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Giving Up On Public Transit: Interview With Megan Siegel 70

Toronto Bicyclist Megan Siegel

Toronto bicyclist Megan Siegel – Photo by Doug Estey

Two years ago Megan Siegel moved to Toronto from the Maritimes. After commuting on Toronto’s scenic (but dreadful) Queen streetcar for 7 months, Megan was ready to call it quits on Toronto and head back to the east coast.

“I lived on Queen Street East and worked at Queen and University, it was about a 5km trip that took me about 45 minutes in rush hour on a good day. I couldn’t believe that it would ever take that long. The streetcar was hot, stuffy, expensive and unreliable and I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Fed up with Toronto’s public transit, Megan went to a local bike shop one day after work and bought a new bicycle in April. Megan hadn’t ridden a bicycle in over 10 years and after purchasing her new bike she suddenly realized she had to somehow get the bike home:

“I sucked it up and rode home and haven’t looked back since.”

Megan’s story is a common one. Three weeks ago we wrote about Robert Lawson who after 17 years decided to start riding a bicycle again after becoming disillusioned with Toronto’s transit system.

Public transit in Toronto has long been neglected and Toronto’s current mayor wants to reduce service even further while raising fares for public transit users. Meanwhile the same mayor rescinded the only fee the city charges to motorists, eliminating a reliable stream of $60 million in revenue for the city, while paying $300,000 to remove existing bicycle infrastructure for the first time in history to make more room for cars.

Toronto bicyclist - Megan Siegel

Toronto bicyclist Megan Siegel – Photos by Doug Estey

On a positive note, the mayor’s focus on removing barriers for motor vehicles will only increase automobile congestion (and public transit will thus also suffer), so Megan’s decision to use a bicycle to get around the city was a timely and smart decision.

Asked about how living in Toronto compares to her growing up in a small town on the east coast, Megan told me:

“The house I grew up in was about 20km outside of the town of Shelburne, Nova Scotia. The only people who ride bikes in Shelburne and surrounding areas are people who are under the age of 16. As soon as you turn 16, you get your license and no longer have the need for a bike.”

Before Megan started using a bike to get around, she hadn’t realized how effective a tool the bicycle can be:

“I had no idea how much ground I could actually cover on a bike. Looking back, I could have absolutely used a bike in my hometown. I wouldn’t necessarily have ridden it the 20km back and forth from home to school, but I now know that I could have easily used it for times when I was in a pinch. Quite often my parents would have the car and I would be stranded. Here in Toronto, I’ll ride 20km and think nothing of it. I know it’s a faster, cheaper, healthier option. I am much happier since I got a bike.”

Toronto Bicyclist Megan Siegel

Toronto bicyclist Megan Siegel – Photo by Doug Estey

Toronto Bicyclist Megan Siegel

Toronto bicyclist Megan Siegel – Photo by Doug Estey

I asked Megan for some advice that she could give to other people who haven’t ridden a bicycle in a long time and who are thinking about starting again:

“Just take it easy at the start. Be careful when it’s raining. Walk your bike across the crosswalk instead of turning left on streetcar tracks when it’s really busy. Be confident. I was apprehensive and scared when I started, but I jumped right in and now I couldn’t imagine living any other way.”

Megan told me about a few things she’d like to see implemented in Toronto:

“One thing I always joke about is how I wish there were digital clocks attached to every streetlight so I can time my rides easier.

More seriously, I quite often end up at red lights where I either wait for several minutes for the light to turn green or I have to get off my bike and hit the crosswalk button. I’ve noticed a few places where there are weight sensors for cyclists. Bloor and Manning has one and Argyle and Ossington just had one installed. It would be handy if this was the norm at all smaller intersections.

The bike boxes that are new to the city are great; I just wish drivers knew how to use them. “

IMGP2319

Toronto bicyclist Megan Siegel – Photo by Doug Estey

And on motorist education and motorist-bicyclist relations:

“I wish there were more resources for drivers and cyclists alike. Just the other day at an intersection with a bike lane, a lady driving an SUV asked me who gets the right of way, the cyclists in the bike lane or her right-turning vehicle. Another driver legitimately thought that cyclists were NOT supposed to ride on the street. She was yelling at me to get on the sidewalk. There are a lot of grey areas that I think both cyclists and drivers need to be educated on.

When it comes down to it, everyone just needs to watch where they’re going. “

Megan’s positive experience with using a bicycle to get around has also had an effect on her friends:

“I have at least 5 friends from the east coast who bought bikes in Toronto this summer. I like to think I played a part in this. I was the first one in my group of friends to break down, stop using transit, and get a bike. They all saw how much I loved it, how easy it was for me to get around downtown and they love it as well!”

