New Cyclist

by Jimsey

So I finally got around to buying a bike. I’m a huge pedestrian/transit fan, and biking seemed like the next logical step. I wanted to write this post to share some of thoughts from my first day riding.

  1. Riding home I was originally scared shitless. Having really haven’t ridden a bike since I was in college, and never haven ridden in a big city street setting, I was quite nervous on the way home. Don’t get me wrong, Chicago has bike lanes on all the major roads to give me some breathing space. But until you cruise down S. Western with traffic zipping by at or around the 35 mph speed limit, its hard to prepare yourself. Read More…

TTC Customer Service Advisory Panel Announced

by Ben

With surprisingly little fanfare it appears the TTC has announced the members for it’s Customer Service Advisory Panel.  The always resourceful Transit Toronto has the full details here.  Here’s what the membership is going to look like:

  • Matthew Blackett, the publisher and founder of Spacing magazine.
  • Robert Culling a professional transit operator for the TTC.
  • Yves Devin the chief executive officer of the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) since 2006.
  • Tyson Matheson, WestJet’s vice president of People Relations and Culture.
  • Dr. Roy Morley, professor of marketing in the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.
  • Sue Motahedin of TELUS Communications Inc.’s Loyalty and Retention Department.
  • Krisna Saravanamuttu, a fourth-year criminology major at York University and the president of the York Federation of Students.
  • Kripa Sekhar, the executive director of the South Asian Women’s Centre.
  • Julie Tyios, the chief executive officer of Red Juice Media, an online marketing firm.

Early impressions:

  • First, the TTC announced earlier in the week that there wouldn’t be any members from the public.  That said, I was still holding out home that Steve Munro would be on here.  It was as squandered opportunity on the TTC’s part.
  • I’m generally a fan of Matthew Blackett.  He at least represents the “activisit” side of the equation to some extent.
  • Robert Culling – It appears that Culling is a TTC driver (not sure of what vehicle).  A logical choice for inclusion on the panel, and I’m curious as to what criteria determined what driver was selected – e.g., peer suggestion, Union suggestion.
  • Yves Deviln – Solid choice.
  • Krisna Saravanamuttu and Kripa Sekhar – A surprising nod towards the diverse needs of TTC users.  I’m especially pleased with the community focus of including someone from the South Asian Women’s Centre.   Very impressive choices here.
  • The rest are the usual corporate and academic suspects, no surprises there.

Details of the panels goals are summarized at Transit Toronto and by Steve Munro, so I won’t cover that ground again.  With the report due at the end of June, however, I am interested in how much work will be achieved.  I haven’t seen an indication as to the frequency of the meetings, but I would hope they would at least be twice a week.

Probably a larger fear is how much voice some of the “smaller” members will actually have.  Will the needs of students be heard over the opinion of corporate VPs?  Will genuine debate occur in these meetings, or will they be hijacked by competing interests?

For now I will maintain a fine balance of skepticism and optimism and wait for more details.  Regardless, a positive step.

Make That 180

by Jimsey

Chicago Tribune Article

Update to our friend from the last post. Apparently this time he’s been nabbed for being a little more than slightly aggressive. I wonder if this is representative of the other 178 arrests, or if this is rare and he’s more or less getting slaps on the wrist for just simply panhandling on the CTA?

178 Arrests?

By Jimsey

Frankly, I’m not sure what to make of this article. First a few highlights for those who don’t like to read:

1) Clarence Ervin is a known panhandler on the Lake Street Elevated portion of the Green Line

2) This man has been arrested 178 Times (not all for panhandling).

3) Charges have been dropped around 130 Times

4) He’s been charged about 25% of time (often without him present)

5) Some Riders are scared of him, some are not

6) He averages about $55 a day panhandling.

Like I said, I’m not sure where to begin. Do we blame him? Do we blame the police and court system? Do we blame Veteran’s Affairs? Should I get into panhandling? Do we blame those who keep giving him money? Do we blame the CTA?

Any thoughts?

Cold Morning Ride to Tommy Thompson Park

by Ben

For reasons still unknown to me, I decided to drag my butt out of bed and go for a ride down to Tommy Thompson Park (aka, Leslie Spit or Outer Harbor East Headland).  It was cold, and I’d neglected my bike, so it took a bit for the cables and chain to loosen up.

Nevertheless, I was soon chugging along the point, enjoying the exercise and the unique view of the city (first time for me here).  Plenty of ducks were to be seen, along with an (apparently) feral cat.

On my way back out, pedaling into a nasty headwind, I felt like I was going even slower than usual.  Turns out my rear tire had gone flat.  A 1 km walk and a call to Beck Taxi later and I was taking the lazy way out.  Success? You bet!

