5 Toronto Biking Tips
When I was a kid, I'd watch Benny Hill on WUTV. I think it aired weeknights at 6pm and it was just crude and rude enough to make this ten year old laugh out loud.
I remember one skit where Benny Hill played a German professor who taught us never to "assume" because it makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me". It's on Youtube if you want to see it for yourself. I took this particular lesson to heart, but when I bike, I flip it 180°. I assume everything will happen, always.
1. Don't Get Doored
Assume every driver's side door of every car parked on the right side of a street will fly open at any time. If you don't see anyone in the driver's seat, assume they're really short. Every door you bike by is waiting for the perfect moment to door you so give yourself adequate space, always.
2. Cars Turning Right
This one is the most dangerous threat when biking Toronto's streets. Assume every driver turning right is going to start turning before looking to see if you're biking on their right side. Lately I've been using the Eglinton bike path between West Deane and Royal York and if I'm biking West drivers turning right on Eglinton almost never look to see me approaching. I have to assume they're going to run me down which forces me to lose all of my 30km/h momentum. Note to drivers: look out for bicyclists, even when you're as far away from downtown as Islington and Eglinton.
3. Avoid Streets
The absolute safest way to bike Toronto is to avoid biking on Toronto's busy streets. Often this is impossible, particularly when biking downtown, but mapping your route with Google Maps does have an awesome bike path option. There are more bike paths off streets than you'd guess.
4. Hybrid Paths
Often, getting off the streets means biking on hybrid paths. These paths are shared by both bicyclists and walking pedestrians. On weekends during the summer, they can be overwhelmed with walkers, so just assume they're all going to be walking side-by-side in the middle of the path. And if they're lined up nicely on the right side, assume that's a very temporary arrangement. Hammer your bell, let them know you're coming, and then be prepared to jump off the path to save a child's life.
5. The Lane is Yours
This might be the best tip of all, and one I've made ultra clear to my kids. As a bicyclist in this city, you're entitled to take the whole lane as if you're an automobile. If you feel that's safest, don't hesitate to do so. You don't have to stick to a 10 inch sliver of shitty road on the right side of a busy street just so you're not slowing down traffic. If you need the whole lane, take it. It's your right.
There's five quick tips from someone who has biked Toronto since the 80s. If I was your dad I'd add that you should always wear a helmet, follow the rules of the road and never bike drunk or stoned.
Biking saves money, is great for Mother Earth, keeps you fit and is a lot of fun. Those are four amazing reasons to get out there. See you on the road!
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