Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas

and Happy New Year. I'm about to leave for a land without internet, so this is going to be a fairly boring blog for about two weeks. In fact, work in January is going to be nuts, so I'll hardly be posting then either.

If you're looking for somewhere else to "click" - Canadian readers might like to sign a petiton which asks the Canadian Federal Government to promote cycling as a preferred means of transportation. If you're not so much into the online thing, you could wait until a paper version is ready for signing at the Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton Mountain Equipment Co-op stores through January and February. If you're in Toronto and shop at Grassroots, you can sign there in January and February as well.

There are lots of reasons why people like me and Joe and Griffin and Minus Car and SnakeBike and CleverChimp and Treadly and all the others (there are TONS - just go through the links on one of our blogs) are trying to live with as few car trips as possible.

For me, I ride because I think peak oil is inevitable, I think sprawlurbia, which is caused by cars, is hideous, I think we're well on our way to another Easter Island style catastrophe and that someone somewhere has to make a stand. Filling up with gas strikes me as putting money into the pockets of corrupt morons like this, and heck, I just really like biking.

Actually, this post pretty much says all I have to say about this issue. But a picture, or a video, is worth a thousand words.
I do everything I can to minimize my car trips, because cars cause global warming, and global warming is killing these guys. You can either say "yes" to this, or "no" to this. I vote "no".

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Napoleon in Moscow


This post has nothing to do with biking, or with the Promotion of Cycling in Canada petition which is headed towards 2500 signatures, and which you'll be able to sign with old fashioned ink at a few of the MEC Stores across the country in January and February, and at the Bloor and Danforth Grassroots Stores here in Toronto.

Instead, this is just something I found funny in my current book. I'm reading Moscow 1812 by Adam Zamoyski right now, and really enjoying it. He's a good writer and this is one of those episodes of history - of human suffering - that we here in North America in the 21st century just can't believe really happened.
WAIT - I've got a picture of the wrong Napoleon, this is the one I mean:

Actually, this isn't about Napoleon, this is actually about Francois Joseph Lefebvre, one of Napoleon's Marshalls on the Moscow campaign.

Here's the situation: Napoleon took about 450 000 soldiers into Russia without much of a plan for what to do when they got there. To his surprise the Russians didn't really want to fight, they let him go hang out in Moscow for a while, and then winter hit and the French start freezing and starving and they begin this unbelievably horrific retreat out of Moscow in late fall / early winter.
For lots of bad logistical reasons, they have no food, start throwing their guns away because they're too heavy to carry, their horses die by the thousands, and these poor bastards are reduced to eating stuff like this:
First melt some snow, of which you need a large quantity in order to produce a little water; then mix in the flour; then, in the absence of fat, put in some axle grease, and, in the absence of salt, some (gun)powder. Serve hot and eat when you are very hungry (pg 401).
Hell, these guys were doing even worse things, and cannibalism isn't even the one I'm thinking about and am too polite to describe here (think horsies).

Anyway, the French are dying like there's no tomorrow. They're walking barefoot through howling wind and snow, various Russian armies are lurking to the sides and behind them. Lots of the French are deserting and running to the Russians begging to be taken prisoner, and to stop this, to keep his troops together, Marshal Lefebvre gives his version of the classic old "morale boosting Hurrah Hurrah!" speech like the one in Henry V.
You know the one - Henry is at Agincourt and outnumbered by the French, Westmoreland laments that they don't have more men, and Henry (or rather Shakespeare) says:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


It's the speech that every war movie - from Braveheart to Lord of the Rings - tries to imitate. Anyway, this is Marshal Lefebvre's version in the snow in 1812 with his men starving to death.
"Grenadiers and Chasseurs, the cossacks are there, there, there and there," he said, gesturing to the four points of the compass. "If you do not follow me, you are f---ed. I am no ordinary general, and it is with good reason that in the army of the Moselle I was known as the Eternal Father. Grenadiers and Chasseurs, I say to you again: if you do not stay with me you are f---ed. And anyway, I don't care a f--k. You can all go and f--k yourselves." (pg.383).

And give the man credit, his unit stayed together better than most.

On a totally other topic, here's one example of why a bunch of us are vegetarians. And I'm resisting the urge to make an editorial comment, the whole story is just appalling.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

a citizen for boysenberry jam fan

The cycling petition is still going strong, sign up and tell all your friends.

One of the gentlemen at Bike to the Future in Winnipeg sent me the Amsterdam Declaration which I'd actually never heard of before.

We, the participants at the World Cycle Conference VĂ©lo Mondial 2000, assembled in Amsterdam in June 2000, proclaim that people (including children) should have the right to use bicycles when they want to. We declare that the use of bicycles requires greater acceptance and promotion by all relevant organisations and governments world-wide and call for action.

Right on.

Canada - at least Toronto and Durham where I do my cycling - sucks because girls here don't bike in large groups like these girls below do in Malaysia, Amsterdam and Firenze. Maybe this fight to promote cycling will take us places we never even dreamed!



I need to pay more attention to the awesome (biking Toronto) groups in (bike Toronto) Toronto that are (take the tooker) doing really (cycling cog) great things for (tcat) cyclists, and that I haven’t (Toronto cycling committee) mentioned, mainly because (CBN) I’m a moron.

I need to open my eyes more often.



I've been doing more reading and still fail to see why raising gasoline taxes won't a) ease the transition into peak oil b) raise money that can be funneled to alternative transportation c) wean people from a dependance upon fossil fuels which is destroying the earth.
Heck, Europe, the U.K. and Japan tax gasoline at double (and more!) the levels we do in North America, and they're surviving. They have highway tolls in most of those places as well.


And here's a random one which is open for criticism - if the Highway Traffic Act (in Ontario), says that I belong on the road, and most municipal bylaws will fine me for being on the sidewalk, why don't I have the right to feel as safe on my bike on the road, as motorists do?

Doesn't the fact that many people shun cycling because they don't think it's safe, mean that the streets and highways have been built in a way that discriminates against any non-automobile traffic?

Should we be able to sue municipal and provincial governments for discriminating against us?

And finally... because the environmental news just keeps getting better, we in the west should start preparing for millions of environmental refugees to start leaving their homes because of droughts and desertification caused by climate change.

The number of people fleeing the spread of deserts or climate-change impacts such as drought and flooding is likely to hit 50 million within a decade and soar to between 135 million and 200 million by 2050, (said) Zafar Adeel, a director of the United Nations University.

Yes, Mr. Corcoran, the status quo IS working, everything will be fine. Let's not try to curb consumption or anything.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Merry Christmas, Yoko

I get Newsweek magazine amongst some others, and though they've never heard of Canada I really enjoy reading it. They have a video clip right now where they set Danish photographer Jan Grarup's photos of refugees from Darfur against John Lennon's "Merry Christmas / War is Over" song.


I don't really know anything about Darfur, although I did read the Genocide in Slow Motion article in Maclean's a week or so ago. I also just came across Sudan Watch which provides updates on events there.

It's odd - the planet is big enough that half a world away someone's life is being absolutely torn to shreds, and here at home, completely oblivious to Darfur, my main worry is if the wind is going to be against me tonight on the bike.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

You know you're a cyclist when...

The petition to promote cycling in Canada is up over 2200 names! Let's force the Feds to come out and say that they want more bike commuters on the road!

I've had a bunch of "you know you're a cyclist when..." ideas in my head for a while now, and I've finally decided to write them up. Out of curiousity though I just googled this phrase to see what's out there, and there are some good ones:
At Bicycle Trip in Santa Cruz I like - When someone asks for advice on buying a bike, you either:
a) ask, "How many thousands do you want to spend?"
b) assail them with so many questions about intended use, riding style and the like, not to mention such personal questions as pubic bone height, that you make buying a bicycle sound like rocket science and unintentionally put them off the idea.


