Worst bike name ever

The MEC created a minor stir a few weeks ago when it announced that it would start selling Ghost bikes, a brand long-established in Germany but whose name means something else entirely here. It would have been difficult to find a bike name less suited to the North American market, but then I found the Ibis Tranny:

Ibis Tranny bike

The Ibis Tranny has both a monocoque frame and a slot machine. Good to know.

It raises the inevitable question: would you rather be caught hammering a Ghost down the trail, or riding a Tranny? Either way, I’ll stick to my Trek, thanks.

Logan Furniture ghost sign

Logan Furniture & Appliances ghost sign on Danforth Ave.

Logan Furniture & Appliances ghost sign on Danforth Ave.

A great ghost sign was uncovered on the Danforth at Chester Avenue last week. The sign for Logan Furniture & Appliances had been hidden behind the facade of Parthenon Jewellery, which closed last year. A small corner of the ghost sign was revealed after a pop-up store hung its shingle for a few weeks leading up to Christmas, and the entire old sign was uncovered just a few days ago.

Worth noting is the old-style phone number giving the exchange name of HO (HOward) for the first two digits. Also worth noting is that even back then, “easy credit” was a big selling point.

Same path, same day, different rules

In Taylor Creek Park near the forks of the Don, a raised pathway was installed a while ago so that pedestrians and cyclists wouldn’t have to contend with vehicular traffic on the park roadway. When you’re heading east into the park, the shared path beckons to cyclists, explicitly declaring that it’s “open for bikers [sic] and pedestrians”:

Welcome, eastbound cyclists.

But at the other end of the path, cyclists heading west out of the park are sternly instructed to dismount:

Go away, westbound cyclists.

To be clear, this is the same “shared pathway,” only about 100 metres long, and built with the express purpose of giving safe passage under the Don Valley Parkway away from cars on the park road. And although it’s signed as a shared pathway at both ends, it seems that only eastbound cyclists are actually allowed to ride their bikes.

If the pathway is too narrow to allow cyclists to ride in both directions while mingling with pedestrians (an assessment I wouldn’t disagree with), or if there’s a blind corner that makes riding full-bore unsafe, why weren’t those issues addressed during design and construction? Or better yet, why not just mark it as a pedestrian walkway and encourage cyclists to just take the road, which is the route still chosen by the vast majority of cyclists anyway?

Ironically, the raised path would be of most use to westbound cyclists because it doesn’t dip as low under the bridge as the roadway does, making the short hill on the far side easier to climb. Yet it’s westbound cyclists who are singled out for dismounting. Personally, I think that if the city wants this passage to be safer, it should instruct drivers to get out of their cars and push. After all, there’s a blind corner and the lanes are a little narrow…

This is why Toronto can’t have nice things

Poorly placed bollards on the Lower Don path at Pottery Road

Holes for new bollards were cut into the middle of the asphalt ripple pattern on the Lower Don trail.

Less than two months after the upgraded Pottery Road crossing of the Lower Don trail was officially opened to a single rave review (as far as I know, I’m the only one who cared enough to review it), the city had already taken a knife to the artistic blue asphalt ripples to install a couple of bollards to prevent unauthorized vehicular access to the mixed-use path. I don’t have a problem with the bollards themselves, but would it have killed the installation crew to move them forward or backward a couple of feet and place them on the plain black asphalt instead of cutting into the middle of the embedded pattern? And did they have to make the same poor placement choice on the paths on both the north and south sides of Pottery Road? Anticipating the need for bollards during the main work would have allowed them to be installed without having to cut an ugly square patch out of freshly laid asphalt. Even looking at it now, I’m not really sure why the cuts were necessary.

This is such a small detail in the context of the much larger Pottery Road reconstruction that it probably didn’t merit any specific design other than someone jabbing a finger at a drawing roughly where each bollard should go and someone else going down to Bollards R Us to pick up a pair of the current preferred model. I can’t imagine that there was any real requirement to place the bollards exactly where they did, nor that moving them a little bit would create a problem of any kind or cause them to be any less effective. So if there are no drawbacks, why wouldn’t you install them in a way that doesn’t degrade something unique that’s already there? And while this particular incident isn’t really worth getting too worked up about, the carelessness shown here is depressing only because it’s so endemic to public works in Toronto that overcoming it seems impossible.

