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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Russian engineers build Submarine Bicycle

TECHNOLOGY - Okay, technically its not a bicycle. Its just pedal powered.

If you ever dreamed of traveling underwater this underwater novelty is being promoted to the rich as an alternative to scuba diving. And its reasonable affordable, approx. $90,000 USD, which is pretty cheap for a submarine. (Normally submarines are very expensive because of all the engines and electrical parts.)

The Russian engineers who built "the Blue Space" are promoting it as the first ever pedal-powered submarine (technically not true, read below).

“Usually they use heavy engines and propellers and huge batteries for underwater vehicles – and that requires a lot of energy,” explained Vladimir Taradonov from the State Marine Technical University. “Ours can be driven by just two people's efforts! Nothing hard – even children can do it!”

The Blue Space can dive down to 30 meters for up to four hours, traveling at approx. six kilometers per hour, a leisurely pace and with its sky-roof cockpit provides passengers with amazing views. So tourism resorts could easily afford it and provide it as an option for visitors.

Its also being touted as a cheaper alternative for maritime archeology and inspection of underwater pipes.

Lastly, its invisible to sonar so there are some worries it could be used to spy on things (seriously, spy on what exactly? It can only go 30 meters deep) or smuggle people or items across borders (slowly).

It also comes with lots of safety equipment to prevent it from diving too deep and for peace of mind.

It is technically not the first of its kind either. There is also the Scubster.

The Scubster is also an underwater bike, a pedal powered submarine with twin propellors that push it through the water at a 8 kmph. Built in France, its inventor Stephane Rousson hopes that rich people will buy it as a toy for their expensive yachts.

The Scubster may be smaller and faster, but it can only carry 1 person. Worse, it can only go 20' underwater. The price tag hasn't been announced.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gas Prices Vs Bicycles

Funny how when gas prices go up bicycle sales go up sharply. More work for bicycle mechanics to build new bikes out of the box... and fixing old bikes that people bring in.




Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quadra Island Bike Shop

CANADA - If you are visiting British Columbia and going cycling, there is no better place to go than Quadra Island.

And if you need bicycle repairs while on Quadra Island there is no better place to go than Smokey's Bike Shop.

Why?

Because Smokey Dymny (the guy who runs the shop on Quadra Island) isn't just a bicycle mechanic. He is a bicycle mechanic instructor, one of the best. He taught the BAM Program here in Toronto. So your repairs will be professionally done and you just might learn something too.

If you are looking to learn how to fix bicycles you can also contact Smokey and ask what it would cost to learn.

Smokey's Bicycle Shop
1024 Heriot Bay Road, the Animal Farm Trail
Quadra Island, British Columbia
CANADA

CONTACT
250 - 285 - 2447
smokeydymny{at}rogers.com

Is Georgetown the most Bicycle Friendly town in Ontario?

CANADA - Imagine going to a town via the GO Train... and arriving in a place which has 50 different bicycles routes listed on bikely.com? I am talking about the town of Georgetown Ontario in case you haven't guessed yet.

See http://www.bikely.com/listpaths/srchkey/georgetown/country/43/region/37 to see what I mean about all the bicycle routes.

Imagine also that you bang your wheel and need to replace it. Where can you find a bicycle mechanic in Georgetown?

Well, there is several locations:

Ollie's Cycle & Ski
30 Main Street South, Georgetown, ON L7G 3G4
(905) 873-2441 ‎

Up Your Bike
162 Guelph St, Georgetown, ON L7G4A6
(905) 702-8854 ‎

Sports Unlimited
170 Guelph Street, Georgetown, ON L7G 4A7
(905) 877-5546 ‎

M & M Pro Sport
10 Mountainview Road South, Georgetown, ON L7G 4J9
(905) 877-6686

After your bike is fixed, how about going for a ride? There is so many parks in Georgetown its a tad ridiculous. There is also rivers and lots of scenery. Its not just a great place to go for a bicycle ride, its a great place to do photography.

Or just plain move there. Georgetown has townhomes for sale there for $289,900 in the Weaver's Mill area, close to downtown Georgetown and walking distance to the GO Station.

If you look at a map of Georgetown you will see quite a few of the streets curve, which means the traffic will be moving slowly. Ideal for cyclists who like quiet streets.

There might be other towns which are more bicycle friendly than Georgetown, but feel free to email me or leave me a comment about which town you think is better.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bixi reaches 750 members!

CANADA - Bixi has reached over 750 members. Once it reaches 1,000 Toronto's public bike-rental program will become a reality.

Check out toronto.bixi.com if you want to sign up.

The Bixi program will also allow shorter term rentals for people just visiting Toronto and will expand as the program grows, similar to Montreal's Bixi program.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Amusing Yellow Two Seater Bicycle

CANADA - I saw the yellow two-seater bicycle below at a bicycle shop in Chinatown, Toronto. I liked it and thought it was amusing so I took a photo.



The shop I saw it at was "Uncle Jacob" at approx. 355 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON M5T 2G3, Canada‎. Phone: 416-340-2715‎.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bicycle licenses in Toronto? Don't make me laugh

CANADA - In the current mayoral campaign the issue of whether Toronto should force cyclists to get licenses to ride their bicycles has come up in the local media. This isn't the first time the city has thought about licensing cyclists. They failed in their attempt last time and they will certainly fail again.

According to the city’s website there are three reasons why licensing would NEVER work:

#1. How do you license children?

#2. How do make sure the database is complete and accurate when bicycles are privately bought and sold on a constant basis?

#3. Licensing cyclists won't change their behaviour.

I have some more reasons the city hasn't thought of:

#4. What about tourists who like cycling downtown or on Centre Island? Bike rental places would be put out of business.

#5. Cyclists will NEVER agree to pay $200 for a cycling license.

