“Build It and They will Come”, movie quote – Field of Dreams 1989

Week 10 – March 8, 2016

Weather: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming southwest 20 km/h this afternoon. High 13.  UV index 4 or moderate.  Mainly cloudy. Wind southwest 20 km/h. Low 8

Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, cycling gloves, 180s ear muffs.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: sleeveless dress

Over the past few weeks I have spent time in meetings related to creating bicycle friendly communities.  On Monday February 25, I was privileged to speak at the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) Conference in Toronto.  I was a part of a panel of speakers talking about building bicycle friendly communities.  Jamie Stuckless the CEO of the Share the Road cycling coalition (@STRCanada) spoke first.  The Share the Road Cycling Coalition is a provincial cycling advocacy organization working to build a bicycle-friendly Ontario. We work in partnership with municipal, provincial and federal governments, the business community, road safety organizations and other non-profits to:

  • Enhance access for bicyclists on roads and trails
  • Improve safety for all bicyclists
  • Educate citizens on the value and importance of safe bicycling for healthy lifestyles and healthy communities.

Jamie spoke about surveys that undertaken on behalf of their organization that identify without a doubt that the majority of Ontarians support government investment in cycling and other active transportation corridors.

The second speaker was Shawn Everitt who is the Director of Recreation for the Town of Blue Mountains.  Shawn spoke about the investments that the Town has made related to cycling and cycling tourism and was able to demonstrate that the investments have paid off dramatically. Town of Blue Mountains is a destination for cyclists and host the annual Centurion Cycling Race sponsored by Subaru.

I was the third speaker and my comments were focused on building an Accessible Community.  My opening remark is formed in a question related to “who am I”.  The following is an image of my slide.  Many people define me as many things such as a cyclist, a mother, a wife, and a sister.  I am all of these things, but I am also a temporarily able bodied person (TAP).  As a member of Council I know that investments in active transportation also ensure that I am investing in an accessible community.

TAB

On Monday February 29 I was invited to join the Ontario Minister of Transportation – Cycling Strategy Working Group.  This meeting was focused on provision of comments to the Ontario Government related to their #CycleON strategy.  At the meeting the government provided an overview of what they have done and what they plan to do related to delivering on a 20 year vision for cycling in the Province of Ontario.  There was resounding support for the plan, and many voices around the table that said Ontario is ready, the citizens are ready, and municipalities are ready.  Continued consultation is not needed….please Minister,  build it and they will come.

fieldofdreamscorn

Week 1 – Day 4 – January 7, 2016

Weather: High of 0 but the morning ride was -5, sunny and no precipitation. All roadways were clear.

Consistent Attire: No change from previous posts

Variable Attire based on the temperature: Bula balaclava, MEC thermal arm coverings.  I also was wearing a sleeveless tank top, skirt and tights under my coat.

I am very fortunate to work for GHD Limited (www.ghd.com), which is a company that encourages employees to commute to work in a sustainable way.  The Commuter Incentive Program “is to encourage GHD employees to commit to a “greener” commute by walking, cycling, car-pooling or utilizing mass transit systems to travel to and from work. The Commuter Incentive Program is offered to all GHD regular full time employees.”  The incentive for cycling is a payout of 0.47/km to a maximum of $200.  The company also offers a fitness benefit that I can use to cover a portion of the cost for purchasing my winter fat tire bike.

Today was another beautiful day for riding my Trek “work horse” ladies commuter.  Before leaving the house I was able to confirm that my rear tire was significantly under inflated (35 psi) so I returned it to 70 psi and it made a big difference to my ride this morning.

My ride to work is all uphill (of course) [if my parents were telling this tale they would say “in my day…we had to ride uphill in BOTH directions…with headwinds…on a rusty old hand-me-down bike! You should count your lucky stars young lady!”] 🙂  On the ride to work, the uphill combined with full panniers does make the ride laboured.  I am starting to think the cold and the layers of gear also really impact the extent to which I have to exert myself for the ride.  Here is a photo of what I typically carry in my panniers in the morning.  On days that I have meetings at City Hall I also pack a laptop computer.

