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Two Problems, One Solution

JamSometimes when I’m in a car stuck in traffic, I often think of how bad the traffic jams are in Los Angeles and I’m glad that I don’t have to put up with them.  On visits to New York City, I wonder at how terrible it must be to get caught in their rush hours, with only so many ways to get on and off Manhattan.

So learning that Toronto’s commute times had grown worse than those in both New York and Los Angeles was a shock to my T.O. pride (our commute times are also worse than London, Chicago and – arrggghhh – Montréal.)

That pride took another hit when I read that Torontonians are less active than other Canadians.  A study shows that 57% of us over 12 years old are inactive during our leisure time (is blogging leisure time?)  And it looks like we’re getting more inactive, with an increase of six percentage points in the last 4 years.

According to the report, the most frequently cited barrier to activity is: lack of time.

So we have one of the longest commutes in the world, and we are the most inactive people in Canada (which means we’re in worse shape than people in – arrrggghhhh – Montréal.)

We spend more time in our cars and we have less time for physical activity.

Hold the phone!  What if we reduced our commuting time?  Then we’d have more time for physical activity!  Wow.

BicycleIf we had the $4 Billion for transit infrastructure that the provincial government has withheld, and met the 10-year-old goals of the Bike Plan, maybe we will start to get people out of their cars and onto public transit, their bicycles and other modes of transpo. New York City proved that if you build better bike lanes, they will be used.

Simply using public transit increases our activity exponentially – from walking five seconds to our car to walking five minutes to the bus.

Then we will have fewer cars on the road, which means buses, street cars and bikes will move faster, further reducing commute times and more people will be encouraged to use them and … OMG!  It’s an enviable upward spiral of faster commute times and improved physical fitness.

Hmmm, all we need to start is $4 billion that is already earmarked and to meet the 10 year old goals of the Bike Plan.

Oddly, despite the profound benefits of these initiatives, a lack of courage and leadership stifles them.

Fortunately, there are positive signs, like the approval (so far) of a Public Bicycle system for T.O..

Now we’ve almost caught up to – arrrgggghhhh – Montréal.

Posted: April 28th, 2010
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Do You Remember Your First?

Ever have a sight, sound or smell bring back a lost memory?  I love to check out bicycles as I walk or ride along, looking at the different brands, colours and types and thinking about the personalities who ride them.  Two weeks ago, one bike made me do a double-take.  It was something I hadn’t seen since about 1970.  Something I used to stare at for hours; that filled my chest with pride.  It was the near forgotten, but immediately familiar again logo of an Eaton’s Glider, soaring gull and all.  My first bike was a Glider.

Do you remember your first bike?Sturmey-Archer

Unlike the 3-speed model with the classic Sturmey-Archer thumb shifter that I saw the other week,  mine was a 23” coaster, but with similar fenders, seat and striping.

Shopping used to be so much easier before the internet.  In the days of catalogue shopping, to order a bike; you picked up the phone; dialed the Eaton’s order line (always answered – by a human); gave them a catalogue number and that weekend, when all your friends were about, the Eaton’s truck would appear on your street to deliver your new bike, assembled, to your door.

Or that’s how it should’ve happened.

The truth is that we took delivery of my green with white fenders Glider (I think the chrome fenders were a feature of the geared models) before the snow melted and its first weeks were spent propped against a basement wall.  That’s how I got so familiar with the gliding gull on the front badge – for weeks I could do little else than teeter on the bike and stare at the logo.

I know you’ve heard this a million times, but I really was always the last one picked for sports teams; couldn’t hit a ball, skate or run to save my life.  I was picked second-to-last once, when we played the pre-schoolers. With no budget for training wheels, prospects were dim for me learning to ride in a reasonable time.

Benny, a good friend of our family who is now in his 70s and still a very nifty guy, volunteered.  I started off ready for it to take hours, if not days. On my second pass I thought I was going a little fast for Ben to keep up and I turned slightly to check on him, but he wasn’t there.  I can’t remember ever learning anything, that previously seemed so daunting, so easily.  But being a quick learner has its downsides.  Unprepared for my early success, Benny hadn’t yet shown me how to stop.

I fell off the bike a lot that first summer. I got the nick-name Sergeant for all the band-aids that neatly lined my knees.

Life changed.  I fractioned my school commutes.  I didn’t have to run after my cycling friends to keep up.  And slamming the always reliable coaster brakes laid a patch a mile long.

GliderbadgeThe Glider was stolen twice.  Once from the side of our house, but the police quickly returned it. The second time, it was gone when I got out of my Cub Scout meeting.  After a long search, I made a late-night, non-stop run home from Lawrence to Ellesmere, crying all the way for the loss of my Glider.  I never saw it or the soaring gull again.

Until two weeks ago.

My research since shows the Eaton’s Glider to be a coveted classic on the local bike market.  But I haven’t seen a coaster.  Got any info?


Posted: April 20th, 2010
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Here We Go

Thanks for checking out my new blog.

In thinking about starting the blog, I figured it should have some sort of direction or theme.  Since I recently turned 50, and there didn’t seem to be too much on the web for slightly used cyclists, I thought that might be an interesting angle – hence the name Cycling 50+.

But then I realized the age thing might alienate a lot of groovy young people and I definitely don’t want to exclude anyone.  So after lots of thinking about themes and angles and directions, in the end, this blog is about cycling.  (But I can’t think of a better name, so it stays for now – suggestions?)

We all hear about having a passion for something, like an activity or interest you enjoy deeply, in which you can lose yourself, lose your sense of time – and the doing of it is unquestionable, regardless of effort.

As I get older, I wonder if I ever really had a passion for anything.  I’ve had great jobs, but I always can’t wait to get out of the office.  When I travel, as much as I enjoy seeing new places, I can’t wait to get back home.

There are two activities in which I can become immersed, body and soul.  First, I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs and manipulating images.  The problem is that I’ll spend countless hours, lost to the world and focused, but still won’t be able to straighten my nose just right.

I think I have a passion for riding my bike.  After 20 years of cycling as an adult, I’m arriving at that conclusion through a process of elimination.  For example, I definitely DO NOT have a passion for getting out of bed in the morning, but I get up earlier than normal so I can ride my bike to work.

I’m careful with money (a.k.a. cheap), but I’ve recently spent a bit on gear to make it easier for me to ride in colder weather and the rain – is that another passion indicator? That I WANT to ride in the cold and rain?

Whether I do or not, it’s nice to think that I have a passion for cycling.  I look forward to sharing whatever it is I have for cycling with you through this blog and I hope you’ll do me the favour of sharing back.

Many thanks to Joe, Duncan and everyone at BikingToronto for this opportunity.

Posted: April 15th, 2010
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