There's approx. a million people in Toronto who own bicycles... at $200 each this is nothing more than a $200 million tax grab. Taxing cyclists is also completely unenforcable. The police don't even stop cyclists to see if they have a light or a rear reflector so they're certainly not going to worry if cyclists have a license.

What the city wants to do is create a "Department of Cycling". Cyclists would have to take a road test every 2 years. Bike shops, associations and bicycle mechanics would have be registered and pay fees to help pay for the system.

Cyclists would pay $200 every 2 years to have a license.

Businesses and associations would pay $500 every year to be registered.

The city would hire a team of people to administer the database and use some of the funding to help make future bike lanes.

Children under the age of 16 would be exempt from licensing.

Bike shops, associations, schools, after-school programs and summer camps would be asked to teach bike safety.

However this will do nothing to change the behaviour of cyclists. Licensing doesn't change the behaviour of motorists, so why would it change cyclists? Asking cyclists to pay $200 every 2 years is really just a PUNISHMNENT for being a cyclist and has nothing to do with road safety and everything to do with motorists-who-despise-cyclists and are jealous of the fact we cyclists don't have to pay anything.

His proposal also includes enforcing stiffer fines and penalties on reckless cyclists, introducing a points system and the ability to suspend licenses. A special police unit would be created just for catching cyclists.

This plan is being promoted by Robert Kirsic (who works for the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council in Toronto), who admits he prefers to drive a car, and apparently has it stuck in his head that police need to have a crackdown on cyclists and turn Toronto into a police state with respect to cyclists.

(Side Note: So why can't they create a special police unit just for catching people who smoke within 9 meters of public entrances? Oh wait, its because its a waste of time enforcing every little law.)

Robert Kirsic is apparently an idiot. He hasn't clued in that if other cities haven't been able to enforce bicycle licenses, then its obviously not going to work in Toronto where one out every five people owns a bicycle... in a city of 5 to 6 million. Bicycle licensing is a joke. It would be a waste of time and resources and will do NOTHING to create a safer environment. Its nothing more than a $200 million tax grab.

Want to make the roads safer? Start by adding bicycle lanes to all major roads. Educate drivers about the fact cyclists are here to stay and they have an equal right to use the road. (We've been here longer than drivers technically if you compare the years at which bicycles and cars were invented.)

And while you're at it pass a law requiring drivers to leave a 5' space between the car and curb at all times. Quite a few accidents happen when drivers box in cyclists by driving too close to the curb sometimes on purpose (some drivers are just dangerous pricks).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Parkour Cycling Videos

The following is a parkour-style cycling video, plus Danny MacAskill`s video at the bottom which I`ve posted twice before. (See Extreme Bicycle Stunts by Danny MacAskill and Danny MacAskill's video hits 17 million.)





Monday, June 28, 2010

565 Sherbourne Chopping Off Bikes

CANADA - Thank god I talk to other cyclists otherwise I never would have known what was about to happen to my bicycle...

The building management at 565 Sherbourne (owned by Medallion Properties Inc.) has arbitrarily decided that the bike rack in front of the Shoppers Drug Mart is for residents of their building only and are going to be chopping people's bikes off. I learned this from a fellow cyclist when we stopped to move the bike racks in question back from the road a bit, because they're not bolted to the sidewalk and have a tendency to shift.

Apparently the land the Shoppers Drug Mart is on belongs to 565 Sherbourne, not to the Shoppers Drugmart itself. There is no signs or anything indicating who owns the bike racks in question. Seriously, what would it cost to put up a sign that says "This Bike Rack is for Residents of 565 Sherbourne Only"...?

Now while it is true that the building management can do whatever they want on their own property, chopping off people's bikes and stealing them is a fuzzy gray zone. Especially when there is no signage declaring ownership.

And what happens when they accidentally chop off the bike belonging to a tenant? Or a bike belonging to a friend of a tenant? Or someone just picking up a prescription of medication at the Shoppers Drug Mart?

The sad thing is that Toronto doesn't have a lot of legislation on this issue. This type of thing happens far too often (I have friends who have had their bikes chopped off when visiting friends at their apartment buildings). The rights of building managements to control their bike racks and chopping off bikes (effectively stealing them) needs to be balanced with cyclist rights. Right now building managers across the city are acting like bullies and ignoring the rights of bicycle owners.

Its bad enough that spot is already known for vandalism and bike theft. The problem is that when one person's bike gets stolen, it sometimes sets off a rash of bike thefts... so if a company cuts off people's bikes and removes them all at once, suddenly the whole neighbourhood could see a rash of bike thefts.

People take the theft of their property very seriously and not everyone is above just stealing someone elses when theirs is taken. The real criminal here however is the building management for refusing to put up a sign so the general public knows they can't park their bikes there.

If the City of Toronto would add more bicycle racks outside of store fronts this wouldn't be a problem. Diddo for apartment buildings with lots of cyclists. And just scrap the "residents only" policy of chopping people's bikes off. Its unnecessary and just leads to more problems when a sign could discourage people.

According to a Google search the apartment buildings in question also have trouble with bedbugs, crackheads living in the building, residents harassing people walking by and throwing things at pedestrians... and a Toronto.ca PDF which reveals the following:

"By-law 1044-2006 which permitted the construction of the Shoppers Drug Mart required 60 bicycle parking spaces to be provided in a secured bicycle parking area."

If there's any lawyers out there who could explain what this means, please do. Does that mean they MUST provide bicycle parking NEAR the Shoppers Drug Mart, and this must be done in a "secure" fashion?

Seriously, how secure is a bike rack that isn't even bolted to the pavement?

I learned from building management they are intending to remove the bike rack entirely on July 5th, one week from now. No word on whether the owners of the bicycles will be given much of a warning. If they do remove it, wouldn't that place them in violation of the above mentioned by-law which requires 60 bicycle parking spaces? (It should be noted the existing bike racks only provide space for 30, so they're already in violation of the by-law.)

