Showing posts from 2007

So this is Christmas (in Orillia!)

Let me think, what did I tell the world last Christmas? Oh yeah, I moralized about climate change, that cycling petition (which I think helped inspire the Ontario government to cut the provincial sales tax on bikes last election), and polar bears. Hmmm... and actually, looking through my other December posts last year, I like the Napoleon one more than the Christmas one!

Anyway, no "be the change you want to see in the world" language from me this Christmas. I hope you're able to build some snowmen, do some skating, and get some winter riding in if you're able. (Jill, I don't visit your site enough, but you continue to be an inspiration).

Merry Christmas everybody!! : )

Invite Enrique into your oikos

Guess what! There is good news coming out of the White House! The House of Representatives has passed a bill, which Bush has said he'll sign, to set tougher fuel economy standards on U.S. automobiles:
The bill, which passed on a bipartisan vote of 314 to 100, sets higher fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks for the first time in 22 years and requires the annual production of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022, a fivefold increase from current ethanol production levels.

And there's more good news today!
The Japanese have long had a sneaky way of getting around international whaling agreements, by saying that they were allowed to kill X number of whales for scientific research. This year, the Australians got so pissed about this that they vowed to send ships and helicopters in pursuit of Japanese whalers, to video-tape every thing they caught.

Just this morning the Japanese have announced that they've changed their minds and won't kill any humpbacks, w…

Happier Christmas thoughts coming soon!

I just finished a book about Robert Oppenheimer called The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer: And the birth of the modern arms race. It was okay, but I'm not mentioning it here because I'm recommending it to anybody as a great read.

I am mentioning it though because it ties in with a long ago post about Easter Island and how smart we humans really are.

Now Oppenheimer, as we all know, is the scientist who, in World War II, gave the world the atom bomb. The U.S. was expecting that if they had to land troops on Japanese soil to finish the war, they'd lose thousands and thousands of men in an effort to bring the war to an end. The scientists working on the A Bomb knew this as well, and wanting to avoid the loss of these troops, finished work on the A bomb in time to destroy two Japanese Cities and force the Japanese to surrender.
Oppenheimer, a very philosophical man, worked on the A Bomb with great moral misgivings. While watching the first successful test of the A Bomb, he famousl…

I wanna debate this particle cube thing...

You know, a year ago I would have had lots to say about this we were wrong, Iran doesn't really have a Nuke program story. I'm so exhausted by the Bush White House though that I really don't care anymore. I wonder if that was their plan - "hey, let's do so many things wrong, and sink so low, that they can't even criticize us anymore! And then right before we leave office, let's do something REALLY bad!"

Oh well, at least the Bush presidency gave us stuff like this.

I also find I don't have that much to say about the new Environmental Commissioner of Ontario's report. Basically he's saying that the growth in the Greater Toronto Area is unsustainable (the GTA apparently adds the population of a medium sized city every single year).

Well, we all know that. But we're still spreading cement over every spec of green space in places like Scarborough

Wake me up when the Canadian government has increased gasoline taxes and Mayor David Miller in To…

Courage of the early morning basement cyclist

As soon as Annalise and I started telling people that we were moving to Orillia, we began hearing horror stories about how much snow Orillia gets in the winter. As I'm originally from Bancroft, Ontario, which is probably a little farther north than Orillia, I thought "How bad can it be?" Well, it's only December 2nd and we've already had enough snow fall that I could barely open my front door in the morning.
All of Ontario has gotten a lot of snow the last few days, and I was listening to the guy on CBC talk about doing 30km/hour on the 401 this morning, and still ending up sliding into a 360 degree turn, but up here all the snow is fun. It reminds me of being a kid and going over to the baseball diamond, climbing up to the top of the bleachers, and jumping off into snowbanks. Bancroft hasn't had snow like that in years.

I'm not biking at all these days - walking to work only takes me 20 minutes, so that's what I do. I'm riding my Jamis on my traine…

renewable dinosaur energy

Picture from How stuff works.

Although we aren't really noticing in Canada, because our soaring dollar is protecting us from high gasoline prices, the price of oil is rebounding towards $100.00/barrel - closing today at $98.03. It hasn't affected gas prices here much, but in the states (from what I can tell using google news), gas has gone up around .25cents in the last month.

And still none of the major news outlets, or political figures, are really talking about peak oil. Maybe this will change with a report released in October from the Energy Watch Group - the executive summary is here.

As coverage in the Guardian Newspaper explains, the report states the following:

World oil production has already peaked and will fall by half as soon as 2030, according to a report which also warns that extreme shortages of fossil fuels will lead to wars and social breakdown.
"The world soon will not be able to produce all the oil it needs as demand is rising while supply is falling. This i…

Some people even seen the bear in me

I'm going to impose a strict "no more polar bears for several months" policy for my blog after this, because this could get silly, but here are some pictures from another email that was forwarded to me.

