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Friday, August 26, 2011

Toronto Police "Cycle Right" Campaign

The Toronto Police are currently conducting a "Cycle Right" campaign. Police officers are ticketing cyclists who are not in compliance with the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. (They're probably doing it to make Rob Ford happy.) The HTA states that bicycles need:

* A steady white light on the front of the bicycle and a red rear light or reflector if you ride between half an hour before sunset and half an hour after sunrise, and at any time when your bicycle is not visible from 150 metres or less.

* Rear brake capable of skidding the rear wheel on dry, level pavement.

* A bell, gong or horn in good working order.

* A strip of white reflective tape on the front forks and red reflective tape on the rear forks - each strip no less than 250 millimetres in length and 25 millimetres long and 25 millimetres wide.

The fines range from $35 for "improper bicycle lighting", $110 for having no horn or bell, $325 for failing to stop at a red light and $490 for careless driving.

See the full list of fines at toronto.ca/cycling/pdf/hta.pdf

No word yet on whether the Toronto Police will ever conduct an operation to catch bicycle thieves using GPS tracking devices by deliberately planting bicycles in high theft areas.



Motorists who block bicycle lanes with their vehicles endanger cyclists by forcing them to suddenly merge with motor vehicle traffic. The fine for illegally blocking the bike lane is $60. The City of Toronto Bylaws for Bike Lanes are in Chapter 886 of the Toronto Municipal Code.

If you see a vehicle illegally blocking a bike lane you can call 416-808-6600 to alert the Toronto Police's Parking enforcement division, so that they can dispatch an officer to ticket the offender. (Be helpful, tell them the car's license plate # too.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cycling in Quebec compared to Ontario

The following is an excerpt from a Toronto Star article entitled: What goes around in Quebec comes around in Ontario

By Christopher Hume.

When it comes to cycling, Quebec leaves Ontario in the dust. While we spin our wheels arguing over whether bikes belong on the streets, la belle province has turned pedal power into a transit and tourism phenomenon.

If you haven’t been to Quebec in a while, prepare to share the roads — and even more amazingly, the highways — with the two-wheeled. Everywhere you turn now, bicycles are part of the traffic mix. In addition to separated lanes in Montreal, highways are marked and divided into bike lanes and vehicular lanes. Even routes that aren’t marked have signs that make it clear the two — bikes and cars — must share the road.

In Toronto, by contrast, bikes have become a cause for panic, a wedge issue exploited by elected leaders for their own benefit. It is a topic on which municipal elections can be won or lost, at least in part. That’s not entirely new, of course, but it is another indication of how the politics of Ontario — and Toronto — are becoming sclerotic. So frightened are we of change that we buy into the promise that the province’s glorious yesterday will never end.

It already has.

Who could forget Mayor Rob Ford’s first utterance upon being elected last November? “The war on the car,” he said, “is over.”

Such silliness. Regardless of what His Worship may think, the war of the car has only just begun. Whether or not Torontonians realize it, we will be seeing many more bikes on the streets here and around the world.

This isn’t a matter of right or left, but of right and wrong. Due to circumstances well beyond the city’s control, this is the direction we are headed. For any number of reasons — climate change, fuel costs, congestion and diminished resources — the heyday of the car is over and alternatives are needed.

Unlike Ontario, Quebec has embraced change, and turned it to its own advantage. Anyone traveling through rural Quebec will find the roads alive with cyclists. Look in the parking lots of the auberges, hotels and inns; they are full of bikes.

The Route Verte, which cuts through Quebec from east to west, now extends more than 4,000 kilometres. This makes it one of the most comprehensive bike systems in the world.

Meanwhile, back here in little old Hogtown, we’re still bickering about a few blocks of bike lanes on Jarvis St.

Toronto and Ontario’s unwillingness to take the bicycle seriously is a sign of culture grown tired, irritable and brittle. Whether it’s wind turbines, road tolls or bike lanes, we’re unable to keep up. Provincial Conservative leader Tim Hudak has made it clear clean energy and the environment have no place in his party’s platform.

Same thing with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s regime, which announced recently it plans to lay off 700 staff at the federal environment ministry, a shocking display of contempt.

...

The fact remains, however, that cyclists are generally unwelcome on the streets of Toronto, let alone Ontario. We’re not talking here about bike lanes on the 401, but many other provincial thoroughfares where there’s room.

Speaking as someone who was yesterday signaling to turn left and had an irate woman in a car behind me shout "Make up your mind!" I know fully well that Toronto drivers don't consider bicycles to be real road vehicles. They just see us as a nuisance because they're so stuck in their mentality that cars rule the road.

But here's a tip: Bicycles have been on the roads longer than cars and while cars dwindle in popularity bicycles will still be here when society has moved en masse towards mass transit using subways and street cars.

In the future cars will be a luxury in the city. Bicycles and a TTC pass is all you really need.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bicycle Tourism: Pros and Cons

PROBLEM ONE: How to get there...

Lets say you decide to go overseas and whilst there travel via bicycle. Do you:

OPTION A) Ship your bicycle air freight back and forth. A good route if your bicycle is one of a kind / super expensive. ie. A prototype recumbent.

OPTION B) Buy a new bicycle when you get there and sell it on craigslist before you leave.

I'd argue option B is the better solution. Saves on unnecessary costs and you get most of your money back when you sell your bicycle (assuming its still in reasonably brand new condition and you cleaned it / fixed anything broken before selling it).

