Sunday, 25 January 2009

Cycling in Toronto, cycling at night

Sez the Toronto Star:

Cycle lanes are expensive and often not practical on city streets, especially in older parts of town. Introducing them can be controversial and troublesome. Many residents on Lansdowne Ave. were so angry at the narrowing of their street last year to accommodate a bike lane, they hired a lawyer to make sure they got a public consultation even though the project was already under way; one local chained himself to a tree.

Cycle lanes are expensive? Compared to what’s spent on motorways and car culture generally? ‘Not practical’? Walking and cycling are very practical ways of getting around cities.

In the face of car dependency and motor terror, there’s now a high-tech offering designed to encourage more people to cycle at night:

A laser mounted on the rear of the bike projects sharp, bright lines behind the cyclist, creating a virtual and movable bike lane. In principle, the LightLane gives drivers a boundary, a way of measuring their distance from the cyclist, and creates for cyclists the sense – even if illusory – of their own space on the road. The LightLane was created by Americans Evan Gant and Alex Tee, who entered the project in an online bicycle-design competition. Gant, an industrial designer, and Tee, a mechanical engineer, work for the Boston-based product-development firm Altitude.

Their objective was to encourage commuting by bicycle. People are reluctant, they believed, partly out of fear of riding at night, especially during winter when darkness falls before the evening ride home. They concluded bike lanes were part of the solution. Then they let their imagination run free.