When that same person reacts by saying, "It's only a bicycle," your jaw drops and your eyes bug out

And at some weird Polish wiki I like both these:
your first inclination upon hearing the numbers 36x24x35, is that it's a funky new triple chainring setup offered by Shimano, instead of the measurements of the hottest Playmate of the Month.

your wife says "if you buy another bike I'm going to leave you" and you think "I guess I'm going to miss her."

So, if you're bored, do a google search and you'll find lots of pages on this theme, but here are the ones that have been in my head for a while:

You know you're a cyclist when...

  • Walking out the door in normal clothes, instead of your cycling gear, is a strange, foreign experience

  • When you see a roadie going by you first check out their bike, and then their legs, to see if you could take him (or her)

  • Anything that makes you lose momentum better get ready for a few choice swear words

  • When a newbie says something like "is my butt ever sore from yesterday's ride" old memories get stirred up and your eyes mist a little bit. "Oh yeah," you think. "Some people's butt hurts from cycling - I'd forgotten all about that."

  • You've cursed headwinds so many times, in such unbelievably foul language, that you really deserve to have your mouth washed out with soap for the rest of your life

  • Your heart deflates faster than your tire when you look down and realize that you're flatting

  • You wish that more people had flagpoles on their lawns, because you need to check flags to confirm your suspicion that you're not just fat and out of shape, but rather that you're biking into the worst headwind the planet has ever seen, and even Lance himself would be tempted to dismount and walk the rest of the way home

  • You've ridden through large patches of broken glass - unable to avoid them because of traffic - wishing with every ounce of your being, that you could pound the s#*t out of the f#$&*n as$#%*e that caused the glass to be there

  • Despite the fact that you're a cycling God with cut legs and a trim physique, there have been times when you've bitten off way more than you can chew, and upon getting back into the city you have VERY HAPPILY drafted an 80 year old guy on an old creaking beater in order to make it back to your apartment

  • It's been years since you felt self conscious about standing in line at a little country bakery wearing your helmet, Oakley's, tight jersey and shorts and clickety clackety shoes

  • You've taken small bumps by momentarily moving your weight from saddle to pedals so many times that you don't even notice doing it anymore

  • You've experienced that bitter irony of cycling - when you're on the road suffering through a ride that you really had no business attempting, and every part of your body is screaming "GET US HOME RIGHT GODDAMN NOW!!!! You realize that there really is no way to get home but to just keep pedalling, "surviving" more than "cycling" your way back to your front door



So those are mine - there are probably tons I've forgot, let me know what yours are.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Large print giveth and the fine print taketh away

The petition to promote cycling in Canada is now up over 2000 signatures!

In all honesty, the video that Bike Refugee has up in this post pretty much brings a tear to my eye (at least during the parts where Dar Williams is singing.

A co-worker forwarded me this photo. I have no idea where it came from but it made me laugh.


These are the only two photos from yesterday morning's ride which are at all worth posting. This is the Danforth at around 5:45 a.m. Sometimes it's worth it to be up and on the road this early because you get these big four lane streets all to yourself. Sometimes I wait-out a red light (the ones I stop for) by doing figure eights all over the place.
bloornotbad

This is at the intersection of Taunton Road and Stevenson in Oshawa. I'm on Taunton for about 1 km during my commute and it's a typical Durham (I refer to Durham as Mordor in my head a lot these days) nightmare - four lanes of doom. Stevenson is a quiet road that is fairly relaxing to be on. However, right at the corner they're going to put in another auto dealership. Yep. That's what Durham needs. More cars. Not only are there no bike lanes in Durham, there aren't even any bike parking posts, but they can't get car dealerships in fast enough.
KIAsigngood


I've mentioned Lester Brown's Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble before, but here's a quick thing I found interesting: in Chapter 9 Feeding 7 Billion Well Brown writes this -

One of the questions I am most often asked on a speaking tour is, “How many people can the earth support?” I answer with another question: “At what level of food consumption?” At the U.S. level of 800 kilograms per person per year for food and feed, the 2-billion-ton annual world harvest of grain would support 2.5 billion people. At the Italian level of consumption of close to 400 kilograms per year, the current harvest would support 5 billion people. At the nearly 200 kilograms of grain consumed per year by the average Indian, it would support a population of 10 billion.

I think we North Americans generally know that our diets are off the scale (when I worked in Japan, my students who had travelled to the U.S. said that they were shocked by the serving sizes presented to them in restaurants), but wow, 400 kilograms per year more than Italians? Yikes!

And finally, Thomas Homer Dixon has an article in the International Herald Tribune called The End of Ingenuity. In the big debate over whether or not peak oil is happening, and how much fossil-fuel energy actually is left to this planet, Dixon says we should stop being distracted by gasoline prices (i.e. gas prices go down, so we have lots of oil, gas prices go up, get the horses out because the party is over).
Instead, he says we should look at EROI, which is the amount of energy you have to PUT IN to something to get energy OUT of it.

For a modern coal mine, for instance, we divide the useful energy in the coal that the mine produces by the total of all the energy needed to dig the coal from the ground and prepare it for burning - including the energy in the diesel fuel that powers the jackhammers, shovels and off-road dump trucks, the energy in the electricity that runs the machines that crush and sort the coal, as well as all the energy needed to build and maintain these machines.

So the nightmare is when the EROI ratio is 1/1 - you get no more energy out of something than you put into it. From the 1970's to today, EROI has fallen from about 25/1 to 15/1. The EROI of the Alberta Oil Sands is about 4/1.

Oil is ending. But that's okay. Oil is for sissies anyway.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Everybody makes history

The Canadian petition to promote cycling is just over 1900 names! Sign up fast and tell all your friends.

I took a few photos on my ride today, but won't be able to post them until tomorrow. In the meantime I thought I'd play along with Griffin's tag game. Griffin by the way has a super-duper awesome photo up in this post.
I don't usually do these chain email things, but Dave in Winnipeg did it, so I figured I'd play as well.

P.S. Dave's blog has a great link to the Winter Challenge Series. Basically it's a fun contest where you accumulate points for how much winter biking you do. The rules are at the bottom of the page, and number seven is this:
7. Indoor spinning, weightlifting, roller riding, swimming, etc. do not count. Be a pussy, if you must, but don't expect to be rewarded for it.

Hopefully I'll remember to play and use my commuting to rack up massive points. : )

So Griffin's game, here's how she described it:
Here's how it works:
List six weird things about yourself. Strange habits, likes/dislikes, et cetera.
Pick six victims to tag likewise. Leave comments so they’ll know what’s up.
Describe how the tagging works.
I am tagging cyclingdave, John at Bike Year, Wisteria, Trista at Accedent of Hope, Tuco, Tim at Bicycles and Iceicles.


So here are my six weird things.
a) I'm probably a bit too anal about doing the dishes, and putting out the recycling etc.
b) At home, with Annalise, I like talking like Tarzan. For example if Anna takes the jar of pecans out of my hand and says I can't have any, I'd probably respond: "Why me no have pecans?"
c) For a guy who bikes as much as I do, I'm a truly hopeless bike mechanic.
d) I get up at 4:00 in the morning. It's been a few months now, and I still have trouble believing it myself.
e) If there was an award for the vegetarian who eats the least fruit and vegetables, I'd probably win. (me eat much cereal!)
f) My biking style depends on my bike. Just before I had to retire the Cannondale in favour of the new Kona (with it's full fenders), I was taking dangerous routes home and racing and purposefully annoying guys who I thought were bad drivers. Now on the Kona hybrid, I just toddle along.