What a conundrum.

The New Evergreen Bike Works

The New Evergreen Bike Works (located at the Evergreen Brick Works, amusing isn't it?) at 550 Bayview Avenue in Toronto is looking for bicycle mechanic volunteers to help build bikes and put the finishing touches on the shop.

For more information contact Shah Mohamed at realbrew{atsymbol}gmail.com.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bicycle Collisions: What To Do

CANADA - Some of the info below pertains to Toronto. If you live elsewhere please consult your local municipality websites with respect to cyclists.

Report the crash at the scene. Have someone call "911" or if you live in Toronto call the police non-emergency number (416-808-2222). Wait for police to arrive.

Ask witnesses to identify themselves.

If a motor vehicle is involved, record the driver's name, phone number, insurance policy details, a description of the vehicle and the license plate number.

If you are injured at all, see a doctor. Ask for a letter describing your condition.

If your bike needs repair, get a written estimate from a bike shop.

If you have insurance, speak to your broker. If not, call the insurance company of the driver(s) involved in the crash.

If you have no access to insurance, contact the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund at 1-800-268-7188.

Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC) can refer you to a lawyer for advice on making an insurance claim. E-mail: arc@respect.to or phone: 416-604-5171.

Do not leave the scene of a collision without talking to the other driver, pedestrian or cyclist involved. 'Hit and run' applies to cyclists as well as drivers. If you choose not to report the crash at the scene, you can file a report at the nearest police station within 24 hours or call 416-808-2222. Cyclists do not have go to a Collision Reporting Centre. Take responsibility for assisting other crash victims by helping them follow the steps above.

In other news...

Less women ride bicycles than men in North America and Australia, according to two separate studies by Rutgers University in New Jersey and Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. According to the studies approx. 30% of cyclists are women.

According to surveys many women are worried about accidents and getting a "door prize" and the fear of cycling accidents is listed as a major reason.

Malena Andrade, a website designer, experienced her first "door prize" a couple of years ago in Toronto's club district when a group of girls exiting a cab opened the door without looking. Andrade's bike was hit so hard the front wheel warped but fortunately did not taco.

Andrade brushed herself off and managed to cycle home. When she took her wheel to get fixed, she learned about her legal rights as a cyclist.

Female cyclists in Toronto looking to hang out (and eat cupcakes) are recommended to check out cupcakeride.com. Its a Toronto girls only riding group who meet regularly to swap stories and eat cupcakes.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Toronto police looking for witnesses in hit-and-run

CANADA - Toronto police have a man in custody following a hit-and-run collision that left a cyclist with life-threatening head injuries. The incident happened yesterday (June 4th) when a dark-coloured van struck a 35-year-old male cyclist and left him lying on King St. W., just east of Dufferin St., at around 3 AM.

A taxi driver spotted the victim and called for help. The cyclist was taken to hospital with life-threatening head injuries. Doctors have since been able to stabilize the man’s condition, but his injuries are still considered severe.

Police found a dark-coloured van which matched the desciption and took a man into custody later yesterday morning. The van had significant damage to its front end and a cracked windshield.

Its believed the cyclist was not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision. He was hit so hard he hit the windshield of the van, hurtled through the air and landed in a crumpled heap.

Police are appealing for witnesses to call them at 416-808-1900.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Internal Motor: Hoax or Real?

TECHNOLOGY - There's a new internal motor you can get for your bicycle if you're interested in having motor assistance for your bicycle, especially those hard rides uphill... but its also causing a stir of rumours in the sporting world because there's a video on YouTube which alleges the Swiss champion Fabian Cancellara may have been cheating in recent races.



So far Fabian Cancellara has won the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in 2010, but according to an Italian YouTube video (conspiracy theorist type stuff) he may have been using a tiny motor which rests inside the bicycle frame and bottom bracket.

"In fact, it’s pretty funny but it is such a big story that it’s no longer the case," says Fabian Cancellara. "It’s a sad story and really outrageous. Don’t worry my accomplishments are the result of hard work."

"I don’t see an advantage for a guy like Cancellara cheating this way," says Vincent Jourdain, coach of the Canadian national road team. "Can you imagine if he got caught and was found using a motorized bike? I’m not saying that no one would ever try it, but there’s way too much to lose. Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows? But he’s a real specimen on the bike. He doesn’t need a bike like that."

Now that this story has come out it means the UCI might have to change the way they inspect bikes before and after races, checking inside the frame and weighing the bicycle. If the technology is now there it means some cyclists might try to use it.

29-year-old Fabian Cancellara has been winning races since 1998. He is a three-time World Time Trial Champion and is the current Olympic gold medalist (Beijing 2008). He's been performing feats of speed and endurance for years now, earning him the nickname 'the Swiss Spartacus'.

The motor technology is real, but the idea that Fabian Cancellara would cheat is pure hoax and more likely to be the result of Italian rivalry with the Swiss.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Degreasing your Bicycle Chain

Bicycle chains turn black over time as the chain lube collects dirt and grit while riding or locked up outside. This is unfortunate and affects the performance of your bicycle. Grit stuck to your chain wears down your drive train parts and needs to be cleaned once or twice a year.

Without maintenance you will begin to notice your bicycle doesn't shift gears properly, pedalling is sluggish, you have to work harder and you may have to replace parts faster due to wear. Thus yearly maintenance of both the chain and gear cassettes is a necessity, especially if you're storing your bicycle outside where its more likely to collect extra grit.

THE QUICK WAY

STEP ONE

Even if you're not meticulous about the maintenance of your bicycle, you will know when it is time to degrease the chain and clean the drive train. The speed of your bicycle will be affected, and you will hear grit grinding on metal. Ignore the warning signs and you will have to replace everything that makes your bicycle move -- the chain, chain rings, cassette and rear derailleur. All of that is completely avoidable.