IMG_20160107_091129

I really love my Arkel pannier http://www.arkel-od.com/ it is light-weight, fully waterproof and converts to a backpack upon arrival at my destination.

As always, my ride home was warmer, primarily downhill and a pleasure!

What Really Happened on Hillside Trail?

The emails and on-line feedback on the recent record article are fascinating to me. For those who have deemed me to be a reckless, speeding cyclist they can rest assured that I was going very slowly, saw the fence, had complete control over my bike, could come to a complete stop if required for pedestrian or other trail users and approached the bend in the trail with caution. The small make-shift trail to the left of the fence was the option provided to trail users to get around the trail closure. I took the make-shift trail, likely too slowly, my wheels became stuck in mud I could not see under the weeds, and I fell over injuring myself.  I don’t care about my injuries and I don’t blame the Region for my fall.  As an aside I was not furious, but it makes for a good headline.  I do think it is of value to prevent injuries to others that may make the same choice as I did and a simple sign along with a true trail would have achieved that outcome. What prompted the Record article was Tweet I sent out to the region asking them to sign the trail and formalize the alternative route so no one else has the potential to get hurt.  The Record decided that was news worthy.  I didn’t think it newsworthy, but given the conversation on-line and the emails I have received about the whole thing it is clear that the Record reporter knows how to write a great article.

I don’t know if you pay Regional taxes, but I do and I think they are too high.  Annually 1,000’s of people routinely sue municipalities for injuries similar to what I incurred.  The laws of the Province in virtually every case side on the side of the injured person.  Why?  The laws believe that appropriate notice, such as a sign, would have completely prevented the injury.  Further, that had there been a sign, and I chose to disregard it than I am liable for my choice to ignore it and the resulting injuries.  

The City of Waterloo has a policy that when we are undertaking construction and we will be interrupting a trail connection we place a sign to indicate to users that the way is blocked by doing so, we limit our liability in the event of injury.  I believe the Region should have a similar policy to limit their liability.  During the road construction on University Avenue the Region has continuously shown a lack of regard to trail users and cyclists in particular. 

BIKES BELONG…

While driving with my 85 year old father a while back we got to talking about cycling. Dad commented that there is always that “age old debate” on whether you should cycle on the road or on the sidewalk. I replied that there is no debate and that the Ontario Highway Traffic Act is clear. Bicycles are vehicles and are required to ride on the road. I went on to say that they are also required to ride with traffic or in other words in the same direction as a car.

I find myself wondering when it was that it was ever deemed to be ok to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk such that people think that is where bikes belong. In addition, the majority of all vehicle collisions occur at intersections, therefore riding on a sidewalk does nothing to prevent this conflict. In many cases, cyclists riding on a sidewalk often ride facing traffic resulting in a collision because they did not stop for a pedestrian cross-walk.

People also believe that bikes belong on the right hand side of the road and nowhere else. In times past where the majority of urban roadways were single traffic lanes in each direction, it was easy to ride on the right hand side and nowhere else. However, with urban roads now containing dedicated left turn lanes and dedicated right turn lanes cyclists are required to ride “in traffic”. Some motor vehicle operators chose not to understand that this is where bikes belong. I say chose because that is exactly what it is. They are making a choice to not “share the road”.

We can spend a ton of time arguing about the rights of the road, but to what end? For those who require the language, it is an offense to fail to share the road with a bicycle. More importantly, I believe we need to want to live in community with others. We need to want to share the road.

Lessons Learned from My Cycling Collision

After I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle on September 30, 2013, I found negotiating all of the things I needed to do very challenging.   In addition to managing health and wellness related issues, understanding who to call and when is not easy and can hinder your ability to get better, faster.  I have created this blog to help share what I have learned with others.  It is my sincere hope that you will never need to use this information.

1. Do not get up:  With adrenalin levels running very high, pain caused by a collision may be masked.  I was not rendered unconscious so I got up.  I could have had a fracture in my spine that may have been made much worse by standing up and moving. Assess the safety of your situation, but if you can remain in your “landed” position, do so until medical help arrives.

2. Call the police: Even if you were hit and the driver fled the scene, call the police. Report the collision.  Many cycling collisions do not get reported.  Changes to roadways are informed by collision statistics.  This is important information for Municipalities.