Last year the City of Toronto measured the number of bicyclists coming in and out of the downtown core. At that time they measured 34,403 bicyclists entering and leaving the downtown core in a 12-hour span. Out of those 34,403 bicyclists, 19,162 of them were entering the downtown core during that period.

If each of those 19,162 bicyclists convinced 5 of their friends to use a bicycle, we could increase the number of bicyclists entering the downtown core each day to 95,810.

Thanks Megan for sharing your story!

James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • Matt

    These are a cool feature, thanks

  • Matt

    These are a cool feature, thanks

  • Janet Patterson

    This parallels my story – a cycling colleague encouraged me to get back on a bike after 15 years of not owning one. I haven’t yet cycled to work but am enjoying non-rush-hour rides in my neighbourhood, and who knows, I may take the plunge one day.

    • seagell

      It’s a good way to start! I work 9-5 and I find a big difference in traffic if I leave just 15 mins earlier than usual–much lighter! Still busy, but people just don’t seem to be in as much of a rush when they’re not scrambling to get to work.

  • Janet Patterson

    This parallels my story – a cycling colleague encouraged me to get back on a bike after 15 years of not owning one. I haven’t yet cycled to work but am enjoying non-rush-hour rides in my neighbourhood, and who knows, I may take the plunge one day.

  • http://www.rapdose.com/ Kyle Fall

    Great photos by Doug!

  • http://www.trillerthanmost.com/ Kyle Fall

    Great photos by Doug!

  • TN

    Nice write up, cool bike. I bought a new bike in March and started riding and have been on it almost every day since. It’s addictive. And my car commute isn’t bad at all, its just that the ride is more interesting.

    • seagell

      I really feel like I got to know the city much better when I’m out in the open at street-level. Being trapped on the streetcar was suffocating in more ways than one. I hear ya.

  • TN

    Nice write up, cool bike. I bought a new bike in March and started riding and have been on it almost every day since. It’s addictive. And my car commute isn’t bad at all, its just that the ride is more interesting.

  • LukeSiragusa

    Life is truly a circle. Sometimes necessity forces adults to rediscover the simple pleasures — and practical solutions — they were first exposed to while children.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luke-Siragusa/896795231 Luke Siragusa

    Life is truly a circle. Sometimes necessity forces adults to rediscover the simple pleasures — and practical solutions — they were first exposed to while children.

  • kfg

    Sharp dressed fixie chic; who didn’t once mention that her bike was a fixie. Who knows, things might get better after all.

  • kfg

    Sharp dressed fixie chic; who didn’t once mention that her bike was a fixie. Who knows, things might get better after all.

  • http://bicyclestc.blogspot.com/ Ryan

    Great feature!
    Fed-up with transit is what got me riding in the first place (obviously on a smaller scale in St. Catharines).
    Unfortunately I think there are more ‘fed-up transit users’ who move into riding a bike easier then the ‘fed-up motorist’.

    • Octavian C.

      If I had to drive in Toronto, I wouldn’t
      There are places where driving is more convenient than riding a bike or taking transit. Granted, probably less enjoyable.
      This girl has the right idea, but winter is just around the corner.

      • seagell

        I rode all last winter, I’m a tough Maritimer. :)

  • http://thecitycyclist.blogspot.com/ Ryan

    Great feature!
    Fed-up with transit is what got me riding in the first place (obviously on a smaller scale in St. Catharines).
    Unfortunately I think there are more ‘fed-up transit users’ who move into riding a bike easier then the ‘fed-up motorist’.

  • Mike

    A great new feature for the blog. I congratulate Megan on her decision to ride a bicycle and to tell us all about it. That said, I really wouldn’t recommend a fixie for someone riding in a city, much less a new rider. Why would you want to take the risk of no brakes, and have no gears? I guess they’re the “cool” thing, but it’s not a smart cool. Also, no fenders and no chain guard means she better keep out of the rain, get ready for stains and keep re-oiling the chain. No sign of carrying capacity, but I guess she must like backpacks.

  • mkgordon

    A great new feature for the blog. I congratulate Megan on her decision to ride a bicycle and to tell us all about it. That said, I really wouldn’t recommend a fixie for someone riding in a city, much less a new rider. Why would you want to take the risk of no brakes, and have no gears? I guess they’re the “cool” thing, but it’s not a smart cool. Also, no fenders and no chain guard means she better keep out of the rain, get ready for stains and keep re-oiling the chain. No sign of carrying capacity, but I guess she must like backpacks.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      From the photos it looks like Megan has front brakes in addition to the “fixie” pedal brake.

      But I agree nonetheless: I love my Dutch bike because the internal components require little to no maintenance and it’s great in the rain and for carrying loads (and other people).

      • mkgordon

        Front brakes and not-really-brakes that involve stopping the pedals from turning with your muscles? Hmm. I smell an imminent accident where the rider is thrown over the handlebars. Doesn’t seem safe.

