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!

Living a Cycling Life

Along with my good friend Barbara, my husband Peter and I recently travelled to Budapest where we boarded a Viking River Cruise (vikingrivercruisescanada.com).  We sailed up the Danube River stopping in: Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Durnstein, Melk and Linz Austria then ending in Passau, Germany.  Barbara and I are avid cyclists and frequently wanted to rent bicycles during the trip.  We know that touring a city by foot and by bike offer very different viewpoints and a bike can, of course, allow you to travel further, faster.  We spent a day in each destination.  The only location we were able to find a bike rental shop that was near to the harbour was in Passau.  During the trip we tossed about the idea of bringing bikes with us.  My astute husband took note of the conversation and asked me last week if my next bike might be a folding one?  There is a great saying in the world of bikes that the number of bikes you need = n (number of bikes you own) + 1. I said that I was actually thinking about folding bikes after our trip.  He said that he and my two boys have decided that for Mother’s Day 2017 they want to buy me a folding bike for me to take on vacation, in particular ones that involve air travel.  With Barbara’s help, Peter did the heavy lifting with regard to finding the folding bike company he thought I should buy this bike from which is Bike Friday (www.bikefriday.com).

BFFolding

I reviewed the website and of course, immediately fell in love with these bikes.  I was excited about the idea of building my own bike.  I used their on-line design tool and was somewhat scared off by the on-line build price.  They have a “pre-loved” section to their site and those prices looked more approachable so I picked up the phone and called them.  Phoning them was THE RIGHT THING TO DO.  I recommend if you are considering a Bike Friday to just pick up the phone and call them.  Walter, their Sales Consultant & IT Assistant, was the best!  He asked what my budget was and custom built me a pakit.  I was able to discuss and choose all of the components I wanted along with my frame paint colour and decal/wire colours.  They also took all of the measurements related to the most favorite ride I currently own along with my height, weight and age (not sure how age plays into the equation).  I really loved the buying experience with Walter and felt he was keen to ensure I received the bike I wanted at the price I could afford.  I  decided this was going to be the best “girl” bike ever and it will be pink and white!

BikeFriday

Because they custom make every bike I now must wait.  Their turnaround time is 5-8 weeks depending on the availability of parts.  My pakit is scheduled to arrive June 9th.

Still Cycling….And Lovin’ it!

April 11, 2016

Weather: Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers early this afternoon. Fog patches dissipating early this afternoon. Wind becoming southwest 30 km/h gusting to 50 early this afternoon. High 12. UV index 4 or moderate.

Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, winter motorcycle gloves with high gauntlets, waterproof rain pants pulled over my skirt, short boot.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: long-sleeve dress, tights and a wool scarf.

The winter bike was back on the road today for my commute to work.  It feels like “old man winter” just does not want to release his grip on Southwestern Ontario.  Last night we had a mix of snow, freezing rain and rain.  The morning roads, in particular the bike lanes, still contained some of the snow and ice from last night. The Norco Big Foot was the ride of choice for the day.  It was as easy ride to work.  Hopefully the forecasted high winds will have passed us by before I head home.

Although I have not updated my blog for a few weeks, I can assure you that I have remained on a bike 3 to 4 times per week.  With the return of sketchy weather and crazy schedules requiring me to be more agile to get to meetings i.e. needing a car….I have turned to training indoors.

Trainer

Indoor Training Setup

I love my cycleops trainer set up and to motivate me I watch YouTube training videos created by the Global Cycling Network (GCN) www.globalcyclingnetwork.com .  They have large number of videos to choose from based on your set up and available time.  I have used the 20 min. spin class, the 20 min. fat burner, the outdoor training video and more.  If I chose a 20 min. workout then, depending on my time, I can do more both before and after the workout.  The great thing about spinning is that you can choose how hard you want to push yourself.  If I am at the top of my game, then I push myself.  If I am dead beat tired, but need the exercise to clear my mind, then I can let up a bit.

To watch the videos I mount my ipad on my handle bars using a set up designed to hold an ipad to a microphone stand.  I often train in the morning before my family is awake, so to listen to the video I use cordless bluetooth in ear headphones.  I did not want to spend a fortune on headphones so I purchased the rechargeable ones I own on clearance at Winners.

I really want to get my road bike off the trainer and on the road, but with the weather so up and down I have been in a quandary when to change out my rear tire from a training tire back to my road tire.

The long range forecast is looking up so hopefully, the next update will say that I have put down some 20-40 or more km road rides….thanks for reading!

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?

