A dozen habits to adopt for surviving and thriving on a bike in the city.

22 Mar

This list is a fraction of what there is to know about urban cycling. My new book, The Urban Cycling Survival Guide, contains loads more information on everything you need to know about riding a bike in the city. The launch party takes place April 9th at the Gladstone Hotel, Melody Bar, from 7 to 10pm. It is now available online, or at your favourite bookseller – http://ecwpress.com/urbancycling


1. Respect the red

When you ride through a red light you break the social contract that keeps road chaos at bay. Doing so not only puts you and others at risk, unfortunately it also reinforces the widely held belief that cyclists can’t be trusted. Lack of trust leads to fear and anger – neither of these is useful on city streets.

2. Ride predictably and hold your ground

You’ve got a right to ride on the road – do so responsibly by riding in a straight and predictable line. Swerving in and out of the line of sight of fellow riders and drivers, or making sudden moves, makes you seem unpredictable. Hold your line and don’t be afraid to own your space – aim to ride 1m from the curb or parked cars when possible.

3. Embrace the light

Use them — white up front, red at the back, both on flash mode. Seriously, you’re just not visible enough to those around you without lights, and the law requires them. Make it a habit to put them on when you unlock your bike, and to avoid theft take them off when you lock it back up. Always bring lights along for the ride if there’s any chance you’ll be out after dark.

4. Communicate your intentions

Letting other road users know what you’re planning to do goes a long way to reducing your risk of collisions or close calls. Your best tools for this are hand signals, eye contact, your bell (legally required), voice, and body language. Be as clear as possible, and watch for the messages and cues others are sharing with you.

5. Take the scenic route

Side streets are generally less stressful and more enjoyable to ride on than main streets. With fewer cars, the air is also cleaner and you can stay cool by riding in the shade. Pay extra attention to driveways and intersections, and look for the sometimes obscured 3 white dots in the roadway (vertical ellipsis) – ride over and stop on it to help trigger a light change with your bike.

6. Lock it or lose it

Your lock (a good one is worth the money) should always go through your frame and ideally both your wheels. Trees, gas pipes, accessible ramps, and flimsy wooden fences should all be avoided. Consider getting a rear wheel lock for extra protection.

7. Be kind to your bits

Your sit bones, not your bits, are where most of your weight should be supported by your bike seat. Check your seat height and angle – adjust accordingly.

8. Stay focused and alert

If you’re attentive to what’s happening ahead and around you, you’ll be able to take evasive action and reduce risk. Shoulder check before entering the roadway and prior to making any moves.

9. Pass like a pro

Pass to the left of most right-turning motor vehicles. Alerting other riders before you pass, either with your bell, or by saying ‘passing on your left’, is better than passing unexpectedly – never pass other riders on the right.

10. Beware all car doors & large vehicles

Any of the doors of parked and stopped motor vehicles can swing open at any time so watch for signs of life and stay out of the doorzone. Trucks and buses have a wide turning radius and large blindspots – do not engage this enemy, stay back to stay safe!

11. Mind the gap

Yes, those streetcar tracks are trying to bite you. Cross them at enough of an angle that your wheels won’t get stuck in the gap, watch for cracks/holes in surrounding concrete, and be extra cautious when they’re wet because your wheels can slip out from under you on a turn. Same goes with all metal road surfaces like utility hole covers and metal plates covering construction sites.

12. Don’t be a jerk

Everyone loves almost being nailed by someone flying by on a bike when they’re getting on/off the streetcar, or crossing the street – not! Don’t be that jerk. Yield to pedestrians, anticipate the next transit stop, slow down or stop until people have cleared the road, and proceed on your merry way once the doors of the streetcar have closed. Remember to watch out for the stragglers.

Enjoy the ride!


Urban Cycling Survival Guide Launch Party!

18 Feb

So, the book will be available in stores as of March 1st, but the party to celebrate isn’t until April 9th. Can’t wait to celebrate with friends and colleagues!

