December 28, 2015

Twelve Days of Bicycles - Seven Pots A Planting

Being involved with cycling advocacy requires keeping up with the latest urban planning jargon such as mid-rise buildings, cycle tracks, protected intersections, walkable communities, and transit-oriented development. Among these topics, there is another which unites them all and is currently being reviewed by the City of Toronto (and elsewhere) known as Complete Streets.
avenue Thiers in Bordeaux

December 21, 2015

Twelve Days of Bicycles - Eight Curbs A Calming

Originally developed in the Netherlands, protected intersections – consisting of four traffic islands and forward stop lines to guide cyclists safely – have recently started to gain ground in North American cities as a complement to separated bike lanes. While not yet introduced in Toronto, local cyclists there are already calling for protected intersections and Mobycon hosted an intersection design workshop on October 2, 2015. To get a Toronto perspective on protected intersections, I interviewed George Liu, MES (Pl), a Statistics Research Assistant with the Toronto Cycling Think & Do Tank and Masters Candidate in Human Factors Engineering who attended the workshop.
A simple sketch of what a protected intersection looks like

December 19, 2015

Twelve Days of Bicycles - Six Noodles Swaying

If there is one reason why cyclists should never be underestimated, it is for their creativity. One such instance occurred when the Ontario government approved Bill 31, a part of the first #CycleON action plan. The changes included increased fines for distracted driving and dooring cyclists, legalizing paved shoulders and contraflow bike lanes, and requiring drivers to give at least one metre of space when passing cyclists.[1] The last item was advocated by Parkdale High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo since 2010 and was a recommendation in the June 2012 Ontario Coroner’s Report.

December 17, 2015

Twelve Days of Bicycles - Five Flashing Lights

Critical Mass – a large group ride where cyclists take over public roads – began in San Francisco in 1992 and has been done in over 300 cities around the world.[1] In recent years, Critical Mass has been on the decline in Toronto given its maturing cycling culture; reflected by numerous other group rides available, infrastructure improvements, and other bike related programs. One ride I attended last year saw only 20 – 30 people take part, while hundreds were reported to have attended in the past. As a way to keep the idea alive, the Cycle Toronto Ward 14 Advocacy Group started a series of “Mini Mass” rides. 
Mini Mass gathered on Roncesvalles Avenue

December 14, 2015

Twelve Days of Bicycles - Three Book Rides

For Toronto’s cyclists, there is no shortage of group rides to choose from; ranging from Bells on Bloor rallies with 1500 cyclists to smaller food rides. There is one group ride which stands out and combines my two favourite activities – cycling and reading – which is called The Reading Line.
Ribbon cutting at Book City

December 08, 2015

Twelve Days of Bicycles - Four Lake Shore Spans

From my building in Liberty Village to where the Martin Goodman Trail ends at Norris Crescent, I pass or cross four cycling bridges at Jameson, Roncesvalles, Humber River, and Park Lawn. From Norris to where the trail resumes at First Street, cyclists have to use Lake Shore Boulevard; a busy arterial road not appealing to most recreational users. To remedy this issue, there are plans to install a 1.4 kilometre bi-directional cycle track on the south side of Lake Shore. A public consultation was held this evening at the New Toronto Library with city staff available to answer residents’ concerns.

December 04, 2015

Twelve Days of Bicycles - Two Legal Friends

Among Toronto’s cycling community, there are two prominent lawyers you should get to know. The first is Albert Koehl, who helped start the annual Bells on Bloor rides and was a past Toronto city council candidate. The second is Patrick Brown, whom I interviewed for this post. He is a partner with McLeish Orlando - a Toronto critical injury law firm - and offers legal advice to cyclists and their families involved in bicycle-vehicle collisions.
Patrick Brown at the 2015 Skill Swap (SOURCE: Cycle Toronto)

December 02, 2015

Twelve Days of Bicycles - A Bike Lane on Bloor Street

With the Christmas season here, it’s time to get out the eggnog and carol books! It also means the end of another exciting year for Toronto’s cycling community. So how can one pay tribute to this vibrant community while in a festive mood? When a fellow advocate (Peter) recently sent me some information on Vision Zero, it gave me an idea. With one of my favourite Christmas carols being “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, I present to you “The Twelve Days of Bicycles” and the first verse … a bike lane on Bloor Street!

November 10, 2015

Put Down Your (Political) Swords

It’s been a few weeks since the longest election campaign in Canadian history ended. While it left me burnt out and disappointed, given my MP (Peggy Nash) was defeated along with every NDP MP in Toronto and Atlantic Canada, it also means no more elections until 2018. This is a good opportunity to focus away from politics (except for cycling matters, of course) and get myself back in order. Since I will have to work with a Liberal MP now, let’s get some first impressions of the new Liberal government.

