Wednesday, May 23, 2012

tough time for cyclists in area - accidents. death. Barrie Conrod is gone. That won’t change. And local cycling enthusiasts are marked forever. “His death has left a scar,” said Malcolm Steven, the chair of next month’s Tour de Waterloo event. “How could it not have?” Two Sundays ago, Conrod cycled with his wife in Wellesley Township when was hit from behind by a sport utility vehicle on Herrgott Road. His body struck the pavement. The Waterloo financial adviser was killed instantly. “Any cycling death is bad,” Steven said. “But his, in particular. . . .” Conrod, 52, was a road cyclist on a rural road. Just like Steven and other members of the Waterloo Cycling Club. Just like the avid cyclists — as many as 800 — who are expected to take part in the 3rd annual Tour de Waterloo along area roads on June 24. “They’re rabid cyclists too,” Steven said of Tour participants. “They ride the rural roads where we generally feel safe.” Conrod’s death leaves cyclists with an acute sense of unease. ------------- D - here is a plea from Conrod's widow for safer cycling infrastructure. I think that expecting to separate bikes and vehicles is oversimplifying the issue, and not a viable solution for the short-term anyway. Cycling trailways are an excellent idea, but the infrastructure would take a great deal of time, money and government commitment to create. Bicycles are vehicles, in any event. Bike lanes could be accommodated with the least amount of expense. That would be a start. Raised reflectors could be set into the white line between the bike lane and roadway. Rumble strips could alert drivers who cross over the line. Warning signs on the roadways around Waterloo Region would alert motorists to be aware of cyclists. We could also lower the speed limits on the country roads in the area. ------------- D - I was very nearly in a serious accident on my cycle a coupla weeks ago. I always travel to Heidelberg and back. The road edge is paved. I do have mountain bike tires on the 'bent bike, so can slow down and go onto gravel for big rig trucks (which I do). This is not an option with the hard narrow tires of a 'ten speed' style racing bike. I was on the return jaunt back Waterloo. A car rushed to as fast as possible to the very edge of the highway from a side street from the left. Visibility was great, there was no rush, there were good sight lines. None of this matters with the "bumper with your name on it"... He rushed that road edge so fast that he 1) hauled on the brakes hard, 2) this rocked the car, 3) then clearly planned to use the car's rocking motion to leap forward. He was literally moving as fast as he possibly could, while nominally stopping. He stopped right at the edge of road. I was coasting downhill on the return. But coasting amounts to c. 35kph for me on a 'bent bike (less air resistance, heavy frame moves quickly downhill- 70lbs of steel with all the accessories). I have a mirror on my bike so knew there was no car behind me (though there was cars coming from the other side). I had very little time to react, so I shift onto the road proper off the paved edge. But the driver of the small, white boxy sedan with license plate BP?????? had already committed to go. He pulled out INTO MY PATH. My bike briefly turned into a unicycle as I hauled on both brakes and tried desperately to pull right. No luck. Too sharp an angle, too fast. No time. He accelerated just fast enough for me to slow down before striking his bumper. He nearly killed me. That was not a proper stop by a cop's standard. The point of stopping was to look to see if road was clear. His casual nonchalent 'Indy 500' disdain for sensible precautions nearly severely hurt me, at the very least. I could easily have died. There are far too many idiots like that driving. And you know what they always - ALWAYS -say? "I didn't SEE YOU - you came out of NOWHERE." The van that hit me a few years ago, the driver said that. Threw me a whole lane. Crumpled my bike. Again, I had right of way. There was no traffic. Sight lines were great. He did not stop properly (slowed down enough to pull a high-G turn). He did not look. He did not yield to my right of way. He said that. I had an LED flashing light mounted on my helmet. It was flashing directly at him. But. "He did not SEE me." --------------- Barrie's widow: "Herrgott Road was open, flat and the sun was not in our eyes. There was really no reason for the accident..."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

