May 30, 2016

Books, Pedelecs, and Bike to Work Day

This past weekend saw a three day medley of cycling activities. Saturday was the 3rd Annual Reading Line, Sunday was the Bike with Mike festival, and today was Bike to Work Day!

Books on Bathurst
The Reading Line riding north on Bathurst

Bathurst Street is an interesting place to do a book ride for several reasons. First off, it raises awareness about the lack of continuous north-south cycling routes in Toronto; especially north of Bloor Street. You got some rich history at Fort York and the Tollkeeper’s Cottage at Davenport Road. And of course, one of Toronto’s newest library branches – Fort York – marks the start of this ride. The ride paid tribute to Jane Jacobs given her 100th birthday on May 4 (same day as Star Wars Day) and to June Callwood. Callwod was a former journalist, an Order of Canada recipient, and founded at least fifty community groups in Canada. The Ontario government recognized June 2 as June Callwood Day.
Riders at June Callwood Park
Roughly 30 to 40 people took part in Books on Bathurst with police bicycle escorts. From the Fort York library, the ride went north to the Tollkeeper's Cottage for some cookies and lemonade before heading back south to the pink covered June Callwood Park near Fort York. The event got some coverage in the Parkdale Villager, while Dandyhorse Magazine's Chelsea La Vecchia wrote a great article about Saturday's event.

I put up some more pictures from the event in this Flickr album.

Bike with Mike
A BBQ bicycle at Bike With Mike
During the previous city council term, Mike Layton was the only councillor who was a full time cyclist. That changed with Joe Cressy's election in 2014 in a neighbouring ward, while Mary-Margaret McMahon in the east end also bikes regularly. As an unofficial kick off to Bike Month, Layton hosted the annual "Bike with Mike" event since he was first elected in 2010. This 6th annual event at Christie Pits Park offered free safety checks courtesy of MEC, bicycle workshops, community groups such as Cycle Toronto and the Community Bicycle Network, back issues of Dandyhorse Magazine, a barbecue (and other refreshments), and the sale of plants and crafts.
Riding the BionX Electric Assist Haul-A-Day
This event allowed me to cross off something from my cycling to do list, which is to ride an electric assist bicycle (a.k.a. pedelec). Boris Kaganovich was talking to people at the event about Bike Friday’s Haul-a-Day bike from Portland, Oregon and plans to import them to Canada. The bike he showcased had electric assist, though non-assist versions are also available which at 15 kg (33 lbs) are not much heavier than hybrid bikes. It had smaller wheels like a folding bike, an extended rear rack to transport children or cargo, and a front cargo compartment. While it was awkward to get on initially, the electric assist really allowed the bike to move. Even at the lowest assist setting, just some light pedalling was needed to get the bike up to 30 km/h on a short stretch of Christie Street. For my first impression, electric assist can help those who need to carry larger loads or those with reduced mobility get around.
This Haul-A-Day's unique shifter shows flatter hills for harder gears
While it could be called a North American cargo bike, I am hoping to do a follow up post on transporting cargo and children using a bakfiets; the Dutch cargo bike with the big box in front. If there are other things I should add to my cycling to do list, by all means let me know.

Bike to Work Day
Bicycle police escorts preparing for the group commute
It's hard to believe one year has passed since I first tried commuting to Pickering by bike. For this year's Bike to Work Day, I decided to change the route by using Yonge Street and catch the group ride making its way down to City Hall for the pancake breakfast. Once I got to Gerrard Street, there were some cops on bikes, which indicated the group ride was near. Hundreds of cyclists took part in this ride which started at High Park in the west, Yonge and Lawrence in the north, and Danforth and Woodbine in the east before converging at Yonge and Bloor.
The Bike to Work Day group ride at Yonge & Gerrard
The pancake breakfast wasn’t an option since I had a GO train to catch, but I was pleased to find out Mayor John Tory was riding with the group. A testament to the changing attitude towards cycling in Toronto, but we have a ways to go to catch up to Vancouver whose cycling advocacy group HUB is expecting 13,000 participants for their Bike to Work Week compared to 2,800 who signed up for Toronto’s event.

Happy commuting!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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