bikes

The Informer

Politics

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How did Bixi do in its first year in Toronto?

(Image: Rahi Delvi)

Like proud parents, we can’t believe Bixi, the bike rental service and bona fide reason to love Toronto, is a year old already. Over the past year, Bixi has worked out some initial hiccups and extended its initial reach to Bathurst, the Distillery District, and along Sherbourne, just in time for the winter cycling season. (Toronto may not be the first Canadian city to have a bike rental network, but it is the first Canadian system available year-round—take that Montreal!). Maybe it was the unnaturally mild winter or the rising ranks of the city’s pinko cyclists, but stats show 23,000 trips were taken in winter, accounting for about 22% of the first year of usage. Altogether, BIXI met its goal of attracting 5,000 members and Torontonians took more than 556,000 trips around the downtown core. Sure we’d still like a larger service area, but that’s not bad for a city whose mayor has been accused of waging a war on bikes. [Newswire.ca]

The Informer

Politics

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Is Rob Ford waging a war on bikes?

(Image: veggiefrog)

It’s always fun when news agencies outside of Toronto pay attention to the city’s political scene, but this BBC clip about Toronto’s “war on bikes” just makes us sad. Setting the tone with some tense background music, the two-minute video features a series of Torontonians talking about how dangerous it is to get around on a bike in the city (which is certainly true) and placing all of the blame on Rob Ford for being “awful.” Since Ford refused repeated interview requests, the BBC did the next best thing: used old, grainy footage of him railing against cyclists and saying “it’s their own fault” if they get killed. And while the article accompanying the video gives a brief shout-out to council’s decision to upgrade and separate some existing bike lanes, it’s mostly a rebuke of the city’s cycling infrastructure, with Ford cast as the sole villain—even though the city’s pre-Ford track record on cycling was also spotty. We agree that the Ford administration, with its “war on the car” rhetoric, hasn’t been a cyclist’s best friend, but we’re not sure rallying beneath the “war on bikes” banner is the way to get Toronto’s inadequate infrastructure improved. It’s likely to create more hostility, not bike lanes. Watch the video [BBC News] »

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Lilly’s Lunches, a new bike-based brown bag delivery service

Lilly’s Lunches owner Elizabeth Callahan packs brown bags into her custom-design basket (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Lilly’s Lunches is a new one-woman and one-bike operation run entirely by Elizabeth Callahan. After growing weary with her day job, Callahan fled her cubicle and landed on a bicycle instead. Throughout the workweek, she pedals her way around the downtown core, dropping off brown-bagged lunches to office workers too busy to head out for a bite. We decided to join her on her route for a day’s deliveries.

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The Informer

Random Stuff

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Igor Kenk’s stolen bicycles will ride again (high schoolers are making sure of it) 

Ever wonder what happened to the collection of stolen bicycles belonging (well, sort of) to bike-hoarder extraordinaire Igor Kenk? They’ve found a good home, according to CBC. The bulk of the almost 3,000 unclaimed bikes, partial bikes and frames were given to the Cabbagetown Youth Centre back in 2010, which gave the damaged ones to the Toronto District School Board—who, in turn, passed them to Central Commerce Collegiate Institute on Shaw Street south of Harbord (which, oddly, is just a few blocks north of Kenk’s original headquarters at Queen and Strachan). The school put the hundreds of bikes in empty classrooms—called “the boneyard” by students—and started up a bike repair class in September. The class is in hot demand with the high schoolers, who get to take their bike home at the end of the year. Good thing, thanks to Kenk’s prolific thievery, the school has enough bikes to last a decade. [CBC]

The Informer

People

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The List: 10 things award-winning theatre director Weyni Mengesha can’t live without

Mengesha’s production of Kim’s Convenience is on at Soulpepper this month

The List: Weyni Mengesha1| My djembe
I grew up around drums, and I’ve always been interested in African music. I got this one as a gift from Nation Cheong, my first drum teacher in Toronto. I get it tightened at African Drums and Art Crafts on Dundas, where I hang out a lot.

2| My bike
Riding my bike in Toronto makes me fall in love with the city. My old bike, a Trek hybrid that I had forever, was recently stolen. I’m going to get a new one in the spring, probably at Cogs Cycle in Riverdale. I can’t wait.

The List: Weyni Mengesha3| My Libre tea holder
This was a gift from my fiancé. I mostly use it for drinking hot water with lemon. I rarely drink enough water during the day, so this has saved me.

4| My pie fix
Apple pie is a very serious thing for me. I never restrict it to the dessert category—it’s any place, any time. My friends know I’m addicted. If I’m going to a nice restaurant, I’ll check the dessert menu first to see if they have it.

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The Informer

Politics

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Bixi expands its service—just in time for winter 

Break out the wool socks. Toronto’s Bixi bike-sharing service will continue through the winter. The service is also moving some of its rental stations further afieldto Bathurst, to the Distillery District, and along Sherbourne (check out this handy map from The Grid)—in an effort to widen its footprint. As we’ve said before, Bixi’s utility is tied to its reach. A greater catchment area and the potential for longer rides can only improve the service. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

The Informer

Politics

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Frances Nunziata proposes a new vehicle registration tax (i.e. licensing cyclists) 

Councillor Frances Nunziata is talking about licensing cyclists, an idea that’s regularly floated at city hall and always met with a predictable outcome. Often viewed as an anti-cycling tactic in disguise, the Toronto Sun reports that police chief Bill Blair mentioned at least one positive outcome for pinkos cyclists yesterday: licenses would make it easier to return stolen bikes to their lawful owners. But unless we’re missing something, the police’s current police bicycle registration seems sufficient. And this city website lists three times in recent memory when the licensing idea has been considered. Then again, this could be a cash cow for the city. How’s $60 per bike sound? Read the entire story [Toronto Sun] »

