In Chiba

In Japan for a few weeks. This is the first time that I’ve been able to travel to Japan when it was not the hot and humid summer. It’s the very end of cherry blossom season.

If we time things right, we might be back to TO in time for the sakura in High Park as well.

Just a few views of bike related stuff over the first couple of days.

Here is some bike parking near Nishi-Chiba station. 30 minutes for free, or 100 yen for up to 8 hours. There are signs everywhere close to the station that forbid bike parking in random places.

The blue pods do not lock down the bikes. They just have lights indicating if your time as expired.

Here is a bike share system that appears to be internal to the campus of Chiba University
minibike share

Liking this mamachari with 20″ wheels and e-assist. Got to get myself one of these rear mounted kickstands for the winter beater.

Here is a delivery bike, seen on a trip to downtown Tokyo.

Looking around at a local budget department store “Aeon” (think Target), I saw a large bike department. Almost exclusively low end city bikes.DSC01506

Sad to see the Bridgestone brand on department store bikes.

At least the kid’s bikes are colourful.

Comparing these two mamachari, there is about an $800 price premium for e-assist.


I passed by a real bike shop a block away. One of the mechanics showed off his personal ride: a very nice panasonic titanium bike.DSC01513

It has electronic shifting which has now trickled down to the ultegra level. Note also the flimsy bike lock.

This tiny shop carried a variety of lines, including tern folding bikes, but I was even more surprised to see this Koga. A dutch company, but I guess that it is easy for them to ship them over from Taiwan where they are built.

I’ll keep posting pictures if I can avoid getting run down by the many cyclists riding on sidewalks here.

These markings would suggest that pedestrians and cyclists are somewhat segregated, but I didn’t see any separation in practice.

The team is planning to hit the road for Orlando on Thursday morning. Unfortunately, I will not be able to join them. Nor will I be able to witness the final stages of completion as I am travelling (elsewhere).

Here are some pictures of earlier stages of construction, taken over the last couple of weeks. (even earlier pictures here)

The team busy at work.

That’s a looong checklist.

The sanded shell. The similarity to Vortex is evident.

but Vortex didn’t have these holes.

Building parts.

The drivetrain structure is similar to Vortex, but is much lighter.

Setting up to make a disc wheel.

One of the finished wheels.

Calvin working on swingarms.

Victor shows up to apply his imaginative design. This time, he’s thinking about the suspension (while yelling in Klingon).victor

Upate: Here is a photo from the Rose Hulman FB page of the completed bike in action during the endurance event. Congrats to the hosts, University of Central Florida, for winning the overall event!

Update 2: U of T finishes 7th overall. Full results below:

some photos are starting to appear on the HPVDT facebook page.

Harbord Bike Lanes

Thursday night there was a final public consultation session for the upcoming revision to the Harbord St. bike lanes.

This session was scheduled after city staff changed their proposal for enhanced bike lanes on Harbord from a separated bidirectional bike lane on the north side of the street to a more conventional layout with unidirectional bike lanes on both sides.You can read the official documents here.

Dandyhorse has prior coverage here.

Bike lanes on Harbord have been a hot button issue, especially after the city made their original design for a bidirectional bike lane known. At the event, Dan Egan told me that the feedback on that proposal from cyclists was split down the middle, with many people strongly in support or bitterly opposed. Those in support liked the idea of a separated bike lane, while those against preferred the existing state of things over the new proposal.

Just to place this in context, the current state of affairs on Harbord between Ossington and Queen’s Park is a bike lane in either direction, with the exception of a section between Borden and Spadina, where the bike lane devolves into sharrows due to the wishes of local businesses (notably the Harbord Bakery) to preserve on street parking.

The new proposal maintains unidirectional bike lanes on both sides of the street, with some enhancements to safety made possible by the space vacated by some reduction in on-street parking.

Here are a series of cross sections, from east (just west of Queen’s Park) to west.

Between Queen’s Park and St. George, one lane of parking is being removed in favour of wider bike lanes with buffers. What I like about this design is that on the south (eastbound) side, a line of parking spaces separate the bike lane from traffic.


Between St. George and Spadina,


Between Huron and Spadina, and Borden to Ossington, the roadway is slightly less wide, and so I was told that there was not enough to do the same scheme as above.


Between Spadina and Borden (the section that does not currently have bike lanes), bike lanes on both sides are put in by eliminating parking on one side.


Note that in both of the above diagrams, the bike land on the south side has parking at the curb.  I was told that there was not enough space for putting the bike lane between parking and the curb because of the necessity to have a buffer zone between the ride side of parked cars and the bike lane to prevent dooring. The other issue is that a curb side bike lane has to have a minimum width of 1.8m in order for it to be able to be plowed.

However, I would like to see the following: we can have fully separated bike lanes on the eastbound (south) side along the whole length of Harbord with the following compromise: swap the positions of the bike lane and parking on the right hand side of the above diagram, and make space for a door buffer zone by eliminating the buffer zones that flank the traffic lanes on both sides. This will make all of Harbord look very much like the section between QP and St. George, except that the westbound bike lane would not have a buffer zone along most of its length.

