Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Follow the Nose

My first rule of urban cycling is big trucks always have the right of way. No sense fighting for space with one when they can kill you. Cars and SUVs on the other hand, are still bigger than me, but I will defend my rights to be treated as a vehicle on the road (subject to quick assessment of risk to life and limb of course). For instance, stopped at intersections when there is no speed differential. Today I was trying to turn left at a stop sign from an unlaned one-way road, so I'm in the middle of the left side of the road (allowing another vehicle to turn right beside me). Annoying driver comes up to my right, and is waiting to turn left beside me, and will likely try to cut me off forcing me to the inside. Of course I'm not going to let him do this. (incidentally with a cop car right behind us, he is likely not trying to be annoying, he must just be ignorant.)

But back to the subject of big trucks. I'm making my way to the previously mentioned contract work, when there is a transport trailer wanting to make a left turn in front of me into what appears to be a City Works yard. I stop well back of the driveway and wait for the driver to complete the turn. While I'm waiting I notice movement in the trailer. I'm thinking hmm that's odd why is the city moving horses in the middle of winter? Then I'm like, hmm those aren't horses. Through the slots of the trailer they appear more like... pigs. Why does the city have pigs? Sniff sniff. Oh definitely pigs. Then I hear the squeals. The oh so lovely sound of pigs going to slaughter. Hmm that must not be the entrance to the city works yard. In fact hey isn't there an abattoir around here somewhere? Um yes this must be it here.

Kind of crazy to have a slaughterhouse smack dab in downtown Toronto in prime real estate (well minus the railway tracks) far (and increasingly farther thanks to growing urban sprawl) from any farms. Although closer to market for the end product of course. Anyway I'm sure the idea it will close down someday was on the minds of all the yuppies who bought condos in the neighbourhood since that smell can't be too appetizing to wake up to every day. As it was, the sounds of the squealing pigs pushed me that much further from wanting to eat meat. (I am leaning towards vegetarianism but still have a weakness for occasional fish and chicken. I try not to eat beef, lamb, and pork but occasionally a bit slips by)

As a city dweller, its easy to make a complete disassociation between the meat we eat and where it comes from. Some excellent enlightening books are Fast Food Nation, and Peter Singer's The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, which point out the appalling conditions in which animals are raised and slaughtered on typical factory farms. For carnivorous Torontonians that have a conscience that they are not supporting these types of operations, I recommend places like Fresh from the Farm.

More traffic pet peeves du jour:
  • I am wondering if the "bank robber" look (ie face covered except eyes with balaclava to keep warm) makes other road users less friendly towards me since I look less human. Otherwise I have no explanation for the guy that walks to his car, looks directly at me, and then proceeds to fling his door open straight across my path rather than wait the 2 seconds for me to pass by first.
  • Of course it could just be general cluelessness like the near-dooring that happened tonight. 20 seconds earlier the light had turned green and I rang my bell at the driver in front of me who was not moving. Hmm maybe that might be a clue when you stop a short distance ahead of the intersection that said bicycle might try to pass you on your left and to look before flinging up your car door causing much cursing and skidding. (if the roads weren't so slippery I would probably have changed lanes across the streetcar tracks because of said newly stopped car, but slippery tracks are another hazard, and I assumed he knew I was there)
  • 6 p.m. is an absolute terrible time to ride along King Street. At least at 5:30 there are both no parking restrictions and no left turn restrictions keeping traffic moving reasonably well. At 6 it just turns into log jam. Being skinny I of course try to squeeze between the two lines of stopped traffic and then be rude and try to sneak back into line to have a full lane again. It makes for slow going anyway though which is annoying because there's such an awesome tailwind after always fighting the wind in the morning.
  • Yes turn signals are useful but sometimes they should be obvious, so why should I stick out my hand when I'd prefer to have them over the brakes? I'm biking at the left side of the curb lane passing parked traffic, when a cab starts up just as I'm passing it. Despite frequent glares over my right shoulder, because duh obviously I'd like to switch positions with him and move right so he can pass me on my left, he continues to move forward, not fast enough to pass me, but not slow enough to let me in. Its not until I finally stick out my right arm that he lets us switch positions.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rediscovering rush hour

My legs were going crazy from lack of biking the past week - the flu is not very conducive to travelling anywhere. I seem to have recovered just in time for some short term contract work. Yay for an actual bike commute (for a few days anyway). I seem to have both forgotten the joys of commuting at office hour times and the joys of winter biking (since it just got around to arriving in Toronto).

And who needs coffee to wake up in the morning - an obstacle course dodging of downtown traffic will certainly perk you up. While ideally I'd ride out of the door zone, on King Street I was into the middle lane as far as I could go without hitting streetcar track. The parked cars are further out because of the snowy/ice crap on the sides of the roads, so I was preemptively ringing my bell in the hopes that hearing a bicycle would clue people not to open their driver side doors. No such luck and so its yell "Close your door!" and hope for the best (and they did, disaster averted)

I'm so excited to get off King Street, and take some quieter streets, particularly East Liberty Street as an alternative to the nerve-wracking King Street underpass. A couple years ago when I was commuting this route this street was not a through one - but massive new development has invaded the area.

On the return trip home I curse the logic of city planners who like to take four-lane roads and make them two with bike lanes, but then fail to provide winter maintenance for said bike lanes. (such as Strachan Avenue) At least with four lane roads I can take one and not obstruct traffic. Speaking of taking lanes, my trip east along King Street is wonderful. Its earlier, there is no parking allowed, and so I have the whole curb lane to myself. (I'm also equipped with a rear blinkie on the bike, one on the helmet, and a reflective vest.. unlike some totally darkened cyclists I'm seeing in the path of motor vehicles) And nobody honks. I think they see that the lane is actually too narrow to share because of the ice and snow at the side, unlike in the summer when they somehow think you're being rude by riding out when there still is not enough room. Still the idyllic ride becomes hairy again as "No Stopping" seems to just mean there are still parked cars but they happen to be positioned further out from the curb. And the rapidly changing weather is now mild and so melting and freezing of further road goo is occurring to have to pay close attention to.

Oh and you have to take a look at my water-crazed kitten.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Where did the blog go?

There are just some days when you should just decide to stay away from the blog for a while rather than get captivated with shiny blue "Delete your blog" buttons. Instantly regretting this vanish into the void, I managed to save all my posts thanks to the wonders of google's cache.

Please be patient as I work to restore popular linked-to posts, and most likely I will bring back the entire archives. I hope you all will also stay tuned for more frequent bikey-love postings for 2007!

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your comments of any ways this blog has inspired you, or ideas for what you'd like to see in the future. I'm always up for challenges! Or inspire me by telling me what cool bikey stuff you all have been up to!