Things You Can Do By Bike – Go To IKEA!

There’s a long, boring story that leads up this sunny, Saturday morning ride to Etobicoke. It involves hidden inventory and an obsessive search for a very simple piece of organizational furniture. That said, I had an exchange to make at IKEA. The Etobicoke store being just 13 km from my home, my girlfriend and I loaded up our Globe bikes and set off.

Shadows! Even after such a mild winter in Toronto, the first time you really see your shadow again is exciting.

Because traveling like a Toronto cyclist involves more than just roads, we took a detour through High Park.

Seriously, spring shadows are great!

After a quick ride along still icy and tree covered paths in High Park we arrive along the Queensway. Bike lanes here take you into Etobicoke.

Just as things get roomy with space between the bike lane and other traffic…

… our bike lane travels come to an end.

In Etobicoke they want you to know that there is to be no cycling on the sidewalks. Sidewalk cycling is illegal in Toronto too, but these signs at every sidewalk intersection almost appear as though there is simply no cycling allowed at all. Which isn’t the case, of course.

Once the bike lane ends the motorized traffic gets heavier, and closer. The vast majority of drivers did change lanes to pass us and only when we were close to intersections did a few motorists pass a little too close for comfort.

It’s amazing how wide the Queensway is. I didn’t stop to take a photo, but the road quickly widens to seven lanes across. There are new condos and townhouses lining much of the Queensway, but I simply couldn’t imagine living along a highway. The area is rapidly changing and is just a short bike or transit ride into the city, so this area does have many benefits. (Note: The photo below is from the less wide section of the Queensway).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from simply too many IKEA trips it’s that you never use the front entrance. There may be bike parking at the Etobicoke IKEA, but since we had a return, I decided to get a little creative and lock us up near the service doors.

Exchange made, bungees secured and we set our sights on home.

Looking back at our simple trip, it’s amazing just how much we were able to accomplish in the morning while on our bikes. We got to experience one of the sunniest days of 2010 in Toronto so far. We got a little bit of exercise, especially when crossing the bridge just before you get to IKEA. We got the best parking spot. And we smiled the whole way there and back… when’s the last time you did all of that on a visit to IKEA?

What are your 2010 Toronto bike commuting goals?

Going past

I’ll admit that I got a late start to bike commuting. It took me more than 3 years of city living to finally give it a try. In June 2009, on a bit of a whim, I took my new bike on a 25 km journey to my office in the outer reaches of Toronto (so far in fact that it’s not even in Toronto).

At first, I’d bike just twice a week as I needed the next day to recover. If it looked like rain, I jumped on the subway (then bus, then another bus and sometimes yet another bus).

All it took was one rainfall that I didn’t see coming and I lost the fear of getting wet. I was already soaked with sweat, so it made little difference, and rain actually feels good in the heat and humidity of a Toronto summer.

By the end of 2009 I had bought cycling shorts, tights, a shirt or two and a waterproof jacket. I now have a sturdy lock (and back-up lock for paranoia), panniers, two pumps, various lights and more cycling goodies than I can even remember.

So, what can I do more in 2010? Well, there’s been one big change for me. My commute, which was recently shortened to just 20 km each way has been drastically cut. I’ve joined the ranks of the work-from-home brigades, no commuting necessary. At least not daily.

This opens new doors for me. I get the chance to take morning or noon rides on trails I previously never would have seen on weekdays. I get to ride for pleasure, and if my route starts to wear on me, I get to change it. Lucky me, I know.

Yet, working from home also provides the opportunity to become lazy. I worked so hard getting comfortable as a bicycle commuter that it’s hard to give it up cold turkey. So, I’m going to make my morning rides my own sort of commute. It will be the longest distance between my bedroom and my home office possible, much more than a few shuffle-steps.

Over on Commute by Bike, Bike Shop Girl has compiled a list of 2010 bike commuter goals. Here are her 8 goals with my comments:

1. Learn how to properly lock your bike

There are a lot of different places to lock your bike in Toronto. It took me some time and practice to find the “sweet spots” for locking to post and rings and other spots. I find that a sturdy u-lock through the frame and front wheel is best for eliminating vulnerable gaps between lock, bike and rack. This also helps keep your bike upright as other people use the rack.

2. Start a Commuter Challenge

I’ve personally resisted getting a cycling computer. I’m a little too competitive and really want to keep my eyes on the road. But, if you find your commute getting stale, then why not strive to make the best time possible or work out how to catch every green light?

3. Motivate a co-worker to commute by bike

You could start by taking them with you on a ride one weekend. Show them your route when the roads are less busy. Unfortunately, no one at my office joined me last year… but walking in all sweaty with a bike in tow certainly got us talking about something new.

