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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cycling Toronto's somewhat safe streets

Two things happened to me today on my way to and from the gym.

I took my retro blue Road King cruiser which I have fully restored and went carefully through one of the busiest areas in Toronto (Bloor and Yonge intersection). I parked and locked my bike up and while walking across the Bay-Bloor cross-walk a crazy old bitch in a Honda nearly ran me over.

Proof to me that walking is just as dangerous as cycling.

In 2008 there was 1,068 bicycle accidents reported to Toronto police (see map of 2008 bike accidents). In contrast there was many thousands of pedestrians hit by cars. True, there is way more pedestrians than there is cyclists, but the number does seem relatively low for a city of 5 million people. At approx. 3 accidents per day and only 1 fatal bicycle accident in all of 2008, that seems awfully safe.

The Top Five Most Dangerous Intersections in Toronto
Bay and Dundas - 7 accidents in 2008
College and Crawford - 7 accidents in 2008
Queen and Broadview - 5 accidents in 2008
Yonge and Dundas - 5 accidents in 2008
Bloor and Bathurst - 4 accidents in 2008

Approx. 90% of the accidents are the result of "doorings" (someone opens their car door and unsuspecting cyclist goes straight into it). For those keeping track, if a police officer notices a dooring or gets called to the scene of a dooring accident its a fine that can range over $200, and the cyclist can sue for injuries because its 100% the fault of the person who opened the door without paying attention.

Doorings however are reduced significantly on streets with bike lanes. Its a tricky matter. Cycling in the middle of the vehicle lane tends to piss off car drivers. Cycling on the side of the lane puts you at risk for more pot holes and doorings.

So there is the need for more bicycle lanes (and safer intersections for pedestrians too). To that end the city of Toronto has announced it plans to spend $70 million over the next 10 years increasing Toronto's bike lanes, removing pot holes, etc. The plan hasn't been approved yet, but proponents of it are pushing hard for it. Cycling advocates approve of the plan and say giving bikes more room on the road and more people will ride them, reducing congestion and smog.

Leaving the gym I crossed the street once more (no crazy drivers this time) and found a little surprise waiting on my bike: A printed note titled "I LIKE YOUR BIKE, SHOW IT OFF!!!!" which was promoting a June 6th 2009 event for a Vintage Bicycle Contest, a silent auction, a bike accessory sale, obstacle course and a free BBQ.

Its taking place at 29 Barton Ave (1 block north of Bloor/Yonge).

For more details see batemansbikeco.com (which is sponsoring the event).

So apparently I am not the only one who fusses about my retro blue Road King.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Designer bicycle baby stroller from the Dutch

Is it a bicycle? Or is it a baby stroller? Or is it an expensive death trap for your toddler?

The Dutch sure do love their bicycles, so its really not surprising a designer from the Netherlands has come up with hybrid bicycle-baby-stroller. Its not the first of its kind... but its one of the more stylish. (Technically its a tricycle-baby-stroller, but whatever.)

The problem with mixing two different things is that the final concoction tends to be... ugly. This one, known as the Taga, attempts to be as stylish as possible, hoping to lure the high-class cyclist parent.

More so, it converts (in roughly 20 seconds) into a regular stroller, and is thus "the ultimate get-fit gadget for yummy-mummies" says the company. Children are carried in traffic-facing seats between the handlebars and strapped in with a five-point seatbelt, effectively making the baby a hood ornament (although thats pretty standard for baby strollers).

"If you come to a situation where you don't want to cycle or you're not allowed to cycle, at the subway or in a supermarket, in less than 20 seconds you can convert it into a stroller," says Jeroen de Schaaf, Taga's European manager. The company is hoping to launch the Taga in North America this summer.

So far the Dutch manufacturer has won three European design awards for its coveted bicycle-buggy concoction and is being wildly endorsed by parenting blogs online (freaking yuppies jumping on the latest bandwagon). It sells in Britain for £1,695 (over $3000 CDN).

Its not lightweight however, clocking in at 64 pounds despite Taga's aluminium alloy-frame Taga. That is roughly three times heavier than an average bicycle, so I guess the yuppies will be getting a workout pushing this thing everywhere.

Worse, it has an internal 3-speed gear hub (which means good luck cycling up hills in that thing). Anybody living in San Francisco or a place remotely hilly would be better off choosing a different way to tote their kid around.

The thing is apparently so hard on the uphills that health experts are warning its not good for post-partum mothers. "The abdominals and lower back are so fragile post-partum," says Toronto mom/personal trainer Dara Duff-Bergeron, who specializes in helping post-partum mothers get back into shape. "I don't know how many moms could take that."

Some mothers are just plain concerned about the scary prospect of sticking their kid way up front. In a frontal crash the kid would be the first to be injured (and bicycle helmets for toddlers are hard to come by).

