Spur Line Trail – Public Drop-in – Feb 26 6.30pm

IMG_20140909_203723Tonight I’m heading to the Spur Line public information drop-in. It’s Thursday Feb 26 2015 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. It’s at the Region of Waterloo Office – Front Lobby (150 Frederick Street, Kitchener).

(She tells me there’s going to be pie and punch).

The Spur line is a leisurely rail line (that at times carries hazardous materials through our neighbourhoods) that goes from the Kitchener Via / Go station connecting with Uptown Waterloo (it actually goes all the way to St Jacobs and Elmira but that’s a different project).

This pathway is already well established and has been used for decades, but it’s pretty stoney and not that comfortable unless its dry out.


I’m curious about a few things:

  • How will safety be addressed, the track goes through some lonely parts of Kitchener. It’s kind of a hidden railway.
  • How will it be linked with the existing train station and the future train station? The current train station is pretty difficult to get to by bike or foot, this could easily be addressed by opening up Ahrens street, at least for pedestrians.
  • It would interesting to connect the trail through Arhens right to the Library, Regional City Hall, the KW Art Gallery and Centre in the Square.
  • 3 meter wide track is too narrow, it would better to separate cycling from foot traffic.]
  • Winter maintenance? Will the SLA between the cities be combined? Ie Iron Horse is better maintained in Kitchener than Waterloo’s portion.
  • Lighting? What will be the frequency of light posts?


Posted in Bicycles, Community, Kitchener, Waterloo, Waterloo Region | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Advice to a new cyclist?

Every now and then a new cyclists stumbles across this site looking for advice on how to get started commuting by bicycle.

I think the best advice is to just start, but with cycling its often a bit more complicated cause you first need a bicycle.

Here’s our correspondence…..

I stumbled on this website through Facebook and the winter cycling booth.  I’m a young student who would like to start biking, but I don’t know where to start! I have a brother in Toronto that is encouraging me to start but I would like some help in understanding what the best bike for me would be… or where in the city I can buy an affordable yet reliable bike.

I then asked a bunch of questions.

And got this lovely reply :)

Why do you want to bike?
Commuting would be the main reason since the GRT doesn’t run at the hours I need it to run near my house. I would also like to get fit while biking!
What are the distances you’d like to bike?  How long do you see yourself taking on a bike trip?
I have google mapped my route for work and back. It is about a 30 minute bike ride. Mainly going into downtown and uptown Waterloo. I don’t think I would bike for more than a couple of hours.
What kind of surfaces would you like to bike on?
I think the road would be the smoothest. But I mean I know that gravel would also be something I might be biking on.
What amount have you budgeted for bicycle? Or what is a bicycle worth to you?
I’m willing to put down around $200 this time. I believe a good bicycle could be worth a couple hundred dollars.
Have you ever taken a driver’s ed course? Ie. Do you know the rules on the road? How confident do you feel about riding in traffic?
Yes I have taken a drivers ed course, I have my G license. I don’t know how confident I feel riding in traffic… I feel like drivers in K-W aren’t really use to sharing the roads.
What kind of weather / seasons do you want to ride in? 
I would ride in all seasons expect winter! The snow makes it hard and the cold.
Well I can’t wait to start biking after this winter is gone!
Thank you!

Here’s my response. Would you add any thing different? Did I miss anything?

My recommendation on type of bicycle would be a hybrid or step-thru, upright bicycle. For city cycling my bike of choice is an upright, dutch-styled bicycle that can carry a load and is also comfortable. I’ve stated hybrid bicycle, because with a budget of $200 you’ll probably have better success finding a used hybrid rather than a used upright bicycle. These types of bicycles will handle pavement, smooth dirt trails and gravel roads just fine. And when you want to ride in cold weather, both of these will serve you well.

With a budget of $200, I’d recommend a used bicycle. You could look at either Recycle Cycles in downtown Kitchener or one of my favourite bicycle shops in the region Guelph’s Back Peddling. If you can’t find a used bike that fits at Recycle Cycles, you won’t be disappointed with the trip to Back Peddling. Fit is important.

Since you’re a licensed driver, you’re familar with the rules of the road :) However, as a cyclist you’ll want to be familiar with the portions of the highway traffic act that are meaningful to you as a cyclist. Here’s two resources; The Toronto Cyclists Handbook, Cycling Skills – Ontario’s Guide to Cycling.

You may also consider taking a CAN-BIKE cycling course, there are several excellent instructors in the area. I’ve taken a couple of these courses, hosted by the City of Waterloo and although they have a significant time commitment, they teach the skills needed to safely and predictably cycle in traffic. By teach, I mean taking these courses ingrains cycling skills in your muscle memory. Stay tuned and I’ll broadcast when the City of Waterloo has firmed their 2015 dates for CAN-Bike courses. Here’s what I learned in a 16hr course, in 5 minutes.

Did I forget anything?