4. Join your local advocacy group

In Toronto you can start by joining the Toronto Cyclist Union. Joining is a great start, but getting active and participating in events or volunteering is even better. My goal is to do more with the Union now that I’m a proud member.

5.  Take photos to inspire others and yourself

There are more than 2,000 photos in the BikingToronto Flickr Pool… why not help us reach 3,000? Edit: As mentioned in the comment below, the pool is now approaching 4,000!

6.  Setup a commuter zone

My bike accessories once filled a small tupperware container. Now, I have a dedicated shelf near the door where I keep bungees, gloves, lights, the odd tool and helmets. Making space for your bike stuff, and making it accessible, are a great way to remind yourself that it’s better by bike.

7. Practice preventative maintenance

Not sure what to do with those tools a family member gave you over the holidays? Make a visit to Bike Pirates or the Community Bicycle Network and learn how to fix your own bike before it decides it no longer wants to go. If you live in Toronto’s East end, why not get involved in starting a DIY shop as well?

8. Invest in your gear

It’s certainly not necessary to have a full cycling wardrobe. But, adding pieces like waterproof gloves, a waterproof jacket or even shoes can help make your commute more enjoyable no matter what the weather is like.

That’s all 8… but I’m certain there are many more. What are your 2010 cycling/commuting/living goals? Share yours in the comments below.

Photo via sevenman in BikingToronto’s Flickr Pool

On the Benefits of Physical Activity

Twin Towers (of East York)


Diabetes-prone neighbourhoods selected for research study

Focus on new immigrants living in poverty

With diabetes attacking a disproportionately high number of high-risk groups in pockets around Toronto, a new groundbreaking study hopes residents in North York and Scarborough can help stop the disease in its tracks.

North York’s Jane-Finch neighbourhood and Scarborough’s Agincourt North area have been chosen to take part in the first program of its kind in Ontario, said Michael Riddell, one of the project’s lead researchers and an associate professor at York University’s faculty of health.

York’s study is based on a report released two years ago from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

ICES concluded new immigrants living in poverty in Toronto had extremely high rates of diabetes due to a number of factors such as a lack of opportunity for physical activity.

Now, York wants to take that information and go one step further by finding out what it takes to prevent diabetes.

“We have known for quite some time that these neighbourhoods have very high rates of diabetes,” said Riddell, a world-renowned diabetes and exercise physiologist.

“When we saw (the ICES report), we thought (residents in high-risk neighbourhoods) must have high rates of pre-diabetes too. We thought ‘What can we do to change these neighbourhoods, to make the (incidence) of diabetes not so high?'”

More than two million Canadians have Type 2 diabetes, which is related to obesity and lack of exercise.

The disease can often lead to damage of many of the body’s organs. Once contracted, it is rarely reversible.

Riddell, who was diagnosed with Type 1 or juvenile diabetes at the age of 14, said the study will focus on 300 participants of Asian, South Asian, African and African-Caribbean in the Jane-Finch and Agincourt North neighbourhoods whose lifestyle puts them at an extreme risk of developing diabetes.

They will be matched with York University exercise physiologist graduates, who will tailor enjoyable sports programs to their needs. Activities could include games, badminton, basketball, soccer, cultural dances and tai chi.

“We’re not just presenting typical walking, jogging, biking (as exercise possibilities). We’re trying to be novel (with activities) we think they may like to do,” Riddell said.

The opportunities will be offered in small group settings to promote social networking and motivation among participants.

The study, which will last at least six months, will pay for participants’ transportation costs.

“We’re trying to determine whether we can prevent diabetes in ethnic groups who statistically have much higher rates of the disease,” Riddell said.

“Ontario’s diabetes rates have already soared past the high levels predicted for 2030. Preventing diabetes now is more crucial than ever.”

By bringing fun and free activities to participants in their own neighbourhoods, Riddell hopes the study will achieve two goals.

First, it will show participants the health and social benefits of taking part in activities they enjoy.

“I hope they will embrace it. You’re really being offered free trainers,” Riddell said.

“Normally, if you want a trainer, you have to shell out a fair amount of money. We’re giving it to them for free.”

Second, it will prove to governments the importance of investing in exercise to prevent diabetes.

“We expect to reduce diabetes by 60 per cent,” Riddell said.

“This is better than any medications, which reduce diabetes by 30 to 50 per cent and medications could be masking (the symptoms). We truly believe exercise or physical activity can reduce diabetes by 60 per cent.”

Researchers will work with local public health units, community health centres and culturally based recreation and community centres in Jane-Finch and north Agincourt.

The study will include adults in the targeted ethnic groups between the ages of 40 and 64, the group most at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The Ontario Ministry of Health promotion has provided $425,000 for the study with additional funds coming from the Canadian Diabetes Association.