So does the Taga get my thumbs up? $3000 CDN so you can put your kid's life at risk while looking like a complete yuppie? I think not.

(At the very least it should have a lot of bicycle mechanics scratching their heads and muttering about idiots who will buy anything when people come in to have it repaired.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Inexpensive Folding Bike

Check out this great article in Momentum magazine by musician/bicycle mechanic guru Smokey Dymny:

A Great Little Inexpensive Folding Bike

In the article he says:

"I was worried about ergonomics and gear ratios but was soon very gratified. Quadra Island is hilly, but the 48-tooth chainring, enclosed on both sides with a guard, and the 11-28 tooth cog had me spinning up and down hills without a problem. This folder comes with a no-nonsense twist shifter. The seatpost adjusts over a wide range, fitting riders from 4'8" to 6'4". The stem has much less adjustability since it has to fold in half, so short riders will have their hands higher up in front.

The greatest feature is its easy portability. A quick-release lever unlocks the stem, which folds down in front of the crank. Another quick-release on the down tube unlocks the frame, but not until you pull up on a spring-loaded pin. This prevents the frame from accidentally folding under you while riding in case you did not tighten it properly! Having folded the bike in half, you now have the front wheel right beside the rear one. You then fasten the frame together with a Velcro strap (provided) to keep it from opening up. The left pedal tucks under the folded parts, and the right one folds up, increasing the space saving. If you have to take it anywhere at this stage, don’t lower the tall seat post yet. I use the saddle and seat post as a long handle to roll the folded bike ahead of me, or to lift the bike onto a bus. Because of this feature, I don’t actually carry the bike much. When I’m finished moving it around, I release the seatpost and it drops all the way down to the low frame. With practice this only takes 30 seconds. Unfolding is only a few seconds slower.

If I were ever to take it where it needs to be protected for travel, I would use a soft-sided suitcase. I would pack my other gear around the bike in panniers and bags and no one need know I was hauling a bike. Well, not until the metal detectors spotted it. Do I need to buy a high-tech expensive folder? Nope. This one does the job admirably."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cadbury's bikes for Africa

CANADA - Canadian bicycle mechanics are assembling 5,000 bicycles to be sent to Africa and given to poor families. The move is being sponsored by Cadbury. See the TV ad to the right that Cadbury is promoting.

HOWEVER! I want to point out that the cost of building 5,000 bicycles... is relatively little compared to the amount of money Cadbury is wasting on advertising.

In theory Cadbury could have skipped the advertising scheme and just purchased 5,000 bicycles to be sent over there. Depending on the price of the bicycles versus the advertising campaign's costs they could have purchased 10,000 or 20,000 bicycles. Chalk that one down to corporate wastefulness and wanting to use the advertising as a charitable tax write-off.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Barnett's Manual for Bicycle Mechanics

Looking for a comprehensive manual on how to repair bicycles?

The book, the absolute best, is known as Barnett's Manual, and it is used by bicycle mechanics and bicycle mechanic instructors all over the Earth. The writer John Barnett is the chief instructor at the Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado and considered to be the foremost expert on bicycle mechanics because he has narrowed it down to a science (I swear he measures EVERYTHING).

Why is his book the best? Because its actually four huge volumes, covering everything from old bikes to new, every different kind of brakes, derailleurs, wheels, spokes, etc. in excruciating detail with lots of diagrams. Everything you could possibly want, over 1000 pages in 4 volumes. The set is now in its 6th edition and has so much mechanical knowledge it puts university physics textbooks to shame. You can also get the CD version for easy searching/indexing.

The books aren't cheap however. Depending where you go you can get one for approx. $160 USD. If you are on a budget I recommend trying to find an used copy on eBay, Amazon or asking around on Craigslist.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Montreal launches bike rental service

CANADA - There's a new bicycle rental service in Montreal, and its known as Bixi.

Just insert your credit card, get a code, choose a bike at its dock, type in the code and, voilà, you're riding.

The first 30 minutes are free. The second 30 minutes cost $1.50, the third $3, the fourth and subsequent 30-minute periods cost $6 each.

With a membership – $28 for a month or $78 for a year (the bicycle riding season is only May through November) – you get a keycard and the process is faster.

Bikes can be dropped off at any station across Montreal (see the map on the right and you can see how convenient that is). If the docks are full, you get an extra 15 minutes free to drop it at the nearest station.

The program is currently in phase 1 and will double the service region in coming years.

Montreal's system is slightly more expensive than those in Europe, because Bixi is city-owned and does not, as in the case of Vélib (a similar program in Paris), rely on an advertising company to operate the system in exchange for ad space.

Bike rental services tend to do poorly in North America, often due to lack of maintenance on the bicycles or outright theft. Because this new system requires a credit card it should cut down on thievery significantly. The city hasn't confirmed whether they are hiring bicycle mechanics to repair the bicycles regularly.

