Toronto Police paying more attention to e-bikes

Not a pedal bike, not a scooter and definitely not a motorcycle, e-bikes seem to be causing some confusion about how this new form of transportation should be regulated.

Currently in Toronto, here are some key rules for e-bikes:

  • You have to be 16 years old to drive one
  • You can’t ride in bike lanes
  • You have to wear a helmet

But unlike scooters, e-bikes don’t require a licence or insurance.

Unfortunately for e-bike riders, I don’t think a lot of people like them. For drivers, they are slow in their lanes (they can only go a max of 32 km/h). For cyclists, it’s frustrating when they end up in your bike lanes because it’s illegal and could be dangerous.

CBC featured an interesting video on e-bikes yesterday, showing that some are completely unaware about the rules of the road. Watch it here.

For the most part, I think e-bikes are stuck in this weird place, and both cyclists and drivers are frustrated by them.

If you ride an e-bike, I’d love to hear from you and learn more about your perspective.

I saw a cyclist get hit by a car today

Let me start by saying the cyclist is alive. Eventually I watched him stand up and slowly walk to the police cruiser.

But he was hurt badly. And he was making a painful noise I’ll never forget.

It happened at King & Niagara. The driver, who was probably in his late teens or early 20s, was turning left on King. The cyclist was going straight south on Niagara. When he was hit, he flipped (his legs up in the air) and landed on the ground. The driver pulled over and ran to the cyclist. So did many pedestrians and the police were there within 4 minutes after the accident happened.

The driver kept saying “I didn’t see him!”, “I didn’t see him!”. And I believe the kid who looked like he just passed his G2. He likely didn’t see him. He probably wasn’t looking for a cyclist.

The thing is, the cyclist was likely riding at a very fast speed. So if he was coming south on Niagara then the driver probably thought he had enough time to turn or didn’t even think to look up the street for the cyclist.

The cyclist was wearing a helmet. If he wasn’t, I can’t imagine what kind of state he would be in. I think he landed on his shoulder and I think he’ll be spending some time at the hospital tonight. I hope he’ll be OK.

I wonder when he’ll get back on his bike? And I wonder when the young kid will feel comfortable driving again?

I don’t blame either for this accident. To help prevent it … maybe the cyclist should have slowed down when driving through a busy intersection, and the driver should always be aware of cyclists.

To me, tonight wasn’t a case of the blame game. Instead lets figure out the best way to improve our city’s biking infrastructure.

Because we can do better. Much better.

Cyclists represent 40% of traffic

That is, on Harbord St. During peak hours.

So the city is going to do something about it. Awesome. Way to go city!

The City of Toronto is planning to upgrade Harbord St. with a ‘bi-directional cycle track design’. Meaning it could look something like this path in Vancouver:

Image

Image courtesy of City of Toronto

But unlikely it will be that awesome.

Many big cities have bi-directional cycle paths already like New York, Chicago, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver. So we’re playing a little catch-up here but that’s just fine…

The bi-directional design will move both the east and west bound bike lanes to one side of the street. Therefore it will mean the removal of on-street parking on parts of Harbord – which I’m sure will be a pain for many.

But I’ll remain a bit selfish here and say I am thrilled about this plan. One step forward.

Last Thursday, the city organized a Public Drop-In Event to review the designs for the improved bike lane. It’s cool – they really are looking for the public’s opinion as they develop the bike lanes. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it, but, if you use Harbord, I encourage you to take a look at the current report online here.

The city hasn’t finalized the design yet. They want our input. On page 21 they show the different design considerations. What gets my fairly uninformed vote?

Montreal’s full curb separation design.

Of course I like the more expensive design which will require more construction. But this is an investment in the city’s future. And this looks the safest of all options.

Harbord already has painted separation so I can’t see how bi-directional painted separation makes it safer. To be honest, I’m usually a lot more scared of the way other cyclists ride so I don’t want one coming at me from the opposite direction without a separate from traffic. I foresee many more fights among cyclists.

The raised cycle track seems like I could easily fall off the edge… again I called this my uninformed decision so obviously look for your personal comments here.

I also came across this report on the many problems with bi-directional cycling paths. What works for Harbord is there are only a few major intersection, so turning isn’t as much of an issue. Read ibiketo.ca blog about their thoughts on uni-directional vs. bi-directional when it comes to Richmond and Adelaide.

Again my vote – Full Curb Separation. Make the investment, make it safe. Cyclists represent 40% of Harbord traffic during peak hours. And as they say in Field Of Dream, if you build it they will come. I guarantee if they put in a full curb separation bike lane – the cyclists will come!

The coolest thing is that the city wants to hear from you! So share your voice … email bikeplan@toronto.ca. And please share your opinion with me too.

To wear a helmet, or not to wear a helmet…

That shouldn’t be the question.

Me and my helmet

An interesting study in mid-May found there was no evidence cycle helmet laws reduce head injuries.

Some key points from the study:

  • For Canadian provinces with helmet laws, admission rates to hospitals dropped 54 per cent for young people between 1994 and 2003, the period during which laws were being brought in.
  • However rates were dropping in provinces without legislation as well — although, at 33 per cent, not quite so steeply.
  • Helmet laws produced little change in adult admission rates, which were low and stable throughout the study period.
  • For every province with legislation, the decline in hospital admissions for head-related cycling injuries actually started years before a law was introduced.

