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Biking under Covid 19

Cycle Toronto has just posted an excellent summary of cycling under the restrictions imposed by both the City of Toronto and the province. It notes that cycling is still an excellent way of getting regular exercise, provided you maintain physical distancing. They are not recommending cycling with anyone other than those who live with you. Cycling is also a way that people can continue to get groceries, etc, especially those without a car.

Most years, the great majority of my total mileage from the year consists of my 18 km round trip to work. My stats are going to look quite different this year.

Many annual events such as the annual city group commute, and the Ride for Heart have been cancelled.

Longer bike rides such as those I used to do with TBN are not really going to be possible for a couple of reasons. Firstly, TBN has cancelled all of their group rides at least until the end of April. Secondly, I don’t know if I would be comfortable taking long rides on TTC up to either the Finch or Vaughan starting points. Finally, I imagine that many of the cafes or coffee shops that are common snack or restroom stops will be unavailable. That leaves riding within the city, and avoiding peak hours on crowded multi use trails such as the MGT or the Humber River. Note that the city has also closed all recreational facilities for the forseeable future, and I imagine that this includes all the public restrooms that generally open in May.

I’m finding that the MGT west of Sherbourne is less crowded, although there are still a lot of people on the section between Cherry Beach and Tommy Thompson Park. The regular entrance to Tommy Thompson is closed due to construction, but it is still accessible from the marina entrance a little further east.

Ride safe everyone. Now you are dodging cyclist and pedestrian traffic in addition to the usual cars and trucks. At least motor vehicle traffic is way down in the downtown area.

Updated: several readers have suggested that you avoid the multi use trails whenever possible. Roads are clear.

Nowadays, any glimmer of good news is precious. At long last, the bicycle signal lights have been turned on at Ellis and Lakeshore. The signal lights were installed late last year, and road markings were also laid down, but the northbound crossing on the east side of the intersection was not usable since when walk signal was on for the southern half of the pedestrian crossing, traffic southbound on Ellis was still permitted to turn left onto eastbound Lakeshore.

Here you can see the southbound bike signal.

Here is the northbound signal for bikes. The “crossing closed” sign is still up.

Here is a shot that I took while I was crossing northbound.

Here is a video of the northbound crossing. The light is green for about 10 seconds, and then it turns red after about 14 seconds.

There are two quirks to note about the northbound crossing. Firstly, the crossing is green or yellow for a much shorter time than for the pedestrian walk signal on the southern half of the Lakeshore pedestrian crossing. The second point is that there appears to be a bike sensor for the northbound crossing. If there is not a bike waiting, then the northbound bike crossing is never turned on.

Next up for this intersection: getting rid of the right turn lane on the northwest corner of the intersection.

Update: Becky Katz has informed me that the city has switched to video sensing, and no longer needs to provide a mark where you should stand to trigger it. This explains why there was no markings on the asphalt where I stood with my bike to trigger the northbound crossing. It’s like magic!

A few pictures from the past week in chronological order

Social distancing is now the norm at grocery stores.

After reading numerous stories about the shortage of critical supplies at hospitals, including our local St. Joes, I decided to donate a container of lysol wipes that I got on the shopping trip pictured above, as well as most of a container of surgical masks that I had bought a week ago in Chinatown. On the way down, I biked along the Queensway to remind myself about the section of bike lane that is due to be improved. Here is the eastbound bike lane ending short of Claude Ave. It is truly unfortunate that the bike lane will not be extended all the way to Roncesvalles. The planning document says something about insufficient road width. At least there will be a significant reconstruction of the Roncy/Queen/King intersection that will make things safer for pedestrians and cyclists that alight from the MGT by crossing the pedestrian/bike bridge across Lakeshore.

The bike lane will be extended one block east to Glendale Ave, where there is a stoplight and pedestrian crossing. Right now, there are sharrows leading up to this intersection. It is truly unfortunate that the bike lane will not be extended all the way to Roncesvalles. The planning document says something about insufficient road width. At least there will be a significant reconstruction of the Roncy/Queen/King intersection that will make things safer for pedestrians and cyclists that alight from the MGT by crossing the pedestrian/bike bridge across Lakeshore.

Here I am just before dropping off the supplies, which were accepted gratefully. They said I should have emailed ahead of time, but I think they took pity on me because I had obviously biked in.

