Photo by Jason Rodman
Life in downtown Toronto means that there are a million wonderful little places that you would like to go, and most of them are less than 5 km away. The options for urban transportation are owning a car, taking public transit, bicycling, or walking.
Of course, there are some pretty clear pros and cons to each option. For many Torontonians, a car is unnecessary, cumbersome, and expensive. Public transit is alright, but service on some routes can be unreliable and crowded. A walk can be very pleasant, but is not always a great choice depending on weather and distance. This is why some Torontonians have turned to urban cycling.
On a bicycle, you leave when you wish, get some exercise, move quickly, park for free, and reduce your carbon footprint. Especially in good weather, it’s easy to see the appeal. But like anything, bicycling has its downsides. As a large city, rates of bicycle theft are pretty high, and a stolen bike will probably never be recovered — though a high-quality lock goes a long way in terms of prevention. Helmets do nothing good for most hairstyles, and the rain can make it a less than comfortable trip; yet, for an increasing number of Torontonians, the pros outweigh the cons, and many will rave about the wonders of urban cycling given only the slightest opportunity.
Bicycle lanes are important for making urban cycling a safe and comfortable experience. Toronto currently has lanes on some of its central, downtown streets, and there are plans to connect them. While this leaves many roads without bicycle lanes, Toronto cyclists can still be seen throughout the city. It is a system that accommodates urban cyclists but leaves room for improvement.
Toronto is well-stocked with speciality shops where people can purchase and maintain their bicycles. Kensington Market’s Bikes on Wheels has a nice selection for casual cyclists, as well as higher-end options for more serious and regular cyclists. Bike Pirates is a non-profit donation-driven DIY bicycle collective in the Bloor West Village, where you have access to DIY maintenance with hands-on help at no cost in exchange for volunteering in the store. This shop is completely volunteer-run, and has a great do-it-yourself environment for those with the skills to take that route or those willing to learn how to fix their own bikes. The iconic Duke’s Cycle on Queen St W. has 5000 square feet of space and everything you could hope to get in terms of bicycles, bicycling accessories, and service.