copenhagen_legobike 8/14/2013 – Fjords, Waterfalls, Kroners, and Beer… that is what I have been exploring the last two weeks! I went on a European Scandinavian vacation for 11 days. While most of the trip had nothing to do with cycling, I did take this opportunity to observe the cycling happening on the other side of the pond and as well partake in some of it myself.

This blog entry isn’t so much about cycling the streets of KW, instead, I want to take some time to talk about cycling in other places. I think there is a lot that we can learn from other places that would make our own city more cycling friendly.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at my first stop in Berlin was that cycling was very prominent in Europe. They had, for the most part, a separate cycling lane that is not part of the street.
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It appears that everyone had a bike and everyone cycled. The number of bikes parked in areas were no less than the cars. The image of the bikes along the sidewalk, you can see there are bikes everywhere. Wherever I turned there were bikes, or people on bikes. It was definitely a cycling culture.
Next stop in Copenhagen, Denmark, was where I really started seeing some very nice and functional cycling infrastructure that I think we are lacking here in KW (and Southern Ontario in general).

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I’d like to draw your attention to a couple things in this image:

  1. Cycling lanes are clearly marked and clearly seen as separate from pedestrian walkways (zebra stripes and sidewalks) and car lanes
  2. There are designated “Cycling streets” where there is a sign showing that cars and motorbikes are not to use them.
  3. There are multi-lane cycling lanes, with left turn arrows drawn, just like on car lanes
  4. The cycling lanes have their own traffic lights

This, ladies and gentlemen, is proper cycling infrastructure. Now, I’m a big fan of the new sharrows that we have placed on King Street, but that’s a bandaid to the problem. If the goal is to get many more people cycling, holding up car traffic with cyclists who are moving slower is not the way to go in the long term.

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Cycling is so big in Copenhagen that daily and hourly bike rental shops are everywhere. For the equivalent of $10CAD, we rented a couple bikes for the afternoon and cycled around NyHavn, then along the waterfront onto the island to Freetown Christiania, where hash was sold openly in little stalls along the shopping district streets. The streets were incredibly easy to navigate, even as tourists who didn’t know where we were going. The cycling lanes were very clearly marked, with the cycling traffic lights seamlessly incorporated into the transportation infrastructure of the city. For a cyclist, this was pure joy.

Next stop, Oslo!

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There’s much to see in the Oslo, Norway, however one of the coolest things I did there by far was a biking tour of the city. A biking tour is very different from a bus tour or a walking tour. It’s the best mix of both. There is a neat little establishment called Viking Biking in Oslo. Curtis, the owner, was our tour guide for the afternoon and took us to various parts of Oslo that you would normally not be able to see on a bus tour (through parks, up hills, down trails, to the backends of Oslo behind all the major streets); you are able to experience much of the city beyond the most popular travel destinations. These bike tours are insanely popular and we had a blast. We got to see some neat waterfalls in the middle of the city!

Cycling in Oslo wasn’t as easy to do as in Copenhagen. There were bike lanes, but a lot of the streets were shared with either cars or pedestrians. Because we were with a tour guide, it made it fairly easy to navigate, but still Copenhagen had the best infrastructure!

Onto Sweden!

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Now I didn’t really get to stay in Stockholm for very long, but they had an interesting cycling infrastructure where there were basically cycling roads, separate from pedestrian and car roads. These cycling roads are two way, as pictured above and have their own crossing markings.

When I first started getting on the roads here in KW, I had never ridden on any other types of streets other than the ones in Southern Ontario. I had thought that sharing the road with cars was the only way to do it. While it is a method that works with a small number of cyclists, I see now that there are far better solutions.

In other words, I had taken what we have here as given, as “just the way things are”. However, if we take time to observe better methods and learn from them, I think there is a lot of potential for making our roads more bike friendly.

 

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7/17/2013 – On Wednesday, I went to the Downtown Kitchener Art Market that was open down on King street. It was a hot hot day and the vendors were telling me they had broken out into a water balloon fight in the early afternoon when it was hottest. I arrived there around 6 pm, just in time to see Bicycle Opera!  The description below is stolen from their about page:

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The Bicycle Opera Project brings Canadian contemporary opera to communities across Ontario by bicycle!

We bring Canadian music to people who might otherwise have little opportunity to hear it, and work to close the distance between audiences and opera singers through performance in intimate spaces. The project focuses on operatic repertoire that deals with contemporary issues relevant to all audiences. Our scenes are sung in English (with one in French) so that audiences can more readily relate to the material.

In July 2013, we will be cycling west of Toronto to Hamilton, Guelph, Elora, Fergus, Kitchener, Waterloo, Bayfield, London and Stratford! Demythologizing the idea of “the opera singer” (we get dirty too!) and operatic traditions (who says we can’t cycle?), and providing a car-free alternative to touring.

I encourage you to go to their website and check out upcoming shows. It is definitely worth seeing! Support your local artists!
Speaking of supporting local artists, I bought the above giant scrabble pieces from a woman named Rhonda Holden, also known as the ruler lady! Please check out her awesome work!