got info on future uptown i wanted. not good
D - I went back to that Light Rail office. Knocked again. This time, somebody heard and opened the door. There is nobody inside with an office near the front. The sign does say knock. It's a big, heavy door. I did try the buzzer repeatedly. So either it is quiet too, or sticks. All in all, not ideal. I spoke a gent in planning. He was very courteous and helpful. By day's end, he had sent me the zoomed in, detailed PDF scans I had requested. Aside- today I walked around uptown with my digicam, documenting what a typical day of parking and driving looks like. On a weekday midafternoon, it was not that busy either. I'll post those pics next blog. The scans confirmed: 1) 1 street lane each way 2) a whole lotta new parallel parking spots on the non-rail side. OK, so right now, 1) people cannot parallel park (particularly with no guide lines!), 2) bus must straddle 2 lanes to not hit parked vehicles, 3) bikes get sandwiched in there, but at least cars can hope to a second lane each way now, 4) traffic in the right lane slows to a crawl when busy, since that lane is occupied by parkers. The plans call for a much expanded unending line (1 lil' gap in middle) of parallel parkings. Yup, it's WORSE. I dare say, as bad as I could have imagine it. Here's a thought - there is no foliage along that sad lonely stretch to speak of. There is - wait for it- ONE bike stand. One. For a block on one side. You see, they get in the way of either a) pedestrians walking (Particularly with portable store signs put out), b) or car doors opening while parked. I am not perfectly sure, but suspect the existing trees on 'sunny side' (the rail side) might not survive the reboot. There will be no greenery along that whole stretch. Nowhere to shelter from the sun. (Note: I've been a regular at a cafe along there for forever, and that afternooon sun can get intense. The patio will NOT be attractive without shade.) The plan results in an uptown worse for everybody 1) cars could use the parking- if only they could reach it faster than a snail's pace! 2) bikes - forget it 3) bus? They don't fit in the lane for all the reasons I cited. So just WHO is the future uptown for? I have no idea. I personally think the rail as shown will thoroughly gut it. On the bright side, most city councillors own properties near the future light rail, and will see their values increase at a rate 2x as high as if we stuck to a bus-only system. So the region will have light rail... and still not have a viable network of bike lanes/ trails!!! I reiterate my suggestion for uptown: 1) there are already THREE parking garages planned- there is not lack of parking! 2) parallel parking was a quaint small-town affection we can no longer reconcile with the soon-to-be reality 3) replace the long stretch of parallel parking with pick-up/ drop-off zones 4) I'm not even asking for a bike lane! Just no door prize, please! 5) Put up some small trees and multi-bike-stands to break up the parked cars (with driver idling and present) 6) replace every 1 1/2 car widths with 1 car width and an angled exit/entry -drive sans parallel parking 7) YEARS later, finally indicate distance from curb with paint lines! Grr.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

rapid transit. bureaucratic obstruction.

D - Yesterday, I visited the Waterloo Regina 'n (behind uptown) government office. I asked where to find information on the future light rail rapid transit plan for uptown. The nice young woman behind the counter directed me to 150 Frederick in Kitchener, where the design & development department resides.
Today I went there. They said the demand for info by the public for details about the rapid transit project was so high in volume that they set up a new location. I do wish Veronica at reception the day before (when I called) had known that information.
I sent to the new location, on the 8th floor of tower at Weber 'n Queen in Kitchener. Once I arrived, I found a locked door that said knock. So I did. And did some more. Then I buzzed. And so on. There was no additional contact information posted.

We call that a 'brick wall'.
I need to know the zoomed-in details of plans for uptown before I can meaningfully discuss it with my councillor, or the mayor.

This is proving ridiculously difficult to do.

Driving downtown Kitchener today, I noticed they make do just fine with 1 lane each way. I wonder why Waterloo is so fixated on 2?

Monday, April 16, 2012

cost of bike stands

From roomie on campus:

The latest Uline catalog arrived at work. Uline supplies the things you need to keep a store going, like tape, garbage cans, trolleys and bike racks. Prices quoted are for three or more.

Grid racks single sided: small $310

large $520

Grid racks double sided: small $355

large $580

Wave racks 3 loop $370

5 loop $$475

It seems that bike racks are not bank breakers, but they are non-trivial.


D - still a deal compared to parking lots for CARS: (2007)

Seamons said with the cost of putting in a parking lot jumping from around $1.10 per square foot (in late 2005) to around $2 today.

