Friday, June 30, 2006
No disturbances Thursday night, got out of the house in good time and had a long gorgeous ride with the sun rising above me. And I’m digging my route home – leaving UOIT and heading down to the Whitby Go Station, riding it to Danforth, and riding home from there.
In case you’re wondering, I don’t ride to the Oshawa Station because there’s basically no safe way for a cyclist to get close to it.
I just found something pretty cool on the web. In 2005 Pucher and Buehler from Rutgers did a report called
Cycling Trends and Policies in Canadian Cities.
Oshawa, surprise surprise, was the lowest city in its category (by population), with only 0.5% of people travelling by bike. Victoria was the highest at 4.8%. Saskatoon was at 2.5%, Ottawa was pretty good at 1.9%, and Toronto was at 0.8%.
There's something these bare stats really don't reflect though. There IS a cycling culture in Toronto, by which I mean you see other cyclists on the streets there, and there are a fair number of bike lanes. Oshawa however... geeze, 0.5% is actually generous. Except for kids on their bmx's on side streets, NOBODY bikes in Oshawa. I wonder if being the home of General Motors has anything to do with this??
And here's one more thing, it's a March 2006 report from the City of Toronto's Health Officer, on the effects of
traffic on health.
If you look through it, you'll read all these ways that cars kill. People in the U.K. who live close to roads have a 7% higher rate of stroke mortality than people who live far from roads. In Los Angeles proximity to traffic has been shown to cause low birth-weight babies. In Italy proximity to traffic has been shown to cause leukemia in babies. In Denmark professional drivers (i.e. taxi drivers and truck drivers) have higher rates of cancer than non-drivers. The World Health Organization estimates that in Europe half of all deaths attributed to air pollution are actually caused by traffic pollution.
And then there's what we all know about ... 3000 some traffic fatalities in Canada a year, and all the global warming problems.
Cars are like Ninjas - they'll find some way to kill you!
Thursday, June 29, 2006
In order to do this ride I have to get up fairly darn early (I don't want to really say HOW early because it's kind of sad). So getting up early obviously requires a good night's sleep.
Wednesday night around 11:30 The City of Toronto decided to park a chipper in front of my apartment, and then start chainsawing one of the trees in front of the building. So I listened to them chainsaw tree branches and then run them through the chipper for a while, and then fell asleep again.
Around 2:00am our family of raccoons came back. They knocked one of Annalise's gardening pots off our wooden shelving unit on the patio, and I had to go get my water bottle and do a little raccoon hunting through the screen. Anna, if you're reading this out in B.C., well, they got the carrots honeybunch.
And THEN around 4:00 maybe I hear gunshots and police sirens!!
From the Toronto Star:
A man who opened fire on police and paramedics early this morning remains on the loose, police said.
They are looking for a man, about 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds with a dark complexion and a beard. He was wearing black clothing and is armed the dangerous.
Police responded to reports of a shooting at about 4:30 a.m. and found a man with gunshot wounds. He was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
As police approached a male suspect fired several shots at the officers and paramedics. An EMS SUV was hit by two bullets, but no one was injured.
The man then fled the scene.
So... next to no sleep means no pedaling for me.
P.S. The world's second biggest oilfield has peaked.
Second in size only to Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field, Mexico's Cantarell field peaked at 2.13 million barrels of oil per day in 2004, and is projected to provide only 1.43 million barrels per day by 2008.
See story on:
Myrtle Beach Online, and if that link dies, google "Mexican oilfield crucial to U.S. facing decline" by Kevin G. Hall of Knight Ridder Newspapers.
It still astounds me that there's no discussion of this topic in the mainstream media.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Well that ended on Sheppard. On Sheppard (which, God bless it, has a long bike lane during the stretch I'm on it) I disappeared into a thick soupy mist from which I wouldn't emerge for another hour and a bit when I reached work. It was so bad I stopped, put my sunglasses away in my bag, and made do with my bad eyesight in the mist. I dreaded Highway 7 more and more as I got close to it, but as it turned out I didn't have any big problems with dump trucks running me over because they didn't see me. I did a bit of "disgression is the better part of valour" riding though by doing some sidewalk/shoulder riding when I sensed that things were going to get dicey.
