lone go

Again, I was the sole passenger to get on at Kennedy Go station. A few folks got off, which makes a change.

Since it’s bike to work week, I felt very subversive taking my Brompton on board. GO Transit doesn’t like bikes on weekday trains, so basically you’re SOL if you have intermodal commuting needs.

a sensible bike from a car company?

Flipping through the Hedonics fallout (you know, the slick catalogue selling semi-useful battery-operated tat that falls out of your weekend newspaper; cf Sharper Image, Innovations and — for both of you that remember it — Scotcade) I see the Cadillac Bicycles AV8.0i. It’s the first time I’ve seen hub gears, hub brakes and a full chainguard on a featured bike.

Sure, I could swap the full suspension and back rest (which looks more like legal means to prevent the Enormous Midwestern Arse from subsuming the saddle, akin to lawyer lips) for mudguards and a carrier rack, but it’s heading towards the sensible bicycle. And I know it’s not really a product of General Motors (whose company slogan currently appears to be losing money, hand over fist), but a licensed product of Kent Bicycles. But if car companies feel they need to license their premium brands to anonymous Taiwanese-built roadsters, maybe something good is happening after all?

Toronto Spring Bike Show

Oracle Cycleworks' beautiful and light Omega USS recumbent
above: Oracle Cycleworks‘ beautiful and light Omega USS recumbent. Image links to my mediocre photogallery.

I scooted around the Toronto International Bicycle Show last night. As usual, there were the usual huge amounts of offroad bikes, but there were a few surprises:

  • The standout for me was the Oracle Cycleworks Omega (available from triketrails). This light, USS recumbent was stunning, and designer Jack Sochacki was extremely proud of it. Their Jack Squat suspension looks like a more refined version of the HPVeloTechnik’s NoSquat system. The lack of chain guide rollers is a nice touch.
  • Urbane Cyclist had the Rans Fusion semirecumbent, and the extremely inexpensive Sun EZ Tadpole trike.
  • BionX had an electric-assist hub that looked like it would fit standard rear axle widths.
  • Backpeddling of Guelph had some beautiful custom cruisers from Firebikes, and the quite over-the-top Hello Kitty and John Deere cruisers from Nirve.
  • … and Raleigh have re-released the Chopper. They’ve removed the product-liability-on-a-stick gearshift, but let’s hope it retains its legendary speed and agility (cough!)

Lowriders were even more prevalent than last year. While they’re not the most practical of rides, they do have a certain panache that all those MTBs lack.

approaching the sensible bicycle

scooterbike urban
Hub gears and brakes, almost full chain guard, mudguards, rack, lights; the Scooterbike Urban is almost perfectly sensible.

I do fear it might be rather expensive (it’s £1225 in the UK; meep!), and the company name could use some help: Used. I don’t think it translates well. While I suspect the designers were looking to reinforce utility, to me it sounds like it’s had a previous owner or two …

John Milloy responds

From: John Milloy MPP <jmilloy.mpp/ at /liberal.ola.org>
Subject: RE: Bill 129, Highway Traffic Amendment Act, 2004

November 19, 2004

Dear Mr. Russell,

Thank you for contacting my office about Bill 129, the Highway Traffic Amendment Act. I appreciate your comments and I have noted your concerns about this legislation.

As you may know, on Thursday November 4, 2004 my Private Members Bill, Bill 129, unanimously passed second reading in the Legislature and was referred to the Social Policy Committee of the Legislature of further review. I was extremely pleased with the tri-party unanimous support for the Bill, and by the overwhelming support I have received from Ontarians throughout the province.

The bill proposes to change the existing Highway Traffic Act by making it mandatory for all individuals to wear a certified helmet when cycling, in line skating, skateboarding, etc. on public roadways.

The changes I have proposed in my Bill will have a significant impact on the number of brain injuries suffered by Ontarians as a result of road accidents involving cyclists in line skaters etc. For example, it has been calculated by the ThinkFirst Foundation of Canada, that if every adult bicyclist wore a helmet, 50 Ontarians would be saved from incurring a serious brain injury annually. Combined with the injuries prevented when in line skating, skateboarding or using other kinds of non-motorized wheeled vehicles on roadways and you have an enormous savings for our health care system – $4-$9 million over the course of a single victims lifetime – and a priceless emotional and physical gain for individuals and families throughout the province.

Beyond what the legislation will legally change, my goal with Bill 129 is to create a culture of safety in Ontario. As much as we like to think we are invincible, we are not. Head injuries do not discriminate on the basis of age or the type of wheeled recreational vehicle an individual is operating. Further, head injuries can result in the tragic loss of life, the shattering of hopes, or amoung other things, countless hours of rehabilitation.