Anyway, some pics for your enjoyment (from my thoroughly crappy phone camera).

Skyline from the east side of the spit

Full skyline from further along Spit

Chilly wind coming in

Rochester says hello

My up-til-now trusty steed

A perfect end to a perfect morning

Toronto of the Future?

by Ben

A recent conversation on BikingToronto centered around what sorts of visibility gear people use took a turn (as the conversations on the site are wont to do) for the very insightful.  In a thread hijacking of the very best kind, the topics shifted from asking what kind of gear to why so much gear.  One comment, by James S. of The Urban Country (great blog, check out the most recent post) really grabbed me, so much so that I have reproduced it in it’s entirety below:

I wouldn’t feel comfortable riding at night on most outer-city roads either without making myself as visible as possible. The three primary streets I ride on are Dundas, Queen and King, so I always feel that I am visible even with the minimum number of lights on my bike.

For a bit more background on my opinion, I will share a hypothetical scenario which is somewhat more applicable now with the 14 pedestrian deaths.

Imagine a Toronto where pedestrians felt so unsafe from the media/police spokesman that they felt compelled to walk around with a flashing red light wrapped around each ankle, a light wrapped around their neck, a florescent reflective jacket and a helmet. Some pedestrians decide to buy all of this pedestrian gear, but many other pedestrians decide not to walk anymore because they perceive it to be too dangerous (or they don’t feel like carrying a duffel bag full of pedestrian gear everywhere they go). So they drive everywhere to protect themselves, and then eventually we’re left only a few pedestrians on our sidewalks. This results in making it more dangerous for the few pedestrians we are now left with because the less pedestrians you have, the less cautious drivers tend to be.

That’s what I feel that we have done with cycling. We have made people think it is so dangerous by bubble wrapping ourselves with all this gear and protection, so people stop cycling (or people don’t bother starting to cycle) because they either don’t want the hassle of carrying around all this gear, or because they feel it’s so unsafe that they would prefer to drive a car instead.

I am speaking from experience too. I moved to Toronto when I was 22 (7 years ago) and I have been cycling off and on since the day I moved here (between bikes getting stolen, etc). There was a time when I was a bit younger that people convinced me that it’s suicidal to ride on a bike on Toronto streets and that I needed a helmet, expensive safety gear, etc. etc. etc. Then when you actually look at the statistics, cycling is relatively safe here. You might even be safer on a bike downtown than as a pedestrian – though I haven’t seen a study that could back this up.

But the point is, the amount of protective gear people wear on bicycles doesn’t reflect the actual risk of riding a bike.

Not to say there is anything wrong with being extra cautious, but I just think that being overly cautious works against us by discouraging other people from hopping on a bike. And cycling has a calming effect on traffic, so the less people cycling means it’s less safe for everyone who does it.

James’ “slippery slope” argument is one that I have encountered much more frequently in the past couple of years.  Cycling, especially commuter cycling in the city, has taken on aspects of a gladiator sport rather than a viable alternative form of transportation.  Some mornings it seems like it takes me longer to strap on my various accessories than it does to ride to work.  And as James points out, this can be a major deterrent.

This concept has been discussed elsewhere (this is a good place to start), but my own opinion is still divided.  Right now I divide my time between gearing up for my work commute, which (logically or not) seems more dangerous, and going gear free (minus lights at night) for casual rides and bouncing around town.

On the whole I agree with James’ position.  Perhaps we should stop the madness now before our bikes become rolling tanks?

Transit Tats

by Ben
I’ve often said that I’ve never really been able to think of anything I liked enough to want to get it permanently tattooed to my skin.   At least I didn’t until I saw this:

Props to Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space for the tip

That’s right, a transit map.  On a foot. Chicago’s, no less.

If I were single I’d date this person right now, funky toenails and all.

TRR Interview With BikingToronto

by Ben

[sotto voice] my first interview…so nervous…be cool Ben, be cool…breath…what, we’re rolling? Son of a…


Those of you who are avid TRR readers (I know you’re out there.  Hi Mom!), I’ve spent the past year flirting with bike commuting.  The more comfortable with biking I’ve gotten, the more I’ve gotten linked into sites that link me with other riders, provide me with tips and point me towards relevant news.

Of late one of my favourites has been  I remember coming across the site quite a while ago, but looked it back up again following a recent relaunch.  I have been very impressed with the new site; it does a wonderful job of creating dialogue between bikers from relatively micro level issues such as the best way to clean your bike in the winter to macro issues like recent survey results on biking numbers in the city.

So far I’m digging it and encourage you to check it out, especially if you ride in the Toronto area.  I’ve dug it so much, in fact, that I asked BikingToronto founder Joe T. to sit down for a chat.

Read More…

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