These are things we can learn from our great white friends up north:

A) Always get your beauty sleep.

B) No half-hearted hugs - bear hugs all the time.

C) Get exercise, and don't neglect your core.

D) Always look your best.

E) Beware of penguins.

F) Because they're annoying little bastards (click on picture to animate).

Sustainable Communities

I've mentioned before how much I hate sprawlurbia and how I secretly (or not so secretly) am waiting for peak oil to hit and get all the cars off the road, and force urban planners to prioritize active transportation in their planning.

As many of us already knew, sprawlurbia is killing us in various ways. The obesity and diabetes rates are way up partly due to our culture of sitting in the car for an hour to get to work. As well, as the previously mentioned (see below) Toronto Public Health report states, the pollution caused by automobiles is doing quite a number on us.

To the rescue is the Ontario Provincial Planners Institute. They've just released a report titled Healthy Communities, Sustainable Communities.
The report calls for many things near and dear to a cyclists' heart: they call for an expansion of transportation legislation to include walking and cycling, and not just automobile use, in establishing transportation master plans.

They advocate for arterial roads to c…

Public Health in the City of Toronto

Toronto Public Health has just released a report titled Air Pollution Burden of Illness from Traffic in Toronto. My friend Kate from my university donning days worked on this and sent me the link - thanks Kate!

It's a follow up to the 2006 report that I mentioned in this post, and when you add in what the City of Toronto Transportation department knows about The Bicycle and Urban Sustainability, you wonder why things aren't fixed already. Think about it - city research shows that motorized traffic is killing us and that active transportation is the answer. What's the hold up in getting the bike lanes in and taxing car use downtown? Oh yeah, guys like this and this.

This chart comes from the public health report - it shows how the City of York in England prioritizes modes of transportation

Figure 8 illustrates the hierarchy of transportation users implemented by the City of York. In this hierarchy, cities are designed around people, not cars. A sustainable transportation netwo…

toronto cops mean business

Although this happened very close to my (soon-to-be former) apartment in Toronto, this isn't my story, but my friend Oliver's story.

In the Dundas, Parliament, Queen, River area, you have a nice collection of bike lanes. On the east side of the Don River, Dundas Street has a great bike lane, and on the west side of the river, Gerrard has a bike lane, and so do Shuter and River Streets. Oli was commuting to work along Shuter on the first day of school this past September, when he approached and passed a cop car parked in the Shuter bike lane.

As he moved into the car lane to pass the cop, Oliver muttered "WHY?" through the cop's open window, and then just kept cycling along. Behind him, Oliver hears an engine roar to life, and almost immediately the cop has caught up to Oli, and swerved to a stop in front of him - the car diagonally blocking all of the bike lane and most of the car lane (both on the westbound side of the street).

The cop gets out and starts off with …

An Orillia roundup

Before I forget, here's my new theory - your sense of outrage with the world has a direct correlation to how much time you have to read and follow current events. I haven't been following the news as much as I used to, and therefore I don't know what Bush and Cheney etc are doing, so I don't have much opportunity to be outraged. I guess this is a variation on "ignorance is bliss."

Here's a glimpse at the life of a cyclist in Orillia, Ontario - my new hometown. There's a nice biking trail down along Lake Couchiching, which runs parallel to a gravel hiking trail. Otherwise I haven't seen any bike lanes on the city streets at all.

Velocity is my new bike shop. My girlfriend and I went in there our very first day in town when we were apartment hunting and they gave us the scoop about which neighborhoods to avoid etc. I've bought an armadillo from them, and a Pedro's mini-cleaning kit. I'm hoping to do their Tuesday morning rides with them in…

It just don't get no better than a bear

My girlfriend was forwarded this story, and when she sent it to me I thought it'd be a good blog post.

I guess a photographer visiting Churchill, Manitoba, took some sled dogs out to take some pictures.

Out of the snow a polar bear creeps towards the pack, and the photographer starts thinking "Oh crap, all the dogs are goners."

Turns out though, that the polar bear just wanted to play around.

And he came back several times on succeeding days to play with the dogs some more.

So cute - and such a shame we're going to have killed 30 to 50% of the bears by 2050.

Badges, we don't need no stinkin badges!

Wow - oil closed at a record $88.00 a barrel today. If you adjust for inflation etc, oil was still more expensive back in the 70's, but it definitely makes you think about peak oil and how screwed we're going to be when the oil runs out (unless you live in Cuba, which is apparently a post peak-oil economy already).

