Archive for the ‘Bike Infrastructure’ Category

This past Friday, clusters of orange bikes suddenly appeared on campus at several locations along St. George St. It turns out that there is a new bike share company in town called Dropbike. This appears to be similar to schemes popularized in China, where you are able to drop a bike off anywhere, which has caused some problems for the public realm. Here the website says the the territory available to drop bike users is confined to the U of T St. George campus for the moment.


Here’s some bikes outside Sid Smith.


and some more beside Engineering. I wonder if they bothered to get any kind of permit to clutter up our sidewalks.


I do have some bias towards orange bikes with black trim that also have a flagpole as you can see from this pic.


Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at the bikes themselves.  The overall stance of the bike is similar to a “bixi” bike, although the horizontal distance between handlebar and seat is somewhat less. It is much lighter, but it does not give the impression of being very heavy duty. The frame mounted front basket is a plus and is much bigger than the one on the Toronto bike share bikes; bring your own bungie.


Both bikes feature 24″ wheels.


Front caliper, rear drum brake.


Solar powered headlights and taillights. I’d be curious to see if these actually work. I noted that about a quarter of the bikes did not have the headlight.


Some basic security features, such as the lack of quick release, and proprietary fasteners on the handlebar stem, etc. I did note that you cannot pull the seat post out of the frame, but trying to do so does a nice job of almost jamming the seat in the highest position. No sign of grease anywhere on the bike.


Here is the wheel lock. You scan the QR code while inside the app, and you get the combination, and away you go.


The website is not very informative, and you only get more information by downloading their app. $45 deposit, and first ten rides free, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Note that the End user agreement says that you might get charged $200-$300 for a stolen bike, and that surge pricing might apply, even though the website and the FAQ fail to mention this.

Here I am, all logged in, and I see there are 18 bikes in this vicinity.


Actually, from where I was standing, I could only see 17, but close enough.


This ride is free, and it is telling me that these are the spots where I can drop the bike off.


There don’t seem to be any spots off campus, although if you look on the bike locator screen, there are already a few farther afield, such as one in Yorkville, and a couple near 89 Chestnut, and this one that I walked by earlier in the day on McCaul.


This screen gives you the combination (which I remembered to blank out of the photo)


I wasn’t brave enough to venture off campus as I didn’t want to be charged for dropping the bike off out of territory. I took a quick ride to Physics. The bike is single speed, and quicker than a Bixi.

Once you are finished with the ride, you press the “end” icon, and you get this:


and the bike location seems to be keyed to the nearest orange dot, rather than reflecting the actual location of the bike (which is near the blue arrow). Note that you are not given any guidance as to whether you are near a designated drop off zone. As I mentioned previously, I was still on campus, so I don’t know if there is a warning if you try to drop off out of territory. I did note a button to report misplaced bikes.


I would urge the developers to have the instruction to lock the bike and scramble the combination on a separate screen before the one that asks you to take a photo of the bike. I also didn’t see anyway for the next user to access said photo.

There didn’t seem to be any electronics on the bikes themselves, so I’m assuming that everything depends on the GPS service on the phone. I also didn’t see any provision for changing the combination, so in principle, anyone with the combination could just walk away with a bike. In this case I’m assuming that the last user gets charged for the cost of the bike?  It is also possible that staff might come around and periodically mechanically reset the combinations, but this is sheer speculation on my part.

At any rate, this is an interesting experiment, and we’ll see how it does. They are undercutting Toronto Bike Share by quite a bit on price, in a business where no bike share company that I’m aware of makes money in the first place.



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Today was our annual ride with Councillor Sarah Doucette to review progress on bike infrastructure. Since the weather was iffy, we decided to keep it short and to review the three intersections between Lakeshore Dr and Colborne Lodge, Ellis, and Windemere. These are the three intersections that were the focus of an infrastructure proposal that we sent to the city in 2014. The short summary is that nothing has really changed on this section of the lakefront since last year’s ride although there have been improvements elsewhere in the ward such as the sharrows on Ellis Ave. Today, Ward13 bikes was represented by Janet Joy, myself (Jun) and Jared. We were also joined by Jennifer from the City’s Cycling unit.

Here we are at Windermere and Lakeshore.


This intersection has the most complete infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists across Lakeshore, which is ironic since you could argue that Windermere is the poorest route for cyclists (at least north of the Queensway). The pedestrian/bike crossing is on the west side of the intersection.