D - I noticed there are wayyyy more on-street parking lots uptown than there are bike stands. Why? The 'car is king' - it is the mantra of our city (and highway and zoning) design. The 2-lane-each-way layout for cars, needed for on-street parallel parking, marginalizes both pedestrians and bicycles. (Once stores put out street signs - necessary in part due to trees blocking their store signs, they say) things, can get positively cramped. Those very on-street parallel-parking spots in turn would compete with where bike stands get placed. Here is an idea: during the light rail rebot -

1) lose the single bike stands crammed between pedestrian and sidewalk (now that I think about it, those were not shown on the future uptown conceptual art...)
2) convert most existing parallel on-street parking with pick-up/ drop-off zones only (change the angle on the plant patches to indicate a non-parallel drive-in solution. Ditto for pulling out.)
3) now we only need to convert a few of those old parking spots to bike racks to ensure as many bike spots as for cars. Voila!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

new uptown waterloo plans. door prize.

Ghost Bike for Un-named victim, Toronto

We were appalled when, after yet another door prize death, a policeman discussed charging the woman who did it and said "If she didn't look, would that be negligence? It's very hard to label that as negligent." In our survey, 75% of the respondents agreed that " The driver broke the law and killed someone and should be charged to the full extent of the law."

Well it turns out, she has been charged, with "Open Vehicle Door Improperly", which carries a maximum punishment, if convicted, of demerit points and an approximate $110 fine.


D - see my other transit blog for pic.
Right now, uptown Waterloo, a cyclist is left in an unenviable position:
1) the law says stay right in lane if safe to do so
2) NOT safe to do so - or you get driver side 'door prize' from row of cars
3) besides, cars have no guide line to get them within a foot of the curb. Really.
D - if you assert your legal right to occupy a whole lane width if riding flush right is not safe, expect to be harrassed by honking cars for the temerity! They'll lay on the horn for a block as they ride up you butt.

D - but the new light rail transit will solve all that? Right? ...
Wrong. It looks to be WORSE. If that is possible.
The mighty King Car cult has grudgingly ceded a 2-way lane for cars in 1 direction to the competing Prince Train sect.
The result? Still no bike lane. BUT NOW...
you don't even have the option, as a cyclist, to use the right-most of 2 lanes each way to be safe.
But King Car could not be expected to cede their sovereign privilege to have on-street parking, right? Watch uptown sometime on a busy day. The lane is clogged due to cars stopped to pull in and out. You cannot make this work with just 1 lane.
Right now, bus drivers, knowing the cars don't park flush with the curb and hang out into the driving lane proper, straddle the centre to occupy 2 lanes at the same time.
They won't be able to in the future. Meaning they'll straddle the CENTRE lane. Sharing a lane with... oncoming traffic.
And still no bike lane. King Car cult should have one lane each way. There is PLENTY of room for bike lanes BOTH WAYS.
Convert on-street parking into drop-off/pick-up zones that don't require parallel parking. Paint a line on the area to show the driver when they are out of the driving lane.

Rant: we have painted lines when they are UNSAFE to cyclists (the narrow faux 'bike lane' on Westmount - within a BLOCK of where a cyclist was killed a year ago).
We DON'T have painted lines where they would make cyclists MORE safe.
I'm curious if the city worker in charge of painted lines is part of an affirmative action hiring program...

(Fun pic of child playing at edge of road...)

D - right now, uptown waterloo,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

steal a bike in plain site of viewers

“We never want to say go in there and intervene and make a citizen’s arrest,” says Const. Wendy Drummond, who advises witnesses to call in immediately with a description of the perpetrator.

An alternative, she says, might be heightened vigilance for suspicious body language and criminal intent. But really, aren’t our lives busy enough without an Orwellian modus operandi?

And anyway, a 911 call might fall by the wayside.

“Bike thefts are lower priority than life-threatening calls,” Drummond notes.

I got a sense of this outside Robarts, not from police but rather two gun-clad guards collecting ATM money into a purple G4S armoured van. In addition to the students chewing hotdogs and lazing on the grass, I committed my pseudo-crime, which took 11 seconds, in plain view of men with the firepower to stop me.

Glen Whyte, a University of Toronto organizational behaviour professor, calls the failure-to-act phenomenon “diffusion of responsibility.” The onus to kibosh illegal activity is spread thin amongst the “group” — in this case all witnesses.

“(People) seem to operate...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

frail bike stands

D - much like the ones in uptown Waterloo, but ours have a ring made of cast iron. Hmm, ought to look closer to see what kind of nut they use too.
Why would I lock my bike to something that can be easily broken?
This makes me stick to poles instead.