Since May, I have filled the gas tank on my car a grand total of four times:
- Once to drive myself and my stuff from Accordion City to Ottawa, where I lived for the summer while immersing myself at my new job at Shopify.
- Once to drive from Ottawa to Kingston and back to attend my Engineering class’ 20th reunion at Crazy Go Nuts University.
- Once to drive myself and my stuff from Ottawa back to Accordion City.
- Once after the return trip from Ottawa. My tank is still mostly full as of this writing.
At this rate, most of my automotive spending has been on insurance and a little maintenance. Gas barely figures into the equation.
It was easy not driving in Ottawa. I lived and worked downtown, and Ottawa’s traffic, especially on the weekends, is positively idyllic in comparison to Toronto’s. Anyone who says that Ottawa has a traffic problem should be hermetically sealed in a dozen layers of bubble wrap for his or her own protection; such a person is too fragile to cope with the real world.
Since 2003, I’ve been riding “The Scorpion King”, my 7-speed Raleigh Calypso cruiser, pictured below:
I bought a new bike in Ottawa and broke with my tradition of buying cruisers. This time, I bought “The Red Rocket”, a deVinci Stockholm hybrid, pictured below, that I bought at the Kunstadt on Bank Street.
I didn’t travel terribly far in Ottawa, so while the new bike seemed appreciably snappier than the old one, I never got a sense of how good a commuter bike The Red Rocket was until I returned to Toronto and started biking from home in High Park to downtown. Hills that took some effort on the cruiser melt away on the hybrid. I zip down straightaways like an eel through a Vaseline sea. This thing is a joy to ride.
Not everyone can do this, of course. I work at a combination of locations: my rather nice home office, the Hacklab and a handful of places where they’re happy to let me “set up shop”. Given the sort of intra-urban distances I travel — about 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) from home to downtown — the bike gets me around about as quickly as public transit, once you factor in waiting times. And those of you who haven’t seen me in a bit have noticed the workout I’ve been getting; you don’t get that on the bus, streetcar or subway.
There will always be times when the car is a better option, and I’m glad I have mine. However, most of the time, the bike, combined with public transit when it’s raining, snowing or drinking, is great news for my wallet and waistline.