Richard Nelson

Archive for the ‘cycling’ Category

One of my favourite pieces of infrastructure remains closed to motor vehicles

In active transport, cycling, running, Toronto politics on 2011 October 5 Wednesday at 22:25:52

The Toronto Star has reported that Pottery Road from Broadview to Bayview avenue will remain closed indefinitely until a solution is found for an unstable hillside. In the meanwhile, the improved bike/ped facility on the southern side remains open, so it’s a quiet route into the ravine of the Don River.

This is barely a kilometre from our house, and I often run down or up it. I’ve never biked up it because it’s so steep and I’m reluctant to take the lane; but the new facility is wide enough for upbound cyclists. For downbound cyclists, I understand the City will be painting sharrows in the centre of the downbound lane; in deed, I can cautiously bike down the hill faster than I can drive a car down it.

Here’s a set of drawings of what the City planned to do.


Yobs on bikes

In cycling on 2010 September 19 Sunday at 23:35:43

Love that briticism. Anyway, hilarity ensues when two young guests of the Barton Moss Secure Care Centre (like that euphemism?) in Eccles, Lancashire, use the occasion of a cycling proficiency test to flee lawful custody. The Sun’s man-in-a-pub version is here.

Rob Ford’s “Transportation Plan that makes sense for Toronto”

In cycling, Toronto politics on 2010 September 8 Wednesday at 19:35:09

The (so far) leading candidate for Mayor of Toronto has unveiled his plan for transport.

Before I offer a brief critique, I should say that I’ve said in earlier posts: Toronto has a weak-mayor constitution. The mayor can only enact policy if he has the support of 28 other councillors. Rob Ford or George Smitherman or anyone can promise anything he or she likes—but it will not happen thus until a majority of Council approve. The other set of constraints is that transit is semi-independent of City Council, and is bound by a web of cost-charing agreements with senior governments.

Ford’s plan is (like most manifesti) more emotional than technical: “For seven years [i.e., while David Miller was Mayor], City Hall has tackled Gridlock by declaring war on cars in Toronto.” (Note the odd capitalization.) In response, Ford will return cars to their rightful place in the city’s scheme of transport—i.e., at the apex.

One of his key planks is to cancel the Transit City programme and indeed to “remov[e] some streetcar[ line]s [from] downtown arterial streets”—streets unnamed, but there are only four (King, Queen, Dundas, and College-Carlton-Gerrard). Instead of streetcars, we’ll see clean buses and a $4-billion programme of subway expansion. The animus toward streetcars seem very much a motorist’s: they’re big, slow-ish, and get in the way of a motorist trying to go a little faster; that they are equivalent to eighty cars at rush hour is easy to forget.

With respect to my favourite topic, Ford uses the code words quite well: “Toronto’s cyclists & pedestrians deserve safe, enjoyable options whether they’re going to work, keeping fit or having fun.” This might seem ad hominem but isn’t meant thus: neither Ford nor his brother (who manages Rob’s campaign) looks like someone who gives much thought to self-powered recreation. Cyclists and pedestrians are they,  not us. Practically every person in Toronto is a pedestrian at one time or another—even Councillor Ford; and half or so of Toronto adult residents bike occasionally; there’s no recognition of that in Ford’s transport plan.

His bicycle trail programme is directly taken from James Alcock’s Web site (he’s credited). The local club of the Canadian Automobile Association issued its own manifesto about ten years ago using the same maps. Its key characteristic is that cyclists are to be shunted off streets onto parks and particularly into ravines and power-line rights of way.

In other news, George Smitherman’s conspiracy-theorist brother is standing for Council but supporting Ford for Mayor.

Update: George Smitherman responds to Ford’s transport programme.

“Two-Way Street”

In culture, cycling on 2010 September 6 Monday at 12:04:31

I’ve wondered about this myself. (From the September 2010 issue of The Atlantic.)

