Author: Tom Babin Page 2 of 11

Will cyclists ever get the rolling stops they want?

For 30 years it’s been whispered about, a bicycle urban legend passed among envious cyclists throughout North America, every few years rearing its head with a little piece of news that brings hope, then despair. And now, it’s come up again here, in my city of Calgary.

It’s the Idaho stop law.

In reality, it’s hardly dramatic: a traffic statute that allows cyclists to yield at stop signs rather than coming to a full stop. But because it’s been talked about, teased and killed so many times, it’s become legendary in status.

Photo by James Havard: https://www.flickr.com/photos/64885769@N08/

I first wrote about this idea back in 2015, and I’ll paste that piece of writing below. But because the idea has been greeted here in Calgary with the same old reactions and arguments against it everywhere, I thought I’d spend a little time explaining it a in the video below. Enjoy.

This was originally published in the Calgary Herald on Oct. 16, 2016, under the headline: Is it time to let cyclists roll through stop signs?

Idaho, famous for potatoes and summering beach-deprived Calgarians, is in the news for something different: a 30-year-old traffic statute that is suddenly most-talked about new idea in urban transportation.

In the early 1980s, concerned that trivial traffic matters were cluttering the courts, a magistrate judge in Idaho changed the rules to allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yields. Rather than forcing people on bikes to come to a full stop at each red octagon, cyclists were allowed to slow and roll through them when safe.

For the next 30 years, Idahoans went yielding on their own merry way without drawing much attention, other than from cycling advocates elsewhere who looked on with envy. In the last few months, however, the “Idaho stop law” has suddenly become a talking point. Both Montreal and San Francisco are considering adopting similar rules, and a subsequent debate has ensued.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of this law to cyclists. Stop signs, to be frank, suck. They are hard work. Coming to a full stop and then pedalling back up to full acceleration is a huge expenditure of energy (this study, pointed out to me by Kay Teschke, found that regular stop signs require so much energy they can drop a cyclist’s speed by 40 per cent). This is especially galling on a bike when there’s good visibility and the stop sign is in an inconvenient location, such as the bottom of a hill, there’s no risk to rolling through, and the sign was clearly intended for motor vehicles. And, let’s face it, the risk posed by a bike in such a situation is much less than a car.

Yet adoption of the law has been pretty much non-existent outside of Idaho. As more cities look to make life easier for cyclists, however, the law is getting a second look. There is, however, some opposition, mostly from car drivers resentful of some perceived advantage being given to people on bikes. Everybody, they say, should obey the same rules.

With that in mind, I called Kurt Holzer to see how the law works in the real world of Idaho. Holzer lives in Boise, is a personal injury attorney who often represents cyclists, and he rides his bike a lot, so he knows of which he speaks. His assessment of the law was simple.

“In my 20 years, I’ve never see a case where the stop-as-yield law has caused a problem,” he told me. As a lawyer, he likes that it “eliminated a bunch of tickets and unnecessary confrontations with police.” As a cyclist, he loves the little boost that comes with rolling through stop signs when safe to do so.

He’s not the only one. For most Idahoans, the law has become a non-issue. In fact, Holzer says it works so well, he’s surprised it hasn’t been more widely adopted.

study was done on the law in 2010. Researcher Jason Meggs at UC Berkeley found that bicycle injuries declined 14.5 per cent the year after the law was adopted. He also found Idaho cities fared 30.4 per cent better in bicycle safety than similar cities that lacked the law. “The law has been beneficial or had no negative effect,” he wrote. Another sign of the  law’s efficacy is its rather low-key success in Idaho over 30 years.

Still, those arguments against the law persist. Holzer dismisses the standard oppositions to the law as “weak arguments.” As for the idea that cyclists would be given preferential treatment, Holzer points out that some road users already have different laws. Some jurisdictions, for example, require school buses to stop at railway crossings, or require big trucks to obey different speed limits than other vehicles. The same approach can apply to cyclists.

Others have argued against the law on the basis of protecting pedestrian rights, but Holzer also likes the law because it better reflects reality. Yes, that means the law acknowledges that some cyclists already roll through stop signs.