But there is also...

OPTION C) Rent a bicycle (ie. BIXI in Toronto). Depending on the cost of renting a bicycle this might be the cheapest route, but only if its a short time period. Longer time periods you are better off just buying a bicycle and selling it before you leave.

PROBLEM TWO: Where to stay...

When you get there, where do you stay? Hotel, motel, hostel, park bench, friend's couch, camping? Well if you are a cyclist camping might sound like the best option, but then you have to carry all your camping gear and that can be pretty heavy if you don't know how to pack light. (Seriously, why are you bringing so many books with you???)

I think one of the best options is Bed and Breakfast places. Cheaper than hotels, great service and if you're lucky they might even have some tools you can borrow for any small repairs. Of course not all bed and breakfast places are "normal". Check out this Toronto B&B that is on a ship. Sounds like a fun thing to do, but better call ahead and see if they have room on the ship to store your bicycle. (I imagine some fancy hotels would be upset to have a dirty muddy bicycle on their carpets...)

If you went the camping route depending on the time of year you may also need a heat source. I found this out the hard way in October 2010 when I went camping with my ex-girlfriend and we used candles as our heat source. Its not like we can carry a furnace with us, but I am sure there is small portable heaters out there that would provide more heat than mere candles. (I feel silly writing this during the height of a Toronto heat wave.)

PROBLEM THREE: Cleaning and maintenance...

I recommend taking a list of bicycle mechanics with you so you know where to find them. Google Maps or an app on your smartphone would be helpful. The real problem in bicycle mechanics with a WAITING LIST... they stick your bicycle in the back and call you 2 weeks later when its fixed. Its not like walking into a Yorkville salon and getting your nails done at the last minute. A lot of bicycle mechanics are busy busy busy!

So the SMART thing to do is to carry basic tools with you and only go to the bicycle mechanic when its obviously a repair you can't fix yourself.

PROBLEM FOUR: Food... mmm... food...

OPTION A) Carry food with you from supermarkets. Lots of it...

OPTION B) Only carry necessities (ie. Poweraid) and emergency food  / snacks. Stop for food when opportunity / need arises.

OPTION C) Carry nothing but water (and dine out).

This really comes down to personal choice. When in Rome its presumed you will stop and try the pizza... Option B seems like the obvious smart choice, but some people might prefer options A or C if they are treveling in the deep woods or in a city with lots of great restaurants you want to try.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How To Fix Your Derailleurs

Please help me I'm so stressed over this. I just bought a new Supercycle bike from Canadian Tire. They did not adjust the derailleurs at the store so I decided to try it but I wound up loosen the cable too much and it came out of the derailleur all together. I am planning a cycling trip to Toronto on the weekend and I don't want to rent a BIXI bike for the entire weekend because that would cost a small fortune. Is there anyway I can fix this myself in a hurry? PLEASE HELP ME. - Andrew in Whitby, Ontario

Not to worry Andrew, help is available but it won't be easy. Derailleurs are basically the most complicated things to fix on a modern bicycle.

#1. First check to see if you have a bent derailleur tab. (You probably don't because your bike is brand new, but lets follow procedure here in case other people have problems.) If it is please see this other post on "Fixing a Bent Derailleur Tab".

#2. Get yourself a copy of Barnett's Manual (the books aren't cheap so a PDF will suffice) and read chapters 33 and 34.

I cannot possibly fully explain all the intricacies of fixing derailleurs in one blog post. Barnett takes TWO chapters to do it, one for front derailleurs and another for rear derailleurs. If you view the PDF it is pages 591 to 649.

Failing that check out this website: sheldonbrown.com/derailer-adjustment.html which is reasonably helpful, but has really shoddy graphics and skips over a lot of parts (It should be sufficient to help fix Andrew's problem however). That site does however get the point across that derailleurs are basically the most complicated things to fix on a modern bicycle.

Maybe someday I will do a detailed post on how to fix derailleurs, but if I am anything like Barnett such a post would take me a week to write and be 50+ pages long.

Good luck Andrew!

Toronto City Council votes to scrap Jarvis bike lanes

CANADA - Yesterday in a 28-9 vote Toronto city councilors voted to spend more than $400,000 to erase bike lanes on Jarvis St. downtown as well as Birchmount Rd. and Pharmacy Ave.

This isn't going to change the habits of cyclists however, who use those routes on the way to work. Myself included, I take Jarvis several times a week so the stupidity of spending thousands of dollars to REMOVE a bicycle lane is just silliness and a complete waste of taxpayers money.

It will also mean mapmakers will have to redesign their maps of Toronto's bicycle lanes and paths.

Toronto city councilors also agreed to physically separate 14 kilometres of bike lanes on downtown streets — two of them north-south, two east-west — at an unknown cost - and in an unspecified way. It is unknown exactly how cyclists are supposed to get into these new cycling lanes from intersections... and furthermore, what if situations arise where cyclists refuse to use these protected cycling lanes because its better (perhaps even safer) to be using the normal road?

Cycling advocates got one concession — the two-kilometre Jarvis lanes won’t be removed until AFTER new separated cycling lanes on Sherbourne St. are separated from other traffic, expected by December 2012.