The Informer

Politics

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Apparently, the mayor makes a lot of proclamations—but we still want to know more about “Foot Health Month” 

City hall blogger—and Informer contributor—Matt Elliott has spotted something that we missed: Rob Ford never signed an official proclamation for Car Free Day. Elliott points out that because the application wasn’t filed six weeks in advance, the mayor can conveniently chalk the missing proclamation up to a paperwork problem rather than his hatred for bikes and pedestrians. But that’s not the most interesting part of the piece. Elliott also provides two long lists that show which proclamations David Miller made that Ford has not, and vice versa. While it seems appropriate that Ford has proclaimed “Red Tape Awareness Week,” given the sheer volume of proclamations we’re mostly impressed that the mayor has free time to do anything else. Read the entire story [Ford For Toronto] »

The Informer

Random Stuff

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Urban guru Richard Florida joins the chorus of voices warning that the London riots could happen in Toronto

(Image: Ed Schipul)

We were somewhat skeptical when the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume made the argument two weeks ago that Toronto could see London-style riots in the near future. But with other city sages also putting forward similar arguments—including Richard Florida, the head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and senior editor at The Atlantic, in this weekend’s Globe and Mail—the idea that the city’s class divisions could someday prove catastrophic is starting to seem a little more serious.

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The Informer

Politics

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Mayor Rob Ford receives another death threat, but apparently that’s just part of the job—or so says Mel Lastman

Mel Lastman received death threats and he hung out with the Stones! (Image: KMazur/ WireImages for Molson Sports & Entertainment/ Getty Images)

Criticizing the mayor is one thing, and we recognize that sometimes even a little violent rhetoric and some obvious hyperbole help to get a point across (for instance, when Glenn De Baeremaeker accused Rob Ford of trying to kill him by removing bikes lanes, a statement for which De Baeremaeker later apologized). But going as far as actually threatening to kill the mayor? Seriously, Toronto, that’s not cool. There have now been two threats against Mayor Ford, for which the police have laid criminal charges—however, former mayor Mel Lastman insists it’s just part of the job.

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The Informer

Politics

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Reformed commie Giorgio Mammoliti can smell communism, and he doesn’t want its sour scent on his Facebook page

(Image: Toronto.ca)

“I will be monitoring their comments and if I get a smell of communism, they’re off the page.” — Giorgio Mammoliti

That was the city councillor in an interview with the Toronto Star after the good folks at Torontoist broke the news that Mammoliti had created a Facebook page called “Save the City… Support the Ford Administration” to consult with the Toronto public regarding what should and shouldn’t receive city funds.

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The Goods

Shopping

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The Thing: Seduction on two wheels (a.k.a. the bike)

The Thing: seduction on wheels

(Image: Andrew B. Myers)

What with expletive-inducing gas prices and the suddenly ubiquitous Bixi docks, we don’t go for bike rides anymore, we just bike. Everywhere—to work, to the bar, to the opera. And just like you wouldn’t show up to The Magic Flute in head-to-toe spandex, you wouldn’t arrive on a beat-up racer either. Bikes have become functional forms of self-expression, and our bike lanes are runways for a new breed of stylish cyclist, gracefully commuting on retro-inspired models from European brands like Abici or Pashley. With big leather seats and wicker baskets, these bikes are for taking your time, for riding upright in something of a two-wheeled strut. Heads are definitely turning—whether they’re checking out the rider or the bike is another question. Abici Granturismo, $1,000, with Abici Square basket, $100. Curbside Cycle, 412 Bloor St. W., 416-920-4933.

Check out our roundup of 18 amazing city bikes »

The Informer

Features

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Best of the City 2011: Our picks for Toronto’s top services—from beard trimming to doggie fitness

Best of the City: Help

(Image: Liam Mogan)

Spray paint removal Beard maintenance Canine workout Bedbug exterminator Personal shopper Tattoo removal Artful mani Cleaver care Bicycle repair tips Sole saviour De-clutter

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The Informer

Politics

12 Comments

Conservatives call for licensing for cyclists as bikes-versus-cars rhetoric ramps up (again)

Image: Salim Virji

In the wake of a near-fatal bike-on-pedestrian crash off Dundas Street earlier this week, a number of noted Toronto right-wingers are taking the idea of a comprehensive system for licensing and regulating cyclists for another spin around the block. The fact that the cyclist—who was clearly at fault—will walk away charged with only a minor offence that carries a relatively minimal charge is what has city councillor committee member David Shiner, NewsTalk 1010 radio host John Tory and Toronto Sun columnist Michele Mandel in a huff. But here’s the rub: city hall has studied the issue numerous times in the last 25 years, and every time the conclusion is the same: too expensive, too difficult to enforce.

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The Informer

Politics

3 Comments

Bixi needs to grow—meaning more bikes and a larger service area—in order to survive

Bixi bikes in Toronto (Image: Gary J. Wood)

Ever since its inception in Toronto in early May, the Bixi bike-sharing rental program has been a hit, growing from 700 trips in its first week to more than 28,000 trips a week by the end of the same month. The obvious question is what to do now. The Toronto Cyclists Union says the next step is to add more bikes (no surprise there) despite the fact that Bixi is underused by the standards of, say, Paris, where the Velib “freedom bike” program racked up roughly six rides per day in its first month back in 2007.

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