Montreal has a lot of bicycle lanes and is very bicycle friendly (enough to make Torontonians jealous). In recent years Montreal has been dramatically prioritizing bicycles.

"Bixi for me is not just a bicycle," said André Lavallée, the man responsible for the Montreal's transportation plan. "It's like an ambassador for our vision of transport in Montreal, of our values and willingness to change the city." Lavallée is out to "change the mindset" of Montrealers, to reduce city congestion, dependence on cars, and one major way is through the bicycle and he has a lot of support from the people of Montreal.

Montreal's efforts are getting noticed. Toronto's Green Living magazine named Montreal the "most bike-friendly city in the nation." Time Magazine called Bixi one of the 50 best inventions of 2008. The service won an Edison "Gold" award for the best new energy and sustainability product.

Montreal is one of the continent's bike theft capitals, so the new system of using credit cards will be put to the test. Montreal drivers can be relatively aggressive too, but then again so are Montreal cyclists.

Montreal hopes to have 800 kilometres of bike routes by 2013 and believes it will be in an investment "good for our health and good for the environment," says Suzanne Lareau, president of Vélo Québec, which has been promoting cycling for decades.

Montreal hasn't been building many bike paths for the last 20 years and in recent years demand for them has grown so much they don't have much choice any more. Montreal NEEDS more bicycle paths.

Lavallée attributes the change in political attitudes in part to the relentless activism and growing population of cyclists. He also says "it's cultural, because Montreal is in the middle, both European and North American, so it's a different way of life."

The elegantly designed bike path along de Maisonneuve Blvd. through downtown is even plowed in the winter, which some called a waste of money but cyclists say taking the subway/cars/taxis in the winter would be an even bigger waste of money and clog up Montreal's streets during the winter.

Bixi has 3,000 bikes and 300 stations, with each station just a few hundred metres from the next. Lavallée says he is confident Montrealers "will fall in love with it."

Public bike rental systems have become popular in European cities, notably in Paris, where its service, Vélib, has been a huge success and whose bikes are now as familiar a sight on the landscape.

Toronto is hoping for a public bike system of its own and has asked for companies to show their interest in running one. It wouldn't be operational until Spring 2010 at the earliest.

Montreal's program cost $15 million to start up and will be run for non-profit (unlike the Paris program which is privately owned and for profit). In Paris thousands of Vélib bikes have been swiped in the last two years (and thrown in the Seine river out of disgust for the for-profit company). The bicycles unique look guarantees that no one will steal the bikes and try to sell them because everyone will know it was obviously stolen.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cycling Magazines & Websites

For avid Toronto cyclists, if you're looking for a magazine that speaks to you check out Dandyhorse Magazine. In Toronto you can find it at these locations:

Bicycles @ St. Clair, 625 St Clair Ave West
The Bike Joint, 290A Harbord St
Bike Pirates, 1292 Bloor St W
Community Bicycle Network, 761 Queen St W, Unit 101
Cycle Solutions, 444 Parliament St
Hoopdriver Bicycles, 1073 College St
Jet Fuel, 519 Parliament St
Mountain Equipment Co-op, 400 King St W
Shanghai Cowgirl, 538 Queen St W
Sweet Pete's, 1204 Bloor St W
Urbane Cyclist, 180 John St



Canadian Magazines to Check Out:

Pedal - Canada's Cycling Magazine

Canadian Cyclist

Momentum



Other Magazines to Check Out:

Adventure Cyclist

BentRider

Bicycle Paper

Bicycling

Cycling Hall of Fame

CyclingNews.com

Daily Peloton

Eurosport.com

Harris Cyclery Articles

PezCycling News

Roadcycling.com

Total Bike

Velo Vision



USED BOOK STORES

Depending on your flavour of bicycle (some of us like the retro bikes), you can also look in used book stores for old cycling magazines and books, or even non-cycling magazines that did an issue all about bicycles (ie. The August 1971 edition of Playboy Magazine).

If you live in Toronto I recommend Eliot's Bookshop at 584 Yonge Street, 416-925-0268. There is also several other used book shops on Yonge Street you can visit and browse, but Eliot's is the best (I buy all my Conan books there).

Bicycle Mechanics on Facebook

There is two different bicycle mechanic groups on Facebook that you can join, open to both experts and amateurs.

Bicycle Mechanics of Toronto and Bicycle Mechanics Unite!

Admittedly there isn't a lot of discussion on them, but its a good place to ask questions or maybe find a mechanic.

Bicycle Mechanics in the Greater Toronto Area

Looking for a bicycle mechanic in the Greater Toronto Area and the surrounding environs? Look no further than this list. If you know of any bike shops not on this list, please add their name, address and contact info in a comment at the bottom.

