This past summer, I worked as a bicycle courier for the first time. Most days, I enjoyed it quite a bit, being able to hit the road for 9 hours, learning my way all over downtown Toronto. Now, I know downtown like the back of my hand.
*looks at the back of his hand* Huh, that's new. *nervous stare* So...biking!
Since it was my first time couriering and no idea of the whats or hows, I wound up buying up quite a number of new clothes for the job. A really good pair of splash pants, along with a dman good rainproof jacket, biking shorts, biking underwear (that has seat padding stitched into it), tanktops, biking shirts (that admittedly fit far too tight on me), etc. For my bike, named Petunia by a friend of mine, I upgraded her with a removeable front basket, rear saddles, saddlebags, etc. In fact, I had to buy a second pair of saddlebags that were more waterproof.
At the end of the summer, I realized two things: 1) I had spent far too much at MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op). 2) I really enjoyed the idea of being an urban cyclist. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I used the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) during the summer. So, it was with these two revelations that I decided to take on the role of an urban, Toronto cyclist.
After all, Toronto has certainly been very accomodating for cyclists. Not only in their great amount of bicycle shops, but for the various specifically-designed bike lock posts, bicycle lanes, even bicycle racks on many of the TTC's buses. Of course, as of this writing, Rob Ford had recently been elected mayor. His hope is to remove not only Toronto's streetcars (which are classy and more environmentally friendly than buses), but also to remove bicycle lanes. He said, "I can't support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day." This is total malarky. For one, there's absolutely no need for a car if someone lives in around the Toronto area. The TTC is an essential service and used by a vast majority of the city consituents. What does this have to do with biking? Simple. Toronto has been incredibly accomodating for bicylists. Not just the infrastructure, but also its drivers. Many drivers have been more than accepting of me being on the road. Secondly, one more bike on the road is one less car, thus removing traffic congestion. Thirdly, Mayor Ford does not live near Toronto (as far as I know, that's not easily accessible to the TTC) and it's any wonder he is against the idea.
Not to take away from the TTC, itself, nor driving in the city, but I find that biking is the fastest, best way to travel. Gone are my times of waiting by the side of the road for a bus, or in a subway station, hearing the same announcement over and over. Instead, I go outside, unlock my bike and am already on my way. That kind of quickness is a joy and a pleasure. Biking has been phenomenal for my health.
While I'm going to school, I've been biking back and forth. Keep in mind that this is about 17km one way, from about Bathurst/Davenport to York University. I traverse mostly via Keele St., which is great for being a direct route, but not fantastic because of the traffic, the relatively narrow bicycle unfriendly roads and having to cross an overpass connecting with the 401. By the time I get the school, I'm drenched. But I'm so alert and ready for class that every class I attend is nothing short of spectacular (for me).
I asked two separate friends a question, recently. In all of my ridiculous get up (bright green jacket with grey reflectors, grey gloves, skullcap, etc), I asked if I looked like a total dork. One friend said, "Yes, you do look like a total dork" (the jerk). The second friend said, "No, you just look like one of those hipster bicycle people."
And I'm okay with that. I love biking and much prefer it over any other means of city-travelling. I keep thinking that I'll inspire others to follow my lead, but with idiots like Mayor Ford in control, that inspiration might be all for naught soon enough.