The cyclist crossing is well marked with separate bicycle lights. However, the marking of the bike crossing is inconsistent. Jennifer told us that this was because the westbound lanes of Lakeshore were redone recently, and they conformed to the new standard, which is white paint markings on pavement. The other sections have the bike crossing indicated by red coloured pavement, which is the old standard. There is often some confusion about where the cyclists as opposed to the pedestrians should cross. We suggested that adding bi directional bike symbols in several places on the red pavement would help.

Here we are riding to Ellis.


The crossing at Ellis is in serious need for improvement. There is a crossing on just the west side, and bikes are pedestrians are not separated. However, the single biggest hazard is the fact that the crossing ends in a small triangular island on the northwest corner defined by a right turn lane for cars southbound on Ellis turning west on Lakeshore. It is very small, and it only accommodates a small number of people.


Southbound cyclists are given some guidance by signage and signals but pedestrians and bikes are not separated.


Things are much more confusing for northbound cyclists since they are expected to cross on the same side of the intersection.  Here’s a good picture of the confusion at this crossing.


(photo Janet Joy Wilson)

This intersection will be fixed in two stages. Firstly, there will be a northbound cyclists’ crossing installed on the east side of the intersection, similar to the one at Colborne Lodge. This, in addition to a bike lane on Ellis under the Gardiner are now promised to us as early as November 2017.  A more comprehensive fix of the intersection will not happen for a couple of years, but at that time the right turn lane will finally be taken out, and improvements to the west side of the intersection will happen at the same time.  Unfortunately, we cannot have a pedestrian crossing on the east side since that would conflict with the fact that there are two left turn lanes from Ellis onto Lakeshore. (one could ask why there have to be two left turn lanes in for all three streets in this short section of Lakeshore, and in fact, in an earlier master plan for this section of the lakeshore, Colborne Lodge under the Gardiner was supposed to be closed off to car traffic)

Here we are at Colborne Lodge.


Here there is a crossing on the east side of the intersection for cyclists. However, the timing of the light is ridiculously short.


We’ve been asked the city to retime this light for more than two years. We submitted this request today once again. It would also be useful to have sharrows to clearly indicate the bike crossing. Finally, we would like to eliminate the right turn on red for cars turning from westbound lakeshore to Colborne lodge, as this is a hazard for bikes crossing on this side of the intersection.

Here we are risking our lives using that very same crossing 😉


and about to take a left turn on the Queensway, on our way home at the conclusion of our ride.


Thanks very much to Sarah Doucette for riding with us, and for continuing to press for improvements here, and throughout our ward. Thanks also to Jennifer for taking notes on what she witness for herself today, to be passed on to the City.



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Xavier Morgan was a five year old boy who died while riding his bike on the Martin Goodman Trail a week ago Wednesday. Today was his memorial ride. About 200 cyclists joined us.

DSC04441Several members of the family were present. Brenda Morgan was his great aunt, and Scott was his grandfather.



Scott was passing out these cards in memory of Xavier.


Many bike families were present.


Joey getting the marshalls organized.


Geoffrey making some announcements.


He has made ghost bikes for too many memorial rides.

and here we go.



Down Huron


Harbord, across Spadina.



Down Harbord.



Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon in conference with Walk Toronto and Hamish Wilson.


Passing the Bike Joint.


Regroup at Shaw



South on Shaw.


Watch out for those streetcar tracks.


Through Liberty Village.



Regroup at Strachan.


Riding up the hill on the bridge.


Along Manitoba St. on the EX grounds.


Across the bridge to Ontario Place.


Back down to the Martin Goodman trail.




Arriving near the crash site.



Installing the ghost bike.





Joey calls for a minute of silence.


The family makes a statement.  Brenda Morgan said that the family appreciate that many came together as a result of this tragedy, and that the city acted quickly to put in a safety barrier. Scott Morgan said that the only blessing was the Xavier’s death was instantaneous and that his spirit went straight up to heaven.



The ghost bike.



We then formed a human chain along the barrier in tribute to Xavier.



“There was nothing he loved more than biking.”


The city is now making belated efforts to identify other hazardous spots along the Martin Goodman Trail. It is very sad that it takes a tragedy like this to get action on improvements to instructure for cyclists and pedestrians.

