Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Successful Group Commute

The Unofficial Group Commute North was a success, in some ways. Most importantly, the group was larger than one. This was the critical since I didn't want to have to rename the event. The other cyclist was Serena Willoughby, the reporter from the York Region papers. She was interested in finding out about cycling in York Region. Serena deserves a lot of credit for doing her inaugural suburban ride of 18 km on a mountain bike, carrying a back pack, on one of the hottest days of the year.

I picked up the donuts nice and early. I forgot they changed the shape of donut boxes, which turned out to be not such a big problem with my fancy red strap.

While waiting at Yonge and Lawrence, there was some extra energy in the air due to the TTC strike that surprised everyone this morning. Yonge Street was packed with cars heading south. The sidewalks were busy with people looking for cabs. I watched all this going on, feeling sorry for the ones who looked entirely lost, especially the kids on their way to school (although the kids didn't look so disappointed).

People walked up to the subway station door, pulled on it, looked around, pulled on it again, then stood looking for something or someone to explain what was going on. Sometimes I would tell them about the strike, or someone standing waiting for a cab would pipe up. Most asked: "what am I supposed to do?" I recommended to some that they go home and get their bikes to join the crowd across the street. One woman who had just locked up her bike said "I guess I'll have to ride all the way to work." She wasn't happy.

As much as I like seeing more cyclists, mandatory cycling doesn't make for a good initiation. When I first started bike-commuting in Toronto, I took days to prepare: finding a route, figuring out clothing and primping supplies, making sure I could handle the distance. Hopping on a rusty bike last minute might not give a good impression.

We met with Blake at Yonge and Lawrence for a quick chat. (Thanks for swinging by, Blake. Great to meet you!) He had a short surprise interview. After watching him leave with the southbound crowd, we pushed off north.

Traffic was a bit heavier than normal heading north. There were many more pedestrians around, and cyclists. Being on bikes, this was just an observation and not a complaint.

The ride went well. We took a route similar to my usual one, along mostly residential streets, making for a fun and relaxing ride. That's something few people in cars could say yesterday.

Serena said she enjoyed the ride and could see herself doing it again. It only gets easier and better as you get stronger and faster. Being a reporter who has to cover all of York Region, she acknowledged that it might not work so well on most days.

We ended up meeting with two more cyclists when we reached Highway 7 and Leslie. Ok, actually one more cyclist and one transit rider who will be a cyclist tomorrow. Donuts were eaten and a good time was had by all.

Darren J 5/30/2006 08:45:00 a.m.


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