Ajax-Pickering
Bay Cycles & Sports 980 Brock Rd 905-837-1433
Northern Cycle Bikes & Boards 889 Westney Road South 905-619-8875
Pedal Performance 1050 Brock Rd South 905-837-2906

Aurora-Newmarket
Spoke O Motion 17915 Leslie Street N., Units 5 & 6 905-853-9545

Beach
Cycle Solutions (Beach) 615 Kingston Rd 416-691-0019
Enduro Sport (Beach) 2254 Queen St. E. 416-916.0831
Fred's Sports 1044 Kingston Rd 416-698-2849
Polly's Recycle 1292 Queen St East 416-461-4312
Velotique 1596 Queen St. East 416-466-3171

Bloor West
Bike Place 3096 Dundas St. West 416-766-1085
Broadway Cycle 1222 Bloor St. West 416-531-1028
Brown's Sports & Cycle 2447 Bloor St. West 416-763-4176
High Park Cycle & Sports 2878 Dundas St West 416-614-6689
Maple Leaf Cyclery S4 - 128 Vine Ave 416-604-0065
Newson's Bike & Skate Exchange 612 Jane St 416-762-9976
Queen's Bike Shop 1537-A Queen St West 416-538-2140
Racer Sportif 2214 Bloor St. West 416-769-5731
Set Me Free (High Park) 381 Roncesvalles Ave 416-532-4147
Sweet Pete's Bike Shop 1204 Bloor St. West 416-533-4481
West Side Cycle 213 Roncesvalles Avenue 416-531-4648
Wheels of Bloor 2007-B Bloor St West 416-762-9119

Danforth
Cyclemania (Danforth) 281 Danforth Ave. 416-466-0330
Cyclepath (Danforth) 1510 Danforth Ave. 416-463-5346

Danforth-Riverdale
Benjamin Sports 393 Donlands Ave 416-429-0493
Biseagal 388 Carlaw Ave, Unit 101D, Center of the building 416-466-2212
Cogs Cycle 1 Howland Rd 416-465-7677
Warren Cycle Works 890 Queen St. East 416-466-6958

Downtown
Bikes On Wheels 309 Augusta Ave 416-966-2453
Cycle Shoppe 630A Queen St West 416-703-9990
Cycle Solutions (Cabbagetown) 444 Parliament St 416-972-6948
Cyclemotive 156 Bathurst St 416-916-5551
Downtown Cycle 368 College St 416-923-8189
Duke's Cycle 452 Richmond Street West 416-504-6138
Europe Bound (Front St) 47 Front St East 416-601-1990
Europe Bound (King St) 383 King St West 416-205-9992
Mike the Bike Alley next to 213 Augusta Ave 416-595-5596
Mountain Equipment Coop 400 King St West 416-340-2667
Parts Unknown Alleyway next to Segovia Meats on Augusta St -
Set Me Free (Little Italy) 653 College St 416-516-6493
Urbane Cyclist 180 John St 416-979-9733
Velotech 882 College St 416-536-1489
Wheel Excitement 249 Queen's Quay West, Unit 110 416-260-9000

Guelph
Winterborne Bicycles 180 Southgate Drive 519-826-0556

Inglewood
Caledon Hills Cycling 15640 McLaughlin Road 905-838-1698

Kitchener
Braun's Bicycle & Fitness 27 Scott Street 519-579-2453
True North Cycles Limited 79 Regal Road, Unit #15 519-585-0600

Maple
Maple Cycle and Sports 2563 Major Mackenzie Dr 905-832-2453

Markham-Stouffville
Boyd's Source for Sports 21 Ringwood Drive 905-640-6657
Cyclepath (Markham) 29 Main St. North 905-294-8955
Wheels N Boards 4560 Hwy 7 905-470-1630

Metro North
Bayview Cycle Centre 3335 Bayview Ave 416-225-2633
Bicycle Depot 829 Albion Road 416-741-1452
Bike Depot 7043 Yonge St 905-881-7474
Cyclepath (North York) 5330 Yonge St 416-512-2538
Cyclepath (Woodbridge) 90 Wings Rd, Unit 24 905-850-4481
Pedal Performance (Woodbridge) 8633 Weston Road, Unit #2 & 3 905-850-4099
Silent Sports 113 Doncaster 905-889-3772
Star Cycle & Sports 2111 Jane 416-249-0676

Milton
Spokes n' Slopes 89 Ontario St North (Hwy 25) 905-876-7676

Mississauga-Brampton
Bike Zone 501 Lakeshore Road West 905-278-5573
Canadian Sportrent 1651 Lakeshore Rd West 905-855-7208
City Bikes 1080 Walden Circle #77 905-855-0404
Cyclepath (Mississauga) 20-1170 Burnhamthorpe Road West 905-848-4481
Gears Bike & Ski Shop 176 Lakeshore Rd. West 905-271-2400
InVita Sport Ltd 2325 Matheson Blvd, Unit 3 905-624-6614
MBS Tandems 2964 Keynes Crescent 905-824-9364
Re-my Sport 222 Queen St. South 905-821-1077
Skiis & Biikes 1970 Dundas St East 905-896-1206