In which case what is the cost of building these new separated cycling lanes on Sherbourne? One city councilor estimated the cost at $200,000 but I think he is full of ****. If it costs $400,000 just to remove bicycle lanes just made of PAINT, how can it cost less to create new separated bicycle lanes made of CEMENT?

Rob Ford's gravy train apparently goes to the Land of Stupid Wastefulness.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bicycles as Mechanical Genius

Sometimes bicycle mechanics display their talents in ways that are unforeseen and really a testament to both their skills as mechanical geniuses... and as artists.






Monday, June 27, 2011

BIXI wants to grow, but is it profitable?

CANADA - Toronto's BIXI program has been active for over one month now (it started May 3rd) and according to the Toronto Cyclists Union the cycle-sharing program should triple the number of bikes and expand the current service area beyond the downtown core.

But is there the profits to support such an expansion?

In the first week BIXI was active there was 700 trips. By week 4 there was 28,000 / week.

Most of the demand comes from the edges of the service area, along Jarvis, Spadina and Bloor, thus furthering the logic that BIXI should expand in those regions.

Meanwhile in Montreal the BIXI program owes $37 million to the city and is currently running a $5 million annual deficit. Not that long ago Montreal was running a profit, but has since flip flopped into deficit (possibly due to over expansion into regions of the city where most people don't use bicycles).

So Toronto needs to learn the lessons taught by Montreal. Expand SLOWLY, and only into regions where demand can be shown.

It should be noted that May was very rainy and renting bicycles very much depends on the weather conditions, so those numbers are expecting to rise dramatically during the summer and autumn, before dropping off suddenly in winter.

So far Toronto BIXI has served up 73,000 rides in its first six weeks of service, with only 1,000 bikes on Toronto streets.

Successful bike-sharing programs often have a lot more bicycles than a mere 1,000. ie. The Paris VĂ©lib “freedom bike” program got 1.8 million rides in its first month in 2007, with about 10,000 bikes. But that in PARIS, a city known as a mecca for artists and tourists. Its to be expected to have much higher usage.

Paris hit the 100-million ride mark earlier this month (June 2011), after nearly four years in operation. Paris now has an average of 100,000 rentals per day, with 20,000 bikes.

Montreal's BIXI program currently has almost 30,000 subscribers and 18,000 rides per day on a fleet of 5,000 bikes.

BIXI Toronto so far has 2,240 subscribers and has had 7,000 one-day users, but that isn't enough to support expansion. 6,000 subscribers are needed just to break even.

So Toronto needs to wait a bit longer before they start expanding rapidly. A little bit of expansion in the desired areas would be okay, assuming it drives up usage. If it doesn't BIXI should wait until they reach above the 6,000 mark.

Other bike-sharing programs around the world:

Hangzhou, China
50,000 bikes
2,050 stations
Started in 2009
Plans to have 175,000 bikes by 2020

Paris, France
20,000 bikes
1,800 stations
Between 80,000 to 120,000 rentals per day
Started in 2007

Toronto, Canada
1,000 bikes
80 stations
2240 subscribers, 7000 one-day users
Started in May 2011

Montreal, Canada
5,050 bikes
405 stations
30,000 members
18,000 rides per day on average
Started in 2009

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to find a bicycle mechanic in back-water towns

Dear Bicycle Mechanic!

I am writing a cyclists guide to Route 66 in the states for a publishing company in Switzerland. I wondered if you would have any information on how best to find a mechanic in back-water towns on North America. Is there a data-base? A secret HQ?

Any advice you would have would be very much appreciated.

Thank you
Be well
Jessica Mijnssen

Hey Jessica!

I recommend Google Maps.

You just choose your city / town and then appropriate keywords... ie. Denver bike shop, Denver bicycle shop, Denver bicycles, Denver cycling, Denver bicycle mechanic, Denver bike mechanic, etc.

And be sure to double check when trying "bike" that you're not getting motorcycle mechanics.

I then recommend that you compile a list of bicycle shops along Route 66 and make that "database" as it were available online. I would be happy to publish your results along with any links to your book.

:)


Dear Bicycle Mechanic!

Thank you so much for your help. I have, indeed, been led astray by "Bike shops" that lead me to motorized vehicles.

I'll be in touch!

Be well
Jessica

The Battle for Bike Lanes in Toronto

CANADA - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford seems to have a love / hate relationship with cyclists in Toronto.

Believe me, the feeling is mutual.

Unlike Stephen Harper who sits comfortably in his PM office looking out his Ottawa windows at the peasants below now that he has his dreaded majority government and can do whatever he wants, Rob Ford cannot do whatever he pleases... he has to get everything past Toronto City Council first.

As part of his agenda Rob Ford wants to do the following...

#1. A Separated Bike Lane Network in Toronto's downtown core.

Note: Its confusing what this might actually be. One idea is that it will be separate bi-directional bike lanes (a two-way bike facility on one side of the street). One proposal is to convert the existing bicycle lanes on Bloor St. East, from Sherbourne Street to Broadview Avenue, into separated bike lanes in 2011 (1.6 km at a cost of approximately $50,000). This trial would then determine whether it could be used in other places across Toronto.

#2. Development of 100 km of off-street bike trails.

Note: 30 km of new trails already began construction in 2010 and will open in the summer of 2011.

#3. A Bikeway Trails Plan to continue developing bike trails in the future.