At least once a year, and in some cases twice, you should remove all of the parts from the bicycle for a complete cleaning (or have a mechanic do it). You can get by with a quick degreasing a few times a year if needed.

STEP TWO

A quick degreasing of the drive train entails using a chain scrubber, a degreasing solution and a cassette brush. The chain scrubber will have a reservoir in the bottom. Fill the reservoir with degreasing solution and close the chain in the tool. The tool rests on bicycle's chain stay as the chain moves through it.

The brushes (and, in some cases, brushes and sponges) will pick up the solution from the reservoir and use to scrub the chain as it runs through the tool. The grit will fall to the bottom of the reservoir as the chain is cleaned.

STEP THREE

When the chain appears to be nearly clean, remove it from the tool. Take the cassette brush and run it through the cassette as the free wheel turns. This will loosen grit and grime in the cassette. Take a clean towel or rag and run the chain through the rag to remove the degreaser and grime. You could and should take a towel and wipe the chain rings of excess grit and grime.

The last step is to apply a light Teflon-based oil or lubricant to the chain. Run the chain as you apply the lube. Remove any excess with a towel. The chain should be very lightly oiled; anything other than that makes for grit and dirt.

THE PROPER THOROUGH WAY

STEP ONE

The first process is to use a chain breaker and remove it from the bicycle. Soak the chain in degreaser for a short period of time. Use a cassette brush to scrub the grit and grime that has not come off in the degreaser. Run through clean water to remove the grit and degreaser. Degrease and scrub again if needed. Dry with a clean towel to remove the water when complete.

STEP TWO

Next remove the wheel and cassette. This is accomplished with a cassette locking tool and chain whip. The links of the chain whip are threaded into the cassette to use as resistance so the cassette locking tool can remove the cassette. Once the cassette is removed, it should be soaked in degreaser for a short period of time The cassette should then be scrubbed, washed in watter and dried like the chain. Return the cassette to the free wheel hub, but apply a light amount of grease to the hub. Reverse the process with the cassette locking tool and wrench.

STEP THREE

You can manage the chain rings one of two ways: First, you can use degreaser and a towel and clean the teeth until you're satisfied. Or you can remove the crank, soak the chain rings and then clean them. This is the same process employed in removal and reassembly, but you will need to use a lock ring wrench or bottom bracket tool to remove the crank.


STEP FOUR

The last step is to reattach the chain, or to install a new one. Reattaching is simply threading the chain through cogs and deraileurs before using the chain breaker to join the two ends. Installing a new chain involves measuring the chain and cutting it to the correct size.

NOTE: Some cyclists like to keep an extra chain or two in degreasing solution ready to go whenever they want to swap out chains.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Should Cyclists have a 3-foot buffer zone?

CANADA - Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo is proposing to give cyclists a wider birth, wanting to make it illegal for motorists to drive within 3 feet of a cyclist when passing them.

The private member's bill was introduced yesterday in Queen's Park and is proposing hefty fines for motorists who fail to give cyclists a reasonable amount of space.

“Leaving three feet while passing would go a long way in making the roads safer for cyclists,” DiNovo said. “This bill would serve as another reminder to share the road while encouraging people to ride their bike.”

Under the proposed amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, motorists would have to give cyclists a berth of three feet when travelling under 50 km/h (the speed limit on most city streets), four feet for speeds between 50 km/h and 80 km/h and five feet for over 80 km/h.

Fines of between $310 and $750 would be imposed on people who ignore the law.

A recent accident near Montreal might have been prevented if such a law had been in place. Three cyclists were killed and three others injured when a truck hit the group of triathlon athletes.

There is also a 2004 Toronto study that found passing motorists was the leading killer of cyclists and the second leading cause of collisions with bikes.

The problem right now is there is no defined space allowed to cyclists. The laws are quite vague, leaving it up to the cyclist how much room they require to feel safe. But motorists (some of whom believe cyclists shouldn't even be on the road) often ignore cyclist buffer zones because they either don't know about the laws concerning cyclists or don't care.

#1. A bicycle is a vehicle under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, thus a cyclist has the right to use the road and should be treated with equal respect as other vehicles.

#2. Cyclists must stay on the right side of the lane, but maintain a distance from the curb, parked cars, potholes and obstacles so as to maintain a straight line. A cyclist may occupy any part of a lane when their safety warrants it. (Note: A cyclist can move into a left lane if they need to turn left at an intersection.)

Thus a cyclist can take up as much or as little of a lane as they feel necessary to ensure their personal safety.

However this doesn't always fly with motorists, due to any number of reasons (road rage, bad day at work, lack of respect for cyclists, etc.) and thus the need for a specific buffer zone of 3 feet or more is a pretty good idea. The current vagueness of the law leaves the distance between the cyclist and the curb up to the personal discretion of the cyclist, but there is no law dictating the distance required between a motorist and a cyclist.

Right now its up to the motorist to decide, which means many motorists can simply choose to ignore the safety of the cyclist.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Toronto Cycling Committee Newsletter

CANADA - Cyclometer (toronto.ca/cycling/cyclometer/) is Toronto's Cycling Committee Newsletter and has been growing strong since 1993. I recommend subscribing to it for monthly news on what is happening in Toronto's cycling infrastructure and events.

Toronto needs more Bicycle Racks

CANADA - Toronto is experiencing a cycling renaissance.

I am not kidding. Just ask your local Toronto bike shop and they can confirm that new bikes are flying off the shelves, business has never been better and they are desperate for sales staff and experienced bicycle mechanics.

And if you go downtown on a work day the chances are likely you will have difficulty finding a spot to lock up your bicycle. Its been happening regularly to me lately that I can't find a spot to lock up easily so I asked a few friends and they all responded with the same assessment: Toronto needs more Bicycle Racks.