The key point in this debate is probably this: The law works in Idaho when people obey it. There are still altercations at intersections, and sometimes cyclists blow through stop signs without yielding, but they are breaking the law. Every problem situation Holzer has seen is because somebody disobeyed the statute. People on bikes are still required to stop for safety. The law is not an excuse to ride like a jerk.

“It’s a rational statute that acknowledges vehicle and human behaviour, and enhances, rather than dismisses, safety on the road,” he said. “And for (vehicle drivers), I can get out of your dang way faster and not pose an obstacle to you because it allows me to . . .  clear the intersection more quickly.”

In the long run, however, the law remains appealing because it makes life just a little bit easier for law-abiding cyclists. With so many cities striving to do just that, it may be an Idahoan idea whose time has come.

Please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Follow Tom Babin on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Medium.

You can also follow Shifter on Facebook or Medium.

Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 

Some good (and bad) parts of winter cycling in cities around the world

I asked some winter-cycling friends from around the world to tell us what they love and, in some cases, hate about winter cycling in their cities. Bike lanes, plowing, bike parking, and reams of people riding in subzero temperatures: Here’s what they had to say in Winnipeg, Montreal, Minneapolis, Tilburg,
and Oulu.



Please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Follow Tom Babin on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Medium.

You can also follow Shifter on Facebook or Medium.

Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 

What the polar vortex taught us about winter cycling

A group ride at the recent Winter Cycling Congress in Calgary. Photo by Tom Babin.

In the midst of the polar vortex, where frothing meteorologists competed over cold weather hyperbole, I had my most memorable bike rides of the season.

My home city of Calgary recently hosted the 7th annual Winter Cycling Congress, giving me a week of bike-focused learning and activity. The congress touched on myriad aspects of winter cycling, and I’ll be sharing some of what I learned over the coming weeks, but I wanted to start with what will probably be my lasting memories of the event.

Biking through the cold

It t was cold. Freaking cold. Most days hovered around -25 C, although the sun did bring some moments up to a balmy -15 C. On one of the coldest days, I found myself fat-biking with two friends on a day in which the -30 C weather chased everyone else from the trails (technically, this was outside of the “polar vortex” that engulfed the rest of the continent, but it was our longest and coldest blast of winter in years).

Riding through this kind of cold with a range of other people taught me a few things. First: Cold is relative. Comfort isn’t about absolute cold, it’s about expectations. For some people accustomed to this weather, it was no big deal. They had the right gear, the right methods for staying warm and the right attitude. People from other winter cities where this kind of weather is rare struggled a bit more. There isn’t some mythical cut-off temperature where humans stop riding. It’s all about expectations.

I also learned that it’s amazing how you can enjoy a ride even at extremely cold temperatures. With the right winter gear (on feet and hands, especially), there’s almost no limit to enjoying a ride. I often tell reluctant winter cyclists that cold is not even in the top 10 challenges of winter cycling, and the polar vortex confirmed this. As your body moves, it generates an amazing amount of heat. It can keep your body warm and comfortable even in extreme cold. Dress properly, and enjoy.

Finnish delegate Pekka Tahkola biking through a -30 C evening during Calgary’s version of the polar vortex. Photo by Tom Babin.

What the Europeans bring

There’s an impression out there that Europeans have this whole urban bike thing figured out. Thanks to such cities as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, many North Americans have an image of all European cities as bike havens.

Yet the messages from several of the European delegates at the conference was contrary. Take this interview on the local CBC television station with Lars Stromgren, a vice-president of the European Cycling Federation. Stromgren walks the perfect line here, maintaining positivity and conviviality with an air of wisdom that never veers into condescension.

But pay attention to his message. What’s great about this interview, and with Stromgren’s presence at the Winter Cycling Congress, is the fact that he’s from Stockholm, a city that is far from a model for bike friendlness. In talking with Stromgren at the conference, he was critical of his city, which is only beginning to take cycling seriously.


Stromgren may not know this, but I think hearing the message that Stockholm is in the same boat as Calgary (or pretty much every other North American city) in trying to figure out how to make cities more bike friendly is strangely inspiring. A lifetime of being told things are better in Scandinavia has inoculated many North Americans from listening to any message from Europe. It’s like being told by your parents that you really should try to be more like your brain-surgeon sister. But to hear Stromgren say that good bike cities are a work in progress everywhere — even in the homeland of Ikea — is a relatable, inspiring message.