Head injuries as a result of an in line skating, bike, skateboard or other wheeled recreational vehicle accident can be prevented by as much as 85% by wearing a simple helmet. Despite this, many individuals have not chosen to wear a certified helmet when operating these vehicles. I do not believe that the inconvenience of wearing a helmet outweighs the personal and financial cost of a potential injury and that is why I have sponsored this Legislation.

I recognize that regardless of the aforementioned statistics and arguments that you may still have concerns about the Bill. Please be assured that I will be tracking Ontarians views on Bill 129 as it proceeds through the legislative process, and that I will take each and every thought and suggestion into consideration.

Thank you again for taking the time to comment on The Highway Traffic Amendment Act. If you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.



John Milloy MPP
Kitchener Centre

Note: For your information I have consulted with the following organizations about Bill 129

Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police
Ontario Medical Association
Ontario Brain Injury Association
ThinkFirst Foundation of Canada
Association of Municipal Emergency Medical Services
Region of Waterloo Emergency Medical Services
Region of Waterloo Police Service
Toronto Police Service
Participation House – WR
Ontario Cycling Association
Various local cycling organizations
District and Public Health Offices
Many medical professionals
Canada Safety Council

I am still meeting, writing and talking with groups and individuals on this issue, and I will continue to do so while the Bill proceeds through the legislative process. Further, when the Bill reaches the committee stage there is possibility that there will be public hearings held.


You’ve got to love bicycle helmet advocates:

This bill is absolutely right. I, quite frankly, am not going to bear any arguments. I’m not going to hear them, I don’t want to hear them, about whether we have enough police to enforce it. We need it to be enforced. We need to do it for rollerbladers, in-line skaters, anybody, any contraption. It needs to happen.

 — Michael Prue, Ontario Legislature House Debate, 4 Nov 2004

So, Michael, I don’t see you wearing a helmet in that picture on your website when you’re out on the street. Don’t you know the number of pedestrian head injuries?

Don’t make me wear that eggbox …

Date: Tue, 09 Nov 2004 12:06:02 -0500
To: Lorenzo Berardinetti MPP <lberardinetti.mpp.co/ at /liberal.ola.org>,
John Milloy MPP <jmilloy.mpp.co/ at /liberal.ola.org>,
Harinder Takhar MPP <htakhar.mpp.co/ at /liberal.ola.org>
Subject: Bill 129, Highway Traffic Amendment Act, 2004

I am an experienced cyclist. I am strongly opposed to compulsory bicycle helmet legislation. Its discussion is a waste of legislature time, and its implementation would be a waste of police time.

Bicycle helmets do little to reduce injuries. Better preventative measures include cyclist awareness training for drivers, and proper assertive cycling skills for bicycle riders.

It is unfair to single out the users of “muscular powered vehicles”. Pedestrians and motorists also suffer head injuries in collisions, and so should be compelled to wear helmets too.

Toronto has a culture of utility cycling. We do not ride bikes for sport or recreation, but as an integrated part of urban mobility.

It is no coincidence that the countries with the highest levels of cycling are also those with the lowest levels of helmet use. Please do not harm the health of Ontario by providing barriers to cycling.

I urge you strongly to drop support for this bill. It does nothing for the cyclists in Ontario.

Please acknowledge receipt of this e-mail.

Yours sincerely,
Stewart C. Russell

Why does John Milloy hate cyclists?

It looks like the Ontario Legislature is squeezing in compulsory bicycle (and rollerblade, scooter and skateboard helmets) through a private member’s bill. The sponsor is John Milloy, Liberal MPP for Kitchener Central.

The bill’s proper name is Bill 129, Highway Traffic Amendment Act, 2004, and is described as:

The Bill amends the Highway Traffic Act to make it an offence for any person to use a skateboard, a scooter, in-line skates or roller skates on a highway without wearing a helmet. …

Wearing a helmet doesn’t save as many lives as having more people on bikes would (source: Helmet Effect Undetectable in Fatality Trends, compiled from Transport Canada data) . It interferes with utility cycling, where the bicycle is an integrated part of urban mobility, and doesn’t need special clothing or restrictions.

John Milloy’s apparent motivation for this bill was the death of a friend in a rollerblading accident on the Rideau Canal. While I’m genuinely sorry that this happened, I don’t see any bicycle or highway involved here. I wonder if Mr Milloy is indeed a cyclist at all?

It looks like this bill will be discussed at a panel next Monday, so there’s very little time to act. What you can do:

Is it coincidence that the countries with more and safer cycling are where fewest cyclists wear helmets?

It doesn’t help their cause that advocates of the bill support assaulting cyclists. Michael Prue, MPP for Beaches/East York, was quoted in The Star as saying:

There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t see someone on the streets of Toronto, an adult, with no helmet on their head, and I want to get out of my car or off the sidewalk and I want to grab them and I want to shake them.

