Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What's cooking?

Now, now, now...
MAYBE, after all, maybe, something is going on. Something is simmering, just there, below the surface of things... I don't know...
I might have to admit to the mainstreaming of cycling after this:

Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake in Toronto. (Sean O'Neill for etalk). Shamelessly taken from here.

 While James Schwartz over at The Urban Country was being bullied for cycling and for looking too hot be straight, these two were cruising around Toronto, during the very same weekend.

Yep, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel. Cycling. In Toronto!

Ok, I am not a celeb groupie. I still don't know who the heck she is, probably some starlet, encore. Hum, actually, I had to google both of them up to ensure I do not write nonsense.
But geez, I find this picture powerful.

Why is that? Because they look like everyone. They look like they could be just any Torontonians. Seriously.
They are dressed like regular folks. She is wearing a skirt. He's got that shirt (OMG, I am NOT even commenting on that shirt). They are both on mixtes. They are sitting not folded over like Jamaican patties. Hers has got a wire basket!!

Actually, if I did not know for a fact that this, in the background was the goddamn Queen City, I would have sworn they were cycling in Montreal. Well, except of course, for the streetcar. And for the tracks. And for the lane. Well, whatever, that's besides the point anyways.
Wire baskets are sooooo Montreal! Oh but hold on: we do not know whether those bikes rattled. Hum, that's a very important element of our identity. And, after closer examination, I am not seeing any duck tape!
Ok, I guess this looks typically Torontonian after all.

So, I am not sure whether this is really a natural and unprepared shot or a piece of some elaborate PR stunt, but they made optimal choices. Nobody could have recognised them. They blended with local fauna just perfect.

So let's go over it once again:

- Normal clothes, tick
- Girl feminine looking, tick
- No freaking helmets, tick
- Hair flowing in the wind, tick
- Regular bikes, tick (they could NOT have picked a more appropriate choice really)
- Sitting upright, tick
- Basket, tick (wire basket!!!)

Awesome. Just freaking awesome.
This made my day!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ganging up: TRANSIT


Serendipity, once again!

It must have been already up in the air for me to connect to it so accurately, akashic style.
Barely a month ago, I wrote a post, part bitchy rant, part serious analysis, at the end of which I recommended that cyclists should not to entrust their hopes and advocacy efforts to other "cyclists" but to any grouping of the following:
- Pedestrian associations 
- Health associations of all kinds promoting sound lifestyle policies and comprehensive disease prevention
- Child obesity concern groups 
- Child safety groups
- Lots of school administrations would love to see car traffic decrease in their areas
- Folks against sound pollution and urban noise (they exist)
- Elder leisure groups who like to walk and visit their towns
- Architectural heritage folks who like to preserve cachet and correct the mistakes from the 60s and 70s (like the movement for the removal of urban highways)
- Better living, livable environment folks
- Voluntary simplicity folks
- Those in the degrowth movement (stronger in Europe)
- Peak oil activists (those ones really rock the cashbah)
- Those for the empowerment of minorities, of people living in poorer neighbourhoods and for the integration of immigrants
- Student associations
- Political parties who are very clear on cycling infrastructure issues
- And of course urban planners of the new school type
 And I concluded:
"That's a lot of folks. Properly ganged up, there is no reason for the situation not to change fast."
You can read the whole post here.

Little did I know that merely a month later, such a gang would really get created for the specific purpose of lobbying for better transportation alternatives!

This group calls itself TRANSIT, "Alliance pour le financement des transports collectifs au Québec", i.e. alliance for the (proper) financing of collective transportation in Quebec.



It is composed of the following organisations:
  • Association des usagers du transport adapté de Longueuil, an association of disabled users of Longueuil's public transit service;
  • Communauto, of course, our famous, successful and much appreciated car-share program had to be part of the gang;
  • Convercité, an agency promoting the optimisation of the urban space and environment;
  • ENvironnement JEUnesse, an organisation focusing on sensitizing and educating youth about various environmental issues, including active transportation;
  • Équiterre, a well-known NGO active in organic farming, alternative transportation, fair trade and local consumption, climate change, green advocacy in general;
  • Fondation David Suzuki, a well-known environmental advocacy NGO that became pretty vocal recently on cycling issues;
  • Forum URBA 2015, a group ralated to the University of Quebec in Montreal, dealing and organising conferences on urbanism and tourism;
  • Greenpeace, well of course, everybody knows this one;
  • Mobiligo, a consulting company specialising in commuting and mobility management;
  • Mobili.T, a centre for mobility management and the promotion of alternative transportation in the Quebec City area;
  • Table de concertation des aînés de l’île de Montréal, an organisation focusing on the 55 plus group, on issues of well-being well-aging, agism and autonomy. This is very important to me, as I think the seniors will become a very powerful force in imposing the concept of livable, walkable and quiet cities in the future. Aging in the suburbs is simply bullshit. One cannot be reliant on a car past a certain age;
  • Vivre en Ville, an organisation supporting livable communities, alternative transportation, green urbanism etc.;
  • Voyagez Futé, a centre for mobility management and the promotion of alternative transportation in the Montreal area;
Some of them I already knew, others I discovered today.
These folks, whether individually or collectively have done and are still doing far more for urban cycling than any cyclist could ever dream of.
Cycling organisations overall have been complete failures at obtaining significant improvements in cycling conditions for their members. Political activism, better urban planning, green advocacy and image makeover (Cycle chic and others) have done far more in far less time.

