Tag Archives: Cycling

Confessions of a Casual Commuter Cyclist

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I am the most casual of casual commuter cyclists. Riding into work, I now find the 20 minute walk too long. I have no idea how long into the fall I will ride and don’t know what my cold temperature threshold will be for my fingers and face. The moment I have to start bundling up to stay warm on the cycle into the office might be the sign I will need that walking is the preferred way to go.

I have been cycling into work for most of the summer now; I credit that to my pocket book. I paid for over $170 for a $49.95 tune up – mainly because my bike is old and in the 15 or so years I have had it, it never received the care or attention it deserved/needed. This year I did and thanks to the good folks at Kunstadt Sports on Bank in the Glebe I was ready for a summer of biking. Because of the tune up I feel a lot safer on my bike.

Liz and I have made good use of the bikes this year, Monday to Friday and on weekends. The only (small) sacrifice I have made is not to make the daily stop into Starbucks as I would if I was walking to the office. I have avoided so far (knock on wood) getting stuck in a rain storm, colliding with another bike and I have stayed clear of scratching any cars whether it was my fault or theirs.

Generally I am happy with being able to get around the City of Ottawa on my bike. I haven’t had to worry about cars too much as drivers are as polite to me as I cycle as I am to other cyclists when I am driving. The path system is good, there a missing links and from what I can see Ottawa is trying to make the connections. Some intersections are worrisome; the Wellington St. /Sussex Ave. /Mackenzie Ave. at the Chateau Laurier is nerve rattling. We have made it through there a few times, but seeing how try not to get trapped in that area does make you think twice. There is some confusion in the approach the new lanes along Mackenzie Avenue on the west side of the US Embassy, especially as you come from the National Art Gallery of Canada. I still don’t feel at ease on the O’Connor dual lane, I would have preferred lanes that went with the flow of traffic – south on O’Connor and North on Metcalfe St. or Kent St. These examples aside, Ottawa has been doing a good job.

I am not perfect as a cyclist, however as a driver (of a car) I have a good sense of rules and the reason they need to be followed. Being a good and courteous driver makes for a good and courteous cyclist. I have noticed a few things while in the saddle – these are just observations of how cyclists can do their part to stay alive.

Use hand signals correctly. I recently learned that cyclists can indicate turning right by sticking out their right arm. I still use the left arm method to show I am turning right. On the left and right arm pointing signals I have seen too many cyclists pointing to the ground – is that their way of telling me you are turning right or look out for a pothole? Come on, if you are going to indicate turns that way, do it with conviction! Point with pride!

Follow the traffic lights. Not watching the lights is becoming a problem on the O’Connor Street lanes. Cyclists are running reds, not stale green lights but RED lights! This morning at Laurier and O’Connor an incident was avoided when alert cyclists saw the red light running biker before they headed west on Laurier. If that had been a car, there would have been bike bells ringing and obscene hand gestures and yelling at the car, but we don’t care if a cyclist runs a red?

How about that distracted driving law? We don’t allow drivers to wear ear pods and headphones when driving? Somehow this is okay for cyclists? And one armed cyclists travel around the city because the other hand is holding the phone? The same “put the phone away out of sight” should apply as a safety measure for cyclists as well as motorists. Pulling over to the side to check for a missed call or waiting for a text/email should be the rule for cyclists as it is for motorists.

Finally, why the race on Laurier? I am passed everyday by other cyclists on the Laurier bike lane. What’s the rush? The lanes are wide enough to pass, but sometimes the speed they pass me at is incredible. Is there a speed limit for travelling on city bike lanes? I suspect, serious bike commuters can’t wait for cooler weather when casual commuters me abandon the bikes for pounding the pavement.

Since my days on the old and long forgotten Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee for the City of Ottawa, the bike path network has improved a great deal. The city and NCC are doing their part to make cycling safe and accessible for more casual cyclists and turning them to being more serious about using their bikes to get around. Is it time for cyclists themselves to call out others who they see as being unknowingly reckless or ignorant when cycling in the city?

p.s. don’t  get me going about parents that make their kids wear a helmet cycling when they don’t.

 

 

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

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Ah, the sounds and sights of spri…swish ding ding

The budding of new leaves in the trees, the sprouting of crocuses and tulips after a winter of waiting to be encouraged to grow with warm spring sun is something I look forward to. I love the actions of nature signalling the coming of the new season and all that it means for us on two legs.