Why don’t you get out your car, Michael, and do something sane, like ride a bike?

This bill does nothing to support cycling skill, and will waste police and legislature time. If they really want to do something for cycling in Ontario, how about:

  1. automatic fault on the motor vehicle driver until proven otherwise, as in some European countries.
  2. wide right lanes (not bike lanes) required on all new urban roads.

Stewart’s Quest for the Sensible Bicycle

A trip to the Toronto Islands yesterday got me thinking about the perfect bicycle for me — and why nobody makes it.

In Scotland I had nearly the perfect bike. It was a ridiculously solid Pashley delivery bike. It had huge heavy steel wheels, full-length mudguards, hub brakes, hub gears, and a dynamo (generator) lighting set. It took minimal maintenance, and didn’t require special clothes to ride it.

The mountain bike, though promising so much to utility cycling at its birth 20 years ago, is failing to deliver. Complex suspension systems and derailleur gears make maintenance difficult, and so users seldom do. The complete lack of chainguards and mudguards mean that riders have to wear different clothes just to be on the bike. Can you image a car trying to sell itself by requiring special clothes just to travel in it?

So this is what I want from a bike:

  • Fully enclosed chain — I don’t want my drivetrain anywhere near road grit. Neither do I want my trousers to meet chain grease.
  • Full mudguards — I don’t get mucky, riders behind me don’t get mucky. We all win.
  • Hub gears — once you’ve used them, you’ll never consider anything else for utility cycling.
  • Dynamo lights — with a standlight, for preference. I don’t like getting stranded without lights.
  • Proper carriers — riding wearing a rucksack is bad and wrong.
  • Anything but rim brakes — why do we still use these relics? Hub brakes work in all weathers, and seldom, if ever, need maintenance.

You’ll notice the conspicuous absence of suspension. Good tyres, at the right pressure, are great suspension. They are also light and very puncture proof, if you know how and where to ride.

We’re not all athletes. Some of us would just like to incorporate exercise and sustainable local transit in our daily routine, with the minimum of hassle.

So who comes close to making these bikes? Pashley still do, but they’re murderously expensive in Canada. Workbike manufacturers Worksman and Mohawk almost do, but they’re short on mudguards and chainguards. Kronan is nearly there, but why they only have one brake (a rear coaster, which is terribly inefficient) is beyond me. Maybe I’ll find an importer of Dutch bikes. My search continues …

Yes, I used to have an M5-designed recumbent bicycle

Speedliner BlueGlide
Perusing the logs, I find that IP address was searching for info on M5 recumbent bikes. Yes, I had a Speedliner BlueGlide, which was a budget version of the M5 26/20.

A fun, fast bike, which I probably sold for too little. Oh well. I do kind of miss it.

Scotland wasn’t ready for it, though; on different occasions, I was spat on, and another time had “Your bike’s pure gay, mister!” yelled after me. And no, that last one wasn’t a compliment.

It was always interesting gauging the response of groups of teens to it. There would always be a brief pause, then one of the teens would utter either a strongly positive or negative statement. Within seconds, the entire group would be repeating it. Who says that people don’t display pack behaviour?

Chris’s one-liner

We were talking about Leonhard Euler, the 18th century polymath, who pretty much covered calculus, economics, music, solid mechanics and graph theory. There just aren’t generalists like that any more.

To the discussion Chris (not the arena racer Chris Florian, but his OANDA namesake) added: “… and he also stopped things squeaking!”

Toronto International Bicycle Show

Was at the Toronto International Bicycle Show yesterday at the Ricoh Coliseum. There was the usual tedious display of thousands of yet-more-suspended mountain bikes (zz!), but a few (mostly Canadian) things caught my eye:

  • Giatex “stretching” bike, which looks pretty much like a folder until you realise the frame extends rather than folds. Surprisingly light, and remarkably cheap. I’d like to review this for a magazine at some point.
  • Aerolite titanium bike frames. Very reasonably priced, and well finished. What caught my eye was a splittable tandem frame with S and S-like couplings.
  • Go Bike folder. This bike is both lighter and more solid than any picture can do justice to. Richard Diver of City Bikes was on the stand, with the most recent Brompton.
  • CCM Evox upgrades, at least since I reviewed it for Velo Vision:
    • chain guide
    • braze-ons for what looks like a 20″ rack
    • Shimano Altus gearing, with less of a gap between the smallest sprocket and the frame.

    I’d say these are very useful upgrades, and it looks like the price is the same, or possibly even less. No sign of a lighter frame, though.

  • Rotor System crank set. Not Canadian, but another attempt to get past the perceived top-dead-centre problems of rotary cranks.

I was pleasantly surprised by the skill and grace of the flatland freestyle BMX riders. I spent most of the time being amazed at quite how they managed to keep balance on bits of bikes that aren’t usually balanced upon.