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Riding green?

philb's picture

For risk of getting caught up in the 'green' car debate in the other 'green' thread, I thought I'd start another one.

Do those of you that do or do not exercise their 'green'ness ever participate in such community events as "Bike Week"? I'm not sure if Bike Week exists in every city/municipality, but I know that there is a Bike to work week, or bike to work day in a large number of cities across Canada and the US.

Personally, I don't own a motor vehicle, and therefore ride either my bike or public transport - I'm pretty passionate about cycling, though, and try to ride as much as I can (this included riding in Winter!). I do have a daughter, and I transport her around in a bike trailer - this gives me a great deal more of a workout (which I definitely need, as I don't go to a gym and my only other exercise is walking/climbing stairs in the transit system). It also exposes my daughter to the city in a different way, as we're able to ride the many city trails/paths and stop wherever and have an impromptu picnic. Now that the weather is turning around, this is becoming a frequent highlight of my weekends.

This all being said, riding on the city streets is not for the faint hearted at times, and there are often times being scared, incredibly angry (at people who so easily disregard my life when I'm riding on my bike) but mostly pleasurable and relaxing. I also wouldn't expect most people to cycle in the winter or adverse weather, it's not for everyone and can sometimes get pretty hair-raising in itself :) I'm not sure if anyone is aware, but there are bike courses called "CAN-BIKE" which offer people the chance to become familiar with bikes/riding and riding on city streets all in different levels/grades.

The City of Toronto has information about their Bike Week program here:

With North America being so car-centric (as mentioned in the other thread, neighbourhoods are designed with this in mind), it's often seen as an anti-establishment type action to ride a bike everywhere, and though there are the activists in that community, I am a cyclist simply because I love to ride my bike, it's good for me, and love the experience of riding and the often unique perspective of the city I get doing so - I'm sure there'll be a time where I need to get a car or vehicle for the sake of convenience and my daughters' activities, but she's only 2 and a half, so right now this isn't such an important issue for me.

Does anyone else actively cycle, or take part in these events? Are there alternatives or other such events that you take part in as well/instead of?

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philb's picture

dustbunnydiva wrote:
As for traffic, although I understand completely the frustration of having to deal with traffic my biggest complaint is bikes that think they are cars. Part of the problem is riders who seem to think they have the same rights as vehicles when the reality is they don't and are closer to the rules of pedestrians when crossing traffic etc. Nothing makes me cringe like seeing a bike or three lined up in front of my car at a light.

I must speak to this point, as a fairly experienced cyclist I can say that riding vehicularly (vehicular cycling can be read about in many books and here on Wikipedia: [url][/url]) is just about the safest way of riding on city streets. The reasons for this are many, but mainly revolve around being predictable, so that cars KNOW where you are and can predict/act accordingly. I take up a full lane of a road in some places where I feel it's unsafe to move over. Moving over means I'm willing to let cars past, this isn't a "me vs. them" thing, this is a matter of simple safety - I don't like being passed/buzzed closely when I'm riding, and I don't like being forced into parked cars/intersection entrances/curbs by cars who can't pass properly or make a dangerous passing maneouver, so I will take the lane until I feel it is safe for them to pass me (or I will yield where appropriate). More often than not I can get around in the downtown core faster than a car can, so it's not often I actually hold a car up, and if I do, it's really only for a matter of seconds until situations pass and I can wave cars through, etc. In Ontario, the highway traffic act defines my bike as a vehicle in the same light as a motor vehicle, the exception being I can't ride on the 400-series highways. If I am held to the same laws/regulations, I'm going to ride like it, and being in the left lane to make a left turn at an intersection is one big example of that. It's the safest option, because riding on the sidewalk here is illegal and frankly, incredibly dangerous for both cyclist and pedestrians.