I’m Cycling in the Rain,  just Cycling in the Rain…

Week 11 – March 14, 2016

Weather: Periods of drizzle. Fog patches dissipating this afternoon. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h gusting to 40 this afternoon. High 10°C.

Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, cycling gloves, 180s ear muffs, waterproof rain pants pulled over my skirt, and Shimano SPD cycling shoes.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: long-sleeve sweat wicking top, skirt, tights.

There is a very fresh feeling that exists when you cycle in the rain.  The rain scrubs the air of pollutants and makes it just feel very clean.  With the proper rain gear, I really only feel the odd rain drop on my face and I arrive dry and ready for work.

Today was the first time I have rode using the clipless side of my pedals since January 4, 2016.  I love my Shimano SPD cycling shoes.  The SPD shoes have recessed cleats that connect into my clipless pedal so when I arrive at my destination it is easy to walk. The other type of clipless shoe is very difficult to walk in, some refer to is as a “duck walk”.  This system allows for a substantial increased use of the legs because you are now pulling up on the pedals as well as pushing down.  They take a bit to get used to because when you are connected to you pedals (known as “clipped in”) you have to remember to disconnect (known as “clip out”) when you stop.  When you are first learning how to use this system it is easy to forget and you simply fall over and take your bike with you.  How do I know?….done it (embarrassed to say more than once and in a dress).  My Norco A1 Forma road bike and my Trek Cacao commuter are both equipped with duel pedals so I can either ride with a regular shoe or with my SPD Shimano’s.  My Norco Big Foot, winter bike will only ever have regular pedals because I want to ensure my feet are free to move in the event of a slip or slide.  I met a fellow winter cyclist last month who was riding “clipped in” and he had just taken a bad fall on black ice.  If he had had his feet free perhaps the fall may have been less painful and maybe even avoidable.

Feb.12-Winter Bike to Work Day!

Weather: Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind becoming southwest 30 km/h gusting to 50 this morning. High minus 6°C (wind chill -21). Flurries ending this evening then clearing. Local blowing snow this evening. Wind northwest 40 km/h gusting to 60. Low minus 23. Wind chill minus 38.

Consistent Attire: As previously discussed.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: long-sleeved jersey dress, and Bula balaclava.

Today is the last day of my first week at my new job.  It was also winter bike to work day.  Friday, February 12th, 2016 was the 4th annual international Winter Bike to Work Day as established by http://winterbiketoworkday.org/ almost 10,000 people around the globe committed on line to the ride, including me!

The ride was very “fresh”, well maybe cold, but completing it made me feel that I accomplished something.  My new colleagues at work are likely wondering if I they are now working with a crazy lady 🙂

The extra 1.3 km of commute is not much, but in the morning it feels like an eternity!  I don’t know why this is.  I just keep telling myself to keep calm and peddle on 🙂

15iz0mf

I am leaving tomorrow for a week of ‘fun-in-the-sun’ with my 20 year old son.  The golf links in the Dominican Republic are calling to us.  Upon my return I am speaking at the Ontario Good Roads Association Conference on building bicycle friendly communities.  If you are at the Conference and a follower of this blog be sure to drop into the workshop and say hello.

Signing out until February 25. CHEERS!

 

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!

Budget Day Stress Buster!

Week 6 – Monday February 8, 2016

Weather: Cloudy with 70 percent chance of rain showers or flurries.  High plus 4

Routine Gear: As discussed previously.

Variable Gear: Bula balaclava, long sleeved dress, winter boots.

Today was budget day at the City of Waterloo.  The work associated with the creation of a three year budget began over a year ago.  I spent the better part of my Birthday yesterday working through the budget documents (again) so I left the house this morning with much on my mind.

It was cloudy so I did not receive the sunshine hit of vitamin D, which I always look forward to.  Never-the-less, the ride was wonderful.  About ½ way to City Hall, I realized I left my cell phone at home.  This realization actually caused me some concern.  When I am cycling I feel that my cellphone is a part of my emergency management plan.  I have been rear-ended by no less than two vehicles on two separate ‘preventable collisions’ and having my cell phone to call for police and EMS brings me a sense of peace while riding.

The budget work reflects the commitment of the City of Waterloo to supporting active transportation.  In 2015, the City of Waterloo counted over 1 Million trips (walking and biking) across all City trail counters. The counts are reflected in the graph included.

counters

Budget day did not end until 10 pm.  By that time it had snowed for some time and it was wet, slippery snow.  Because I did not have the fat tire bike I “called a friend” to bail me out and drive me home.  The lucky friend was my hubby 🙂

Coldest Bike Ride of the Year? Not Quite

Weekend 5 – Saturday and Sunday February 6 and 7, 2016

Weather: Mainly cloudy with sunny breaks. Wind west 30 km/h becoming light after Midnight. High plus 3. Sunday February 7, 2016 was sunny with increasing cloudiness.  Wind becoming south 20 km/h early this afternoon. High plus 3

Routine Gear: As discussed previously.