Oh, Oulu.

Check this photo.

It was taken by Pekka Tahkola in his home city of Oulu, and it shows the bikes ridden by students to a suburban elementary school. I’ve written extensively about Oulu, perhaps the most bike-friendly winter city on Earth, but sometimes it takes photos like to really drive home the benefits of building a city around bikes.

Takhola also showed a video from the morning commute at this school that showed streams of kids on bikes rolling toward the school in the snow. The sheer number of kids on bikes drew a gasp from the Congress crowd, who are more accustomed to seeing bleary-eyed children emerging at school from long lines of steaming SUVs. To see so many kids riding — Taklhoa reports that about 1,000 of the school’s 1,200 students ride bikes in this suburban neighbourhood — was shocking and delightful.

Takhola’s photo was so inspiring that it became the viral moment of the congress, retweeted hundreds of times and picked up by news organizations around the world. What I see in this photo is potential. Only a maniac would argue against the benefits of kids riding bikes to school (choose a problem facing kids today —  physical health, mental health, obesity, socialization, independence, screen time, community connection), and part of the solution can be seen in this photo.

This is what Oulu gives us: something to aspire to.

Please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Follow Tom Babin on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Medium.

You can also follow Shifter on Facebook or Medium.

Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 

Can Lime’s bike-share program survive a Canadian winter?

 Lime launched in my city of Calgary this week, and something unique is happening: Winter. Well, winter isn’t unique, but having a bike-share program run through a cold Canadian winter is unique, and the company is treating the situation as a bit of an experiment in winter bike-share survival.

So I talked to the Lime’s operations manager, Scott Harvey, about this and a bunch of other things related to micro-mobility (including a number of your questions). Here’s a video of our conversation, and the transciption below.

Q: Let me just ask first maybe: Why Calgary and why now?

Well, Calgary obviously being a city that has expended a lot of resources to build a world-class biking infrastructure, so we recognize that’s an important part of Calgary’s sort of vision to the future. So we want to be part of that.

Obviously, second of all, Calgary just was really the first city in Canada to come to that place where we could enter as a company in a really, really thoughtful and mindful manner. You know, timing is everything and really, we as a company said: “Do we want to launch?” We launched October 30th. “Who launches a bike company in the middle of winter?” But we really felt like Calgary was ready for it. Calgarians embraced it in a way that we were, like, blown away by how much they embraced it.

So we’ve seen some great numbers come back in terms of ridership levels and things like that. And the weather has co-operated amazingly. So, you know, we’ve continued to be able to see those numbers go.

Q: What kind of numbers? Can you can tell me up relative to other cities or anything?

Sure, we you know we don’t talk about actual rider numbers, but what I can say is that on some of our best days we saw ridership — new riders, some days were up in like 300, 400 new riders per day.

OK, you mentioned earlier a little trepidation about launching at the end of October, and there are not a lot of cities that have bike shares that run all winter, so why launch at that time?

Well, obviously that was when we were, in working with the city, we were able to launch. There is a huge process. There is, you know, permitting and, you know, insurance and all of those things that need to go into us operating within the city. And operating within those constraints and needs that the city provides to us through that permit, so we wanted to make sure all the i’s were dotted and all the t’s were crossed before we went into service. And so that’s just what that date looked like.

But with that, we also said we’re going to have a great opportunity to test the product in the market, a winter market. We do operate in other winter markets in the United States . . . , like Minnesota and Detroit, places like that. So, we already have an understanding of what winter operation looks like with the product.

But where we sort of have a question mark is what happens when the weather is really cool. You know, those northern States markets don’t necessarily get that cold temperatures that we do. So, you know, obviously, again we haven’t had that opportunity with Calgary’s weather (yet). I don’t know if you’ve seen, there’s a bike just on the road that have mitts on the handlebars now. So, we’re doing some testing and trying to gather our own information so that, again, we can be cognizant of opening in markets like, you know, potential markets that are maybe in the future in Canada.

So Calgary is just going to be a really good test market as we continue to expand to Canada that’s where we’re learning a lot of this information right now. It’s a bit of an experiment.

Lime’s e-bikes in Calgary. Photo by Tom Babin.

