I happened to be in Victoria last month for an MEC-sponsored bike fest, where I had some chat time with the people at BikeMaps.org.
It's a University of Victoria-supported project that uses rider input and GIS mapping tools to show cycling trouble spots in urban areas.
Not surprisingly, there is a lot of information about cycling infrastructure in Victoria and Vancouver, but there is also mapping for the Waterloo Region. As with any crowd-sourced information system, you get as much out of it as you put into it. You can go to the website and add information about collisions or cyclist hazards, or you can download the IOS or Android app and use your mobile device.
You can learn more about BikeMaps by going to the website, or look for the guy in the BikeMaps T-shirt (that'll be me) during Kitchener's BikeFest on Sunday, May 29 at Kitchener City Hall. I'll have BikeMaps stickers to hand out.
I was tossing out some old paperwork — my bicycle file is as thick as a brick — and I found a 2012 receipt from a bicycle purchase at Braun's Is Bicycles, indicating that I had purchased the lifetime service warranty for the bike.
If memory serves, Braun's closed in 2014. So, a "lifetime" was two years.
"Very soon," she said. How soon, I asked. In a week? "Very soon," she said.
So "very soon" means, as we are speaking. The press release announcing $975,000 for cycling infrastructure for Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge was being posted online while we were talking.
If you want to skip the link, here are the short strokes:
Cambridge will get $325,000 for a 2.2 kilometre cycling and walking path alongside Conestoga Boulevard;
Waterloo will get $325,000 to upgrade nearly one kilometre of a cycling and walking path through Waterloo Park (connecting the university district to Waterloo's downtown and the future LRT stop in the park); and
Kitchener will get $325,000 to improve about one kilometre of a cycling and walking path along Courtland Avenue.
Each community got basically the maximum under the program. Since the funds are dependent on matching money from the cities, this works out to $1,950,000 for cycling infrastructure.
2016 could be a boom year for cycling in Waterloo Region.
This optimism could be an expression of my cabin fever. I know it hasn't been the coldest or longest of winters, but the rollercoaster teasing temperatures, sunny days and often-clear roads have me thinking about cycling, a lot.
And there are other things happening: the bicycle lanes being added to regional road projects not because of some political whim, but because bicycle infrastructure is now part of the planning process (check here for the list of regional road projects that include bicycle lanes); the addition or promise over the past year of new bicycle shops in the area (Black Arrow Cycles and Berlin Bicycle Cafe); the new local mobile bicycle repair service Velofix, and the steady growth of programs teaching people how to be comfortable riding their bicycles.
A homegrown program, Cycling Into The Future, has been helping Grade 5 students acquire the confidence and skills to ride successfully in traffic. Full disclosure: I have both volunteered and been paid to help deliver the Cycling Into The Future program in past years, and expect to do so again this year.
And a national program — Can-Bike — continues to graduate confident, competent cyclists both here in the Waterloo Region, and across the country. (Full disclosure again: I’m a Can-Bike instructor.)
Andy Wilson, the national Can-Bike Co-ordinator in Ottawa, says the statistics indicate a steady climb in the number of Can-Bike graduates nationally: 1,114 in 2014 and 1,877 in 2015. Part of that increase is fuelled by the growth in the pool of available Can-Bike instructors. (Those figures don't reflect the graduates from programs such as Cycling Into The Future, which are delivered by Can-Bike instructors.)
Would-be Can-Bike instructors have to score 80 per cent on the Can-Bike 2 program and be recommended by the instructor before they can apply to the instructors program, where participants undergo 32 hours of in-class and on-road training and must pass with 80 per cent. Despite the time involved, there are pockets of instructors around Ontario (Thunder Bay has 15; Waterloo Region has about the same).
Wilson said, “Currently the Waterloo Region has been one of the most active with their recognition towards the need for cycling education programming. With our instructor cohort increasing in this area as well, we have been better able to meet the demands of those who want to provide. Other regions in Ontario (or Canada) who do not have the instructors available to them, find it difficult to offer the program at a cost that is affordable and/or sustainable, which is why we need more instructors across the provinces.”
