Who you gonna call?

Fixer on the Roof, sealed with a fix

Lots of businesses can boast clever puns in their names, but few can lay claim to one in their name and a second completely different pun in their slogan. Hello, Fixer on the Roof.

The eternal question about businesses bearing cutesy names is whether you really want to trust your house, car, or life to the person who thinks up these groaners. But that hasn’t stopped me from vowing to call up Bin There Dump That if I ever need a  dumpster, nor did it stop me from calling in the SWAT team (Specialized Wildlife Apprehension Technicians, whose website features the cutest damn illustration of a raccoon in jail that you’ve ever seen) to evict a family of squirrels from the spare bedroom last year, nor did it make my fireplace service choice between Friendly Fires and Burning Sensations any easier.  But trusting my roof to a mad punner? I’m not sure if I’m ready for that.

Random notes for other cyclists

A straight fender over your rear wheel may keep your back clean in the rain, but anyone riding behind you will get a hard line of spray right in the face. Do other cyclists a favour and eliminate the rooster tail; get yourself a set of full fenders.

If you’re riding at night, you really need lights. You may be able to see without them, but you also need to be seen.

You’d find riding a lot easier if you just pumped up your tires a bit.

Please, can I put some oil on your chain? If I have to listen to that squeaking for one more block, I’m  going to have to take another route.

I realize that those damned ear buds have been surgically attached to your head since 2006, but at least pretend to pay attention to the world around you when you ride.

If yammering away on your cell phone is preventing you from riding in a straight line, either pull over or call back later.

No, I will not call out “passing on the left” whenever I overtake you, for the same reason that I don’t honk at every car that I pass on the highway. If you’re on the road, I expect you to be alert enough to know what’s happening around you.

I understand why you’d choose to wear a helmet, and I understand why you’d choose not to wear a helmet. What I don’t understand is why you bother bringing a helmet if it’s just going to swing from your handlebar like that while you ride. It’s the worst of both worlds.

If you think that crossing against a red light at the top of a T intersection is so harmless, maybe you can explain why you nearly rode straight into me.

I realize that you’re too super-cool to bother with courtesy, the rules of the road, and all that, but stop your bike for 20 seconds and let people get off the streetcar in peace.

If you’re going to make a U-turn on the bike path, look over your left shoulder first.

When you’re teaching your kids to ride, don’t tell them that cyclists “don’t really have to stop at stop signs.” They’ll figure that out when they’re teenagers, but in the meantime, you’re setting them up to expect something that just isn’t true.

When you’re teaching your kids how to ride, don’t tell them to ride on the left side of the road in order to avoid getting doored. Instead, teach them to keep a safe distance from parked cars and to be alert for people exiting vehicles.

I understand why you might want to ride on the sidewalk in certain places, but beside a perfectly good bike lane really isn’t one of them.

If you must ride on the sidewalk, please don’t careen around pedestrians like they’re part of an obstacle course; ride at a walking pace or learn how to schluff.

If the car driver ahead is signalling a right turn, don’t try to squeeze past on the right; wait behind or go around to the left.

If you’re moving out to get past a parked car, check over your shoulder to make sure that you aren’t about to ride in front of another cyclist. Or a car.

I’ve been using this post and ring all winter long. You’ve seen me using this post and ring all winter long. And now that the nice weather is here, I really don’t appreciate you taking my post and ring just because you get to work a few minutes before I do.

I really don’t mind stopping to help you patch up your tire, but seriously, how can you ride this far out of the city without carrying even a basic repair kit?

And finally, you may be all decked out with your team jersey, clipless shoes, energy bars, and carbon-fibre road bike, but this 40-year-old fat guy on a 20-year-old  mountain bike heading home for dinner can ride through Leaside faster than you. Bring it!

Not-so-random note for drivers

Cyclists pay for all Toronto roads (including the DVP and Gardiner). We get bike lanes on only 2%.

I’ve always wanted to put a message for drivers on the back of my t-shirt or bike, but have never been able to come up with anything suitably brief. This one, seen in Nathan Phillips Square after Monday’s group commute, gets high marks for visibility and clarity. But I think it’s a bit long for drivers to read at speed, and probably invites much disagreement. So far, my own leading candidates are, “Pretend I’m in a car,” and “No, you get off my road.” The search continues.