#4. Fixing gaps in the Bikeway Network. Ford wants on-street connections to be completed, provided they don't interfere too much with the flow of traffic.

#5. Bike Lanes to be Removed, at a cost of $210,000.

Note: Local councilors apparently want some bike lanes removed. They are: Pharmacy Avenue, between Denton Avenue and Alvinson Road, at a cost of approximately $120,000; and Birchmount Avenue, between Kingston Road and St. Clair Avenue East, at a cost of approximately $90,000.

#6. Modify Existing Bike Lanes.

Note: They want to modify the Dupont Street at the Lansdowne Avenue intersection in order to improve traffic flow and capacity at the intersection (cost: approximately $8,000).

#7. New Bike Lanes

A city report recommends new bike lanes at Dawes Road, from Danforth Avenue to Victoria Park Avenue, as part of the Dawes Road Revitalization Project.

So where is the money for all these new separated bike lanes (or scrapping of old lanes) going to come from?

Well Rob Ford has apparently hired scores of Toronto accountants to try and get the numbers to work.

Honestly, he'd be better off hiring IT staff or artists, not for their technical skills, but simply for their imaginative problem solving abilities. Not to diss the accountants, but sometimes certain jobs require thinking outside the box.

Maybe then we could find the necessary cash for such things and stop idiot drivers from parking in bicycle lanes. They're not parking spots!

In other news, want to suggest a new location for a bicycle stand / ring post? Go to toronto.ca/cycling/postandring/.

Also the Toronto Union Station Bicycle Station has now moved to the East side of York Street, just north of 25 York St. at Bremner Blvd. Staff hours are Monday - Friday: 8 AM - 4 PM. The Station will be unstaffed during the lunch hour.

Oh and by the way, the weather is wonderful outside people... get out of your stuffy apartments, your sunrooms, your offices, your basements, or wherever you happen to be and go cycling. There may not be that many beautiful days outside this summer so enjoy them while you can.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Caroline MacFarlane saves Orange Raleigh

ART HISTORY - Awhile back I was coming home from Chinatown and walked by the AGO. En route I noticed the orange painted Raleigh bicycle, shown here. The artist had apparently gone through a lot of effort to protect the bicycle ring stand it was locked to from getting paint on it.

I wanted to mention it on here, but when I got home I promptly forgot about it. (I have so many blog ideas I forget to write about its ridiculous...)

Anywho, it might have been relegated to the back of my mind, but the city officials nearby apparently decided that painted artworks (abandoned bicycles or not) don't belong attached to bicycle ring stands.

They issued a removal order and attached it to the bike, which the artist Caroline MacFarlane later found, got upset about and promptly blogged about it.

Then Councillor Adam Vaughan called the removal order another blow in the “war on creativity.” Picked up by the local mass media, the topic of "war on creativity" got a lot of attention from Torontonians... and around the world.

So much that the city has since backed down on the issue and the orange Raleigh is still there, despite it supposed to being removed yesterday (Monday June 6th).

Discussions are now being batted around about what will become of the art piece. No matter what happens, it won’t be destroyed.

“Whether it stays in front of the gallery or travels around the city, both are options we’re exploring,” says MacFarlane.

Bicycle Mechanic Jobs & Salaries

Bike shops are ALWAYS looking to hire more bicycle mechanics, especially in the Spring. The problem however is the Old Catch 22... they only want experienced mechanics who know what they are doing, don't need to be taught anything and do what they're told.

And because every bike shop is different and follows their own set of rules as to the proper way to fix a bicycle (most of them don't do things "by the book"). Worse some bicycle mechanics who have been at a bicycle shop a long time have some serious ego problems and will deride new mechanics, complain about their lack of skills/experience (even if the new mechanic is actually older or even more experienced) because they see the new mechanic as a threat.

If you were thinking of escaping office politics by becoming a bicycle mechanic, think again. Some bicycle mechanics think the shop is their "turf" and the moment you step on their turf you had better do what they say or they will find some excuse to either not hire you or get you fired.

And for what?

Why would anyone want to go through this nonsense and put up with backstabbing / egotistical co-workers with a serious personality problem like that? For getting paid minimum wage or barely above it (this is true, although it varies from state to state, province to province depending on what the local minimum wage is).

Well as some bicycle mechanics put it, its all about the lifestyle. They just love fixing bicycles.

It would have to be the lifestyle because the average salary for a bicycle mechanic is horrible. Minimum wage or barely above minimum wage. Depending on where you go bicycle mechanics can get up to $30,000 per year in wages... but that is only if you are really experienced and know what you are doing.

Otherwise don't expect much in terms of salary. The good news is if your job resume is good a bicycle mechanic can EASILY find work. Bicycle mechanics are always in high demand. If you don't like a particular shop, you can easily quit and work some place else within days.

But if your resume is short on experience then bicycle shops don't even want to look at you.

I'd argue the best way to get hired as a bicycle mechanic if you don't have experience is to first get training (see my posts about bicycle mechanic schools) and then you have several options...

#1. Go to every bicycle shop near you and give them your resume. Your resume should be based on skills instead of experience. Talk about your ability to fix brakes, shocks, derailleurs, etc.

#2. Become friends with other bicycle mechanics and/or managers. Bug them into hiring you.

#3. Beg the manager to give you a chance. Get down on your freaking knees when you do it just to show them you are serious.

