Most days, I commute to work via the Scorpion King, my trusty 2003-model Trek Calypso, a cruiser-style bicycle that provides a comfortable and “business casual” clothing-friendly ride thanks to its fat tires, comfortable seat, fenders and chainguard. The most efficient route I use is 6.3 kilometres (3.9 miles) in length and has only two hills, both of which are unchallenging, even with an accordion on my back:
Using this route, I can get to work in about half an hour, which is about ten minutes better than the average time it takes to make the trip via public transit. The bike commute also has these added benefits:
- An hour’s worth of moderate exercise per day
- Cheaper than public transit
- Lets me see what’s happening in the neighbourhoods on the various routes I take to work
- Less frustrating than public transit
The “less frustrating than public transit” benefit has become more relevant over the past 18 months. There appears to have been a steady decline in the service provided by the TTC over that time. During rush hour, I rarely have been on a train that didn’t have to stop and linger in the tunnel between stations for 5 minutes at least twice during a subway trip spanning a mere 10 stations. And don’t get me started on the streetcars, whose arrivals appear to be increasingly less frequent.
Last week, we had a thunderstorm and I opted to take the streetcar rather than bike. The idea of running around with a big metal object between my legs while lightning flashed overhead didn’t appeal to me and even less to the missus, who insisted I not take the bike that day. I encountered the expected delay on the train, but when it was time to switch to the Spadina streetcar, I was greeted with this line for the rear doors:
…and this line for the front doors:
And after ten minutes of waiting — remember, this is rush hour on a streetcar line that has its own right-of-way — I opted to hop back on the subway and take an alternate route to work.
This sort of annoyance is what drives a lot of people to drive rather than take public transit. For many people, it’s not enough that it is “better” to use public transit; it feels like communism in the way that it “solves” the issue of unevenly distributed joy by evenly distributing misery to everyone. The exhortations of environmentalists, progressives and Spacing readers isn’t going to boost TTC ridership; making it less painful will.
As for me, I’m fortunate to be in a situation where cycling to work is a practical proposition. The combination of these factors:
- I like urban cycling, having done it since grade school
- Living within what is a reasonable cycling distance — about six kilometres — for a guy in reasonable shape
- Living in a condo with a decent bike storage facility
- Working in a “business casual” environment: I wear jeans and t-shirt while cycling; I change into a dress shirt and sport jacket at work (I keep a couple of blazers at the office)
- Working in a neighbourhood with plenty of bike racks
- Having a decent route through safe neighbourhoods that’s also relatively flat
work quite well for me.
As long as the weather’s good, I expect to be commuting by bike quite regularly.