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.

12 (not so) secret benefits of biking through the winter

3 Feb

 1. It makes you feel like a bad-ass to know that the cold can’t beat you.

2. There are fewer riders, so more room on the road.

3. You never have trouble finding bike parking.

4. You’re more likely to avoid colds and the dreaded flu by using independent transportation, and staying active.

5. The cost savings are even greater when you ride in all seasons.

6. Friends and peers may think you’re nuts, but they’re secretly impressed!

7. It’s all about the layers, but it’s not as specialized, or complicated, as you might think.

8. Staying active helps keep your spirits up on even the shortest, darkest, dreariest day.

9. You’ll be warmer riding your bike than standing at a bus/streetcar stop, or waiting for the car to heat up.

10. Bike shops are way less busy in winter so they’ll be able to service your wheels in a flash.

11. If you can handle the weekend traffic on a local ski hill, you can probably handle winter riding – it’s just as exhilarating.

12. Some days, it’s safer to walk or take transit than to ride – doing so does not make you any less bad-ass ;)

Working the layers – winter cycling in full swing!

21 Jan

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;

Website image - winter cycling legs Layers for winter cycling Jan_13INNER Layers:
Wool socks
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

OUTER Layer:
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.



Bambrick on Bikes – Summer 2012 CBC radio column now archived online

11 Sep

‘Bambrick on Bikes’

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.

Links to each show on the CBC Here and Now online archive are posted below.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tuesday June 19th – ‘Review of Ontario Chief Coroner’s Report on Cycling Deaths
    Cycling advocate Yvonne Bambrick takes us on a ride through yesterday’s coroner’s report on bike deaths, and comes up with some surprising observations.
  • 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.  (
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • Tuesday August 7th - ‘Bikes, High-rises, Parking by-laws & Streetcar Track Safety’
    Our cycling columnist Yvonne Bambrick tells us what the city’s doing to determine whether there’s adequate bike parking in the city’s high-rises, and how to stay safe on streetcar tracks.

  • Tuesday August 21st – ‘Getting started commuting by bike & Response to PWIC Chair’s proposal to ban bicycles on Wychwood’
    Streetcar tracks are just one of several hazards that cyclists face every day. And that NEW cyclists have to be aware of. Joining Here and Now to talk about how to SAFELY make the transition from two feet…to two wheels…was our cycling columnist, Yvonne Bambrick.

No lights? No Excuse!

18 Dec

Light it up folks!

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!!



Kensington’s Garden Car On The Mend

6 Oct

Some folks recently decided to take out  their frustrations on one of our Kensington Market inhabitants – the (mostly) beloved Garden Car, aka: Community Vehicular Reclamation Project.

Just back from three days away in cottage country (my only escape this year), I went to resume my daily check on the only garden I’ve ever been responsible for – to my dismay, someone had smashed the rear windshield into fragments of tempered glass that were now seeded in the exposed soil and amongst the lush plants in the trunk. Not happy. Who would do this?

The Garden Car has certainly taken some hits over the years, but this time I found myself particularly upset.

Anyway, local artist Joshua Barndt and I quickly fashioned and applied a rough patch with the materials at hand – and today Jake & Sameena, a couple of lovely P.S. Kensington volunteers, joined me to remove the remaining glass shards, scrub off the graffiti, repair a tree branch, and install the windshield repair that should last through the winter.

From the photo below taken this evening, you can see that the leaves of the Burning Bush tree in the centre are beginning to turn. They’ll soon match the burgundy wall behind, and the duct tape window frame ;)

All repair materials were sourced at Active Surplus!


Misquoted in NP article – my letter to the editor correction

18 Sep

I’m pretty unimpressed and frustrated with the editor that twisted this piece in such a way as to make my quote appear condescending towards the community I love and represent.  Thankfully they printed my full letter to the editor as a clarification.

Still waiting for the online piece to have an edit included so that the digital archive reflects my true statement and not some manipulated words for a self serving hack.  #NationalPostFail (Update from Sept 19 – link to letter to editor is now included in the original piece online)

Re: Kensington Gets Glimpse Of Potential Big Box Store, Sept. 16.

It should be noted that the quote attributed to me as co-ordinator of the Kensington Market Business Improvement Area (BIA) was very misleading and, in fact, the opposite of what I tried to clearly explain in my extensive discussion with the piece’s writer.