All in all, the author of the study concludes the decrease in head injuries after the passing of the helmet law is mostly due to other changes made around the same time, such as bike lanes and awareness of biker safety. She indicated that the contribution of helmet laws, to the decrease in hospital admissions for bicycle-related injuries, has been minimal.

But the study doesn’t mean helmet laws are worthless: there simply isn’t a correlation between just the helmet law and the decrease in injury. As with most things, the band-aid effect doesn’t work. There are many factors at play here that contribute to a biker’s safety.

Here’s a rundown of helmet laws in Canada:

  • British Columbia – all ages; fine up to $100
  • Alberta – under 18; fine up to $69
  • Saskatchewan – no legislation; except in the town of Yorkton w fine up to $5(?!)
  • Manitoba – ( just as of May 1, 2013) under 18; fine $50
  • Ontario – under 18; fine up to $80
  • Quebec – no legislation; even though as mentioned in a previous blog post, Montreal is North America’s premiere bicycle city…
  • New Brunswick – all ages; fine up to $21
  • Nova Scotia – all ages; fine up to 128.75
  • PEI– all ages; fine up to $100
  • Newfoundland – no legislation
  • Yukon – no  legislation
  • NWT – no legislation
  • Nunavut – no legislation

I think one of the most telling things here, is that Quebec has no enforced legislation and yet Montreal is one of the top biking cities in the world. Which makes sense that the study’s author concludes that bike lanes and awareness of biker safety is key in reducing head injuries.

Bike lanes and awareness of biker safety is something that doesn’t exist in Toronto, and so I urge all Torontonians to wear their helmets.

For my first two years of commuting by bike in the city, I didn’t wear a helmet in the morning because I liked the windblown hair look. I was an idiot. Now I almost always wear my helmet (every once in a while my helmet does end up where my bike isn’t…) and if I’m not wearing it, I feel like an idiot.

So here’s my take, don’t be an idiot. Under 18 or not, your head is pretty important so protect it. And there are so many great and cool helmet selections out there now, you’ll look hip and most importantly, not like an idiot. I have a Bell helmet – and they have a great ‘Artist Series’ I just saw online. Maybe it’s time for a new helmet…

I want to hear you take on helmets.

Happy Bike Month 2013

BikeMonth2013Logo

Image courtesy of http://bikemonth2013.ca/

Well it appears I started this blog just in time for Bike Month 2013.

While I start to really immerse myself into the true bike culture of the city – this article helps sum up all the current happenings in Toronto: Global News – Toronto Kicks Off Bike Month.

And it’s a sad state of affairs. It’s like our Mayor is smoking crack when he opposes anything and everything bike related. He hears bike and seems to think “complete waste of money”. This video sums up his a wonderful, well-educated point of view *note sarcasm* from Mayor Ford: 

Davenport MPP (my riding!), Jonah Schein, makes a statement saying ‘Ontario is dragging its feet, while Quebec has invested hundreds of millions in a provincial bike network’. And it looks like Montreal is ‘North America’s premiere bicycle city’ according to The Copenhagenize Report.

I’m not considering myself an expert on how to improve bike lanes in our city. Other than one obvious strategic approach – let’s get a new Mayor. But I’m looking forward to investigating more. Ideally I’d like to meet with Jonah Schein as well as a TO politician who’s views are more related to Rob’s but not as fanatical (I don’t handle bigotry well).

Stay posted and keep reading.

As for my goals for Bike Month 2013:

  • Go to at least 2 Bike Month Events
  • Get a bike tune-up (ideally at one of the free tune-ups!)
  • Get a very good, bright front light
  • Help get my good friend from Fresh Intentions more comfortable with riding in the city
  • Reach out to Jonah Schein to see if he’d like to meet to discuss the politics behind biking
  • ENJOY THE FRESH AIR!

Until next time, bike safely!

Welcome to Life in the Bike Lane!

A little bit about my bike . . . 

For my first post, I want to share the story about my bike.

Papa's Bicycle

Papa’s Bicycle

It’s a very special bike because it was my Grandpa’s. My Grandpa passed away from cancer a year and a half ago, but he was a true fighter (he was Irish after all). He had cancer for 15 years and the doctors told us numerous times he only had a week to live.

But Grandpa wouldn’t have it. He beat the odds over and over again. And I truly believe it was partly because he biked everywhere to stay in shape and in good spirits.

One gorgeous sunny day, he was hit by a car. Very luckily he came out with only a few bruises but, of course, really shaken up. After the hit, he didn’t ride his bike ever again.

So now I have it and I’m bound and determined to take it on as many adventures I can because that’s the way my Grandpa would have wanted it. Especially if it means his granddaughter would also get the same long lasting benefits of cycling everywhere.

I'm sure the Guinness and scotch kept him fighting too. Cheers to you!

I’m sure the Guinness and scotch kept him fighting too. Cheers to you!

I’m looking forward to writing about my journeys and also talking about the various issues of biking. The driver who hit my Grandpa didn’t stop after he knocked him off the bike. That’s mind boggling. But the way some cyclists ride is also mind boggling.

While this will be a fun and light-hearted bike blog, it will also be a place to discuss the shortcomings of biking in the city and beyond.