UC launch invite

I wrote a book! The story of The Urban Cycling Survival Guide

25 Sep

In late September 2012, it finally occurred to me that I too often referred to the ‘gap in cycling education’ as an issue of concern in the urban mobility dialogue.  In that moment I decided it was time for action instead of talk – I was going to try and help fill that gap.

The book idea began as one focussed on the province of Ontario, quickly shifted to addressing cycling across Canada, and within a few months of discussion and reflection landed firmly and finally as a book that would address how to cycle in cities across North America. By October 2013 I had found the right publisher, signed a contract with ECW Press, and officially begun my journey as a writer.

In the early days of this project, when I was still in disbelief that I’d actually signed myself up to take on something of this scale, a dear friend gave me a postcard with this quote on it.  We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot. Eleanor Roosevelt. Having glanced countless times at these words posted by my desk, I can now fully appreciate their truth.

After months of writing, researching, interviewing, editing, re-writing, and more editing, I’m thrilled to say that the book is now a reality and available for pre-order in advance of the Spring (March) 2015 launch. Beautifully illustrated by Marc Ngui, it also includes some of my photographs. Early feedback has been very positive and I can hardly wait to see it in people’s hands. In the meantime, I compiled an excerpt for the Cities for People series on Spacing –  check out Adding a bike to your urban mobility toolkit .

Website - UrbanCyclingFlyer



Happy 9th Birthday Kensington Market Garden Car!

17 May

Garden Car - new spring trunk by Yvonne BambrickI spent part of the afternoon buying flowers, cleaning and doing the spring planting of the Garden Car trunk. While she belongs to the community, I’m her caretaker.

She was in rough shape when we towed her back earlier this week but is looking much better now. Once the sickly willow tree / centrepiece is replaced, we’ll be able to finish planting the centre – likely some tomatoes, basil, mint and flowers. The grass on the ‘front lawn’ also needs to be reseeded, but I think I’ll wait until after the first Pedestrian Sunday so that the new grasslings don’t get trampled.towed back in spring - garden car


Every May since 2007, we’ve brought the beloved local icon out of her winter hibernation spot and back onto Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market.  So integrated into the streetscape is this unique garden that like clockwork when we arrive with the ‘carden’ in tow people inevitably ask why we’re taking her away. Or, without having to say a word, they slow down, and show a now recognizable look of concern. ‘Don’t worry’, we reply, ‘We’ve just brought her back for the summer’. ‘Oh, cool – I was worried there for a second.’ is the general response.  I’m still amazed at how much people care for this colourful oddity, they’re protective even – I truly look forward to these exchanges.

As I puttered away scraping off the tags and posters from last year, pulling out the dead plants, turning the soil, and planting the flowers, quite carefully arranged, I was also regularly engaged in conversation with passersby who stopped to ask questions, and hear the story.  ‘Are you allowed to keep it here?’, ‘What is it? Is is really filled with dirt?’, ‘Cool, did you make this?’, ‘What kind of plant is that?’…  I love spending time sharing the story and history of the garden car with locals, visitors, and tourists. The idea translates pretty well even if there’s a language barrier for the full explanation. I’m fairly confident that the garden car is the most photographed thing in Kensington Market – most people have never seen anything like it.

original garden car - curious kidsBuilt in June 2006 by (now defunct) Streets are for People! and friends, we asked for forgiveness rather than permission, and were allowed by the City to keep it on the street as public art provided that it was insured, and removed for the winter months. Getting permission would have been impossible without the help of our local Councillor, and the support of the Toronto Parking Authority who were willing to waive the parking costs. original garden car - chalk bumper stickers

