Active Transportation Investments Build Accessible Communities

Cities do not build active transportation corridors for cyclists, they build them for people.  When you take the time to actually spend time on the off-road network of trails and dedicated multi-use trails you will observe that the majority of users are pedestrians; people jogging, walking and individuals pushing strollers, exercising dogs, using accessibility devices like wheelchairs, walkers and canes and overall, people seeking to maintain and improve their health.  The investment in these spaces is not typically property tax supported, but Gas Tax supported.  If you want to take a “pot-shot” at cyclists you could say they don’t pay into the Gas tax, but the evidence is clear; the majority of cyclists are also vehicle owners/users.

When we look at on-road cycling infrastructure here are a few facts for consideration:

  1. Painting a bike lane on a road achieves some important and valuable things including:
    • Traffic “calming” by narrowing the travel lane for cars.
    • Reminding all road users how to share the road.
    • Buffering traffic from pedestrians on the sidewalk. This dramatically improves the pedestrian experience especially on roads that have no boulevard.
  2. Paint is cheap. The City’s budget for road painting is driven primarily by the increase in the overall road network then by painting a few sections with a “bike lane”.
  3. Most cycling advocates will tell you that painting a white line is not considered cycling infrastructure. In many cases, especially on rural roads, the white line is designating the road edge as opposed to creating a “bike lane”.

As someone who had been involved in two motor vehicles collisions, I know that I am only a temporarily able bodied person (TAP), all of us are TAPs.  For many, the Active Transportation corridors provide people with independence to get from one place to another because they are not car owners or drivers.  Imagine telling people 100 years ago that we were going to invest millions to build dead end roads that serve ten homes; they would think we were wasting their property tax dollars for certain.

There are many, many times I see and cycle on roads where there is not a single car in sight, but you know what? The city built those roads. Why? Because it was the right thing to do!

Ride Don’t Hide!

Week 11 – March 15, 2016

Weather: Showers ending early this morning then mainly cloudy. Fog patches dissipating this morning. High 12°C. UV index 3 or moderate.

Attire: Rode indoors today on a trainer.

My ride today was actually a 30 minute spin class at Come Alive Fitness located in Waterloo, Ontario.  The ride represented the ‘kick-off’ for a road ride on June 26, 2016 called Ride Don’t Hide.  The event is in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association.  The fully supported 8 km or 47 km ride will take place on paved picturesque Waterloo Region roadways.

As many of you know, in 2013 I completed a 127 km Grand Fondo road ride in Niagara Region.  Just two weeks after that ride I was hit from behind by a car while cycling.  The driver was charged with failing to share the road with a bike.  My recovery from that preventable collision was long and sometimes arduous.

In 2014, just when I thought I was getting back on track, the ceiling in our living room collapsed in our home as a result of water entering the roof space through a damage chimney that we were not aware of.  This resulted in $140,000 of unplanned, un-budgeted renovations; not covered by insurance.  The stress of 2014 continued with our dog suffering a life threatening illness, 5 family weddings, 3 bridal showers (that I hosted), a torn meniscus in my left knee, a working trip to Spain and a contested municipal election.

I ate through much of my stress, gaining an unsightly amount of weight and then….I became breathless….all the time….I couldn’t concentrate at work…..  I didn’t know what was happening to me.  I thought I was getting asthma or that my allergies were out of control.   A visit to my doctor confirmed I was suffering from anxiety attacks brought on from stress.

Anxiety is a form of depression.  I think of it as a form of depression where instead of being depressed about what happened in the past I was anxious about what might happen in the future.

Exercise is a critical component to fighting mental health disorders and combined with medication I am really back on track.  I am losing weight gradually and continuing to try to cycle daily.

It is for these reasons that I will “Ride not Hide” in support of Canadian Mental Health on Sunday June 26, 2016.  Will you join me?

Back in the Saddle!

Back in the Saddle!

Week 10 – March 7, 2016

Weather: Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers early morning then mix of sun and cloud. Wind southwest 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 10°C . UV index 4 or moderate.

Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, motorcycle cold weather leather gloves with high gauntlets, MEC thermal barrier tights.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: sleeveless dress, and 180s ear muffs.

