MEC rolls out bikes?

From the comments on a post that is still getting new comments, which is worth highlighting 0n the main page:

I just dropped by the MEC downtown Toronto and… I see the bikes! They have some really nice models, I like what I see. (I’m liking the hub gear ones and they even have fixie.) Based on the prices and the models I saw, they are competing with mid to high-end small bike shops, like the local bikes shops that sell nicer Trek, Devinci, or nicer Norcos.

Anyone else seen them?

I’m planning on stopping at Ottawa’s MEC tonight, so we’ll see if they have anything. I’d previously been given the impression by someone that works at the retail level of MEC that they were a couple of years out. In any case, I tend not to buy the noise about the evils of MEC (MEC as Wal-Mart? Please.), so welcome anything that helps people have better access to good bicycles. When people can buy a better bike, it means that they are more likely to keep using it. That’s good for all of us.

Selective Enforcement

Slate has a good piece up on the nature of traffic laws and cyclists (as a group we tend to break them). It has as good a breakdown as any on the tension between vehicular and facilitator cyclists, which essentially divides into a no paths vs. paths split. I think I like the ultimate conclusion that only enforcing egregious violations of the existing law is probably a good fit. I also like the last paragraph:

As a biker, my wish would be for police to crack down on more dangerous behavior, such as riding at night without a light or tearing the wrong way down a one-way street. Yes, I committed the latter crime just yesterday, and I admit I was in the wrong. If cops started handing out more tickets for one-way infractions, bikers like me would probably clean up their most-outrageous behaviors. Once that happens, maybe all of us—cyclists and car people and activists and cops—could agree to leave the rolling stop alone.

MEC’s “controversial” plan to sell bikes

I was catching up on some RSS feeds and discovered that MEC is apparently going to start selling bikes in the near future. This is good news, not so much that I am in need of a new bicycle, but because I think it is a natural fit for MEC, who usually do a really good job at balancing sustainability/ethical concerns with those of price. Decat, which is a french sports chain which seems roughly equivalent to MEC (but I presume is for profit), sells bicycles and you can see them pretty much everywhere.

But this paragraph really frustrated me:

MEC is launching bikes stores and a full bike line soon. This is controversial not because of the manner in which the bikes are made but rather in how MEC’s service and pricing model may potentially undercut local dealers.

This speaks to my usual frustration with the Ethical Sourcing blog, which too often seems too nice for its own good. MEC should not apologizing for offering a superior service at a better price, especially if all it proves is that you can do the right thing and still keep prices low.

Besides, while MEC will undoubtedly steal sales in midrange bikes from some smaller stores, I suspect that if people need to buy something more elaborate, they will still go to a traditional bikeshop. Where MEC has the real potential of stealing sales is from the Wal-Mart’s and Canadian Tire’s of the world: places which sell lots of bikes, usually of dismal quality, for not too much money. The challenge for the co-op will be to compete with them, overcoming their advertising and brand advantages, matching or beating the chains on price and beating them in service and product.

Why Licensing Cyclists is the Wrong Reaction

So, the other day I made a reasonably sarcastic post about an entirely meaningless web-poll that was up on the CTV Ottawa website.

Anyway, Marcus Gee over at the Globe takes the time to offer a more serious and detailed reason why bicycle licensing is a silly idea. The key part, emphasis mine:

That is the key objection to Mr. Walker’s proposal. There is no proof that licensing would persuade wayward cyclists to pay any more heed to the traffic laws. They already fall under the very same laws that motorists do and police can charge them accordingly. In one safe-cycling drive this summer, Toronto police handed out 1,373 tickets to cyclists for infractions from running red lights to failing to yield to pedestrians. Police can stop an unlicensed cyclist as easily as they could a licensed one.

Nor is there any proof that a testing regime would make cyclists more aware of the rules of the road. Many of them are motorists as well as cyclists and all of them are pedestrians when they’re not mounted up. They know what a red sign saying “stop” means. They just choose to ignore it. The best way to address that is through education, not licensing.

Bank Street’s Fancy New Bike Racks

The city is beginning to install new bike racks along the northern part of Bank Street this week. In a happy change, they’ll serve as a useful form of public art – not that subtle reminders to buy Gabriel’s pizza are that unwelcome, just not that attractive. From the city press release:

The public art bike racks reflect the unique identity and character of the neighbourhood and exhibit the talent and diversity of Ottawa’s artists. As a series, they encourage cycling and movement up and down the street as people explore and discover the clever and exceptional designs and make connections to the vibrant community.

I’ll spare you a snippy comment about “unique identity” of that stretch of Bank, but I think we can all be happy that there will be more places to lock up your bike. Now, let’s all look forward to when the current phase of reconstruction is finished and Bank becomes usable all through Centretown!

Another Shocking Cyclist Collision

By this point, it’s pretty safe to assume that most people have heard about Monday’s incident between former Ontario cabinet minister Michael Bryant and courier Darcy Sheppard. Details as to what exactly happened, or at least what started it all, are still being sorted out, but the Star seems to have a pretty good initial rundown. It’s pretty shocking, it’s more than a little bit terrifying, and obviously absolutely tragic.

