Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Benefits of Cycling

From Julia Fullerton-Batten

I ride everyday in Toronto. Despite taking slower one-way side streets, it is, undoubtedly, the most stressful part of my day. This morning, on a day when I decided to ride like a boy scout, signalling every turn etc, I was yelled at by an irate driver. While winding my way through a utility-scarred, pot-holed laden street, I was accosted by a driver telling me I was riding erratically (in somewhat less polite terms) and I retorted that as a part of traffic I had every right to ride in the middle of the street to avoid dangerous obstructions (in somewhat less polite terms). In the end we decided to agree to disagree (in somewhat less polite terms). The stress of riding in the urban environment might not be as bad every day as it was today, but this aspect of riding a bicycle on the streets of a North American city cannot be taken lightly. Also, it has been my experience that cycling surveys originating in Europe (particularly Denmark) are meaningless to cyclists in North America.

Needless to say then that I think Treehugger's Five Benefits of Cycle Commuting over simplifies the act of commuting by bike. My morning ride lasts about ten minutes, and is only about 2.5km long. In that brief ride, I pause at five stop signs, stop at two sets of traffic lights and weave my way through some of the worst road conditions in Canada, save for perhaps a B.C. ice highway in April. In that ten minutes I see drivers turning without signalling, rolling through stop signs and red lights, driving up on the side walk, reversing the wrong way down one-way streets and generally acting as complete and undiluted assholes.

Despite this, I will take a deep breath, take the lane that my property tax pays for, pay tickets if issued, and ride to avoid heavy traffic but if cursed out by an aggressive driver, I will curse back. Call it road rage if you want. I don't like it. I'd prefer to avoid it but do not under any circumstances scold me from your half-ton pick-up and not expect an argument. You will receive the full wrath that my tongue provides which I will say, is not inconsiderable. You have been warned. Have a nice day.

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