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10 Winter Riding Rules [guest post]

  1. You should nose that Kleenex is necessary.
  2. Dressing for the ride will take as long as the ride.
  3. Learn to be at peace with your own company.
  4. If 3 layers are good, 4 are better.
  5. Road choice is hard because main roads are busy but clearer of snow and side roads are more slippery but have fewer cars.
  6. Ride down the centre of side roads, they are melted because cars going both ways use the centre area.  Keep looking for traffic.
  7. Hill climbing is good exercise because you can’t go fast on the flat or downhill.
  8. Don’t brake and turn on ice even with studded tires unless near a fluffy snow bank.
  9. Washing between your toes during the post ride shower is unnecessary …. they didn’t sweat.
  10. Try it and come up with your own rules!

Paul close

Guest post by Ed Hummel:

I am a retired teacher and a small business owner. I became serious about cycling about 6 years ago after deciding that if I was going to be healthy I should get off the couch.
I resurrected my 10 year old hybrid bike out of the garage and got hooked. Loving the company of others I joined Waterloo County Wanderers which rides Tues. and Thurs. evenings and then Great Canadian Bike Tours which rides Sundays both in the warmer seasons. I am now a very active member and on their executives. These are road clubs so I own two road bicycles too.
For the last 5 years I have run The Shortest Day of the Year ride on around Dec 21st.
I have become involved to a small extent politically with cycling issues.
The most important aspects for me is the enjoyment, the health benefits followed closely the environmental pluses.


Posted in Bicycles, Community, Waterloo Region | Tagged | 2 Comments

Frustrated citizen takes bicycle path clearance into own hands

When I moved to Waterloo, I was initially impressed by the winter path maintenance – the fact that there was any at all.    In the part of Toronto I lived in, the city made no effort to keep any paths clear.  But this year, snow clearance of the Laurel Trail has been so poor that the path is basically unusable.

During my commute last Tuesday, the state of the path was so poor that I was really pushing my limits in terms of bike control and physical exertion.  On top of that, the ride was so bumpy that my bike’s chain jammed three times within the 300 metres I travelled along the trail.

The fact that the worst part of my commute is along a bicycle path says something about the state of the cycling network in winter. When the only way to travel by bicycle is to share space with fast-moving cars, few people will travel by bicycle.  It doesn’t matter if it’s twenty degrees below freezing or twenty degrees above.

So I decided to take things into my own hands, and shovel the path myself from Seagram to University.

The Laurel Trail after I cleared it

The Laurel Trail after I cleared it

Continue reading

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Winterloo – Photo Journey of standing outside on the coldest days of my life

When we (WaterlooBikes and TriTAG) talked about a Winter Cycling booth at Winterloo 2015 no one expected the record setting temperatures. Both  days (Feb 14 & 15) had windchill temperatures in the -35C to -41C range.

The goal of the booth was to promote winter cycling, trying to normalize it by allowing people to try out winterized bikes (studded tires, a fat bike, a cargo bike with studded tires and a few others).  A secondary goal was to highlight the council vote on protected bike lanes on King Street which could come late March or early April 2015.

Thanks to everyone who helped out in the frigid temperatures, stopped by for a chat and had the gumption to try out a winterized bicycle!

Media coverage:

  • Record article with a cargo bike pic
  • CTV had a clip in the first two minutes

It’s not that cold …

Cargo bike demo rides.

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Winter cyclist Chris Harrison with his patented cross-country ski rack stopped by on his way to Westmount Golf course. Note the lack of exposed skin and thermal duct tape on the toes.

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One of many squalls that passed through our booth :)


Councilor Diane Freeman’s fat bike was a hit. This auxillary officer turned too sharply, he was ok though he wasn’t wearing a helmet.


We checked out the dog sled rides, always the stars of Winterloo.


Did I mention folks loved the fat bike?


Anne Crowe, newly minted Chair of the Waterloo Active Transportation Advisory Committee (WACAT), testing out the fat bike.We were all eager to see how the fat bike compared to studded tires.


Narayan warming up taking the bakfiets for a spin.


Not sure who loved the bakfiets more – the parents or the kids riding in the front :)

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Winterloo – Winter Cycling Booth – Come Visit!

WaterlooBikes and TriTAG are teaming up for a Winter Cycling booth at Winterloo featuring a display promoting protected bike lanes on King Street in Uptown.

  • What: Winterloo – Winter Cycling
  • Where: Waterloo Train Station Parking Lot (Caroline & Erb)
  • When: 11am-4pm Saturday & Sunday February 14 & 15.

Purpose: Allow people to experience riding different types of winter bicycle tires (skinny non studded, studded, and Diane Freeman will be bringing her Fat Bike for folks to try out.)

Let your city and regional councillor’s know you support protected bike lanes on King Street, use TriTAG’s contact form!

