Rediscovering commuting by bike, and why it's worth a try
In my last post, I described my frustrations with the TTC. The new condos at Yonge & Eglinton have put a real strain on the subway system, and getting on an overcrowded train to get downtown to my workplace at University & College is unpleasant most of the time.
Years ago when I was starting out in the workforce, I made a very modest salary and didn't have the funds to purchase a Metropass; instead, I rode my bike whenever I could, and used tokens on the days when the weather was uncooperative or biking wasn't a good option (for a job interview, for instance).
As I got older and became a mom, my bike sat in the shed and collected dust. Driving was much more convenient and comfortable, especially when towing a baby and all his paraphernalia. I also used the TTC a lot because it's usually convenient and so much more cost-effective and carbon-friendly than driving. But I never really considered biking to be a a viable option. Until recently.
At the end of April, I was standing on the College subway platform, watching the overcrowded train pull out of the station. This train, and the two previous ones, were so full that no one could board. It was a warm day, and the people inside the train were hot, sweaty, weary and annoyed. Forty minutes later, having managed to get to my son's daycare via smelly subway and stinky bus, I was struck by the pure joy my son was experiencing during his own commute between daycare and home - on his bike.
We all remember riding our bikes as kids: it was an intoxicating taste of freedom, moving under our own power, faster on wheels than we could ever go on foot. It was like flying. My son loves his bike and has a sense of pride in his ability to ride well. I figured it was time I dusted off my bike, and get riding.
I've ridden to work several days since the end of April, and it's wonderful. The cooperative weather has made it easy. I even took a huge risk and did not buy the May Metropass - clearly, I'm committed.
The bike lanes I use to commute from my house at Mt. Pleasant & Davisville to College & University are adequate, but as most cyclists will tell you, there is a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately, 80 per cent of my ride can be accomplished using bike lanes, but the lanes are full of cyclists and it's clear to me that more bike lanes (and fixing the existing crumbling, pot-holed surfaces) are necessary.
With the bike lanes being so heavily used, I can guarantee that adding more lanes would improve the cycling commute as well as benefit those in cars who find the mass of cyclists distracting. More bike lanes = more orderly behaviour from cyclists, more people who will opt to bike to work thus reducing the number of cars on the road, which is good for everyone.
I know that commuting by bike isn't for everyone; but for many of us, it is a viable option that I encourage you to try. Don't feel like you have to go hard core by abandoning your car and TTC token for your bike, but why not try it once?
Perhaps consider biking one day per week, when the dress code at work is relaxed or you have no client meetings? I can promise you that in addition to avoiding the hassle of public transit, you'll feel invigorated by the feel of the wind in your face, the cadence of your legs, and the liberation of powering your own transportation. The trees are in bloom and smell wonderful. And, there's nothing better than coasting swiftly past a long line of congested traffic.
My cycling commute gets me to work 10 minutes sooner than by transit, burns calories, and is free. Give it a try -- you may like it.