A visit to bicycle-friendly Toronto

Doug Havach of the Greater Kanas City Bicycle Federation sent the following report:
Having just spent a few days visiting the University of Toronto, I can confirm that Toronto is a very bicycle-friendly city. It is commonplace and unremarkable to see bicyclists riding on the streets along with the other vehicular traffic. There are so many bicyclists passing, all day long and after dark, that one or more is nearly always in your field of vision.

Most riders seem to take a very utilitarian approach. A bicycle is a tool, like a pair of scissors or a wristwatch; it is a useful transportation device. Very few riders wear helmets or make any clothing concessions to their chosen mode of transportation. Most of the bikes are either newer hybrids with mountain bike tires and 26" wheels, or older steel roadies with 27"/700C wheels. Almost all of the bikes have fenders and flat handlebars, and the cheapest plastic saddles are used. Some of the bikes are obviously a poor fit for the riders, and I see many with under-inflated tires. Most of the bikes are very dirty and have poorly maintained moving parts.

There are adult cyclists of all ages and shapes and dress. I don't see very many children either walking or riding in the vicinity of the U of T campus.

The parking accommodations for bicycles are pervasive. Unique post-and-ring devices are cemented into sidewalks all over the city, and these are in constant use. They are very well-designed: the wheel-ring motif indicates the purpose, the configuration gives many options for locking, and the shape blends visually with bicycle wheels.

It is common to see abandoned hybrid bikes that are missing the seatpost and saddle, evidently because a quick-release seatpost facilitates theft. I don't see any tire pumps or flat repair kits attached to bikes, probably because they would be stolen, too.

In the three days I was there, I see only one "recreational rider" with a racing style road bike and specific "cycling" apparel. Perhaps some of the bike commuters keep a special road bike tucked away at home for recreational use.

There are plenty of cars and trucks and SUVs on the Toronto streets, but the motorized drivers are constantly and routinely seeing and passing bicyclists. It's apparent to me that the more vehicular bicyclists there are on the streets, the safer it is to ride a bicycle.

Probably the most effective thing we can do to make our local streets safer for bicycling is ride our bicycles as often as possible. Every individual decision we make to ride a bicycle contributes to the cumulative effect of a more bicycle-friendly community.