Q: I think it’s an impressive thing to see the bar mitts on the bars, just as a commitment to winter. So it really is an experiment?

Yes, we know that the bike operates really well in snowy conditions and in winter conditions. Where the question mark comes from is performance. When we’re getting down into – 25 C, -30 C, how’s the battery reacting at that level? Are we going to see the loss of power? Are they OK? We’re going to want to test that theory. So fingers crossed, again, as much as I hate to encourage that, but we are in Canada, so at the end of the day cold weather is part of our our life and so we really want to make sure that we’re making decisions that are based on facts.

Q: You launched in Calgary with ebikes. Is that unique for the company? Most companies have both ebikes and old-fashioned pedal bikes, right? What’s behind that decision?

We know from ridership information that our customers, when given the choice of a pedal bike and an electric bike, they will choose the electric bike most. So from that point of view, when we decided to come to Canada, we said “Let’s put the electric bike in because that’s what customers are demanding.”

And yes we do have markets in the United States and the one here in Canada that are ebike only. We’re ebike only because of it, but also because scooters aren’t going to be part of that conversation here in Canada for a little while.

So we’re going to work within what we can, which is the ebike program. It’s just a really really good product. It’s robust. It can handle, we had some riders ride in that first winter blast of snow that we bought in October. We had members of the city and they really said, the feedback we got, was that, you know, the bikes perform really well in the winter. So we just really feel like this product is the right product for Calgary too.

And, again, we’re the only location in Canada, so Calgarians should be proud of that fact is about that we were the first. We beat out cities like Toronto and Montreal.

Q: Yesterday, I asked on Twitter for questions from people. We got lots of really interesting ones, so I’m going to fire those at you right now. OK, one is it about the zone. We talked a bit about launching in Calgary with ebikes, and right now there’s a zone, much like Car2Go, where the bike needs to be parked inside a zone, which is mostly the downtown area. Why that zone, and are there plans to expand it?

Absolutely. So, the city, between the city and Lime, we decided what the winter zone would look like. And then we’ll have a summer zone. So the winter zone was restricted to the downtown core and the Beltline. And, you know, I think that this is the first year of operations, so I think next year when we go into winter operations the conversation will be a little different. Because from a mechanical sort of user and ridership point of view, we missed out on some communities that we think should have been included in that winter operation zone.

But, again, that’s a great sort of learning curve for us as a company and for the city so we can go back and have some really constructive conversations about what that looks like, but then, come the summer, we will be full city operation. The whole city will have bikes. And so our fleet will, I don’t have to final number right now, that’s a continuing conversation with the city, but we will see for the summer months we will see the increase in size.

 And there’s been some anxiety about people who inadvertently left their bike outside of the zone. What happens?

There’s really not any sort of, you know, punishment for leaving the bike outside of the zone. When you’re riding the bike and do leave the zone, the app will tell you that you left the approved zone.

But you know ultimately for us we felt that rider experience was more important than “You have to take that bike back into the zone.” We have the resources here in the city to make sure that those bikes that are going leaving the zone for people to enjoy a bike ride that we can get those products back into the zone in a very, you know, good amount of time.

The bar mitts that have been installed on some Lime bikes in Calgary. Photo by Tom Babin.

Q: Speaking of rules let’s have the helmet conversation, which is always a tricky one. So just for some background, Alberta does not have a mandatory helmet law for pedal bikes, but it does for ebikes And Lime bike, unlike some jurisdictions where there is a helmet law like Vancouver for example, where helmets are provided with the bike share, they’re not provided here. So that is also causing some anxiety that’s what I read from the questions I’m getting on Twitter. People are worried about getting taking a ticket, they’re worried about breaking the rules. We’re good Canadians, and nobody wants to break the rules. Now what are you hearing? Are there tickets being delivered?

 I haven’t heard of any tickets being issued for riders on the electric bikes. From the perspective of meeting that requirement, that is 110 percent one of Lime’s main goals is to, obviously, work within the constraints of whatever the law or regulations are. And of course rider safety is of paramount importance.

So we’re going to do what we can to encourage riders to wear a helmet when they ride our product. It is mandatory, you know, so that is in the in-app messaging. That’s actually right on the bike itself, and then we’re going to continue as, you know, now that the weather is hopefully going to start to improve or stay the way it has been lately, we’re going to start to get more and more involved in some community help promote what we call Respect Your Ride. That’s a program that was launched company-wide and we’re going to, again, start to get that program here embedded in the city, so that then people can have access to get a helmet from us.