For my "tags" I'm hitting Melissa, Jenny, Sascha, Marc, Darren and Mark.

Sometime soon I'm going to do some serious research and write a post about raising gas taxes. A bit of a summary of the gas tax issue is here, and over here Terence Corcoran from the National Post will tell you why raising Gas Taxes is the worst thing in the world we could possibly do.

I really don't see how raising gas taxes isn't a win-win situation though. Even if it winds up hurting the economy, can't we argue that a slow down is a good thing?

And P.S., am I crazy or is it not vaguely discriminatory for North American society to be set up so that a motorist can feel safe going from Point A to Point B, but not a cyclist (or a skateboarder or inline skater)?

Why roads for cars only?

Friday, December 01, 2006

God keep you safe, my friend

There's lots of news!
The cycling petition is over 1500 names now. Curt Harnett, the Canadian Olympic track cyclist signed (around #285), and there is "a" Mary Walsh from Newfoundland who signed (around #1405).

God knows if it's our favourite warrior princess from This Hour Has 22 Minutes, but it'd be very cool if it is. (Just in case - thanks Mary!)

The trick with this petition was in finding an MP who would present it to the House. That is now taken care of, thanks to Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow! I emailed a few different MPs and heard nothing from them, and then broke down and wrote an old-school paper letter to Ms. Chow's office, and heard back from her almost immediately, saying she'd be happy to present the petition.

There is one catch though, but it isn't really a big one. As some of us had feared, you can't hand a print-out of an online petition w/signatures to an MP - House of Commons rules require a traditional paper & ink petition w/signatures. SO I now have to do a bit more work getting that done. I'm not too worried however. You only need 25 signatures for the petition to be valid, and I know I can get tons more than that amongst the Toronto cyclists alone.
I'm starting to dream big though, and am envisioning the first few pages of the written petition to be full of the signatures of notable Canadian sports figures. Mike Barry, arguably Canada's best current pro-cyclist, has agreed to sign (I just have to mail a paper copy to him and have him sign and send it back to me). I'm also hoping to get Steve Bauer & Curt Harnett to sign the paper one, and I might even have an "in" with some other Canadian Summer Olympic athletes. As well, after reading a story in the Toronto Star yesterday about how the World Cup of Skiing is being devastated by climate change, I might be able to entice some winter athletes to sign.

So anyway, blah blah blah... the petition is going well, and despite the fact that I have to put together a written one, Ms. Chow's office has said that she will be able to acknowledge the signatures on the online version (I.E. "Mr. Speaker, I have a petition which was signed by 300 people in Toronto, and 2000 people across the country via an online version").

Hmm... and I was interviewed in the Memorial Muse a few days ago and came off a bit goofy I think. The "kind of think that possibly maybe we might..." line near the end is pretty classic. And the petition should get a big boost when Get Out There Magazine writes it up in their Jan/Feb issue.

And why the "god keep you safe" subject line? Well I got hit last night. That's not entirely accurate since I did the hitting, but never-the-less, a Diamond Taxi and I came to be on far more intimate terms than I'd have liked last night.
I was heading west on Gerrard Street in Toronto, coming close to the Carlaw intersection. Gerrard is a four lane street (which sometimes allows parking so it's actually just a two lane street). Approaching Carlaw however it is indeed a four lane street, and also at Carlaw it dips down fairly quickly. It was pouring rain last night, and dark as death, and this cab was pulled over to the extreme right of the right side lane, looking as though he was going to pick up a pedestrian. SO - I start passing him on the left and he suddenly wheels into a big U - Turn. I slowed down but I still nailed him.
I'm okay, the bike is basically okay (the rack needed to be bent back into shape), and the taxi driver was about as nice as he could be. He was kind of an elderly Indian gentleman (possibly close to being one of those infamous seniors who should really have to re-do their driver's exam) and as we parted he shook my hand and kind of blessed me with "God keep you safe, my friend."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We're Curling Team From Sweden

The petition to promote cycling in Canada is here.

Velo News had an interview with Steve Johnson regarding his first six months as President of USA Cycling.
Based on this quote, I think he'd sign our petition:
Johnson believes "the time of the automobile is rapidly drawing to a close, and I see the bike as a wonderful vehicle for transportation, health and fitness, and everything else that is wrong with America."

So I'm curling this year. I grew up curling, but was away from the sport for years. I curled a bit around 1999 / 2000 at the Royal Canadian Curling Club downtown, but then I had another break.
I started the job at UOIT and it turned out that one of my co-workers (who I think was an even bigger high-school curling nerd than I was) was looking for a male curler for her mixed team at the Tam Heather club in north Scarborough.

I was a little bit reluctant to take up curling again. Despite the fun of the game, the friendly, social, boozing aspect of it, the commute from Oshawa to north Scarborough to downtown Toronto on a bike on a late Friday night after work was going to be rough, but in the end I said yes. Because, I have to admit it, I missed the hot dancing/singing Swedish curling babes. Every club has them, see below.



I've put up some good videos before:

But I don't think I'll ever top this one.

P.S., I've been skimming Stephen Brunt's Searching for Bobby Orr because I'm a bit of a Bobby Orr nut (I mean, come on, his 1971 plus minus was +124!).
The book is fairly dry actually, but there is a funny story partly involving recent Leafs coach Pat Quinn. In a 1969 playoff game, playing for the Leafs, Quinn knocked Bobby Orr unconscious in Boston. The crowd freaked and Quinn had to be escorted from the building by the police. In the third period another Leafs tough guy named Forbes Kennedy decided he needed to make a point that the Leafs weren't going to be intimidated by the crowd, so he fought the Bruins goalie, Gerry Cheevers twice, fought another Bruin named Johnny McKenzie, and even punched a linesman. Altogether, from one brawl, Kennedy received four minor penalties, two majors, a ten minute misconduct, a game misconduct, and a match penalty.

Old time hockey?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Yosemite Sam

I've come across some interesting documents recently, all of which are available for free online.

The Bicycle and Urban Sustainability by David Tomlinson, who in 2003 was at York University, and now seems to be with the City of Toronto Transportation Services.

Mr. Tomlinson does a good survey of why modern cities are not sustainable and how the bicycle can come to the rescue. At one point, talking about auto accidents he uses the sentence While the carnage inflicted by automobiles certainly changes the lives of countless crash victims and their families, the fear of traffic accidents can affect everyday travel choices. That's a fairly sad sentence on many levels, but for cyclists it is sad because Tomlinson goes on to explain that it is primarily the "fear" of being in an accident that keeps people from choosing to ride their bike to work.
He also mentions this idea, which I'd actually never heard before:
Short automobile trips generate the most pollution, per kilometre, since a vehicle’s motor is not able reach optimal operating temperature. These are also the trips that are most amenable to bicycling, and so the bicycle’s potential to reduce air pollution is higher than one might think.

The Earth Policy Institute has a text titled Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. They've made it available as a .pdf on their website.

I so far haven't reached the chapters where "solutions" are presented. Right now I'm just reading horror story after horror story about how we're all doomed.
It's nothing new I guess - the peak oil issue, the looming water crisis (which will probably start a war in the middle east), the loss of farmland to suburban sprawl, etc. etc. It's scary stuff, so eventually you can't take anymore and you close the book and you open one of your magazines....

and you read in Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek column that China and India are already constructing 650 coal-fired power plants, whose combined CO2 emissions will be five times the total savings envisioned by the Kyoto accords.

Sufferin' Succotash.

FINALLY, Statistics Canada has a good publication titled Human Activity and the Environment: Annual Statistics 2006. Section 1.2 documents Transportation's Environmental Impacts, and there is basically a chart which says "Cars kill us this way, this way, and this way" (page 18, and I'm only exaggerating a little bit).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

America & climate change

The Promotion of Cycling in Canada petition is here.