#4. If all else fails, grab your tools and setup shop down the street from a bike shop or across the street and offer "free bicycle repairs, donations accepted!" When the manager of the bike shop realizes they are losing business to you and that all you want is a chance to prove you can do it they will rethink hiring you.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bike Works Community Bicycle Space

June 4th (today) is the official launch of the Bike Works Community Bicycle Space at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto.

Bike Works is a brand new community bike space at Evergreen Brick Works whose main aim is to increase the use of bicycles as a viable and sustainable mode of transportation. It is the home base of our bike program, Green City Cycles.

Bike Works has 3 main offerings to the Public:

1. Do it yourself repair – Come in and use the tools, space and get the assistance you need to fix and maintain your own ride.

2. Rentals - Have someone visiting from out of town? Rent a bicycle for a day and show them our great city and amazing Ravine system trails.

3. Workshops - Bike Works offers basic maintenance workshops and safe riding workshops for the general public. Details at the Evergreen Website.

Check out Evergreens Bike Month Events.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Electric Bicycle Sales Up Up UP!

Bicycle manufacturer Derby Cycle says its profits are up 40%, mostly due to electric bicycle sales which are up 134%.

And they`re not alone. Other e-bike manufacturers are seeing similar rises in the popularity of electric bicycles.

And not just manufacturers... some bicycle mechanics are now taking old bicycles and turning them into electric bicycles...

Like Velo Wrench Bike Shop (Vacaville California), which has been adding a battery-powered electric kit above the rear wheel which transforms almost any bicycle into an electric hybrid.

Vincent Coons, the bicycle mechanic who owns the shop, is being paid $1,200 for each conversion he makes (minus the cost of the kit, its a healthy profit). Increasingly Vincent is being asked to perform the conversion that takes a few hours to complete.

A retrofitted e-bike kit adds a battery and motor with enough juice to travel 40 miles (64 km), making it a lot easier for people who hate cycling up hills, but still want the option of using their own steam when they want to.

E-bikes go up to 20 to 25 mph, which means they are still classified as bicycles and don`t require licensing.

Electric bicycle usage worldwide has experienced rapid growth since 1998. It is now estimated that there were roughly 120 million e-bikes in China as of early 2010, and sales are expanding rapidly in India and the Netherlands (Holland is the capitol of bicycle usage).

The Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports estimated that 1 million electric bicycles were sold in Europe in 2010. The report said that sales in the United States reached roughly 300,000 in 2010, double the number sold in 2009.

NOTE: Car usage is down in the USA. In 2008 there was 250 million cars in the USA. In 2009 it dropped to 246 million as approx. 4 million Americans scrapped their old cars and opted for other forms of transportation.

E-bikes come in different varieties but share common characteristics: They can be powered by pedals alone, a mounted battery pack, with a power output starting at 250 watts, and an approx. 1/3rd horsepower motor connected to the rear wheel.

Often there is 3 modes: Pedaling, Assisted Pedaling, Electric. Some models don't have the full electric mode, providing only assisted pedaling. A simple throttle switch on the handlebars controls the power.

The e-bike ends up feeling lighter and easier, the amount of effort needed is significantly reduced.

E-bike sales in the U.S. have been growing at roughly 21% per year clip and could reach 785,000 a year by 2016, according to Pike Research, a clean energy market research firm.

In the USA bicycles are generally not considered a viable form of transportation, according to Dave Hurst, a senior analyst at Pike Research. Americans are just too lazy and obsessed with gasoline cars. The same is true of electric cars and hybrid cars, which many Americans openly scorn. Still, Hurst says, the e-bike is winning an increasing number of converts among people who wouldn't otherwise be on a bike, particularly in cities that have added bike lanes.

Deborah Fortier, a 60-year-old piano teacher who lives on Manhattans Upper West Side, had been riding a traditional two-wheeler to her lessons but she was arriving tired and sweaty. After she bought an e-bike 3 years ago, Fortier started scheduling her lessons 15 minutes apart and arriving fresh. Fortier is now an e-bike evangelist and wants more people to abandon their cars for e-bikes.

That would get more people thinking about going out and putting a basket on their bikes and doing shopping, says Fortier. You get a whole wonderful new sense of yourself and the city.

Its also effecting the tourism industry.

Bike tour companies are bringing in more customers by offering e-bikes as an option. They’re leveling the playing field between the fit and the less-so — and assuaging would-be riders’ fear of hills — by adding electronic bikes to their fleets.

“There’s no learning curve to using these bikes,” assures Dan Lehman, owner of the bike tour company Austin Lehman, the first North American outfit to use e-bikes widely on its tours. “They’re very intuitive, with brakes that are the same as on a normal bike.”

Austin Lehman’s announcement this spring that it would be adding e-bikes spurred such interest that the company is planning to purchase 10 more Diamont Trek Ride+ bikes than expected, a sign that many people are welcoming the addition of e-bikes to their roster. Use of e-bikes incurs a $25 per day surcharge over the regular cost of the week long tours.

“We just got a call from a multi-generational family, and it was the availability of the e-bikes that convinced the older folks that they could handle the trip,” says Dan Lehman.

E-bikes are now available for one-day excursions in tourist destinations too. Austin, Texas has them via Austin Lehman Adventures ( austinlehman.com), which offers two-hour overview tours of the city for $48 (less for kids).