Nicknamed ‘The Garden Car’, her full name is the Community Vehicular Reclamation Project – there’s even a song, though I don’t remember the words. After 6 seasons, the original Garden Car was put out to pasture in Spring 2012 and found the perfect retirement home as part of the PACT Grow to Learn Schoolyard Gardening Program. This little piece of downtown was quickly embraced by her new uptown neighbours, and apparently much appreciated by the seniors who preferred gardening in a raised bed.Original Garden Car - Fall 2011


The second Garden Car was built in May 2012. With funds for materials provided by the BIA, and a mural grant from the City, I pulled together a small team of local artists to help transform the scrap car (only $200!) into what is now a lovely colourful urban garden. We captured it all on video but have yet to edit the ‘Making of the Garden Car video’ – a project for another day.Garden Car artists - May 2012


In the meantime though, you can see and smell and sit upon this beautiful PARKing spot anytime you’re in Kensington Market – she’s hanging out at the SW corner of Augusta & Oxford.


Quoted: Cycling Sense – Advocates urge road-sharing initiatives

2 Apr

I occasionally like to post articles in which I’m quoted.  I’ve highlighted my quotes in bold.


Cycling Sense: Advocates urge road-sharing initiatives

By, Sarah Ratchford
Novae Res Urbis, Toronto Edition Vol.18 – No.13  — Friday March 28th, 2014

Spring, maybe, is coming to Toronto, ensuring a resurgence of cyclists and a fresh round of discussions on effective road-sharing strategies.

The annual Ontario Bike Summit will be held in Toronto on April 14-15, with an agenda that includes a discussion on how to create bicycle-friendly communities.

Meanwhile, a new report from the Ontario Professional Planners Institute calls for the inclusion of “active transportation,” such as cycling and walking, as a building block of healthy, sustainable communities.

The report, a follow-up to a 2012 study “Healthy Communities and Planning for Active Transportation,” says that many Ontario municipalities are in the process of establishing policies and practices to include cycling, walking and related activities as part of their regulatory frameworks.

“Further progress is needed, however, as few communities have implemented these policies in the development of their transportation network,” the report states.

Long-time Toronto cycling advocate Yvonne Bambrick says that, even with city bike plan in place, increased efforts are needed to promote road-sharing knowledge by drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.  

“What we need is public education,” she told NRU “Bikes belong on streets, and we need to look at how bikes are to interact [with others using the road].” She says those norms will be best set by public education campaigns, which she argues have been neglected in the last five years.

She describes marketing campaigns on sharing the road as a “worthy investment.”
(YB note: During the interview I was clear that these public education campaigns should be targeted to all road users, not just people riding bikes.)

The OPPI report says planners have a role to play in implementing the province’s Cycling Strategy, developed in response to a 2012 review by the Office of the Chief Coroner that cited 129 cyclist deaths between 2006 and 2010 and 95 pedestrian deaths in 2010. The coroner’s office concluded that “100 per cent of [pedestrian and cyclist] deaths were preventable,” according to OPPI.

In emphasizing the role of planners in the development of active transportation policies, OPPI states that “widespread action is needed to implement an active transportation system that reduces automobile dependency, increases use of active transportation modes, addresses sedentary lifestyle issues and decreases pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths throughout the province.”

A “critical next step,” according to OPPI, is a shift in public policy that puts a priority of the development of a “complete streets” approach to the design of roadways and a people centred approach to community development

In a press release on the OPPI report, association president Paul Stagl stated he is impressed with examples where healthy community best practices are included in official plan policies, subdivision design and site plan approvals.

“The success of these strategies is reflected in large measure by the broad partnership of interests that have come together to embrace and to implement the objectives of healthy communities – planners, health officials, municipal managers and provincial and municipal leaders, among others.”

Echoing OPPI’s message for all communities to address active transportation in their plans, Bambrick says cycling infrastructure needs to be developed for inner suburbs in Toronto, not just for downtown residents. 

“We shouldn’t just be focusing our attention on the core,” she tells NRU, suggesting there is room for bike lanes on arterial roads. “We’re still well behind schedule [in the suburbs].” “Just because people don’t live in the downtown core doesn’t mean they don’t want to use their bikes,” she says.