My last blog post was February 12th and since then I have been travelling all over the Province, but unfortunately my bike was parked in the garage.  My week in the Dominican Republic was beautiful and warm.  In keeping with my commitment for heathy living, I walked over 10,000 steps per day and played three rounds of golf.  I worked hard to rest and eat well, but with unlimited food and alcoholic beverages …. Well you get the picture.

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The week of February 22 saw me in and out of Toronto every day for 7 days straight, along with two days in Ottawa.  My vehicle was of course needed for these trips and I did not enjoy the time away from my bike.  The Ottawa trip was complete with a winter storm and significant flight delays.  This resulted in a last minute change to take VIA rail back to Toronto and the UP Express to Pearson where I met my driver for a ride back to Waterloo Region.  I was home and in bed before my flight from Ottawa even landed in Toronto!

Last week saw me back into Toronto on Monday followed by a winter storm event Tuesday night and into Wednesday.  I put my upper back out and spent much of Thursday at the Chiropractor and Massage clinic….Friday started at 7 am in Downtown Kitchener followed by work then travel to Niagara Falls for #cuvee2016.  Suffice to say, cycling was not in the horizon for last week either.  I thought about my bike a lot in Niagara Falls this past weekend as the weather was stunning and there is so much investment in cycling infrastructure in and around the area as well as the surrounding wine region. I was longing to be on my bike.

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It is 10 degrees of beautiful today! I cycled to the office. I am uncertain if I can still refer to this commute as “winter cycling”.  Today will also be my first commute from my new workplace to City Hall.  There is a lot of construction along my preferred route related to a new rail commuter train known locally as the #ION so I am a bit uncertain as to what trails are open, partially open or altogether closed, but I plan to find out.

A New Job = A New Commute!

Over the past while I have set my mind towards undertaking a career change!  As exciting and challenging as that can be, one priority for me to consider was to ensure I could continue to actively recreate while commuting to and from work.  In considering where I could/should look for work every consideration came with evaluating my ability to access work actively.  I considered the following:

  1. The “BIG” City: Toronto, Ontario Canada: my commute to this location would include a 15 minute bike ride, a 30 minute bus ride and 2 1/2 hour GO Transit ride. I have worked in Toronto before and I love Toronto, it is an amazing City. Although careers in Toronto can be very exciting they can also be a challenge to get to with the magnitude of grid lock that exists for commuters travelling on the major Ontario Highways or choosing public transit. Spending over 6 hours per day commuting is not desirable no matter how much I might Love Toronto.
  2. A “near-by” Community: Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario Canada are often referred to as the “twin-cities” because the boundary between the two, for the average visitor, is non-existent. A career in Kitchener near to the city borders would be an easy commute by bike or by a combination of bike and bus. As you head out to the suburban areas of Kitchener a commute by bike and bus could easily become in excess of 1 or even 2 hours each way.
  3. A “neighbouring” Community: Guelph and Cambridge, Ontario Canada are a 30-50 km commute each way depending on where you are going in those communities and the roads available for a cyclist. I would need to use a light-weight road-bike to undertake these distances and I would require the destination to have access to a shower for sure. For Cambridge I could combine my commute with bus transit.  For Guelph I could consider using the GO Transit which has limited hours.  Either choice would result in a significant multi-modal commute (minimum of 1 1/2 hours each way) that would become rather in-flexible without easy access to a car.
  1. Stay in town: When you narrow your search for your “dream job” down to a reasonable in-town bicycle commute of 10 km each way, you certainly narrow your opportunities too.

Fortunes shone on me and I accepted an position as a Senior Engineer working for a Architectural firm located just 1.3 km further than my previous commute!  I am navigating so much change this week.  For 23 years I worked as an environmental consulting engineer and now I am shifting gears to working as a senior engineer with an Architecture firm.  Imagine the joy and nervousness that is combined with this move!

I made my first trek to my new office yesterday.

Weather: February 11, 2016: -12°C (with wind chill -20°C), Cloudy. flurries. Wind northwest 20 km/hr gusting to 40 km/hr. Main roads clear, side roads snow covered.  On-road bike space ranged from clear to snow covered with some icy sections.

Consistent Attire: As previously discussed.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: MEC thermal arm coverings, sleeveless wool dress, 180s ear muffs and Bula balaclava at night.

