Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pedal Power films and discussion

Tonight at the Pedal Power event, a short but enjoyable discussion followed the movies.

People talked about what makes cycling good in Toronto. No one mentioned the beauty and fresh air of riding through tree lined streets. I’ll mention it here. I know this is one of the reasons I choose to ride my bike instead of drive my car. The scenery and air is much better when you’re not in a car in a traffic jam. And many parts of Toronto have perfect neighbourhoods for riding a bike through.

One of the questions asked was about why Bike Plan money is being spent on the suburban parts of Toronto since there aren’t as many cyclists there. This really got me going. I thought of all kinds of witty and intelligent responses about how important it is to encourage people to ride in the suburbs. Then I wiped all those thoughts and emotions out of my mind to make sure I avoided any confrontation. I wouldn’t last a second on one of those cable channel debate shows.

Suburban cyclists are faced with huge challenges that the Bike Plan will help with. The big challenges I see every day are:

  1. Riding on fast moving major arterial roads, and
  2. Crossing expressways like the 401, usually while riding on fast moving major arterials.

Both of these challenges are extremely intimidating and frightening for inexperienced cyclists. I’m sure many wouldn’t even consider riding on Yonge St. The Bike Plan will help people ride on some of the arterials by providing bike lanes. Even better, in some cases people will be able to avoid major arterials all together. And of course, providing safe places for people to cross expressways will lead to more cyclists being seen in the suburbs.

I have no studies to back me up, but I’m convinced there are many people out there who have entirely ruled out cycling as a way to get to work because of one or two of the challenges I mentioned above. These difficult areas may make up a tiny fraction of their overall commute, but as far as they’re concerned, their bike commute is impossible because of it. I can say that I almost gave up on my bike commute early this year until I found a better way to cross the 401.

Councillor Adam Giambrone did a good job of fielding the question about suburban Bike Plan spending. He pointed out that it was important to give people in the suburbs the option of riding to work or to transit stations, and that there are potential cyclists all over the city.

I don’t know of any more scheduled bike events like this. I hope they keep coming. I’ll do what I can to go and represent the suburban Toronto cyclists with my powerful statements made under my breath.

Darren J 9/27/2005 11:51:00 PM

2 Comments:

Living out in the 'burbs, I can attest to the problem of having to ride on busy arterials, Yonge in particular. When I started bike commuting last year, I had to think long and hard about using these arterials, and I nearly decided not to ride.

I'm faced with no choice but to use these intimidating routes. I can take Bathurst, Yonge or Bayview southbound from Richmond Hill. If there were other roads, I would likely take them. As it stands, I can take less traveled roads for about half of my 20km round trip commute.

I know that bike lanes are controversial, but some mornings during the rush I really wish I had one to use as an option.
York Region really needs to get to work on its Bike Plan and Bike Network. I wrote to them a few months ago and was told they were planning on coming out with one. No news since.

The north-south route near Yonge and the 407 is terrible. All the decent roads like Willowdale and Henderson come to dead ends. I had to ride on Yonge up there a month ago and was sweating just from the stress.

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