Alex Bikes

Ottawa bike politics.

Monthly Archives: December 2011

The 2012 Alex Bikes all-season Dreamcycle

Here’s my current equipment dilemma: I’m switching from my comfortable summer bike to my somewhat cheaper winter bike (sort of like this, but with a different Marin frame as the first one cracked. Oh, so did the second, so this one has a welded aluminum frame). Like most people out, I’m biking around on a $100 frame with $150 of studded tires. I count on everything rusting out.

Here’s a typical conversation:

Me: “For my winter bike, I don’t want to have to bike on studs all season, as they slow me down 25% on my 23km commute. I want replacement wheel I can just swap out depending on the weather.

Other bike geek:  “Yeah? I have a spare 7-speed wheel you can have.”

Me: “Yeah, but the OD doesn’t match, and the indexing is off by 0.2mm then”

Other bike geek: “Why not just buy a wheel with an 8-speed hub?”

Me: “I can’t find anything online under $120, and it’ll just get salted out anyway.”

Other bike geek: “Plus, the index alignment won’t match so you’ll need new friction shifters, and there’s the brake pads might need realignment so you’ll have no rear brakes. You could get an identical rear wheel…”

 I know maybe one person who would have a similiar conversation about a car. This is not the kind of thing that popularizes cycling.  Here’s an ad of the bike I would sell if I could:

The Alex Bikes 2012 Dreamcycle: a bike for people who are not cyclists. This is not just a rebranded Trek 2012 Soho Deluxe Commuter Bike. Click on the image for a larger version.

Finally, a bike that’ll work year-round, easier to service than a car, and cheaper than driving or transit. No more worries about biking; just grab your helmet and enjoy the segregated lanes that cover our city.

And for everyone wondering about how we’ll bike on snowy paths; more on the White Route in another entry.

What I’ll be hacking on tomorrow


I thought I’d explain here the three things I’ll be hacking on at the Ottawa Hackfest tomorrow (from 1-4pm).


1. Ottawa Pedestrian Problems

This is a port of my Ottawa Biking Problems site for pedestrian purposes. The hope is that this will turn into a tool like OBP that feeds into the city’s Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee, but for pedestrians. The whole Rescue Bronson mess is part of the motivation for this; I’m a supporter but not an organizer.

The discussion and idea for this comes from Charles Akben-Marchand, Lana Stewart (who I have never met face-to-face) and Alex Graham-Hughes, not me. Lana’s registered the domain, and we’re somewhat ready to get started on this. Ideally, I’d do nearly nothing on this after the launch, I’m just too busy with other things.

My goal is to leave City Hall with the app setup in WordPress ready to accept complaints.

That said, I have nothing about pedestrian lobbying, I’m just busy with biking stuff.

2. Chart generation for the Laurier counter

A somewhat silent victory of the city’s Open Data program has been the pseudo-release of daily streaming 15-minute increments of the bike counter on Laurier at Metcalfe. There’s already a daily counter, but the resolution is poor and the UI awful. With the better data, you can create some charts like below.

Right now, the incoming CSV files get transferred once a day from Eco-Counter in France, you can see them here. The idea would be to do cute things with it, like a daily tweet or more complete charts.

3. Bike map generation

I feel a bit bad about this, but the City release full SHP files of all the bike routes in Ottawa. This was under heavy pressure from folks like me, and I haven’t done much with them yet.

The idea would be to figure out a crowd sourcing application so we could update it. I’m much more familiar with Google Maps than I am with Open Map or anything else. And I can’t help but think that an online SHP/KML wiki thing exists. Hopefully someone can offer advice on this.

4. Anything else

I’ll talk to anyone.

I’ll be the guy with the MacBook Pro and probably a blue bike helmet. I know pretty much all languages except Java, and my entire career is in Linux. Say hello.

A summary of the Lansdowne bike situation, an open house, what’s next…

I got invited to blog over at the comparatively prestigious Spacing Ottawa, and to hit a significantly broader audience, I put a summary of the Lansdowne bike situation over there.

Here’s a quick review of what came from the open house sponsored by the City of Ottawa, MRC, OSCA and the Glebe Community Association.

For the first half hour or so, various poster boards were put up for guests to see.  Then was a somewhat convoluted presentation in front of 100+ attendees on behalf of the city, and then the real entertainment of a Q/A session. There were about 10 people on stage, some GCA + OSCA members, plus Councillor David Chernushenko, Don Stephens (sp?) from MRC, and John Smit from the City. The last two guys got really hammered.

A fuzzy photo of the folks there.

So many people are concerned about parking, few understand that reducing car usage is a way to address that, and that actual sacrifice is required to get there. I know and genuinely believe the city wants to improve their Transportation Demand Management (some people think the D is for ‘Dream’), but I’m not sure they understand what the non-financial investment is. They all seem extremely confident in making 2-3%. You know what I think of that.

My one question (after about an hour of standing up in line; why can’t we have the take-a-number system?) was about working together with the cycling community to do end-to-end bike planning. There was not much of an answer.

Afterwards, by cornering a few of the city folks, they were quite defensive about the QED crossing removal. I don’t think they actually knew what the story was.

I did manage to get them to commit to a face-to-face meeting. These meetings are always hard to get, particularly over something as contentious as Lansdowne. In that way, I should feel lucky. (One day, I’ll blog more about how community activists are made to feel ‘lucky’ for the privilege of doing work that should be done by taxpaying professionals.) I’ll try to blog more on such a meeting later.

The GCA guys worked very hard to put this together, and it was great working with them on this.