As reported in the Toronto Star yesterday, the best thing about the recent American election might be an about-turn on U.S. environmental policy. Up until the election, the U.S. Senate's environmental committee was headed by one James Inhofe, a Republican Senator from Oklahoma. Inhofe has compared environmentalists to Nazi's, and on the issue of American atrocities in Iraq, and the torturing of prisoners, Inhofe believes that they deserve every bit of abuse they get. Inhofe also believed that climate change was a hoax, and used his power to block any initiatives that would combat climate change.
The new head of this committe is a California Democrat named Barbara Boxer. She has already called for massive cuts in carbon emissions.

Thank God people like Inhofe, and Joe Barton (who I wrote about here) are gone now. If the U.S. makes a big push on the environmental issue, hopefully it'll impress Harper and Ambrose enough to open their eyes on this issue as well. (P.S. the photo is from this Toronto Star story. I actually think Harper looks good. He looks like he's having fun and being nice. It's the look on Bush's face that cracks me up.)

Although the above petition is doing well, there are currently around 250 signatures, I'm pretty sure it will get read in Parliament and do the old "in one ear out the other." We all think the promotion of cycling is a good idea, and probably a lot of MP's do as well, but this will just be one single petition amongst many others on lots of other topics.

If you go to the Parliament Debates website, and just type "petition" into the search box, you get hits of all the various members standing up and saying "Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present this petition from X on the issue of Y."
I guess National Literacy just passed, because there were about 15 to 20 different petitions read in the house recently regarding literacy. And then you can also find a petition about once every day where people are asking for a re-opening the same-sex marriage issue, asking the Gov. to make same-sex marriage illegal.

So - one lonely cycling petition probably won't do too much. It's a nice first step, but we should probably think of this as a marathon. We're going to need lots of petitions and really try to hammer a "pro-cycling" message home in the House of Commons.
If you want to start a petition, read through these instructions, start searching for an MP who'll read your petition in parliament, and let the other cycling bloggers know so that we can help you spread the word to get signatures.
Let's do it. Let's force the M.P's to hear about climate change and cycling every time they sit in parliament. If other special interest groups can do it, so can we.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Petition is up

I have posted the petition asking the feds to take steps to promote cycling as a means of transportation on a website called Go Petition. I called it Promotion of Cycling in Canada. (click the link and you'll be at the petition).

It is the second draft without corrections. Thank you to everyone who offered suggestions and comments. If it looks like I totally ignored them, these are probably the reasons:

  • I didn't want this petition to get out of hand. I.E. everything about asking the government to end the hidden car subsidies should probably go in another petition.

  • In a word - length. In the reading I've done it appears that petitions should be very short, this one is already way over it's word limit.


So please sign it if you agree with the idea. I'm probably going to leave it up collecting signatures until sometime in January. It'll probably take me that long to find an MP to read this in the House of Commons (if anyone has an IN with their MP let me know!) Plus, the House will be on its Christmas recess soon and there'd be no chance to get this read in December anyway.

If you want to, feel free to copy and paste the petition into an article and mail it to your M.P. or M.P.P. I'll probably do the same thing eventually.

I'm now going to try and shut up about this petition. I feel like I've been ranting about it too much. I can now go back to topics like how damned wet and windy it is here in southern Ontario at the moment, and how heavy my Dew Deluxe rides.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The 2nd draft

Okay, I'd welcome any suggestions on this draft, and then I'll put this up on a petition signing site.
I've basically shifted the focus away from "give us a tax credit" to "give us something!" and I list a few initiatives the gov. could take to promote cycling as a climate change solution. Any obvious initiatives that I've left out I'd love for you to mention.
I've also tried to streamline this a little bit. I don't think petitions are supposed to be anywhere near this long.
------------------------------------------------------

Dear Ms. Abrose, Mr. Cannon, Mr. Flaherty, and Ms.Gelinas:

At a time when environmental protection has become one of the top priorities for Canadians, we, the undersigned, request that the Canadian government do all in its power to promote cycling as a climate-change solution.

In the summer of 2006, the Canadian government took steps to promote public transit as a climate change solution by offering a tax credit to public transit users.

At that time Mr. Flaherty said “Gridlock has become one of the most pressing issues across the GTA, eroding the quality of life and having a negative impact on business and productivity. Our government’s new transit tax credit will make transit more affordable, giving people even more incentive to park their keys and leave their cars at home.”

Ms. Ambrose additionally said “The transit tax credit will not only save people money, but by taking public transit Canadians will be helping to improve our environment. The transit tax credit is part of our government's made in Canada environmental plan. Our transit tax initiative will take the equivalent of 56,000 cars off the road each year which will significantly reduce greenhouse gases here in Canada."
Department of Finance Canada (2006). Taking public transit is now more affordable in Canada. Retrieved November 4, 2006 from http://www.fin.gc.ca/news06/06-031e.html

We agree with Mr. Flaherty and Ms. Ambrose that removing cars from the roads should be one of Canada’s top priorities. We feel this can be achieved by promoting cycling as a substitute to the automobile. We also feel that the government needs to promote cycling due to its health benefits.

According to the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute:
Current estimates place the cost of physical inactivity in Canada at $5.3 billion ($1.6 billion in direct costs and $3.7 billion in indirect costs) and the cost of obesity in Canada at $4.3 billion ($1.6 billion of direct costs and $2.7 billion of indirect costs) in health care expenditures. This represents the totaleconomic cost as 2.6% and 2.2% respectively of the total health care costs in Canada. There is concern that chronic disease resulting from obesity may threaten or cripple the health care system in Canada.
Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute. 2004 Physical Activity Monitor and Sport. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2006 from http://www.cflri.ca/eng/statistics/surveys/pam2004.php

As well, in 2003 the Federal and Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Sport, Recreation and Fitness set a national target to increase levels of physical activity by ten percentage points in each province and territory by the year 2010. A primary reason that they set this target was that “Physical inactivity levels in Canada remain a serious public health burden. Fifty-five percent of Canadians do not meet minimum guidelines for regular physical activity necessary to attain health benefits. Physical inactivity increases the risk of chronic disease, premature death and disability.”
Government of New Brunswick. (2003) News Release: Federal and Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Sport, Recreation and Fitness Target Increase in Physical Activity. Retrieved November 4, 2006 from http://www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/pc-ch/news-comm/ce021712_e.htm

As cycling would combat climate change by removing people from their cars, and ease the burden on the health care system by helping people maintain an active lifestyle, we ask the Canadian government to do everything in its power to promote cycling as a means of transit.

Steps which we feel would achieve this include:
a) Offering a tax credit to bicycle commuters similar to that offered to public transit users. Cyclists would be required to have their employer verify that they commute to work by bicycle, and would then be given a credit based on the value of the C02 emissions they would have released into the atmosphere had they driven a car to work.
b) Setting up a program similar to Britain’s “Cycle to Work” initiative. In this program the employer purchases a bike and related accessories for an employee who wishes to commute to work by bicycle. The employer then claims the taxes back from the government, and sells the bike to the employee at the tax-free price over an extended period of time with small deductions from the employee’s paycheque.
c) Offering tax incentives to employers which set up bike lockers and showers for employees who wish to cycle to work.
d) A removal of GST from bikes and bike accessories.

These steps and others can promote cycling as a transit alternative, but perhaps more importantly, the implementation of one or all of them would be a strong statement from the federal government - legitimizing cycling as a preferred means of transit. Please make this statement, and help us make Canada part of the solution to climate change.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

If there's any way I can get out there again and finish it, I will

(quote above spoken by Terry Fox as he lay on a stretcher, telling reporters he was halting the Marathon of Hope because his cancer had spread into his lungs. See clip below.)