I am still in shock due to the timing of all of this!
I wish this coalition all the best, and I hope we all reap the fruits of all these advocacy efforts.

Saga Cité

Came across this cute little video. It is all in French of course, but one can easily figure out what this cartoon-like livable city advocacy video is trying to convey.
This is the type of initiative cyclists should associate with if they hope to obtain anything in terms of better infrastructure planning.

Basically, the vid tells the story of Colvert, a typical North American drowning in environmental, social, urban, traffic and health problems. It goes over how the city got there, through suburban sprawl, car dependency, etc. Then it relates how its population and mayoress solved the problems with courageous decisions, architectural overhaul, urban planning makeover, emphasis on public and active transportation etc.

Enjoy!



You can learn more about the Saga Cité project here (in French).

Friday, August 26, 2011

Nice videos: Flying Pigeon

The revival of a mythical Mao-era bicycle.
An icon from a time when the three "must-haves“ of every citizen was: a sewing machine, a watch and a Flying Pigeon bicycle.

The video itself is terribly romantic with a tidbit of nostalgia and some healthy dose of multicultural flavour: there you go! A winning proposition.


The Flying Pigeon Bicycle from yulu canada on Vimeo.

Now, I do not know the first thing about these particular bicycles... Some have criticised them for being terrible rattling clunkers. One can wonder if those horrible "bicycles imported  from China" to help Cuba survive its post-sovietique era oil shortage were not some of these...
Yet others are huge fans and have set up full websites dedicated to these little sweeties.
In anycase, the marketing is brillant and first class, from people who actually *get it*. Major League I say.

I wonder though where these images were filmed. Looks terribly like Vancouver to me...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Attitude towards cycling: Quebec vs. Ontario

While not a fan of the Toronto Star, this time, Christopher Hume's piece is worth a read:
"When it comes to cycling, Quebec leaves Ontario in the dust. While we spin our wheels arguing over whether bikes belong on the streets, la belle province has turned pedal power into a transit and tourism phenomenon.

If you haven’t been to Quebec in a while, prepare to share the roads — and even more amazingly, the highways — with the two-wheeled. Everywhere you turn now, bicycles are part of the traffic mix. In addition to separated lanes in Montreal, highways are marked and divided into bike lanes and vehicular lanes. Even routes that aren’t marked have signs that make it clear the two — bikes and cars — must share the road.

In Toronto, by contrast, bikes have become a cause for panic, a wedge issue exploited by elected leaders for their own benefit. It is a topic on which municipal elections can be won or lost, at least in part. That’s not entirely new, of course, but it is another indication of how the politics of Ontario — and Toronto — are becoming sclerotic. So frightened are we of change that we buy into the promise that the province’s glorious yesterday will never end.

It already has."
You can read the rest here.

Things are not as nice a portrayed in this piece, there is an awful lot that needs to be done. Especially, some backlash recently appeared and people have started mildly agitating against cyclists. However, that noise is still being drowned under the great brouhaha generated by all the Bixis coming down Berri.
Yet, it is true that Quebec's cycling atmosphere is slightly ahead of Ontario's, where some cyclists find it normal to write open letters to insult fellow cyclists instead of focusing that energy on infrastructure improvements.
Personally, I think it has to do with the issue of Anglo-Saxon mentality vs. French-Canadian. Quebec's mentality is closer to Europe (continental) than many realise, especially in Montréal.
Mikael Colville-Andersen said it: this city has the potential, all we need is the political will (i.e. balls) to make that happen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The other night...

... During Pride week, a little while back now. We were wandering on Ste Cath. the magnificent.


All bunnies were on the loose...



Came across these awesome guys...

video

Now, please note that despite all appearances:
(1) The hooting is not coming from me.
(2) I do *not* know the dude in blue.

