Archive | Urban Cycling RSS feed for this section

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 –


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



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.

Cycling workshops – Bike Month 2013!

28 May

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

To register, please email 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 –

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 –



Streets & Alleys – Yvonne’s inaugural solo photography show

23 May


Please join me for the Opening Reception of ‘Streets & Alleys’ 
Thursday June 20th, 6:30 – 10pm
Hasthtag Gallery @ 801 Dundas St. West. (west of Bathurst at Palmerston)

Show Car Image for website

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.

 The exhibition will be on view June 19 -23 during Toronto’s Bike Month.

Opening, June 20th 6:30-10pm
Artist on site from 1 to 4pm Saturday June 22nd. – 416 861 1866

Getting ready to roll – A baker’s dozen of Spring (and anytime) bike tips!

2 Apr

Spring riding image - Apr_13IMG_31131. Still chilly out…? That’s the best time for a Spring tune-up!

  • Don’t wait for the really warm weather to pull your bike out of the basement/garage/deck. If you ready your ride now, you can hit the road when the next beautiful day arrives.

2. DIY tune-up, or a visit to your friendly local bike shop?

  • If you’re comfortable getting your hands dirty, and want to get to know how it all works, anyone can learn to maintain a bike. A quick google search will provide all the instruction you need – this is a good resource
  • My ride has internal everything, so I’m more inclined to visit my trusty bike mechanic as issues arise throughout the year. Good way to catch up on bike news too!

3. Time for Spring cleaning & lubing!

  • If you’ve been riding through the winter, Spring is a great time to give your bike a good wash. Road salt and grit are terrible for your chain and moving parts, so treat your ride to a bubble bath and a little scrub.
  • A local DIY car wash is the perfect place for this – bring coins, a rag or two, and tools for getting into the nooks and crannies.  More info here
  • Show your chain a little love after the wash – apply some lube to the moving parts.

4. Two priorities – brakes and lights!

  • Being able to slow and stop your bike is super important to your safety. Brakes must work in wet and dry conditions, so be sure to replace brake pads and tighten up cables as needed.
  • Being visible is not only a great way to avoid collisions (yes please!) with other bikes/cars, it’s also a legal requirement for all riders.  Lots of excellent and inexpensive bike light options out there these days, some are even rechargeable via usb!

5. Bike Fit matters: Have you checked your seat & handlebar height?

  • You can save yourself pain and discomfort by making sure your seat is at the optimal height for your body. Test this by sitting on your bike, and extending one leg to the bottom of the peddle stroke with a flat foot. You should only have a slight bend in your knee in this position – adjust your seat height accordingly.
  • By raising and adjusting your handlebars, you can ride in a slightly more upright position. You may find this more comfortable. Doing this made a big difference in how much I now enjoy my road bike.

6. Got Carrying Capacity on your ride?

  • Plastic bags on your handlebars are unsafe, and sweaty backpacks can be kind of gross.  Both can be avoided by adding a back rack to your trusty steed.
  • Inexpensive and sturdy racks can be added to most bikes – this is the skeleton onto which baskets, and pannier bags can be attached.
  • A front basket is also a fantastic place to put your purse, or that tasty little baguette you just picked up on your way home ;)

7. Is your helmet still roadworthy?

  • If you usually wear a helmet, when was the last time you replaced yours?
  • Helmets become less effective over time when they’ve been dropped and bashed around – take a look at yours and consider if this might be the year to splash out on a new one in your favorite colour.
  • If you’re not sure whether it needs replacing, ask someone at your local bike shop to take a look.

8. Want to de-stress & enjoy a safer ride?

  • Brushing up on your road skills is a great way to gain confidence and increase your safety when riding on busy city streets.
  • Consider the following an essential list of bike behaviour that you should try to make a habit of.  There are many other things to consider, but this is a great place to start.
  1. Stopping at or behind the white line at red lights
  2. Riding predictably and holding your line of travel
  3. Shoulder checking, and signalling turns and shifts in lane position
  4. Making eye contact and being communicative with other road users
  5. Giving right of way to pedestrians and other vehicles as appropriate at intersections/stop signs/lights
  6. Riding a meter away from the curb and parked cars
  7. Taking the full lane as needed
  8. Using side streets if busy main streets can be avoided (map it out at
  9. Crossing streetcar tracks on an angle, and slowing down to do so in wet conditions
  10. Saying ‘on your left’, or dinging your bell before you pass another cyclist, or pedestrians on shared paths
  11. Using lights after dusk and before dawn
  • Doing these things helps everyone around you ‘read’ you better in traffic – this is a very useful thing, and will help to keep you safe.
  • Remember, it’s not a race – everyone is trying to get somewhere important, just like you ;)