So there are a lot of ways we can do that and also that, again, we can start to have that conversation of why it’s important to wear a helmet. We really looked at that program in British Columbia, and the company that provides helmets with their rides and we just felt from a couple of standpoints that wasn’t the direction that we wanted to go. We really felt that it was a much better and much easier way to engage with the customers by having that conversation and by being able to provide people with helmets should they need one. So again that community engagement piece is really the key.

Q: So the way it stands now if you’re using a Lime ebike in Calgary, you should be bringing a helmet with you.

Correct. I mean we want the consumer to provide their own helmet to meet the current regulation. From that perspective, again, there is the ability as we launch our community programs that we’ll be able to engage the customers that want a helmet and you know we can provide a helmet, so we’re going to continue to slowly evolve that process.

But in the meantime, you know, yes we’re asking Calgarians to be mindful of the fact that that is a law and, you know, we really want to make sure that everyone’s abiding by that. And it’s about safety, right? That’s the number one priority. We want people to be safe when they ride the product.

I know people look at it as a hindrance, but at the end of the day, if you’re going to ride the product, and we know that the majority of our ridership comes from people that work downtown and are either say, great example we’re here at the public library the East Village is right here, we’ve got a lot of riders that live in the East Village and come into downtown to do their work. Those are the kind customers that are going to ride our product. Average ride is about six to 10 minutes, so you know, again, it’s it’s people that are either at work and going for lunch or thing going to a meeting or somewhere else.

So yeah, make sure you remember your helmet. Have it in your office, have it in your home and just, you know, remember it when you ride.

Q: Pedal bikes: are they coming? You’ve got ebikes in place now, in the summer when things change, will it be available?

No, again, we feel that the electric bike is the, sort of, now the new standard for our locations and in particular in candidates in ebikes.

Which brings up another question I got asked a lot too, it’s about the cost. The cost for a bike — a lot of people are saying it seems expensive. It’s similar to the what you pay on a Car2Go. And they feel like they’ve ridden them in the States and they feel cheaper and the pedal bikes a little bit cheaper too. So I’ve heard a lot of questions about the cost. So that’s the question: Why is it so expensive?

Obviously when someone comes to me and says well if I take two or three hour bike ride it’s gonna be a lot of money. You know, that’s just not the customer we’re necessarily trying to drive after. Our customers are people that, again, that’s why downtown, in any of our markets, are usually the really big focus because it’s people that are, say, going from one building and going several blocks and don’t want to get into a taxi or a cab and you’ll want to add congestion, so then they’re looking for micro-mobility solutions that can that you know take them where they need to be without it being, you know, adding to that problem.

So we feel that the price is is where it’s at currently, is where it’s at. But we’re open to that conversation and you know the more that we operate, again, this is the first time in Canada, first location in Canada. It’s a lot of firsts happening here in Calgary in that regard. So we want to make sure that we hear what people have to say and that feedback is really crucial. So, you know, we’re going to continue to look at that.  

Q: A couple a couple of last questions from Twitter: When are you coming to Edmonton?

Good question. Again, Edmonton is one of those cities that is on the Lime list, and and certainly from the perspective of working with the City of Edmonton that conversation is well in hand and definitely happening. So you know Edmonton is still a question mark in terms of exact dates and you know I’m gonna remain very tight-lipped in terms of the date. I don’t have a date so it’s not even that I’m not saying it. But you know from the perspective of Edmonton it’s definitely on the list that’s definitely going be a city we’re going to want to operate in.

Q: And I heard you say no scooters in the works in Canada?

No scooters in Canada as it stands right now. So from a legal standpoint there are rules about electric scooters being ridden on public property, so currently the law across the land — each province is slightly different — but across the land is that electrified scooters are treated as a motor vehicle and so by law they cannot be ridden on public property, unless there are certain stipulations that they meet. And so you know from that perspective, Lime is working with municipalities to engage in that conversation of when that law was, when those laws were put on the books and in terms of what our product looks like so that’s an ongoing conversation with most municipalities or provinces.