Newmarket
BikeSports 47 Main St South 905-953-1609

Oakville
Boomer Bicycle 1140 Winston Churchill Blvd 905-829 4744
Cyclepath (Oakville) 507 Speers Rd. 905-338-0783
Oakville Cycle and Sports 105 Cross Ave., Unit A5 905-844-4394
Orillia
Recumbent Trikes - Canada 1415 Cunningham Crescent 705-326-6958

Oshawa-Whitby
Bicycles Plus 423 Bloor Street West 905-436-6040
Impala Bicycles 1818 Dundas Street East 905-434-4530
Maca Over Limits 1280 Northmount Street 905-432-3502
Oracle Cycle Works 1621 McEwen Drive, Unit 5 905-434-1409
Rentabikecase Inc 337 Richmond St. E. 905-448-0311
Triketrails 1621 McEwen Drive, Unit 5 905-434-1409
Richmond Hill
BikeSports (Richmond Hill) 10133 Yonge St 905-737-8415
The Bicycle Spokesman 10212A Yonge St 905-737-4343
Scarborough
Bicycle Warehouse 1360 Kennedy Road 416-321-2521
Winning Cycle and Sports 4271 Sheppard Ave E., Unit #8 416-298-1773

Toronto North
Cyclepath (North Toronto) 2106 Yonge St 416-487-1717
D'Ornellas Bike Shop 1894 Lawrence Ave East 416-752-3838
Don Mills Optical 170 The Donway West , Suite 404 416-449-9619
Enduro Sport 94 Laird Dr 416-449-0432
La Bicicletta 1180 Castlefield 416-762-2679
Rack Attack 127 Laird Dr 416-424-1201
Sandy's Cycle Shop 115 Laird Dr 416-467-1035
Skiis and Biikes (Don Mills) 896 Don Mills Rd 416-391-0654
Spokes And Sports 1889 Avenue Rd 416-787-6238
Sport Swap 1440 Bayview Avenue 416-481-7927
Sporting Life (North Toronto) 2665 Yonge St 416-485-1611
Sporting Life Bikes 2454 Yonge St 416-485-4440
The Bike Smith 36 Brooke Ave 416-802-2165
Trek Toronto Bicycle Store 2063 Yonge St 416-481-8735
V�locolour 45 Cranfield Road, Unit 6 647-501-8166
ZM Cycle & Fitness Ltd 2055 Dufferin St 416-652-0080

Toronto West
Chain Reaction Bicycles 4231 Dundas St West 416-234-5300
Daial Cycle & Sports 555 Burnhamthorpe Road 416-620-6900
Duke's Sports & Cycle 3876 Bloor St West 416-233-2011
Sporting Life (Sherway) Sherway Gardens 416-620-7750

Uptown
Bathurst Cycle 913 Bathurst St 416-533-7510
Bicycles at St. Clair 625 St. Clair Ave West 416-654-6187
Curbside Cycle 412 Bloor St West 416-920-4933
Cyclemania (Ossington) 863 Bloor West 416-533-0080
Dave Fix My Bike 254 Christie St 416-944-2453
L & J Cycle 1144 Davenport Rd 416-656-5293
La Carrera Cycles 106 Harbord Street 416-538-1203
On the Go 975 Bloor Street West 416-532-6264
The Bike Clinic 349 Harbord St. 416-588-2400
The Bike Joint 290-1/2 Harbord St 416-532-6392

Bicycle Mechanics in Halifax

Spring is here. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and bikes are coming out of the garage. Some of them are squeaking, creaking and moving slowly. Maybe its time you took your bike in for a free estimate and maybe pay for a tune up?

For people living in Halifax, check out:

Anchor Archive (5684 Roberts Street, 446-1788)

Bicycles Plus (1519 Bedford Highway, 832-1700)

Bike Again! (Bloomfield Centre, 2786 Agricola Street, 429-0924)

Can-Bike (call 490-6666, canbike.net/cca_pages/schedules-ns-halifax.htm)

Cyclesmith (6112 Quinpool Road, 425-1756 or 114 Woodlawn Road, 434-1756)

Ideal Bikes (1678 Barrington Street, 444-RIDE)

Mountain Equipment Co-op (1550 Granville Street)

Nauss Bicycle Shop (2533 Agricola Steet, 429-0024)

Sportwheels (209 Sackville Drive, 865-9033)

Many of these stores offer deals on bikes purchased in their stores so its good to find one and keep going back to them (unless you discover they have really horrible service). Their repair rates vary so you may want to shop around instead of just picking the closest one.