Then, we stumbled upon these interesting "behinds"



With even more interesting fronts!!





We missed when these were being pedaled around, but it must have been quite a show!

Monday, August 22, 2011

R.I.P. Jack Layton

Alas...
Montreal born, social democrat, federal MP, NDP leader and opposition chief, Jack Layton passed away last night in Toronto at only 61. Despite multiple health problems that finally got the best of him, he led his party through last federal elections which took Quebec by storm, providing us all with some fresh oxygen and new hope for a real alternative future.


A long time progressive, Dr. Jack Layton was one of the most sincere, honest and inspiring federal politician since Tommy Douglas, fellow NDP member and father of Medicare. Of course, there is no point rewriting a biography that is widely available everywhere on the Internet. Yet, I feel it is important to underline the fact that Jack Layton did not just "talked the talk" like most bullshitters politicians usually do but he actually "walked the walk", in particular regarding transportation policies on which he had very clear positions...

Dating back from earlier years, as a young man...



To later years, as a respectable university professor...


A man who actually cycled for real, whether casually...


Professionally...


Chilling comfortably on the Couch Bike...

Source: Tree Hugger

Through uncool weather...

 Source: www.cbc.ca

To support the right causes...


Source: CP Photo/Aaron Harris via CTV

He was a man of integrity, true to his word, who did not own a car.
May your soul rest in peace! Cyclists all across Canada shall always remember you...

Tribute on College street, Toronto

Farewell...




[Updated for the last picture]

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How to survive Peak Oil: the power of community

Last part of the Peak Oil serie. This one is a pretty long one: one hour!
If you can, it would be very educational to watch from beginning to end. It builds up on the little introduction video "How will you ride the slide?", as well as on the documentary "The End of suburbia".

Basically, the problems evoked in "The End of suburbia" have already been experienced by Cuba but on a smaller scale and for different reasons. Yet, that experience is absolutely relevant in regards to what is coming our way. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba, who used to receive oil directly from there, found itself stranded for energy and had to make do from one day to another with almost no oil.

I strongly advise watching the entire documentary, yet if only transportation issues interest you, they start at 37:17 and ends at 40:00.






*********

Watch part one of the serie - "Peak Oil: How will you ride the slide?"
Watch part two of the serie - "What Peak Oil means: the End of Suburbia"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Avoidable death

Again from the Montréal Gazette:

"Death highlights bike path peril

Cement truck crushes cyclist"


This article has got to be the weakest analysis I have read in a long time.

Facts:
On August 9th, a 56-year-old cyclist was crushed to death by a cement-mixing truck as it turned north onto Frontenac St. from Notre Dame St. Both truck and cyclist were travelling west, probably obeying the same green traffic lights. The truck driver didn't see the cyclist.
Now, to represent cyclists, the reporter interviews Suzanne Lareau, Vélo Québec's CEO. She declares:
"whether it's a cyclist or motorist approaching an intersection, they have to slow down, that's the only way you'll be able to see everything that's going on around you and be able to react to the unforeseen."
Wow, what an analysis. We could never have figured that one without her. And then it goes on:
"Lareau doubted whether a separate set of traffic signals for cyclists would make a difference along Notre Dame St., noting that an existing system of signals for cyclists along Rachel St. are so unsynchronized they don't even allow enough time to cycle across an intersection."
For some reason, the Vélo Québec folks are always making soft-assed statements, such as these above, every time they are interviewed by the media. They never says anything deep, concrete or energetic while we all know they could do much better. What's up with that? Scared of loosing some financing or what?

So, we are to understand that because Rachel St. lights are unsynchronised, it means no improvements should be made on Notre Dame St., Right? No? Then you would think that she would offer suggestions... like... hum... What about proposing something... such as... uh... well... hum... let's see... Oh, yeah, getting the damned lights, well, synchronised? How hard is it to just say this? Just that bit, nothing more, bare freaking minimum but at least she would be suggesting something!!
Well, in her defense, maybe she did and it was cut out by the interviewer... Maybe...

Well, as it turns out, the problem on the Notre Dame bike path is extremely simple: poor design
It is a mostly recreational type bike path carved out in a park-like setting (the path is lined with trees on both sides) while trailing along a highway type boulevard where cars go particularly fast. This path was obviously an after thought and is not well integrated. At every intersection big surprise: Cars turning into the lane do not see cyclists coming until the very last minute and vice-versa.

 Here is the light at said intersection. Does anyone see a problem?


 When the light turns on green, first the upward arrow appear along with the pedestrian symbol followed, barely seconds later, by the turning arrow. 
This should never be allowed: you cannot have conflicting sets of road users, i.e. right turning cars vs. pedestrians and cyclists moving forward, acting on the same light.

