Stylocycle’s Blog

Take the lane!
May 18, 2010, 3:01 am
Filed under: around town, commute by bike, hazards

Our provincial legislators are considering a change to our traffic laws that would require that drivers maintain a minimum 3-foot distance from cyclists when passing us on the left.

Dammit! While it’s an idea with some practical merits, it further entrenches the popular idea that cyclists belong shoved over on the right hand side of the road (where most of the gutter hazards are).

But here’s the thing that really sticks in my craw. Under current traffic laws, cyclists already have a right to be *in* the lane, taking up the usual space of one vehicle. Here’s what the local paper has to say, “Under current laws bicycles have as much right to the road as a vehicle.” (The Record: The article goes along to explain that “[a]long some streets, such as King Street through downtown Kitchener, cyclists are encouraged by the city to take the whole lane. Drivers do not always appreciate that.” (Ibid).

Drivers don’t always appreciate that?

Whether appreciate here refers to their entitlement issues or comprehension issues, I leave to your interpretation, but I”m going to close this one out by quoting from “Shit My Dad Says”:

“You’re riding up this guy’s ass because why? Because you are in such a hurry to be on time for that nothing that you do?!”

And the irony is that when those drivers don’t appreciate us riding in the middle of the road, where we are legally entitled to be, we are invariably faster or at least moving at the same pace as the rest of traffic. Cars may beat us off the block, but in dense city traffic, the cyclist is more efficient. That’s why we have huge companies that are built on the efficiencies of bike travel for messenger services. Duh.


Driving is a pain in the ass.
March 12, 2010, 7:40 pm
Filed under: hazards

Usually my blog traffic is pretty quiet, but wow! Swear a little and the internets sure do take notice! My single line post about the guys who commented on my bike drew 50 hits in one day… about 4 times as many as I usually have. I can just imagine what will happen with the title for this posting… but seriously:

Driving is a pain in the ass.

Yesterday Boy and Spouse and I had to come from three different places and get to the same destination all the way across town. The 3 departure points were all en route to the final destination so BOy picked me up in the car, and then we headed off to get Spouse to go on together to a meeting (about home schooling arrangements and university entry etc).

But Boy is a new driver, and I am an old passenger… and so I was chatting to him the way I chat to his dad if ever we are in the car (or, frankly, as we chat now while we bike home together each day). I distracted Boy with my patter and Boy accidentally rear-ended the car in front of us. Not a big deal… we were at a light that had just changed to green, the car in front of us accelerated and Boy followed suit; that’s when I caused his distraction and he failed to notice the car in front of us suddenly stopping. our nose mounted his tail and crunched the tail-gate a little bit. Off to the accident reporting centre we had to go. Rest of the day: blown to hell.

That said, I”m really proud of the kid for how he handled the issue. Last year at this time he would have blamed me, been a horrible shit abut it, and likely would have had a tantrum. He’s not had a good history of taking responsibility for his shit. But yesterday? Yesterday he made me proud. He filled out the report for the police, and wrote: “I was following too closely, got distracted and failed to notice the car in front of me had stopped.” And on the way home from it all, he asked if I was sure I was OK because my lap belt had pulled a bit across my left hip, and he didn’t come down on me at all… and when his dad got home later Boy came down from his room and said, “I’m sorry about the car. I should not have looked away.” Our car isn’t even damaged except for a wee crack in the plastic piece below the bumper.

If only we’d each taken the bus…

Vehicular riding
February 9, 2009, 10:15 pm
Filed under: commute by bike, hazards

I learned to ride a bike in Vancouver, where I lived as a child. I received my first real bike for my 6th birthday but a series of bizarre upheavals meant I didn’t actually learn to ride it until I was 8 years old and some other kid had had it at his disposal, and rode it what were then glorified logging roads on Hollyburn Mountain. By the time I had the bike in my possession again it was kind of trashed, and I was hangin’ at my mom’s place in Kitsilano (back when it was for poor folk, not the Canadian equivalent of Venice Beach yuppies). I recall that my first outing was on the sidewalk in front oh her low-rise building, and that I failed to properly make a right hand turndown the path that would lead to the main entry in the courtyard, and that I instead ran headlong into a brick wall. It was a little while before I got back on the bike, and longer still before I learned to see the bike as my friend. I had years of bad cycling habits to get over, the worst of which was being confined to riding on the sidewalk ’round and ’round the city block on which I lived in Toronto with my father. I was not learning that the bicycle could take me places I wanted to go. Mostly I felt like some kind of circus poodle, riding a banana-seat cruiser around and around the centre ring.