The first draft of the petition regarding a tax credit for cyclists is here. I should have a final version up on a petition signing site early in the week.

I kind of feel like I've gone off topic (i.e. cycling) and have been ranting on a soapbox for a little while. I promise I'll shut up and go back to basics once I finish this petition.

The David Suzuki foundation has just released a report which basically says that the federal and provincial governments in Canada have done nothing to effectively combat climate change.

Canada is getting a reputation for being too cowardly to make the sacrifices necessary to fight climate change.

And it's true. After signing Kyoto and saying we'd join the war against global warming, we took a look at the numbers and said "Yikes! It'll be expensive! We're out!"

Is this Canada? Did the country which sent soldiers to Vimy Ridge and which produced people like Terry Fox (Watch the clip!) and Rick Hansen lose the ability to make sacrifices?

I can't help but think that the fight against climate change is the war our generation has to face. If Canadians could give their lives in the world wars, in Korea, in Afghanistan, surely we can cough up .20cents per litre of gas in 2006 to save the planet.



If there is one country that most characterizes the global failure to address climate change, it's Canada. And the failure can't be blamed entirely on rapacious Alberta oilmen, or the cold weather, or even the great distances between our cities. It's largely the fault of the average car-driving, steak-eating, electricity-burning Canadian energy glutton.
Colin Campbell, "An Appetite for Destruction," Macleans 20 Nov 2006, p. 51.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

the economist on the Stern report

The Economist is not usually a place to find supportive words on green issues. When I read it I mainly do so for their international news. But, in Stern Warning in their Nov. 4th issue they actually come out in support of the Nicholas Stern report which basically argues that the economic impact of climate change will be astronomical, and that it will be far better in the long run to spend the money to avert climate change now, than to risk the economic disaster that climate change will bring in the future.

"Sir Nicholas may well err on the gloomy side. And it is certainly impossible to predict precisely what effect climate change will have had on the world economy in a century's time. But neither point invalidates Sir Nicholas's central perception - that governments should act not on the basis of the likeliest outcome from climate change, but on the risk of something really catastrophic (such as the melting of Greenland's ice sheet, which would raise sea levels by six to seven metres).

Just as people spend a small slice of their incomes on buying insurance on the off-chance that their house might burn down, and nations use a slice of taxpayers' money to pay for standing armies just in case a rival power might try to invade them, so the world should invest a small proportion of its resources in trying to avert the risk of boiling the planet. The costs are not huge. The dangers are"

Sounds simple, n'est ce pas? However in Canada we have Martin and Ambrose running the show, and they probably agree more with sentiments like this from Ralph Klein:
Klein also questioned the need for a carbon trading exchange and said it’s time Canada dumped the Kyoto accord and worked on a plan that is doable.
“Our answer to Kyoto is forget Kyoto, forget the protocol and do what is reasonable, understanding that we’re a carbon-based economy.”


P.S. - for the petition, I'm hoping to do up the 2nd draft over the weekend, focusing more on "legitimizing and promoting" cycling in Canada through measures such as a tax credit or an employer/employee purchase of bikes and gear such as the British Cycle to Work plan.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight

If you're looking for The Petition - click here.

Over at BikingToronto Joe was reaffirming his vow to fight for biker's rights in the face of the onslaught of cars that we all face each day.

I'd like to hope that many more cyclists across the country will take up the torch and fight this battle as well. There's no doubt anymore (see the bottom of this post) that the planet is dying, and that cycling is one of the things that can save it. I refuse to believe that we're too lazy to try to fight this battle. It sickens me that the Conservatives have gone to Kenya for the latest talks on Kyoto trying to "renegotiate" the Kyoto terms because we can't meet our goals. We're the nation of Terry Fox. We're better than this.

As far as this petition goes - I know there are flaws with it. I know the math/logistics will be tough to figure out, I know it leaves out pedestrians' rights, I know it doesn't address penalizing drivers. But, I don't think that matters.

I think what does matter is that THIS petition is followed by another one from B.C., and then another one from Manitoba, and then another one from Nova Scotia, and etc. and etc. and etc.

We need to make the House of Parliament ring with calls for tax credits for cyclists, increased taxes on gasoline, mandatory bike lanes on any new roads that are built.

If our voices are loud enough maybe the House will start listening and some of these measures, maybe the really interesting British one, will go through.

So, no matter the flaws of this petition, I'm going to write up a second draft soon following the government's How to Petition Parliament guidelines. And then I'm going to post it on this website, and then I'm going to try to find an MP who'll present this to the House.

AND I beg someone else out there to start the next petition!

Incidentally, if you want to see how petitions are handled in the House, go to the House of Parliament Debates. In the search box just type in "petition" and you'll get some hits of Parliamentarians presenting petitions from their constituents.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

As the americans go to the polls

(If you're looking for the petition, keep scrolling, it's the next post down).

Hi everyone, this is just a short note because I'm preoccupied today with the American elections, a prof who has given an assignment that I'm not sure is possible for her students to do, and a class I'm teaching this afternoon....
BUT -
A thought on what this petition is all about. Ideally, yes I'd like to encourage more people to get on their bikes, and somehow reward those of us who are already biking while our neighbours fly by in their steel-cans. Perhaps more importantly though, I'd like to force the government's hand and have them enact legislation that would more or less say "Our preferred way for Canadians to travel is by bike and public transit."
Whatever this petition evolves into, I hope that it will go some way towards legitimizing cycling as a means of transit.

So what will this petition evolve into?

Maybe it'll be the tax credit it is so far aimed at. Maybe it will be something like this British Scheme. Maybe we'll decide to aim at penalizing drivers instead of rewarding cyclists.

But whatever, let's keep talking and see what comes out of it. Maybe we'll have several petitions.

Aside from the comments below the petition post (to the gentleman/woman who wrote the lengthy 10th comment, thank you so much for the work, but being a mathematical moron it's going to take me a couple reads to digest all that) I've had a couple emails from the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition and I'll cobble together their ideas at the bottom here.

And... I'm all for dissenting opinions. But there is a way to point out flaws in a constructive way rather than an antagonistic way. Some of us are trying to build something here, if you want to scoff, do it on your own blog.

Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition
I agree with the spirit of the petition, but think it would be quite
difficult to implement.

I agree with Andrew in that it might be wise to look at the larger picture
of car subsidies.

What might be more effective is to encourage Canada to institute legislation
similar to the California Parking Cash-out law of 1992 which forces
companies offering "free parking" to employees to provide rebates to those
employees using transit, cycling or walking to get to work. For example, at
UBC, employees get parking subsidized to the tune of $60 per month while
"greener" employees get nothing.

We then should then get governments to institute some sort of user pay
scheme for using the roads. It is estimated that each car in the GVRD is
subsidized to the tune of $3000 to $6000 dollars. If one includes future
costs related to global warming, I think the figure of $6000 is ridiculously
low. How do you price a planet?

Imagine how many people would then switch to cycling!

I would rather see a greater tax on driving than tax cuts for cyclists. I
like to think of cyclists as paying their way. But of course I would support
the spirit of the petition, and would like to support the efforts of others
to make cycling more attractive.

The only think I would like to see change in the wording is the statement
that cycling is "far more worthy" of a tax cut than transit. (Why isn't he
comparing his tax cut to "free parking", etc?) This is too much of a value
statement.