First ride of the year

The open road beckons.

I’ve been so busy this year that I’ve only just made it out for my first recreational ride of the year. It’s the latest start to my riding season since 2002, when I didn’t get going until mid-June. I’m usually on the roads as soon as the snow is gone in February or March, so it’s been a long wait this year. Oh sure, I’ve been commuting and running errands, but there’s nothing like hopping on the saddle not because I have to go somewhere, but just because I want to.

This year’s first ride was, as in most years, a mercifully short introduction to the grind for my winter legs—just 20 km in and around the neighbourhood. What set this year’s inaugural ride apart was that I started from our new cottage on Rice Lake and the deserted country roads started right at my front door. It’s a real joy to be in the middle of nowhere without first having to brave two hours of suburban traffic to get there.

I’ve often poked fun at problems with Toronto’s signs, so it’s only fair to point out that “2nd Line” in Peterborough County is misspelled on this sign at Scriven Road. I’ll also mention that my GPS thinks that 2nd Line is called “Line Road 2.”

An osprey buzzes me when I get too close to its nest.

There are quite a few ospreys around Rice Lake, and this one buzzed me on both occasions when I passed by its roadside nest. It didn’t seem to care about the cars speeding past, but considered a lone cyclist to be a threat. No worries, I’m just taking pictures.

So here are my random observations after my first ride:

  • It’s really hilly. The Rice Lake area is home to a high concentration of drumlins in the Peterborough drumlin field north of the Oak Ridges Moraine, and although the individual hills aren’t all that big, they just come at you one after another after another.
  • The back roads are almost deserted. This could have something to do with the fact that many of them are still unpaved and seem likely to remain so.
  • The farms out here seem both bigger and more traditional than the ones north of Toronto. I hope to share more observations about that in the coming months.
  • In general, the view is your typical southern Ontario rolling countryside, just a little more rolling and a little more country than I’m used to.
  • My cycling goal for the year is a circumnavigation of Rice Lake. The Ganaraska Freewheelers cycling club publishes a suggested route that I’ll probably follow.
  • I’m really looking forward to exploring the area by bike this summer. As soon as I get my legs back into hill-climbing shape, I’ll be able to head out for longer, more adventurous rides.

Random notes for drivers

If you see me, don’t turn into my path. If you don’t see me and turn anyway, you’re breaking the law because you’re not doing shoulder and mirror checks before changing lanes.

Flashing your turn signal doesn’t mean, “Get out of my way because I’m turning,” it means “I’m letting you know that I’m planning to turn, but I won’t begin my manoeuvre until I’ve verified that it’s safe to do so.” Please learn the difference.

If you think that I “came out of nowhere,” it’s because you weren’t paying attention; I’ve been riding in a straight line in the middle of this lane for almost 2 km.

Don’t think that honking your horn absolves you of your responsibility to drive safely.

I hope that leaning on your horn is making you feel better, because it’s just steeling my resolve to ride in the middle of the lane and make you change lanes to pass me. The last thing I need is some infuriated driver buzzing me if I move over to the curb.

The fact that your vehicle outwieghs mine by 100 to 1 doesn’t mean that either one of us is less human than the other.

I realize that it’s frustrating for you to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but steering over to the curb to prevent me from passing isn’t really going to make you feel better.

I’m probably moving faster than you think, especially if you’re trying to judge whether you can floor it and make that turn in front of me.

When I’m on the road, my safety is my responsibility. That means that if I decide it’s unsafe for you to pass me in this lane, you don’t get to override my decision.

It won’t kill you to change lanes or wait behind me for 10 seconds until it’s safe to pass. It could kill me if you try to squeeze past now, so don’t try.

I’m riding in the middle of the road because the asphalt is in such poor condition closer to the curb that it’s unridable, even on my mountain bike. Please wait to pass me.

If you have to speed up to pass me before you turn right in front of me, you should just wait behind me until I’m through the intersection.

You don’t pay any “road taxes” either, because there isn’t such a thing.

As a matter of fact, I do have insurance. And a driver’s licence. And a car.

Do you really think I’d take up less room on the road if I was in a car instead of on a bike?

