Tag Archives: Toronto

Explosion of Colour…

As I had mentioned in a previous post, I was in Toronto this past weekend. Over the past few decades (eek…I can actually say it’s been decades) I have been to this vibrant and inspiring city hundreds of times. And over recent years I have been hearing about Graffiti Alley but have not been there, so on this weekend I dragged my sisters with me (that’s a rare selfie with my sisters below). The alley–which should more correctly be called “alleys” as there are many off-shoots–runs parallel to Queen Street West (here’s a map). And upon entering the alley all I can say is that it is a veritable explosion of colour [sic] and talent. Some entire buildings were covered and it became overwhelming at times…a sort of Sistine Chapel of street art. I have many many photos of our walk down the alley but narrowed it down to a little over a dozen to post here. Anyhow, if you are planning a trip to Toronto I highly recommend a walk down this free and outdoor gallery of street art.

Urban Simplicity.

Explosion of Colour…

As I had mentioned in a previous post, I was in Toronto this past weekend. Over the past few decades (eek…I can actually say it’s been decades) I have been to this vibrant and inspiring city hundreds of times. And over recent years I have been hearing about Graffiti Alley but have not been there, so on this weekend I dragged my sisters with me (that’s a rare selfie with my sisters below). The alley–which should more correctly be called “alleys” as there are many off-shoots–runs parallel to Queen Street West (here’s a map). And upon entering the alley all I can say is that it is a veritable explosion of colour [sic] and talent. Some entire buildings were covered and it became overwhelming at times…a sort of Sistine Chapel of street art. I have many many photos of our walk down the alley but narrowed it down to a little over a dozen to post here. Anyhow, if you are planning a trip to Toronto I highly recommend a walk down this free and outdoor gallery of street art.

Urban Simplicity.

David and his two dogs…

If you’ve been to this blog more than once then you know that I sporadically post about the homeless. For my entire life I have had a weakness for them…how they got there or what led them to their current situation. No little kid thinks to themselves they want to grow up to be homeless and no mother hopes their little baby to grow up and live on the street. But I’m jumping ahead as I often do (or actually jumping behind). Anyhow, I was in the beautiful and vibrant city of Toronto this past weekend with my three sisters, and like any big metropolis there are a large number of people living on the street. Often I will stop to talk and on this weekend I did with only two of the people I saw. David is one of them. I walked passed him on Queen Street West and he caught my eye because he was sitting between his two friendly dogs, but mostly because of his sign (one can be homeless and still have a sense of humor, and despite his predicament I could see right away that he was a rather jovial guy). After dropping a couple dollars in hi pail I asked if I could take his photo, to which he readily agreed. After introductions, I asked if his sign was true…if that’s really why he was begging for money. He laughed a little and told me that while he does smoke weed he was really trying to get money to eat, but he’s found that–even though it pisses some people off–a sign like that makes people see him. After shaking hands and petting his dogs I wished him luck and walked on my way on a beautiful if not balmy summer evening. Peace David, I hope you got some food (and weed).

Urban Simplicity.

David and his two dogs…

If you’ve been to this blog more than once then you know that I sporadically post about the homeless. For my entire life I have had a weakness for them…how they got there or what led them to their current situation. No little kid thinks to themselves they want to grow up to be homeless and no mother hopes their little baby to grow up and live on the street. But I’m jumping ahead as I often do (or actually jumping behind). Anyhow, I was in the beautiful and vibrant city of Toronto this past weekend with my three sisters, and like any big metropolis there are a large number of people living on the street. Often I will stop to talk and on this weekend I did with only two of the people I saw. David is one of them. I walked passed him on Queen Street West and he caught my eye because he was sitting between his two friendly dogs, but mostly because of his sign (one can be homeless and still have a sense of humor, and despite his predicament I could see right away that he was a rather jovial guy). After dropping a couple dollars in hi pail I asked if I could take his photo, to which he readily agreed. After introductions, I asked if his sign was true…if that’s really why he was begging for money. He laughed a little and told me that while he does smoke weed he was really trying to get money to eat, but he’s found that–even though it pisses some people off–a sign like that makes people see him. After shaking hands and petting his dogs I wished him luck and walked on my way on a beautiful if not balmy summer evening. Peace David, I hope you got some food (and weed).