Thanks to everyone who rode today.  Support from the Toronto Police was also appreciated.

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Today was an unusual day, with lots of bike related stuff tucked in and around a full day at work.  First up: helping with a bike and car count on Bloor. My shift was from 8-9 am.


Here is Albert Koehl at the counting nerve centre, AKA the Coffee Time at Bloor and Spadina.


Next up: the annual Ride of Silence, which is worldwide, on the 3rd Wednesday of May, starting at 7 pm local time. My report is up on the Dandyblog, but here are some extra pictures that did not fit in the narrative.  Here is part of the gathered crowd.


This fellow showed up on a USS LWB recumbent from a company that I can never heard of: Lightning Cycles in Ohio (not to be confused with Lightning Cycle Dynamics in California). UPDATE: here is some information about the builder, who unfortunately just passed away.


Derek showed up with family at the very end of our ride with his unique ride.


He took this shot while the deceased riders’ names were being read out.

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After the ROS, I decided to drop by the Toronto Cruisers ride, which is every Wednesday evening in the warmer parts of the year, starting at 8:15 from Bloor and Huron. It was suggested that we head west, and so I lead our party on a route that took in the famous elephant.


It is a laid back social ride that often goes late (weather permitting), and always includes tunes from the big speakers on the back of Grant’s bike.


Thanks to Gerry, Grant and Natalie for introducing me to this ride. As a boring family man, I had to cut out before it got too dark. As far as I know, they might still be riding out there.


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It snowed pretty heavily yesterday and last night, but the plows were busy overnight, and most of the major streets had been plowed. Add to this the relatively balmy temps, and it was a good day to ride to work.

Here is the single snowiest part of my ride in: a stretch of Edwin Ave.


The West Toronto Railpath was clear.


Entering the Bloor bike lane at Shaw. Looks clear.


One small niggle: when the bike lane transitions from a section cleared by a regular plow to a parking protected section that was plowed separately, there is snow plowed into the transition. If it was frozen solid, this would have been an issue. Another problem with the curbside bike lane is the tendency for merchants to clear sidewalk snow onto it.


It is not to say that my ride in wasn’t peaceful. What with the snow, I had the bike lanes pretty much to myself, and there wasn’t the problem of having to pass slower cyclists, or having faster ones buzz by.  Kudos to the City for keeping them clear.


Have to end with this tweet from Yehuda Moon.


image source

Evening update: not so impressed by the snow clearance on Harbord.


but on the other hand, Annette was fine.


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Note that this blog post is a companion piece to an article on the Dandyhorse blog where the city has furnished quite a bit of additional information.

I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that there is less traction on the green patches that have been incorporated into several recent examples of bike infrastructure around town. The City of Toronto advises that the green paint is a thermoplastic material that has been blended with grit to give traction similar to asphalt.

Having had training in both Physics and Engineering, I decided to see if I could measure the difference in traction between ordinary asphalt, and asphalt covered in two different kinds of road markings. After some thought, I decided to repurpose some equipment that our undergraduate students have been using to measure the tensile strength of materials. What is relevant to the present discussion is that there is a force sensor that can be hooked to a computer to record force as a function of time.

Here is a picture of the apparatus.


The red string pulls on a lever that presses against a silver plunger that sticks out from one of two blue boxes (the one to the left that is labelled “Force Sensor” in small green type.)  The apparatus has four small rubber feet underneath. The idea is to drag the whole thing to the right by pulling on the red string while recording the force measured, which would be a measure of the frictional force.

The first set of measurements were done on a crosswalk on Runnymede Rd. Here is a picture of the setup being dragged.


I will note that this was done on pavement that was slightly wet from rain earlier in the day.  I started the measurement on asphalt, dragged the meter all the way across the white stripe, and then some distance on the asphalt, just so that I could see if there was a different on and off the marking. The data for three separate runs are shown below. The horizontal axis is time in seconds, and I’m not going to quantify the force reading on the vertical axis.


As you can see, the measurements are fairly consistent, and that there is a dip in each curve (from 4-8 seconds), corresponding to when the meter is being dragged across the white paint as opposed to the asphalt.  Clearly, there is a reduction in friction on the white paint.

Since each of the curves has quite a bit of scatter, I take the average value for the asphalt and the paint sections (with the standard deviation as the error). The results are as follows:

  • asphalt: 5.4 ±0.5
  • white paint: 4.4 ± 0.5

The net result is a 20% ±10% reduction in friction on the white paint.