At the end of the day I blazed through Oshawa/Whitby to get to the Whitby Go Station on time for the 5:15 train into Union, only to ride this train for a few stops and then get kicked off because I wasn't allowed to bring my bike into the Union Station at rush hour. I had to get off at Rouge Hill, wait for the next train to show up, and take it in to Danforth Station and bike home from there.
They don't make anything easy, do they?
P.S. - this new method of getting home... biking to the Whitby Go Station and then from Danforth Station to my apartment is an extra 20km on top of the 68 km in the morning to work. Nice chunk of extra distance, but it's a pretty easy 20km.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Thinking I would call this segment "All Winds Are Headwinds" I'll complain about how the wind was hammering out of the northeast this morning (so I was grinding my way right into it for 2 1/2 hours). However I did make it up my big climb of the ride, which I have to say is a little bit worse than the Scarborough Bluffs climb that most of us downtown cyclists do for hill training. I don't know why I didn't make it last Wednesday, maybe the carb loading last night really helped.
And then I thought I'd call this post "My Life is a 10cm wide strip of Highway 7." I don't know if other cyclists experience this, but as transports were blowing by me this morning, I noticed that first a gust of wind would push me towards the gravel, and then a following wind suck pulls you towards the truck. So your life depends on how well you can surf these two winds and stay on your little 10 cm strip between the white line and the gravel shoulder.
The ride from Durham College to Whitby Go Station? It was okay.. a bit dicey at the bottom of Garden Road coming towards Dundas where I fell into gravel at high speed and my handlebars shifted a bit.
I still haven't seen anybody on a bike in Oshawa or Whitby. Don't people out there bike? Do they know something I don't know?
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Later on Wright talks about Easter Island. Tiny and remote, it was originally a paradise with flora and fauna aplenty. The islanders started building the idols in honour of their ancestors, but building and moving the idols required using large amounts of timber. So the years passed, the islanders built bigger and bigger idols using up their timber and trees were cut down faster than they could grow. By, at the latest, 1400, there were no more trees on Easter Island. What did this mean? They couldn't build canoes anymore and couldn't get seafood. They ate their dogs. They couldn't build wooden shelters anymore. They moved to caves. The trees no longer secured the earth, so floods washed good farming soil away. They had little to burn, and couldn't make fire, and couldn't cook.
When Captain Cook arrived around 1772 there were only a "ragged few" (to cheat off Shakespeare) left, and these were the warrior class - those who had survived by killing their neighbours and even resorting to cannibalism. As Wright says, what the hell were they thinking? On an island that small they could SEE the trees disappearing. They KNEW what they were doing. At some point there was only one tree left on the island, and they knew it was the last one, and they cut it down anyway!!
What does this mean about us as humans? Wright quotes from a book called "Easter Island, Earth Island" by Bahn and Flenley:
"(The Islanders) carried out for us the experiment of permitting unrestricted population growth, profligate use of resources, destruction of the environment and boundless confidence in their religion to take care of the future. The result was an ecological disaster leading to a population crash... Do we have to repeat the experiment on a grand scale?... Is the human personality always the same as that of the person who felled the last tree?"
Anyway... just something for us all to think about as we let Coca Cola and Pepsi buy up Canadian lakes to sell us bottled water, as we let George Bush set up oil rigs in the arctic, as we refuse to face the tough questions about oil depletion and how we'll live when the oil is gone.
By the way, I've been doing some investigating of other web blogs, and just came across an awesome peak oil information blog from a guy named Big Gav in Australia. Check out this page
Big Gav's Peak Oil Site for the biggest machine I've ever seen. Take a look and ask yourself if mankind was really supposed to tear up the earth this way.
And this is neat for people who like skateboarding/mountain bike videos (i.e. people tumbling down staircases or crashing into trees) - but this one is on unicycles!
Unicycles on You Tube
Saturday, June 24, 2006
I think I've created a bit of misunderstanding - from the emails and comments I've received it appears that people think I've already leapt into commuting both ways every day.