Well, that’s it. Thank you very much. Welcome Lime to Calgary. I’ve been out there riding it a lot, so I hope to see lots of you out there as well.

And thank you Calgary . Yes, lots to come.

For more videos like this, please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Follow Tom Babin on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Medium.

You can also follow Shifter on Facebook or Medium.

Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 

How to dress for winter bike commuting

Dressing for your bike commute in winter is a tad more complicated than summer.

When the temperature drops, riding a bike to work gets a tad more complicated. Especially in North America, where bike commuting is sometimes viewed more as an athletic pursuit than a simple transportation mode.

That’s why, in this video, I look at two ways of dressing for bike commuting. Version 1 we’ll call Dress for your Destination. In this approach, no special clothing is used. We simply ride a bike to work, with a few accommodations for the weather.

In Version 2, called Dress for the Journey, we gear up in winter athletic wear — from shoes to balaclava, this is the method in which we layer up like an athlete and ride hard.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, so check out the video and decide which method works best for you.

For more videos like this, please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Follow Tom Babin on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Medium.

You can also follow Shifter on Facebook or Medium.

Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 

Hey cities, steal this idea: Subsidized winter-bike tires

Ski towns have a secret: They also tend to be fantastic bike towns.

They are usually small, so distances are short. They are populated by outdoor-lovers, fit and keen to enjoy the fresh air, which makes the towns partial to cycling. Come summertime, many convert into havens of mountain biking as ski resorts keep their lifts running under the sunshine.

So with that in mind, ski towns also have the potential to be amazing winter-bike towns, too. I mean, why spend 10 minutes warming up your frozen car at the end of a ski day when you can just hop on your bike while your pheremones are already raging, and be enjoying apres-ski cocktails in 5? Especially if you have one of these things.

Yet many mountain towns have been slow to adopt winter cycling. It’s coming, but maybe not as fast as might be expected — building great bike cities takes time and investment, and making great winter-bike cities takes even more investment.

But Banff, Alberta — Canadian Rockies ski-town extraordinaire, and a short drive from my home city — is trying something that may be seen as a shortcut to winter-cycling greatness. And the beauty of it lies in its simplicity: Subsidized studded bike tires.

Ski towns, like Banff, Alberta, also have the potential to make for great bike towns. Photo by Tom Babin

Here’s how it works: If you buy a studded bike tire for winter and bring your receipt to town hall, the town will cut you a cheque for $50. Studded tires can run close to $100 (and studded fat-bike tires can easily jump past $500) so this is a significant subsidy. A news release from the town says the subsidy is intended to help “normalize” winter cycling.

Fear of falling on icy roads is a major barrier to people riding in winter, and a studded tire can combat this. The subsidy reminds me of the simplicity of a program in the winter-bike utopia of Oulu, in which people who committed to ride in winter were given a bike. That’s it. It’s a no-brainer.

Banff has fewer than 8,000 permanent residents, and the town earmarked $5,000 from its budget for this program. If the money is all spent, that’s a significant proportion of the town equipped to happily ride all year long.

It’s a great idea (initated as part of the upcoming Winter Cycling Congress here in Calgary), simple to understand and get behind, and it addresses one of the key barriers to winter cycling. If you’re reading this from a city that isn’t Banff, it’s also an easy idea to steal.

Please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Follow Tom Babin on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Medium.

You can also follow Shifter on Facebook or Medium.

Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 

What’s an e-bike anyway? Mythbusting over modern pedelecs

When does a bicycle become a motorcycle?

I was asking myself that question after last week’s post, when I vlogged about my city’s new Lime e-bike sharing system, including a minor rant about Alberta’s antiquated legislation that treats e-bikes the same as motorcycles. Some people reacted to the post with surprise, asserting that if a bike has a motor then it should be treated as a motorcycle. Duh.

That struck me as logical argument, but only if you know nothing about modern pedal-assist e-bikes. So this week’s video is for those people. If you have any knowledge of a modern pedelec, or pedal-assist e-bike, and, as such, realize they are very different than motorcycles, then you should spend the next four minutes of your life doing something else. Come back later for another topic. 

If, however, your impression of e-bikes begins and ends with 1960s mopeds and you’re confused by this whole “pedelec” thing, this video is for you. 

