Thursday, September 27, 2007

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's east end. From my place (this was Monday? Tuesday?) I rode east on Queen Street to the beaches area, turned south and was quickly on the Martin Goodman trail, which is a long biking trail along Toronto's lakeshore which takes you completely across Toronto from east to west (with only maybe 3 or 4 km of street riding involved). When I did my undergrad at U of T, a small-town boy in the big city, I grew to hate Toronto. And for the first few years I was back (after going abroad and teaching ESL for a few years) I hated it even more. And then I bought a bicycle and started exploring areas like the Humber trail and the Don trail and the Martin Goodman trail, and my bike opened up Toronto's green areas to me, and I relaxed here for the first time.

So here's to biking in Toronto. Here's to your bike opening up the green areas of your city. Here's to Toronto the good - the places where you can ride your bike.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

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 down a bit.

This is the group going past the new (funky!) addition to the Royal Ontario Museum, just before we make the turn off Bloor Street south onto University Avenue.

And this isn't a great photo, but the best one I took of the group assembling at the end of the ride in front of Queen's Park. I doubt any of the politicians were there, but the Liberal Party's campaign bus was parked in front of the building. I wonder if there's been a pledge for all the parties to go carbon neutral in this election campaign. Didn't all the federal parties do that in the last federal election?

And this is just typical, and ironic. If I had a camera with me all the time (and the patience to stop and snap a photo), I could take dozens and dozens of "cars parked in the bike lane" photos every month. Today, on my way home from Bells on Bloor, I found this dude parked in the bike lane on Shuter Street just east of Parliament.
Thank you, sir. By taking up the entire lane, just on the other side of a set of streetlights, you guaranteed that I was going to have to check over my shoulder a few times, gauge my speed right, and fight for some room as i went through this intersection, rather than having what should have been a peaceful stress-free ride through a bike lane.

In a way though, I find it hard to blame the motorists, when cops will go right by them most of the time without saying "boo" about this traffic violation. Since the cops don't enforce it, why would motorists think twice about doing it?

Friday, September 21, 2007

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, let's hold a referendum about building a bike lane downtown, and maybe start work in 2030 on it."

Anyway - my job in Oshawa finished, I spent about a week in Bancroft with my parents, hiking through the forest every day, seeing lots of deer, doing some writing (I'm a hack novelist), canoeing with my dad and that kind of thing. And then, just as I was starting to enjoy being unemployed, I was offered a new job.

And I'm MOVING - at long last (I'm a smalltown boy at heart) I'm LEAVING TORONTO.

I'm going to see if you guys can figure out where I'm moving to. All these pictures were taken yesterday in my soon-to-be new home. I'll give you a few hints - the city is in Ontario, within three hours drive of Toronto, and an established university is setting up a satellite campus in the town I'm moving to, ergo a job opening up there for me.

So, I don't know when I'll get back to blogging regularly again. I'm fairly stressed right now about finding a place to live etc. Once I do relocate though I'm excited about being the annoying guy at town council meetings standing up and saying "what about bike infrastructure?" every five seconds. Luckily my new town does have a fairly good cycling culture, at least on a recreational, if not a commuting, level.

Anyway dudes - leave a comment with your guess about where I'm moving to, and I hope you're all getting lots of miles under your wheels in the nice late summer weather we're having. ciao.

P.S - Floyd has been officially declared guilty.

Monday, September 10, 2007

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 on the meat industry (if you're not a vegetarian this might seem an "out of left field" statement - but read this, or this study which came out of Guelph University), when our society is leading us right to a world where polar bears will be massively killed off - along with all the other plants and animals which are disappearing due to the unbelievably high extinction rate that we are causing.

From the Guardian:
"At present, animals are believed to be going extinct at 100 to 1,000 times the usual rate, leading many researchers to claim that we are in the midst of a mass extinction event faster than that which wiped out the dinosaurs."

The gentleman who graciously gave me this bike was attacked, while on bike, by a car a few months ago. The description of the crash, and a string of comments, are here on Spacing - be well Geoffrey. Hope you're out there fighting for your lane again soon.

My buddy Oliver, who is pretty pissed about cars parking in bike lanes, got a ticket from the cops recently when he went up to a squad car parked in the lane and asked what they thought they were doing. I haven't heard the full story yet, but hopefully Oli will be giving me the description in a guest post soon.

Take care everyone!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

a sunny summer september day


Life has been fairly busy and I've been out of my normal routine and therefore not posting on here that often. Today was a nice end of summer day though. Anna and I biked around the city - first to the Veggie Food Fair (see Veggie Blog) and then out to the west end of the Martin Goodman trail where one of Anna's friends got married.
These aren't our bikes by the way. The couple who got married picked the wedding spot partly because it was a nice spot for people to bike to - and they asked that people do just that! : ) I'm assuming that these bikes belong to someone else who was at the ceremony.


It's funny how you can live in Toronto and go through a lot of the year totally forgetting that your city has a great Harbour area, with a lake the size of a sea. I used to bike along the lakeshore a few times a week, but not the past two summers.


These three photos are all of Toronto's downtown, taken from the west end of the Martin Goodman trail. The sky looks a lot bluer than Toronto has felt recently. It has been so smoggy that I've been contemplating using one of those carbon filter smog masks that some cyclists have. One thing that holds me back though is that I've heard that no studies have been done to show that those masks actually work. Plus, I wear glasses and having one more thing on my face would drive me a little nutty.