As a new cyclist, I'm still very uncomfortable with riding in traffic when I don't have a bike lane all to myself.
The problem is, I don't yet know where all the bike lanes are in the downtown core. I tried checking out the City of Toronto's map, but it's so big and I found it hard to keep track of where everything was. Then I discovered Ride the City.
This year I’ve been on a quest to get in shape. My latest challenge? To cycle in the city. The problem? It scares me to death.
Sure, I rode a bike as a kid. But I lost interest when I was 12. The next time I picked up a bike, I was 20 years old and a smoker.
Then it took me 10 minutes to go only a few hundred metres. “What’s the matter with you?” my stepmom asked when she picked me up barely inches from our laneway.
Now I'm a non-smoker living in a downtown condo with a cyclist who thinks it would be neat for the two of us to bike together places.
There's not much space in the condo to store a bike for me, so when Bixi launched in Toronto last month, I decided this would be my trial run. I bought a membership and promptly went out and bought a helmet.
After getting my Bixi key, I didn’t use it for the first time for more than a month. I was too scared. Too scared of the cars, the other cyclists -- of cycling in Toronto in general.
But I want to put my fear behind me. I’m never going to get over my fears if I don’t try.
Last week was my first week. I rode from my house at Queen and Church Sts., across King St. to Parliament St. and down Queens Quay E. It was easy to do when I worked at 6 a.m., but when my shift switched to 9 a.m., that’s when I got nervous.
Still, my first day I went to the Bixi stand at King and Jarvis Sts., and picked my bike. I got on it and began the ride down King — which was quieter than I expected. I turned down Parliament St., to find some unexpected construction. I took my time going through the intersection but survived. I made it to work in one piece.
So here is my quest: To cycle everywhere that scares me by the end of the summer and get my $95 bucks worth from my Bixi membership.
I’m looking for your help in giving a newbie cyclist some tips as I navigate the city this summer. Where to cycle, how to get past the fear of riding on the road with cars and trucks and other cyclists, and how I can improve my balance so when I start after being stopped I don’t wobble around the lane.
Leave a comment and watch as I tour Toronto on my bike.
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