(Yes, this is my seventh post about the Pottery Road reconstruction. Will it be the last? Probably. At least until next month.)

Horse trees

I mentioned Presqu’ile Provincial Park’s horse trees—Risa prefers the term “camel trees”—in my anniversary gallery post last week. They’re so-called because their swaybacked trunks resemble saddles and people (including Risa and me) love sitting on them for pictures. Trees like this aren’t unique to Presqu’ile, but what is unique is that there are several dozen of them concentrated in a small grove and are all presumed to have developed their distinctive form as a result of the same weather event about 120 years ago.

Ball’s Mill Conservation Area, north of Cobourg in the hamlet of Baltimore, has a few horse trees too and one of them is remarkable for having not only a saddle, but what appears to be a front limb and a very long neck too:

Horse tree at Ball's Mill CA

You can see a couple of additional views of this tree and the explanation of this kind of formation from the info board at Presqu’ile after the jump.

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Start seeing bicycles

Start seeing bicycles bumper sticker

I saw this bumper sticker last night on my way to, appropriately enough, an organizing meeting for Ward 29 Bikes.

Whenever I’m riding in traffic, I’m always secretly grateful to the people who blast their horns and yell at me out their windows. It’s not that I appreciate their road rage or get-outta-my-way entitlement, it’s that if nothing else, I know that they’ve seen me. And drivers who see me, and who know I’m in front of them, and whose rage tacitly acknowledges that they can’t get around me without changing lanes, scare me a lot less than the ones who show up in my mirror while looking down at their cell phones, engaging their passengers in animated conversation, or fiddling with the radio. Those drivers may get away with it most of the time, but they are the ones who really need to start seeing bicycles.

I’d say the same about the people at Lifehacker, who last week posted an article about how car drivers could prevent dooring cyclists. Unfortunately, they stuck with the lazy “invisible cyclists” narrative while transferring the responsibility of motorists to do something as simple as safely opening their doors onto those dastardly bikers:

It has likely happened to all of us: we’re casually opening the door of a car when another car or bike comes whizzing past, nearly hitting the door because they didn’t see it opening. Instructables user milesfromnelhu recognized the problem and decided to fix it by spray painting a warning strip on the inside of the door.

[…]

It’s true you should be looking in your side mirror before popping open the door, but it doesn’t always happen. Smaller vehicles like motorcycles or bicycles might still be invisible when you look in the mirror.

As a cyclist, I have to say that I try to use my powers of invisibility much more sparingly than the above statement would suggest. Still, I always hear that I “came out of nowhere” or that a driver simply “didn’t see” me. As I’ve said elsewhere, if you don’t see me, it’s not because putting a bicycle between my legs activates my cloak of invisibility, it’s because you aren’t paying attention.

If you look at the language in the Lifehacker post, it excuses the person who creates the dangerous situation (the driver opening the door) while laying the blame on the victim (the person about to be hit by it):

  • casually opening the door“: I’m just minding my own business, quietly going about my day without affecting anyone else.
  • car or bike comes whizzing past“: Maniacs, I tell you. Maniacs.
  • because they didn’t see it opening“: It’s not my fault for endangering other people, it’s their fault for not anticipating it and getting out of the way.
  • It’s true you should be looking in your side mirror“: Actually, it’s the law in most places, not merely a suggestion.
  • but it doesn’t always happen“: A really jarring mid-sentence switch to the passive voice to avoid laying blame precisely where it belongs.
  • motorcycles or bicycles might still be invisible“: How can you possibly expect me to see invisible cyclists?

And that’s just in a short two-paragraph article. Unfortunately, it reflects how a lot of motorists feel not just about bikes, but about all other traffic, including pedestrians.

Some motorists often have a knee-jerk reaction against cyclists and cycling infrastructure because they think that our goal is to force them to ride bicycles everywhere. In truth, we just want to be seen. But all of the lights, reflective strips, helmets, mirrors, and DayGlo jackets in the world won’t do us any good if you’re not looking for us. So by all means, stay in your car. But please start seeing bicycles.