So why did this guy die? Because nobody in this damned city has the balls to make the necessary changes, meaning:

- Stop requiring cyclists to "obey the rules of the road" and car "traffic lights". This is bullshit, and we all know it. Bicycles are NOT cars, are cyclists are NOT motorists.
Cyclists are nothing more than fast moving pedestrians. They should have the same lights as and have the green at the same time as pedestrians, each proceeding on their respective parallel infrastructures, i.e. bike path for the cyclists and crosswalk for the pedestrian.

Like this one


Or that one



- While these two categories of road users proceed, the third one waits on a red light. When the motorists lights turn green, pedestrians and cyclists wait. They alternate but can never proceed at the same time.

What's so freaking hard about this? We actually already have intersections like this in the city, so what's up with that? Is it because Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is a poor blue-collar neighbourhood nobody gives a fuck about? 

Or rather, because Notre-Dame boulevard is "sacred". Can't touch it, can't slow the damned traffic even by one km/h otherwise it would be the Apocalypse! It is already totally gridlocked at rush hour:



The necessary traffic interventions will increase waiting time at the lights for sure. So what? 
Aren't people in cars sitting comfortably anyways? Isn't it the reason they prefer cars anyways? Then, they can wait a little bit, it won't kill them but will save both pedestrians and cyclists lives.

The cause of traffic is traffic. Simply that, too many cars. Sounds silly but the only reason anyone gets stuck in jams is because they choose (not all but most of them) to take their cars to travel instead of any other mean. Traffic is not caused by lights, pedestrians, cyclists, cycle paths, Festivals, God or any other scapegoat one might come up with.

Now, it would be nice if the people supposed to represent us were more assertive in their demands for a change. Speak up! If Vélo Québec really wants to represent urban cyclists, it need to grow balls.
In the meantime, when it comes to traffic lights, cyclists should always follow the pedestrian signs. If it is not safe for a pedestrian, then it is not safe for a cyclist either. 

Last point, and the gem in the article:
"This possibility has led Montreal police to repeat their warning to cyclists and pedestrians to establish eye contact with the driver turning onto an intersection they are about to cross."
Transposed into different context:
"This possibility has led Montreal police to repeat their warning to women at risk of getting raped to always wear a female condom when walking outside, just in case."
Brilliant.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nice videos: Amsterdam loves bikes

Now, do not drown your keyboards in saliva...



One day... maybe... sigh... maybe we'll get there... some day...
Sniff.
Ok, I'm fucking depressed now...

Monday, August 15, 2011

On bikes and flowers

Walked by this cutie the other day...
Love the urban feel, simple but functional: mudguards, chaingard, bell, front wire basket... The über and absolutely typical Montreal clunker...


Decorated with awesome funky kitschy taste!


Here is someone who completely got the message.


Totally Cycle Chic!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cargo options

Who needs panniers anyways, when you can haul authentic suitcases, all of that on a tiny (check those wheels) tandem (foldable?), s'il vous plaît?


Seriously, cyclists in this city are incredible. These were not from here actually, they were tourists as they were asking for directions to the guy in front of them... Which also explains the high visibility gear...

Crappy video, I know, it was made with a cheap hand camera. I almost fell off my bike trying to film them, one hand on the handlebar!

video

I guess I am no better than that other gal after all...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Health connection

Caught in Alexis Nihon the other day:


Is Pharmaprix (Shopper's Drugmart) promoting health (and cycling) for once, instead of just profiteering on disease like most of Big Pharma?
Anyways, as long as it contributes to creating the right Zeitgeist, I am all for it!

And they got it right, to the T:
Racial diversity, no freaking helmet, nice casual clothes, big smile, healthy looking beautiful girl, wind blowing in the hair, wicker basket with fresh flowers. Purrr-fect!

How is it that a non-cycling entity with no stake in the cycling issue can manage to come up with such a perfect  image while the very cycling organisations supposed to advocate for us all cannot?

I give Pharmaprix an A+.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Not a joke

From the Montreal Gazette:


Actually, this past Thursday, coming down the Boyer bike path, I see the girl in front of me slowly steering out of the path and smashing into one of the parked cars lining the path. She landed on the hood. I was taken aback as nothing had happened: there seemed to be no reason, there was no pothole and no collision occurred. I then thought that maybe she fainted or had some sort of attack. I pull up to her and ask "Are you ok?".
The, girl, still half on her bike, half on the car's hood, was still holding her phone and finishing her texto. Obviously she was unharmed. She barely turned her head toward me and answered, "OH yeah, I'm fine, don't worry about me!" all the while texting away!!

