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Archive for the ‘Bicycling life’ Category

30 days of biking is a movement to promote biking by encouraging people to bike every day in the month of April. Here’s my ride log for the month.

In this time of COVID-19, my riding habits have been disrupted. Usually, the great majority of my mileage comes from commuting to downtown 5 or 6 days a week. April 2019 I logged 78 rides for a total distance of 544 km. This past month I did only 47 rides for a total of 632 km. I’ve been making up the loss of commuting by doing two or three longer rides a week.

I’m fortunate that my current work schedule is flexible enough that I can occasionally ride during normal working hours. This lets me avoid the crowding on places like the MGT. Most of my weekday rides have been out to Port Credit.

I do take the Lakeshore trail out to Norris Ave, but it is not too crowded during working hours. The rest of the way is along Lakeshore, although I take two bypasses: from 3rd Ave to 30th along Birmingham and Elder, and a second section in Mississauga from Haig Blvd to Stavebank along Atwater/Mineola. There is a nice little loop of 3.3 km at the end that I can add if I feel like it.

On my Port Credit ride this afternoon, I saw these officers riding up Ellis Ave. Since the city has closed High Park, they were riding the park perimeter. I asked how many laps they were going to do, and they said “a lot”.

On weekends, I’ve been riding to Tommy Thompson Park. To avoid crowds I ride across town from High Park on either Bloor/Danforth and down Jones and back up Logan, or I cut across on Gerrard once I reach the downtown area. Traffic has been light, and I get to avoid the Queen’s Quay section of the Martin Goodman Trail.

Even with these 40-50 km rides, I’m not going to be able to match my total annual mileage from past years since I won’t be doing any longer rides with TBN. Still, it’s nice to be able to get out and about while maintaining proper social distancing.

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Off for a ride downtown to check on some lab equipment at U of T. On the way in, I see lots of cyclists, including this family on Annette. Makes me feel good about fighting for those bike lanes back in the day.

I’m assuming that this group was riding together while maintaining social distance.

On the way, I checked out a few sakura trees on Shanly. These have generally been the first to bloom in the west end.

I also wanted to check out the enhanced bike lane protection that was just installed earlier this week, on the north side of Bloor between Palmerston and Euclid. These are the bollards on curbs that are going to be used for the Bloor bike lane westward extension.

You can see the difference between the bollards on curbs and the old style bollards in this picture.

One thing that I noticed was that if I was waiting on a bike facing south at Euclid and I wanted to make a left hand turn, these new bollards screen my view of oncoming traffic to some extent.

I thought that this would be an issue for cars as well, but the position of a left turning driver is farther back, and so this would be the view.

One possible tweak would be to install the bollards at an angle so that they would not block the view as much, as per this diagram.

However, looking at the base of the bollards, it would seem that this would be difficult with the existing mounting system. Perhaps if the curbs were spaced a little further apart, that would be better. That would also give a little more space for those cyclists that want to weave in and out of the bike lane. At any rate, this early installation is a great chance for the city to get feedback on this new type of bike lane protection.

Finally, I wanted to check out the sakura grove by Robarts Library.

They are pretty close to blooming.

Interestingly enough, the branches of one tree that are closest to the wall get more reflected sunlight, and so they bloom earlier.

Just as a side note, U of T has fenced off the grass field at Kings College Circle. Perhaps this is the start of the reconstruction project where they will install underground parking, as well as banning car traffic and parking on the circle itself.

Just for completeness, I visited the High Park Sakura as well. These trees by the soccer fields usually bloom a bit early.

High Park has been closed to cars for a while, and there are plenty of cyclists and pedestrians about.

The sakura at the top of the hill by the Grenadier Restaurant are about a week away from full bloom, just a bit behind those at Robarts.

Of course the city plans to close the entire park during peak bloom. From the looks of things, they will probably close the park sometime this coming week.

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So it’s been a while since I posted a plot of the number of COVID-19 cases for various countries. This is a plot of log(cases per capita), which means that on this scale, -3 means the number of cases is 1 per 1000 people, and that exponential growth appears as a straight line. Here is the plot as it stands today.

Compared to the plot that I posted at the end of March, you can clearly see that the curves for both the US and Canada are starting to level off, meaning that there are fewer new cases each day, which is great news. The sad story in this graph is that the cases for Japan (green curve) continue to grow exponentially since they were very late to take serious measures to impose social distancing.

The data that I use to make the plot comes from worldometers.

They have recently added more columns of data. It is especially interesting to see the number of tests/ 1M population. If we rank the data by that column:

we get outliers like the Faeroe Islands (a real success story), and a bunch of smaller countries as well. Among the major EU countries, there is a decent amount of testing: Germany (25K), Italy (20.6K), with a couple of notable laggards like Sweden (7.4K) and the UK (6.5K). By comparison, Canada has done 13.4 K, and the US has made great strides recently to total 10.8K i.e. 10,800 tests per million. The sad story here is Japan once again, with only 796 tests per million, which puts them among much poorer countries such as Grenada (818) and Guinea-Bissau (672).

There are a couple of other compilations of data that I have been following. One is by the Financial Times. There is a lot to unpack on this webpage. Firstly you can look at the total number of new cases per day.

This would correspond to the slope of the curves in the first plot, and you can see that for a great number of countries, the number of cases per day is going down. In this plot, each curve has been shifted in time so that they start at the point where 30 cases were recorded in each country.

They also plot the total number of deaths per day, which differs from the number of cases each day due to the time lag between detection and potential demise.

Although trying to use models to predict the total number of deaths is a tricky business, you can use this data to make some rough estimates. For example, if we look at the curve for China, you can approximate the area under the curve by a triangle of height 130 and a width of about 70, which gives 4875, and the actual figure is 4632 as of today. If we assume a similar trend for the US, we note that the peak is later, which would make the curve wider, say a height of 2000 and a width of 120, which gives 120,000 total deaths, which is between the latest estimate from the best model (about 65,000) and the earlier results from the administration of about 200,000 fatalities. If we assume that Canada peaks at about day 30, then we get about 4800 fatalities. However, one should note that curves for countries like Italy and Iran are decreasing much more slowly than the curve for China.

Another interesting chart from FT is this one:

It is useful to visualize both the growth in the total of cases worldwide, as well as the changing distribution between countries. One amusing point: note the pink area labelled as “Rest of N. America”. AFAIK, if you take the US out of N. America, you are left with Canada. The sobering thing about this chart is the fact that most developing countries are still at a very early stage in the growth curve. Another striking thing is how the total number of daily deaths in Asia still remains a tiny sliver, even though this is the region where COVID-19 started.

The other website that is interesting is this one, that provides a log log plot of new cases per day versus time. There is almost a universal curve for growth, with the countries that are getting a handle on COVID-19 dropping down off of the straight line.

As a follow up to my earlier posts on grocery shopping by bike, I note that pallets of garden soil in front of the Pacific Ave NO Frills make accessing the bike racks while maintaining social distancing difficult. My solution is to park the bike away from the line up. It still has to be close to the margins of the parking lot so that the security locks on the grocery cart casters are not engaged.

I’m glad that I fixed up the kickstand on the cargo bike.

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It is now more or less a given that you have to line up at any grocery store, or the LCBO, and I’ve had to wait anywhere from 10-40 minutes at various times this past week. A couple of days ago, I became aware of a website that tracks grocery store waiting times. I decided to check this out this afternoon. In my neighbourhood, it was indicating that the wait time at my local organic market was about 30 minutes (orange marker), but the no frills nearby was just 10 minutes (green marker).

Off I went by bike to check this out. Here is the line at No Frills on Pacific Ave.

Indicated wait time: 10 minutes. Actual wait time: 8 minutes.

After No Frills, I rode by to check the line at Sweet Potato, and 20-30 minutes seemed about right. I chose not to stop.

Before I set off on this shopping trip, I saw that the nearest Loblaws had a 75 minute wait. It could be that the wait times for the larger stores might be an overestimate since it uses phone data to generate the wait times, since I notice that the times for Loblaws seem to be high across the city.

At any rate, using this app has the potential of saving you time spent waiting in line, which is one of the more annoying aspects of life right now.

Keep safe everyone!

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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.

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

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

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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.

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