        Glad we agree – Dutch-designed bikes rule as commuter bicycles. All weather, low maintenance, and serious cargo options. I have roller brakes front and back with enormous cooling fins (many people think they’re disk brakes) – I can’t figure out whether Workcycles put them in standard or because I asked for the bike to be configured for the hilly city where i live (lowered gear ratios, mainly, but the extra stopping power is great.)

        • kfg

          “I smell an imminent accident”

          Only through unfamiliarity with the wee beasty. In fact, in the winter, there is nothing that brakes safer than a fixie. I hear tell there’s winter in Toronto.

          They are also more mechanically simple than any other bike and can be readily fitted with fenders, racks and chaincases. In fact all of these things were invented for fixies. All those lovely old Dutch and Danish cargo trikes?

          Fixies.

          • kfg

            P.S.; All bicycle brakes operate by the power of your muscles. There is no other source of power available. Hand brakes, such a front roller brake, operate only with the power of the muscles in your fingers instead of the powerful muscles of your legs.

            Try pedaling a bicycle with your fingers to figure just how goofy that is.

          • mkgordon

            As far as I understand, bicycle brakes generally work through the power of friction, and your finger muscles are simply applying the device that causes the friction. I certainly am not directly slowing the bicycle! What you’re doing on a fixie is using your legs in place of that friction. I’ve never ridden a fixie, but from what I’ve read, they’re inherently dangerous because of the lack of brakes and their tendency to get jumpy when efforts are made to rapidly slow down. The idea of going at a fast pace with no freewheel, having to keep my legs going as fast as the wheels are turning, then trying to pedal backwards against that momentum to slow down or stop – seems like a Rube Goldberg contraption to me. I can’t imagine how you think a brakeless bike is safer in winter. But hey, your mileage etc. And I’ve never seen an old Dutch or Danish bike without a freewheel.

          • kfg

            “bicycle brakes generally work through the power of friction”

            If you do not apply muscular force there is no friction. Friction is directly proportional to force. Friction is the mechanism through which the force is applied.The ONLY source of power on a bicycle is from the muscular force applied by the rider. Your muscle makes it go. Your muscle makes it stop. There is no magical way around this.

            Small children are not given bicycles with hand brakes. They do not have the muscular force in their hands to make them work.

            So they are given fixies.

            “I’ve never ridden a fixie”

            I’ve already stated that as the source of your lack of understanding. If you learned to ride as a small child the statement is also likely false. Small children almost universally learn to ride on fixies. To give them anything else would be irresponsible.

            “but from what I’ve read”

            This is not a substitute for knowledge by experience. Nor is it even true as you just read otherwise.

            “they’re inherently dangerous”

            This is nonsense. Or, at least they are no more dangerous than any other bike.

            “because of the lack of brakes”

            A brakeless fixie is an oxymoron. You have a mental image of “brake” which is standing in the way of your understanding of the meaning of the word.

            What’s more, you are looking at a picture that contradicts the statement by your own model. A picture of an actual bike which is the actual bike in question.

            Why are you arguing on the basis of what you have read, rather than what you are looking at?

            I myself have two fixies each of which have three brakes.

            “seems like a Rube Goldberg contraption”

            You seem to have a mental model of contraptions that is also out of step with reality.

            A Rube Goldberg device is a complicated mechanism to accomplish a simple task.

            A fixie is a simple contraption to accomplish a simple task. In its velocipede form it has a total of three moving parts which accomplish all necessary functions of bicycle.

            It is the very antithesis of a Rube Goldberg device. Rube Goldberg was satirizing your roller brakes.

            “I can’t imagine how you think a brakeless bike is safer in winter.”

            Exactly the problem. It cannot be addressed until you come to terms with the idea that “brakeless fixie” is an oxymoron; therefore, a fixie cannot be a brakeless bike.

            “I’ve never seen an old Dutch or Danish bike without a freewheel.”

            Which only serves to demonstrate how few of these you have looked at. It is not an argument.

            Tell ya what. Meet me at Brueger’s Bagels in Saratoga Springs. I’ll bring two fixies. Then you can start to understand.

          • seagell

            Dear kfg,

            Thanks for replying to all these comments while I was off the grid!

            Megan

          • mkgordon

            Hi kfg. If I’m ever in North America in the near future, anywhere near Saratoga Springs, I’ll be sure to visit and let you show me. I admit, I’ve never been on a fixie. I’ve never seen the point, and I don’t like the culture that seems to use fixies as fashion statements.

            There’s an element of fixie-dom that thinks of bicycling as chiefly a form of exercise (“coasting is bad for you”!!). I see my bicycle as a form of transportation.

            I don’t understand the North American fixation with the weight of the bike, which is another argument made in favour of fixies. I don’t even know how heavy my bike is – the maker said “it’s as heavy as it needs to be”.