I like the idea and think it's definitely something we should support. That
said, I would probably do a bit of editing to the text. I'll see if I have
time in the next day or two to take a shot at it. But in principle, what do
others think?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A first draft of the petition - tax credits for cyclists

First - I just found a WWF petition regarding Kyoto that people might like to sign.
World Wildlife Fund petition for Canada to meet its Kyoto Targets

Second - Below is my first draft of the petition regarding a tax credit for cyclists. I welcome any and all comments /suggestions. I'm sure there are some good editors out there and people with good ideas. Let me know what you think. After we go through a couple drafts and are happy, I'll find a place on the web to post it for people to sign.

The addressees are the Minister of the Environment (Ambrose), the Minister of Transportation (Cannon), the Minister of Finance (Flaherty) and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (Gelinas).

----------------------------------------------------------

Dear Ms. Abrose, Mr. Cannon, Mr. Flaherty, and Ms.Gelinas:

At a time when the international community is focusing on the environmental degradation of the planet with initiatives such as the Kyoto Accord, we, the undersigned, would like to offer one more way the government of Canada could combat climate change.

In the summer of 2006, the Canadian government very wisely offered tax breaks to users of public transit.

At that time Mr. Flaherty said “Gridlock has become one of the most pressing issues across the GTA, eroding the quality of life and having a negative impact on business and productivity. Our government’s new transit tax credit will make transit more affordable, giving people even more incentive to park their keys and leave their cars at home.”

Ms. Ambrose additionally said “The transit tax credit will not only save people money, but by taking public transit Canadians will be helping to improve our environment. The transit tax credit is part of our government's made in Canada environmental plan. Our transit tax initiative will take the equivalent of 56,000 cars off the road each year which will significantly reduce greenhouse gases here in Canada."

Department of Finance Canada (2006). Taking public transit is now more affordable in Canada. Retrieved November 4, 2006 from http://www.fin.gc.ca/news06/06-031e.html


It seems obvious to us that a similar tax credit should be offered to the community of bicycle commuters.

Commuting by bicycle has the same environmental benefits as commuting by public transit.

However, commuting by bicycle has health and economic benefits which make it far more worthy of tax credits than public transit.

According to the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute:
Current estimates place the cost of physical inactivity in Canada at $5.3 billion ($1.6 billion in direct costs and $3.7 billion in indirect costs) and the cost of obesity in Canada at $4.3 billion ($1.6 billion of direct costs and $2.7 billion of indirect costs) in health care expenditures. This represents the totaleconomic cost as 2.6% and 2.2% respectively of the total health care costs in Canada. There is concern that chronic disease resulting from obesity may threaten or cripple the health care system in Canada.
Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute. 2004 Physical Activity Monitor and Sport. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2006 from http://www.cflri.ca/eng/statistics/surveys/pam2004.php

As well, in 2003 the Federal and Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Sport, Recreation and Fitness set a national target to increase levels of physical activity by ten percentage points in each province and territory by the year 2010. A primary reason that they set this target was that “Physical inactivity levels in Canada remain a serious public health burden. Fifty-five percent of Canadians do not meet minimum guidelines for regular physical activity necessary to attain health benefits. Physical inactivity increases the risk of chronic disease, premature death and disability.”
Government of New Brunswick. (2003) News Release: Federal and Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Sport, Recreation and Fitness Target Increase in Physical Activity. Retrieved November 4, 2006 from http://www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/pc-ch/news-comm/ce021712_e.htm

As cycling would combat climate change by removing people from their cars, and ease the burden on the health care system by helping people maintain an active lifestyle, we feel that it is almost imperative to offer a tax credit to bicycle commuters.

Although bicycling does not require fuel costs, it is not a cheap activity. After the initial purchase of a bike, miscellaneous costs include, but are certainly not limited to, locks, tune-ups, replacement tubes, waterproof clothing, winter clothing, chain oil, tire liners, air pumps, cleaning tools, storage stands, and helmets.

The government could provide a tax credit the following way:
a) Require cyclists to provide proof that they use a bicycle to commute to and from their workplace. This could be done via a letter of confirmation from their employer.
b) As it would be hard to tally up every expense that cyclists incur, the government could provide credits proportionate to a cyclist’s weekly mileage.

In comparison to a transit user who spends $80.00 per month on a transit pass, and will save $150.00 year with the government tax credit, we feel that the tax credit for cyclists should be set in such a way that cyclists receive double the savings as do transit users, to account for the additional health cost savings associated with cycling and which do not happen through use of public transit.

Please encourage Canadians to commute by bicycle by offering them a tax credit to do so. Please help us meet our Kyoto goals. Please help us save the planet.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What is hip?

Although I was intending this post to be all about my new bike, other things have come up that I want to talk about as well.

First - is blogger's photo upload working for ANYBODY these days? I can't remember the last time it worked for me - I've had to do all my photos through Flickr. Thank God Jenny showed me how to do that a while back, or this would be one boring looking blog.

I haven't looked through the Allderblob much before, but I did yesterday, and it was awesome. Jacob Allderdice rants pretty much the way I would if I ever wrote this blog while drunk (i.e. if I loosened up and wasn't concerned about pissing people off). I love his Ban Car Advertisements letter to the Toronto Star, especially the line about the Star's frequent "Automotive" Section when he says "why don't you just have sections called "Tobacco!" and "Firearms!" as well?"
I mean really - the smoking industry got nailed because smoking causes cancer. Meanwhile the automotive industry, which is killing the planet, gets to run around willy nilly telling us how cool their cars are - is that fair?

I saw Allerdice's website just before reading the article in the most recent Newsweek called "Putting: Detroit in the Shop" - which is about how badly the Detroit automakers are getting nailed by the Japanese. The following quote really made me laugh:

"Detroit spent 25 years copying the Camry and emasculating the American car," says Global Insight auto analyst John Wolkonowicz. "Now they need to bring back real American cars for real American people, the folks who watch NASCAR and shop at WalMart."
Hmm... i.e. not for the pussies who vote Democrat and buy locally grown produce? Concentrate on the WalMart crowd and Detroit will make a roaring comeback? rock and roll.

Incidentally - the Newsweek cover story this week is called Rethinking Iraq: The Way Forward, by Fareed Zakaria. It's a pretty thoughtful take on what the eventual Iraq pullout is going to look like.

Cycling
I rode over ice today for the first time. Old habits come back quick... you slow down, adjust yourself so that you hit the ice patch in a straight line, and it's easy-peasy.

Thanks to Vertigo for this: Drive a Hummer? Click HERE!!

And I've bought a new bike! It's a 2006 Kona Dew Deluxe, which I got on sale for about $660.00 from my favourite bike shop Sweet Pete's CyclePath at Bloor and Dufferin. I wrote a full review of the bike over on Road Bike Review, so I won't go into too much detail here. It's the blue bike at the front in the photos below.
Assembled behind the Dew are the rest of the household bikes.

bikes3

bikes2

bikes1

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

If I write it, will they sign?

Part of what I do at work is shuffle government publications from one place to another, and yesterday I came across the 2006 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The report is entirely devoted to climate change, and the fact that I came across this yesterday was very appropriate as the Nicholas Stern report on the costs of global warming came out yesterday as well.

The 2006 Commissioner's report is basically a very tame warning that climate change is happening and that the government needs to do something about it. It was actually prepared before the Conservative government here in Canada launched their already infamous Clean Air Act. The report says something like "the new government has promised it will introduce stiff measures to fight climate change, and we will be interested to see what they deliver."
polars
After seeing the Clean Air Act (it could be summarized with the sentence "Let's not do anything about the environment for a really long time!), that is such a funny and sad line. While the Conservatives cowtow to the oil patch, polar bears are dying.

Anyway, what interests me, is that apparently the Commissioner's reports have to summarize all the petitions which government departments have received on environmental issues, and what has been done about them.

This has got me to thinking about writing a petition. I think I'll start slow, with my pet dream of getting tax breaks for bike commuters, and I'll hopefully start enlisting people for signatures soon.