Fat chance! : )
In fact, after one week of work in Oshawa, the only cycling back and forth I've done at all was on Wednesday, when I did the round-trip ride which almost killed me. I don't have my own office (and therefore a safe place to lock my bike overnight) for another two weeks, so I can't do my ride there, train back, etc. thing until I get my office.
So for the next two weeks I'll probably work in a round trip ride a few times, but otherwise the great commute won't really start until the office becomes available.
Friday, June 23, 2006
My main beef with suburbia involves how nauseating it is to bike through it. But here’s the urban planning / peak oil take on suburbia.
First though, you really have to see The End of Suburbia. It’s a documentary you can find at places like Queen Video, and it shows up at the rep. theatres like Bloor Cinema.
A long, long time ago you have a village located where a river empties into a lake, surrounded by farmland. The population of the village is roughly limited by how much food can be produced in the area.
The village grows into a city, and becomes industrialized. The city starts getting rough and gritty and dirty, and those who can move further and further away from the city center. After WWI, this movement from the city center is enabled by the suddenly plentiful supplies of cheap oil. The U.S. incidentally was the world’s biggest oil producing nation up until roughly 1972, when they reached their “peak oil” limit, and production has fallen off since then (making it necessary to cut deals with the Saudis and invade Iraq to keep themselves bathing in oil).
As cheap oil, and Henry Ford’s cheap cars, enabled people to move further from their jobs, you have a simultaneous break down in public transit. As urban planners realize the trend is towards everyone driving everywhere, they plan for highways and streets rather than bus lines and light rail. It doesn’t help that the car and oil companies are buying up public transit systems just to dismantle them and force people to buy cars and gas. See the General Motors Street Car Conspiracy on Wikipedia.
We ALSO have the upper middle class, who have moved to housing developments outside of the city, using municipal zoning laws to protect themselves from having to share space with stores and industries, which are thought of as fire risks etc. So laws go into effect which FORCE the separation of residential areas from business areas.
The Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty (U.S. Supreme Court):
“(Zoning works for the) promotion of the health and security from injury of children and others by separating dwelling houses from territory devoted to trade and industry; suppression and prevention of disorder; facilitating the extinguishments of fires, and the enforcement of street traffic regulations and other general welfare ordinances; aiding the health and safety of the community by excluding from residential areas the confusion and danger of fire, contagion and disorder which in greater or less degree attach to the location of stores, shops and factories.”
So, if cities and their suburbs are designed to keep people far from where they work, with the thought being that they’ll drive back and forth everywhere, and you add in the 20th century’s unbelievable population growth, you have suburbia.
And what’s wrong with suburbia? What’s wrong with rows upon rows of “little boxes?” (a la the Malvina Reynolds song)?
Well, apart from everything else (obesity rates going up because no one walks, thousands of tons of pesticides dumped on lawns, gated communities furthering racial divides), what is REALLY wrong with them is what will happen to them once peak oil hits. If gas prices skyrocket, and you live far from work and far from the Price Chopper, how feasible will your life really be in the suburbs? Will you try to move closer to work again? Will the suburbs empty and become wastelands?
And what about all the farmland we’ve paved over to create freeways and Wal Marts? If oil goes into sharp decline, if a huge recession hits, if international shipping is severely reduced and we can’t get our grapes from California, what will these huge urban populations live on?
Imagine what will happen if everyone in the Greater Toronto Area has to depend on the food which can be produced in southern Ontario – it’s simply not possible, too many farms have been destroyed by sprawl and the populations have become too huge.
The answer? Saying no to cars and the havoc they're creating, and fight for a redefinition of our living space - fight for bike lanes, public transit, and small communities where houses and shops/business are integrated and people can walk, bike, public transit to work.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
I guess I should have known I was in trouble when I had to start leaving stuff behind (digital camera, soap) because I couldn't fit everything I needed into my backpack. Until my office becomes available, I'll have to be carrying everything I need on my back every day - including shoes, change of clothes, lunch etc. And the difference between my non-backpack practice rides, and Wednesday's backpack laden commute was huge. I did the commute to Oshawa both ways on Wednesday, and it was t.e.r.r.i.b.l.e. I left at 5:30a.m. and got there at about 8:05, so at least I got to work on time. However, I was beaten by the biggest hill on my ride and had to commit that heartbreaking sin of cyclists - unclipping and walking up the slope.
