Bike Sharing – A fad or here to stay?

Photo by enedkl from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Photo by enedkl from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

When you Google News ‘bike sharing’, it looks like the popularity of New York’s bike sharing program has caught the attention of many U.S. cities.

While this is all great – it makes me wonder what’s the deal with our own bike sharing program, Bixi, and its $3.9 million debt? And why are we trading toilets to help pay off this debt?

Actually, about those ‘high-tech’ public toilets, I agree let’s sell them. I was once locked in one of those automated public toilets in Australia and continue to fear high-tech toilets. Let’s just keep trusting that if we have to go to the washroom when we are in public, we can use Tim Horton’s or Starbucks…

Anyway back to Bixi… I want to believe that Bixi is a good idea. Really I do. A subscription to Bixi is $96 a year (increased by 2% in April). Or $5 for 24 hour access + a $250 security deposit. If you’re visiting Toronto, I think this is an amazing way to see the city!

But if you live in Toronto and you want to have a Bixi subscription, I would be interested to know who these people are and why they prefer that over the convenience of just buying their own bike. I mean you can get a decent used bike off Kijiji for a nice price and you don’t have to worry about taking the bike to a place where there isn’t a biking station and potentially racking up a larger fee (+$8) for every 3o minutes you’re out past 1.5 hours.

The Globe and Mail wrote an interesting piece saying that ‘part of the problem is that Bixi Toronto, in its current form, lacks the scale to be successful. With barely 1,000 bikes and 80 docking stations, it breaks the cardinal rule of bike sharing: Convenience is paramount. Montreal has more than 5,000 bikes and 400 stations. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that Montrealers were far more likely to use a Bixi when a docking station was located within 250 metres of their residences.

Bike sharing has worked best as a “last mile” connection to public transit, which should make it particularly appealing in Toronto, where downtown condo dwellers in Liberty Village, Corktown or along the Lakeshore remain a good distance from subway lines. That’s why location of docking stations and rush-hour availability are critical to program success.’

The article ends saying it would be a shame for Toronto to bail out of Bixi before it really has a chance to get rolling.

And I agree. Let’s ensure convenience to make this work. I guess we can really start to pay attention to what other cities are doing and learn from them so we can make sure Toronto continues to do the bike sharing thing properly – and not just so we can look sort of progressive.

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Infographic: Why biking to work is good for you

I found this great infographic on the health benefits and $ savings of biking to work.

Completely agree that people who bike to work report feeling a greater sense of freedom, relaxation and excitement than car commuters. I definitely feel that every day I bike pass a traffic jam of cars.

Enjoy!

Infographic: Why biking to work is good for you

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.

Be confident. You can do this.

For all the wanna-be cyclists out there, watch this video by Grist and follow their 7 simple steps:

1. Plan Route
2. Suit Up
3. Check Your Brakes
4. Mind The Door Zone
5. Claim The Lane
6. Careful With Turns
7. Don’t Run Over Pedestrians

But most importantly, BE CONFIDENT.

ENJOY!

Why I think some biking parents are out of their minds

Something that has always bothered me are the number of parents who use bike trailers on busy downtown streets.

Is it just me or is this completely insane? While I’m sure those parents are good cyclists, I truly believe they’re putting their children at great risk.

With an average of 1,500 cyclist-vehicle collisions per year in Toronto, it’s fine to put yourself at this risk but why make your children so vulnerable? I really don’t think I even need to explain why I think it is so dangerous to use a child trailer on main streets.

Where do I think bike trailers belong?

  • biking in a park on a bike path
  • biking on country roads

Such as a scene like this – they look like good parents!

But please, if you are one of those parents that I believe are out of their minds, I want to hear from you! Let me know what I’m missing.

Also feel free to participate in the poll!

3 Confessions of a Cyclist

Sometimes I am a bad cyclist. I do things I shouldn’t. It just seems so easy to break the rules.

Here are my three confessions:

  • I go the wrong way up the one way street where I live
  • On quiet streets I blow through stop signs
  • I don’t stop for streetcars for the entire time the door is open

I know I shouldn’t do them. But sometimes I think – my bike isn’t a car so why should it follow the exact same rules as a car?

For example, on my ride to work I go through Trinity Bellwoods. And I have to turn into the park via the sidewalk. Should I be get off my bike when I go on the sidewalk then get back on my bike once I’m on the path?

I would be a fan of bike licensing. But I just can’t imagine what the process is for something like this.  

According to the City Of Toronto’s Bicycle Licensing History, here are three major reasons licensing has been rejected:

* The difficulty in keeping a database complete and current
* The difficulty in licensing children, given that they ride bikes too
* Licensing in and of itself does not change the behaviour of cyclists who are disobeying traffic laws.

What are your thoughts on bike licensing? And am I a bad cyclist?

 

The Mysterious Cases Of Bike Stealing

@SineadBrown’s sign to her bike thief

So I was doing my usual perusing through Twitter this morning, when I came across this retweeted post from @MetroMorning.

@SineadBrown I just did this and then realized that I might be a crazy person. Toronto Bike Thieves, you have made me this way: pic.twitter.com/Zyz2GJPopn  

I love this sign – both agree and disagree with it – but it really says a lot about the serious problem of bike stealing and how desperate some people feel after their bike is taken from them.

I’m not going to get into my own psychological analysis of why people steal bikes. To me their issues run a lot deeper than simply look at a Help Wanted Ad and get a job. However, stealing bikes is a serious issue we face in Toronto. Toronto police report that over 3,000 bikes were stolen in 2011.

But I want @SineadBrown to know that, maybe if she’s really lucky, the thief may return her bike because it happened to me.

The Story Of A Nice Bike Thief

I used to live on a main Toronto street on top of a store. I always locked my bike up right in front of my place (not Grandpa’s, my other one *see below). One day I locked it up by the front wheel only (never, ever do this). So someone came and unhinged the wheel and took the rest of my bike.

When I saw the lasting remains of my bike, I was devastated. This was my mode of transportation; it’s how I got everywhere, and it was my freedom! I remember being so upset I told everyone who walked by about my stolen bike and how pissed off I was. Some people cared, others just walked quickly pass me. Just like @SineadBrown, I felt like a crazy person. I’m pretty sure a single tear rolled down my cheek that day.

Later that day, I was supposed to meet up with a friend for dinner. I was mad because it meant I had to leave my house 30 minutes earlier than usual to take the horrendous TTC to College St. But lo and behold, when I left my house, my bike had returned! There, sitting on the post like it never left me, was my bike reunited with its wheel. I was thrilled (again I think a single tear rolled down my cheek).

I figured the person who stole my bike must have seen how much it upset me. And so the thief took the time to sit and think about what he/she had done. I was so happy I yelled thank you in hopes the thief would hear me.

I don’t know what drives people to steal bikes. But to help stop it – lock up your bike and lock it up properly.

Here’s some good tips from Kryptonite Lock website:

  1. Always lock your bike, especially at home. This includes your garage, patio, yard, college residence hall, apartment building, when carrying on a car rack, etc.
  2. Lock your bike in a well-lit area where there are other bikes.
  3. Do not lock your bike in the same location all the time.
  4. Make sure your bike cannot be lifted over the object it is locked to.
  5. Create a snug fit with wheels and frame so that there is little space in the u-portion of the u-lock for a thief’s tools.
  6. Do not lock your bike to itself – front wheel or rear wheel to frame.
  7. Always position your u-lock with keyway facing down..
  8. If you’re only locking one wheel, it is recommended that you capture the rear wheel as part of your lock-up. Replacement cost for the rear wheel can be up to double the cost of the front wheel.
My returned bicycle!

My returned bicycle!