October 08, 2015

When Fear Hijacks Campaigns

When former NDP leader Jack Layton passed away on August 22, 2011, his final words became legend and transcended partisan lines. He called on Canadians to embrace love, hope, and optimism instead of anger, fear, and despair. Fast forward to 2015 and it appears Canadians have forgotten this message, thanks to fear hijacking the current election campaign. Honestly, what happened to this country’s political discourse? It can be attributed to a headdress worn by Muslim women called the niqab.

September 21, 2015

Bloor Loves Bikes - September 2015 Update

Since Spring 2015, Cycle Toronto's advocates, Bells on Bloor, and various resident associations have been working on a campaign called "Bloor Loves Bikes." This is the latest in a series or campaigns for bike lanes on Bloor Street over the past twenty five years, which also lead to similar campaigns on Danforth Avenue (a.k.a. Danforth Loves Bikes) and eventually, Yonge Street. Given recent developments, this post will discuss what has been accomplished so far, what can be applied to other campaigns, and how you can help make bike lanes on Bloor a reality.

August 29, 2015

Defining True Progressives

After almost ten years in power, the biggest question of this fall’s election is which party represents the true progressive alternative to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This resulted in the nastiest campaign to date in which political party leaders are calling each other out on their promises and determining what is true can be difficult. Even within parties, loyalties are being tested such as disgraced Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau calling for Harper’s defeat[1], Liberals leaving the party over anti-terror Bill C-51, and New Democrats criticizing leader Tom Mulcair’s positions on issues such as pipelines and Palestine.[2] For this blog post, I will discuss past Liberal and NDP records, as well as certain key campaign promises and accusations.

August 03, 2015

Pursuing the Car-free Lifestyle

While cycle commuting for one day is one thing, doing it for a month is another. For all of July, I did not turn on my car once, though I had to borrow a co-worker’s vehicle for one brief errand. For this post, I discuss some lessons learned from my car-free month, as well as a related film which recently launched.

July 27, 2015

Bike Plan from Cycle Toronto's Advocates Perspectives

On Tuesday, July 21, Cycle Toronto’s ward leaders were invited to City Hall to get updates on the bike plan consultation process, as well as to provide feedback on the draft plan unveiled in late June.
Draft downtown bike plan from survey (red/brown = new priorities)

July 08, 2015

Jobs, Justice, and the Climate

Since my childhood, environmental issues have consistently been those closest to my heart. This has taken several forms such as nature photography, hiking, supporting public transit, and my primary focus on cycling advocacy. On Sunday, July 5, I was able to express this passion for the environment by attending Toronto’s March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate; held ahead of this week's Climate Summit of the Americas.
The March progressing down University Avenue

June 22, 2015

Turning Cycling Setbacks into Opportunities

While the previous post discussed recent setbacks for Toronto’s cyclists such as the Gardiner East vote and the three deaths in two weeks, advocates also need to turn setbacks into opportunities! Not only through lessons learned from the Netherlands and elsewhere, but by recognizing positive developments close to home and applying them to future challenges. During Bike Month (May 25 – June 25), there are at least five positive developments which deserve recognition.

June 15, 2015

Politically Infused Road Rage

This past week has been one of complete road rage for Toronto’s cycling community. On Thursday, city council voted 24-21 to waste an additional $458 million to save 3% of commuters an average of 52 seconds by rebuilding the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway.[1] This is in spite of overwhelming evidence supporting the cheaper boulevard (remove) option, which was supported by the following:

June 04, 2015

Making Toronto Politics More Accessible

While politics is supposed to be a two way street where both citizens and elected officials need to engage each other, the process can get as stuck as on the Don Valley Parkway at times! I was reminded by this fact while deputing at City Hall this past Thursday about cycling safety in construction zones. Before then, I only made one deputation on the municipal budget and it was because it was an evening session. Unfortunately, most committees at Toronto City Hall are structured so that making live deputations require taking the day off work. It is a shame this activity tends to be catered more towards experts and advocacy group directors because live deputations offer a greater impact than written submissions, allow councillors to ask you questions and get to know you better, and allow you to network with other concerned citizens.
Don Valley Parkway during the July 2013 flood

May 25, 2015

Revisiting Cycle Commuting

In September 2012, I got back into cycling and joined Cycle Toronto. Since then, I used bicycles for most errands around town, long distance rides such as the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, and bike-transit trips to visit my dad. There was one type of ride I have not done since leaving Bishop’s University in 2008 and that is cycle commuting. With my work being in Pickering, I had always perceived driving to be the only realistic way to get there, given the poor transit service in Durham Region. About a month ago, I was indirectly called out when Bex from Cycle Toronto staff posted about cycle commuting 30 kilometres each way, which is almost the distance to Pickering! Thanks to that, some discussion with other cycling advocates, and the impending traffic nightmare known as the Pan Am Games, I used today – Bike to Work Day – to give cycle commuting another shot!
My bike at Danforth GO station

May 18, 2015

Tear Down Gardiner East!