3. Seek medical attention:  Unless you are a trained medical professional do not self-diagnose.  It is very common that pain will set in many hours after a collision.  Your medical injuries often need to be recorded for insurance purposes.

4. Write your statement of the collision:  While every detail of the collision is still fresh in your mind write down the facts as you remember them. I started my statement on my cell phone while waiting in the emergency department at the hospital.  If you cannot physically do the writing try to dictate it to a support person. Include everything you know and what you observed.  This includes information like: Time of the day, how fast you were travelling; how fast you believe the car that hit you was going, weather conditions; road visibility; traffic conditions, make, model and colour of car.  Include a diagram if possible.  I printed off a Google Map of the road and marked each of my lane changes on the diagram. Below is the text of my statement:

Occurrence Number 13-228184
Cst. Z. Gent

At approximately 10:20 am on September 30, 2013 I was travelling west bound on Northfield drive in Waterloo, Ontario by bicycle. I was riding on the right side of the road (in the traditional bike space) and had crossed the level rail crossing. I was travelling at about 20-25 km per hour.

I started the process of moving over to negotiate a left turn at Parkside drive. Traffic was observed to be well behind me. I started checking my left side mirror to check for traffic in back. The way was clear and I signaled with my left arm extended; my intent to change lanes. I checked over my shoulder again, confirmed the way was clear and moved to the right side of centre lane. I again started checking my left side mirror to check for traffic in back. The way was clear and I signaled with my left arm extended; my intent to change lanes into the left turn lane to make a left turn on Parkside drive. I entered the right side of the lane in front of fire station 3. There was no vehicle in the left turn lane when I entered it. About 10 or 20 seconds later just past the rear exit of fire station 3 I heard the sound of car tires skidding on wet asphalt.

Then I was struck from behind by a grey vehicle. I fell very hard on my left side and my head hit the pavement and bounced. I was wearing a bike helmet. Damage to the bike did occur. I observed the left crank shaft to be bent. At the time of preparing this statement the bike has not been assessed by a bike shop mechanic.

In addition to the above I do wonder if the driver might have been distracted through the use of a cell phone or something of that nature. I make this comment because I was the only road user headed westbound. There was absolutely nothing else to see or pay attention to but me. It is my opinion that that this collision was not only avoidable but that any reasonably alert driver would have had no difficulty passing me safely and sharing the road right-of-way.

The observed road and weather conditions were as follows:

  • Overcast
  • Rain had stopped but the road surface was still wet
  • Visibility good to excellent

Attached to this report are three figures identifying bike movements across the corridor.

This statement was prepared by Diane Freeman, P.Eng. and delivered to Waterloo Regional Police on Tuesday October 1, 2013.

6. Call your motor vehicle insurance company: Ontario is a “no-fault” collision insurance Province.  When you are involved in a collision while riding your bike; you can report the collision to your motor vehicle insurance company.  If you have long-term health impacts from the collision your extended health coverage will be provided through this insurance.  Make time for this call as they will require all of the details of the collision including the police occurrence number.

7. Keep a log of your recovery: I don’t “idle” well.  In general I am a get over it and get going kind of person.  Recovery takes time.  Some days are better than others.  Random pain will occur.  Write all relevant information in a log book.  In the book I am keeping I have included information regarding my use of pain medications, medical appointments, loss of work time, pain associated with daily tasks, location of pain, strength of the pain, and type of pain such as shooting/stabbing/dull aches.  This is very useful on many fronts.  You will be able to visually see your progress to wellness.  You can use the information at medical visits so you do not forget anything.  It can also be used to support a 3rd party legal claim if you need to or choose to seek a legal remedy.

8. Repair and/or replace:  Take your bike to a reputable bike shop for repair and a thorough check of all structural bike components including the frame and forks.  If repairs are needed and completed keep all bills associated with the work in a file along with all the collision details.  If you were wearing a helmet (and I hope you all do) and you hit your helmet on anything then replace the helmet.  Keep the bill for the helmet replacement and keep your old helmet.  Many insurance companies request the helmet involved in the collision to be submitted to them with the bill for the new helmet.  They do this to ensure the old helmet is property disposed of an never used again.