However getting funding to install more on a large scale is tricky at times, because it means Toronto's City Council will have to find the funding somewhere.

Daniel Egan runs pedestrian and cycling infrastructure for the City of Toronto.

I recommend concerned cyclists contact him and encourage more funding for bicycle racks. There are huge gaps on major streets (even Yonge Street) where there are no racks at all and bikes are locked to trees, street signs, gas pipes, etc. Contact Daniel Egan or some of his staff at:

Pedestrian and Cycling Infrastructure
Transportation Services Division
22 East, City Hall
100 Queen Street West
Toronto, M5H 2N2
Email: bikeplan@toronto.ca
Tel: 416-392-9253
Fax: 416-392-4808

In May 2009 Toronto opened a $300,000, 180-bike indoor Bicycle Station at Union Station, a major regional transit hub. The city plans to add a 400-spot station at Toronto city hall and more stations at subway stops. Bikes are stored in two-tiered racks.

Apart from parking, the first Bicycle Station "includes a change room, a mechanic stand and a variety of tools for customer use as well as a vending machine with emergency bike necessities such as tubes, tire levers, patch kits, energy bars and refreshing beverages," according to the city of Toronto website. "Security measures include a 'man-trap' door system to prevent people following others into the station, 24-hour video surveillance, as well as staffed hours during the day." Users pay $25 for "lifetime membership" and then extra fees for parking. Toronto didn't invent parking stations. Other cities have been doing this for years.

The extra parking at City Hall and subway stations is a start. Ideally Toronto could create more smaller versions of this around the city. Say a tenth the size, but build ten of them near major intersections that are frequently trafficked by cyclists. And then survey bike shops to determine the rate at which Torontonians are buying new bicycle (a Bicycle Consumer Rate) and then use that rate to dictate what percentage the city should contribute to new bicycle racks in the future in an effort to keep pace. (The same rate could also help determine need for bicycle lanes.)

After all we don't want to reach the point that Japan has reached and we need to take extreme measures. See Bicycle Parking in Japan.

Or alternatively just be more proactive about street "accoutrements". ie. I feel the city could also use more benches to sit on, more greenery, trees, potted plants, lamp posts and drinking fountains. After all why should Yonge, University and Bloor be the only streets which receive the red carpet treatment? Would it be that hard to create stainless steel benches that has a bike rack built into the rear? Or lamp posts with bike racks at the base? No, not hard at all.

I am sure with a bit of ingenuity we can come up with designs which are beautiful and functional.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bicycle Racks on the TTC

CANADA - Five years ago the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) started a program of outfitting buses with bicycle racks on the front, spending a little over $2 million on the project (plus added fuel costs for the additional weight of the apparatus).

Today its now a question of whether it was worth it or just a waste in an effort for the TTC in its goal of becoming more bicycle friendly. Toronto has over 2.5 millions bicycles after all and approx. 5% of Torontonians commute to work and college/university, to say nothing of the % that just enjoy a long ride out to the Scarborough Bluffs or the Humber Bay Arch Bridge. In theory it was a wise investment.

However the percentage of riders who actually use the bike racks is apparently nil. Most cyclists prefer to cycle back home rather than rely on the TTC buses... or if they do take the TTC, I usually see them taking the subway or street cars.

I must admit I don't even know how to USE the bike rack on the front of a TTC bus. I've never used it and therefore have never tried.

The TTC claims rack usage is growing, but admits the numbers are still pretty small.

When the pilot program was first started in 2005 4 customers per 10,000 customers used the bicycle racks. That is 0.04%. Not even close to 1%.

Since then usage has apparently gone up says the TTC, but exact numbers are unknown despite installing the racks on 1,660 buses.

I admit I rarely see the bike racks being used, but I HAVE seen them in use even though I wasn't paying attention and deliberately looking for them. It was completely by accident whenever I did notice. Its difficult for me to estimate just how popular their usage is.

According to the TTC usage of the bike racks during the Summer 2009 have gone up 305% since Summer 2006. Slightly more than tripled. So instead of 4 riders per 10,000 its about 12. That is still only 0.12% of users.

Mind you not all buses even have a bike rack. These statistics are skewed by the fact all of the TTC's old GM buses still don't have bicycle racks on them.

There's another factor too... if only 5% of Torontonians regularly commute by bicycle then that means the 0.12% of TTC customers who use bike racks during the summer... then the approx. number of cyclists who use the bike racks during the summer is about 2.4%. That sounds about right.

Which means it probably is a complete waste of money, considering that the other 9 months the statistics will be pretty damn low and even during summer months the statistics remain reasonably low because so few cyclists bother to take the TTC on the way to and fro.

TTC operators are also keen to point its not bicycles that slow down buses... its a combination of bus delays, vehicle bunching, overcrowding, traffic and the dreaded baby strollers. Bicycles INSIDE the bus instead of on the bike rack aren't really a problem for drivers.

“The stroller issue has really become a problem,” says TTC operator Paul Flynn. “There are definitely things that delay us for longer than bicycle racks.”

Many people still don’t know the racks are there or how to use them, says Flynn (and he's right, I have yet to use one). Stopping a bus, coming out and showing riders how to place their bike on the rack doesn’t cause much of a delay, he added.

But those damn baby strollers on the other hand...

(I'd like to take a moment and point out that a lot of parents are putting their kids in baby strollers even by ages of 4 to 7. I know because I've seen it. That's overdoing it quite a bit. Sure, its easier to control the kid so they're not getting into trouble... but I'd argue these parents would be better off disciplining their children with either an ear tug or the occasional light spanking. Pampering your kids and refusing to spank them causes more problems in the long run. As a 5 year old I remember living in fear of my father's spankings and the rule of thumb from my experience was to spank the child until they wept. No blood, no serious bruising, no permanent damage. Just a sore bum and some tears to remember why you shouldn't play with matches. Parents could exercise a bit more common sense when their children are old enough to walk themselves to kindergarden.)