I wasn't too bad at work during the day, which I think means that the one-way trip will be bearable, but my ride home was just death. You know those long rides when absolutely nothing is enjoyable? The road is too bumpy, you've got a headwind the whole time, your legs are dead and every slight incline makes you tumble down further into a "negative energy" state. The country roads I started on were bearable, but from Steeles all the way back into town was just me gritting my teeth and guiding the bike home and trying to tune out the roar of cars all around me.
So when I got home at 7:40pm ( I left Oshawa at roughly 4:45 I think) I threw some food into my tummy and went to bed (waking around midnight to shoo a family of five raccoons off my back patio, where they were digging into my girlfriend's potted vegetables).
Yesterday was terrible. Doing the ride to Oshawa and back is honestly beyond me right now, and I don't get my own office (and in extension get to leave shoes/clothes at work so that I don't have to carry them, and get to leave my bike at work overnight) for another two weeks.
Because I'm a moron I'll probably attempt the round trip commute a few more times, but in reality this great adventure won't really start until I get my office.
I'm hoping to do a sprawlurbia post soon... I feel a need to vent about cars and the suburban nightmare they've created. More soon!
Monday, June 19, 2006
The Durham College gym is amazingly cheap. A one year membership (for staff) is only $66.00, though towel service is an extra $25.00. I'm slighty annoyed though because they don't let you rent lockers! I'd been planning to leave an entire week's worth of clothes in the locker at the gym so that I wouldn't have to carry a change of clothes each day.
I took the Go Train / Oshawa bus to work in the morning, and altogether it took me about 1 hr 45 minutes. On the way back though (different buses going south through Oshawa) it took me a full 2hrs 15 minutes... so my public transit option is actually barely faster than the cycling option.
By the way, I just remembered a story I read in the May "Moneysense" magazine. This teacher on Vancouver Island used to ride his bike 55km (usually through the rain) each way to school - sometimes dragging his laundry behind him on a trailer so that he could use the school's laundry machines. That's 110km's a day through likely worse conditions than I'll have down here in southern Ontario.
The title of that guy's story by the way was "How I Got Rich on a Middle-Class Salary." : )
Sunday, June 18, 2006
There are lots of good cycling quotations, although the most famous one, "A woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle" (Gloria Steinhem - although she attributes the quote to an Australian woman named Irina Dunn) actually has nothing to do with cycling.
Here are some of my favourites:
"Human progress should have stopped with the bicycle."~ Elizabeth West
"I lose the sense of balance, to the point Gaston Plaud and the mechanic had to support me for more than 200 meters before I could start again. Finding my way, I had to climb the thread of my own existence to know who I was, and what I was doing on the bicycle. Then I saw the 'Peugeot' on my jersey and I remembered that I was a cyclist. But in what race were we? I didn't have any idea, until I noticed the Tour's yellow plate screwed on the bumper of the Peugeot team car. Not being sure of anything, I am inquiring from Gaston Plaud who answered, 'Yes, we are in the Tour, don't worry, you fell on your head."
~ Bernard Thevenet, 1972 Tour de France, after a crash
"The bicycle is a curious vehicle. It's passenger is its engine."
~ John Howard, U.S. Olympic cyclist
"Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There is something wrong with a society that drives a car to work out in a gym."
~ Bill Nye
"The bicycle should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets."
- Christopher Morley
(P.S. Along with being a cyclist, I'm a would-be novelist)
"Those who wish to control their own lives and move beyond existence as mere clients and consumers- those people ride a bike."
~ Wolfgang Sachs, For the Love of the Automobile
And this one shows up on the internet as a "Zen Proverb." God knows where it really comes from, but even anonymous it's a good one:
A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, "Why are you riding your bicycles?"
The first student replied, "The bicycle is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!" The teacher praised the first student, "You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do."