Halifax Free Skoolsessions also offers free bike repair courses bi-weekly from 11am-4pm at the North Branch Library (2285 Gottingen, halifaxfreeskool.wikispaces.com)

Korea spends 10 billion won on bikes

ENVIRONMENT/POLITICS - South Korea wants to become the leading bike maker in the next five years. Its all part of Korean President Lee Myung-bak's green growth policy, and he is determined to turn South Korea into a leading manufacturer of green technology.

To do so Korea's Ministry of Knowledge & Economy said yesterday that it will be establishing a high-tech bicycle research and development network in Daedeok, South Chungcheong, and will be spending 10 billion won ($7.83 million USD) building manufacturing complexes exclusively for bicycle parts and materials in Suncheon, South Jeolla, and Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang.

President Lee Myung-bak also participated in Korea’s first bicycle festival in Changwon, saying he was confident that Korea would become one of the world’s bicycle leaders in the next five years.

"Korea was a latecomer in automobile manufacturing [too], but after 20 years Korea has become one of the world’s top five [auto] manufacturing countries," Lee said. "Korea may be depending mostly on imported bicycles [right now], but in less than five years Korea will likely be one of the three major bicycle countries in the world."

The Daedeok research and development network will use existing centers including the state-owned Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute to develop bike-related technologies such as satellite navigation systems. The complexes in Suncheon and Yeongcheon will specialize in new materials and parts to make bicycles lighter, yet stronger. The Korean government says it is also considering expanding a subsidy for commuting to work via bicycle to promote their use for transport.

The city of Changwon currently gives 30,000 won per month (about $27 CDN) to workers who commute to work on bicycles for more than 15 days. In theory users could use that money to buy themselves a Pocari Sweat (a drink popular in Korea) or a Powerade every day on the way to work.

The government also plans to increase the number of bicycles available for rent to the public from the current 15,000 to 65,000 by 2011.

The bicycle industry globally is expanding rapidly. According to Global Industry Analysis the market last year was $54.9 billion, and is likely to expand to $61 billion by 2010. In Korea the local industry has fallen behind imported bicycles. Although Korea manufactured 1.5 million bicycles in 1990, in 2007 it only made 20,000 because it is getting a lot of overseas competition.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

I lived in South Korea for a year and 3 months, and while there I bought a bicycle (bartered the guy down to 50,000 won and got him to throw in a lock too). I discovered the country was very bicycle friendly, so I see this as a positive move on part of the Korean government.

One of my favourite things to do was to go cycling beside the river in Jeonju, which allowed me to visit one of the Buddhist temples on the far side of the city regularly. Korean rivers often have walking/cycling paths built beside them, along with lots of reeds and flower gardens. I would definitely go back again and tour the country on a bicycle given the opportunity.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

GreenWheel Electric Wheel

TECHNOLOGY - Imagine having an electric-powered bicycle... but without the big clunky battery attached to your bike frame.

The next time you change a bicycle wheel, think about upgrading to a wheel that comes with its own motor/generator and a built-in battery. Created by scientists at MIT the new GreenWheel can turn any regular pedal bicycle into an electric bicycle. The bike can still be pedaled like a regular bike, but is now a electric-hybrid bicycle.

"Just take the wheel off, put a GreenWheel equipped wheel on in its place, plug it in and it should work just fine," says Ryan Chin, one of the GreenWheel designers. "The whole thing has been designed so all the parts except the throttle are enclosed in the wheel."

The GreenWheel has the radius of a small dinner plate and is about 2 inches thick. Inside the GreenWheel has an electric motor/generator, batteries and is surprisingly lightweight considering its purpose and usefulness.

Installing GreenWheel on your own can be rather difficult so its recommended you get a bicycle mechanic to do it for you. The GreenWheel requires an higher level of technical knowledge, but can be installed on any bike frame or wheel size. The original spokes have to be replaced with shorter spokes. Learning how to re-spoke a wheel and then true a wheel is rather difficult and not for amateurs. See Wheel Truing.

A bike powered solely by a single GreenWheel (front, rear or both wheels can be equipped with a GreenWheel) has an estimated range of 25 miles on a full charge. Pedaling occasionally doubles the bike's range under electric power, allowing the generator to store more energy whenever you pedal, brake or slow down. The bike can also be charged by plugging it into the electric grid.

The ride is just as smooth as normal and the noise from the electric motor is barely a hum even when at you turn the throttle up and down. The handle-mounted throttle is connected wirelessly using BlueTooth technology to the electric motor in the wheel.

The GreenWheel is also durable and the MIT team estimates its range is 40,000 miles, or about eight years work of travel at an estimated 20 miles per business day.

"You'll have to replace the bike before you replace the batteries," says Lin. (Unless you know a good bicycle mechanic, of course.)

The GreenWheel team is currently planning to pass out more than a dozen different GreenWheel configurations to both hard-core cyclists and novice riders in order to get feedback on how well it works before promoting. Using that feedback the MIT team will determine the optimal configuration of power, speed and cost before starting large scale production.

