WhyIRide - Kathleen

Part of an ongoing series by 32 Spokes members talking about #whyIride

How long have you been cycling in Toronto’s east end?

Technically 9 years, but I’ve been biking in Toronto since 2007.


How would you describe yourself as a cyclist?

Riding a bike for all reasons, in all seasons! 


Talk about your cycling habits: How often do you ride? What seasons do you ride in? Are you heavily influenced by weather or do you ride in any conditions? Do you shop on your bike?


I ride whenever I can and in whatever conditions are safe. My only kryptonite is wind but then I remember there’s such thing as a tail wind. I like challenging myself—“Scarborough Rib Fest? Let’s try biking there!”. I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it is to bike in the winter. It’s shockingly fun.


What are top three reasons you cycle?

           A) It’s the best way to get around, anywhere. Fast. Convenient. Easy.

           B) It’s super fun, freeing, and almost magical. Nothing comes close to it.

           C) It’s a great environmental choice and for that reason, I cycle for advocacy reasons. I want everyone to have this as a choice.


Was there a time in your life where you made a decision to start cycling more? If so, what prompted you to make that decision?


Yes, moving to Toronto. The fact that it’s an available option blows my mind—I grew up in car-centric Durham Region. I already loved, loved, loved biking but it wasn’t accessible in a daily life sort of way. To move to Toronto and discover you could bike to work?! Count me in! Then the benefits start rolling in. Saving money—I don’t need to buy car insurance of a monthly metropass (I still use transit though and have a car-share membership). The health effects are incredible—I have a 30 minute workout every day. Being in control of getting from A to B is huge. It’s impossible to get stuck in traffic.


What is your earliest childhood memory of riding a bike? 


Riding my neighbour’s bike down a dirt road in Whitby. It had one of those Ghostbuster’s wind-up sirens and a Slimer horn. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ubsEkQtqws



Where is your favourite place to ride in the east end? What makes it your favourite?


There are so many great places to ride. For trails, the Don Valley trail connecting to the Taylor Creek trail is so lovely, especially in the summertime. There’s a lot of public art along the Don Valley trail!


On the road, riding south down the Woodbine bike lane is my current favourite place to ride. Coasting from Danforth to Eastwood, you get an amazing view of the lake.


Where is your least favourite place to ride in the east end? Why?


Kingston Road. I have to ride here every day to and from work and the traffic is just too fast, too aggressive, too scary. Really, my least favourite place to ride is anywhere without a protected bike lane. Silver lining—where you feel unsafe on the road is an obvious indicator of where we need to change things.


Do you bike to work? If no, what would convince you to? If yes, what is the biggest benefit (and what is your biggest challenge?) 


I do! I love it. What a time saver! I can get to my work from Kingston/Main to Dundas/Logan in 15 minutes. I am the luckiest person in the world. The biggest challenge is just navigating any portion of the route that doesn’t have a protected bike lane. It makes for a scarier on-road experience.


Think of a route you take often. What is it? Would you recommend the same route to an 8 year old or an 80 year old? If no - why not- and what would have to change in order to change your mind?


No route that I ride is fully safe because many North American designs do not fully consider the needs of the most vulnerable user. Toronto really needs to step up and make this happen. We’re so far behind other cities. We need more protected bike lanes. Full stop.


Tell us about your bike(s)! Why do you ride what you ride? 


I have a 2012 Norco Citi Glide—my winter beater and loyal friend.

I have an old Raleigh Mixte Sprite, a 5-gear workhorse that’s just so fun to ride. It’s actually a replacement for the same model that got ruined in a collision. I saw another one and just could not resist.

I have a newer bike from Curbside Cycle, a Simcoe Roadster. It’s so reliably amazing. It’s made for Toronto potholes and winters! It’s the bike I ride the most in the summer.


What is the one tool/clothing/gadget that is a “must have” for you personally? 


Good question. There are so many things I’ve collected over the years that have become so important to my daily ride. My favourite item is probably a good, rechargeable, bright bike light. It really helps to have one when you’re navigating the Waterfront trail at night, and to make yourself visible to others. The one I have is from Beryl (located in the UK) and it’s a laserlight that also projects a laser of a bike symbol on the road. https://beryl.cc/shop/laserlights. It’s a bit pricy but I love it and use the heck out of it.


What change to infrastructure in the east end do you think would lead to the biggest increase in people cycling?


It’s amazing how a little paint on asphalt dictates an entire system of behaviour.


If the streets were designed more for people than just people in cars this would be fundamental to everyone feeling comfortable enough to use any street—bike lane or not. I’ve visited many different kinds of streets in the world—the ones that prioritize people who walk or bike or use transit are the ones where I see happier people.


In many ways the change needed is less physical and more mental. That’s our biggest challenge as North Americans. By designing roads for cars, we have become very good defensive road users, out of necessity and that’s not necessarily a positive thing. In some parts of the world (like in The Netherlands, and Halifax too actually), if you’re a pedestrian waiting to cross a street, traffic just stops for you. No question. To experiencing that as a tourist, it blew my mind. We need to develop that kind of attitude here. It starts with me, and it starts with you.


Do you use the Woodbine bike lanes? What are your thoughts on how to improve Woodbine as a whole? 


I do! I would like the city to install protected bike lanes on the whole stretch of it. I think we can all agree—Kingston Road and Woodbine Ave is just so unsafe, for everyone. I see so many close calls here on a daily basis—pre and post bike lanes. The common denominator in all of that is bad road design.


If you met someone who was on the fence about cycling in the city, what would you tell them in order to get them on a bike?


I would recommend finding a friend to ride with, to find your feet. Bike Share Toronto, a bike hire system, is perfect for trying biking without needing to buy a bike.


For awhile, I stopped encouraging friends and family to ride a bike. People don’t feel safe enough to do it and they are completely justified in that. It’s an unfortunate reality because I think biking is the best way to move yourself around the city. It has changed my life.

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