I was a teenager before I learned how to ride a bike on the roads, and to be honest, one of the best reasons I had for riding a bike was that I could manage it while, um, in an altered state. I still have a particularly vivid memory of riding home from downtown to uptown on the lazy side-streets that looked remarkably like the backdrop for a Bugs Bunny cartoon. In retrospect, I do not recommend such motivations or states for cycling. However, I did learn to ride reasonably aggressively at that time, for it was necessary to traverse large swaths of the city at its busiest times. I was a North Toronto girl dating a boy from the Beaches — about a 15 k trek across town from my place, and I often had to get out to the Beaches after getting off work at the same time that everyone else was doing the same. So, I learned to claim my lane back then, but that old pedestrian model of cycling stuck with me in many instances, and I’d find myself dismounting to handle left-hand turns by using the pedestrian crosswalks.

Only in the dead of night would I make a left-hand turn in a regular traffic lane. I have never worried about claiming my line in most instances because city traffic doesn’t move that fast, so bikes are generally able to keep up just fine. I was always afraid, however, of falling over while trying to get up to speed on a left turn, so I just avoided it.

But here’s what I’ve learned this year, truly vehicular riding is much easier when you have the right bike. Part of the reason I used to worry about falling is that — like most girls back then — I was riding a boy’s model with a high crossbar, and it was a 10-speed racing bike with narrow tire, and built for riding while hunched way down. That is: they are really not great for when you have to stop and start frequently; they are best for getting up to speed and then going uninterrupted for a long time. (I admit, I loved riding my bike down the Bayview Glen alongside the Don Valley, just east of Rosedale; it was also great for climbing the hill from Rosedale to Saint Clair. I admit that I’d have to walk the Blue Beauty up a hill like that now.

But: here I am, age 41, finally learning to claim my lane for all purposes. I can cross multiple lanes to get to the left-turn lane when I want to, and I can pause there as needed while waiting for the light to change, and I can mount easily and get moving quickly enough not to peeve drivers behind me. What’s the deal?

1. Sitting upright makes shoulder checks way easier for lane changes.

2. Being able to plant my feet makes it easier to wait; I don’t have to try to figure out how to keep my bike in balance as though I were a bike courier with aspirations of joining the Cirque du Soleil.

3. No high crossbar, but a step through frame means that my clothing isn’t hung up on the frame. Back in the day, we chose the boy frames precisely because it was the only option for getting the skirt up, out of the way of a chain (long skirts combined with cycling were common in the goth crowd)

So, if for safety reasons I’m more and more interested in taking a vehicular attitude to riding, I’m learning that having the right bike for the job is crucial. I am, therefore, really happy to have had the advice of the guys at Curbside in Toronto when I was making my purchase decision last year.

Now, if the ploughs would just get rid of the last of the snow from the roads in the residential neighbourhoods! I suppose the milder weather will manage that task more effectively in the next few days.

I’m off to write an advanced seminar for presentation this week, so I likely won’t have any more entries until next week, even though I’m certain to be riding around town quite a bit this week.

Not cycling for now
December 5, 2008, 1:41 am
Filed under: hazards, Uncategorized

I regularly hear from colleagues, friends, and family to be careful on my bicycle. Everyone worries that I’ll fall, or get run over… and certainly we are all aware that road deaths for cyclists are common (though perhaps not as common as traffic deaths for car drivers and occupants but I don’t have comparative per capita data on that so I’ll give it a pass for now).

What I don’t ever hear is that I should be careful just walking out the door. Clearly, I need someone to warn me. I was walking out of the house on the driveway Tuesday night; I didn’t see the black ice on the new tarmac and I FLIPPED. It was a spectacular Wyle. E. Coyote style flip with my feet straight up in the air, above my head, and with my torso plummeting. I managed to reach up and protect my head against a meeting with the ground (for, in the end, I really am a ‘brain on sticks’, and can afford for almost anything except my head to be injured), but I landed squarely on my shoulder and bounced on my hip. I was winded, and I seem to be bruised deep in the flesh… still waiting for the marks to surface.  My whole upper right quadrant is pretty damned stiff and sore… so: no biking for me, probably for another week or so.

Luckily classes are over for the term .