Now onto the green bike boxes. The difficult here was that my ability to take measurements was somewhat hampered by the fact that I was dodging traffic while doing so. Here is a picture where I took the data, on the Annette bike lane at Dundas St. West.


The data is taken where I draft the meter off of the green paint. Here is the data:


If you are charitable, you might imagine that the first part of the curve, say from 1.5 – 3 seconds is a little higher than from 4-6.  This would indicate that the traction on the green paint is actually higher than on the asphalt.  The numbers are as follows:

  • green paint: 5.6 ±.5
  • asphalt: 4.8 ± 0.6

Therefore, in this case the variation in the data is comparable to the difference measured between the two surfaces, and so it is not possible to conclude that there is a clear difference. If fact, if there is a difference, the green paint might actually provide slightly better traction than bare asphalt.  I will note that the asphalt section adjacent to the green paint was very rough (much rougher than the asphalt on the Runnymede bike lane), and this probably reduced the contact area between the rubber feet and the pavement, which would account for the comparatively friction reading for asphalt. At any rate, the green paint is very comparable in traction to bare pavement, and appears to give better grip that the white paint used for crosswalks (and I assume for bike lane markings etc).

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Cycle Hamilton  is a relatively new cycling advocacy group. They were running a Cycle Advocacy Week, and I figured that a ride they ran today would be the perfect opportunity to check out some of the bike infrastructure  and to get a bit of a feel about what was going on in my hometown. Given that it’s been 40 years since I’ve actually lived there, I knew that a lot had changed.

We gathered at City Hall. Kudos to them; this is the first bike related event that I’ve ever been to where more people showed up than were “going” on Facebook. There was a mix, everyone from a bike dad with son to a bunch of roadies in Lycra.


Johanna (co-founder of Cycle Hamilton) gives us the scoop on the ride before we start. She says that today’s ride focuses on the fact that a popular route up the escarpment, Sydenham Rd, is due for some infrastructure improvements, but that bike lanes are not included in the plan, even though this route is on the Cycling Master Plan.


And off we go. Look, a bidirectional bike lane!


Parking buffered bike lane on Charlton.


Note the wayfinding signs.


Entering a section of trail that goes along the northern border of Chedoke golf course.


Stop to regroup.


Here we go.


The lead group.


The rail trail.  Very nice and wide.



Threading through the Mac campus.


and down towards Dundas along Cootes Dr.




Pulling up to the Shed Brewery.


A brief stop to figure out who was going to brave the hill. It turns out that pretty much everyone was going to do it.


Here we go.


Not steep yet.


OK, time for the granny gear.


People arriving.


Proof that I made it. Thanks to Mark for taking the photo.


The historical marker talks about how this is called Clara’s Climb, after Clara Hughes.


These folks rode Sobi bikeshare bikes.


Group shot.


That’s Dave, chair of Cycle Hamilton, in the centre.


The ride down was quick, and then it was time for beer. The Shawn & Ed Brewing company was kind enough to let us bring bikes in. I hauled a heavy lock up that hill for nothing!


A good turnout. I was told that the building used to be a firehall, and then a curling rink, and now a beautifully retrofitted brewery.


It was great to talk to these guys about what was going on bike wise in Hamilton. We argued over who had the more dysfunctional city council. Of course, I could always pull out the Rob Ford card. Their main issue with the bike lanes is that they don’t form a continuous network. Sounds familiar.


The fellow on the right Mark Chamberlain, runs a ride called Bike for Mike that raises funds to provide underprivileged youth with bikes. They have a multi pronged approach to getting young people on bikes, including having them earn their bikes by pledging to bike to school, etc. They are taking the long view on encouraging the next generation of bike riders and potential bike advocates.  I can’t remember the exact date of the next ride, but I believe that it is going to be the first Sunday in May.

A few pictures of infra on my way back downtown. We biked by this sign on the way out.


I like this bollard shielded bump out for pedestrian safety and traffic calming.


The bike lane on Herkimer which is the one way complement to Charlton. These bike lanes just went in this year just went in this year.


Thanks to Cycle Hamilton for running this event!


Update: Don’s much better pictures on facebook.

Update #2: my ride report from Bike for Mike 2017.

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