The ride in the morning was sunny with light flurries.  The cold did not seem to be to unmanageable, but the ride home at 8pm was a bitter cold.  It was the first time I have had to stop riding to try to warm up my hands.

My new ride in the cold and snow is about 20 – 30 minutes depending on how much snow is on the roads.

Bottom Line?  I have a new job and I have tackled my first winter commute to the new location and it was GREAT!

Toronto Bound!

Week 5 – Thursday-Friday – February 4-5, 2016

Weather: Thursday February 4, 2016 High of 1 degree C. No precipitation. February 5, 2016. A mix of sun and cloud with 40 percent chance of flurries.  Wind southwest 20 km/h.  High of 0 degrees C.

Gear: Walking gear!

My meetings on Thursday and Friday of this week found me working at the Offices of Professional Engineers Ontario located at Yonge and Sheppard in Toronto, Ontario.

As much as I wish I could say I commuted by public transit, I cannot.  Sometimes time really is money! I did however park the car and walk the 1 km from the hotel to PEO.  As well, because I was not getting my high cardio time in the bike seat I also had to manage my food intake.

Friday saw me walking and riding the “Red Rocket”, also known at the Toronto Transit System. Ahhh the joys of the ‘big city’.

 

The Promise of Spring

Week 5 – Monday – February 1, 2016

Weather: Mainly cloudy. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light this afternoon. High plus 2.

Routine Gear: As discussed previously.

Variable Gear: I80s earmuffs http://180s.com/, MEC thermal arm coverings, sleeveless dress, Fluevog Locke short boot (not insulated) www.fluevog.com

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It was a beautiful day to ride.  The roads were clear so I decided to ride my Trek Cocoa urban commuter bike.  I was headed to City Hall for a 9 am meeting.  It was the City of Waterloo Capital Budget Day, so upon arrival I knew it would be a day of heavy, thought-filled conversations.  The ride really helped to clear my head and prepare me for the day.

The off-road trails were clear in appearance, but there were many areas of both ice and “black-ice”. I passed a “fellow” bike commuter in the morning pushing his bike.  I was so focused on not arriving to City Hall late, that it was not until after I passed him that I realized he may have been in need of assistance and require a bike pump or something of that same ilk.  I felt like a smuck until I passed him in the evening on the ride home and was able to ask if he had needed assistance in the morning.  He informed me that he had taken a fall in the morning on black ice.  He injured his knee and leg and was walking the balance of his commute when I passed him because he did not want to risk another fall.  I observed that he rode clipped into his pedals.  Admittedly I have taken a few topples while clipped into my pedals and prefer to not clip in during winter riding conditions.

By the ride home, the roads and paths were clear of ice.  The fresh air, as always clears my mind.  The sun streaming through the trees on the off-road bike ways remind me of the promise of spring.  I am thankful for the beauty of our changing seasons.  I take it for granted, but I should not.  Every day is a blessing and should be lived to the fullest!

Derailed – but Back in Gear!

Week 4 – January 25-29, 2016

Weather: January 29, 2016: -9°C (with wind chill -21°C), Cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries. Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50 km/h. Main roads are clear, side roads are icy.  On-road bike space ranged from clear to snow covered with some icy sections.

Consistent Attire: As previously discussed.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: MEC thermal arm coverings, 3/4 sleeve dress, and Bula balaclava.

Since Friday of last week, my daily schedule has seen me needing a car to be able to attend meetings at various locations throughout the Region of Waterloo in Ontario Canada.  Some of the destinations were a reasonable distance by bike, but in the winter weather would have taken me approximately 1 hour to ride and I only had 30 minutes between meetings.

My first instinct was to beat myself up about not mounting the bike seat, but I took a step back and reminded myself that the whole point of this blog and my efforts at winter cycling are related to improving my health.   Mental health is just as important as physical health and I need to be kind to myself.  So I looked to the other times in my day where I could keep my health commitments.  These included riding my indoor bike on a trainer and ensuring that I was eating healthy.  Returning to a healthy weight is my big goal for 2016 so ensuring that I eat right, and not too much on the days I do not cycle are critically important.