Ahh peak oil - fewer cars and more bicycles. I realize there will also be potentially catastrophic consequences of peak oil hitting as hard as it could, but being a cyclist I tend to just concentrate on the ribbons of empty highways and how much fun it'll be cycling along them.

On a somewhat similar topic, I took the Eco Footprint quiz today. You can see my results here below. I guess that's what being a near vegan and a cyclist/pedestrian will do for you.

I'm getting used to life in Orillia, and since I only have a 20 minute walk to work I'm actually not biking much here, just walking everywhere. I hope to do a bigger update on life up here in Simcoe …

When tomorrow gets here (where will yesterday be?)

In saying goodbye to Toronto, one thing I thought I could do was a photographic "thanks" to some of the bike shops I've depended on since becoming a commuting cyclist back in about 2001. So I went for a ride on a grey Sunday morning here in Toronto today, and took photos of the main shops that I've used over the years.

The store I've depended on the most over the years is Sweet Pete's at Dufferin and Bloor. In 2000/2001, when I was new to cycling and was riding some sort of Home Hardware mountain bike thing, I kept going to them for repairs until one day the front hub kind of shredded and the guy at the shop, who'd done repair after repair for me, looked at me and said "Man, it's over for this thing." I subsequently bought the Kona Hahanna from them which I rode around town today taking these photos, and it is by far the most useful bike I've ever had, though it looks very different now than it did when I bought it (i.e. it's now a si…

Toronto the good

In preparing to say goodbye to Toronto, I've been trying to squeeze in some bike rides that I've always enjoyed in this city. Frequently thinking things like "this might be the last time I ever cross over the Humber bridge."

These two pictures are from the Humber River biking trail. Toronto has two river valley biking trails - the Humber in the west, and the Don in the east, and I've ridden the Don Valley river trail far more often than the Humber. I've always lived a bit closer to the Don than the Humber, and the Don trail has the advantage of three half decent hills up at the north end that you can use for hill-training. But, the Humber is definitely more picturesque. I remember going through the Humber once on my Kona mountain bike on a thin layer of crusty snow - nice quiet winter morning, the trail mostly deserted, the snow breaking under my tires. One of those random rides that you take which turn into a lasting memory.

And this is the beaches in Toronto&…

Bells on Bloor

Bells on Bloor happened today. Picture about 200 cyclists (my rough guess) meeting at High Park in the west end of the city, then cycling along Bloor Street (with bike cop escorts monitoring all the intersections) to Avenue Road in the center of Toronto, and then weaving a bit and ending up at Queen's Park - the home of our provincial government.
All this to rally people around the cause of getting more bike lanes built in Toronto, more people out of their cars, and more hope for solving the climate change crisis.

In the picture below we get a glimpse of Darren from Bike Refugee (white T Shirt). Darren is one of the few cycling activists I've met before. At the end of the ride today I also got the chance to say hi to Tanya from Crazy Biker Chick (probably the most famous cycling blogger in Toronto) and Vic from Vic Gedris (and from Cycle Ontario Alliance). P.S. - as per usual, Tino at Bike Lane Diary has coverage of today's event, and some other cool photos if you scroll dow…

Where's Waldo?

Although I am planning to attend Bells on Bloor on Sunday, my mind has not been on cycling, the environment, George Bush, or blogging very much recently. In fact, as far as cycling goes, my butt hasn't been on my bike for maybe two weeks now.

My contract at the university in Oshawa finished at the end of the first week of September, and I am no longer the lonely cyclist pedalling his way through Whitby/Oshawa each day. Thank god, actually. I got so tired fighting that battle. Durham Region (for american readers, durham is the sprawl of suburbia to the east of Toronto, including the cities of Pickering, Ajax, whitby, oshawa) is a lost cause as far as I'm concerned. durham is exactly the type of region that HAS to switch to public transit and cycling RIGHT NOW to help save the planet, but the political will doesn't exist out there, and I'm pretty sure that in 2025 when peak oil has hit and all the polar bears are dead someone on the oshawa city council will say "hey,…

of bells, bears and taxes

Bells on Bloor is happening on Sunday Sept. 23 to celebrate car free day. That one should be a hoot - riding from the west end of Toronto into the center on Toronto's main east-west artery. Can't wait.

I'd like to think that our petition helped spur this on - the provincial Liberal party is promising to cut provincial sales tax on bikes and bike helmets if they get re-elected. Our petition, which asked for this and other things, went to the Federal Government (I never got around to directing one at the province), but hopefully the Ontario Liberals were paying attention when Olivia Chow read our petition in Federal Parliament, and stole some of our ideas.

This story about global warming's impact upon the polar bear population is exactly why I have rather extreme thoughts regarding what our society is NOT doing about climate change.

How can we not raise gas taxes, not enforce better auto-emission standards, not hammer industries which are extreme polluters, not raise taxes …