For more videos like this, please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Follow Tom Babin on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Medium.

You can also follow Shifter on Facebook or Medium.

Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 



Two things holding back Calgary’s new e-bike-sharing system

My first ride on a Lime e-bike in Calgary. Photo by Tom Babin.

Finally, Calgary finally has a bike-share program. In the video below, I detail my first experience with it. Now, pat us on the back for joining the rest of the world, where such systems have been enjoyed for years.

But I’ve been thinking a bit more since I finished the video, and there are two big problems that face the success of the system in these early days.

Correction to the video above: Cost is $1/unlock + $0.30/min to ride.

E-bikes: I love e-bikes, and at first I was happy that Lime decided to enter the Calgary market with only pedal-assist bikes available. But there’s a shortcoming.

One of the great things about e-bikes is their ability to ease the ascending of big hills. Calgary’s downtown is in the valley of two rivers, meaning big hills surround it. This has long been one of the things discouraging some people from bicycle commuting downtown. However, Lime’s home area – the area where you are permitted to leave the shared e-bikes – excludes many of these hilly areas. That means the places where e-bikes would be of most benefit are excluded from use.

This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s a missed opportunity. Hopefully, Lime will take this into consideration when considering the long-term feasibility of the program.

Obscure e-bike helmet law: I’ve always taken a bit of pride in the fact that Calgary has avoided the folly of our neighbourhing province of B.C. with its misguided bicycle-helmet requirements. But sitting on the books in Alberta all these years, unbeknownst to me, was a law mandating helmet use on motorcycles, mopeds and motor-assisted bicycles.

This means that to legally ride a Lime e-bike in Calgary, you need to wear a helmet. So unless you happen to carry a helmet around with you, just in case, your opportunities to ride will be limited. If you are one of those multi-modal commute planners who uses Lime to complete the last mile of your journey, I can imagine you planning to bring a helmet along. For the rest of us, those opportunistic rides will be mostly off-limits.

This law feels like antiquated, written when motor-assisted bicycles were mopeds and two-stroke gas sippers, not the high-tech pedal-assisted bikes of today. Let’s hope the provincial government brings the law up to date. While they’re at it, maybe they can update all the laws around e-bikes – California’s legislation is a good place to start.

Because of these factors, I can’t see myself using this first wave of Lime e-bikes much in the foreseeable future. I’ll be holding out more for the spring, when the system expands to include old-school pedal bikes and another company enters the fray.

Baby steps, Calgary.

For more videos like this, please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Follow Tom Babin on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Medium.

You can also follow Shifter on Facebook or Medium.

Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 

Ways of making short bike trips as easy as possible

There are plenty of good reasons why pedal or coaster brakes are pretty rare these days — disc brakes are better in almost every way. But there’s an important reason why I love old-fashioned coaster brakes on my bike.

It’s all about making the bike easy to use for short, urban, practical trips. 

Check it out, along with 5 tips for making short trips on your bike as easy and convenient as possible.

Here’s the piece about SmartHalo mentioned in the video.

For more videos like this, please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Follow Tom Babin on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Medium.

You can also follow Shifter on Facebook or Medium.

Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 

How Dutch-inspired urban design inspired Vancouver’s bike boom

Chris Bruntlett in Vancouver. He and his wife Melissa are the authors of the new book Building the Cycling City, which you should read. Photo by Tom Babin.

Over the past decade, Vancouver has undergone a bike renaissance. Separated bike lanes have been installed, a bike-share program has been implemented, and more and more people are riding bikes for transportation. Even a downtown business group that once fought bike infrastructure has become supportive of cycling. 

But these big changes didn’t come from thin air. This kind of bike boom, which is happening in many North American cities, was inspired by the lessons learned in the Netherlands. 

In their new book Building the Cycling City: the Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality, Vancouver residents Chris and Melissa Bruntlett of Modacity examine how Dutch design has made the country the world’s best for everyday cycling, and how ideas honed there are inspiring cities all over the world. 

In this video, Chris Bruntlett takes me around Vancouver for a look at how those Dutch ideas have been implemented, and how they are turning Vancouver into a bike haven. 

For more videos like this, please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Follow Tom Babin on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Medium.

You can also follow Shifter on Facebook or Medium.

Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 

Page 2 of 11

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén