So I finally started riding a bike to work this year at 51. The last time I rode a bike in Toronto was when I was 23 and at U of T for my Masters. We were living around Ossington and Bloor and super broke (as students tend to be) so my then husband suggested we start riding to school to save TTC money. I hated it. Don’t remember why exactly but I think it had to do with a mixture of the terror of being mutilated by a car (there were no bike lanes back then) and getting soaked in the rain and having my makeup run all over my face.
Also, I had a hunk-o-junk bike that was uncomfortable and hard to ride – felt like my insides were gonna fall out. I did it for a week and quit. I called my mom, crying that my life was hell so she would buy me a Metropass, and I was done with biking for the next 25 years.
Last year, I was offered a job at UHN. The year before, I was working as a consultant so I was always driving and stuck in traffic, screaming obscenities and wondering how more people are not killed in road rage incident across the GTA. The idea of a close commute (I live at coxwell and gerrard) was a definite plus.
Since I have been driving to work for the past 15 years, I first looked into parking – $200 plus dollars a month, and I heard that the line up to get out of the 7 story parking garage at 5 pm might set me over the edge. So I decided to try the TTC. It was actually not bad. I could sit back, read Facebook and watch all the ‘interesting’ people talk loudly on their phones about intimately personal issues amongst other inappropriate yet highly entertaining TTC passenger behaviours.
But what was the WORST was that I couldn’t control how long the trip took. Some days I could be at work in 30 minutes – some days an hour. One of the worst parts though was breakdowns or just randomly being kicked off the streetcar for unplanned short turns. SOOOOOOO irritating…
This summer, my current husband (I have only had two so far) is also a bike guy (but way nicer and less ‘judgy’ than the first) suggested that I get a bike and start riding with him for fun. Given my past experience with bikes, I was pretty hesitant, so he took me to a good bike store. I was surprised by how nice and easy a good decent bike was to ride – so much lighter and more comfortable than they were 25 years ago. And seats are way bigger now for my ‘mature’ derriere.
After riding a few times with him around the city, I thought about riding to work (mainly because I found riding around with him for ‘fun’ terribly boring, but I didn’t want to waste the money we spent on my nice new fancy bike). I assumed, of course, that I would hate it given my past bike commuting experiences. So no one was more shocked than me when I ended up actually liking it.
Although there are not bike lanes available for my entire route, I find, for the most part, car drivers are now use to sharing the road with cyclists, so I feel way less nervous about being mowed down and squished than I did before. It also takes me exactly 25 minutes, so I am saving time every day and I actually get to work on time! (my boss is thrilled! LOL). It’s great exercise so I don’t have to go to the gym as much (major bonus points cause the gym is hellish). But most importantly, it’s nice to be outside and know I am doing something good for the environment – or at least not making it worse. And I can gloat to my friends and others about how I am so amazing and saving the environment for the next generation. I do miss the people-watching on the TTC. Better than reality tv most days.
Biking does take some planning – I don’t have access to a shower but for the most part I don’t get that sweaty, so I just change from my riding clothes to work clothes in the bathroom at work. I use baby wipes but don’t like admitting that because it brings me down on the ‘savior of the environment’ list. I bought a fun bike basket that carries all my stuff easily and I bought extra makeup, deodorant, hair stuff etc. so I can make myself presentable once I get to work. My hair still looks wonky a lot of the time because of the helmet, but it didn’t look that great beforehand, so no big loss.
Anyway, I guess all I want say is that biking to work, if you don’t live too far, is way easier than it looks and definitely worth trying – I thought for sure I would hate it and now I don’t. And if I can do it at 51, anyone can do it. Hopefully it will keep me alive a few extra years too to enjoy my UHN-defined pension someday…