Rivers of bicycles, oh my! Tips for the Spring bicycle deluge.

31 Mar

Spring ridersThe seasonal flood of bicycles is as sure a sign of Spring as tree buds, litter piles, and tulips. As with most things in life, this is heaven to some, and hell to others. Below are just a few thoughts, cautions, and insights for both drivers and riders as the ‘bike season’ gets underway.

Riders: If at all possible, take your first ride of the season on the weekend, or after work/school, when you’re not in a rush. Along with these other Spring tips, dust off the cobwebs, pump up those tires, test your brakes & lights, give your chain a little lube, and take her for a spin. You’ll be better able to enjoy your re-found freedom, and have the time to stop in at the local bike shop to solve any mechanical problems.

Riders: Yes, it really does feel amazing to ride a bike again for the first time since whenever. It’s easy to get distracted and caught up in feeling like you’re flying, but you must remember that traffic is still traffic and you’re part of it when riding your bike. Go ahead, enjoy the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, but stay focused on the task at hand; riding predictably, as part of traffic, to arrive safely at your destination. Save the joyrides for weekends and summer nights, not for the morning or evening commute.

Drivers: Please be patient. Many of the people riding along beside, in front, and behind you have either been cramped up in public transit vehicles, alone in cars, or car-pooling for the past 6months and they’re feeling exhilarated to be back out in the world moving around on their own terms.  Just as you’ve got to get used to sharing the road with more bikes again, they’ve got to get back into the rhythm of the ride and sharing the road with you. Remember, bicycles are considered vehicles under the law and have as much right to use the roads as motor vehicles. And cycling is fun, maybe this is the year you’ll give it a try?

Riders: You also share most of the same responsibilities as drivers for following the rules of the road. Signaling your intentions, obeying signs and signals, riding predictably and with courtesy for other road users, using lights on your bike at night, and giving right of way to drivers/riders/pedestrians as appropriate, are all very important. These matter not just for your safety, but also (like it or not) for how bikes are perceived as part of traffic, and treated in turn.

City streets might seem fixed – they’re anything but. Many seasonal changes are a given – poor road conditions, wider variety of road users, attitudes, construction zones… and in the same way we adjust our wardrobe, changes to our driving/transportation habits and behaviours are a part of this seasonal shift.

glass in roadSpring roads are usually in bad shape. This winter has been one of the roughest yet for most of North America, and our roads have taken a beating. Bicycles and their riders are much more susceptible to harm from uneven surfaces, wheel eating potholes, slippery gravel and debris.

Drivers: Please leave people on bikes as much room as possible when driving behind or passing them. Riders need about 1m/3ft on either side of them to safely maneuver, often quickly, around any obstacles that are present in the roadway; potholes, pedestrians crossing midblock, car doors opening…

Riders: Take it easy on your first few rides to and from your usual destinations.  You’ll need to learn, hopefully not the hard way, where the rough spots are along the way.  Some potholes are so wide for example that you’ll need to plan ahead and change lane position in advance so that you can get around them.  Some parts of the roadway may have heaved because of the freeze thaw cycle, and there is a lot more gravel, glass and other debris in the road at this time of year.  As always, pay close attention to everything happening around you on the roads/sidewalks, slow down and/or stop as needed/instructed, avoid squeezing between vehicles, pass to the left of a right turning vehicle, and stay back from trucks and buses.

Spring bikeSure, we’re all important people hurrying to get to important places, but nothing is more important than getting there in one piece, and without causing harm/stress to our neighbours. The key thing to remember is that we’re all in this together and safely sharing the roadways is a shared responsibility. Whether on foot, by bike, or in a car, do yourself and everyone around you a favour by packing your patience when heading out onto the streets of your city. Regardless of the season, courtesy is always in style.

A great start to 2014!