Mark Ronson & The Business Int’l: The Bike Song

In culture, cycling, Uncategorized on 2010 September 3 Friday at 18:15:01


In cycling, fitness, stretching on 2008 January 9 Wednesday at 03:00:00

There are some nice stretches on the [bike] Ride to Conquer Cancer Web site.

Are you a cyclist?

In cycling on 2007 October 28 Sunday at 19:40:00

You bike to work every day, rain or shine, snow or sleet. Are you a cyclist?

In your backyard shed you have a mountain bike you bought years ago from Canadian Tire. On really fine days you and your significant other ride to a nearby park and toodle along the bike path there. Are you a cyclist?

You belong to a cycling club and have several beautiful (and expensive) road bikes, none of them weighing more than 20 pounds. You don’t bike to go anywhere, but you put in a hundred-plus miles a week training, and you do duathlons or triathlons in the season. Are you a cyclist?

You ride a well-put-together hybrid bike with large panniers. You ride it to work most days. Though you won’t bike when there’s a lot of snow on the ground—you don’t like falling—you’re a twelve-month rider. You don’t bike anywhere else; indeed, you own a nice minivan you use to take your kids to hockey and to get groceries. Are you a cyclist?

Every summer you and your significant other bike hundreds of miles while on vacation. Your bike sports front and back panniers, a triple chainring, a well-broken-in leather saddle, and maybe a trailer with your camping gear. You can’t go fast, but you can go far. Are you a cyclist?

You ride a bike everywhere. It’s a matter of principle. Your bike is not beautiful nor expensive, but it’s serviceable and gets you places. Perhaps it has plastic flowers wired to the stem. You loathe our mechanized society and its consumption of irreplaceable oil. You loathe the BMWs and SUVs that clog our roads, that kill cyclists. You go to cyclist memorials. You demand bikelanes on every road. You bang on the sides of motor vehicles that (you think) threaten you. Are you a cyclist?

You and your spouse ride a tandem every weekend, and hang around with other tandem riders. Are you a cyclist?

You ride a recumbent bicycle, which you call a ’bent, or sometimes a human-powered vehicle. Your “upright” friends make fun of you climbing hills, but your back feels great. Are you a cyclist?

You’re a randonneur. Your season starts with a 200-kilometre ride. You think nothing of battling sleep while cycling the 1000 kilometres around Lake Ontario. Your training, indeed much of your life, is oriented toward qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris four years from now. Are you a cyclist?

Perhaps more important: do you consider all of these folks cyclists? If not, which ones?

Ours is a huge community, yet a weirdly hidden one—we hide from each other with labels and badges and qualifications that include us and exclude those who aren’t (we think) “real” cyclists. Hang around with performance cyclists, and they’re mildly contemptuous of the scruffy do-gooders on heavy steel mountain bikes with squeaking mechanicals or of “gutter bunny” commuters. In the world of cycling advocacy, the performance cyclists—Lycra-clad whippets travelling in packs they give a fancy French name to—barely register. And, of course, to most utilitarian cyclists, biking to work or school on their mountain bikes or hybrids, and to most of the folks on the bikepaths on pleasant weekend days, neither the performance cyclists nor the advocates matter.

Nor should they. We’re all cyclists. Practically every adult and near-adult in Toronto is a cyclist—sometime, somewhere, somehow. Some of us bike a lot, some of us less, but we’re still cyclists.

Wisconsin Ironman bike route

In cycling, Ironman on 2007 September 9 Sunday at 23:21:00

The loop is done twice.


In cycling on 2006 October 22 Sunday at 16:49:00

Yes, the inevitable happened yesterday (Saturday). I was tooling along, at 15 or so miles an hour, when the handlebar just left my hands. I was on the ground in a split second. My bike and I were spread across two travel lanes; I was lucky the heavy traffic hadn’t been right around me at that moment.