P.S. I bought a new bike. Nothing fancy, like Sascha's unbelievably sexy new Orbea!. Mine is just a hybrid to get me through the winter, but I'll take a pic and write more about that later.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Nail guns, cows, and sundown

I have been meaning to do some research and do up a big vegetarian posting for my friend Mark, but I doubt I'll ever get around to it. I didn't go veggie for any one particular reason, but more because all the various reasons added together seemed kind of overwhelming to me. Without even touching on animal rights/cruelty, or the meat industry's effects on the environment, there's always just the health concerns.
I just came across a mention of a documentary called Frankensteer. I don't know if I'll ever get my hands on it, maybe Queen Video would have it, but it looks great.
cows
Frankensteer is a disturbing documentary that reveals how the ordinary cow has been turned into an antibiotic-dependent, hormone-laced potential carrier of toxic bacteria, all in the name of cheaper food.
Every year, 50 per cent of the total tonnage of antibiotics used in Canada ends up in livestock. And every year cattle raised in massive feedlots are routinely dosed with antibiotics even if they are not sick. For public health safety reasons during the current BSE (Mad Cow) crisis, North American health officials have labeled certain parts of the cow as bio-hazardous products and have ordered that they be handled accordingly.



This is pretty much the worst story I've come across in a long time.
A roofer in Austria, a 59 year old guy, was working on a roof, slipped, and pulled the trigger on the nail gun he was holding.
Unfortunately:

  • The four inch nail went through one of his testicles.

  • The four inch nail went through his testicle, and into the roof, fastening "it" and the roofer (his name is August Voegl) to the building.


The story I read didn't say - and I probably don't want to know - how they got the nail OUT of Mr. Voegl. I hope to God they put him to sleep first.

I thought I was pretty up on all the environmental challenges facing us, but I have to admit I had never heard of global dimming until today. Apparently air pollution is shielding sunlight from reaching the earth, so the earth is getting darker. Scientists don't yet really seem to understand what this means, but the main fear is that plants won't get the sunlight they need to grow, and without plants and food etc and photosynthesis and CO2 being turned into oxygen... well, once again, we're screwed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Some American stories

I wasn't really planning to blog today, was hoping to spend part of my lunchhour figuring out how to become a millionaire on the stock market, but two things in Newsweek caught my eye this morning:

Although signed back in August, a U.S. National Space Policy was just published on the Office of Science and Technology website in early October. Basically it is a document outlining the United States' goals and plans regarding the utilization of space.
A fundamental goal of the policy is to “enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space to defend our interests there.”

[The policy calls upon the secretary of defense to] “develop capabilities, plans, and options to ensure freedom of action in space, and, if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries.”


To deny such freedom of action to adversaries... and to enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space... Doesn't that sound like 1800's manifest destiny, this time in space? It also smacks a little of Dr. Strangelove. But instead of a post nuclear war "mine shaft gap" we'll be fighting over a "space colonization gap."

Another interesting thing in the States is this - a guy named Bill Crozier in Oklahoma is running for the position of "state superintendent of schools." Mr. Crozier thinks that textbooks should be made of kevlar so that students can use them as shields for bullets in school shootings.

Rightttt.... All I can think of is Bowling for Columbine, of hestonCharlton Heston holding that shotgun in the air at the NRA convention saying they'll only take my gun "from my cold dead hands!" of Moore choosing that bank account which comes with a free rifle, of KMART selling ammo...

Yes - Kevlar textbooks are the answer. Yes indeed.

Crozier by the way is a Republican, and we know that Mr. Bush is a republican as well. As I've mused before, isn't it always the GOP that gives America a bad name?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Sacred Madness

When Johannes Kepler had his "eureka" moment regarding the laws of planetary motion, he was ecstatic. Having solved that problem, he would eventually write -
"I am free to give myself up to the sacred madness." He had unraveled one of the mysteries of life, he had taken a step closer to his God, and he could now give himself up to the mystic.

The Sacred Madness idea has always amused me, and I was thinking about what the sacred madness would mean to me as a cyclist.

There's lots of little crazy things I'd like to do as a cyclist. I've been very very tempted recently to reach out and grab onto a truck and do the "get a free tow" thing sometime. I'd like to do some of this stuff. The closest I've come is flying through busy places in Toronto like Spadina's Chinatown, Bloor's Annex, King Street anywhere downtown, at too high a speed and feeling like I was in that "radar aware zone" where I was pretty sure the street couldn't throw anything at me that I couldn't handle.
But yeah, the sacred madness... what would I really like to do just to mix things up?
One thing I'd like to do is have a little quirky revenge on Whitby/Oshawa. On the way home every afternoon I am on Brock Street in Whitby. South of Burns and all the way to the Whitby Go Station, Brock Street is torn and bumpy in the right side cycling area. It's a four lane road with people going fast as hell trying to get to and from the 401 on/off ramps, and I always feel like all those nutbars have it in for me on that stretch, which is about 1.5km long.
I'd like someday - on a hot summer day, when I'm not carrying my backpack and am on my Cervelo and just have my jersey and shorts on - to ride that whole stretch taking up one entire lane doing the "Victory Salute" a la Iban Basso here. That would really tickle me. For a kilometre and a half, in the midst of pure Durham "let's burn gas and kill the planet" madness, to have a cyclist whooping and wailing like he'd just won Alpe d'Huez, would really make me laugh.
P.S. I couldn't find a picture of him in pure "victory salute," but one of my favourite Tour de France stage wins was Michael Boogerd in 2002 (I think). An escape group leapt up out of the pack early in a very long stage with a mountain finish. Boogerd wasn't in the escape group, but eventually decided that he wanted to be, so he left the pack and road alone for a long long time trying to catch the escape group. He finally found them, but he was wrecked and they dropped him, he caught up, they dropped him etc. etc. Finally he outlasted them all and he left the escape group behind and won the stage.
Riding alone forever and ever, getting dropped, being exhausted but finding the willpower to hold on, that's kind of a sacred madness too.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A tuesday miscellany

A columnist in the toronto star named David Bruser put out an open invitation for letters regarding the toronto transit situation. In his words - "Is there a better way? If so, the Toronto Star wants to hear about it." He can be reached at transit@thestar.ca. As only cyclists read my blog, I'd invite all of you to write in, tell him that cars are ruining the earth, and that we need more bike lanes and tax breaks for cyclists! : )

The most recent Macleans has an interesting article about the internet, and how good it actually is. Of note to bloggers is a section on the free speech allowed by the net. Blogging is good because "(the internet allows) the most participatory marketplace of mass speech that this world has ever seen."
Yet blogging is bad because, in general, people read the blogs of people who share their politics etc. Democrats read democratic blogs. Republicans read republican blogs, and cyclists read cycling blogs. Therefore we're "preaching to the choir" when we write, for example, about how terrible cars are. We're not exchanging ideas in a constructive way with people of differing viewpoints. We're just ranting.

Also interesting is this idea. The internet asks us "What would you want to know about, if you could know about anything?"
Want to know what the top ten google searches were last year?
1. Janet Jackson 2. Hurricane Katrina 3. Tsunami 4. xbox360 5. Brad Pitt 6. Michael Jackson 7. American Idol 8. Britney Spears 9. Angelina Jolie 10. Harry Potter
THAT'S what we want to know about apparently. Awesome.

And since everybody wants to make money on the net, what are the two biggest moneymakers online? Gambling and porn. As the article says, "the internet has shown us as we really are."
Maich, Steve. "Pornography, gambling, lies, theft and terrorism: The Internet sucks (Where did we go wrong?)." Maclean's 30 Oct. 2006: 44-49.


