Vision Zero

On Saturday I watched a guy take a phone call on his cellphone. Nothing unusual about that but what was weird was he took the call while crossing a busy intersection in Burlington. As he took the call, he stopped in the middle of the intersection to talk. As he stood there a large truck made a fast right turn and just about ran him flat over.

So what can we take from this little true story? Human nature doesn’t change easily. You can’t do it by shaming, by punishment (although getting run over by a truck might leave an impression if you survive) or even by education alone. img_0949

In 112 days this summer in Toronto there have been almost 1,833 accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists. (Around the world an estimated 1.2-million people die in traffic accidents annually.)

This morning CBC radio ran an interview with a Swedish expert who talked about that country’s “Vision Zero” initiative to reduce all traffic fatalities to zero. The initiative is making a dramatic impact on road safety in Sweden.

Here in the GTA we’ve still got a patchwork system of bike lanes and traffic that is moving too fast through urban areas to be safe. On our rural roads the situation is even more dangerous with high speed and dangerous passing by overly aggressive drivers common as there is little enforcement of the speeding laws and little understanding of the rule to share the road.

In Sweden, one of their ideas that worked was the introduction of more roundabouts. What the roundabout does is allow traffic to flow through intersections but at a slower rate of speed. Any accident that does happen, happens at a survivable speed. Our Swedish expert this morning said that the rates of surviving a motorized vehicle crash involving a cyclist are dramatically higher if the impact speed is 30 kph or less and not 50 kph or higher.

Halton has been experimenting with roundabouts and they seem to be working rather well. I’ve cycled through several this summer and found them safe and bike friendly.

Here in the GTA we should reintroduce photo radar especially on our rural roads and see more (or should I say some) police enforcement of the one-meter law where passing vehicles must give one meter of space to the slower vehicle and if that one meter isn’t available then they don’t pass until it is safe to do so.

Sharing the road, especially with some of the younger aggressive drivers on our rural photoroads, is a new concept for some. We’ve had several traffic fatalities involving cyclists and motorists in Halton Region this summer and there are things that we can do to dramatically reduce and even eliminate these tragedies.

It’s time Mayor Rob Burton and Oakville Town Council along with Halton Region and Halton Regional Police got serious about this.

I Rode With The Big Kids

…and I finished 🙂

Last night was a big night for me.

After my initial disappointment at finishing DFL (dead f*****g last) in the easy recreation ride held every Tuesday and Thursday night by the Oakville Cycling Club at the beginning of the summer I actually rode with one of the more serious riding groups (There are seven levels of groups that go out each week from the OCC.) last night.1

This was my big goal to finish a ride with serious riders so I found a coach and a riding group and I went out twice a week for two hours in the morning training on the back hills of Halton. We didn’t get much rain as you know but we sure got heat and we rode through it.

Initially it was tough and there were some hills (still are) that I couldn’t climb. My own anxiety about my heart condition and my unfamiliarity with the carbon-fibre toad machine made for some difficult rides…and I fell…a lot. Fortunately most falls from not unclipping properly are low-speed crashes that are more humiliating than painful. After awhile you learn how not to crash.bicycle-crash

I owe everything I’ve learned and done this summer (including two 80K rides) to my coach Petrina at The Cycling Centre.Ca. She’s still in Italy I think with a riding group from Oakville but I sent her the following email:

Hi Petrina,

I want to include you in today’s celebration.
Last night, despite my trepidations and fear of failing, I rode with the Level One Oakville Cycling Club riders for the first time.
Since I had conquered the recreation ride a few weeks ago this was the next logical step.
The group of 15 or so went out fast at 30 kph and the first 10K were a struggle as I was outputting around 90 per cent but I maintained contact riding about two-thirds back in the group.
By 15K the riders were noticeably slowing. Most had some technique but not a lot failing to charge down the hills to gain sufficient momentum to peak the other side. There was some unnecessary slowing but overall a pretty good bunch. I saw some riders from your previous weekend training sessions. Climbing a hill I looked back and saw no one behind me. I was determined I was not going to finish in last so I started to work my way up in the group at stop signs and rest points. As I had warmed up my heart rate stayed at cruising speed of around 135 equalling 80 per cent output.
We approached Appleby Line going west on Second Side Road turning south down the big hill. I took a chance and during some concerns with traffic I jumped in behind the lead rider who was booting it down the hill and we both attacked the incline and we both peaked the top. I got passed by three other stronger (and younger) riders who were working hard on the climb and I was fifth into the parking lot without making it look like I was trying 🙂
Petrina this is all about you. 
My average speed was 25.3 which is a personal best over 30 km (which now seems like a short ride after doing to rides over 80 km this summer). 
I would never have thought this possible at the beginning of the summer. I am very very grateful to you and to the Tuesday and Thursday riders in our training group.
Looking forward to our spinning classes this winter.
Best regards,
Peter West
P.S. Tracey’s weightlifting class was terrific. It is exactly what we were hoping for in a class and in our instructor.
So that’s what having a great coach can do for your cycling. Riding is a lot easier when you have some technique and endurance and speed. That’s the reason for taking the weightlifting class for cyclists with coach Tracey and the winter spinning classes with Petrina. It’s all about faster – stronger – harder.
Next season is going to be a whole new ballgame 🙂