This morning I had a cab driver try to squeeze by me on King Street, there was a streetcar in the left lane and a car behind it, and cars ahead of me in the right lane - he was trying to edge through to pass the streetcar so as not to get delayed those couple of minutes, I assume. Now, I was travelling at about 30km/h - this wasn't a case of holding the driver up, per se, he just wanted to race ahead. I used some choice words when I noticed his front bumper nearing my bike and motioned for him to stay behind (it was simply not safe for him to try and pass, even if I'd been hugging the curb - which in itself is dangerous with the many potholes/debris in that part of the road). Sure enough there was a huge line-up of traffic he got snarled up in behind me at Bathurst anyway, so I wonder what exactly he was racing to/for. It's sometimes scary to see how little regard other road users have for their own and others lives (this includes those crazy cyclists that flaunt the laws readily).

dustbunnydiva wrote:
Or they are zipping from road to sidewalk, weaving through traffic, and generally being idiots. The same dummies are on the paths nearly knocking over other people, and generally showing no regard for other people on foot or bikes. Worst of all is running their dogs with the bike. Thankfully it's illegal here but that doesn't stop some. So there are dopes all around whether 2 or 4 wheels. the rules are very clear it's just some folks either don't know them or choose to ignore them on both counts.

I definitely agree here, I saw two cyclist police officers pass a cyclist going the wrong way on a 4-lane one-way street downtown, and they did nothing - not even mention "wrong way" to this other chap. There are many, many idiots on all numbers of wheels, unfortunately these bad apples give us all a bad name as drivers/riders.

There's a very weird line to be drawn where the law concerns bikes, as many of us get bikes when we're children and ride a lot differently than we would/do as adults - and the places we ride are different too. No way I would've considered riding down Lakeshore when I was a child, nor Bloor but now I think nothing of it. Our concepts and image of bikes change from recreation/toys to recreation/transportation in some ways, which is also difficult. Another aspect is the traffic laws, where by a bike rolling-stop through a stop sign is a much less significant event than a car doing the same (I witness both every day, I rarely see cars actually properly stop at stop signs at all anymore) - due to the size/potential of the vehicle in question. This is compounded by the forementioned idiots who flaunt the laws - the sidewalk/on/off zipping along types, those who blast through red lights, etc. Complex issues, but now this is heading into another debate! :)

dustbunnydiva wrote:
Phil as far as cycling across country, my brother did it once. he didn't count on the side effects and ended up taking quite awhile getting his circulation back in his hands and his rib cage back where it belonged.

Wow, sounds scary - I hope it wasn't an accident.

"jan in van" wrote:
A little bit of change in this topic. How many people wear bike helmets? It's the law in BC.

It's law for anyone under 18 in Ontario, too - doesn't mean I don't see LOTS of children riding without them, which bothers me. I've worn a helmet every single time I ride since becoming a father, and on/off (went in phases) before that. I had a moderate crash last year which was just me and my own error, but I ended up breaking my wrist and getting "road rash" on all the points of contact I had with the ground (I was going about 30km/h) - though I didn't hit my head, I'm glad I was wearing a helmet nonetheless. When I was in my young teens, I remember wrecking on a bike and cracking the helmet I was wearing, I'm so very glad I was wearing one - that wouldn't have ended up in the same happy way otherwise. My daughter also wears her helmet on her bike (training wheels) or in the trailer.

I don't take the trailer with my daughter in on major streets unless I really have to and always exercise extreme care, sometimes there's no choice, but more often than not I try to get on the multi-use paths or bike paths/lanes, these are often more scenic and nicer for riding/relaxing anyway.

It's very encouraging to read others are so charged around practical green initiatives, including mobility.

Wow I sure babbled a lot there... sorry, carry on! ;)

philb's picture

Hey jan, I'd agree with the bike paths/lanes being somewhat of an after thought, indeed. Sometimes people still don't seem to care about you on your 20lb bike when they need to race ahead in their 2000lb vehicle toward the next line of traffic or red light! Everyone is in a hurry to go nowhere ;) Hehe.

I am considering the Trans Canada, I have a goal of riding cross-country within the next 4 years and am using my commuting journeys as training for that.

annam, that's fantastic - I can't wait to go on more rides with my daughter under her own steam, too - I think cycling is a good way of getting around, keeping in shape (frightening amount of inactivity in youth today scares me, with all the obesity and related health reports, etc.) and getting to know lots of parts of the city but also, the parts inbetween point A and B.

I like walking/riding because it also puts me in touch a lot more with my surroundings. I can hear the lake ripple on the rocks, I can hear children playing in parks I pass, I feel the air across me - I find it very relaxing and enjoyable especially after being in an office all day, it's nice to get out there.

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