Cycling in the City

As long as I can remember cyclists have been a part of the traffic in Toronto and for the last couple of years there has been an ongoing dispute between cycling advocates and those who prefer to get around the city by car. This dispute flares up whenever a local politician suggests creating a new bike lane on one of Toronto’s major streets, a pedestrian is struck and injured by a cyclist, or a motorist injures or kills a cyclist. The hyperbole is ramped up and expressions such as “the war on cars,” or “the war on cyclists” are tossed around like confetti at a wedding.

Bike lanes appear to be the best solution. Cyclists would hit fewer pedestrians if they rode on the road where they belong (kids could ride on sidewalks) and they might be more inclined to obey traffic rules if they were officially treated as part of the traffic flow instead of nuisances to motorists. Unfortunately for cyclists Toronto now has a car-friendly mayor so the bikers are not likely to see any new lanes created any time soon.

I like bicycles and cycling but I don’t bike in Toronto, it’s too scary (call me craven, I don’t care). Many of our streets are in such bad shape that they almost pose as barriers to cyclists. Motorists are also careless in regards to the presence of the cyclists around them and I’ve seen too many bikers “doored” by inattentive drivers, cut off, or hit. I’m too old to sustain those kind of cycling injuries.

Tis the responsibility of cyclists and motorists to heighten their awareness when they’re driving/riding around the city but bikers could enhance their visibility if they adopted a more fashionable appearance. Cycling is fashionable in many cities but in Toronto the unattractive road warrior look still seems popular. Bikers who don’t dress like Mad Max extras usually just look bland and ordinary—in other words, invisible.

If cyclists made themselves more attractive motorists would want to see them, particularly the women who bike, so they would look for them, not drive over them. But please, don’t go for shock value; nude cycling, for instance, is a definite no-no.

Despite Toronto’s crappy weather (we only enjoy about five months of good weather a year) cycling is becoming more and more popular and there are no signs that this trend is going to change. As the number of bikers increases the number of accidents will go up as well; fashionable cycling could reverse this inevitability, and brighten up our ugliest streets much like flowers brighten a room.

Men can look great on bikes as well, all they have to do is make the effort.

Research: Angelina Pieros