9. Gears are your knees’ best friends – find happiness in shifting.

  • Shifting gears on your bike is as important to your knees, body, happiness, comfort on a bike, and ability to ride efficiently, as shifting gears is to the transmission/functionality of a car.
  • Get to know your gears and how to use them effectively – this is a good resource

10. Love your ride? Lock it right or risk losing it!

  • Take a good look at your current lock. Is it up to the task of keeping your bike safe?
  • Consider investing in a second lock that is different from your current one. For example, if you have a u-lock, consider buying a chain and using both. Do you know the best way to lock you bike?
  • Check out this post for more info about securing your bike.

11. Rain is not the enemy! 

  • Rain happens, especially in Spring, but it need not be a barrier to you using your bike to get around.
  • Mudguards/fenders on your wheels will keep most of the road splash off.
  • A pair of rain pants and a rain coat are all you need to stay dry and happy.  I tend to just leave these at the ready in my pannier during spring/early summer, and then bring them as needed based on the daily forecast the rest of the year.
  • A pair of glasses, or light coloured sun-glasses can keep rain out of your eyes and help you see where you’re going.

12. Bikey things that are worth the investment! 

  • A good bike pump will regularly come in handy. Keeping your tire pressure at an optimal level will keep you rolling with ease.
  • Waterproof panniers are the best purchase I’ve made.  There is tremendous peace of mind that comes from knowing your laptop, backpack, paperwork, phone, purse, etc… are not getting damaged while riding home in that unexpected downpour.
  • Having a tire patch kit & tools can be a life-saver, and can be stashed in your pannier, or in a little pouch under your seat.
  • A good lock!

13. Bonus: Learn to fix a flat 


If you’re just getting back on your bike, welcome back!

If you’re a winter warrior like me, we made it, and the worst is over!!

Happy trails :)


15 Feb

I’ve highlighted my quote in Bold text.

Stintz pushes to repeal bylaw and let cyclists ride side by side

The Globe and Mail

Councillor Karen Stintz plans to put forward a motion that would ensure cyclists don’t have to ride single-file at all times.

The agenda for next week’s city council meeting was posted online Thursday.

Ms Stintz’s motion, seconded by Josh Colle, recommends council direct the city solicitor to repeal bylaw 950-201(A).

The bylaw was passed in pre-amalgamation Etobicoke and says cyclists must ride single-file. The bylaw would eventually apply to all districts as part of the amalgamation process, but is not yet enforceable.

Once the bill is repealed, Ms. Stintz’s motion recommends council direct the general manager of transportation services to provide recommendations for the “safe and equitable use” of Toronto roadways by cyclists and other users.

Jared Kolb, a Cycle Toronto spokeman, said in an interview his group has been pushing for the repeal since the summer. He said that was when Cycle Toronto was contacted by a cycling club that had been pulled over by police for riding outside the single-style formation.

He said the group was not ticketed, but told to ride single-file.

Mr. Kolb called the bylaw a “pretty regressive rule” and said he welcomed Ms. Stintz’s motion.

Yvonne Bambrick, an urban cycling consultant, said repealing the bylaw is a good idea, but it’s certainly not the biggest problem cyclists face.

She said last week’s wintry weather shows there’s much more work to be done when it comes to clearing snow from bike lanes and other streets.

The No. 1 issue, Ms. Bambrick said, is to build a better relationship among cyclists and drivers.

“Drivers, I think, have felt emboldened by the fact that the mayor is someone who doesn’t necessarily think that cyclists belong on the streets,” she said. “I would like to see some bridge building on the part of city hall that helps everyone acknowledge they have a right to the roadways and a responsibility to share them.”

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said he’s open to the motion, and any ideas that benefit cyclists while keeping traffic moving. However, he said he did not think the bylaw was a “burning issue or a tremendous problem.”

The motion says it’s not only possible for cyclists to ride next to each other without creating safety of congestion issues, but adds the Etobicoke bylaw is redundant.

It says the Ontario Highway Traffic Act already “requires cyclists to responsibly position themselves on the right side of the roadway when a faster vehicle approaches to pass.”

Other motions that will be moved next week include Mary-Margaret McMahon on term limits for councillors; Josh Matlow on taking action on youth violence; and Mr. Minnan-Wong on capping the municipal land transfer tax.