Tammy and Colleen’s Great Waterfront Trail Adventure

Intro by Tammy Thorne
Story and photos by Colleen Kirley and Tammy Thorne

Above: Colleen points to the CN Tower on our way to Pickering.

Over eight days, cyclists ride through more than 40 communities that make up the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure. The mayor of the largest one - Toronto - would be happy to know that no roads were closed for this fun 700-km bike ride.

"No road closures needed for the GWTA!" says organizer Marlaine Koehler with pride. Marlaine invited dandyhorse to join the ride for day 3 from Fort York to Ajax.

I did the same leg of the ride on their inaugural outing (with much trepidation due to my inexperience and lack of equipment) and wrote about it for Spacing.

The Great Waterfront Trail Adventure (GWTA) is a supported bike tour from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Quebec border that takes all levels of riders along Ontario's waterfront. The goal of the parent organization, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, is to make sure people can get to the water; and that the water is worth getting to.

This time out, dandyhorse editorial assistant Colleen Kirley joined me for her first ever long-distance ride.

She had the same concerns I did the first time around - she needed good gear (helmet and shorts) and was worried she wouldn't have the endurance. I loaned her shorts along with a Cervelo women's team USA jersey which I thought appropriate for our 4th of July ride (even though the GWTA does not go stateside).

The Great Waterfront Trail Adventure Itinerary.

We got kitted up to ride, and stoked up too, after watching an exciting start to the Tour de France. (Go Thor!) Colleen couldn't wait to give her new vintage pink Miele bike "Millie" a serious ride and I was taking "L'il C" out for the first long ride this year.

I'm also still learning to ride "clipped in" and so my goal for today was to not fall over -- especially in traffic or in "the peloton" where falling can be fatal.

Colleen's goal was to finish and to not have to push her bike up hills. Or at least not have anyone see her push her bike up any hills.

Repeat: We are not long-distance riders. Colleen is a fourth year journalism student who is also a newish commuter cyclist. And, sure, since starting dandyhorse magazine four years ago I've learned a lot in life and even more about cycling, but more pertinent to this story; I've also have acquired the most delightful little Cervélo bicycle courtesy of my very charming boyfriend. I also have some super comfortable, top-notch riding shorts by Castelli. Highly recommended.

Even though our 80 km ride pales in comparison to the 3000-plus km Tour de France and I did not feel like the "God of Thunder" -- I did feel pretty darn good about riding up all the hills and finishing what constitutes the "easy" leg of the GWTA.

Thanks again to Marlaine for inviting us to join this fit and friendly group.

Here's a run-down (ride-down?) of our "Independence Day" ride from Fort York (the "birthplace of urban Toronto") to Ajax -- which was almost half way along the GWTA for our friends riding end-to-end.

We were off to a rough start.

Colleen was coming from the north, and I from the west. And we both had a hard time even getting into the Fort York grounds.

Out of the gates: Fort York

I'm just trying to find the bridge...Has anybody seen the bridge?
Bridge? (Have you seen the bridge?) I ain't seen the bridge!
(Where's that confounded bridge?)
~ The Crunge by Led Zeppelin

Tammy: Good morning! I have your gear. Sign in here.

Colleen: Sorry I'm late. If only there was a bridge.

Tammy: Haha. Yeah. Nice one. I had to go around way around to the south entrance to get in.

Colleen: Biking through the gates of Fort York, I slowed to a stop at the FIRST hill. It's going to be a long day.

Tammy: Don't worry. It will be fun. Let's hit the historic washrooms before we hit the open road!

[Postscript from Colleen:] On our trip to the washroom, we missed the beginning of the race. Ten seconds outside of the gate and we're already last…and lost!

Nothing that a little detour couldn't fix. As we exited the southern gates, heading toward the lake, we spot "the peloton" on the trail. A quick ride across the lawn at Coronation Park and we're caught up with the group. Riding along Queen's Quay before nine a.m. on a Monday morning is not nearly as bad as usual. Here's hoping the beautiful pedestrian promenade planned for this stretch of the trail is finished soon.

Scarborough: more "adventure" less trail

Tammy: There is no trail really at all in Scarborough and it's not fun riding on Kingston Road. Just want to warn you.

Colleen: I'm ready for it! I've never seen the Bluffs!

Tammy: I don't know if we can see them from the "trail" - please note my air quotes around trail.

Colleen: Biking back and forth from the waterfront to Kingston Road is a bit of a nightmare. With shame, I am dismounting and walking up one of the hills. It seems odd to me that the trail uses Kingston road at all; there's no bike lane and the traffic is fast.

