Seven Days to Go

That’s right, seven days from now I will be on the road riding my Trek 7100 bicycle from Toronto to Niagara Falls. Well, actually, from the C.N.E. grounds to Mohawk College the first day, then off to Table Rock Park in Niagara on Sunday. Nevertheless, there’s only a week to go and the excitement is starting to build.

It will be strange this year; having been through cancer this past winter has altered my perspective.  I have a small concern about my energy levels, but I know I’ll make it though it may take longer. But I’m wondering what it will be like riding as a survivor. There are people I’ve met in previous years who will remember me if they see me and it will be interesting to see how they respond when they see the yellow flag and socks sported by survivors on the ride.

On the other hand seeing the hundreds of yellow flags sticking up from the crowd of 5000 riders at the starting line is a testament to the success of cancer research over the years. More and more people are surviving this terrible disease, and it’s because of research being done with dollars raised through events like the Ride to Conquer Cancer.

There is a small development on the side effects front. I was told that the radiation would kill off a bunch of the hair follicles in my face rendering my beard history. However, last week I noticed when I was saving that most of them are actually functioning again! The only ones that seem to be affected are lower down in an area I usually shave anyway when I trim my beard back. So, much to Roberta’s relief, I’m growing the beard back. She never has liked me clean shaven.

Getting back to the Ride to Conquer Cancer, I’m at the 80% mark in my fundraising and have such a short way to go to reach my goal of $2500 in donations. If everyone who sees clicks on the banner at right and contributes just $10 I’ll reach and surpass that goal with plenty to spare. So much in fact that if you go to my personal page and find I have reached my goal, please support one of the other members of Team Kortright is has not on my behalf.

I know, I’m really pushing the donation thing, but it is only Seven Days and counting!

Thanks everyone!


The War Between Cars and Bicycles is Over!

Well at least that’s what United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood would have us believe. He made the following announcement in his blog yesterday…

Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.
We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
To set this approach in motion, we have formulated key recommendations for state DOTs and communities:
  • Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
  • Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Go beyond minimum design standards.
  • Collect data on walking and biking trips.
  • Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
  • Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
  • Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.

(Emphasis mine.  Here’s the link to the rest of the article…  DOT Website)

It’s an impressive list, and one I would heartily endorse. In fact I would love it if Canadian Minister of Transportation John Baird would issue a similar statement. To be fair, he may well have done so, but a search of Transport Canada’s website has yet to reveal a national policy on the integration of human-powered transportation into provincial and municipal infrastructure.  If anyone out there knows where to find it, please send me a link.

In the meantime, if LaHood does succeed in his stated desire to end the conflict between cars, bicycles and pedestrians, it will hold out some hope for a healthier, more environmentally friendly future.

On the Road Again…

Bike Computer Day 1

Bike Computer Day 1

Well Daylight Saving Time is upon us once more and that can mean only one thing. It’s time for me to get my bike out of the trainer and back onto the street. With less than three months till the 2010 Ride to Conquer Cancer I have some trainin’ to do.

Started off slow today; just a little over 24 km. Did 10km to work this morning in the rain and then home gain with a side trip to the church. My time? Nearly 2 hours total; a blistering 13.9 km/hr average. First day with real hills and hauling about 35 lbs of extra gear (tool bag and computer case) I wasn’t in any hurry.

But it’s a start; that’s what matters. Now the question is, “how much can I get in before the Ride?”

15 Instead of 55

Steve along The Rideau Canal

Steve along The Rideau Canal

I spent this past weekend in Ottawa visiting with my brother Steven and his family. It was a great time and reminded me once again why I love cycling so much.

Bicycle paths and bike lanes criss-cross the entire Ottawa-Carleton region. It is one of the best places to go cycling in all of Ontario. For me the best trails are the ones along the Ottawa River, partly paved, partly gravel, fully treed, the river on one side, urban forest on the other, dotted with history for much of the journey it is simply a great ride.

We took our bikes downtown on the bus (I like their racks a little better than the ones Guelph has just added) and then rode from the university along the canal, looped around Parliament Hill, and then followed the river back to Steve’s place in Orleans. Along we way we watched boats of all kinds sail up and down the Ottawa River, watched biplanes takeoff and land at the Aviation Museum, checked out the horses that perform in the Musical Ride at the RCMP stables, and enjoyed ice cream and frozen yogurt at Rockcliffe Park.

I was using my nephew Bryan’s mountain bike so it was a little small, and a little slow at times, but it didn’t take long for the joy of the ride to settle in and fade the size of the bike into the background. I can’t really nail it down to one specific thing but there is just something about riding a bike that speaks to the kid in me. After a few clicks the creaks and groans of middle-age fade and the teenager re-emerges. The sun, the wind, the freedom – the only words I’ve found for it are in the title of this post – ” I feel 15 instead of 55.”