9. Request a copy of the collision report:  If you need to seek payment for your broken bicycle and helmet, as I do, you will require the insurance information for the individual that hit you.  This information is included in the police collision report.  I continue to have a challenge with getting this report.  My insurance company has not been able to get it either.  Some things I have done include emailing the officer, phoning the police department and requesting to speak with the officer, leaving telephone messages requesting the officer return my call, attending the police station to see if the collision report may have been left for me to pick up (it has not) and leaving another message for the officer to call me.  I am now, after 3 weeks requesting to speak with the Staff Sargent.  If you still do not get the report, as citizens you ultimately fund police services so send an email to the Chief of Police and make your request to that individual.  With every attempt do not give up and please, please be polite.  The police seek to serve and in many cases are very busy, they are not withholding information and they are not trying to frustrate you.

10. Undertake a claim for damages: With “no fault” insurance I have been advised that I will need to call the insurance company of the person that hit me to make a claim for the repairs to my bike and any cycling gear including my helmet.  Depending on the extent of their coverage; my out-of-pocket costs may or may not be covered.  It may be that the driver never reported the collision if there was no damage to their personal vehicle. I find this process makes me feel like a victim all over again and I understand completely why some people seek personal injury legal assistance to negotiate these murky waters.  Making this claim is on my “to do” list once I get a copy of the collision report.

11. CYCLE ON: For me, cycle commuting is important “me time”.  I need it to clear my head, take in the wonderful fresh air and to strengthen my person through exercise.  The mental battle associated with getting on the bike and more importantly getting on the road is tough.  The longer you wait to do it the easier it will be to find new routines that no longer support active living and active transportation.  Two weeks to the day I got back on the bike.  I have been in conversation with my medical professionals and constantly self-assessing to ensure that cycling is not aggravating my on-going pain. I am not pushing my limits either.  I do not have the strength in my lower back or upper body to ride my road bike, but my upright commuter bike seems to be ok. I am not likely turning the pedals as fast as I did before the collision and I certainly feel tired upon arrival at my destination, but I am so thankful to be riding again.

IS BEING RIGHT WRONG?

I was involved in a completely avoidable collision with a motor vehicle on Monday September 30, 2013. The story of the collision was covered by the local newspaper “The Record” and can be reviewed at the following link:

http://www.therecord.com/news-story/4141918-bike-accident-a-lesson-for-others-waterloo-councillor-says/

Late in the evening the night the article was put on the newsstand I received the following email. I have not corrected the grammar or spelling errors:

“I am happy to hear your injuryes were not more serious than they were and I wish you a speedy recovery. I must speak my mind. You are on a bike and not a car. Stay out of the turning lanes. Stick to the side of the roads. Yes it might be your right but you can be so right your are wrong. A car is a lot bigger and more visible than you. I guess you do get some publicity. Next time you might not be so luck.”

The following is my response to the individual:

“Thank you for your email and your regard for my health. I am on the mend. Your opinion regarding staying to the right-side of the road and out of left turn lanes is unfortunately not possible to abide by. Just a month ago another cycling friend of mine did as you suggested, they stayed to the right in a two lane roundabout. They stayed out of the traffic as you requested, but not only were they driven into by a car, but they were also charged by the Police for being in the wrong lane. It is illegal to ride a bike on a sidewalk. It is illegal to ride a bike through a crosswalk. It is illegal to ride a bike facing on-coming traffic.

Please learn from this article. Please understand that people ride their bicycles for a large number of reasons. All of us are only temporarily able bodied and there are many law abiding, tax paying citizens who have no other options related to commuting for work and business other than to ride a bike. Municipalities and their governors such as I are called to serve all of the citizens in our city regardless of ability. Cities such as the City of Waterloo seek to be age friendly and bicycle friendly communities. To be successful in building a community that supports at home living from infant to senior requires the willingness, on behalf of all road users, to share with pedestrians and cyclists. Sharing of the road cannot be accomplished through police enforcement. Sharing cannot be accomplished through reluctant tolerance. Sharing can only be achieved by enlightened road users who show care towards one another. His Excellency Governor General David Johnston is calling on Canadians to build a Strong and Caring Nation. I see sharing the road as a small step towards this lofty goal.

