The summer sun is out and so are the bikes. Dig yours out from the garage: pump your tires, only to pop them, replace the tube, pump it again, pop it again, give up, go to a bike shop, and have it fixed there, only for it to pop again three minutes into your first ride. Give up, buy a new bike, and enjoy the weather.
Enjoy the weather as much as you can, because the ride will be far less enjoyable. The sad reality is that the casual biker has no place on the streets of Toronto. Unless you wear spandex and roll with your butt up on a road bike or you’re a toddler on a tricycle, there is no place for you to bike without criticism from someone, whether you’re on the road or on the sidewalk.
Toronto bylaws dictate that cyclists are to bike on the road. However, for the casual biker, this is not always a good idea. Let’s face it, the average biker won’t be going fast enough all the time to be on the road. On the road, bikers not only hinder drivers by forcing them to change lanes or swerve, but also endanger themselves. Often, bikes are confined to the sides of the road which are covered with cracks and bumps more fit for a mountain bike than anything else. Tormented by angry drivers, who take it upon themselves to speed by with centimeters to spare, the road is no place to be for the casual biker.
We must consider the alternatives. On the sidewalk, a biker goes from being hunted by cars to hunting unsuspecting pedestrians. While there is no longer any danger of being hit by a car, a new set of challenges arises. Trying to get past a pedestrian on the sidewalk with his back turned is never a pleasant experience. Instead, it’s a deranged game of “would you rather be startled as I obnoxiously ring my bell at you, or as I brush up against you while trying to squeeze by inconspicuously?”.
Every time I see a senior citizen stop walking and stand to the side while giving me the you-made-me-do-this look, or a mother pull her child off to the side and stare coldly at me as if I were trying to run them both over, or a lady jump to the side in surprise, I feel a pang of shame. A voice inside my head cries, “Look what you’ve done. Look what you’ve made them do. Feel guilty you two-wheeled monster.” And I do.
Don’t get me wrong, I love biking. I bike to school, to work, to wherever I need to go, every chance I get. I love the feeling of wind rushing past my body, the sound my bike makes as I glide down smooth pavement, and the change in scenery as I bike past the city. No matter the belligerent drivers or hostile pedestrians, I will always love biking. But I confess. Sometimes, I do question why I put up with this shit.