Dodgeville’s fifth

Mural on a garage overlooking a parking lot

I published my first public post on this blog five years ago today. Writing a blog always struck me as kind of a funny thing to do, so I always wanted to have fun with it. My work largely requires me to fix problems (occasionally of my own creation) on relatively short timelines so I’m used to quickly identifying issues and researching solutions to the various technical absurdities and contradictions that I encounter. I suppose that mindset translates into my Dodgeville ramblings as well. In a lot of ways, updating Dodgeville is a release valve, a way to get something off my chest or to put aside some other problem for a few minutes while I slap together a post. Although I write primarily for my own enjoyment, I greatly appreciate that you, my loyal half-dozens of readers, accompany me on my journeys through the city, the countryside, and the boxes in my basement.

The topics I cover are frequently hyper-local and the posts often more detailed than necessary. Indeed, something as minor as repaving of a road around the corner from my house merited a grand total of six posts (so far) examining the results. A big empty field has been the subject of three recent posts. And on days when I’m too lazy to go outside, I just write about random things I pull out of boxes in the basement. I’ve sometimes thought about resubtitling Dodgeville from “Random wanderings and wonderings” to “Stuff within a five-minute walk of my house and sometimes not even that far.”

One of the eternally frustrating things about blogging is having too many things to cover and not nearly enough time to write about them all. So my digital archives slowly fill with clippings, links, pictures, snippets of potential posts, research reminders, and large projects that just haven’t come together yet. Some of those projects have been hanging around on my to-do list since 1994, waiting for technology to advance to the point that I’ll be able to do justice to my vision. One project idea that I had in 2006 will finally be coming to fruition this summer. Many others continue to bide their time, already born of my 1% inspiration and awaiting my 99% perspiration. Still other posts await because they were no longer timely when I finally got around to writing them, but will almost certainly be topical again at some point. Yet more ideas never made it into the serious consideration stage, including Bruise of the Week, Grave of the Month, and The Daily Sock. Consider yourselves lucky.

It’s been three years since I did one of these anniversary posts, so rather than going back and picking out my favourite posts since then, I’m going to put up a short gallery of a few interesting pictures that never made it into full posts for one reason or another. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you accompany me for another year of wanderings, amusement, outrage, and signs. Always more signs.

Check out the random gallery below the fold.

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Smells like insecurity

Desperate ex-girlfriends want your vote.

We live in the riding of Toronto–Danforth, where a by-election to replace Jack Layton is underway. Craig Scott’s NDP had already knocked on our door last week and today we got our first campaign material from Liberal candidate Grant Gordon, he of the famous nomination campaign.

The Liberals’ slogan, “We want you back,” recalls late-night phone calls from a desperate ex-girlfriend who just can’t accept that you’ve moved on. (Please feel completely free to substitute “ex-boyfriend” in this scenario; I can only speak from my personal experience.) Oh sure, you’ll sit on the phone and listen to her pitch about how good you were together, how she’s lost without you, and how you owe her another chance because of all of the things she’s done for you. But all the time she’s talking you’re just sitting there thinking, “See, this is why I broke up with you in the first place.” Is this really the image that the Liberals want to associate themselves with?

I can’t wait for their followup slogans, “We can’t go on without you,” “We’re too good for you anyway,” and “We hope you burn in hell, you motherfu—” Well, you get the picture. Anyway Liberals, it was nice chatting with you again, and I’m sure you’ll be just fine. But I have to go wash my hair now…

The worst sign in Toronto

Toronto may be home to the occasional good sign, but it also features a distressingly large concentration of bad signs. Their badness runs the gamut from enforcing bad rules to ignoring reality to being mistaken to just plain lying. I thought that a lifetime of studying Toronto’s dizzying array of bad signs had prepared me for anything, but I was flabbergasted when I saw this one on the path in the Charles Sauriol Conservation Reserve:

Stupid CP sign

What makes this sign the worst in Toronto is not so much the meaningless legalese (I’m about to enter a “License Area”? I’d be happy to ask someone at CP what that means, but I’m just out for a stroll in the park.), nor its placement in a quiet park, and not even the fact that it’s the first sign I’ve seen after two hours of hiking up the Don Valley. No, what makes this the worst sign in Toronto is the context:

Stupid CP sign in context

Okay CP, I get that we’re crossing your right of way at our own risk and all that. But seriously?