To follow up on the quest to revitalize Toronto’s waterfront, one obstacle prevents this process from reaching its full potential; that being the Gardiner Expressway. Over the past couple of years, there have been reports of falling concrete including one as recently as March; indicating the sixty year old expressway is nearing the end of its lifespan.[1] On June 9 – 10, City Council will have to decide between one of two options for the portion of the Gardiner east of Jarvis Street. Either that portion gets removed and replaced with an at-grade boulevard, or it is replaced with a so-called “hybrid” option which changes access ramps compared to the status quo.
2013 Ride for Heart on the Gardiner Expressway

May 12, 2015

Lessons from Bill C-51

Last week, the final vote on the Harper government’s so-called “Anti-Terror” Bill C-51 passed in the House of Commons with Liberal support. The bill has now been sent to the Senate for debate prior to receiving royal assent. During the three months between the bill’s introduction and this moment, there have been several twists and turns which reveal three important lessons for Canadian politics.

April 27, 2015

Orange Wave Revisited

Almost four years ago today, the federal NDP under Jack Layton pulled off what was then unthinkable by forming the Official Opposition for the first time ever with 103 seats. With eight days until Albertans go to the polls, we are on the verge of witnessing something equally unexpected. The 44-year Progressive Conservative (PC) dynasty there could end thanks to an “orange chinook” from the NDP’s Rachel Notley.
Supporters of Jack Layton in Oshawa - May 1, 2011

April 06, 2015

Revitalizing Toronto's Waterfront

To follow up on a previous post about the Porter Plans debate, I will discuss the ongoing waterfront revitalization efforts, which was the subject of a public meeting held at the Toronto Reference Library on Wednesday, April 1. Waterfront Toronto President and CEO John Campbell presented the organization’s half-way report card, followed by a Q&A session.

March 24, 2015

Safe Cycling Inspiration from Ottawa

Having written a travel series on last year’s Europe trip, I acknowledge the power of travel in providing new perspectives and inspiration to better our communities. However, inspiration can also be found closer to home. Thanks to a suggestion from a fellow Cycle Toronto advocate, three of us went to Ottawa last weekend for Spring Bike Ottawa; organized by Citizens for Safe Cycling (CFSC).

March 16, 2015

Takin' it to the Streets (of Toronto)

While many young adults took it to the various St. Patrick's Day parties this past weekend, I opted for something different. To paraphrase a song title from The Doobie Brothers, I took it to Toronto’s streets for a couple of rallies.

March 06, 2015

Many Paths to Solving Climate Change

With US President Barack Obama’s recent veto of the Keystone XL project and the Harper government’s continued rejection of environmental action, it became necessary for Canada’s provinces and municipalities to step in. The City of Toronto is one such municipality, which held its inaugural meeting of the Subcommittee on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation on Monday, March 2 at City Hall’s council chamber. Hundreds of residents attended the meeting, which was chaired by Councillor Gord Perks. The subcommittee’s mandate lasts until December 31, 2016 and is tasked with identifying actions needed to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The focus of this meeting was to establish the action plan’s terms and references as per this agenda item and associated presentation.

February 23, 2015

When Doing What's Right Is Unpopular

Have you ever had that feeling where you have been ignored or discredited for doing what you felt was right? As a cycling advocate, I have had my share of criticism from drivers complaining about cyclists breaking the law (which drivers do too) and so-called inconveniences of removing parking or traffic lanes to accommodate cyclists. However, this post will instead focus on two recent events; one in Toronto and one in Ottawa.

February 16, 2015

Taking Advocacy Upstream

OK! So you may have found a good cause to volunteer for and have done that for a while. During your volunteering, have you ever wondered why a problem related to your cause keeps on coming back? Have you been asking yourself what could be done to overcome that obstacle, or who needs to be approached? Are there other like-minded organizations facing the same challenges which yours could collaborate with? If you find yourself asking these questions, sounds like you are ready to take your advocacy efforts upstream, which is something I have been exploring lately.

February 09, 2015

Nothing Wrong With Winter Cycling!

Upon seeing this title, some of you may be wondering “are you nuts?” Even for someone whose favourite activity since childhood has been cycling, I didn’t start biking regularly in winter until a couple of years ago. Looking back, I see it as a way of not letting our Canadian winters stop us from doing what we enjoy the rest of the year. After all, we still need to get to work or school, and we don’t make a big deal about people doing other activities in the snow such as jogging. To prove my point, I will discuss a recent bike ride, a book I recently finished, and some winter cycling tips.