Today I had to run an errand to U of T, which was a ghost town.

In the lineup at PAT Central Market on the way home.

Also went by No Frills, where I hit the toilet paper jackpot. Always good to have a pair bungee cords in your panniers, just in case.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

plot of log(cases per capita) for selected countries.

I don’t see any clear indication of the flattening of the curve for either the US or Canada. It’s going to be a long haul.

just for the record. High of 15°C this afternoon.

It’s going to be colder the rest of the week.

another sign of spring

Took the studded tires off the Haul a Day today.

Since the winter tires have Mr. Tuffy tire liners in them, I decided to store them with the tubes still inserted. Both my summer and winter tires are loose enough on the rims so that they can be mounted or removed with the tube in place.

All done.

If we have another big winter storm, you can blame me.

Update: and of course it snowed two days later.

but at least the roads are clear, and they didn’t lay down any more salt.

The world is a different place than it was a mere week ago. Today was the second day of spring, and it was warm if very windy, and yet Toronto was basically shut down due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. U of T has moved all classes online for the balance of the semester, and all buildings are closed as of tonight. I had to go in to button up a few last things in my lab.

Downtown, the ratio of bikes to cars is as high as I’ve ever seen it.

With the worry about the virus, I find myself doing strange things like going down to Chinatown to buy masks. I am fully aware that things won’t protect me, but it seems like common courtesy now to be wearing one when I’m out and about doing some shopping.

As I’m working from home now, I’ve discovered that Lucy barks like crazy if I’m talking to someone on the computer unless I put her on my lap.

Of course with COVID-19 all over the news, it is hard not to obsess over the global rise in the number of cases. I had trouble finding a semi log plot of the #cases for Canada versus other countries, so I made my own with a little help from the worldometer corona virus page, and the wayback machine. These are the number of cases per capita.

Although various people have informed me that the numbers from China and Iran are not necessarily to be trusted, you can see some interesting and upsetting trends here. Firstly it is clear that the numbers for China (royal blue) have largely plateaued. South Korea (yellow) seems to have their numbers somewhat under control as well. The continuation of the upward trend for Italy (orange) is what has overwhelmed their medical system. Japan (green) has a more gradual slope, but there are some concerns of serious undertesting that keep their numbers down. The US (light blue) and Canada (navy) are still on a strong upward trend as well. If these lines cross the number of ICU beds per capita, that is very bad news. For the US, that number is about -3.5 on this scale (also this the total number of ICU beds, of which at least half are normally occupied). For Canada, the number is -4. When there is talk about “flattening the curve” we want the number of cases to stay below the capacity of the medical system if at all possible.

The last couple of days of data show that perhaps the rate of growth for Canada is slowing a bit, especially compared to the US. However, this could be a sign of the fact that the number of tests for the US has greatly increased over the past few days. If we compare the ratio of the #cases per capita for the US vs Canada, it looks like this:

This ratio was much less than one before March 9 simply because the amount of testing that was being done in the US was much delayed compared to Canada. They are now at about double the #cases per capita compared to Canada, and from the previous graph, you can see that they just pulled even with China.

None of this is good news, and it will be a good two weeks before we actually expect to see the effect of interventions such as the closing of schools and universities, or social distancing. In the meantime, if the present rate of increase continues, the US will be at about 100x the current number of cases in those two weeks, i.e. approaching 2 million people. Hopefully this will not come to pass.

Several jurisdictions have gone under some form of lockdown, where people are told to stay at home unless for medical reasons, or for shopping for food. The entire state of California is under lockdown, but the SF Bike Coalition has clarified that going on a bike ride is allowed, as long as people stay at least 2m apart at all times.

This is better news than in Spain, where cycling is no longer allowed for now.

Fingers crossed. Let’s all try to do our part.

Concrete curbs on Bloor

A couple of days ago, Cycle Toronto posted some pictures of the installation of additional protection for the Bloor bike lane between Bathurst and Spadina.

Today I had to check it out for myself. Here is what greeted me as I rode east on Bloor just past Bathurst.

Pratically every place where there was a painted tapered buffer zone before or after car parking on the south side has now been replaced by these curbs.

In a couple of places there was this arrangement. I am really curious to see what they are going to do with the protected spaces.

I assume that these would be perfect spots for a little bike parking, similar to what is common in Vancouver.