The London Electric Bike Tours ( londonelectricbiketours.com; 35-50 British pounds depending on tour length) offers tours of the film locations, as well as more classic cycles along the Thames and to such tourist must sees.

Paris Charms and Secrets ( parischarmssecrets.com; 45 euros per four-hour tour) introduces visitors to both the famous sights and the hidden gems in the city, including the hillier routes.

Napa Valley Bike Tours ( napavalleybiketours.com) in California rents electronic bikes on its day-long and half-day wine tasting tours, for $25 over the normal price (which starts at $89, including lunch, maps and equipment on a self-guided tour).

I Bike Tuscany ( ibiketuscany.com; 129 euros including lunch) does the same type of wine cycle, but transports guests in a van from Florence to the starting point in Poggio in Chianti for rides through medieval towns and wineries.

This is not a complete list of e-bike tours, but you get the idea.

The point I am making is that 20 years from now the roads could be filled with a lot more electric bicycles than any of us were expecting, especially if the price drops considerably.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bicycle Insurance Rehashed

I've decided to revisit the bicycle insurance topic (previously covered in Bicycle Insurance + Other Goodies) because I have found a number of businesses that do offer bicycle insurance, and I've also come up with an innovative way that bicycle shops could offer insurance.

First my innovation...

What if bicycle shops (large retail chains) offered Bicycle Insurance when people bought new bicycles or came in for a tune-up? To make it easier they might team up with an insurance company to handle some of the financial aspects of such a deal. The insurance would be two fold:

Theft Insurance

Vandalism Insurance (this happens more often than you'd think)

Some market research would have to be done to determine what rate to charge customers, but presumably the rate would be equal to that being charged by some of the companies below or other major insurers.

Canadian Banks have been offering insurance for years now, part of their effort to control more of Canada's financial industry. I can't speak for other countries, but I imagine there's other industries trying to get into the insurance industry there as well.

My idea draws inspiration from the above idea, except that it has one major benefit for bicycle shops: It guarantees return business. If someone's bicycle is stolen or vandalized (which can only be proven by submitting a police report), then the customer comes back to the bicycle shop where they purchased the insurance to have the vandalism repaired or the bicycle replaced (thus allowing the bike shop more profits).

Teaming up with a larger insurance company to handle claims would make this process easier. The bicycle shop would get a commission for every customer who signs up for insurance.

In the meantime here is a list of companies which offer bicycle insurance:

Cycleguard (UK)

Cyclecover (Australia)

Velosure (Australia)

And there is also a number of general insurance companies offering bicycle insurance in addition to home insurance, car insurance, life insurance, etc. I recommend searching for local companies when comparing rates.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Higher gas prices = More work for bicycle mechanics

Its simple economics...

When gasoline prices soar (ie. its above $1.40 / litre in Toronto right now) people have a tendency to go out and walk more, buy scooters, bicycles, etc. Worrying about the environment might factor into this, but for most people that is just a side perk.

And in some cases they look at that rusty 18-speed in their garage and realize "Hey, the tires are still good. It just needs a tune-up."

Its a strange little phenomenon that I've noticed...

Most people, if something goes wrong with their bicycle (usually the derailleurs on the gears) they have a tendency to toss the bicycle in the garage and forget to fix it. If its the brakes they might try and fix it. Essentially if its anything complicated they won't bother to fix it.

And this is true of most people. Only the adamant "I NEED MY BICYCLE" people will bother taking it to a bicycle mechanic, because most people figure they don't have the time.

But when gasoline prices start soaring they look wistfully at their old broken bicycle once more and realize there is some cost savings at having it fixed.

The more flamboyant people will even go shopping for a new bike, maybe even purchase an electric bicycle or a folding bicycle if they're the type who likes that sort of thing.

I just think it is an amusing phenomenon, that's all. With gasoline prices expected to continue soaring in the future, we can expect a lot more work for bicycle mechanics.

Maybe its time we raised how much we get paid? (The average bicycle mechanic gets minimum wage or barely above that.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Amusing Bicycle Videos

ENTERTAINMENT - These are just for fun.

Monty Python - Bicycle Repair Man


I also recommend checking out Monty Python's Flying Circus 3x08: The Cycling Tour.

Zen and the Art of Bicycle Repair


Peanuts Cartoon - Rerun riding on the back of a bicycle

The Bike Shop as a hangout place...

Imagine going to a bicycle shop where they serve coffee and other goodies behind a bar, has a place to sit and talk bikes with other cyclists.

Thats the idea being pushed by new bike shops... like The Bicycle Source in Anaheim, California.

The Bicycle Source was original founded and opened by Steve Potts in the 1980s and was a place for cyclist to hang out and talk, in addition to selling and repairing bicycles, and a variety of bicycle gear. The shop later closed in 1995.

However there is good news for cyclists in Anaheim California... the Bicycle Source is back. Reopened by Dan Hubbard and Steve Blackey. Hubbard is the original shop mechanic and manager and Dan Hubbard was a team rider. Both were key players in making it a happening place during its heyday.

If you have a favourite bicycle shop you know its a fun place to hang out. Indeed sometimes local businesses spring up nearby just because of the bicycle shop across the street.

In Toronto for example, check out the cafe "Jet Fuel" at 519 Parliament Street. Its just north and across the street from Cycle Solutions at 444 Parliament Street.