Online messaging from Can-Bike organizers in British Columbia, for example, suggests the need for instructors far exceeds the ability to provide them. (Edited)
Possibly helping the situation in Ontario is some Ministry of Transportation Ontario money that will be handed out over the next three years. The Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program is tasked with administering $10 million to improve or establish cycling infrastructure, including safe cycling programs. The list of the recipient municipalities will be posted within a few weeks.
So, Ontario seems to be the right place for some serious blossoming of cycling culture, and Waterloo Region is one of the blooms.
Next week, Velofix comes to Waterloo Region and Guelph.
Velofix is a mobile bicycle repair franchise that was launched in Vancouver, attracting some Dragons' Den investment, with franchise owners in Canada and the United States.
Velofix KW-Cambridge, Guelph has a website here, but there's not much on the site right now. That could be because the operation is not open until next week. Opening the local franchise will bring to eight the number of Velofix franchises in Ontario, and to 16 the number in Canada. You can read more about Velofix on the main Velofix website and in this news release from last year.
Mobile is just what it says: no bricks-and-mortar store. All the gear needed to do on-the-scene bicycle repair is in the gaudily painted Velofix vehicle which you may see from time to time in the area.
With the creation of two new bicycle nodes in the area — Black Arrow Cycles and the Berlin Bicycle Cafe — Velofix is another indicator of a healthy cycling environment in Waterloo Region.
Do a mashup of a GPS, Pebble watch, Fitbit, bike light and car alarm, and you've got some pretty smart and chic tech for your urban ride.
The Montreal-based CycleLabs has crowdfunded the Smarthalo, a handlebar-mounted device that pairs with your iPhone or Android to make your bike a little smarter.
Plug in your destination on your smartphone app, and Smarthalo uses its coloured lights to show you where to make the next turn (or turn around if you missed it). It tracks your usual bike motion metrics (time, speed, distance, and tosses in elevation), and reports the calories burned on the ride. It also alerts you to incoming messages on your smartphone, has a built-in 200-lumen headlight that powers up when you're riding in darkness and powers down when you stop riding (or when it's light, for you night riders), and a bike alarm that emits a noxious howl to unnerve potential thieves.
Battery life is estimated at three weeks, and it's rechargeable by USB. Because it's paired with your smartphone, it only activates when your smartphone approaches (so don't lose the phone!).
There's a very convincing video on the Smarthalo website. The $150 USD for a Smarthalo might deter some, but this isn't a lot more than a decent bicycle computer and headlight combined, if you're planning on a new bike or (like me) have to replace both after they got knocked around over the winter while in storage (grumble, grumble).
Smarthalo is planning to ship in June, although the Kickstarter backers will be getting theirs sooner.
Good story on the CTV website about the 84-year-old Taiwanese founder of Giant bicycles, who is doing some major riding in Asia to show that cycling is not an age-limited activity.
What attracted a lot of attention almost a decade ago was that King Liu wasn't much of a cyclist when he founded Giant. He was just a businessperson with a plan. It wasn't until 2007 that he began to see cycling as not just a means to an end, but as a means to so many ends (not just getting the groceries, by good health, environmental connectedness, personal goal-setting), that it becomes an end in itself.
It really is a shame that Waterloo Region's LRT project really messed up this trail that runs parallel to Fairway Road, in Kitchener's south end.
The trail had been a packed stone and chips trail that ran from the other side of the Fairview Park mall parking lot over to Courtland Road. It served all the three-storey apartments to the north and the strip mall shops along Fairway Road to the south.
The trail has been erased by the super-wide access road for the trucks and heavy equipment working on the roadbed for the Ion train, due to operate in 2017. As you can just make out in this photo, there is still some green space adjacent to the north safety fence, and a new pedestrian/cycling trail could have easily been added here to provide access for the next two years.
I don't mind mixing it up with traffic, but Fairway Road during the Christmas crush is tough enough for cars, that this trail was an ideal work-around.
Well, until this year.
No one is saying, but I suspect that the formerly ubiquitous pedestrian paths that cut back and forth across this trail will be limited, or eliminated, due to safety concerns. Can't have peds crossing the tracks, you know.