Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A safe place to park.

Toronto's ring and post line many city streets, providing thousands of parking spots for bikes. The simple design allows for various lock up methods and can accommodate various lock sizes and styles. The added ring also help prevent bikes from being tipped over easily compared to locking it up to a regular sign or lamp post. They are simple, compact and flawed. Shortly after the implementation of these rings it was discovered that they can be broken into using leverage force from something as simple as a 2x4 plank of wood:Thieves can easily pop off the ring, remove the bike and take it home (with or without the ring attached, depending on how the bike was locked) and cut the lock at their own leisure. The city has attempted to solve this issue by adding an additional ring to reinforce the first, however, the process has been very slow leaving hundreds or vulnerable ring & posts being used. In addition, the added thickness of the ring makes locking up a bit difficult for people with shorter U-locks such as the Kryptonite Evolution which are well used due to their reliability and compact size.

It would be great to see the city look at other types of posts for bikes, in fact there are a few different examples used in Toronto. The example below was taken at an apartment building just south of St. Clair W / Bathurst. The large ring has the potential to lock up 2-4 bicycles depending on arrangement. It's simple but effective.
Over the next little bit I'll be posting other examples of public/private outdoor parking infrastructure used in Toronto. What's great about having different kinds is that it helps deter theft, having different designs means thieves would have to think up ways to break into each one instead of plan for just 1 design. In addition, different designs can be used based on available space and layout of the sidewalk. Lastly, they can add to the aesthetics of the streetscape when done right.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Bike Lane Done Right

Bike lanes are a great way to promote cycling in cities, they provide a buffer for cyclists and make riding safer. That is, if cars don't park in them, they are clear of debris and they actually lead anywhere. Another problem with bike lanes is that they create vehicular conflict/confusion when it comes to turning; cyclists are stuck in the right hand lane which can be a problem when they want to make a left and can be caught between a right turning vehicle and the curb at intersections. Because of the segregated nature of bicycle lanes, many drivers and cyclists, are left wondering how to negotiate with these issues. This can result in cyclists riding on the pedestrian cross-walk in order to make left turns, or cyclists attempting to pass drivers on the right hand side of a vehicle which is attempting to make a right turn (which can lead to the devastating right-hook). Cyclists such as John Forester suggest that bike lanes should be eliminated and that cyclists should act more like drivers in cars should in order to promote safer cyclist/driver relations on the road. Though this can be possible it's something we are far from accomplishing and something I'll rant on sometime later.

In Toronto, there are a few examples of bike lanes that actually take these conflicts into consideration. Often, you will see bike lanes suddenly disappear at intersections which can create confusion and danger. The photo below was taken at Old Fort York & Bathurst where a bike lane splits into 2 lanes, one for right turning bicycles and another for left turning. Both are well supported with indicator arrows and a buffer on the left turning bike lane also adds to the safety. Of course, this may not necessarily work at every intersection as such a scheme requires a lot of lane-width and must also take into consideration traffic speeds as cyclists must exit the bike lane, merge into traffic and then merge into the left turning lane. Still, this is a nice example of the city trying to look out for cyclists and drivers.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ride for Heart

I had the opportunity to bike in the Becel Ride for Heart. The weather was a little chilly with spitting rain, but despite that it was a great ride. The volunteers and staff were enthusiastic and very helpful and I managed to pickup some good speed, averaging 30kph in the 50km course. Despite all this, there were some set backs.

The one thing that really bothered me (and I'm sure some others as well) was the poor riding etiquette from the less experienced riders. I may not be an expert in group riding but I know that it's only common sense to look where you are going and avoid getting in the way of faster riders. I had way too many close calls with cyclists who decided to swerve across 2 or 3 whole car lanes without even so much as glancing, signalling or calling their movement. There was one particular rider who insisted on getting in my way and ignored any attempt at trying to warn him of my passing him. Sudden erratic movement, suddenly stopping, riding 4 or more abreast, not signalling, passing awfully close and littering were some of the bad habits I encountered. There was one crash that could have easily been avoided had riders followed the rules; part of the route involved riding on an off ramp from one road to the expressway, it was a tight one-laner with a barricade. A cyclist decided to try and cut corners, effectively cutting in the path of several others forcing a pile up. I loved the ride and I'll do it next year, I just have to ride with even more vigilence than if I were riding in heavy traffic.

On a related note, CP24 ran a poll asking viewers if major roadways should be closed for fundraising events. Strangely, well over 60% of viewers think roads should only be closed for repairs. Actually, it isn't strange, it's a perfect example of car-culture affecting our society. It has become obvious that for many people the ability to drive their car from point A to B as fast as possible has taken priority over things such as fundraisers to help support life-saving research. If that's the case it looks like cultural, social, ethnic, historical or any fun event for that matter such as festivals, block parties, parades and stuff of the sort are bad too. There goes Salsa at St. Clair, Caribana, the Pride Parade, and a whole slew of others! So is the Santa Claus parade bad too? What about the Toronto Marathon?