True, Cycle Solutions doesn't sell coffee or biscuits, but Jet Fuel (as a bicycle themed cafe) certainly does.

In the case of The Bicycle Source and similar locations its more than just a retail store. Its a destination, a place to hang out. The Bicycle Source for example is more for BMX riders, and comes fully equipped with an indoor ramp area, movie screening lounge, and an indoor space for hosting events. The shop also honours legendary riders with museum-like displays of bicycles/equipment and photos of famous BMX bikers throughout the shop.

There aren't many bicycle oriented museums in the world. But maybe there should be.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Charlie's FreeWheels

CANADA - Charlie’s FreeWheels is a bicycle mechanic training program in Toronto which helps youth from Regent Park. The free program mentors and teaches young would-be bicycle mechanics, using donated bicycles from the community.

The program only teaches the basics, but its a solid start for people wanting to learn the essentials of bike repair and maintenance.

The program has being going on for several years now and its turned around the lives of the students involved. They've even launched a new bike shop at 242.5 Queen St East to house all the bicycles they're repairing.

The new Charlie’s Bike Shop will provide repair service, parts, accessories and sales of refurbished bikes to the public. All proceeds will be funneled back into youth programs.

The program's name refers to the late Charles Prinsep, who was struck and killed while on a cross-country bike trip in 2007. He conceived of the idea and following his death, some of Prinsep’s friends wanted to do something in his honour and felt his idea of a bicycle mechanic mentoring program was definitely something he would have wanted to see happen.

Youths involved also receive a free bicycle (which they first fix), a lock and a helmet. Each youth also takes part in CAN-BIKE safety certification.

Since its launch two years ago, 30 youth have gone through Charlie’s Freewheels.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Monowheel that doesn't work

The following is a series of photos of a "Monowheel" contraption which doesn't actually work and was designed by British designer Ben Wilson. Its apparently not very comfortable either.

The concept isn't new and there are working versions out there built by different people, but no one has managed to design one which works "properly" despite many inventors who have tried. There have been motorized versions made also, but likewise there are always design faults.

Still, its amusing.




Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Cleaning your Bicycle

Its Spring again!

The birds are chirping, the raccoons are frolicking, people are starting to get out their short shorts... and you've just discovered a leak in your garage which caused your bicycle to be snowed/rained on all winter long.

Or maybe you left your bicycle outside in a snowbank all winter long.

Or maybe its just covered in dust, grime and mud because you shoved it away in a corner in November and didn't bother to clean all the mud off it after sloshing through the muddy streets on it.

Well its pretty much guaranteed that you now need a tune up, so here's a checklist for you to go down.


THE SPRING CLEANING TUNE UP CHECK LIST!

#1. Refill the tires. They're probably looking kinda flat, and even if they don't give them a top-up to the proper PSI. Don't overfill them however, use a pressure gauge, read the PSI requirements on the side of the tire and fill accordingly. Overfilling the tires can cause them to burst at the worst possible moment and have "catastrophic wheel failure"...

#2. Clean all the rust off the chain. Most bicycle shops don't sell stuff for removing rust (too many people are afraid of accidentally removing paint) so you may need to visit a hardware store to buy some CLR to remove the rust. Remember to wear latex gloves and avoid contact with your eyes because its very acidic. I recommend brushing the CLR on with a wire brush.

You may also need to degrease your bicycle chain and then add fresh oil. Be sure to use environmentally friendly bicycle oil. WD40 will only make your chain worse because WD40 collects dirt and the next thing you know your chain is full of grit.

#3. Check the brakes are in perfect working order. I like having perfectly tuned brakes. Check your brake levers too.

#4. Check your shifters are working too. (If they are not working properly I should warn you this isn't a skill normally taught to beginners, so either consult Barnett's Manual or visit your local bicycle mechanic. Note to Self: Make A Comprehensive Guide for Adjusting Shifters.)

#5. If you or your kids are growing, you may need to adjust the handlebars and/or seat height.

#6. Take it for a quick spin and make sure everything else is in working order. ie. The handlebars might be a bit stiff.

You could be extra paranoid and take your bike in for a complete tune up, but I should warn you this is the BUSIEST time of the year for bicycle shops, so be prepared for a long wait. (As in, weeks or even a month before you get the call saying you bike is tuned.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Toronto Bike Month

CANADA - Around the world in many cities, there are Bike to Work days, Weeks and Months. These celebrations are about having fun, and trying to encourage people to ride their bikes more.

On Monday May 30, 2011 municipalities across Ontario are coordinating events to celebrate a GTHA-wide Bike to Work Day. Join in by riding in Toronto's Group Commute to City Hall and get a free t-shirt, and a hot pancake breakfast.

The Group Commute also marks the beginning of Toronto's Bike Month events. These events are community-driven and take place City-wide.

BIXI Toronto Set to Launch on May 3rd

CANADA - The City of Toronto and the Public Bike System Company are proud to announce that the official launch of the BIXI Toronto program will take place on May 3rd with 1,000 bikes, 80 BIXI stations and 1,500 docking points in Toronto's downtown core.

Toronto City Council approved the BIXI Toronto program last May. More than 1,200 Torontonians purchased an annual membership last fall, five months before the program's launch.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bicycles as Food

I just thought these photos of bicycles as food were funny. Culinary art!




Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tour d'Afrique riders head for Sudan

I received the following email a couple days ago...

Hi there Charles!