There isn’t a lot to say about something such as this, except that at the end of the day, regardless of potentital criminality, this was almost certainly avoidable at a couple of stops along the way. Christie Blatchford, writing in the Globe, however, uses this as an opportunity to reflect on road rage and the motorist-cyclist dynamic. I think that this is the best part and is how I feel, regardless of whether I am behind or on top of the wheel.

It worked: At the next light, he got out of his car and put a boot through my door. I was so shaken, and simultaneously mortified by my own conduct, that I reported him neither to police nor insurance company, and just paid for the damage myself – and that was in a clash with a peer, a fellow motorist driving a vehicle as big and powerful as my own. We were for the most part in our moving bubbles, seat-belted and air-bagged and roll-barred unto safety.

But a cyclist is never in a bubble like that.

Thus, it is the motorist who has the greater responsibility – not just because he is the only party licensed by society to drive, by which I mean granted the privilege of driving – but because on some level, all of us understand the rules, one of which is that behind the wheel, we are driving a potential weapon. The burden of sucking up the insult, the raised finger, even the punch, and acting like a grown up is always and forever with us.

Vancouver stats

A reader pointed us to this report from the Greenways and Neighbourhood Transportation Branch of the City of Vancouver. It documents cycling and pedestrian traffic based on StatsCan census data and the city’s field research.

As you’d expect, cycling and walking are highest in the downtown, with walking being more popular in the core, and cycling being more popular slightly outside of downtown. However, I would have guessed that in a dense, fair-climate city like Vancouver, that the combined walking and biking share for the downtown would be higher than 50%. Are the other 50% taking the Skytrain to workplaces outside the downtown? Or are they motorists? Although the purpose of this report is to highlight cycling and walking, but I’m instantly curious about the traffic breakdown (although I could dig it up on StatsCan).

Cycle Salvation

We were recently asked to spread the word about this interesting organization:

I am contacting you in the hope that you might help us spread the word to the Ottawa cycling community about Cycle Salvation.

Cycle Salvation is a social enterprise operating under the umbrella of Causeway Work Centre. The business strives to achieve a triple bottom line (profit, people, planet). We do this by providing training in bike mechanics to people who are economically disadvantaged, providing refurbished bikes at a reasonable price to the cycling community, and at the same time diverting bikes destined for scrap and landfill sites.

Of course, we depend on a steady stream of donated bikes to work on. As you can imagine, the stockpile of bikes is running pretty low now in February. We are hoping that we can notify the community of our need for bike donations so that the idea is fresh in their minds when they first pull their old bikes out of winter storage.

Bad data

Bad Science deconstructs and rebuts some silly, fearmongering cycling accident statistics from a British insurance company:

“Mounting financial pressures have led to a surge in inexperienced cyclists taking to the roads,”say LV in their press release: “resulting in a 29% increase in road accidents involving cyclists in the past six months.” It’s topical, it involves death and fear, it’s dressed in the cloak of statistical authority: this is totally going on the telly.

The first thing to note is that LV were comparing accidents in the 6 months leading up to November 2008 against accidents in the 6 months prior to that. What these insurance geniuses have failed to account for here, we might reasonably suspect, is the well-documented seasonal variation in road traffic incidents, since fewer people cycle in winter. I shall not be buying shares in this insurance company.

Transit Strike Looming

Ottawa is facing a transit strike as early as wednesday, and one of the city’s suggestions for getting around mentioned is to cycle. The Sun spoke to CfSC Past-President (and CiO comments regular) Charles Akben-Marchand for tips on biking in the winter.

One of the tips given by the city to stranded bus riders is to try cycling.

Charles Akben-Marchand, past president of Citizens for Safe Cycling, said that while winter cycling might not be for everyone, it is certainly a viable option for those left without a ride.


He suggests that bus riders who choose to take their bikes instead should keep in mind that the roads are icy and snow covered and that knobby tires are best suited for slippery situations.

Akben-Marchand said to try cycling on the route you are going to take to work on a day off so that you know how long it will take, keeping in mind it will be slow going for cyclists just starting out after retiring their bikes after the summer.

“It’s harder to adjust to starting cycling in the middle of the winter than if you were doing it every day,” said Akben-Marchand.

Now, I live and work downtown, so put my bike away in the winter, but am secretly envious of those that do continue to bike when the weather gets colder. In centretown, at the very least, the roads are kept clean enough that, except when it is actually snowing or freezing rain, conditions don’t seem that much different than in the rest of the year; on the other hand, I fear what the salt will do to my commutting bike (and have a hard time justifying a winter beater.)

More importantly, with the (temporary) closure of a bridge to Gatineau, traffic downtown was absolutely crazy last week- on Friday, Gladstone (see above) was bumper to bumper -something I haven’t seen in the four years I’ve lived here. Even side streets like Bay and Percy were much busier than usual. With a transit strike, things will only get worse. Conditions might be less than ideal, people will be frustrated, and probably (and sadly) unlikely to expect bicycles. So, do leave lots of time and be safe if you do bring out the bike.