A look back at WHPSC 2008

There was a call on the facebook group for the World Human Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC) for pictures from the past 19 years that the event has been running, so I went back and rummaged through my pictures from 2008, which was the first time that I went. It was fun to look back, and I realized that since 2008 was before the beginning of this blog, that I had never posted these pictures online. Most of them are on facebook now, and I do realize that much of the online discussion around the event has moved to facebook. You can see from the graph below the steady decrease in hits that I’ve gotten over the years (the three big spikes in Sept are due to WHPSC).

However,  here I have a little more space to comment on photos, etc, so if you will indulge me, here is a little of what I remember about the first time I went out to Battle Mountain to see this crazy event. I referred to my 2008 visit somewhat obliquely in this post from 2010, and I’ve been going back every year since 2011.

Back then, most of the action centred around the Super 8, and you would see people working on their bikes all around the parking lot. 

Tom and Larry unloading their tandem “Goliath”.
Warren Beauchamp of HPRA and recumbents.com fame.

Someone also showed up with a pickup truck full of recumbents with wooden frames to test ride.

Since they were looking for all kinds of volunteers, I said that I would help out in timing. The picture below shows Bill Gaines on the right, the person who taught me everything I know about timing. The person on the left is Chet Kyle, who seemed nice enough when he dropped by timing to chat a bit, but I did not realize at the time who he was. D’oh!

Chet Kyle and Bill Gaines
Bill running timing

This was also the year when Garrie Hill announced the final running of the Decimach prize:$25,000 to the person breaking  1/10th of the speed of sound, adjusting for the altitude at Battle Mountain. This worked out to 82 mph. Sam Whittingham had been creeping closer and closer, but just falling short of 82 mph. He had already gone 80 mph back in 2001! Garrie decided that whoever went fastest this year would get the prize.

Since Garrie had provided most of the money for the prize, he got to set the rules, and this particular year, he was using his own timing system. Here he is setting it up.

Garrie Hill

One of the prettier vehicles running that year was Raymond Gage’s Orion Trike. It set a new record that stood until CO2 broke it many years later.

Orion Trike

Back then, we used timing tapes that had to be laid down at both ends of the 200m traps, and only on the right hand lane. These had to be taken back up every time the road was opened, and this was labour intensive so we need many more people at timing that we do now. (I’m cheating a bit since the picture below is from 2011, the last time we used tapes).

Laying down a timing tape.

I met many friendly people that week, many of whom I’ve gotten to know even better since that first year.

Dave Larrington and his yellow Corvette
Scott Wilson
Vancouver writer Chris Keam
Mike Sova
Prof. Paul Pancella, also with MHPVA
Craig and Vicki Johnsen
Al and Alice

I was somewhat in awe of all the racers and builders.

Hans Wessels and Don Schroeder.
Jay Henry
Warren Beauchamp and Jim Iwastkow
Steve Nash
Ellen and Warren
Tanya and Freddy Markham, Sam and friend

and of course it was a thrill to meet Sam Whittingham after reading so much about him on the web.

Little did I know that Bill would announce on Wednesday that he had to head back to CA early, and sure enough he left on Thursday just after noon, and from that point onwards, I was the head timer, with the help of Paul Pancella. On Thursday morning, Sam had gone 80 mph, and I guess Bill figured he was done for the day.

Little did Bill know that Sam would decide to run that evening as well, and that was when he went 82.33 mph and finally won the Decimach prize. All I can say is that I was relieved that our time and the one that Garrie measured agreed to within a thousandth of a second.

Here is a compilation video of Sam’s run. You can hear me yelling “He did it!”

This is my video from the timing table.

Chris Keam’s video, with footage at start and catch.

Here is the celebration at the racers’ meeting that night.

Back then, the evening meetings were small enough to fit in the Super 8 conference room.

Here is Garrie presenting the Decimach prize to Sam.

So that was my visit to WHPSC in 2008, which I assumed would also be my last: a memory to be treasured for many years. Little did I know that a team from my own university would show up in 2010, enticing me back to the event every year since 2011……

For more on the Decimach prize, there is an article by Chris Keam in the Tyee.

Cyclist Gary Sim was killed by a driver in July 2017, just a short distance from his home.  Today, the court ruled in this case, and the driver was fined the maximum penalty available under the law for the offence for which he was convicted: $500 for “turn not in safety”. 

Since her father’s death, Heather Sim has become an advocate for pedestrian and cyclist safety, and is a member of Friends and Families for Safe Streets.

His widow, Angela Sim, has also ridden on many ghost bike rides since last year.

Although the penalty to the driver was ridiculously light, it was anticipated as current laws have numerous loopholes via which drivers who kill people can get off essentially scott free. This underlines, once again, the need for vulnerable road user (VRU) legislation. VRU legislation was recently introduced at the provincial legislature as a private member’s bill by NDP MPP Jessica Bell, a bill backed by many community organizations and more than 15,000 online supporters.

Thus far, the only reaction from the ruling PC party is: 

“This Bill was introduced this afternoon and we are still in the process of reviewing it,” said Andrew Koolsbergen, a spokesperson for Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek’s office, in a statement. “Our government is for the people and we will make sure that any Bills we support are aligned with that principle.”