Weightier Things

Marion and I took our first weightlifting for cyclists class with coach Tracey. Tracey is one of the coaches from the CyclingCentre.ca and is just recently back from one of Petrina’s European trips. (All photos from Petrina’s cellphone.)14333030_1348908241787427_4342537613854284155_n

Based on what I’ve been reading and seeing from overseas I think this is an adventure that might be best experienced in another year or two.

Having said that, one of our classmates trained with Marion during Petrina’s beginners Monday night classes and she just got back from cycling in France.

She had a great time and spent sometime riding with Tracey in the support van. Trust me based on what I saw and read I’d have been sitting right beside her on some of the climbs where the inclination was approaching 20 per cent which on a bike is like climbing darn near straight up.

As I’ve said before riding a modern road bike takes a lot more technique than strength because nobody (expect maybe the pros) can climb all day or afford to misread the road ahead. You must know how to pace yourself (don’t do out hot) and how to attack hills. Honestly within weeks of training you’ll peak hills with power to spare.14370348_1344487032229548_7086735381729093546_n

Cycling is a great activity. I’ll do a post on how to get into cycling on the cheap later on. (Buy a name brand aluminum or steel frame bike with decent components – Shimano 105s or better for around $1200 from a reputable dealer.)

One extra cost is the price of the auxiliary gear you’ll absolutely need which will bring the price up another 50 per cent. (Think shorts, shirts, speedometer, jacket for rain, better saddle – essential and maybe upgraded rims and tires.)

You can buy used but best to buy from someone you know and trust. Carbon fibre is super tough to repair if cracked.

Having said all that, it’s the best money I’ve ever spent as in a very real sense it’s saving me from decades of inactivity and illness. Plus I’ve just had one of the best summers ever as I was riding three or four times each week.14238081_1342389512439300_942388774073846830_n

Oh yeah to get back to the weightlifting. Getting stronger by as little as 10 per cent and maybe as much as 30 or 40 per cent will make an enormous difference to how easy it will be to ride next year.

To top everything off, in less than five weeks we start our 23-week spinning session with Petrina. We’re going twice a week so we’re expecting big results 🙂

There’s still riding time this season and I’m thinking of going out on the Oakville Cycling Club’s ride tonight.

Relief For The Ageing Cyclist

As you know I bought a road bike after my weight soared above 200 pounds last winter. I started riding in March and by early summer I was training with coach Petrina from The CyclingCentre and an advanced group of serious riders and amateur racers.ScottCR110

Training with a coach was the best thing I’ve done in a long, long time and I highly recommend Petrina and this winter Marion and I are taking spinning classes with her.

One of the problems associated with cycling is the manufacturer-supplied saddles are crap and mine was killing me. I bought a Fizik saddle which I loved and was very, very comfortable.DSCF1745

However, over time, I started to experience some numbness in those places where the saddle impacted my lower reaches. Now numbness down there can be an indication of overall hardening of the arteries so I went for a complete physical plus blood work and an echo-stress test.

Fortunately I passed everything so my doctor’s suggest was to stop cycling for a couple of months. Ugh.pr2-0-3

That’s what got me researching saddles and I found ISM Saddles.

My PR 2.0 saddle isn’t like a normal saddle and the bike shop suggested I not ride with it for very long the first few times.

What’s different in the ISM saddle is you don’t actually sit on the wide back part of the saddle but you perch on the two forward prongs which make contact with the pelvic bone in a very different place than a regular saddle.

It took about 8 km of testing and adjusting but with the saddle about two or three inches back and initially an 1/8 inch lower (I raised the saddle that eight to be super comfortable as lower pushed on a nerve.) and I was in business.

Despite the warning Marion and I took our bikes out later that evening for a fast hard ride to Burlington and back. Our normal average speed over this course is 21-22 kph but last night we hit 25-26 averages which is a huge improvement.

I think the higher speeds came from my position on the saddle which generated more power as I was a touch higher and back farther as I peddled.

This morning there’s no numbness and no discomfort whatsoever and this is very impressive. As for the return of other functions, well time will tell.

On Sunday Marion and I are taking on the GTA Grandfondo which is an 85 km ride across the hills of Halton north of Oakville.

I’ll be using my new saddle.