Better bike P.R.

Robert Sullivan’s piece in the New York Times is getting a lot of attention from bike blogs for its four suggestions to improve the image of cyclists (it’s also a great description of what it’s like to bike in New York City). They are:

Stop at major intersections.
Don’t go the wrong way on one-way streets.
Stay off sidewalks.
Signal before turning
These suggestions strike me as incredibly modest and probably already followed by everyone who reads this blog. In fact, I’m not sure the bad reputation that cyclists have comes from anybody who is serious enough about cycling to read a blog, join an advocacy group, etc. (although Sullivan does criticize the “Lance Armstong types” in his piece for their poor urban etiquette). That being said, it’s good to remember we are all in this together, as far as reputations go – maybe some more casual cyclists will read this the Times and reform their ways.

Ottawa > Toronto

The Ottawa Citizen offers a short piece describing the positions of mayoral candidates on cycling policy. Mike described this as “why Ottawa’s mayoral race is better than Toronto’s”; given that the Toronto candidate who once said “it’s their own fault” of cyclists who get killed in traffic now has a narrow plurality in the polls, he’s probably right.

Update: The Toronto municipal bureaucracy, however, does keep hope alive with a plan to add bike boxes around five busy intersections, including the terrifying College & Spadina.

Recent cycling links

1. Cycling in Ottawa contributor appears on CTV News to discuss bike safety in the wake of recent cycling deaths.

2. The New York Times’ ethics columnist goes for a bike ride around New York City and discusses cycling ethics.

3. The 2010 Bikeway Network Improvements pass Toronto City Council, but the high-profile plan for a segregated lane on University Avenue (which I was really looking forward to) fails due to an ostensible voting error by one councillor.

4. An NDP private member’s bill in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario would require drivers to leave 3 feet of space between their vehicles and cyclists; write your MPP.

Segregated Cycling lanes

Hello all!

With winter finally seeming to have been beaten, it’s time to take this blog out of its seasonal (albeit never planned) hibernation.

There’s been a lot of attention paid in the past few weeks to a pilot project that would see the city create a segregated cycling route through centretown on a trial basis. The Sun was the first to report on it on March 15th (though doesn’t have most of the details exactly right and is pretty slanted against), Centretown News followed up on the 26th (their details are right, but they managed to get some names wrong), and the Citizen has something published today. Note all stories talk about different events: the Sun followed the original presentation to the Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee (full disclosure: I’m chair of RCAC. I write here as an individual), the latter follow Councillor Holmes’ stepping in to propose the creation of a different consultation mechanism.

I think that there’s lots to be optimistic about in this. Given that this will be a bit of a first for Ottawa (at least in the core). My impression, at least based on what RCAC was told, was that the plan was to begin meeting with other community and business groups. What is being proposed here is to make the consultation process more formal. That might slow things down a bit, but I’m not sure that we would have seen any changes this cycling season in any case. It’s more important that we do what is needed to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the process and is able to contribute as much as is possible: it’ll produce a better result, and it will help avoid infighting amongst various road users/business groups/residents.

Now, in The Citizen Holmes’ suggests that downtown was listed as an option, but the cycling plan calls for considerations of larger east-west routes, which is true. I think that the idea of a downtown route for the pilot has more to do with it being an area where there is a good concentration of places to go, local residents, and people commuting in. There’s also already a lot of bicycles. That’s a good mix for a first project, and is probably different than if it were farther from the core.

Want to know if that bicycle is stolen?

The Canadian Police Information Centre is the agency in Canada which maintains criminal and police records. It also maintains a database of stolen vehicles – including bicycles – which is searchable online. One can enter the serial number for any bicycle in the Bicycle Search section of their web page to see if they have a record of it. For Your Information.

Winter cycling and the increasing ranks of the hardcore

The Citizen has an article today on winter cycling, which looks at an apparent increase in numbers.

The key quote:

“When I first started in the winter, occasionally I would see bike tracks in the snow on the bridge, so I would know there is somebody out there sometimes. And then just gradually I started to see more and more people on bicycles, and now, I don’t go a day, no matter how bad the weather, without seeing at least one other bicycle, and usually like five to 10 bicycles,” said Hickey.

This more or less reflects my thoughts on winter biking. Now, I don’t actually bike in the winter because the added hassle of bundling up offsets the time that I’d save over walking to work. But if I lived much farther away, I’d totally invest in a winter bike because it seems eminently doable. Mostly, I really don’t like the bus, but at least part of me just wants to say that I winter bike. Oh, authenticity: you haunt me still.

City Cycling Safety/Lane study?

News out of transportation committee today: a motion from Clive Doucet calls for a city-wide study of cycling safety hazards and whether or not segregated lanes might be a solution. The Citizen and CBC have it covered.

Doucet, quoted in the CBC:

“I hope to see Ottawa becoming much safer,” Doucet said Wednesday. “We’ll hopefully have an east-west dedicated lane through the centre of the city, which we don’t have now. I mean talk to my staff, who come to work down Gladstone and have to share the lane with a bus — pretty scary.”

Now, I bike down Gladstone all the time and have never really felt unsafe given the volume of traffic. But I also bike 9 months of the year and contribute to a cycling blog, so I’m probably not the best judge of average. A full set of city-wide cycling lanes designed for commuting would certainly be nice, and would probably help to get more people onto bikes. I know I’d certainly appreciate something a bit more dedicated in the downtown core, given that Queen St., and the risk of door prizes and people making blind right turns, represents that most dangerous couple minutes of my day.

These lanes require dedicated funding for cycling projects, which have been something that the city has not always been great about finding. Also, while it doesn’t seem to be in either of the links above, I seem to recall staff mentioning somewhere else that in most of the areas where we’ve seen accidents segregated lanes are not really feasible.

These now go onto full council for further discussion, so emailing your councilor support would be handy.

The right to bike

While this blog has waxed ambivalent on Critical Mass before, I have to say I was heartened to see that the British House of Lords has over-ruled attempet at police restrictions on the event. Essentially, the police wanted to require “prior notice of the ride’s date, time and route and the names and addresses of the organisers” for every CM ride. The law lords say CM is not bound by the Public Order Act, which would have allowed suched restrictions.

Spacing Ottawa

We’ve been quite fond in the past of linking to articles from Spacing, the fantastic Toronto-based urbanism magazine. Now, CiO readers should be sure to subscribe to their new Ottawa blog, where they cover such issues as Lansdowne, pedestrian bridges and Big Joe Mufferaw. As well, in Spacing Radio #012, you can hear Spacing Ottawa editor Evan Thornton discuss the tension “between the ceremonial and the everyday” in designing Ottawa.

Finally, I recently bought a print subscription to Spacing, and despite the high price, it’s definitely worth it. Given the huge amount of content these folks create covering urban issues in a variety of cities, I’m happy to support them.

Confirmed: MEC launching bikes in bigger cities

So, it looks like this will be another arrow in the quiver of those explaining why Toronto is better than Ottawa.

According to the employees I spoke with on Tuesday, MEC has started selling bicycles at it’s locations in downtown Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Longeuil. These are all bigger stores in bigger markets, so have the extra space needed to setup a bike retail area/shop. At this point it sounds like it is still a pilot project, and it doesn’t look like we’ll see them added to the Ottawa store in the near future. At this point, apparently they are not even shipping to the non-pilot markets.