Variable Gear: Bula balaclava, long sleeved dress, Fluevog Locke short boot (not insulated)

Cai8bdOWwAAVREo

Saturday was another beautiful day to ride.  The roads were lightly snow covered from an overnight dusting of snow so I decided to ride the “Batpod” this morning.  I awoke with a slight head ache and very tight shoulders.  I was thankful to be heading out on the bike as I knew it would be a great stress-buster.  My first meeting of the day was breakfast with friends at a favourite local establishment known as the Daily Grill.  It is now going on 6 years that I have been requesting a bike rack at this restaurant.  To date I have made no progress with the restaurant owner or the property owner.  I still remain hopeful 🙂 Until then, the above tree acts as my temporary lock up provided the area is not loaded with snow.  The tree has also grown so much that my U-lock no longer fits around the truck!After breakfast I rode to a near by transit terminal to board the bus to downtown Kitchener.  My Norco Bigfoot fat tire bike does not fit on the front rack of the bus.  The bus drivers today were awesome and encouraging to me when I brought my bike on board. Some times I jam the rear wheel against the folding seats on the bus as shown below and other times I stand with the bike.  When I am standing I keep a hand on one of the brakes so the bike does not roll.

Cai8aM9WcAAIFXr

The City of Kitchener active transportation committee organized the annual ‘coldest bike ride of the year’ event.   I am uncertain if I should say the weather did or did not co-operate with the planned ride.   It was far from being the coldest day this winter, but the warmer weather combined with a burst of sunshine seemed to motivate more cyclists to participate. There were 18 bikes and one wee toddler passenger.

The group of us rode from Kitchener City Hall to Waterloo City Hall using the brand spankin’ new Spur Line trail.  This beautiful off-road trail is paved and complete with overhead lights!  From the Spur Line trail we rode on the Iron Horse trail to the Berlin Bicycle Café located in a part of Kitchener known as Belmont Village.

On the ride home I decided to hitch another GRT bus ride for a part of the way.  I wanted to get home so I could get ready to celebrate my Birthday on Saturday night with friends!

Sunday was my birthday! Like most Sundays I walked to and from Church in the morning. That was the extend of my exercise today because I had to work on my City of Waterloo Budget package in preparation for Budget Day tomorrow.  Outside of preparing for tomorrow I had a lovely Birthday.

I’m Riding on Sunshine!

Week 5 – Tuesday and Wednesday – February 2-3, 2016

Weather: Wednesday February 3, 2016 was the warmest February 3 on record at a high of 14 degrees C! Rain in morning and increasing winds during the day.

Routine Gear: As discussed previously except I only needed spring riding gloves.

Variable Gear: I80s earmuffs, 3/4 sleeve dress, Fluevog Locke short boot (not insulated).

Tuesday was one of those crazy days that started out with 7:30 am meeting in South Kitchener followed by meetings in North Waterloo.  Although the weather was spring like, I had to leave the bike parked in the garage at home.  When the sun came out around noon I was so wishing that I was sitting in the saddle of the Trek Cocoa!

Wednesday was the warmest February 3 on record with a high of 14 degrees C.  I had a day that would include a couple of 30-40 minute rides. Although it was raining when I left the house, I still wanted to ride and enjoy the fresh air.

When you commute daily remember to check tire pressure at least once per week.  I had to pump up the rear tire on my Trek commuter prior to heading out.  I have an awesome hand floor pump that includes an easy to read pressure gauge.  If you do not own one of these it is worth the investment.  They are not too expensive and I use it on our family bicycles as well as my Vespa.

2010-vespa-gts300supere-small

It was lightly raining when I left home this morning but it was still an excellent, fast commute. I did not have to worry about glasses fogging up so I was able to wear my cycling glasses.

I love my cycling glasses!  I wear Serfas www.serfas.com.  I have had them for about 5 years.  They came with four inner changeable lenses as well as an Rx insert I had filled with my eye glass prescription.  Eye protection while riding is very important, we only have one set of eyes.

As the day wore on, I headed out for my much anticipated 30 minute ride.  Unfortunately the head winds became so strong that I had to make a change on the fly and ride home to exchange my two wheels for my four wheels with a gas engine so that I would not be late for my meetings.

The winds remained high for the balance of the day but I still enjoyed the blazing sunshine from the seat in my Hyundai Tucson.