For many it means the breakout of runners, bikes, chariots, rollerblades and skateboards – all those fun activities.

It also means the breakout of runners, bikes, chariots, rollerblades and skateboards – all those activities that might scare the faint of heart pedestrians. It’s the coming of the bell rings, shouts of “on your left” and the swish of cyclists speeding by ‘owning’ the multi use paths across the city.

The NCC recently announced $57 Million for improvements in the Rideau Canal infrastructure. Outside of new paddle access points along the canal no specific improvements have been announced, I bet many pedestrians would be very happy if a portion on that would be spent on widening the paths along the canal and giving the paths a width that could make them accessible for ‘multiple use’.

In the same manner the increased year-long use of cyclists in the city has caused concern for drivers who are on the lookout for the unexpected cyclist , walkers along the pathway facilities are also on the lookout for a speeding cyclists along with increased use by e-bikes/scooters. It was not too long ago that wider urban sidewalks were part of new planning in our city and are now part of what we expect.  We should expect the same for our multiuser paths.

The City of Toronto has created wide ‘real’ multi use paths along it waterfront that provide space for cyclists, pedestrians and all would be marathoners. Such paths would be a great benefit to Ottawans and visitors that come to our great city, especially for Canada 150 next year.

Toronto Pathways

Wider paths will provide a sense of relief for cyclists who do not have to use the roads if they chose to, but the wider paths will also give a sense of calm to pedestrians that jump at sound of the bells or a cyclist whizzing by – probably in the same manner that a cyclist fears the driver who is not paying attention and sharing the road with them.

We will have to wait for the intentions of the NCC and how the $57 million will be allocated – to the canal, to summer ‘animation’ of the canal or the improvement of the aging walking/running/cycling infrastructure along the Rideau Canal.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.

Blogging 101: Being Distracted: Driving vs Cycling

A nod to the WordPress Daily Prompt for Sunday; take a local issue and present both sides.

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There was uproar in the cycling community over a recent news report on CTV Ottawa http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/life-video/video-ctv-ottawa-distracted-cycling/article23377319/ that Ottawa Police are asking the Ontario Government to add to cyclists to the Distracted Driving law currently on the books. The cycling community was almost unanimously against the proposal. Me, not so much so.

As part of Blogging 101 and making a Blogging Prompt personal, I present my take on the two sides, the pro vs the con…I’ll start with objecting to the proposal.

Distracted Cycling NO WAY!

The biggest knock against cyclists is that we want too much. We want to feel safe on the road and want more room to cycle. These are not unusual requests – I think most people get that. Now for the Ottawa Police to come out and put distracted driving on cyclists is absurd, as a cyclist I am always on the lookout for what drivers and other cyclists are doing. I am a defensive cyclist, and proud of it.

The police proposal also suggests that cyclists who have an Ontario Driver’s License be given demerit points when ticketed. WHAT? REALLY? My permit is for driving, not cycling! You want to ticket me and take away my right to cycle? Then start licensing cyclists (not that I think this should actually be done) and force all cyclists to be tested regularly.

Many that have commented on this say that they rarely see it take place.  Most distracted actions come from drivers, not cyclists. Don’t pin the cyclists on the lack of success police have in eliminating distracted driving. Come to the cyclists when you have solved the distracted driver issue. Taking care of that makes riding a bike 100% safer on Ottawa Streets.

Distracted Cycling, It’s about time!

As spring approaches and the snow melts and bike lanes and paths are clear again I fear the cyclist. I fear them as a pedestrian and as a driver. I fear missing a cyclist after doing the shoulder check and then almost driving into one. I ask, ‘where did that person come from?’ Why are they not looking out for me as I look out for them?

I have no problem with cyclists that are distracted being ticketed and having the tickets noted on their driving records. Most cyclists have a driver’s license, even if they don’t own a car. It’s the best form of ID to have and the permit allows a cyclist to rent or car share a vehicle when a bike just won’t do. I will say it here, yes – it should impact their insurance rates as well.

This proposal takes aim the few cyclists that ride distracted. I have seen more than a few cyclists talking on their cell phone while cycling. I also consider a cyclist taking a drink while riding being distracted as well, especially if it is the cause of an incident. I am a cyclist and a driver. I cycle as I drive, with the “leave the phone alone’ pledge front of mind and the phone in a pouch where I can’t touch it when cycling.

Almost all of our streets are two way, as should the distracted driving law should be. If this opens the door to the City or Province licensing cyclists, let’s have that discussion.