Copenhagen and South Africa have already expressed interest in adding GreenWheel-equipped bikes to their public transportation systems, creating a bike share program similar to a program in Paris France which is subsidized by advertising revenue and an annual subscription, the first 30 minutes are free, and any time after that incurs a small fee.

The Paris program has been widely viewed as a success, one which Copenhagen hopes to build on. City planners and GreenWheel designers hope to reduce the use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions by getting more commuters out of their cars and onto bicycles.

The GreenWheel is also made from environmentally friendly processes by companies like A123 Systems, which manufactures the lithium ion batteries used in the GreenWheel.

Other systems exist to convert pedal bikes to electric bicycles, but they typically have heavier and more environmentally destructive lead based batteries (however lead based batteries almost never need to be replaced unless they are in a crash). Designer Chin expects a privately purchased GreenWheel will cost between $200 to $400.

Other electric bike converters cost up to $1,200 and require running wires to and from motor to battery to handlebar throttle. Since batteries, generator and motor are all one part connected to the throttle by Bluetooth technology, installation is also easier than existing conversion kits.

The GreenWheel is an offshoot of another MIT project known as SmartCities. SmartCities hopes to expand the range and ease of public and private transportation. They are also designing an electric scooter and a stackable electric car.

Rod Sadowski of the Active Transportation Alliance thinks the GreenWheel could encourage some individuals to ditch the car and take up commuter biking, but doesn't think that technological fixes are the answer to every transportation problem.

"The biggest barrier to people getting out of cars and riding is that they don't feel safe," says Sadowski, who explains that cities need more bicycle trails, paths and lanes. "As a society we need to place a stronger focus on creating laws to stop incidents from occurring and on upgrading infrastructure to make every road bike-friendly."

Friday, May 1, 2009

London's Muslim Ladies' Cycling Club

RELIGION - Despite opposition from some of their community, increasing numbers of Muslim women in East London are riding bicycles, largely due to their cycling club which is growing in popularity.

The Muslim Women's Cycling Club regularly rides through Stepney, east London, starting from the Jagonari Centre in Whitechapel... and draw stares from non-Muslims unused to seeing women in full hijabs riding their bicycles.

It is Britain's only known Muslim women's cycling club and they host weekly lessons in a small park close to the East London mosque, teaching everything from basic to advanced cycling skills as well as bicycle maintenance and repair.

[My apologies for not being able to find a photo of a Muslim woman tuning up her bicycle with a set of tools, but please let me know if you find such a photo.]

"Most have never ridden," says Erika Severina, their cycling instructor. "Some make excuses, such as saying their clothes aren't suitable, but we've found bikes to accommodate that. Others don't want to ride outside. But now we've got them in parks and on back roads."

Women from other backgrounds and faiths also have taken part, but most are religiously observant Muslims and wear full Islamic dress. The group was formed in early June-July 2005. Some of the women have felt significant disapproval from their own community, but there's no rule in Islam that says women can't ride bicycles.

"Women should not be riding bikes. They are stimulating themselves. If they want to stimulate themselves they should get a man," says one Asian market trader on the pavement outside the Jagonari Women's Educational and Resource Centre in Whitechapel, where the cycling group is based.

Most of the women say that their husbands and sons are more bemused by their new hobby, rather than opposed to it - although the cycling group has one member who cycled in secret because she feared her father's disapproval.

Jagonari is Bengali for "Women Wake Up", but most of the local men appear to believe that women have woken up far too much. A common sentiment by Muslim men is that a woman in charge of a bicycle is a dangerous proposition. "They're bad enough in cars," says one man.

Nurjahan Khatun, the director of the Jagonari Centre, and founder of the cycling project, points out that "there's nothing in the Quran to say that women shouldn't ride bikes." Various Muslim websites argue both for and against women riding bicycles (let alone fixing them).

The Jagonari Centre is in the heart of Bengali East London. A few miles away, the London 2012 Olympic site is under construction at Stratford, but comparatively few local girls and women from the Bengali community take part in sport. A 2006 report for Sport England found that only 19 per cent of Indian and Bengali women took part in any sport, compared with 31 per cent for women nationwide.

Alema, 19, is the co-ordinator of the cycling group. "It's always the boys and their bikes," she says. "My parents never said 'You can't have a bike'. I never asked them. I once rode my cousin's bike in Sheffield and I loved it. I rode for three hours non-stop, I didn't want to get off."

Like many of the younger women in the group, Alema has a Westernized lifestyle and goes rock climbing and camping, and she also takes a more active interest in her religion than the older, more socially conservative, women who attend the Jagonari Centre. She wears the hijab scarf and the jilbab, a long black dress, and says that she became interested in Islam after September 11th. Even though she was raised Muslim, she says "I didn't know anything about Islam, but people started to say negative things about it, so I felt I had to find out the truth."