Best Regards, Diane Freeman”

I struggled with deciding how and if I should respond. I was truly hurt with the contents of the email. I felt victimized all over again. I felt like I did something wrong, when I knew I did not. In the end I prepared the above response with the hopes of educating one and maybe through this blog others on how we need to seek to care for one another.

Urban Commuting 101

Have you ever considered parking the car and riding your bike as a primary mode of commuting? Then this Wordpress is for you!

In March of 2012 I bought an urban commuting bike (Trek Coco). This blog tries to cover all of the reasons why it took me so long to change over to my bike and to encourage you to consider giving it a “spin”.

There are no showers at my destination

Not only are there no showers at my destination but who has the time? Ride ready for the day. You do not need to ride like you are in the “tour de France”. Keep your speeds around 20 km/hour and have a water bottle on board. Upon arrival allow your body to naturally cool down and dry. Long hair, no problem, braid or bundle it up under your helmet, release it upon arrival and do not brush it until it dries out or pack a portable hair dryer and give it a quick dry.

I Need to Look Professional

Wearing a suit and tie? Carefully pack your jacket and tie in a saddlebag and consider a short sleeved cotton shirt. Wearing a dress/Skirt is easy with these quick steps:
• Have a skirt guard installed on your rear tire to keep long skirts clear of the spokes
• Short Skirt: Wear biking shorts underneath your skirt; or pack your skirt
• Long Skirt: Roll the front hem of the skirt around a bungee (shock) cord and use a close pin to hold it in place. Then hook the ends of the bungee cord to the underside of your bike seat. This ensures it will not fly up in the wind.

I Have too much “Stuff” to Take each day

I typically ride with approximately 10 pounds of “stuff” but it is not uncommon for me to ride with 30 pounds of “stuff” including: shoes; computer; blackberry; wallet; keys; rain gear; bike lights; tire repair kit; bike lock; reflective night clothing; electronic tablet; City Council Briefing Notes; other paperwork; lunch and water. I ride with a front basket; a rear carrier and two bike bags. Once loaded, the weight is forgotten. I ride with the Canadian made (Guelph, Ontario) Arkel Switchback 2.0 Bike Pannier that comes with a lifetime warranty, is waterproof and converts to a backpack.

Forcast is chance of Rain

You will not melt in the rain and your bike is ok with it too. For urban commuting you need to invest in a full set of fenders for your bike and some good rain gear. I got my gear in Europe because they figured out the benefits of active transportation decades ago and bike gear is CHEAP. Check outdoor adventure stores for good fully waterproof (but breathable) gear and just do it! It can be daunting, but in 800 km of commuting last year I can only remember one day that I found myself caught in a driving rain. My gear kept me 100 percent dry and to be honest, I felt a sense of real accomplishment when I completed the ride. I am riding in the winter too with insulated riding pants; my ski jacket and balaclava.

I Live too far away from Work

Try it! Google Map your route using the bike option and off-road trails. You might find a more direct path with fewer hills to climb that you never knew was there! Any commute 10 km or less is perfect for me and that how I decide if I will ride. It is also easy to ride to the bus depot and board the bus. This type of multi-mode commuting is becoming the norm in many urban areas.

I am out of Shape and have bad Knees

Buy a bike from an actual bike shop. There are many “peddle forward” urban commuting bikes built especially for people with knee complaints. An excellent bike shop owner will help “fit” the bike to you, your commuting choice and ability. A good bike is not much more expensive than the big box stores, but they will be better made and much lighter. Do not go into commuting with the expectation that you have to be in great shape it will come over time. Set your own pace based on how tired you feel and how confident you feel on the road, dismount at cross-walks and walk your bike or take regular breaks along the way to catch your breath. No one is judging you, but you.

But Why? Why even Try?

My urban commuter bicycle has been the only way I could find time to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. In the past I have managed to lose weight, but without a consistent exercise routine could never keep it off; my bike has changed that. I might say I will go to the gym but the excuses will pile up. When my teenager takes the car in the morning and I need to get to work, there are no excuses and the bike looks like a fine choice.