Yes, sitting in a padded chair and pressing your right foot down on a little lever that makes liquid flow through a thin tube toward your car’s engine makes you a real man. I tremble in the presence of your enormous penis.

When you say that cycling is dangerous, what you really mean is that you’re causing the danger and then subjecting me to it.

If you think I’m in your way, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re also in my way. So, uh, get outta my way!

Besides, why am I, riding the smallest vehicle on the street, the only one who’s in your way, while all of those cars aren’t in your way, they’re “traffic”? Aren’t all of them blocking traffic too?

This may come as a surprise, but I really can’t understand a word you’re saying when you gun your engine past me and shout out your window. So I’ll just imagine that you’re saying, “My crappy life really depresses me and I’m unfairly taking my frustrations out on you, random anonymous person on a bike!”

What part of that “no stopping” sign—not 10 feet in front of your car stopped in the bike lane—don’t you understand?

No, I won’t get out of the middle of the lane. Wait behind me until you can pass me safely.

I realize that what I do for my safety doesn’t always mesh with what you’d like me to do for your convenience, but frankly, I don’t care.

I don’t have an airbag or a seatbelt. My crumple zone is the space I create around my bike and I really don’t like you in it.

If I can touch your car when you pass, you’re way too close.

I realize that parking in the bike lane is very convenient for you, but it’s pretty dangerous to me.

Just imagine that your mother or sister is out riding her bike, and that some asshole like you is threatening to run her off the road; what would you think of yourself?

Just because you’re in a car and I’m not doesn’t mean that you’re in more of a rush to get to wherever you’re going than I am.

There’s a whole other lane over there for you to use; there’s really no need to crowd me in this one.

I’m sorry that your life is so miserable that you need to vent your frustration on me. Maybe you need some happiness in your life.

Yes, I’m turning left from the left-turn lane. Deal with it.

I’m signalling a left turn at an intersection; please don’t try to pass me on the left.

Yes, I’m waiting at this red light. If you’re going straight, you can wait in line behind me. If you’re turning right, there’s plenty of room to my right to make the turn without waiting.

Yes, I know I’m in the middle of the lane. It’s my way of telling you that you’re not supposed to pass me along this stretch of road. I do that because I’ve had too many right hooks at this intersection coming up and riding in the middle of the lane is the best way to prevent them.

If I’m riding at the speed limit, you have absolutely no need to pass me.

When I go to the effort of stopping at a four-way stop because you have the right of way, please proceed. Waving me on first may seem polite, but it makes you wait longer and it frustrates me because I stopped for nothing.

If you really want me to get out of “your” lane, call your councillor and tell her that you want a bike lane here.

It’s a good thing you blew past me back there; it must be really important to you to wait at this red light for 10 seconds longer than me.

I know that commuting in a car every day makes you angry and depressed, and that’s precisely why I don’t do it. Commuting by bike every day puts a smile on my face. Don’ t you wish you could say the same thing about your trip?

And finally, no, I will not get off the road.

End of the Road: Steeles Avenue East. Really, really East

It’s not called Steeles Avenue all the way out here (we even left the street’s other moniker, Taunton Road, behind a long time ago), but if you start at Yonge Street and travel east for 79 km on the same road across the top of Toronto and through Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Taunton, Hampton, and Orono, you eventually end up on Concession Road 6  just past Gilmore Road, looking at this sign and wondering if your car has better traction than farm equipment. The answer? The road is fine for a little while, but a soft and sandy stretch was enough to turn me back today. I would have investigated the extra half-block, but I was both bikeless and time-constrained. That’s the problem with exploring in a car: you’ve definitely got more range, but it’s much harder to make detours. Also, if your car gets bogged down in mud, you can’t just throw it over your shoulder and carry it back to more solid ground.

CAA discovers bikes

There are some things you just don’t expect to see, and a bicycle gracing the cover of the Canadian Automobile Association‘s quarterly magazine ranks right up there. Not only is cycling included in the cover story (although the online summary doesn’t say much about cycing, the original in the magazine includes several paragraphs and a sidebar about cycle touring), there’s also a second article extolling the virtues of public bike sharing programs like Montreal’s Bixi.