Friday January 29, 2016 saw me back in the seat.  Although the forecast called for clouds, it was a beautiful sun shiny day!  The side streets were snow covered and very icy, but the Norco #Bigfoot, aka the Batpod managed those roads expertly.  There was a significant headwind so I wanted to move into a lower gear.  This gear change resulted in the realization that my front de-railer was iced up. I promptly dropped and jammed the chain.  So much, unexpected fun! So I now know I have to buck up for hard riding. The front will remain in high gear until we get a good thaw and any range in gears will be limited to the rear de-railer.

No No Don’t Make Me Go!

Week 3 – Day 3 – January 19, 2016

IMG_20160112_114257Weather: -5°C (with wind chill -13°C), Cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries early this morning. A few flurries beginning near noon. Wind becoming west 20 km/h near noon. Roads were clear on the way to the office and snow covered with tracks bare.  The bike space was completely snow covered.

Consistent Attire: As previously discussed.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: MEC thermal arm coverings, sleeveless dress, Bula balaclava and wool felt jacket.

For reasons I cannot explain I did not want to mount the bike seat today! I had to work from home in the morning because I had a contractor doing work at the house. I think my hibernation instincts kicked in and I really, Really, REALLY wanted to give into them.

Words cannot describe how I laboured to put on my cycling gear and make my way up (because everything is up hill right?) my street.  Thankfully the major streets to work were clear and that helped improve the riding effort.

In the same vein as, “what goes up must come down”; upon riding to work, I must also ride home.  Therefore I give much less thought to whether or not I wish to ride at the end of the working day.  It snowed much of the afternoon so for the ride home the cycling space was snow covered.  I like riding in the snow, but navigating through vehicle tracks is very tricky.  The bicycle tires are drawn into the track and exiting the track is very hard.  It is especially difficult in the spaces where the busses pull over to pick up and drop off passengers.  Any snow that might be caught in the bus wheel wells typically release from the effort of starting and stopping adding a few more obstacles for a winter cyclist.

To my friends who are automobile drivers I would like to share with you that if you think you are teaching me a lesson by crowding me and scaring the life out of me? Please know, I am not giving in to your tactics but I am taking down your licence plate number. With Love, Diane

Me, My Bike and My Confidence Meet Mr. Snow-Miser

Week 3 – Day 1 – January 18, 2016

Weather: -9°C (with wind chill -20°C), Flurries and local snow squalls.  Local amount 10 – 15 cm.  Wind west 30 km/hour gusting to 50 km/hour. (Snow squall warning in effect). Roads were snow covered with reduced visibility because of snow and blowing snow.

Consistent Attire: As previously discussed.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: Sleeveless dress, MEC thermal fleece arm covers, Bula microfleece balaclava.

Winter in Ontario, Canada is never complete without a good snow squall!  Today was truly a winter wonderland.  When I looked out this morning I exclaimed to my husband what a beautiful day! Hearing no hint of sarcasm he asked you are kidding right? He further exclaimed surely you are not planning to cycle today?  I said of course I am planning to ride.  The snow creates a high traction surface and the trail riding in snow is incredibly beautiful!

In reflecting on today’s conversation with my husband I realize that in years past I would NEVER have ventured out on a bicycle in weather like today.  In fact many automobile operators do not even want to be out today!  What has changed? Many things including: me, my bike, my gear, my confidence, my desire to change my life and my keen interest to encourage others to consider ways to leave their car at home.

To account for a slower ride I allow my ride time to be about 1/3 longer than it would take in the summer months.  Today it was even longer because I had to stop for some interim bike alterations and some photo opportunities.

While tackling major roads, the sidewalk was my preferred cycling location.  In weather such as we have today, adding a car target, like a cyclist, to the roadway is very frustrating for drivers.  Being a driver, I know that and chose to cycle on the sidewalk.  I stopped at all crosswalks, dismounted and pushed my bike across.  Preventable collisions happen most frequently at intersections.  Please keep this in mind as you engage in our transportation systems.

Where the bike was concerned, my rear de-railer froze and I locked the chain when I tried to shift gears.  That was a fun experience that I would prefer not to repeat too soon.  This happened because I rode in slush yesterday.  The temperature in my garage dropped to -7 °C last night so the slush located in my rear de-railer froze.  I need to grease the bike up a bit tonight to ensure that this does not happen again too soon.  The frozen de-railer had a chain-reaction (pun totally intended) that resulted in a ride wherein I was stuck in one gear :-).  I was able to trouble shoot the problem while still within a block of my home.  I made the decision that I would ride in a “tougher” gear than I would have preferred.  I am Canadian…and willing to work harder in our Canadian winter.

