Thoughts on Toronto’s Bike Scene

Toronto Patio
Another trip to Toronto, another chance to compare The Big Smoke to Lotus Land. Last time I visited, it was the patios, streetcars, and compost pickup that caught my attention; this time it was the bikes and funky neighbourhoods.

Girl on Bike
Cyclists were everywhere. Hip, fashionable people riding fixed gear bikes. Women in skirts with flowery baskets on their bikes. Hardly anyone was wearing a helmet (maybe 30%) and, unlike Vancouver, not a single piece of Gore-Tex or lycra to be found. These weren’t the “hardcore cyclists” you often see in Vancouver, but people using bikes for what their best at – providing a convenient means of transportation.


We spent most of our time in the core of Toronto (especially around Bloor), where the city is dense, walkable, relatively flat, and dotted with BIXI stations. So my perspective on the popularity of cycling is probably skewed.

BIXI Station BIXI Toronto Bixi Chic

We did get to jump on BIXI bikes and cycle around Toronto ourselves. Renting bikes from BIXI was really easy. We were able to rent two bikes on one credit card, and once you’ve paid for your membership (we got 24 hour memberships for $5 each) you can take out bikes for free, as long as you return them in under 30 minutes. The bikes are heavy and don’t go very fast, although they do have 3 gears. Several times I felt bad for holding up a long line of cyclists behind, but most of them were going the same speed – I guess casual cyclists aren’t rushing from light to light.

Stop Driving Taxi in the Bike Lane Biking in Toronto
Biking through Toronto’s traffic calmed neighbourhoods is a joy – lots of old houses and large shade trees. The only downside is they’re a mess of one-way streets and we didn’t want to be “bike salmon”, although lots of others biked upstream. Some of the major streets have painted bike lanes (especially around U of T), but they’re often blocked by taxis and delivery trucks. I’m really impressed by the number of cyclists, considering the lack of dedicated bike infrastructure. One day we biked down to King and Bay, and I thought we were going to die. Google Maps told us that King is a bike route, but there isn’t even a painted lane or sharrow. We had to squeeze between parked cars and a busy traffic lane, trying not to get a wheel stuck in the streetcar tracks. It was the only time I really noticed I wasn’t wearing a helmet.

More pictures
Bixi Bike Truck Typical Toronto Home Road Bike
Bus Shelter Head Phones Cooling Down Victory Cafe Patio Ice Cream Truck Patio Brunch Baby Beach Time

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About canadianveggie

I enjoy exploring the great outdoors, eating good vegan food, cycling around Vancouver, solving problems with software, learning about urban planning, and discussing politics.
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2 Responses to Thoughts on Toronto’s Bike Scene

  1. Ryan says:

    It is funny to read in your last visit to Toronto under “The best parts of Toronto”, the plastic bag fee. July 1 of this year the fee was removed.

    For a better part of the past decade my city (directly across Lake Ontario from Toronto) has had compost pickup. I don’t use the compost service all that often as I just compost myself. Love getting perfect dark soil for free!

    As for what cyclists were wearing? I always found Ontario & Quebec to be a bit more laid back in what you wear while riding a bike. It is ‘extremely rare’ to see people decked out in lycra to commute to work or the grocery store.

    When I looked at moving to BC (Nanaimo, Courtenay, Kelowna, P.G.), I just got the vibe I’d be looked down upon because I’d be wearing casual clothes. Many (cyclists) saying it is a must to wear the bright yellow jackets and other special cycling clothes.
    It does appear over the past year attitudes in this department have actually changed for the better (in Vancouver at least, not sure about the rest of the province).

  2. Pingback: 2012 – A Year in Review | Canadian Veggie

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