Cycling in the city

bike-fashionConfession: I’m completely lazy.  If I do something, it’s because I enjoy it, not because I feel I should or it’s good for me.  So when it comes to physical activity, I have to find something I like and enjoy, or else I won’t do it.

Considering how expensive public transit is getting in T.O., and considering I refuse to drive downtown, the most sensible decision that combines transport and fitness is cycling.  And I figure if it’s 2 hours round trip, that’s a pretty excellent fitness regime. In the month or so since I’ve gotten back into it, here are some random cycling notes:

  • It’s scary.  It’s soooooooooooo scary.  Toronto is not the most cycling friendly city in the world, and when you have to cross a 16-lane highway into the bargain, it just complicates things on a whole other level.
  • Scariest part of all?  The pedestrians.  And the other cyclers.  I hate to say it, but some of us are nuts.  On the other hand, drivers aren’t angels either – I live in fear of some jackass opening his door without looking for the cycler.  I’ve seen it happen, and it’s not pretty.
  • It’s bad enough making roadkill with your car.  It’s even worse, let me tell you, when you can see the squirrel is inches from death from your wheel tread.
  • That chick at the top, looking all beautiful on her $2000-bike?  Yeah, that’s not me.  Biking is messy, and sweaty, and requires a whole other level of organization.
  • Cycling is a fantastic way to see things around you.  Faster than the foot, slower than the car – a perfect combination.
  • In the past two weeks, I’ve gotten soaking wet, scratched my glasses, lost my padded gel seat, had someone lock his bike to my own, and crashed my bike bad enough to bang my knee and keep me off my feet for two days.  I’m fine – I consider them well-needed badges of honour and a heap of experience.

Best scenario of all?  When the cars are in a traffic jam, and you just cruuuuuise by on your two-wheeler.  Love it.

Do you cycle at all?  What’s your take on city cycling?

- Jean AAR

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8 Responses to “Cycling in the city”

  1. Leigh says:

    I love cycling but I haven’t done it in years – in fact I don’t have a bike now. And the reasons you mention are why. I don’t want to worry about being clipped by a car. Plus my area is not bicycle friendly at all. I am about 2/10 of a mile off a main highway where people do about 60 miles an hour.

  2. maggie b. says:

    When I cycle it is on slow suburban streets. I do not city cycle because I don’t trust myself not to make mistakes. And between car and bike, car always winds. .

  3. LeeB. says:

    I can’t believe that woman in the photo would be riding in heels.

    I grew up in Chicago, which is flat. I would ride all the time. And I especially liked riding along Lake Michigan as they have parks and bike paths that go on for miles and miles.

    But now I live in Seattle, which has lots of hills. I do not ride here at all. Too many crazy drivers (even though Seattle supposedly has nicer drivers than other places … hmm).

  4. Jean Wan says:

    maggie b.: When I cycle it is on slow suburban streets. I do not city cycle because I don’t trust myself not to make mistakes. And between car and bike, car always winds. .

    My route to school is basically through residential streets, even though it takes longer. But I come out of it feeling much, much safer.

  5. Jean Wan says:

    LeeB.: I can’t believe that woman in the photo would be riding in heels.I grew up in Chicago, which is flat.I would ride all the time.And I especially liked riding along Lake Michigan as they have parks and bike paths that go on for miles and miles.But now I live in Seattle, which has lots of hills.I do not ride here at all.Too many crazy drivers (even though Seattle supposedly has nicer drivers than other places … hmm).

    Yesterday I cycled in my one-hinch ankle boots, in semi-nice pants, and I definitely didn’t enjoy the experience. Uncomfy.

  6. CindyS says:

    Hubby and I were cycling something fierce about 8 years ago – but I was a maniac and would fall off about once a week. I also don’t trust others so I wouldn’t ride on the road (saw an accident where a cyclist was killed) and would ride on the sidewalks (which then pisses off pedestrians).

    The last time I was on a bike we were riding along Lake Ontario from Burlington to Oakville (we used to ride 20 km at a time). We hit a stretch of construction and I was watching something else when my hubby stopped his bike – I ran into the back and went over the bars – landed on my face (helmet didn’t help). I remember a man from across the street came over to see if I was alright – Bob had a pack with him with clean socks and I had it over my upper lip. When I took it off the man backed up and said ‘uh, she needs to go to a hospital’.

    I was having none of that and I called family to pick us up – there was a nurse next door and she put a strip of something over my lip. All I remember is everyone looking at me funny. When I got home and saw how my skin didn’t line up over my lip I took the steri-strip off to put a new one on and about fainted when I saw the gaping wound. The room definitely spun.

    I have 2 scars on my face from then although they are not noticeable – but for me, I don’t feel safe riding and I would need to ride a trail to feel safe – and now I’m too lazy ;) My treadmill is good now.

    CindyS

  7. Jean Wan says:

    @CindyS – Oh lord, that sounds like a terrible fall. I’m glad you’re okay, and can definitely understand that putting you off city cycling for good. I biked partway to Hamilton this summer – took the GO train to Burlington then biked the rest of the way. It’s a really nice area.

  8. Tee says:

    We were visiting our daughter in Copenhagen back in May and the scenario with bikers was just the opposite. There they have the right of way. There are designated bike paths all over the city and pedestrians and cars had best stay clear or else they risk being run over by a biker. It was dangerous, but especially for those of us who are not used to it (the Copenhagen residents accept it). It’s very expensive to own a car there, so just about everyone walks, bikes or takes the transit. Oh—and if a pedestrian is blocking the path for a biker who is unable to efficiently ride through, then the pedestrian is liable to get a ticket. I found myself many times jumping out of the lane when my daughter reminded me what I was doing.