It was a wonderful morning ride to City Hall! Four neighbours were out shovelling driveways, pre-heating cars and scrapping windshields.  I said good morning to all.  One neighbour hollered good for you! I responded with thanks and commented how lucky I am with no windshield to clear.

While riding the trails I met City of Waterloo staff who were busy clearing the trail to ensure it is accessible for all users.  I also caught up with the City of Waterloo 55+ hiking group also enjoying the trail.  I was again reminded that I am not the only one to use the City trails. IMG_20160118_094702

It continued to snow all day and riding in the dark on unlit trails can be very sketchy.  My commute home was initiated by partnering with Grand River Transit for a bus lift to Conestoga Mall.  I pushed my bike through the mall to the exit located in the direction of my home.  It was my plan to cycle home from the Mall on less travelled side streets and through community parks.  I did take this route, however, the mall parking lot had yet to be fully cleared, the roads were not easily passable, the park trail was not cleared, it was sheer ice under the snow,  and the sidewalk on the major road to my home had yet to be cleared.  So a huge SHOUT OUT to the home owners who had cleared the sidewalk in front of their homes.  Between riding on the cleared sidewalks and pushing the bike through snow drifts and the un-cleared park trail I made it home.  The commute tonight tested my resolve much more than my commute this morning.  It snowed a tremendous amount today and upon my arrival I shovelled the driveway and front porch.  My adult boys had previously shovelled so the work was not as significant as it could have been.

Promises Made and Promises Kept!

Weekend 2 – January 15 – 17, 2016

Weather: Ranged from plus 3 to -6 degrees C. Precipitation included rain, freezing rain and snow. The roads ranged from clear to icy to snow covered.

Consistent Attire: As per other posts.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: Sunday the weather was -6 degrees. For this ride I wore a sleeveless dress and MEC thermal arm coverings.

This blog includes my write up for the weekend and for last Friday.  The weather on Friday was rain with the temperature dropping from a high of 3 degrees C through to minus something cold. 🙂  I had meetings in Guelph Friday morning and while I would have liked to say I commuted, the 37 km, I did not.  The ride would not be “do able” on my fat tire bike.  Further many of the roads are posted 80 km/hour and not conducive to supporting winter cycling options.

Even though I did not commute outside on Friday I did start my day with a 45 minute ride inside on my road bike and CycleOps trainer.  I used this time to prepare for my 9 am meeting by reading the 147 page meeting package.  I will willingly share with you that I did not feel like getting up at 5:45 am and I did not want to put myself in the bike seat.  Nonetheless I made a promise to myself to undertake 30 minutes per day of exercise.  When I completed my indoor ride I will admit I felt great and ready to take on the day.

Saturday started out both quiet and lazy!  I loved it!  For those who know me well, they would tell you that I do not “idle” well.  As the day progressed, I reflected on how many calories I chose to enjoy last night at the Kitchener Rangers Game and the call to the bike seat got louder as the day wore on.  So at 8pm I finally mounted my bike on my indoor trainer and started turning the pedals.  Again I did not feel like exercising, but that promise to me spoke louder than my dissent so I exercised.  Every time this happens, I always feel better to have rode the bike!  Great excuse to enjoy an outdoor time in the hot tub after.

Sunday I attended the New Year Levee for MPP Catherine Fife.  I completed this 4 km commute in the snow on the Batpod.  The minor subdivision roads were icy and snow covered, but very manageable on my Norco “Bigfoot” bike.  The major roads were track bare and the bike lanes were snow covered.  The snow covered bicycle space was excellent.  The snow provided for very good traction.

Upon arrival at the Levee I parked my bike inside (no bike parking) and what a wonderful conversation generating tool the bike is!  Many asked how I managed the roads.  I responded by saying that when speed is controlled so is the bike.  Without question, I feel very safe and in control while commuting on the Batpod.  I also love the crisp weather air.  Week 2? Done and Done. 🙂