A big box store being proposed in such close proximity can certainly be seen as a threat to the thriving, open-air, multi-generational, and much loved Kensington Market area and business community. That said, this development is in its earliest phase, and a public consultation process, convened by Councillor Mike Layton, has just begun between the developer and the adjacent residential and business communities. I believe that if we have any hope of working together to invite businesses into this development that are complementary to the area, rather than in direct competition with existing businesses, we should all, developer and locals, act like good neighbours and try to work together in good faith.

The same applies as we try to address and minimize the additional impacts this mall will have on local traffic, noise and parking. But perhaps I’m being too optimistic in thinking there is any way to make this work – given the fierce independence of this long-standing community, and the vast number of citizens who will stand to defend it, we may simply end up with a battle to stop this development all together.

Yvonne Bambrick, co-ordinator, Kensington Market BIA, Toronto.

Book Review: The Next Eco Warriors

2 Jun

The Next Eco Warriors

Edited by Emily Hunter
Foreword by Farley Mowat
Reviewed by, Yvonne Bambrick for Alternatives Journal
(Originally posted May 9, 2011)

The Next Eco Warriors is a powerful collection of first person accounts of environmental struggles being fought by young activists from around the globe. Although they vary widely in focus, strategy and outcome – from oceans, to mining, to deforestation – the central theme concerns every living being on Earth. There is a very real fight happening right now to save an angry and dying planet before it’s too late.

Through her opening and closing words in this collection, editor Emily Hunter demonstrates clearly that, as the daughter of Greenpeace founder Robert Hunter, she is living and breathing her father’s lasting environmental legacy, while also making the case that our next generation of eco-warriors has come of age to be smarter and even more determined than its predecessors. The stakes are higher than ever and these young people are fighting for our lives.

While reading of the endless environmental violence detailed in this collection, I was often reminded that much of humanity has a fundamentally flawed and ego-based perspective on life and all that sustains it. Many, if not most, see humans as “apart from”, as opposed to “part of” the planet and all life upon it. As we have historically viewed unknown human cultures as lesser and exploitable, so to do we judge, abuse and misinterpret the language and lives of the fauna and flora essential to the fragile connective tissues and sustainability of Earth’s land and sea and air.

The Eco-Warriors in this book are people who have made this link, have had their eyes opened to the web of natural systems and the role humans are playing, and can no longer sit idle while humanity stampedes ahead in the name of progress and growth and “the economy”.

“…in realizing our interconnectedness, we need to unlearn the individualism we’re taught in this country (US). We need to relearn the responsibility of community.” Enei Begaye, p. 238

These stories tell of remarkable catalyst moments that seeded activism. Several highlight the COP 15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen as a pivotal period that not only highlighted the urgency with which we must address climate change, but that we must mobilize millions of citizens around the globe to fight for the defining cause of our time.

While I have strived for my work to have a positive impact on the planet, I’ve often felt that my efforts were too insignificant, small and localized. This book makes it abundantly clear that it actually takes many hundreds of thousands of efforts, small, medium and large, individual and collective, within and outside of governing systems, to have an important and transformative influence on society if we are to actually slow climate change.

Although the stories presented in this collection tell of success, they also recount actions that raised awareness and connected community but failed in their purpose: Carcinogenic chemicals continue to be sprayed onto communities; poorly managed garbage incinerators are expanded to burn unsorted community rubbish full of recyclable material; the seal hunts, shark finning, and dolphin kills; and shamefully wasteful global practices that go on despite evidence of inhumane actions and sustainable alternative options.

“The reality is heroes don’t win the revolutions. It is ordinary people doing the extraordinary…. only when we take up the battle is there truly a fighting chance for that world.” Emily Hunter p. 253

We rarely if ever hear of environmental actions being undertaken outside of North America and the European Union. Ms. Hunter’s collection is truly global in its reach and all the more inspiring for it. This powerful collection of stories of great human spirit is accompanied by a resource guide and a website and growing online community.

Be warned! Reading these stories will likely compel you to take action if you are not already doing so. While aimed at young people, even the most dedicated environmental champion will learn from the individuals profiled in this book. It will not only provide new insight into our global struggle for survival; it offers encouragement and evidence that one person can play a profound and vital role in this battle, all while having fun, falling in love, developing practical skills and building community.

(Book published by Conari Press, San Francisco, 2011. 253 pages.)

Yvonne Bambrick is a life-long year-round cyclist/photographer, and recently served as the founding executive director of the Toronto Cyclists Union, her hometown’s first city-wide cycling advocacy organization. When not pedaling around town, she’s also the co-ordinator of Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market and the Kensington Market BIA.