“The original pilot was only on a limited set of buses and their use has grown dramatically over the last few years,” says TTC chair Adam Giambrone. "Alternative forms of transportation like cycling, walking and transit are well served when they are integrated."

“It depends on the time of day, the point is they are there,” says Toronto Cyclists Union executive director Yvonne Bambrick who believes the racks are important. “They help people get around; they help people use their bike as part of their daily commute.”

And the racks are there in the event of an emergency, like a broken bicycle that needs to be dragged back home or to the repair shop.

It also gives cyclists another option since bicycles aren't allowed on the subway during rush hours... and the ability to visit distant places around the GTA, bring your bicycle along and then either bicycle home or carry it home on a bike rack.

Like bicycle lanes, the racks are an important step in incorporating bikes into the transportation network, says Bambrick.

My opinion however can be best summed in the following questions: Is it such a pain to just lift and carry your bicycle on to the bus? Or is it not the cyclists the TTC was really worried about... was the bike racks there to keep the other riders happy? Because if its a matter of keeping the other TTC users happy by not having a bicycle on the bus and taking up important space then I'd say the rack is well worth it.

One last note: If the TTC wants to be more user friendly the first thing they should do is have bathrooms in every subway station and make sure they are CLEAN. Nothing is more than disgusting than a TTC bathroom. I also think storage lockers, water fountains, more restaurant/food options and even stores would be a welcome change inside TTC stations and bring in additional revenue.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Danny MacAskill's video hits 17 million

ENTERTAINMENT - Last year on April 21st we posted a video of "Extreme Bicycle Stunts by Danny MacAskill".

That video, a year later, has since won numerous awards and has been seen by approx. 17 million people. 23-year-old Danny MacAskill is a bicycle mechanic in Edinburgh and his parkour-style bike stunts are gravity defying to the point of disbelief.

He is "a bit of a nutter" says friend and fellow bike mechanic David Cleaver. Danny MacAskill's bike is built of mostly Cleaver-designed parts from Inspired Bikes in Nottingham, England.

The video was filmed by roommate David Sowerby and set to music by Seattle group Band of Horses almost exactly one year ago and put on YouTube on April 19th. It had taken six months of nights and weekends to put together.

The exposure has turned MacAskill into a celebrity stunt rider, so much that he quit his job at Macdonald’s Cyles and now rides professionally. It wasn't without injuries however.

Cleaver calls him gifted. "He’s a bit of a nutter. He will throw himself off things just for fun. The bike is second nature of him. He never looks at something and says what if. It’s not a question of if, but when. When you have that confidence and believe, you tend to land on your feet, pardon the pun."

Police in Edinburgh initially didn't think much of MacAskill riding off ledges, down steep stairways and along the backs of city benches. "He did get a little bit of hassle. Riding on walls, it’s seen as anti-social. The most alluring places to ride are always the places a rider shouldn’t be. But once the police see someone is professional and polite, they tend to just suggest he move on," says Cleaver.

In an encounter on the Scottish island of Skye an officer confiscated his bike for a summer.

Inspired Bicycles meanwhile is receiving a lot of attention as everyone wants "a bike like Danny’s."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bike Lanes, Subways and Road Tolls

CANADA - Here is the results of a recent Angus-Reid poll of Torontonians (The margin of error is plus or minus 2.7 per cent, 19 times out of 20).








One of Toronto's mayoral candidates is currently pushing the idea of charging $5 road tolls for DVP and Gardiner Expressways in exchange for a dramatic boost in subway routes (which would mean less cars on the road).

Its that or London-England-style "congestion charges", something which Torontonians will hate even more.

Either way less cars on the streets equals more room for both cyclists and drivers to get along.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More Bicycle Lanes coming to Toronto

CANADA - Good news for Toronto cyclists, there are more bicycle lanes coming and even a pilot project for an European style dedicated bike lane (with barrier posts).

The three-month pilot project will see two car lanes — one northbound, one southbound – removed from University Avenue between Richmond St. W. and Wellesley St. W./Hoskin Ave. Cyclists will get their own lane alongside the inner median, separated from motorized traffic by a metre-wide buffer and solid dividing posts.

HOWEVER this pilot project seems rather silly... the area they've chosen doesn't really connect anything. Its not a high traffic zone for cyclists.

A better solution would have been dedicated bike lanes in areas that have large numbers of cyclists (or even a history of cycling accidents), and then expand from that area in a grid-like fashion.

Plus its TINY. A mere 1.3 km on a stretch of street that has really only be chosen because it goes from Osgoode Station to Queen's Park (the home of the Ontario Provincial Legislature)... Its as if Toronto City Hall is trying to piss off the Ontario MPPs.

The various Mayoral candidates are currently bucking for attention and its my feeling they are just using the bicycle lanes issue as political fodder and cyclists/motorists as pawns.

Here's how the 5 main mayoral candidates stand:

Sarah Thompson want to focus more on expanding the TTC subway. Less cars on the road means less gridlock and more room for both drivers and cyclists. See Sarah Thompson's Subway Expansion Proposal.

Joe Pantalone wants to expand bicycle lanes in high traffic areas for cyclists and also areas with a history of bicycle accidents.

Rocco Rossi hates cyclists. He wants to scrap bicycle lanes altogether and go back to the dark ages.

Giorgio Mammoliti said he would charge cyclists $20-$30 to register their bikes and use the lanes. (Like hell I am paying that! I pay my taxes, I have a right to use the road like any other commuter.)

George Smitherman has yet to take a solid stance and seems to favouring the status quo.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bike Clinic 2010 - 2nd Annual Spring Bicycle Clinic

WANT FREE REPAIRS???