Well, I guess we can say, thank God for bike paths where you can do shit like this with little consequences... Or, better, thank God for all of us (cyclists, pedestrians AND motorists) that such folks are choosing to ride bicycles  rather than driving cars...

Nice videos: High fashion cycling

Further indicating a possible "mainstreaming" of cycling, high profile designers have chosen to communicate on this theme.

Armani



3.1 Phillip Lim



Now, is any of this a sign that cycling is becoming mainstream?
Those who believe in this theory seem to forget that fashion does not follow the crowds, it precedes it, it is avant-garde, sometimes engaging into areas where, well, not everybody follows them...
Then, another obvious point is the fact that these folks do not really care about cycling per se. It is the newest trend for them right now but we simply do not know how long designers will be interested in cycling. Their new-found caprice may last one season before scuba-diving or bare-ass skiing or whatever takes over.

Therefore, it is nice, we should definitely highlight it and surf the wave: it contributes to the positive zeitgeist, but I would not count on it in lieu of straightforward advocacy for decent infrastructure and laws.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A revolution?

Montreal Cycle Chic just published this picture:


A Dutch bike in Montréal?
Wow, now that's a major revolution... Actually, it is the third one I see, having previous spotted two of them in the Plateau area.
Are things changing in the capital of old three speed beaters and raggidy duct-taped junk road bikes...?

Christmas in July

Cycling is booming Québec, I think I have been waxed about this one ad nauseam

What I found out recently though is that not only is urban cycling on a total roll, but sport cycling is literally exploding as well. Roading is the biggie. I have been hearing this from hubby's colleagues and all the folks I know in professional fields: golfing is ringard and for has-beens, cycling is in. Professional firms finally caught on with the idea that golf really sucks some boring dick that only older partners enjoy licking.
(Yuck, I know... I should stop being so gross... But, hey, the point of this blog is also for me to vent alright! I did have to suck these things up in my previous life...)
Younger folks are much more attracted to cycling, which, as a bonus, allows them to beat some serious partner's ass for once...

Anyways, hubby had been toying with the idea of getting himself a road bike after several of his colleagues have started investing in major ass jewels. Yet, how does one know whether they will enjoy a new activity unless they try it at some point? One cannot simply walk into a shop and drop big $$$ on a untried toy. Dilemma... Asked above-mentioned colleagues for a trial... Nice but not enough to get a trust worthy impression.

And then... Boom! Santa Klaus drops one in the chimney!


Can you believe this shit? Is this serendipity or what?

Ok, not so much Santa than a cousin moving in a new place and dumping an old wheelset left there by the previous tenant. A Raleigh Record, the most basic of all entry-level road bikes.

All red and proud.




I wish I knew which year it was made in.


"Vintage", as in old school, nobody-rides-these-things-anymore (not true). But hey, it's a free bike!


Always funny to see road bikes with kickstand. The previous owner was probably using it as a commuting tool.



It was made in Canada. Weights a ton, "high tensile steel tubing".


Some rust...


yet, it is in an almost perfect state. A tune-up, some new tape and there we go. Hubby will be able to play with it and figure it all out thoroughly.

As I commented recently on Lovely Bicycle!, people do not tap family enough. There are literally a gazillion bicycles laying idle in folks' basements, attics etc. All we need to do is reach out.

Ask and you shall receive! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I 'm biking in the rain!

Love these two pictures both courtesy of Montreal Cycle Chic.

 



Why?
Because it so happens that I got caught under that very same downpour early June, on my way back from the Bilboquet on Laurier. Came back soaked up.
Actually, since real *summer* kicked in, I found myself caught in every single downpour, carrying groceries, going the the market or to appointments. Every time, I came back drenched down to the underwear.

So what? I am not dead.
As long as I am on a segregated cycle lane, who cares? My bike got to enjoy a nice wash down. I got a nice shampoo and shower, tropical spa style. Salad got an advance tossing. The cheese might not have appreciated though.

Tonight it's pouring outside again.



Supposed to drag until tomorrow. Will I get caught in it again?
Oh well, c'est la vie.

UPDATE (10-08-2011): I did.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fruixi

Building on Bixi's success, the city authorities designed a new program, called Fruixi.
Some less priviledged neighbourhoods in Montreal are complete food deserts, particularly when it comes to fruits and vegetables. So the idea was to take advantage of the mobility and flexibility of bicycles to bring old fashioned markets into these neighbourhoods.


They are basically trikes and they will carry whatever is in season. I caught their schedule taped onto a lampost: