trails.

Not sure if this wayfinding sign at Scarlett and Eglinton is new, but there is no indication of the cycle path to the east.

Looking west, I see that there are new bicycle crossing lights that have not been activated yet.

Headed east now, across the bridge. This section has been here for a while. Although it is not clear from any road markings, this lane is meant to be bidirectional.

A curb cut brings you off the roadway past the bridge.

A new bike signal at Emmett.

Here is the southwest corner of Eglinton and Jane. Looks more or less normal

Here is the southeast corner looking north. Once again, it looks like a standard corner, but the northeast corner looks like it had more work done.

Here is the northeast corner, looking west. To my back there is a new bidirectional bike lane headed further east. It is clear that the design of the intersection is to route bidirectional bike traffic across Eglinton on the west side and across Jane on the north side.

About to cross Jane, I see that the bike/pedestrian beg button is not active yet.

The northwest corner is the most interesting in that in most closely resembles a fully protected intersection. Pedestrian traffic is routed around the bike path, and the bike path itself is split into two branches around a pole. This makes sense when there is no snow on the ground, but with snow it will look like there is a pole in the middle of the bike lane.

I’m a bit disappointed that the curb on the corner that defines the turning radius for cars is sloped, and that there is not very much definition of the lozenge shaped area that provides protection for the bike lane itself. You can compare it with this design seen in Vancouver.

Looking north from the southwest corner, you can see that the median has been trimmed back to provide enough width for separated bike and pedestrian crosswalk markings.

Moving on from the intersection, headed east, there is this nice new stretch up the hill. Presumably the asphalt in the foreground is for a forthcoming bus shelter?

It ends at Glenvalley Dr, at which point there is a short two block ride to Weston Rd. (see notes in update below)

Here is the entrance to the bike path looking down the hill from Glenvalley Dr.

These bike lanes end in close proximity to the Mt. Dennis LRT station. I haven’t been able to find much information about how this bike route will connect to the bike lanes that are planned along the Eglinton LRT. This blog post also indicates that there might be some conflict between the city and what Metrolinx plans. In particular, the renderings that I’ve seen show a bidirectional bike lane on the south side of Eglinton in this vicinity. If I find out anything else, I will amend this post.

Update: Dorian has made this video that outlines how the bike lanes will connect to the intersection of Weston and Eglinton.

as described in the video: cycle along Pearen St (red line) and then there will be a bidirectional bike lane on the north side of Eglinton as far as Weston.

I was told: “north side bidirectional from Pearen to Weston – as well as a potential protected intersection at Weston. But the LRT needs to be done and get out of the way first.”

My Year on Bikes 2021

Another year of life and biking under COVID. My major goal was to do a ride every day, just so that I would never have to keep such a streak going again. Here is the summary of the year as rendered by veloviewer.

January:

The year started off with a new craze about monoliths popping up around the world. I took advantage of low lake levels to visit the 2nd monolith that appeared in Toronto. You can see that my ride went out onto the breakwater.

Sadly, long time cycling advocate Wayne Scott passed away after a long battle with cancer. It is due to his efforts that bike messengers are able to write off a portion of their food costs on their taxes.

February:

This review of a mask by Oakley has become one of my all time most popular posts. At least for me, it did not solve the problem of fogging up my glasses during winter riding.

World winter bike to work day is always around the middle of February. Toronto didn’t rank too well this year.

March:

Ports Toronto decided that the single track trails on the Leslie St spit that had been built up over a period of ten years were dangerous and announced that they would be bulldozed at the end of the month. I headed out there to take one last ride.

This post shows what the trails looked like post destruction.

April:

I got a new handlebar bag from a kickstarter by Routewerks. I have been very happy with it.

Several of my rides this month involved doing errands as part of an Errandonee. This is my explanation of the event. Day #4 of my events involved visiting several ghost bikes.

April weather being unpredictable, this year we got the combination of sakura and snow.

There was a rally on wheels held in support of Laurentian University which was forced into a form of bankruptcy that was more appropriate for a corporation. An uneasy combination of cars and bikes circled Queen’s Park. I helped marshall the cyclists.

May:

I tried out a new loop route around the city that went through Downsview Park.

First ghost bike installation of the year for Rayyan Ali, a five year old boy killed in Mississauga.

My initial review of the Lumos Ultra helmet that I got from a kickstarter. This is now my default wintertime helmet.

ActiveTO road closures happened again this year, but unfortunately the most popular route, Lakeshore West, was only closed for a few weekends out of the whole summer.

Toronto Ride of Silence had to be virtual again this year. Thanks to all those who sent in pictures of their inidividual visits to ghost bikes.

One of my longer rides of the year up to Kleinburg by way of the Boyd Conservation Area and the William Granger Greenway.

June:

Public consultation on bridging the gap in the Humber River Trail just north of Lawrence Ave. It is particularly complicated since there is a rail line and also a patchwork of land ownership, including a private golf course. The preferred option would infringe on the golf course on the West Bank.

A short section of the Allen Expressway was opened for one day as part of ActiveTO. Good to see some of the usual suspects there.

I got up early one morning to take bad pictures of a partial annular solar eclipse.

Two ghost bike installations this month, one in Markham, and the other in Brampton.

Putting a Buddy Rider on the tandem for Lucy.

July:

A July 4th ride with ManDem CC.

A gravel ride to Port Dover with good friends.

Ghost bike installation for Darren Williams. He was killed up in Muskoka, but the family wanted the ghost bike installed near where he ran the first indigenous owned bike courier company.

A protest against banks funding fossil fuels.

August:

Riding from Hamilton to Caledonia

Riding to Coffee outside Vancouver to hang out with the cool kids. Hazy skies from wildfire smoke.

A ride with Toronto Bike Rave. Good vibes.

A ride with the Toronto Brompton Owners‘ group.

Ghost bike ride for Nikita Victoria Belykh, just 10 years old.

A gathering of cargo bikes in Toronto.

A ride in memory of Wayne Scott who passed away in January.

A busy Sunday with a ghost bike installation, and a tandem ride with ManDem CC.

October:

Growling Beaver 2021. Still had to walk up a portion of Sideroad 7B. I’m pictured below with Evan Siddall, founder of the event that raises money for Parkinsons Canada.

Ghost bike installation for Ignacio Viana, a 81 yr old cyclist who passed away while out on a ride.

A brief visit to Portland. Their bike share system is entirely electric.

A protest for safe streets, particularly along Parkside Drive.

Hallowe’en with the Neon Riders, another Toronto group that organizes fun night rides.

November:

A gravel ride from Guelph to Fergus. This is the shop just by the Montrose covered bridge. Great butter tarts. Closed on Sundays.

Opening of the Esplanade and Mill St cycle tracks

Promoting vulnerable road user legislation. It has passed second reading and is now with committee.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2021. This year’s walk was along Avenue Rd, passing by the ghost bikes for Adam Excell and MJ Escanan. The sidewalk was ridiculously narrow in spots.

December:

Riding down Yonge St with Santa. This time we had bike lanes part of the way.

Closing out December with one last ride on behalf of FoodshareTO and the Bike Brigade. That’s 19 for the year, which is nothing compared to what fellow Haul a Day owner Chad did.

Total mileage was more or less in line with last year, but with fewer long rides. The only ride above 100 km this year was the Growling Beaver. I’m determined to get out for more gravel riding next year.

Eight ghost bike installations for the year, although only two of them in the city of Toronto. This shows that safe biking infrastructure is needed across the GTA.

Sept 17   Ignacio Viana   Lower Base Line West and 6th Line, Milton

Sept 11   Male cyclist       Eglinton and Leslie

Sept 1    Nikita Victoria Belykh  Thornhill

Aug 19   Miguel Joshua Escanan  Avenue Rd and Bloor    

June 17  Male cyclist    Queen St E and HWY 50 (Brampton)

June 10  Boy  HWY 407 and Warden, Markham

May 20  Darren Williams Muskoka

May 4    Rayyan Ali  Hurontario and Evans, Mississauga

On the plus side, the Active TO bike lanes on the following streets were voted to be made permanent:

  • Bayview Avenue (Rosedale Valley Road to River Street)
  • Bloor Street E
  • Danforth Avenue
  • Dundas Street E
  • Huntingwood Drive
  • University Avenue / Queen’s Park Crescent
  • Wilmington Avenue

Plus there are plans to expand the cycling network significantly over the next three years. Notably, an extension of the Bloor bike lanes westward to Kipling is on the table. You can read about the details on Cycle Toronto’s site, or on Rob Z’s blog.

Hoping for a better 2022 for everyone. Ride on and ride safe!

A snowy Saturday

Although today was not the first day with snow on the ground, it was one of the first days that threatened a decent amount of snow. As it turned out, because of the above freezing temps, the snow was pretty slushy and the roads downtown were mostly clear. Here you see that the West Toronto Railpath has not been plowed. If it freezes overnight, it will not be that much fun to bike on. Those straight tracks that you see are mainly from strollers but there is one track from a fat ebike that was headed in the opposite direction.

Probably my last Bike Brigade ride of the year. Our fearless leader was handing out homemade cookies.

Just as I was leaving, several other riders pulled up.

After a couple of drop offs near Regent Park, I pass by the ghost wheelchair installed just this past Tuesday in memory of Christine Connor.

We’ll see how the roads are over the next few days as the temperatures drop below freezing. Ride safe, and keep safe, everyone!