Five things I've learned about commuting by bicycle in Toronto
Riding bike downtown is a year-round passion for south Etobicoke resident. Daily workout saves money, but mind the lions.
I bike to work, which works out to about 140 km of riding a week. Since I bike year-round, that adds up to roughly 5,600 km per year.
That’s like biking from Toronto to Miami ‘ and back.
And I don?t even like biking. Except for commuting, the only other time I ride my bike is the 7-minute ride to my local tennis club. I never go for a bike ride for fun.
As a one-car family, I was forced into commuting on two wheels because of lousy transit options to get downtown from where I live in south Etobicoke.
The 501 streetcar rumbles past my house but it can take 75 to 100 minutes to get to work on the TTC. The ?express? bus has limited hours, costs me two tokens and makes more than a dozen stops. Hardly express. It’s a 25-minute walk to the Mimico GO station, which is how I get to work during the weeks the roads are icy and snowy, but it costs about $9 per day.
So, a few summers ago, I tried biking a few days a week to save money and build a workout into my day. Soon, I was biking every day.
Fall arrived, so I put on sweats, gardening gloves and my running jacket. Winter followed, so I pretended I was cross-country skiing, and added wool socks, fleece, Gortex ski gloves and a hat.
Now, I’m among the die-hard 1 per cent of Toronto cyclists who commute year-round, and I get grumpy when I miss a day. I feel like something’s been stolen from me.
I’d like to share five things I’ve learned about commuting by bicycle in Toronto:
1. There are plenty of jerks out there.
A wide variety of groups share the roads and trails, including motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers, skateboarders, Nordic walkers and stroller pushers, to name a few.
There are jerks in every category.
I’ve seen jerk drivers who’ve nearly run me over when I had the right of way. I’ve seen jerk cyclists running red lights in traffic, cutting people off, yelling in people’s ears as they pass them on the Martin Goodman Trail. I?ve seen jerk pedestrians step off curbs into bike lanes without looking, or crossing on red lights en masse so I’ve had to stop at green lights and watch them turn red.
Everyone needs to calm down, cut the other guy some slack and follow the rules.
2. You don’t need a fancy bike or gear, even in winter.
You can effectively commute with a cheap bike and discount clothes. My winter cycling pants cost $14 at T.J. Maxx, for example. Wear layers. Buy Merino wool socks for winter cycling: feet stay warm, even when wet. And MEC sells affordable bike lights.
3. Treat streetcar tracks as if they were lions.
Lions are deadly. So are streetcar tracks to cyclists.
Cyclists have been killed after getting wheels tangled up in the tracks. So, imagine streetcar tracks as an angry lion. Say away from them.
There are times when the lions are sleeping. This happens at intersections, when you use the crosswalk like a pedestrian would. You don?t have to get off your bike, but cross the tracks at a 90-degree angle and go slowly.
And never make a left turn in front of a lion, or it might awaken and eat you.
4. Take care of your bike.
Oil your chain, keep your tires well-inflated to avoid pinch flats, clean it once and a while.
Winter riding is very hard on your bike, so proper maintenance is vital, but parts will still have to be replaced.
5. It helps to have an employer who supports cycling.
The Toronto Star provides safe underground parking for bikes and an affordable fitness club membership that gives me access to lockers and showers.
Be careful out there and enjoy the ride!
By: Scott Colby Toronto Star