3 Jan

On January 1st, 2014, I had the honour of appearing as Photo of the Day: Bambrick‘ on local cycling website Biking Toronto.  The photo, taken on a hot summer day last June, was captured by fellow cycling advocate and photographer, Xander Labayen.  He managed to catch me through a streetcar window while riding along Queen St. West (you can see his checkered shirt reflected in the window.) He also managed to catch me just as I was catching my skirt and pulling it back down – so it’s a saucy photo at that!

Given the super chilly start to the year, this ‘hot’ photo from summer is a nice reminder of what’s now only a few months away. It’s also a fun way to kick off what I hope will be an excellent year ahead.

Inaugural Solo Photo Exhibition – Gallery & Links

25 Jul

Streets & Alleys – 2013

I produced each of these one-of-a-kind pieces between March & June, 2013. Although only installed for a short run at the gallery, the opening reception was fabulous and I received lots of positive feedback on both the concept and the execution. I’m thrilled with the results.

The photographs are printed to adhesive vinyl, mounted, and framed within partially deconstructed bike wheels selected for each image.

Thanks to Hashtag Gallery for hosting me, and to Murat Saman for his assistance printing and assembling the work.

All pieces, except ‘Political Tower’, ‘Rusted’ and ‘Parisienne’ are currently available for purchase.  Please contact me to inquire.




Artist Statement:

This series of photographs came about from my exploratory bike rides through back alleys and side streets in the downtown west end of Toronto.  The images are close-up shots of painted garage doors, brick walls, fences, metal siding–old, new, practical, decorative, deliberate and imposed. The unconventional frames are made from old bicycle wheels, gathered from bike shops, which I have partially deconstructed. I find the wheel’s circular form compelling, and also wanted to bring attention to the role of the bike in the city’s daily life, and to the value of the bicycle as a means of transportation.

I had been thinking of a project that would unite my experience as a documentary photographer with my love of bicycles. My involvement in the world of cycling–as founding executive director of the Toronto Cyclists Union, host of CBC radio column Bambrick on Bikes, media spokesperson for cycling issues, and year round cyclist–means that I see the world through the lens of a bike.

Cycling through the city’s unique laneways, I’m inspired by their many layers of colour and texture. These alleys provide more peaceful space in which to ride, and space for an often artful and rebellious, but mostly utilitarian, backdoor life. I hope that these images will serve as reminders of the joy of exploration and discovery in spaces other than the city’s crowded urban streets.

Born and raised in downtown Toronto, Yvonne Bambrick has traveled by bike extensively in Toronto, Montreal and Sydney and in every other city she’s had the opportunity to visit. She is a documentary photographer and was founding executive director of Toronto Cyclists Union (2008 – 2010.) In the summer of 2012, she had a CBC radio column, Bambrick on Bikes, and was instrumental in helping to bring the BIXI program to Toronto. Yvonne has been a regular media spokesperson on cycling issues and led a review of the Ontario Driver’s Handbook to include important pedestrian & bicycle-related content. She is currently writing a handbook for urban cyclists, to help fill the gap in cycling education.

My comments regarding the National Post opinion piece on Walmart vs. Kensington Market

8 Jul

Since the National Post decided to block my comment (I tried twice), and has now closed the comments section on their opinion piece from last week about how the proposed Walmart on Bathurst St. would be good for Kensington Market, I decided to post my full comment here.


There are several incorrect statements made by the author that require a response. The entire piece is misguided, but I’ll focus on a few points in particular.

1. “Even though, they admit, the prospective site of the Walmart at Bathurst and Dundas streets is well outside Kensington’s borders.”

– No one who is working on the campaign to stop Walmart has ‘admitted’ this. The proposed mall is across the street from the western border of the KM BIA boundary and of the Kensington Market neighbourhood. This development will have far-reaching negative impacts on small businesses for many blocks in all directions.

2.”…(there was) concern for…St. Lawrence Market, for example, with the opening of a Metro grocery store across the street, but the two have learned to coexist by serving different needs.”