Urban Simplicity.

A Temple, some Balancing Rocks, Honest Ed’s, and a few other things I Saw While Riding a Bike through Toronto Yesterday…

So yesterday I was on a quick 24 hour vacation in the beautiful, vibrant, and bustling city of Toronto, which lies two hours north and just around the bend on Lake Ontario from Buffalo. I went there with my son and his cousin, and after dinner they went off to do their young guy thing which allowed me to take photos of this inspiring metropolis. I have ridden a bike in Toronto before (when I brought my folder with me) but on this occasion I utilized Bike Share Toronto, which was really nice and convenient (but more details about that in a later post). Anyhow, with it’s proximity to Buffalo I have been to Toronto more times than I can remember but I am always still thrilled and excited to go there. It was such an incredibly beautiful summer evening, which I spent riding around snapping photos…interspersed with bar stops and good Canadian Beer of course. Anyhow, here a bit of what I saw; click any for a larger photo.

Urban Simplicity.

A Couple Bikes and a One-Man-Band

I took a day trip with my son to the vibrant city of Toronto. It’s a mere 100 miles / 160 kilometers from my home and a very simple drive (granting you don’t get stuck in rush hour traffic). And every time I go there I realize getting there once or twice a year is not nearly enough. I was window-shopping for another bike (yikes…more on that in a later post) and stopped at three of my favorite Toronto bike shops…Curbside Cycle, Sweet Pete’s, and The Urbane Cyclist. Anyhow, here’s a couple photos of bikes and a bicyclist I saw today. The top is a photo of an old delivery bike leaning against an ornate rickshaw-style trike on Queen West. And the series below are of a guy we saw in the Kensington Market (actually we heard him before we saw him). He has a small amp hanging from his handlebars and a microphone strapped to his face. There’s also a small bongo somewhere, a series of harmonicas, and 3 or 4 tambourines.  In the first of the three pictures you can see that he saw me take his photo. He started to slowly pedal toward me as he sang and clanged away. I thought for sure he was going to ask for money. He didn’t. He simply wanted to play his music and get his photo taken. I shook his hand (while he continued to sing and play) and he slowly pedaled away. It’s things like this that really make my day…people quite literally living outside the box that society tells us exists (but I think it only exists if we allow it).


Urban Simplicity.

Piles of Bikes

I was in the lovely city of Toronto yesterday and as usual was impressed with the sheer number of people I saw on bikes. There are ample bicycle parking spots, and most had a large number of bikes locked to them. There are also a large number of Bixi bicycle share hubs conveniently located throughout the city, encouraging even more people to get on bikes. Nice. The above photo is at the entrance to Kensington Market.

A Few Toronto Pics (and a couple comments)

I was in Toronto the last couple of days and, as usual, was impressed. I go there once or twice a year–as I have for the past 25 years–for a day or two simply for a quick overnight (or two) getaway. It is a mere 100 miles (160K) from Buffalo, and only two hours away (if I–or the bus–drive slow) but it seems farther than that. While many Americans have disrespectfully compared it to being the “New York of Canada,” (because of it’s cosmopolitan feel, I suppose) I disagree and say it does this beautiful city a dis-service…this is an incredibly vibrant city and (to me) feels distinctively Canadian (and Canadians themselves are so friendly…yes, my Canadian friends reading this, you live up to your reputation). And according to the United Nations Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Maybe this is why they have such a great bicycle culture. And yes, Torontonians reading this, I know you will disagree, I’ve read some of the articles in The Star where the writer would whine about lack of bicyclist’s rights, segregated roadways, etc.  My response to that is try riding a bike in Buffalo for a month or so…it’ll make you pine for a tourist pulling out in front of you on Queen West any day of the week. Anyhow, thank you to my northern neighbors for offering such an interesting an hospitable city to visit…now here’s a few pics.