Glo gloves 2018

I got a new pair of glo gloves this morning. I have several older pair, dating back from 2011, and they are pretty worn out. You can see one of the older pair below the new pair in this picture

The new pair are a stretchy material, and they only make one model now with the red stop sign on the palm. The older ones had a pad on the palm, but as you can see, the pads gradually wore out. To be fair, after seven years of intermittent use, they held up pretty well. You can see that the new ones stretch easily over a pair of M size ski gloves.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a Canadian dealer for these any more. You can order them from their website, or through Amazon.com.

and why the ski gloves? Well, it was a bit chilly this AM.

Still we ride….

Today was a press conference held by MPP Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale) to announce the re-introduction of vulnerable road user (VRU) legislation as a private member’s bill. The event was held at the corner of King and Spadina, where the bus shelter told Edouard Le Blanc’s story.

She described the significance of the bill, and emphasized that road safety was not a partisan issue.

Next, Patrick Brown summarized some of the cases over the past few years where someone was killed and yet drivers would only get a relatively minor fine, and in many cases, no impact on their ability to continue driving.

He gave us some details on the bill:

  • it is more comprehensive than current legislation which focused rather narrowly on increasing penalties for the specific charge of careless driving.
  • it only  affects drivers who are convicted of a HTA offence that results in the death or serious injury of an VRU.
  • it requires a license suspension, driver education and public service.
  • it requires the offender to be in court to hear victim impact statements.

Additionally, there were several speakers who told their stories, or their families’ stories to the media.

Heather Sim told us about her father Gary, who was an avid cyclist and an advocate. The driver that killed him was charged with an improper turn, and was allowed to drive away from the site where he killed Gary. He was fined $500. In the fairly recent court case, the judge wanted to bring a higher penalty, but her hands were tied by legislation. Given the particular charge, the highest penalty available was $500. This illustrated one of the problems with the current system: although the penalties for “careless driving” are significantly more severe, in most cases, the charge is pled down to a lesser charge for which the penalty can be nominal. The threshold for being charged with “careless driving” is very high. She closed by saying that “My dad’s life was worth more than $500”.

Jess Spieker told us of the debilitating injuries that she suffered after being hit by a car. The driver was only fined $300. She turned her pain into action by continually advocating for safer streets on behalf of Friends and Families for Safe Streets.

Meredith Wilkinson was dragged under a truck and lost her leg. One again, the driver was only fined a small amount.

Katya Schmied told us about her sister-in-law, Kim Pape-Green, who was rushing home from work because her son had a minor accident at school. She commuted by public transit back to Newmarket from downtown. She got to within a kilometre of her home when she was run down by a driver on a foggy evening. There were no witnesses, and to this day, the driver refuses to give a statement to the police. The driver was not required to hear the victim impact statements from family members. She said that “We are not here for our family; we are here for your families so that you don’t have to go through what we have had to do”.

MPP Bell then thanked all the speakers, as well as the members of the groups that support the VRU legislation.

An image of the supporting groups was posted to Facebook.

RIP Edouard Le Blanc as well.


Today is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. For the second consecutive year, Friends and Families for Safe Streets (FFSS) led a candlelight walk and vigil. We gathered at David Pecaut Square.


Two members of FFSS, Jess Spieker and Yu Li, hold the banner.


Councillor Joe Cressy talked to the media about the importance of Vision Zero. He also walked with us for the first half of the event.


Today’s organizer Kasia Briegmann-Samson describes the route as we get ready to depart.


Off we go. Much larger numbers than last year.


Along Simcoe St.


Under the railway tracks.


Across Lakeshore.


Along Queen’s Quay.


Arriving at the Music Garden.



Kasia talks about the theme of this year’s walk, which is that “Roads have stories“. Her clipboard has a picture of her late husband Tom.


Jess Spieker talks about the debilitating injuries she suffering after being hit by a car.


Meredith talks about being dragged under a garbage truck and losing her leg.


This person told a heartbreaking story of how his friend Andre Alexander was hit, and then the driver got out to check him out, and rather than helping him, she drove off to let him die.


I’m sorry but I was not able to get pictures of all the people who spoke tonight.

After a moment of silence and remembrance, the vigil was over.


This coming Wednesday, FFSS will hold a media event at King and Spadina at 9 am. NDP MPP Jessica Bell will announce that she will bring re-introduce vulnerable road user (VRU) legislation as a private member’s bill. During the last session, the then Liberal Government turned it back in favour of their own, much less comprehensive legislation. We’ll see if the current government takes the issue seriously.


If you are in favour of VRU, let your MPP know. For more information on VRU, go here.


BM2018: CNN feature

This year we had three camera crews taking footage of various teams. One of them was from CNN, and they were putting together a segment for a series called CNN Fit Nation: Around the World in 8 Races. This time, one of those races would be WHPSC.

They just posted their article about WHPSC online, along with a short video.

Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 1.49.29 PM

The video has short interviews with Al and Alice, along with this year’s world record breakers: Ken Talbot (Men’s arm power), Karen Darke (Women’s Arm power) and Ishtey Amminger (Junior Men’s Multitrack).

There are also a few pictures of U of T:

Valina in Bluenose getting ready.


image source: CNN

Calvin being loaded into Eta Prime.


image source: CNN

First snow on ground 2018


Nothing too serious, although rain is forecast for later in the day. First snow was a few days later than last year.

Snow clearance on Annette and Dupont was decent, but there was no evidence of ploughing on the Shaw contraflow.


This despite the fact that Shaw is on the city’s list of priority snow clearance for bike lanes.

Ride safe and stay dry! At least I haven seen any patches of black ice like there was for the past few days.