Tammy: I think some of the more experienced riders just take it straight across and forget about all this winding cul-de-sac stuff.

Colleen: Where are the Bluffs?

Tammy: Not sure. Is that them over there?

Colleen: [Moments later…] Now we're completely lost. The signage on the trail in this part isn't necessarily the greatest. The supplementary chalk arrows on the pavement are easy to miss. That said, all of the riders and volunteers are extremely friendly and helpful. We did get a bit of a tour of the Scarborough bluffs from a cyclist who grew up in the area who was part of a little group that helped us find our way.

[Postscript from Tammy:] Our first official rest stop is home to the former Guild Inn and a smattering of historical architectural fragments, like the columns in the photo set below. It's also where we would get our much-appreciated lunch (Starbucks yoghurt, fruit and nut bar, sandwich and banana).

Also -- I only failed to clip out once. I fell over on Leslie street in front of a dump truck. I was chatting away to Colleen and did not realize there was a set of lights at a construction site to our right and those lights had changed to red for us. I looked up to see a dump truck approaching. I let out a little yelp, pulled on the breaks (as did the truck driver) and fell over onto my right side. The driver stopped and asked if I was okay, as did the photographer riding behind us. Thumbs up and we're all on our way again. I suffered a minor scrape on the knee and mild embarrassment. Thankfully, that was my only wipe out.

Bye bye Scarberia: Follow the yellow brick road...

Tammy: It's going to get WAY better now! We get massages in Pickering. And it's really nice to ride on the waterfront trail there.

Colleen: I'm such an amateur: how could I have forgotten to bring a water bottle?

Tammy: Have some of this Gatorade. Do you want a nut bar?

Colleen: I have these Clif energy shot blocks - they taste like poison but they're keeping me going.

Tammy: [Takes a nibble, makes a face and starts to spit out the yellow goo.] Disgusting. I'll have more nuts.

Colleen: I already ate my sandwich.

[Postscript from Tammy:] We were thankful for the City of Toronto volunteer that helped get us out of the city and through the first bit of Scarborough without getting lost. We were also thankful for the encouragement of the group of construction workers who stopped work to let us through and cheer us on: "Hurry up! You're in last place!" Thanks guys. (Note: The GWTA is not actually a race.)

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto: Into the wilds...of Pickering

Colleen: Oh yeah, out of Scarborough, things get a lot easier.
Tammy: The promise of massages in Pickering are keeping me motivated.
Colleen: Hey, why do we keep being regarded as the "young ones" even though we are constantly passed by the not-so-young-ones?
Tammy: Let's give'r! Come on!
Colleen: Woo hoo!
(Continue / Repeat.)
Tammy: We have to detour around Frenchman's Bay but then we get a good length around the nuclear facilities and wind turbine.
Colleen: Woo hoo!
Tammy: Let's stop to take some photos.
Colleen: Woo hoo!
Tammy: Let's give'r! Come on!
Colleen: Where is everyone else?
Tammy: Ahead of us.

[Postscript from Colleen:] At the Pickering rest stop, we get food, drinks, some freebies and massages. Never having had a massage before, I jumped right on this opportunity. I'd just had a half-wipeout before arriving on one of those hidden Scarborough "cut throughs" so this massage was just about the best thing I could have asked for. I assumed Tammy was feeling the love as well, but upon awakening back to reality I looked around the room to find she had been lured into an advocacy chat with some of the cyclists! Classic Tammy. When they had finished talking about trails, public works projects and the failure that is Rob Ford, all of the massage chairs were filled and it was time for us to be on our way again if we were going to finish without humiliation.
In Pickering, we were kept on track by police officers who pointed us in the right direction. Overall, the ride from Pickering to Ajax was my favourite part of the ride. We were the closest to the lake here and the scenery was surprisingly beautiful.

Cyclists Paradise: Ajax! (No, really, it is Ajax.)

Tammy: Yes. Look at these pristine beaches. The water looks so clean and inviting. I think it's also worth noting all the beautifully constructed and well-used pedestrian and cyclist bridges we've used all along the way from Pickering to Ajax. They really know how to make the most of our stunning Lake Ontario shoreline!

[Postscript from Tammy:] On the morning of July 5th, Mayor Steve Parish and the City of Ajax were given the international distinction of "Bicycle-Friendly Community" by Eleanor McMahon of the Share the Road cycling coalition. Mayor Parish gave the approximately 250 cyclists an official send-off on their next leg of the adventure -- after they enjoyed yoga in the sunshine on the sublime waterfront.