The top photo is a sign that greeted me as I drove my truck into the underground parking garage of my hotel (sometimes I bring my Dahon folder with me, but not this time). The photo on the left is a picture of a bike I saw parked on Bloor Street…it captured my attention because it looks like a bike that I would ride if my child were still young; a bike to carry everything you need and still plow through a bitter northern winter (an S.U.B., or a sport utility bicycle.). The pic on the right is a piece of artwork/bike rack made out of a giant bike chain that is at one of the entrances to the Kensington Market. But my favorite is the one below…Superman stopping a streetcar on Dundas and Yonge Streets, just to the left of Nathan Phillips Square.

Biking Toronto

Yesterday I went up to Toronto for a quick 24 hour sojourn. I do this a couple times a year simply for a change of pace; I’ll spend my day/evening alternating between bookstores, cafes, and nightclubs. It’s such an easy trip…under two hours if traffic on the Peace Bridge and the QEW cooperates. I’ve done this since the first time I went there clubbing back in the day (around 1980, when I was 19…you can now do the math). It has, in fact, been many years since I’ve felt like a tourist in Toronto…I look at it as a sort of much larger cousin to Buffalo…only distinctly Canadian. Anyhow, in all these years I have never…believe-it-or-not…ridden a bike in the city. I love walking in large cities and have always don so there. To make a long story short, after recently having pain in one of my feet I have found it painful to walk long distances (an injury, maybe? more likely it is simply from working on my feet and rushing around kitchens for the past 30 years). I’ve also owned a folder for the past couple of years…so it was only a matter of time before I folded it and brought it with me. My folder is in the above picture parked outside the Rex Hotel on Queen West (my apologies to the guy in the photo pushing the stroller…he looks a little startled).

Anyhow, after watching a couple sets at the hotel and being sufficiently fortified I went out for a spin. I had such a nice ride. It was a lovely autumn evening and the city was vibrant. Being a Buffalonian I am not accustomed to the sheer numbers of cyclists on the streets…it was inspiring. I ended up riding around for a couple hours seeing neighborhoods I otherwise would not if I were on foot. I know there are at least a few Torontonians that read this blog and I’ll just say this: you should be very proud to live in such a vibrant and bike-friendly city.

I have a feeling that my folder is my new means of transport when visiting Toronto (and other cities for that matter…it will definitely be with me the next time I visit NYC).

Car-Free Condo


I’ve posted about the excellent bike culture in Toronto a few times in the past (click here to read one)…and the city still impresses me (on many levels). Anyhow, a reader from Toronto sent me a link to an interesting story. It’s regarding the building of a new high-rise condo in the city. It will replace the century old building that currently houses the Royal Canadian Military Institute (pictured above). What is really interesting about the future condo is that the building plans call for no spaces for parked cars…let me say that again only a little differently: a 42 story residential condo and there will be no parking, at least not for cars. What it will have is parking spaces for at least 350 bicycles….there is hope! Click here to read the story. (Thanks Sally.)

Unplugged Earth

I read somewhere recently (though I can’t remember where) that up to forty percent of your household electricity usage can be accredited to things that aren’t even turned on…you know, all those little blinky lights and clocks on your electronics that you don’t even notice. With that said, imagine how much electricity consumption we would reduce if we unplugged these things, and on a larger scale, think of the enormous cities that have their lights on 24/7.

I was in Toronto last year for Earth Hour (by coincidence, not intentional); Toronto was a participating city. I was in a pub just off Toronto Life Square, and went out at the time it was to begin (9:00pm…I think). It was, to say the least, incredible. Standing in the center of this enormous city (Canada’s largest, I believe) and watching the skyscrapers one-by-one being shut down. The billboards went dark, as did everything else. The hotel I was staying in had notices alerting the guests that they were participating in the event, and while it was optional, they encouraged the guests to comply…from where I was standing I could see the hotel; it went dark, too, save for a few spare rooms. It was truly a profound experience standing there in urban darkness with many other people who also stood there to witness it. Anyhow, here’s a short clip of Earth Hour 2009; It’s what jogged my memory. Apparently Earth Hour is catching on (though I don’t believe Buffalo participated)…too bad we don’t practice this monthly, or even weekly, instead of yearly. Or better yet, encourage people not to drive their cars and ride bikes that day. Alright, I’ll get off my little soapbox…here’s the clip. Earth Hour, by the way, originated in Sydney, Australia.

