Comment 32744

By Round Guy (anonymous) | Posted August 11, 2009 at 16:41:37

A few random comments:

I took up cycling to drop some weight. Actually, a lot of weight. Wanted something to do that provided exercise, but wasn't as routine as exercise. Age and bad ankles conspired against walking. Biking has worked, though I've mostly stuck to pleasure trips through side streets, parks and trails.

I don't find drivers discourteous. I make sure to wave thanks when folks accommodate me, even when it would have been easier and quicker if they'd just taken their turn following the rules. I'm surprised at the number of other cyclists I see even on my own street. Maybe I'm more aware, or maybe the numbers are increasing. I think it's the latter. Many are ageing boomers like me. Rather than editorials about why infrastructure is unrealistic, I think the Spec would find a constituency for a weekly column about urban biking: rules, courtesies, enjoyable trips, equipment recommendations, common issues, events etc. We get just a hint of that through Paul Wilson's columns now.

I've discovered some beautiful trails. A one-hour trip is sometimes like a brief vacation in the city, expecially the ride down the east-end rail trail from Mohawk Sports Park to Ferguson Ave. S. Gorgeous. Even better than the ride from Olympic Park down to the HAAA Grounds. I then take the bus up the escarpment. Not quite as much exercise as I'd like (going downhill) but both real treats and I'm surprised at the number of peole of all ages I pass biking uphill. And smiling.

Seems to me that some folks cannot get past the idea of a monoculture. It is not enough that there be cars, or even that cars dominate the roads; cars must have exclusive use of the roads. We see this same attitude among some when it comes to rapid transit or even pedestrian walkways. We still have many places in the city without the infrastructure of sidewalks. Crosswalks are always at intersections, though in many cases mid-block crossings would be more convenient for foot soldiers. Right turns on red are driver conveniences too, at the expense of safety for bike riders and pedestrians. How much would it cost to drop that rule?

Biking infrastructure might fit comfortably on a combination of road allowances and walkways but the very idea of designing infrastructure to accommodate other transportation cultures is simply viewed as inefficient by some, rather than in terms of adding to the quality of urban life through diversity. It's a sort of "moral" statement: happiness through saving. Do not spend even if it means a more enjoyable lifestyle, especially when it is others who might enjoy it. This while infrastructure spending is deemed essential to re-start a mature economy. Oh well.

BTW, I don't think oil prices and carbon pollution are THE compelling arguments for more biking. The auto industry will, reluctantly, convert to other energy sources if its life depends upon it and, indeed, may already be doing so. The real argument is urban congestion. Even solar cars will plug city streets and back up on the QEW during rush hours. Suburbanites look at the space around them and see no concerns, but two-hour commutes, each way, are family-life killers, but don't consider the speed of riding a bike to a nearby rapid-transit or GO station. Don't you just laugh when they get somewhere and complain about a lack of affordable parking? I don't think, being car-bound, that they get out much.

Just got back from Montreal where, since my last trip about a year ago, bike rental stations have sprung up everywhere and seem to be getting fair use despite some operational issues. They consist of rows of about 10 bike-racks that lock in the front wheels and are released with, I think, a credit card, through which, obviously, the rental is paid. The electronic systems are powered by small solar arrays. Rental is reasonable, but renters are encouraged to return the bikes when not in actual use through a penalty charge if they do not check in at one of the stations every 30 minutes. This is not onerous as the stations were ubiquitous throughout the downtown, at Metro stations, public squares, commercial centres, parks and swinging hot spots etc. Of course, Montreal has far more such places than does Hamilton, where cars have killed downtown neighbourhoods.

As for winter biking, I don't know. Seems to me that our winters have been shorter lately, though more intense. I suspect an 8 or 9 month biking season might get to be the norm. Public transit the rest of the year. Much cheaper (as in economically more efficient) than the auto. I've been wondering about bike commuter-fashions, as opposed to sport styles. A fabric that breaths but is impervious to rain, as outerwear over office attire or long johns, and might on its own look stylish on casual Fridays. Might be a business opportunity there for someone no longer rushing to a government-subsidized auto industry job.

Yep, I'm dreaming in technicolour. I tend to do more of that, I find, now that I'm in a bit better shape than before I took up bike riding.

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