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)
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.
1. 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 http://bicycletutor.com/
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.
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.
Stopping at or behind the white line at red lights
Riding predictably and holding your line of travel
Shoulder checking, and signalling turns and shifts in lane position
Making eye contact and being communicative with other road users
Giving right of way to pedestrians and other vehicles as appropriate at intersections/stop signs/lights
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.
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.
We woke up to -15 with windchill in Toronto this morning, and although the roads are dry, it’s understandable that this would put some folks off riding to work.
Not me my friends! Years of outdoor play and Canadian-ness have taught me a few things – the layering of clothing being one of the most important.
Today’s suitably warm, but still stylish, outfit includes the following;
Leggings (tucked into socks)
Stretchy skinny pants
Long tank-top that covers my rear
Thin wool cardigan (over tank)
Thin fleece vest (over cardigan)
Thin long-sleeve cotton zip top (over vest)
Silk neck scarf
Thick doubled up wool scarf that covers bottom of my face
Thigh-high wool leg-warmers
Thin/flat ear muffs
Thick wool hat over ear muffs
Thin inner (cotton blend) gloves
Thick/windproof outer mittens
Stylish wool coat with tall standup collar
Warm Sorel boots with felt lining.
TIP: On days this cold, I find that having the thin gloves under my mitts allows me to more easily lock up my bike. I can remove the mitten and still have enough protection from the cold to use my fingers for fumbling around with keys & lock.
On May 31st, 2012, I began a new urban cycling column on CBC Radio One’s Here & Now afternoon program. I recorded the column weekly throughout Bike Month, and continued on a bi-weekly basis for the rest of the summer.
Tuesday May 31st - ‘Should cyclists be licensed?‘ Should cyclists be licensed? In her inaugural regular feature on Here and Now, cycling advocate Yvonne Bambrick tackles that thorny question. cbc.ca
Tuesday June 5th - ‘Bloor St. bike lanes & Bike Month events‘ Thousands of cyclists took over the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway this past Sunday, for one of the city’s biggest bike celebrations. The Becel Ride for Heart raises money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. But it wasn’t the ONLY event for cyclists. It’s Bike Month. And not ALL the events involve actual riding. Some involved speaking out. For instance, cyclists are concerned that that some bike lanes are in jeopardy from City Hall. And they want something done about it. Joining Her and Now to explain WHAT they want done was our cycling columnist, Yvonne Bambrick. cbc.ca
Tuesday June 12th - ‘The fight to save Jarvis St. bike lanes‘ Cycling expert Yvonne Bambrick explains what she believes was behind the decision to remove the Jarvis St. bike lanes – and what cyclists are doing to preserve them. cbc.ca
Tuesday June 26th - ‘Velo-City Global – reporting from Vancouver‘ Toronto’s not the only city in the world struggling to accommodate the needs of cyclists – as well as drivers and pedestrians – on roads that are busier than ever. But some cities seem to have travelled further down that path than others. Our cycling columnist Yvonne Bambrick, phones in from Velo-City Global, the world’s largest international cycling planning conference. cbc.ca (http://velo-city2012.com/)
Tuesday July 10th - ‘Bike on Bike Etiquette‘ Our cycling columnist, Yvone Bambrick, drops by with a message to her fellow riders: Can’t we all try to get along? cbc.ca
Tuesday July 24th - ‘Cycling Collisions & Riding Safe‘ With the growing number of people riding bikes to get around, are Torontonians also getting into more on-street collisions? The most recent numbers available from the city say – not necessarily. Our urban cycling columnist Yvonne Bambrick tells us who’s getting into crashes – and why. cbc.ca
Bike lights have sure come a long way, baby. No more fiddling around with brackets & screwdrivers (unless you really want to) – you can now brighten up your ride in seconds with a couple colourful, rubberized & powerful LED wrap lights.
Although things are improving, I’ve been amazed at the number of folks that still don’t seem to care about or understand the importance of using bike lights when riding at night. There’s a good reason it is a legal requirement of all cyclists – making yourself visible to drivers, pedestrians and your fellow riders decreases your chances of being in, or causing, a collision. Period.
While it’s always important to do our part as cyclists to be visible on the road, it becomes vital in inclement weather – snow and rain significantly reduce driver visibility and dramatically increase your chances of getting clipped because… “I just didn’t see you!”
But my lights keep getting stolen! Yes, bike lights tend to be easy to steal and theft is often an excuse for not having them. That said, I’ve found a great system that can work for anyone.
Both my front and back lights come on and off in a snap, and then hook nicely onto my caribeener with my keys.
I put the lights on when I unlock my bike, and take them off when I lock it back up again.
The keys & lights then get clipped onto my bag/belt-loop so that they’re always where I can find them, and ready to go. Highly recommend!
So, no lights? No excuse! Please do us all a favour and pay a quick visit to your local bike shop. You might even find the awesome lights that I just picked up – they come with a usb cable so that you can recharge them through your computer!!
With fairer weather now in season, lots of folks are getting back on their bikes, or buying new ones and taking to two wheeled transportation for the first time.
In an effort to help avoid the heartbreak of bike-theft, I thought I’d share these tips for keeping your trusty steed safe and sound.
It generally costs you more to replace a bike than to invest in a good quality lock – it may be worth taking a second look at yours… (I love my thick, cloth covered, Abus chain – super strong, and gives me the flexibility to lock to more than just a post & ring.)
As Eric of Curbside says, “Never buy a cable lock. It’s like locking your house with a screen door.”
Consider using two different kinds of locks, one chain, one U-lock. This will make your bike harder to steal quickly since different tools are required…
Unless you absolutely need them, do not use quick release on your wheels or seat.
Nice seats are easy targets so lock ‘em down with an extra seat lock, or use a quick release and take it with you every time you lock your bike. (Check out the awesome bike chain seat lock in the photo above!)
If using a u-lock, the bigger a gap you leave when locking, the more likely your U-lock can be busted open with a bit of torque. Keep it tight.
Avoid leaving your bike outside overnight.
Personalise your bike: I love my flower covered basket Aside from being pretty and making me more visible, it’s also a theft deterrent. In general, it is men who steal bikes… girly flowers can help. Boys can certainly do something similar – use your imagination!
Take a photo of your bike and mark down key identifying information such as the registration number (usually on the underside of the bottom bracket – flip her over and take a look). If your bike is stolen, you have the details handy and can prove it’s yours should it be recovered.
Use these details to register your bike with the Toronto Police Services Bicycle Registry. If they recover stolen property they can only return it to you if your bike is in the system.
Finally, without putting yourself in harms way, if you notice someone messing with a bike, say something – even a joke will do. We can all help each other by participating in a bit of ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ style community support.
Ride on. And please share this note with any cyclists you know.