Bike Clinic 2010 is happening this Saturday, April 10th at Harmony Court.

Location: 150 Longboat Ave, south of Parliament and Front Street, in the courtyard.



Have a great time tuning bikes for the community and plying our skills as well as socializing with other bike enthusiasts in the Toronto cycling community.

Time: 11 AM to 3 PM.

Volunteers will start arriving around 10:30am to help with set up (tents, stands, Arranging tools and supplies). Feel free to volunteer!

More Info: Call Shah Mohamed at 416-839-8595.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fixing a Bent Derailleur Tab

Got a bent derailleur? Its probably a Shimano, the most popular derailleur sold on the market.

Well you're in luck, they're usually pretty easy to fix... Usually its not the derailleur that is bent anyway, but the tab (also called a hanger) the derailleur attaches to the frame has become bent. (Its actually a very COMMON problem for bicycle mechanics.)

The derailleur itself is usually made from a very strong metal and the parallelogram design makes it highly unlikely to get damaged. The weakest point therefore is the tab and if the derailleur gets bashed hard the tab will usually bend inwards. If it gets bent really far your derailleur will end up rubbing or jutting into your rear wheel spokes. Even a minor bash to your derailleur can muck up your alignment if the tab is weak.

You can roughly check the alignment with your eyes, if you look at the derailer from the rear. The derailleur pulleys should be lined up vertically with no sideways slant.

Is the tab Steel or Alloy?

If the tab is steel it can be easily bent back into position and realigned.

If its alloy metal you may be able to bend it back into position, but the next time it gets damaged it will be even worse. If it gets damaged again and again eventually the tab will snap right off. (A bit like twisting the tab off a pop can.)

To do a really good job of fixing the tab you will need the proper tool. Bicycle mechanics usually have this special tool in their shops so its not something a person would normally have in their garage.

Because many new bicycles now have narrow chains, Hyperglide, 7-9 speed cog sets proper derailleur alignment becomes really important to shift normally and smoothly. You want the derailleur to be PERFECTLY aligned to the front gears and the chain.

So what you want is a Park Derailleur Hanger Alignment Gauge, which costs about $60 US to buy unfortunately... without it you will just have to make do with whatever tools you have.

STEP ONE: Place the chain on the smallest gear.

STEP TWO: Remove the derailleur from the derailleur tab, with a 5mm allen wrench.

STEP THREE: Remove the derailleur and chain.

STEP FOUR: Use a Park Derailleur Hanger Alignment Gauge to realign the derailleur tab. (The tool uses the rear wheel as a guide so make sure your rear wheel is on perfectly straight!) If you don't have that tool you will have to bend the tab using whatever tools you have available. If its an alloy tab try to be gentle with it.

DO NOT JUST YANK ON IT. You don't want to overcompensate and bend the wrong part by accident or break it off entirely.

STEP FIVE: Reinstall the chain and derailleur.

STEP: SIX: Check and modify your derailleur and derailleur screws to make sure your derailleur is functioning perfectly.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Grass Cutting Bicycles???

Well its that time of year again... time to get out the lawnmower and start cutting the grass before the dandelions set in... but wait, your lawnmower is rusted and is either broken or barely works.

Want a mechanical challenge to build something unique? Try building a grass cutting "lawn-mower-cycle".

See the amusing photos below:







Friday, March 26, 2010

Perfectly Tuned Brakes

Just minutes ago I finished adjusting the brakes on my grey hybrid bicycle and took it for a quick spin. And then some amazingly quick braking. Not bad for a bicycle that in my own words "is a piece of shit".

I bought the grey hybrid 2 summers ago for almost nothing off craigslist. It was broken, I fixed it and its been running perfectly fine ever since (with the exception of having to fix the derailleurs when some prick kicked them in and fix the brakes due to similar mischief).

The end result is a sleeper bicycle that nobody would steal because it looks horrible, but when its tuned to perfection the gears glide beautifully and the brakes stop on a dime.

Because I keep the bicycle on street level I expect it to be vandalized occasionally, but its no big deal considering the lock costed more than the bicycle. Still I have taken precautions like writing my name and phone number on the bike with bicycle paint (the kind that can't be scratched off without scratching the regular paint) to prevent thieves...

The ride? It glides, but the real beauty is when you squeeze the brakes and it stops INSTANTLY. Front or back, it doesn't matter.

Having two perfectly working sets of brakes is very important. Having one set of brakes working is inherently dangerous because when those brakes fail you're heading for a crash.

How do you achieve perfectly tuned brakes?
(For the example below we will be using V-brakes.)

Step #1. Tighten up the brake levers and make sure they're in perfect working order. This includes adjusting them to a 45 degree angle, making sure they're not sliding on the handlebars and making sure they aren't squeezing the fingers by accident.

Step #2. Remove the cable attached the brakes.

Step #3. Adjust the brake pads so they are angled lengthwise across the wheel rim without rubbing the side of the tire.

Step #4. Reattach the brake cable and make sure its good and tight, but not so tight that its squeezing the brakes onto the wheel rim. Tuck the remaining cable "tail" behind the hook on the side of the V-brake or bend it so its not sticking straight out. DO NOT CUT IT OFF!

Step #5. Adjust the brake screws if the brake alignment is unbalanced (you can tell if its unbalanced if one side is touching but the other is not). The brake screws effect the tightness of springs hidden in the brake housing, ultimately allowing you to adjust the alignment of the brakes so one or both aren't squeezing the wheel rim when they're not supposed to be.

Step #6. Test it. Take it for a ride and make sure it stops on the dime. Readjust if necessary.

Now... once that you have perfectly tuned brakes you can do several things on your bike you might not otherwise do... like Power Sliding.

HOW TO POWER SLIDE ON A BICYCLE

Step #1. Find a place to practice where there isn't a lot of people, lots of space to gain speed and practice power sliding. An empty parking lot is ideal.