On our way out, riding up to the Ajax GO station, we were stopped by a women in her 50s with her friend and nephew out for a leisurely waterfront bike ride. They were amused by our shorts but highly impressed by our ride. They said they wanted to try riding from Ajax to Toronto but heard that the waterfront trail in Toronto isn't really bike friendly. They did, however, go on at length about how they were "just so tickled" by the mayor's good work on the waterfront trails and in Ajax overall.

Photo finish/ Final words:

Colleen: Maybe next year, with a little more experience under my belt, I'll be able to take on another day, or at least be able to master those Scarborough hills.
Tammy: Let's go all the way to Colbourne or at least Cobourg next year. Let's do it!

You can find out more and sign up for next year's ride at: The Great Waterfront Trail Adventure

Here are some more photos from our fantastic ride!


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What’s it Like Biking on Dundas?

What's it like biking on Dundas? What's it like biking on Dundas? What's it like biking on Dundas? What's it like biking on Dundas?

How are people biking on Dundas Street West near Trinity Bellwoods Park faring amidst the construction? Find out in our latest Bike Spotting: What's it Like Biking on Dundas?

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Never Accept the Status Quo

Q & A with Angela Bischoff by Steve Brearton
Photo by Molly Crealock

Angela Bischoff has never been content to accept the status quo. Since co-founding EcoCity Society, an Edmonton-based urban environmental advocacy group in 1990, she has worked to promote sustainable transportation, food security, civic engagement, mental health issues and much more. The Toronto-based Bischoff is currently fighting for bike lanes on Bloor/Danforth with TaketheTooker, and for a renewable electricity future with the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. dandyhorse connected with Angela to hear her insights on activism and the keys to building a sustainable earth and a sustainable life.

Tell us about your work at the Ontario Clean Air Alliance? Why is energy such a crucial issue today?

Many of the crises facing our planet today—climate change, smog, urban chaos—stem from our profligate use of fossil fuels. We need to reduce our use of energy, and use what’s left more wisely. It’s critical that we move swiftly to a 100 per cent renewable electricity grid – that’s the goal of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. And we’re making great progress in Ontario. No new nukes are on the drawing board, and coal is on its way out. The Green Energy Act is ushering in the green energy revolution that we’ve all been working toward for decades.

Your advocacy work has always been very broadly based. Is there a thread that connects all of these issues?

It’s all about lowering our environmental footprint on this planet, living simply that others may simply live. Twenty per cent of the population (that includes us!) consumes 80 per cent of the resources. That same 20 per cent is the primary cause of the ecocidal trajectory we’re on. I call that insanity! We have all the solutions to living sustainably, equitably and peacefully on this planet; they’re generally low-tech, low cost and local – wind turbines, bicycles, permaculture.
But it’s also about health and wholeness. Just as we aim for ecological sustainability, we must also aim for sustainability of mind, body and spirit.

Bikes. Tell me how bicycles fit into your life and your advocacy work.

My intro to civic participation was in bicycle activism in the late 80s. Bikes are the most graceful, silent, sustainable, space/cost-efficient, joyful and healthy transport choice. Why then does Toronto insist on making on-street storage of cars a priority over safe passage for cyclists? Despite the fact that 14 per cent of the traffic on Bloor is on two wheels, and the fact that Bloor has one of the highest car/bike collision rates in the city, no space has been allocated for cyclists. That infuriates me. Cyclists have identified Bloor as their #1 priority since at least 1990. Let’s do it already.

By far the best part of my day, when I rejuvenate and smile, is when I’m cycling. I’m engaged with others on the streets, appreciating the seasons, releasing endorphins, keeping fit without having to go to the gym. I call it cyclo-therapy – good for the mind, body and spirit. But it’s also good karma – or bikema. I’m not using fossil fuels, not contributing to congestion or smog, not likely to kill or maim anyone, and I’m not changing the climate. Guilt-free transportation. It’s easy on my pocketbook too.

It all ties back to my earlier point about living simply that others may simply live. Imagine every person on the planet riding their own bicycle. Imagine what a sweet, clean and peaceful world that would be. Imagine how much money we’d save on infrastructure, health care costs and policing. We could do it, if we willed it.

Always being engaged in the struggle for social justice, peace and sustainability can be difficult. What sustains you when the going gets really tough?

I surround myself with beautiful people, meaningful work, and organic farmers’ markets. I practice yoga, am a vegetarian, cycle daily, play piano, sing while cycling. As an activist I’ve always lived on a very low budget, which means I spend very little time or energy consuming. But when times are really tough, I pray, breathe, stretch. I see myself as a spiritual person – believing in compassion, equity and service.

