Sustainable Commuting: the Bicycle

"The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine." John Howard, US Olympic Cyclist

Last winter I decided to record my commute to work via the most sustainable method of transportation that exists: my own two feet. Now that Bike Month is well under way, I wanted to share my second favourite method of sustainable commuting: the bicycle.

The bicycle is the most efficient means of human-powered transportation, meaning it can travel the most distance with the least amount of energy exerted. Invented in the 19th century, bikes take up very little space, they're quiet, and they don't pollute. In Toronto, there are few faster ways to get around the city. Safety, however, has always been an impediment to potential cyclists with our lack of bike lanes and the "door prizes" that Toronto drivers periodically hand out.

Thankfully, there's some good news in the city this week for cyclists: city council voted in favour of creating two bike lanes on Jarvis street on Monday, a new bicycle parking facility opened at Union Station on Wednesday, and it became known that suspected bicycle thief Igor Kenk will star in a movie about himself. Wait... scratch that last bit - Igor Kenk is old news.

Another important initiative in the city is turning old rail lines into bicycle trails. Rail trails would open a new world of opportunity for those in-the-closet cyclists who would love to commute on their bicycle but choose not to because of the inherent danger in sharing the road with 2,000-pound (and up) automobiles. Rail trails not only provide safe cycling routes, they also tend to cut the angles better than our grid road system. The trail closest to coming to fruition is a 6.5 kilometre stretch along the CN tracks from the Junction (Dupont/Cariboo Ave.) to near Strachan Ave. The "West Toronto RailPath" would provide Junction residents with an unobstructed bicycle artery to the downtown core and to the lakefront. Construction is very slowly underway (it's been 4 years since blogTO first wrote about this trail).

Some people view bicycles as a step backward, but to me bikes are the future. Some of the biggest problems we face today are caused in part by the automobile and bikes are one way we can reduce our reliance on cars. City council has the right idea with their initiatives to expand bike lanes in the city, but there are still people in the city who simply can't be convinced that bikes are good for the city and good for its citizens.

The embedded video features my bicycle commute to my downtown office from my King West residence featuring Canada's own Metric with their acoustic recording of the song "Help I'm Alive", available as a free download from their MySpace page.

If you make it through the entire video you'll get a special treat near the end where I bypass the elevator to make it a truly sustainable experience. See if you can count how many flights of stairs I climb.

Writing and video by James Schwartz.

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