At the bike show on Saturday Annalise and I bought this little beauty for about $300.00 off KHS's suggested retail price (I love bike shows. I hate paying full price for stuff). It's a KHS Flite 200, which basically means a fast city bike, chromoly fork, aluminum frame, road bike size wheels, low end components. Annalise has been riding a heavy and old Giant Comfort Bike, and now with the KHS she should be able to kick my butt.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Peter Miller's Yellow Cards

This is just a quicky - busy day today, Bruce Cockburn concert tonight, mucho bike shopping to do this weekend... BUT... I read about this in the most recent Bicycling Magazine this morning.

Magnetic cards available through Peter Miller - Yellow Cards. So much more civilized than my pet daydream of riding around with a baseball bat attached to my backpack.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

i took my potatoes down to be mashed

The conservatives released Bill C30 in the House today. This is the much bally-hooed Clean Air Act, and it should be available to read soon on LegisInfo.
Although I am including the highlights of the bill below, who cares really. We knew the Conservatives weren't going to do anything serious with this bill. To play devil's advocate, would the Liberals? Are any of these guys willing to stand up and say "gasoline should be taxed up to double it's current price, with the extra money going to environmental recovery"? Not likely, but that's the kind of serious measure which needs to be taken to actually save the planet.

More interesting than the bill is this story about the Canadian Automobile Association.
"The country's largest club for drivers, the Canadian Automobile Association, on Monday urged its members to spend less time behind the wheel and said this would help fight climate change and boost air quality.
The club which has 4.9 million members, also backed the idea of mandatory fuel efficiency standards for car makers. It said Canadians needed to "change their behavior and mind-set," with car-pooling, car-sharing and using public transport."

That's a fairly nice thing to hear from the CAA I think. And makes me feel a bit better about another rainy morning bike ride when dozens and dozens of metal death-machines were screaming past me and I was thinking of what a "drop in the bucket" my bike ride was towards reducing carbon emissions.

Highlights of the Conservatives' proposed Clean Air Act, from the Globe and Mail.

  • By 2011, develop new regulations for vehicle fuel consumption.

  • By 2025, set national targets for smog and ozone levels.

  • By 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 45 and 65 per cent from 2003 levels.

  • No mention of the Kyoto Protocol and the emissions targets the government of Canada comitted to in 2002.

  • Harmonize vehicle emissions standards with those of the United States over the next 12 months.

  • Harmonize regulations with those of the U.S. for volatile organic compound emissions in consumer and commercial products over the next year.

  • Over the next three years, discuss and set “intensity based” targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, rather than total emissions targets, for major emitters.

  • Negotiate with provinces to create harmonized system for mandatory reporting of air emissions, reduction of regulatory overlap.

  • Create environmental damages fund from non-compliance fines to be applied directly to cleanup.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

oh to be in holland

Clever Chimp in Portland has a nice little video up in his Oct. 17 post. It's just three people on big utility bikes riding with their children. But man, it looks so peaceful and serene.
cleverchimpbikes
If only we all went through life this way.

My buddy Oliver, who I've known since Grade 7, and who is pictured here dressed as his alter-ego, The Flash, has a new cycling photography website at H2o photography. If you raced the recent Oktoberfest cyclo-cross race your picture is likely to be captured there somewhere.
oliver
Oli, who used to race with Lanterne Rouge and who is now recovering from a back injury is my friend who tells me things like a) "you really need a good bike" (when I owned a crappy home hardware bike) b) "you need a lighter road bike" (when I owned a heavy KHS chromoly road bike) c) "you aren't really going to sell your Cervelo are you?" (now - as I'm currently thinking of selling my Cervelo road bike).

I really really really really really wasn't happy with the all day rainstorm we had yesterday. Despite the afore-mentioned rubber boots and gloves, the rain went right through my rain jacket and cycling pants and then into my boots and gloves (on the ride home anyway). Sitting on the Go Train on the way back into Toronto yesterday afternoon I thought I was going to get hypothermia because I was wet and chilled to the bone.
I now feel it is my job in life to own Gore-Tex. Unfortunately a Gore-Tex jacket costs $300.00 canadian. Maybe my friend Smut, who built my Cannondale, can make me a good rain coat out of tires or something.

And this is too good not to post. I found it on mtb05grl's blog.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hmmm... what's the appropriate word... "miserable?"

It is Tuesday Oct. 17 in southern Ontario and it's basically miserable out. It's pouring, that's the first thing you need to know. I had a tailwind for a while as I trekked through Whitby, and I was thankful for that, but then I turned east on Conlin and a heavy headwind blasted itself into my chest. I suddenly felt like I was doing the Scarborough Bluffs climb on my mountain bike.
Anyhoooooo..... I thought I'd talk about gear today.
It's not too big a stretch to claim that my lifesaver for this commute has been this backpack. It's from the Running Room (I worked at the Running Room in the Beaches for several months up until September) and I highly recommend it for any biker.
backpack2
You know the backpacks you have in your closet which are covered in salt stains from sitting on your back as you ride on hot summer days? And how the clothes/books you have in that pack are icky and damp when you arrive at wherever you're going on those hot days? Well this backpack has a mesh sheet which sits flush against your back, and the actual pack is suspended slightly off you - so that the sweat breathes off your back and your gear doesn't get ruined. It also has a little holster pocket on the right shoulder strap which I assume was designed for cell-phones, but for cyclists it's the perfect place to store a gel and to stick the gel wrapper when you're done.
pack1
The final bonus is the black thingy you can see hanging below the pack in this photo. It's a rain cover which stows into the bottom of the pack, and which you can pull up and over your pack to protect it from the rain. The only drawback of this pack is its carrying capacity. If you have to carry shoes and a change of clothes with you (I don't - I leave all that stuff in my office) then you're going to be in a bit of trouble trying to also get your lunch, book, locks etc in there.
miscbike
These are some old favourites and new additions. The old favourites are the balaclavas, neck mufflers, and the foam face mask (for use in the winter when the wind would otherwise rip your face off. Bonus is it makes you look like some kind of stormtrooper). The new additions are the Pearl Izumi toe warmers on my shoes (they're good, but it's mid October and they're no longer warm enough). Also pictured are some M.E.C. shoe covers, which so far have been quite good for rain protection and for general warmth.
rubboots
I had this past Friday off and I did an errand I've been meaning to do for a while - I bought old school rubber boots (the kind, when we were kids, that we waded through ponds with up north catching frogs to go fishing) and heavy(ish) duty rubber gloves! When it's really pouring, like today, I ride my Kona Hahanna instead of the Cannondale because the Kona has fenders. The Kona having street pedals I have to wear street shoes, and I've long thought that plain old rubber boots would be the best footwear to have on days like today. I think I was right - after the ride this morning my feet and hands were both warm and dry!
kona
And my Kona... sigh... if I was a cowboy and had a good old hardworking horse that I'd been riding for years, I'd feel the same way about it that I do my Kona. I've had it since about 2001. I've changed the drivetrain a couple times, the tires a couple more times, and the seat is shot and the seatpost is stuck, but otherwise it's still a workhorse.
I remember going for a rainy day ride up the Don Valley biking trails once. I hit one wooden bridge too fast, the front wheel went out below me and I found myself in midair thinking "hell, since I'm up here I might as well play this for all it's worth" and I stretched my arms out in a superman pose and hit the bridge on my chest and slidddddd... along it for several metres like a pro. About 20 minutes later I came to another wooden bridge, tried to take it carefully (editor's note - wooden bridges are SLIPPERY AS HELL in the rain) but still wiped out on it, and as I picked up my bike I patted it gently and said "dude, I am so sorry... I can't seem to keep you upright on bridges today."