The second student replied, "I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!" The teacher commended the second student, "Your eyes are open, and you see the world."
The third student replied, "When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo." The teacher gave praise to the third student, "Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel."
The fourth student replied, "Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings." The teacher was pleased, and said to the fourth student, "You are riding on the golden path of non-harming."
The fifth student replied, "I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle." The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, "Ahh.... I am your student!"
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Want to know why we'll ALL be riding bikes soon? Why the GTA and every other urban center on earth HAS to create a biking infrastructure and legitimize cycling as a method of travel?
It's called "Peak Oil."
Peak Oil is the point at which humans have extracted half of the oil which exists in the earth. This first half, the half that we've used up, is all the easily accessible oil - picture the gushers in Texas where you have oil towers billowing oil up into the sky. This half was easy to get, cheap to get, and this half made us VERY THIRSTY for oil..., leading to the development of SUV's and suburbs.
The remaining half of the world's oil is stuff like the Alberta Tar Sands. This oil is DIFFICULT and EXPENSIVE to get. Also, drilling and refining this kind of oil is environmentally damaging - think of ocean oil rigs trying to extract oil from the deepest most inaccessible parts of the ocean and having Exxon Valdez style accidents. Picture what is happening in Alberta, where they mix the tar sands with hot water in order to start separating the oil from the sand - this was originally FRESH water which is then polluted and useless, and we're talking HUGE amounts of water. Not to mention the fact that much of this "sand" is under forests which have to be clearcut to get at the oil. For an interesting American view of the tar sands, check this out:
As we pass peak oil, which we're doing right now (estimates for the "peak oil" date hover around 2008, though some very optimistic ones stretch to 2040), the world has very big decisions to make. We have about 6 1/2 billion people in the world who are addicted to a cheap supply of oil. And think of this - China and India are just starting to develop their oil thirst. We will soon have their huge populations demanding their fair share of the world's dwindling oil supplies. What does the future hold? Well, war. The Americans have already invaded Iraq to make sure that Saddam didn't have the ability to interrupt the oil flow from both his country and from surrounding oil suppliers like Iran. If full out wars don't erupt, at the very least prices will spike, and it will become less and less possible to fill your car up with gas and drive from your suburban cut-out house to your job in the city. In fact, we might turn to the Amish to beg them to teach us how to survive without our cars and our oil heated homes.
So, being a biker, I have to admit that I'm more or less keen for the day when people can't afford to drive their SUVs. I picture abandoned cars all over the place, huge wrecking yards, and major transportation arteries like the Don Valley Parkway and the 401 having two lanes for some sort of public transport and emergency vehicles and two lanes for bicycles.
Want to learn more about Peak Oil and related topics? Check out the documentary The End of Suburbia (link on right). And find these books: "The Long Emergency" by James Kunstler;
"Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage" by Kenneth Deffeyes; "Resource Wars" by Michael Klare; "Out of gas: the end of the age of oil" by David Goodstein; "Oil Crisis" by Colin Campbell; "Powerdown: options and actions for a post-carbon world" by Richard Heinberg.
There is NO DOUBT that peak oil is approaching, that our lifestyles have to be reassessed. Ever wonder why BP - British Petroleum, is renaming themselves Beyond Petroleum? Have you seen Chevron's new website at www.willyoujoinus.com ? The first thing you read on the homepage is this: Energy will be one of the defining issues of this century. One thing is clear: the era of easy oil is over.
Get your bike out of the garage.
Friday, June 16, 2006
On June 19, 2006 I begin a 14 month contract with Durham College in Oshawa. I live in downtown Toronto and have no desire to move to Oshawa for this job. For reasons I will outline in subsequent posts, I refuse - at this stage of my life - to own a car, and while public transit is a worthy thing, I wish to avoid using public transit to get to Oshawa. This leaves me dependent on my own two legs and my bicycle to get to the workplace.
For various reasons, this suits me fine. I'm environmentally aware, which leads me to believe that walking represents one end of an environmentally aware (and moral) scale, and driving a car represents the other. I'm cheap, which makes me happy to cut down on public transit expenses; I'm stubborn, which makes me want to prove that cyclists DO belong on the roads; and I'm health conscious, which inspires me to undertake this commute to improve my fitness level. Also, I love cycling.
