Biking in Toronto
I normally don't bike this late into fall. Even when I biked regularly as a much younger man, I would usually give it up for the season in early November.
This year, I've decided to bike until I can't. That means no matter what the temperature, or how much snow and ice I see on the ground, I get out there and try. If I can't do it, I just go home and try again the next day. But I always try.
I've yet to miss a day this season. I've managed to ride at least 13km each weekday this month and last. Just yesterday, however, I was reminded as to why I haven't done this in the past.
While biking through Marie Curtis Park, which starts in Toronto and ends in Mississauga, I hit a patch of ice on a turn and completely wiped out. I wasn't hurt, just reminded that ice is slippery and dangerous for cyclists.
But I'll be going out there again today. I've designed a route with very little interaction with the true dangers out there: trucks, buses, and cars. If I catch a little ice on a park trail at least I know I'll live to write about it.
Don't let the temperatures fool you. It might be 0° out there with a chance of flurries, but it's quite warm if you layer up and go for a bike ride.
I just finished a 14km route along the waterfront and snapped these pictures of a cool and crisp afternoon in Toronto.
On September 20, I wrote about the memorial for the unknown cyclist who had been struck by a car and killed on Lake Shore and Dwight Ave. By the time I awoke the next morning, my entry had comments from her sister and friend telling me how wonderful a person Sue Trainor was.
I revisited the memorial for Sue Trainor outside the Lake Shore McDonald's in New Toronto and it's quite different now. In addition to new flowers there's now a white bicycle acting as a monument to Sue.
A letter affixed to the pole reads:
Stop talking about what u think happened + read what did. The lady was run over by a driver who ran a red light. She was T boned by a driver who was talking to his passenger + not looking where he was driving. He will not be charged for anything. Rip Sue.
On Wednesday, a cyclist was struck by a minivan and killed near my home. She was 51-years old. I couldn't find her name in any news reports about her death.
Although I feel terrible whenever someone loses their life in a traffic accident, this cyclist's death has affected me more than usual. It's because of where it happened, on Lake Shore Boulevard by Dwight Avenue, just west of Royal York. Since I moved into the neighbourhood a couple of weeks ago, I've ferociously biked this stretch of Lake Shore as it's part of the Waterfront Trail between First Avenue and Norris Crescent, the street that connects Lake Shore to the waterfront pathway. I bike this stretch, my wife bikes this stretch, my kids bike this stretch, it's eerily familiar territory.
I may not know her name, but I wanted to stop at the spot where she died. There's a small memorial there now, and I took photos.
Tonight I'll tip a glass for the unknown cyclist...
Update: Commenter Mel has shared some information in the comments about her good friend Sue Trainor.
The cyclist was my good friend and cycling companion Sue Trainor. Sue was an amazing spirit, a good friend, a mom, a wife and someone everyone liked. Her sudden passing has affected so many people both in and out of the cycling community. Sue will be missed by many, many people.
When I first started writing 5 Toronto Biking Tips, it was titled "10 Toronto Biking Tips and Observations", but I decided to cap it at five in an effort to make it more digestable. That meant leaving a few key tips on the cutting room floor. It's time to remedy that. We'll consider this #6.
While biking this afternoon, I started thinking about my old friend Ed. Ed and I met at St. Pius X primary school and became good friends by the time we went off to different high schools.
When I first started biking all over the city, it was because of Ed. I was about 14 and we both had new mountain bikes. Although Ed was only six weeks older than me, he grew up without a father and seemed far more savvy and independent. He's the reason I applied for a job at the CNE. He also helped me with bike repairs, mapped out new routes to explore and, in his Air Cadets way, made sure we followed the rules of the road.
One of the first things Ed taught me about biking was to always signal. I've been doing so ever since. It's become a subconscious action. I not only signal when I'm turning right or left, but when I'm slowing down or stopping. This seems to be a lost art.
Here's a quick reminder with images scanned from the 1977 owners manual for a Sears bicycle.
Extend left arm straight out in the direction of the turn, horizontally.
Extend your left upper-arm out to the left, horizontally and angle your forearm vertically upward.
Stopping / Braking
Extend your left upper arm out to the left, horizontally and angle your forearm vertically downward.
Signal always! And Ed, if you're out there, thanks!
If you get hit by a car you may want to hire this bicycle accident lawyer.
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!
Toronto city council votes Tuesday to approve $1.9-million to support the Pan Am Path. The Pan Am Path is an ambitious bike route that would connect over 80km of trails across Toronto.
Starting at the Claireville Reservoir in the west end of the city, the Pan Am Path follows the Humber River down to the waterfront, traversing the Martin Goodman Trail to the Don River where it continues North before transferring to the Hydro Corridor in the East end of the city. The trail follows the corridor to Highland Creek where it ends at the shore of Lake Ontario, just a few minutes south of Rouge Park.
Here's the map of the Pan Am Path, which would be ready by the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.
I hope we build this path. We deserve it.
As a teenager, I practically lived on my bike. If I could bike there, that's how I got there. I biked to university, I biked to work, I biked for fun, I biked everywhere possible.
This past year, I rediscovered my love for biking. This summer, I've been trying to bike as much as possible. Instead of swimming every weekday at lunch, I'm splitting that time between the pool and bike. Today at lunch I went for this 10.69km ride.
Sidebar: I wrote about the MapMyRide app last year. I use it to record my rides and it makes the entire experience that much more fun. Every km there's an audio update with regards to time, distance travelled and speed. If you bike, I highly recommend it.
Biking has become such a key part of my spring, summer and fall that it's become a major influencer over where we're looking to buy a home. It can't just be a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom detached home I can afford, it has to be located in as bike-friendly a spot as possible.
I love biking Toronto.
There's a trend emerging that I'd like to nip in the bud. I'm an avid user of Toronto's bike lanes and trails, and recently I've seen people using these lanes while riding an electric bike.
It saw it again today on Royal York. E-bikes belong on the road with automobiles, trucks and motorcycles, not on bike paths.
While in Amsterdam last year, I noticed the electric bikes and scooters rode alongside bicycles on their extensive bike path system. I didn't like it there, and I hate it here.
If you're going to ride in the bike lane, use your pedals and turn off the motor. Thanks.
Bicycling is a key part of Dutch culture and the intersection design on Amsterdam streets reflects this progression. As a Torontonian who loves to bike our streets, I'm completely envious.
Here's a pic I snapped of a typical intersection in The Netherlands.
Instead of trying to explain how it works, I found this fantastic video that explains all much better than I ever could. Watch this:
Makes sense, doesn't it? Is there any chance Toronto would implement something like this? Lest we forget what our mayor once 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.
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