What happened was that there’d been some utility work, and the asphalt patch had sunk, leaving a nice vertical 1-inch bump in the road; I hadn’t seen it, and it had knocked the front wheel out of my command.

I rode another 15 minutes or so, but I decided it was not my day. There was something wrong with the bike, and the pain was getting pretty bad.

My biggest concern is my head. I had hit my head (though my helmet doesn’t show it); and 11 years ago I had a Level III concussion I’d treated very poorly, resulting in persistent, though not serious, post-concussion syndrome. I decided, among the pain, the concern about concussion, and the heavy, heavy traffic on my routes, that I’d go home.

At home I found I’d ripped my favourite cool-weather jersey and my Assos bib shorts, and I had skin ripped off my left knee, left elbow, and, oddly, my right elbow. (I don’t remember hitting it.) I scrubbed the wounds with paper towels until no dirt showed up. You think that hurt? Try putting tincture of iodine on the nicely scrubbed-up wounds. Youch! I ended up spilling iodine on the kitchen floor! 🙂

I called Monado and asked her to come home from visiting her dad; it was a good thing – this morning, at 2:30, my dressings had slipped off, and it was just too darned hard trying to dress my elbow with one hand!

Today, I don’t know. I think I’ll check out my bike, and try to do some spinning on the trainer. Pool work-outs, scheduled for the next two days, don’t seem a good idea, with my open sores – so it’s off to Coach Steve for some advice.

my dad & cycling

In cycling on 2005 April 5 Tuesday at 20:14:00

Watching the World Track Cycling Championships, which I did this weekend past in Los Angeles, somehow reminded me of my dad in relation to cycling.

My dad died in 1996, when he was 63, and I was 42. For many years we had been not exactly estranged but not close. In a phrase, he did not meet my standards. I once wrote, with respect to my own daughter, of my wish “to be the father mine wasn’t”. I resented my resemblance to him; my second wife knew the most hurtful thing she could say to me was that I was like my father.

I’m still uncomfortable with that resemblance, but my views of him are now softer, and this is largely because of my love for cycling.

I came to cycling early. I think – although I’m not sure – that I was five years old when I first rode a bike without training wheels. And my father was part of that.

I’d ridden a bike for “a while” with training wheels. In my untrustworthy memory of such early years, the bike was quite large, and the training wheels slightly elevated so that you were encouraged to mount and ride the bike in the proper 2-wheeled way. I hated the training wheels. They were uncomfortable and (in my five-year-old’s view) made it difficult to maneouvre the bike properly. So my father removed them – I remember that clearly – and took me onto our cul-de-sac and held the seat and ran with me until I could get up enough to speed to proceed wobbily by myself. This took a couple of runs on a weekend day, and then I was on my own, my father insisting that I could do it without his help – and my wanting to do it for his approval and my self-approval. And I did it.

A few years later, I think, while I was still very young, my parents decided I needed a new bike. Money was never plentiful in our house – my father made a reasonable amount, I suppose, for a salesman, but he was a spendthrift, my mother didn’t work outside the home, and they had four young children. But this must have been during a better period, or my father was feeling exceptionally generous, because I remember his agreeing to my getting every accessory imaginable for my brand new green CCM.* (The only accessory I specifically remember was a battery-operated siren that was, to my enormous chagrin, carefully vandalized where I parked it at school.)

Looking back I can see that I was always more of a cyclist than most of my friends or classmates or brothers. I rode everywhere, and with the literal recklessness of a child. It’s strange that I so readily put away the joy of cycling twice in my life – in my early teen years and again in early adulthood – but it’s otherwise been a constant, and one to which memories of my father are alloyed.

When I see my eight-year-old granddaughter on the too-heavy, too-big red bike she loves, I see myself at the same age or younger, and I now see myself, not as “the father mine wasn’t”, but being my father at his best.

* At that time, and for most of the 20th century, Canada Cycle & Machinery was the country’s leading bikemaker.