-The St. Lawrence Market is an entirely different scenario of businesses all housed within a Toronto Heritage property. No mention by the author of the impact that Metro had on other local independent businesses. Same issue applies to some of the small businesses in and around the new Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws.

3.”If you want to shop for vintage furniture, exotic spices, and loose-leaf teas, you go to the Market; if you want a pack of socks and a new plastic Brita filter, you go to Walmart.”

– Kensington Market is not just a collection of ‘specialty’ shops – you can buy a pack of socks at Zimmerman’s. Not sure about the filter, but you can buy meat, cheese, bread, fish, fruit, vegetables, coffee, spices, bulk foods, hardware stuff, homewares, linen, furniture, bikes, skateboards, shoes, new, second hand, and vintage clothes, safety gear, plants, cookwear, pretty much all the basics and some more specialized imported goods/foodstuffs from around the globe. The prices, as in neighbouring Chinatown, are pretty low overall, with the exception of a couple higher end stores that have opened more recently.

4. “Despite the ominous aura that seems to accompany every new Walmart opening, the launch of the store at Bathurst and Dundas may actually prove a boon to the community.”

– There’s an ‘ominous aura’ for a good reason. Walmart is known to suck the money out of the local economy and into the coffers of a wealthy US based corporation. They kill good local jobs and replace them with far fewer and less desirable ones.
As per Wikipedia: Wal-Mart has been subject to criticism by numerous groups and individuals. Among these are labor unions, community groups, grassroots organizations, religious organizations, environmental groups and Wal-Mart customers. They have protested against Wal-Mart, the company’s policies and business practices, including charges of racial and gender discrimination. Other areas of criticism include the corporation’s foreign product sourcing, treatment of product suppliers, environmental practices.

5. “Occupying a former retail outlet and adjacent seemingly-always-abandoned parking lot, the mall may give the aesthetic streetscape a lift…”

The development will not ‘occupy’ a former retail outlet – it will replace the existing built form from Nassau up to almost College St. with a hideous, suburban style car-centric mall that has no place in downtown Toronto – hardly an ‘aesthetic lift’. That parking lot is actually used pretty much all the time by visitors to the hospital. The loading dock proposed for this mall is as big as they come, and the truck traffic alone will have a tremendously negative impact on Bathurst St. Think about how hard it is now for emergency vehicles to access the hospital via Bathurst, or even for the streetcar to get through. Add all those trucks, and all the added traffic on Bathurst (and spill over onto residential streets) and that’s another important reason why this development proposal does not fit within this community.

6. “Walmart would offer affordable options to those who weren’t going to buy Kensington Market’s $20 organic homemade pies anyway.”
– See point 3 above.  While Kensington Market does now offer a few specialty goods at a higher price, the bulk of what is sold and sought in the market are inexpensive basics.  Walmart is not welcome or needed in this part of the city. It’s just not worth it.

Cycling workshops – Bike Month 2013!

28 May

Join me for one of my city cycling workshops during Bike Month 2013!

To register, please email yvonne@yvonnebambrick.com and include session date of interest.
Feel free to give me a call at 416 826 2964 for further information.

1. Urban Cycling Essentials – Lunch & Learn #1

Wednesday, June 5
12:00 pm -1:00pm
215 Spadina Ave., Suite 400, Alterna Boardroom.
(Centre for Social Innovation)


Full workshop details can be found here – http://www.bikemonth2013.ca/events/89

Bring your midday snack and chew on a bunch of tasty need-to-know urban cycling info at this lunchtime session. Perfect for newer cyclists, but something for everyone!


2. Urban Cycling Essentials – Lunch & Learn #2

Tuesday, June 18
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
215 Spadina Ave., Suite 400, Alterna Boardroom.
(Centre for Social Innovation)


Full workshop details can be found here – http://www.bikemonth2013.ca/events/90