Why I don’t love riding my bike in Toronto

Many people assume that I was an avid cyclist before my trip, and that I ride my bike everywhere I go. This is not the case. I have barely been on my good bike since I returned to Toronto in September. Right now, it’s sitting in my mom’s basement, collecting dust. But why? Shouldn’t I love riding my bike everywhere, especially in Toronto where everyone rides, even in the winter?

No. Not me, I don’t ride my bike in the city. I just don’t like it. I have a “beater” bike, as people like to call them. It’s a bike that I like riding, but isn’t particularly nice, and doesn’t have a lot of features (it’s a fixed gear bike, and I have to pedal backwards to stop). If it gets stolen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, unlike if my nice bike got stolen. Even so, I ride this bike quite rarely in the city.

I have many reasons for this. First of all, I really like walking in Toronto. It lets me see things I don’t normally see because I’m travelling at a slower pace. Also, because I live so close to downtown (at Church and Wellesley), everything is pretty near by, so walking to some places takes just about as long as riding my bike (when you include finding a bike post, locking the bike, etc.).

Second, I don’t like battling all of the obstacles in Toronto. If you’ve never been to Toronto, here is a list of the obstacles for cyclists:

  • Toronto doesn’t really have bike lanes. It’s nothing like Vancouver or Montreal or Ottawa. We do have sharrows, but no one really understands how these work. Especially motorists. Whenever we try to petition the city for bike lanes, we get shut down by city hall (in fairness, with the crack-smoking-mayor scandal happening right now, they do have their hands full).
  • We have streetcars and streetcar tracks. You haven’t really ridden in Toronto until you’ve got your wheel caught in the tracks, and then possibly fallen down and broken something (which I have done). Cyclists and motorists are also required to stop when streetcar doors are open, to allow passengers to safely cross the road. I am 100% OK with this law, but it does slow traffic down quite a bit.
  • Motorists don’t always watch out for cyclists. Many cyclists get “doored.” This is when someone in a car (sometimes a local, sometimes a tourists exiting a taxi), opens adoor without checking for cyclists, and hits one, causing them to fall off their bike. My friend’s fiancé broke his hip when he got doored.
  • People just don’t care so much about following laws. Drivers, especially taxi drivers, kind of make up their own road rules, and it can’t always be predicted what they’ll do. While many cyclists (and motorists) do follow laws, not all of them do. Some cyclists will neglect to signal, or will go in the incorrect lane, or will not check their blind spots, or will make turns illegally, etc. Many cyclists also don’t wear helmets (which is optional, but really folks, come on) or have bike lights (which are a legal requirement, and really folks, come on).

Does that seem like enough obstacles? I think it does.

Thirdly, I just don’t enjoy riding my bike in the city as much as I enjoy riding my bike outside of the city. In more rural areas I can get up to a higher speed (unhindered by streetcars and stop lights), take up more of the road, and see more. While I do love living in Toronto, I’d much rather look at a field and a tree than another skyscraper or homeless person.

That being said, I do stilloccasionally ride in Toronto. I love riding bikes, and many cyclists and drivers in Toronto are fantastic, law-abiding, bike-loving individuals.

But still, I’ll walk. 



Talking About Bikes

I’ve been invited to talk about my trip at Brentwood library in Toronto. I’ll be there on Wednesday, December 4 at 7pm. I hope to see you there!

Check out the link for details. First come first seated!