Step #2. You will need at least 5 MPH (or 8 kmph) of speed to do this. If u are going too slow you won't have the necessary speed to slide.

Step #3. Practice getting comfortable with leaning and braking simultaneously.

Step #4. Practice positioning your weight and putting your right or left foot out but not touching the ground while leaning and braking.

Step #5. Lean very deep and turn really hard (approx. 90 degrees) whilst using either the front brakes or both the front and back brakes and you will go into a power slide if done correctly.



With lots of practice you can power slide beside obstacles or people with little or no danger of crashing into them. (Be warned however I did this once in Chinatown and got some scared looks from people who thought they were about to be crashed into.)

Its recommended you have you brakes perfectly tuned and everything else in perfect working condition before attempting power slides. A helmet is a good idea too.

Note: Power Sliding is different from Drifting. Power Sliding is braking while sliding sideways. Drifting is moving sideways or in a circular motion while still in motion. Less knowledgable people sometimes confuse the terminology.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bicycle Parking in Japan



The video above shows how Japan is dealing with the problem of not enough space for people to park their bicycles on the street. The problem is so rampant they've come up with a robotic solution for bicycle storage.

Criticism of this method is that it seems like a waste of space, but for extremely crowded cities like Tokyo it makes perfect sense. For tourists visiting Japan and wanting to get around on bicycles the country is very bicycle friendly, as are many other Asian countries.

See Also:
Thoughts on Cycling in Hokkaido and Japan
Tokyo Cycling Club

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Folding Electric Bicycles

There is a growing number of folding electric bicycles on the market, assuming one has the cash to spend on an item that typically only has a range of 10 km and doesn't mind looking like a complete dork while riding one.

Lets take for example the YikeBike below:



Yikes! Might as well just pin a note to your back saying "I'm a Loser, Please Kick Me!"

And below is a folding bicycle/car with 4 wheels that runs on a combination of gasoline and electricity. So... really its a folding hybrid car with bicycle wheels.




Regardless of what you think of such bicycles (I think they're amusing, but really not worth the expense and the silliness factor) the problem with ALL folding electric bicycles is that they're essentially designed for lazy people who want to get noticed for their gadget. Eventually the kewlness will fade and you will get tired of all the weird looks and having to carry the damn thing to your office or home... or worse, having to deal with battery failure, empty batteries and miscalculating how much distance to go / charge you had left.

I'd argue that if you want a kewl gadget you might as well go all the way and get something like a Carver... which is technically more like a motorcycle... or is it a car? Three-wheeler? I doubt anyone would EVER bore of driving a Carver.



Bicycle purists of course will point out that the Carver runs on gasoline and it has no place on a blog dedicated to bicycles. Have an open mind however and let me point out something...

Electric bicycles get their power from the local electricity grid (unless you happen to have your own solar panel / wind turbine) and thus uses a combination of renewable energy, nuclear and the most frequently used, most hated but cheapest of energy sources... coal. That means your electric bicycle is running off a percentage of coal energy (depending where you live that percentage could be surprisingly high). Furthermore if you are charging your electric bicycle during peak hours (7 AM to 9 PM) you are using a larger percentage of coal because thats when it is needed most.

So its a case of tomato tomatoe. You're not saving the environment by using electricity.

The whole purpose of an electric bicycle is essentially laziness. Its a bit like an electric can opener. Some people can't be bothered to use a hand held can opener and do it the old fashioned way. Or elevators/escalators instead of stairs. Its a lifestyle choice, one people in Western culture frequently take for granted.

I think, and this purely my opinion, this a growing trend towards a broadening market for electric bicycles. Eventually a few major producers will gain popularity and mass production (its the chicken and the egg as to which will come first) and we could see large numbers of people riding electrics in the future... and hopefully by then we will have done away with coal power.

I don't think it will ever replace traditional bicyles however. The added factors of needed exercise, not looking like a dork and saving money (e-bikes cost about the same as a Tata Nano car) will keep this mode of transportation around indefinitely.

Monday, January 25, 2010

World’s Longest Cycling Race

ENTERTAINMENT - Last week (January 18th) the world's longest cycling race began, starting in Cairo Egypt and ending at Cape Town South Africa. Tour d’Afrique is a trek of 12,000 km across treacherous terrain, intense heat, salt flats, sandy desert and unpredictable weather.

The 61 racers will cycle through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa and the journey will take approx. 120 days (about 96 cycling days and 24 rest/maintenance days).

The journey isn't just a test of speed and endurance, but also your maintenance/repair skills.

Tour de France? Pfff. That is a mere 3,500 km and 21 days.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bicycle Sleuths

ENTERTAINMENT - Can't get enough of the latest Sherlock Holmes movie? Maybe you're a CSI buff and love a good murder mystery? (I personally am addicted to CSI Vegas, MacGyver, Magnum P.I. and Simon & Simon episodes.)

Here's one just for bicycle enthusiasts: Abby Faria Mysteries.

Written by Torontonian Vivian Meyer the two books (with more to come) follow Abby Faria, a bicycle courier in downtown Toronto, as she solves one mystery after another. The books are "Ragged Chain" and "Bottom Bracket".

Take one part V.I. Warshawski (by American author Sara Paretsky), one part Zodiac (by American author Neal Stephenson) and see what you get.



If you like bicycle oriented mystery books also check out:

"A Bicycle Built For Murder" by Kate Kingsbury

"Bicycle Shop Murder" by Robert Burton Robinson

"Murder by Bicycle" by Veronica Heley

"The Green Bicycle Murder" by C. Wendy East

Mon dieu! It really makes bicycles sound rather morbid... Maybe I should point out that according to Amazon.com there are 10 times as many murder mystery books with a car as part of the central plot.

NOTE

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