  • Winter Bicycle Demo
    • Winter Bike Setups – If you cycle through the winter, ride your bike to Winterloo and let people engage with you and your bike. I think we each approach winter differently and it’s interesting to see the variety of approaches.
    • Winter Bike Demos – Allow people to experience riding different types of winter bicycle tires (skinny non studded, studded). A few bicycles have been provided and Councilor Freeman will be bringing her Fat Bike for folks to try out.
  • King Street Streetscape Improvement
    • Two display boards depicting the designs up for vote.
    • TriTAG infographic for protected bike lanes.
    • Goal is encourage people to let their city Councillors know where they stand on protected bike lanes on king street ahead of the vote.
    • Link to TriTAG’s contact form.


It’s going to be two of the coldest days of the year.  It’s cold enough that I finally bought some winter cycling boots, good enough for the arctic. Last year my toes froze too many times. Blundstones are not for use in extreme cold!IMG_20150210_162852 (1)

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2015’s Coldest Ride of the Year – Trip Report

2015’s Coldest Ride of the Year was balmy compared to recent temperatures and yielded a pleasant, friendly ride through Waterloo and Kitchener taking note of new and future bicycle infrastructure projects. (Thanks and shout out to TriTAG for helping to host and organize.)

Below is Sylvia Hook modeling the Canadian Winter Cyclist look. The key is no exposed skin, particularly the face using a balaclava and ski goggles. Lots of layers to ensure warmth but you’ll note she also has the ability to quickly shed layers to avoid over heating. Sweating is the quickest path to hypothermia here in the north. Sylvia also sports a great bike complete with a rear rack for carrying light loads, lights, fenders and studded tires for winter traction on icy roads. She’s a comfortable 365-day a year cyclist.


A couple media outlets caught up with us to share our story with the community:

  • The Waterloo Region Record’s Anam Latif captured the essence of why we road talking to Mike Boos and Sylvia Hook at the end of our ride.
  • While CTV caught us before we left and included us in a clip of various ways folks in our community were out and about enjoying the winter.

Here’s my view of the ride, I’m sure we all had a slightly different experience (map).


Starting out on a group ride is always a bit chaotic, figuring out how to get everyone started, but once the train begins to move it’s an amazing experience.

There’s safety in numbers and riding up King Street from Erb to University was so pleasant and relaxing as our group took over a lane and leisurely made our way north. Usually this stretch, especially in Uptown Waterloo is stressful as the cyclist has to fight for every inch of the narrow lanes. Can’t wait until we have separated infrastructure along this stretch. The grape-line tell’s me a vote is coming in late March or early April 2015. You’ll hear more from once the vote date is confirmed.

As we headed west on University from King Street we all commented on the abruptness in which the bike lane suddenly ended just 40 metres after getting on University. It felt that as soon as you needed space on University, it was taken away and all 30 of us to signal left to take our space in the lane going past Wilfred Laurier.

As we came to the Laurel trail at the University of Waterloo we hoped onto the side walk to make a left at the lights, its a confusing left for motorists as cars don’t view this as an intersection.

The Laurel trail was probably the worst maintained section of our ride. We lost a few riders at this point as the trail was not rideable for some.


The only rider that had no difficulty was the Fat Bike commuter and it’s unfortunate when a public thoroughfare is only safe if you’re riding a Hummer.


We continued south and joined up with the Iron Horse trail. Winter maintenance on the Iron Horse trail was fantastic, it was bare pavement the whole way down. We even passed a winter motorized wheel chair. It would have been impossible for him to have made it all the way to the University of Waterloo, his motorized wheel chair would not have made it through the Laurel trail. It made me realize that our trail system is about mobility and accessibility for everyone, not just cyclists or motorists. As a community we need to think seriously about winter maintenance standards. Who are these standards for? Just motorists? Or are they for people. I believe accessibility is a human right and that we can’t discriminate our standards for just one mode. It’s a shame that in winter a winterized wheel chair can’t traverse our neighbourhood sidewalks and city trail networks.

We carried on down the Iron Horse, stopping to notice the fantastic rail crossing improvements near Victoria Park. What a joy to ride and also sad when you consider the numerous injuries that occurred here with even one cyclist losing their life. Note the before picture and the improvement clip.

We took the Iron Horse trail to it’s end just to ride on Nybourg’s contra flow bike lane. You can’t see the contra-flow bike lane below cause it has two feet of snow on it, apparently it doesn’t get cleared (kind of typical of how bike lanes are used as winter snow storage). But the point of contra-flow bike lane is that cyclist can travel in both directions while motorists can only travel in one direction.


After the symbolically riding the contra-flow bike lane we headed up Charles to Water Street to see how many of us could fit into the bike box. Yipee, it’s green unlike the unpainted bike box on Davenport in Waterloo (why they haven’t painted it yet is beyond me).

We then rode proudly down King Street to the Kitchener Market, relishing our choice of beverage and lunch (I love the crepe place).


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