She is considering wearing a face veil, and is not put off by her parents' concern that it will attract negative attention. "This life is full of thorns, the next life is Paradise. So if you want to wear a veil, it's going to be a struggle - but this life is supposed to be about struggle."

Evidently Alema will do what she feels is right for herself and her version of Islam. Like other women in the group, however, she says that the best thing about riding a bike is the feeling of personal "freedom".

"You don't see many women out cycling, especially in the hijab," says Rajana, who is in her twenties and likes to ride the biggest, raciest bike in the group. "I'm a bit of a rebel," she says.

The other women learn on foldaway bikes with low crossbars to accommodate traditional garments. Various pins and clips are used to stop their long loose clothes getting caught in gears and spokes. Underneath many of the women are wearing fashionable shoes, or flipflops and have painted toenails. They look rather immaculate compared with the cycling instructor, who is wearing fingerless gloves, shorts and torn fishnet tights.

When the group started, the women rode large cumbersome Dutch bikes, turning tight circles in the tiny closed-off courtyard behind the centre. Now their confidence has grown and the women have already taken part in group rides in Hyde Park and past the Houses of Parliament.

"When I started the project it was because I had really wanted to learn to ride when I went to university at Cambridge, but I didn't have the nerve," Khatun says. "I started the cycling group and expected young girls to come along, yet what's really surprised me was how many older women wanted to take part as well."

With low levels of English, older Bengali women have traditionally been one of the hardest ethnic groups to reach. But these are the women who attend the Jagonari Centre to talk to their friends and take part in activities.

Naz is one such lady, whose commitment to cycling has been dedicated, despite slow progress. She struggles with her knees and finds it hard to work the pedals.

"She is having problems with the circling," says one. "It's the turning," the other agrees. [Mechanical note, maybe the bicycle's headset needs a tune up and new ball bearings.]

"I'm just frightened I will veer off and hit someone," Naz tells the instructor.

"My son has told me to get some stabilisers," Naz says, who came to England from Pakistan as a young woman, and her husband now works in the United States while she lives in East London with her grown-up son, who is an avid cyclist. "He loved riding his bike when he was a little boy. It would not have occurred to me to have a bike. But now he is supporting his old mum."

Bikes Not Bombs

Don’t know what to do with that old bike in your garage? Would love to re-cycle it or re-gift it, but wondering how and whom to give it to?

Check out the nonprofit organization called Bikes Not Bombs. They will take the bicycles, and ship them overseas to countries that really need them for transportation. They also train youths as bicycle mechanics so the bikes they send over work properly. Bikes Not Bombs is having their silver anniversary this year, marking 25 years of giving bicycles to 3rd world countries.

The organization also requests a $10 donation for each bicycle donated to help with their shipping/repair costs, but you get a tax receipt which you can use for your income taxes.

Bike rack design by OCAD students

Justin Rosete and Erica Mach's bicycle rack design is about to be recognized by tens of thousands in the city of Toronto.

The 19-year-old second-year industrial design student at the Ontario College of Art and Design collaborated with second-year painting and drawing student Erica Mach to create the winning bike rack in a competition open to all OCAD students.

Their design – a row of four diagonal cherry wood columns more than three metres high – will be installed outside a new mixed-use building at Queen and McCaul Streets once construction is finished. There will be some tweaking of the design to make sure it conforms to municipal standards, make them more difficult for bicycle thieves and to finalize how it will be secured to the sidewalk and the number of bicycles it will hold.

Toronto Mayor David Miller was on hand for Friday's announcement of the Gateway Bike Stand Competition (Gateway refers to the competition being an entrance for the art world to participate in functional urban design) and the chair of the Queen St. W. Business Improvement Association is interested in using some of the top designs entered in the competition to beautify the area.

The attention and the possible influence of their design on Toronto's streetscape has been a bit overwhelming for Mach and Rosete, who credit their collaboration and their suburban upbringing for the winning concept.

"Growing up in Mississauga, you look at the city (Toronto) as an outsider," explains Mach, sitting inside an OCAD workspace next to a model of the winning design. "We didn't want to use some of the typical materials you see."

Rosete, who grew up in North York, says looking at a downtown urban space as a visitor for so many years made it easier for him to come up with something unique.

Mach hopes the design will encourage people to relate design with environmentalism. "You can use materials that aren't as environmentally destructive and are Canadian."

As for the "gateway" concept of the competition, both students like the idea of contributing to a more sophisticated Toronto streetscape.

"The mayor said these are the sorts of small initiatives we need to make a bigger change," Rosete says. "Toronto is trying to become the greenest city in North America. I hope this helps encourage bike use and new ways of looking at materials for design. It's good to help people realize that their everyday surroundings have a big impact on them."

"I'm just really happy that I've made a change to the street that I've been walking on for the last two years. It would be really great if our idea was implemented throughout the city. We could put them all around the world, using different materials, things that people haven't seen before on a bike stand."

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