Here is a crude cut and paste mockup of what I am talking about, copying over the bottom row of the diagram above, and reshuffling it in the lower half, with the parking and the bike lane swapped:

I feel that this would be a reasonable compromise in that it will create a continuous, protected bike lane in one direction, and that there will still be a continuous bike lane in the other direction, which is still an improvement on what we have now.

My understanding is that cars would be kept out of a curbside bike lane with plastic bollards, rather than a rigid curb.

This is a real opportunity to test this type of separated bike lane (protecting the bike lane with a line of parked cars) that has not been tried in Toronto.

Dan et al said that they would consider this idea if it had backing from the public, and that it would be especially helpful if larger groups such as Cycle Toronto would endorse the idea.

I realize that some would prefer to have fully protected bike lanes in both directions, which entails removal of considerably more street parking. However, the above idea is a minor tweak on what is the current proposal.

Here is the timeline for the project:


There is still time to give them input into the final design before it goes to PWIC in May.

If you would like to see a fully protected bike lane on at least one side of the Harbord bike lane, contact the good folks at bikeplan@toronto.ca, and let them know (by April 7)!

Update: Dandyhorse has some more coverage here.

Update 2: Hamish points out that connectivity of a bike network is key, and that Harbord still dumps cyclists off at the west end with no particular safe route beyond. He has sent me a map of preferred bike routes in the west end as compiled by cyclists. Some of these routes are being implemented in a piecemeal fashion over the next year or two.

There was some buzz about the intersection of Dundas St. W, and Sterling Rd this past week. This is of course the site of the death of Jenna Morrison a few years ago.

DSC01311Since that time, the city has tried to address some of the bicycle and pedestrian related safety issues at this intersection.

NOW Magazine did a nice piece, and the tagline says it all: “Stopgaps are failing to address hazards at problem corner three years after cyclist’s death”

What went live a couple of days ago was bicycle signal lights, to supplement the red light that had been added to the intersection a while back.

What I did not fully appreciate were the road markings that had also been added a while back. Here you see a bike box intended for bicyclists turning left from Southbound Sterling onto Dundas. At best, the marking is totally counterintuitive, since it seems to extend far enough across the road so as to place bikes in the westbound traffic lane on Dundas. WTF?
DSC01310 Also, the pushbutton to activate the light is nowhere within reach of a cyclist, and is only useful for pedestrians.

Proceeding east on Dundas, this sign directs bikes to avoid the left turn directly onto the connector that leads to College St, and instead tells you to make the left turn at Lansdowne.

However, Landsdowne and Dundas is not a very bike friendly intersection either. Taking the lane for a left hand turn forces you through streetcar tracks. If you elect to cross in two stages, there isn’t much room on the southeast corner for bikes. I generally ride through, and then turn left on one of the next couple of streets.

All the more reason to push hard for the southward extension of the Railpath, including a pedestrian/bike bridge across to Sorauren. This way, everyone can safely navigate this high traffic intersection regardless of where you are headed.

Blaze sent all of their kickstarter buyers a new mounting bracket in order to address some issues reported by users. My new mounting bracket arrived by express post from China, just like the light itself. This is the enclosed note outlining the changes:

Here is the new bracket to the left, in comparison to the old one. The new bracket came with a much thicker shim as advertised, but also with an additional shim that was thinner that the thickest one shipped with the light. You can also note that the mounting bolt does have a slightly wider head.

Here you can see the black rubber nubbin that has been added to the light socket.socket

The new shim (to the left) is thicker than two of the other shims originally supplied. I guess that this means that new lights will come with five shims in the box?shims

I’m not complaining, as I have had no issues with the old mount. The thicker shim is nice, but it solves a problem that I fixed with a few wraps of electrical tape on my bars. In fact, I’d argue that the light with the thickest rubber shim is going to be less stable than one with a thinner rubber insert and the difference made up with tape. I’d also be interested in knowing if some people have actually had their Laserlight come off the mount. As it is, I’ll be using both mounts so that I can switch the light between two bikes.

Sending out a new mount seems like fantastically good customer service, verging on overkill. I’ll report back if I do have any issues with the old mount, but I’ll use the new one as my primary just in case.

I’d really like to see this product succeed, but I think that they need to make it in plastic, and not quite so pretty so that they can hit a more competitive price point. It’s nice to style a premium product à la Apple, but it look years of Apple being hammered for being overpriced before enough people finally decided that their products warrant the extra cost.

Things have been moving along with the building of this year’s ASME bike Valkyrie. What was just a bunch of 3D renderings a month ago is rapidly taking shape. Here is an early stage in the layup that shows the embedded wiring for lighting.


Calvin is standing beside the vacuum bagged shell, showing off his newly acquired iron ring.

The guys work on removing the male plug from the shell.

The door section is similar to, and yet much deeper than the one for Vortex.

Here they are pulling on embedded hot wires that will slice up the plug to make it easier to remove… or so goes the theory.


Here is the removed section of foam.

In the meantime, Marc is measuring the rolling resistance of a tire as a function of speed and other variables.

and here are some previously measured tires.

The team will be burning the midnight oil on their design report, which is due Monday.

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.


However, a little further on, the bike lane is more clear, and you can see one lonely cycle track preceding me this morning.

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.
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.

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!


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