I hope this finds you well!

Quick note to let you know that the Tour d'Afrique bicycle race from Cairo to Cape Town is underway.

The riders have just finished the 1,000 km stretch in Egypt and are in Aswan today, getting ready to board the ferry for Sudan.

I've attached two photos from Tour d'Afrique rider, Kristian Pletten... as well as an update from Cristiano Wernick, our Communications Manager on the tour.

Thanks for any support you may be able to afford the tour over the next 15 weeks.

Regards and thanks
Theresa


Theresa Brown
Tour d'Afrique
Tel: +27 (0) 44 389 0007
Cell: +27 (0) 84 353 1975
theresa@tourdafrique.com
www.tourdafrique.com

THE FIRST 1000 KM

Aswan, Egypt. January 23, 2011 – Cycling through the desert, on roads along the Red
Sea, past rocky mountains and alongside the green pastures of the Nile River, the first few days on Tour d’Afrique rewarded the riders with beautiful and distinct landscape vistas. In Aswan today, the riders are preparing for the long ferry ride across Lake Nasser into Sudan.

The first rest day of the tour happened in Luxor, after 6 stages (766 km), and some of the participants used the time to see the Karnak temple, the Valley of the Kings and other attractions, while others updated their blogs, chatted with families and friends back home and went over their equipment and strategies for the next stages of the race. Each day brings new challenges, such as strong headwinds, unexpected hills, tents collapsed by strong winds and sand storms as well as the social dynamic of living with a big group under harsh conditions.

Those who are racing have agreed on a strategy and ride most of the day in a big
peloton, taking turns at leading and leaving the competition to the sprints over the last few kilometers of each day´s stage. North American Paul Wolfe, who is leading the men´s competition, has trained hard for over a year and pushes himself and the rest of the group really hard. The Egyptian racers, Ahmed, Mohamed and Sharif have also trained all year round for this race, and since they’re only racing the 9-day stretch in Egypt, they’ve been giving the other racers a solid, hard time.

While the racers compete and plan their long-term strategies, other riders prefer to
experience Africa at a slower and more relaxed pace. Canadian father and son, Paul and Matthew Paridaen, decided to ride their bikes together all the way from Cairo to Khartoum in order to spend some quality time together.

Most of the riders up until now have been able to keep their EFI (Every Fabulous Inch) status, but with the many challenges ahead of them, not least of all the mountains of Ethiopia and the lava rock roads in northern Kenya, it will be those who possess the strongest will to endure who will make it through to Cape Town and earn themselves the distinction of having cycled every inch of the way.

Bixi's founding 1000 members

Toronto is well on their way to having the Bixi bicycle rental service available. The initial 1000 members needed have subscribed to the $95 / year agreement which allows them to borrow Bixi bicycles whenever they need one and park it in another Bixi parking lot when they are done with it.

Minneapolis, Washington D.C., London, Melbourne and Montreal have already adopted Bixi, a program which has achieved significant success thus far whereas other bicycle sharing/rental services have failed.

See toronto.bixi.com for more details.

The program is now in infrastructure mode, acquiring spaces where people can borrow and return bicycles.

One such location will be a new square being built in front of 52nd Division, the police station on Dundas between Simcoe and St. Patrick streets. The land has been slated to become public space for decades, but has been tied up in red tape.

Other places to be added include various publicly owned buildings, squares, parks, major libraries, TTC and GO stations throughout Toronto. The Bixi program will also be available for tourists who wish to only rent a bicycle for a shorter time frame.

Obituary for Bicycle Mechanic Terry Gardner

TERRELL (TERRY) GARDNER

Toronto humanist, family man, mathematician, peace activist, cyclist, bicycle mechanic.

Born 22nd September 1926, Cleveland, Ohio.

Died 22nd December 2010, Toronto, after fifty years of skirmishes with cancer.

Served in U.S. Navy, 1944-46. B.A., Philosophy and Education, Antioch College, 1950; M.A., Ph.D., Mathematics, Columbia University, 1959, 1964. Member, Department of Mathematics, University of Toronto, 1966-1991, who loved the simplicity, elegance, and beauty of abstract mathematics. Cofounder, Education Director, and one-time President, Science for Peace; Founder, Toronto branch of United Campuses against Nuclear War; Member Canadian Pugwash Group, Group of 78, Veterans against Nuclear Arms, environmental and humanitarian groups. His vision and insistent effort led to the establishment of the University of Toronto's lectures, Chair, and undergraduate Programme in Peace Studies, and contributed to the development of Peace Studies curricula world-wide.

Terry was an inspired bicycle mechanic, who commuted, shopped, and toured by fine tuned bicycle, cycling with his wife in Southern Ontario and Quebec, north-eastern United States, south central Austria, and repeatedly in southwest France and the Pyrenees.

Pre-deceased by his first wife, Eleanor Gail Hollinger, and his daughter Susan. Survived by his sister, Fay Gardner Lawton, his wife, Constance Ruth Moore, daughters Molly and Kate, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Friends may make donations in his memory to a cause they favour, or to Science for Peace, The Nature Conservancy, ~ the Canadian Friends Service Committee, or project Ploughshares. Morley Bedford Funeral Services, Toronto, 416-489-8733.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Steampunk Bicycle

Check out this retro styled steampunk recumbent bicycle. :)



Want to learn more about Steampunk?

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