May 25, 2015

Revisiting Cycle Commuting

In September 2012, I got back into cycling and joined Cycle Toronto. Since then, I used bicycles for most errands around town, long distance rides such as the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, and bike-transit trips to visit my dad. There was one type of ride I have not done since leaving Bishop’s University in 2008 and that is cycle commuting. With my work being in Pickering, I had always perceived driving to be the only realistic way to get there, given the poor transit service in Durham Region. About a month ago, I was indirectly called out when Bex from Cycle Toronto staff posted about cycle commuting 30 kilometres each way, which is almost the distance to Pickering! Thanks to that, some discussion with other cycling advocates, and the impending traffic nightmare known as the Pan Am Games, I used today – Bike to Work Day – to give cycle commuting another shot!
My bike at Danforth GO station

Before restarting cycle commuting, I needed to do some research first. For this kind of commute, using transit for at least part of the trip is recommended. Since GO Transit does not allow bicycles on board their trains at or heading to Union Station during the morning rush hour, a 45 minute ride to Danforth GO station was needed. To prepare for eventual daily usage during the Pan Am Games, I finally got Metrolinx’s Presto Card. This tap and go card be used on GO trains and buses, as well as local transit services in the Greater Toronto Area, including the ongoing roll out on the TTC. One thing Metrolinx should do is prepare a paper version for tourists like they do in Lisbon, which works on its trams, subways, and regional rail.
Presto Card Reader
The next step after sorting out transit is to map the starting and ending bike trips with Google Maps. This allowed the identification of routine changes needed such as leaving sooner and making lunch the night before. Last, but not least, don’t forget the messenger bag, water bottle, pant straps, and change of clothes!
Waterfront Trail upon arriving at Pickering
With the ride plan done, now is the time to do it and identify tweaks for future cycle commutes! Upon leaving this morning, I was reminded of how much I missed the car-free lifestyle! Sure, there were some steep hills and the odd strong breeze, but cycling to work provided lots of fresh air, lower stress levels, and spectacular views! Especially on the fifteen minute final stretch from Rouge Hill GO station to work! While on the 20 minute train ride (which I was cutting a bit close getting on), there was time to write or read and I felt more alert when arriving at work even without the usual morning coffee. The return trip was shorter, with the express train and mostly downhill riding.
When looking back at that commute, it shattered the perception I had about it never being practical and while I wouldn’t be able to completely give up driving (especially during the winter), I would consider doing it more often. If you are still unsure as to whether you can bike to work (and certain conditions may just make it impractical), I suggest doing some research and trying it! For those who live in the suburbs and work downtown, you could ride your bike to the train station, lock it up (or bring it on board if it folds), and get a bike share membership downtown for the last mile if needed.

Shatter perceptions!
Rob Z (e-mail)


1 comment:

  1. Beautiful Robert.
    As usual I enjoyed your articles even more you inject to me ride more often my bike.
    Good job.
    Beatriz Barrileros