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After checking out the Art Market and finding dinner at Bobby O’Brien’s, we proceeded to start our cycling for the evening. We started around 8:30pm specifically due to weather and hoping that it would cool down. The only downside is that about half of the route is done after nightfall, so good headlights and reflectors are highly recommended!
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This time, to change things up a little, I had brought with me this BlackBerry Mini Stereo Speaker that I have recently purchased. I love the clip design as I was able to clip it onto a reflector band and wear it on my arm. The device was connected to my phone via bluetooth and my cycling buddy and I were able to listen to tunes as we cycled through the street.

I was actually interested in knowing how loud this thing would be while I’m cycling on the road. I have to say that I’m quite happy with it’s output. This device is capable of a lot of volume and I think I was only playing it mostly at about half volume, which I was able to hear just fine even over the noise of the traffic. The quality isn’t as good as a surround sound home theatre system, obviously, but for such a tiny device, I was quite impressed with the clarity of tone.

Overall, it serves my purposes and you can be sure I will be taking it out for walks, and for cycling more in the future!

All in all, a pretty eventful day!

 

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07807/06/2013 -The last two weeks have been pretty busy moving into my new apartment for me and I didn’t get to bike as much as I’d like. However, this Saturday I made up for it in full swing!

I went to check out the Summer of One Love Festival at THEMUSEUM in Kitchener. The admission was free! There was Caribbean food, live music, face painting, and crafts. Of course, all of THEMUSEUM’s regular exhibits were there as well and I had a blast playing with the giant lego pieces!
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We also had free admission into the Bob Marley Exhibit at THEMUSEUM. It was definitely worth checking. I’m a fan of guitars, so looking at the various guitars that was used for different concerts was totally awesome. Also, learning more about Bob Marley was very interesting.

After checking out the festival at THEMUSEUM, we proceeded to get to our route. The route today was planned around Cherry Park as the Cherry Festival organized by the Cherry Park Neighbourhood Association and they did a splendid job with it! Kudos to all the ladies and gentlemen who worked hard to organize this event. By the time we got there, it was near closing time so there wasn’t much to taste, however I did drink my very first Cherry Coke! You don’t really see too many of those around here. 😛

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I haven’t biked since about two weeks and I have to say while my endurance didn’t go back to zero, I did lose some of the muscles that I built at the height of my momentum in cycling. Some of the more tougher hills required more effort than I’d like to admit… However, hopefully by keeping pushing ourselves and continuing to cycle, I’ll build back the strength soon!

By the time we completed the route, it was past supper and so we stopped by Thai Bistro on Belmont. They were near closing time, but we managed to get some take-out before they shut their doors. The problem then became where we could go to enjoy our dinner. Of course, since this *is* Streets of KW… I thought the most appropriate place was… well…

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 All in all, a fun day with friends and some great exercise! Cycling is fuuuuun!!

 

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072 6/23/2013 – On Sunday I biked the beautiful forest hill area for 26 km or so before heading over to Victoria Park where the KW Multi Cultural Festival was held.

This was a very hot day for biking and it was definitely a full work out for me.

I was told that the Multicultural festival was more packed on the Sunday than the day previously. The entire weekend was incredibly humid, but it appears that people came out anyway, judging by the numbers in attendance.

I had a blast there and was happy to see the various different vendors, demonstrations, displays, and not to mention food of the various cultures.

My good friend and streets of KW comrade pictured here did mention jokingly that while this was a multicultural festival, it was severely lacking in a Canadian tent serving poutine. It appears that Canada is so laid back and non-prominent in its own culture that we forgot ourselves!

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When it comes to different cultures, food is always on top of the list. The food selection at the multicultural festival was quite impressive (despite the lack of poutine :P). I personally enjoyed a pita so as to be able to walk around and explore. All in all I had a blast!

One of the interesting things worth mentioning on this trip is that the area I biked had some of the smoothest roads I have seen thus far. Most places are laden with pot holes and uneven and patched roads. Clearly, this area has been newly paved and it looks very impressive and was very smooth to ride on!

All in all, a very eventful day. I highly recommend people to WEAR SUNSCREEN when you are out cycling. Take it from me, that was one thing I didn’t do very well on this fine fine day.

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067 6/16/2013 – Today was Open Streets Waterloo! I started the day with biking around the Westmount Golf area, ending at King and Erb just in time for Open Streets Waterloo! 

When I left the house this morning it looked like the event might get rained on, but by the time I arrived, the skies were clear, the sun ways out, and the streets were filled with people.

There were dancers, hola hoopers (that’s so a word right?), jugglers, wrestlers, and of course various musicians!

066Ever played street scrabble? Ever played street scrabble with googly eyes involved? Anything goes on street scrabble! My friends Ashley and Amanda [and the Bad Idea Bears] have an awesome summer project of putting googly eyes on various parts of Waterloo, to symbolize the cartoon nature of Waterloo. They post pictures and blog about their adventure here, so check out their awesome work!

065Also, not sure why, but I seem to keep finding myself on top of scooters these days! Today I got to take an free spin on one of these scooters! The lovely folks at ZiP EcoRide brought out their bikes and were letting the public try out their bikes! No pin-up girl attempts this time, but I am really enjoying these scooters. Of course, I do believe if I did the Streets of KW project on one of these, that’d be cheating 😛

The next Open Streets Waterloo happens on July 20th! Please come out and enjoy the fun! I’ll be there, I believe I will be on official business volunteering for the event! Look forward to it!

 

 

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