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.
berlin_bikes
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).

copenhagen_bikelanes

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.

copenhagen_bikerental

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!

Viking-Biking-Oslo
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!

sweden_bikelanes

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.

 

5/14/2013 – A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as the saying goes. I’m sure most are familiar with it. I’d like to quietly celebrate passing 100 km in my trek through the streets of KW. It’s not a major achievement, but it is a milestone nonetheless. It’s like the first “trophy” you get for unlocking something relatively easy at the beginning of a video game. It’s enough to motivate you to keep trying, but gently reminds you that there’s waaay more ground left to cover. If I have the estimate of distance accurate, “all the streets of KW” translates to something like “the distance from Toronto to Edmonton.” (yes! Canadian references, for I. Am. Canadian.)

The ground I recently covered has nothing terribly interesting to speak about. Here’s a picture of an industrial park in North Waterloo… after 5 pm. It’s rather deserted as I suspect people are home getting ready for supper! Weather has been really crazy the last week so I have not been biking as much as I should, but I’m hoping to pick up the pace as the summer continues!

Here’s hoping to some great biking in the upcoming days and nicer weather (thank you, Canada)!

 

022 021