At the beginning of this adventure, my plan is to mix cycling with public transit, because I'm not currently in the shape I need to be in to do 130 km a day. This will work out to cycling to work Monday morning, transiting home that night, transiting to work Tuesday morning, cycling home Tuesday night, and etc.
Having lived in downtown Toronto for several years, I have been a long-time cyclist in the city. My downtown workhorse is a Kona Hahana (a mountain bike with no shocks). While I bitch about the same things all cyclists bitch about (cars parked in the bike lane, taxis swerving in front of you with no warning to pick up a fare), I actually find cycling downtown to be second nature. I also got into long distance road riding a few years ago. I spent a few summers doing TBN's Sunday rides almost every weekend, and I also participated frequently in duathlons.
At the age of 34 I'm a year past being in what I would call "good" shape (i.e. competitive duathlon shape). At 165 pounds, I'm eleven pounds above the weight I've been at during my best racing days. However, while my legs are nowhere near as strong as they've been in the past, they do have a solid 65 kms in them, and the ride to Oshawa really has not been a problem in the practice rides I've done.
And why Tuco? The nickname I've been more popularly known by in my life is Goober (which was given me in my first year of undergrad). Tuco is a nickname from highschool, and I feel it is more appropriate for this blog.
In the old "Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" movies, Eli Wallach plays a character named Tuco, who isn't very bright, but is tough and stubborn and pretty darn determined to get what he wants (specifically, to find the gold and kill Clint Eastwood). I figured "dumb and stubborn" were appropriate characteristics for the kind of person I'll have to be to do this commute. P.S. Tuco was the "Ugly" one in the movie. : )
The primary bike I'll be using for this commute is something of a handmade bike I bought off my friend Smut (known to the real world as Duncan).
It's an aluminum Cannondale frame, roughly 15 years old, with downtube shifters. The fork is an Easton Carbon fork, the drive train is Shimano 105, and as my commute requires diving into gravel shoulders, and hammering along a torn up country road, I've put a 27mm cyclocross tire on the front, and a 25 mm Specialized Armadillo (the most puncture proof tire on the market) on the back.
The other bike I'll mention is my big investment of a year and a bit ago - a 2004 Cervelo Team Soloist. I rode it for my training rides to Oshawa, and because of the above mentioned "roughness" of this ride, and because I need to leave my bike locked up in Oshawa for short periods of time, I'm not going to be riding the Cervelo to work. However, I thought I'd mention it. Right now my girlfriend Annalise is riding it on the trainer, and if I ever do another duathlon I'll be doing it on this bike.
Well, the route sucks, but there's not much I can do about it. Of the whole 65 kms, only about 15 of it is at all enjoyable. Otherwise it's just a matter of gutting it out. The enjoyable 15 km is along country roads where horses and cows are looking at me, and the rest is just surviving downtown traffic on city streets and country highways.
For those who know Toronto, I take Queen east to Midland, north on Midland to Pitfield, which turns into Milner, and together take me east to Morningside. At Morningside I go up to Sheppard which has a bike lane that takes me east to Meadowvale, which has a bike path going along the side of the Metro Zoo and eventually takes me all the way north to Steeles. At Steeles, I go east to Sideline 26 (my first country road), which takes me north to the 5th Concession Road ( a country road which in parts is torn to hell and therefore necessistates the cyclocross setup). I then veer north on Salem Road to Highway 7 which takes me east to a town called Brooklin, where I turn south on St. Thomas and eventually turn east on Conlin, which finally leads me to Durham College.
SO - that is what I have to do to get a moderately safe ride to Oshawa. The most direct route would be along Steeles/Taunton Road across the top of Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and pretty much straight to Durham College in Oshawa. BUT..., this whole strip is sprawlurbia (more bitching about sprawlurbia to come in later posts) at its very very worst, and having done that ride once I'm pretty sure I'll be a dead man if I try it again. Therefore, I'm going at least half an hour out of my way to get a better ride.