Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I promised more info on biking in Toronto... and other transportation

One thing I noticed immdiately in Toronto is that everyone waits until the light is green to cross. Pedestrians and cyclists alike. There is little J-walking. Even during rush hour, people are not rushing around the streets much or running to cross the street when they shouldn't. And certainly no one is waiting in the street for the light to change (they wait on the sidewalk) nor do they step off the curb until the red hand disappears and the white light says it's okay to cross. Perhaps one thing that contributes to this relaxed pedestrian atmosphere is that traffic lights change much quicker than in NYC, so as a pedestrian or cyclist you don't feel that you have to run to make the light or risk waiting at the corner forever - it's never a long wait.

I've had to re-learn how to cross the street, as well as learning how to bike around such a non-hectic city. Which isn't to say that it feels entirely safe to be biking on major roads during rush hour. There are many bike lanes, but they have a tendency to disappear, or to be shared with taxis and buses during rush hour. But overall I have felt very safe biking, and I believe cyclists are respected by drivers. It has felt so good to wake up every morning and know exactly how I'm going to get out into the world - by bike. I've traveled on foot a good deal as well, but obviously I can cover so much more ground by biking. There are many greenways, especially along the harborfront, to go riding.Today's the first day I actually don't have a bike as it was the third day I had a loaner from Bike Share and decided to return it last night and I'll borrow another one later today.

Here's a pic of my first Bike Share bike on one of Toronto's famous bike posts. They can fit two bikes fairly conveniently. The myth is that these were designed in a bar when the planners were sitting around discussing how to stop cyclists from locking bikes to parking meters. The rim of a glass formed the circle and a stirrer was layed down on top of it to form the post.

When those bike posts aren't available, trees are the next option in some parts of town.

I still haven't ridden the buses or street trolleys, commonly called street cars by Torontonians. There are electric street cars throughout all of the downtown area and a bit further east and west of the city. Sometimes they go underground so you can connect to them from the subway system easily. Most of the street cars' tracks are in the lanes of traffic - I think it would take some getting used to as a driver to be driving next to or behind a street car, that can't, for instance, swerve out of the way if need be. Cars often get stuck behind the street cars when people board the trolley, and often people have to cross a lane of traffic to board. A little strange!? But I suppose it reduces pollution having an electric system, and drastically cuts down on maintenance costs as compared to a bus sytem. Supposedly Toronto was a real street car city but many of the old tracks have been torn out and the bus system is now used in many of the areas outside of downtown Toronto. The good news is that all 1,700+ buses are biodiesel (only B5), and many buses are hybrid, which reduces pollution further. Unfortunately, the bus/train system isn't very useful for many people sprawling out further from the city center and it is typical for people to drive in to work everyday from up to 100 km away!

What else did you folks want me to write about? Pickles? I haven't had one pickle since I've been here - I suppose that will have to be rectified!

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