Bike Racks

I was in Toronto this past weekend, and as usual was impressed with the city for many reasons: its multiculturalism, it’s friendliness, it’s vibrancy and cleanliness, but mostly it’s robust bike culture. Toronto is a mere 100 miles from Buffalo and the climate is pretty much the same…snowy and bitterly cold much of the winter. And it is also a city where many of the cyclist bike year round…and the city seems to encourage it. The most obvious example of this are the prevalence of bike racks…there seems to be a bike rack every 50 feet. Most of them look like this, simple yet functional.

I’ve started to notice these, too. They’re attached to lamp posts.

But the best ones I saw were outside the ROM…bike racks as artwork. Here’s a few examples (click the pictures for larger views).


A lot of cities are (thankfully) installing bike racks these days. Buffalo is one of them…well, at least they’ve started to. This past year many of the parking meters were removed to replace an automated parking ticket hub. In the process the city is peppered with 3-foot metal poles sticking out of the ground. In this cities defense, they have, as promised, begun to convert some into bike racks. But as is more-often-than-not with the Queen City, things take time…a lot of time…a really long time. Sometimes the project never gets completed. I do, though, feel optimistic about this one. I feel confident that by this time next year we’ll have plenty of new bike racks in and around our city (how’s that for optimism). Anyhow, I did a quick search for pictures of Buffalo Bike Racks because I didn’t have any. It’s somewhat odd, I think, that I have pictures of all-things-bikes from many other cities, some that I visited and some that I haven’t, but I don’t have a picture of a bike rack in my own city and there is one less than a half-mile from my house. Anyhow, most of the bike racks are circles attached to the poles (similar to those in Toronto), but a few I’ve seen are shaped like Buffalo heads. Here’s a picture and story about them on Buffalo Rising.

Interestingly, another story I found about Buffalo bike racks was on the website of Environment News Service. The article is good. but the photo on the site frustrated me. Here it is:


Huh? Who are these people. Of all the cyclists in this city in the summertime the photographer had to take a photo of a group of spandex-clad-aerodynamic-helmet-wearing-super speed-weekend cyclists (sorry, no offense to you if you’re in the photo and come across this post). But I mean, come on…these people won’t be using those bike racks. Everyday commuters and cargo bikers use bike racks. Couldn’t they have used someone like this:

Just kidding, this photo is not of a Buffalonian (though he did spend time in Buffalo in the 1970’s), it’s a picture of Heinze Stucke, the inspiring German cyclist who hopped on his bike decades ago, started riding and has yet to stop. You can read more about him by clicking the link in the bike sections of this blog or simply click here.

Or they could at least have used a photo of this guy:


Again I’m joking, of course. Einstein was said to be an avid (recreational) cyclist, and was also born in Ulm, Germany, which incidentally I hope to visit eventually to see the Museum Der Brotkultur (Museum of Bread Culture).

Anyhow, at the very least the photographer, if they wanted to represent an everyday biker, one who rides as a mode of transport and as a lifestyle, could have taken a photo of these two guys. OK, I’m (somewhat) joking again, and patting myself on the back a little. This is a photo that was originally published in Buffalo Spree Magazine about a year ago. It’s a photo of my son and I on our tandem; the photo accompanies an article I wrote about biking. An archived link to the article can be found here.


He could have also used a cargo cyclist, and I use this term loosely because you see people hauling everything from laundry to television sets on bicycles in the city. You can see a few examples of me hauling stuff by bike (and trike) by clicking here, here, and here.

But I would have been really happy if they used a photo of a bike like this one. I don’t remember where this photo is from or where I got it, but they are literally carrying everything and the kitchen sink…and I doubt if the rider wore spandex.