This interview originally appeared in dandyhorse Volume 3, Issue 1.

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dandySHOPS: Hoopdriver Bicycles

By Carolyn Pioro
Photos by Anita Lalchan

In the H.G.Wells-penned comedy, The Wheels of Chance: a Bicycling Idyll, Mr. Hoopdriver, a worn-out everyman, embarks upon a liberating ten-day cycling holiday. He explores near-distant lands, makes unexpected acquaintances and most importantly, is offered the freedom of mobility and repose—all made possible by his trusty two-wheelled steed.

Stepping inside the eponymous Toronto bike shop, Hoopdriver Bicycles, the spirit of adventure and independence is embodied in the steel and aluminum framed bicycles that hang in the carefully packed retail space. Here you won't find bikes with tricked-out suspension, disc brakes or infinite gears. Instead you'll find stylish yet practical, high-quality but unpretentious, bicycles for urban cycling of any kind. Proprietor Martin Neale describes his fleet as simple, durable and definitely well-designed. Mainstream and complete bikes by KHS and Opus are prominent along the racks, as is a substantial-sized collection of accessories, like Brooks England bags and saddles. Neale sells what he loves, and what he loves is many a-thing local. His keep-it-close-to-home sensibility sees the shop stocked with loads from Toronto-based vendors, like wickedly whimsical chain guards from Poka Cycle Accessories to YNOT Cycle's pedal straps to artist Iris Fraser's DIY leather handlebar-wrap kits (the pre-perforated leather comes in gorgeous jewel tones and the kits includes everything you need to customize your handlebars, like a needle, and thread in myriad colours).

The store, which opened in the spring of 2009, sits beside The Common on the south side of College near Dufferin. Just a hop, skip and a jump across the sharrows, Hoopdriver Bicycles has a welcoming interior with warm red walls and a bright wood floor. It may feel like a cozy bookstore, but the bestsellers here are bound by frames, forks and finesse; many of these low-tech masterpieces are also one-of-a-kind. Since opening, Neale (with occasional assistance from his senior mechanic) has completed approximately 40 custom builds. Each of these beauties is photo-documented on the store's website. He finds doing custom work the perfect outlet for his artistic temperament and mechanical skills. His own collection has more than a dozen custom-vintage bikes, some from the 70s and 80s and even a 1939 CCM, which is on the docket to be rebuilt next. (Just as soon as he can find the time that is!) Besides doing custom orders, the shop also provides for the local cycling community with day-to-day repairs, accommodating riders needing to fix a flat or have a tune-up; the store will even keep your ride safe over the winter, as they offer bike storage for a nominal fee. We had the chance to talk to Martin "Hoopdriver" Neale about why bricks-and-mortar bike shops trump e-comm and about the rise of the not-your-hipster-boyfriend's fixie.

Your website mentions how Hoopdriver Bicycles provides "a much deeper level of service than is available from long distance (and even some local) sources." How is your shop different from other—concrete and/or virtual—stores?

We serve the needs of the people who are looking at their bikes on a deeper level technically, and want to customize a little bit. Then of course in reference to e-commerce... One of my big worries was whether or not we could compete with all the online stuff, but when you do provide good service it's surprising and gratifying to see how many people are happy to support local businesses.

What are some of the trends you're seeing with bikes this season and do you have any predictions for what's to come?

I'm finding that people are realizing that they don't need 21, 24 or 27 speeds for city riding. You know, three, two, seven or eight [speeds] works really well or even sometimes just one. I think there is a really bright future for single-speed and fixed-gear, but not fixed-gear how they are often portrayed in major media (as these track bikes with no hand brakes on them.) We're seeing single-speed bikes with room on them for larger tires, fenders, racks, water bottles and I think these will become more and more popular.

What sort of things are people looking for in a custom bike?

What we're doing more of in the shop now is working with people who are bringing in their vintage frames and parts and we're modernizing them a little bit. For instance: making a 70s road bike with skinny tires and a limited range of gearing a little more practical for perhaps its original owner, who is now older, and doesn't want to push those big gears uphill. Or for someone who wants to make their bike do something a little bit different. I did this with a lot of my own bikes: take an original bike and bastardize it, but in a very unique, sensitive and carefully designed way.

Hoopdriver Bicycles is located at:
1073 College Street
Toronto ON
M6H 1B2
(647) 344-9120


dandyhorse magazine is proud to have Hoopdriver Bicycles as an ongoing supporter. Customers of Hoopdriver Bicycles can pick up a free copy of dandyhorse while supplies last.

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Dissecting Mayor Ford’s Jarvis Letter – Dave Meslin

dandyhorse magazine's founding publisher Dave Meslin responds to the letter Mayor Ford sent to everyone who e-mailed him concerning the motion to remove bicycle lanes from Jarvis Street:

Hundreds of cyclists, concerned about their personal safety, have been e-mailing their Councillors and the Mayor about the looming removal of bike lanes on Jarvis Street. The Mayor’s office is responding to each message, with a form letter explaining his position. While the Mayor deserves credit for being responsive, most of the information in the letter is questionable and perhaps misleading. Let’s take a look:

Thank you for your email regarding the bike lanes on Jarvis Street. I appreciate hearing from you. Toronto’s economy loses billions of dollars every year from gridlock and traffic congestion. We need to make the situation better – not worse.

Yes, that is true. But traffic engineers have known for decades that the ONLY way to reduce congestion is to provide alternatives such as cycling and public transit. Widening streets, or adding car lanes, serves to INCREASE congestion in the long run by bringing more cars into the downtown area. The goal is “modal shift”, and that’s exactly what the Jarvis lanes were designed to do. By making the street safer, bicycle usage went up 300%. Meanwhile, car usage remained the same. Mission accomplished.

The Jarvis Street bike lanes experiment has been a failure. Ninety-four percent of commuters now face longer commutes on Jarvis Street. Over 15,000 commuters each day are suffering from longer travel times, for the sake of 600 additional cyclists.

First of all, the Jarvis lanes were not an experiment. They were approved by City Council, and are part of our City’s bike network – a network that thousands of cyclists depend on. Second, the lanes have not been a failure. City staff consider them to be a success. Fact: The “longer commute” is negligible, and city staff already have a plan to reduce the wait time by adding an advance green during rush hour.

As for the “600 additional cyclists”, this is a very misleading number. That statistic is based on an eight hour count, which means only one rush hour was included (either morning afternoon). Based on city data, it’s safe to say that close to 2,000 bike trips occur on Jarvis each weekday. Those numbers have increased greatly since the installation of the bike lanes. That means 300% more cyclists, traveling safely, to work or to school at Jarvis Collegiate each day. That is called a “success”.

The City should remove the bike lanes as soon as possible and improve travel times for thousands of daily commuters. City staff have been directed to develop a low-cost plan to do so.

There is no “low cost” plan that will improve traffic times. It doesn’t exist. That’s why this administration is moving so quickly with removal: because the proposal makes no sense and they are trying to minimise both debate and scrutiny. There is no plan to re-install the signals on the middle lane, so we may even see an INCREASE in congestion because without bikelanes we’ll have hundreds of cyclists trying to share the curb lane! The lane is too narrow for cars to pass bikes, so they will all be forced into the passing lane. This will SLOW DOWN traffic, create enormous levels of tension – and someone is going to get hurt badly.

Bike lanes were never intended to be installed on Jarvis Street. The original Environmental Assessment recommended against installing bike lanes – but City Council amended the report to approve bike lanes anyway.

But the Environmental Assessment DID recommend removing the middle lane. So how does this relate to the ‘congestion’ discussion? There is nothing in this proposal to remove bike lanes that will help drivers, unless you want to ban bikes completely, re-install the middle lane with signals (huge $$$), ignore all of staff’s recommendations, crack open a 1960′s urban planning textbook, and turn Jarvis into a highway. (Problem is, where will all those cars go, when they hit the bottom of Jarvis?)

As promised during the mayoral election, I am dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city.

“Transparent and accountable?” Nothing could be further from the truth. This process has been carefully choreographed in order to ensure that there was no public consultation. The motion was deliberately moved at the last minute (after public deputations) to stifle debate and delay opposition voices. And the local Councillor, Kristyn Wong-Tam, was completely left out of the process – along with every single resident in her ward who depend on her to represent their needs at City Hall.

The process was not ‘transparent’ – it was secretive. And it was not ‘accountable’ – it was deceptive and intentionally circumvented the proper mechanisms of accountability: Standing Committee and Public Consultation. ‘Accountability’, without consultation, is a meaningless word. Accountable to whom? To what?

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please feel free to contact my office again at any time. Yours truly, Mayor Rob Ford City of Toronto

Have YOU contacted the Mayor’s office and your Councillor? There is still time to be heard. Click here to join the campaign for safe streets and fair process. And click here to join us at City Council on July 12/13.

Democracy belongs to those who stand up and participate.

Originally posted to Mez Dispenser on June 29, 2011.

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