And with the summer we’ve had I really needed a dose of 15-yer old exuberance. It took till Labour Day Weekend but Saturday felt so much like summer.  No rain, warm breezes, bright sunshine… I wanted it to go on forever. We rode for over 30 km and only had to deal with car traffic about 10% of the way. The rest of the ride was trails designed and installed specifically for cyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters and pedestrians.  It was a great day that I will remember for a very long time.

But it doesn’t have to be a once a year thing. My brother enjoys this commute 2 ot 3 times a week. He has this privilege because the infrastructure in Ottawa has been fashioned with all the road users in mind.  Other cities could easily do this if they had a mind to.  Some, including Guelph, claim they do. They look to Europe and Copenhagen to find the example they need for infrastructure and cycling culture. But they don’t need to look that far away, it exists right in their own back yard.

Is Ottawa a cycling paradise? Hardly! It suffers from all the same conflicts between drivers and cyclists that exist elsewhere.  In many places the two factions continue to get in each other’s way as driver fail to look for bicycles and cyclists behave like the rules of the road don’t apply to them. But Ottawa has gone a long way to keeping the warring factions apart.  Seperated bike lanes and trails make far more sense than adding bike lanes to the busiest streets in our cities. That is just asking for trouble.

But most of all the Ottawa example dispels the myth propagated in Southern Ontario that Canadian climate makes cycling an impractical solution for environment, infrastructure and a healthier population. No one can claim that Ottawa has mild winters or a short season. It simply takes commitment and patience.

It will take time to make the shift from a car centred culture to one of shared roads and services, but when it does happen then maybe instead of road rage a fewmore of us will spend the commute recapturing a little of our childhood.

Here’s the route we took:  Bikemap Route

My Facebook album of the ride:  Ottawa Album

Towards Cycling Culture

As I make my way down the final stretch to the Ride to Conquer Cancer, I find myself pondering the move towards cycle culture in North America and why it isn’t more like Europe?

For the last year or so I’ve been following a blog called Copenhagenize.  Written by an ex-Calgarian now living in Copenhagen, it and it’s sister site Copenhagen Cycle Chic chronicle how Danish cycle-culture is progressing and Copenhagen in particular should be the model the rest of the world uses to shape cycling infrastructure in the big cities. To be fair, there’s a great deal I like about what Mikael has to say, and I certainly would like to see Canada follow more of the Danish example when it comes to cycling infrastructure; separated bike lanes, extensive bicycle parking at malls and public buildings, elimination of helmet laws, etc.  But there is one major difference between Europe and North America that will likely always stand in the way.

Europe moves at a much slower pace.

It’s a mindset thing. Throughout most of Europe things happen when they happen. Deadlines are largely regarded as suggestions, stress relief often involves coffee in a street cafe in the middle of the afternoon, shops will even close in the middle of the day to take in a soccer game or a concert.  The trip to the shop or office is as much an experience as being there.

Not so in North America.  Here it’s all about getting as much done as possible in as short a time as possible.  Fulfillment is found not in relishing every moment of an experience but rather in cramming as many experiences into the moment as possible.  North America has always had a quantity over quality mindset. The daily commute, the trip to the store is a means to an end and nothing more. We get from A to B is as few steps as Google Maps can lay out for us and it better not take one second longer than the estimate.

Even what passes for cycling culture reflects this.   The mainstay of the European bicycle commute is the city-bike.  Ridden by men and women alike it allows one to travel in style; long coats, skirts, pumps and even stilettos are suitable cycling fashion. For families, the bakfeit or cargo bike allows mom or dad to ferry the kids around in safety without ever having to take the eyes of the hope of the future.

In North America however, it’s all Spandex and helmets, 27 speeds and razor thin tires, beat the rush and get to the office in time to grab a shower and wash away the record setting attempt at getting to work.  Kids interrupt air-flow so tuck ’em in back or park ’em in a trailer out of sight so we can focus on the road ahead.  Slow bikes are as much an annoyance as slow drivers and cycle chic is measured in Day-Glo jerseys and the latest high-tech shoe clips.

As long as this is the case I’m afraid that cycling culture in Canada will always be at war with the cars.  Bicycles don’t mesh with North Americas high speed lifestyle. It’s hard to embrace the bicycle when you want to be everywhere 10 minutes before you left and want to take half the house with you in case you need something.

Slow Bike Movement

Slow Bike Movement

If North America is ever going to move towards a vibrant effective bicycle culture the first thing it needs to do is slow down. Not just on the roads but in the way we approach life itself.

“Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.”

See you in Niagara Falls —