            From what I understand, the fixie started out as a track bike, and was popularised by bike messengers. I don’t see anything built from the track being a good form of transport in a city full of traffic.

            Fixies are a North American bicycle trend. North America has no real tradition of cycling, which means that the place is subject to waves of bicycle fashions – choppers, 10 speeds mountain bikes, hybrids, trekking bikes, now fixies – all considered the idea in city cycling use, instead of bikes that have evolved from classic designs, well-adapted for the city.

            I get it (from some more recent reading) that there are ways of stopping a fixie with only a front brake, and that some people have worked out how to do it without a front brake.

            I think you’re being a bit disingenuous banging on about how saying “brakeless fixie” is an oxymoron. There are fixies that are sold without conventional hand-pull or coaster brakes. I know that as long as the wheels turn, the pedals turn, so you have to in effect start sort-of pedaling backwards. You can call that a brake if you want, but I think you’re blurring the meaning of the word.

            If that was an effective way to stop a fixie with no conventional brake mechanism, why is there so much online about “skid-stopping”, which is clearly an unsafe maneuver in traffic. And why do I read about fixie riders carrying along sticks to show they can stop quickly in an emergency? Maybe some fixie riders just give the type a bad name.

            Bottom line, I admit that I observe fixies from a distance, and am distrustful of the reasons I hear people advocating for them. You clearly are sold on them. So let’s just agree to disagree. I’m not going to keep on going with this discussion because I don’t think this is the venue.

          • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/search/label/tokyo Mr.S.

            “North America has no real tradition of cycling.” Nonsense. ’70s bike boom? Birth of the mountain bike? Never mind the ubiquity of bicycles in photos before the post-war car boom. You’re simply prejudiced that it does not presently have the ‘tradition’ you presume is best, and I do not doubt that you are universally bigoted about other cultures than what is parochially yours.

    • seagell

      Hi Mike,

      While I appreciate your concern, I think I need to clear a few things up.

      This is indeed the bike I ride now, but it wasn’t the bike I had when I started riding in Toronto. My first bike was a Kona Dew. A hybrid. It had 2 brakes, gears, thicker tires and was a pretty safe choice. I was timid and even when I got my Charge Plug a few months later, I rode it as a single speed for the first couple of weeks, just to get used to the new bike. I switched to a fixed gear once I was confident riding downtown.

      As far as the brakes go, I think KFG has explained pretty much all there is to explain. I have had a few times when I’ve had to brake quickly and if you are used to riding a fixie, you do get used to using a balance between slowing down using both your front brake and your feet. If you balance it out enough when you’re braking quickly, which is almost a natural reaction to most fixie riders, you won’t go over your handlebars.

      I have a fender; it’s plastic and detachable. I put it on when it’s raining & take it off if I’m getting my photo taken for a blog. Other things you can’t see in these photos that I normally have on my bike: bell, lights and my helmet.

      No chain guard? No big deal! It takes 30 seconds to lube a chain, which I do once every week or two, whenever I pump my tires, to keep it in good shape. I actually rode this bike EVERY day last winter and there is not a spot of rust on it anywhere. I store my bike in a garage at work and wipe it down with a rag. Basic maintenance goes a long way.

      And last but not least, I was thinking about getting racks for my Kona back when I had it, but then I won a sweet Crumpler messenger bag at a Dandyhorse party. I rarely have to carry much stuff on my bike, but when I do, that bag can hold a ton. It has never been an issue.

      • mkgordon

        Hi Megan,

        My apologies for my role in changing the subject here, which really should be to celebrate your return to the bicycle as a form of urban transportation. I honestly just mean to express my concern when I brought up the topic of fixie safety.

        Just to respond to your other points. Your story of starting with a hybrid and moving to a fixie makes me wonder why bicycle stores in North America keep on sell so many of these “cool” types, but so few of conventional city bikes (sometimes erroneously called Dutch or European city bikes)?

        I’m glad that you and KFG are happy with the safety aspect of fixie bikes. It just seem to me that fixies require you to be much more vigilant than you would need to be on a conventional bike – I don’t really see how you can safely do that in city traffic. And I don’t really get what the benefit of fixies is, unless you fetishise lightweight bicycles as if you were a professional racer. I don’t like this “if you balance it out enough” business. What if you don’t? I wish you nothing but safe riding.

        I’m glad you have a plastic fender. That’s not really what I’m talking about. Your comment on my point about the chain guard suggest you think its main value is in lowering the frequency of chain lubes. For me, the point of fenders is to keep you dry in the rain – and for that I use fenders that go nearly all the way around my wheel and feature a mud flap. The point of a chain guard is so that you don’t get oil on your clothes, or have to wear pants clips or whatever to keep your clothes from being chewed up in the chain or gears. My bike’s chain guard completely encloses my chain.

        While I salute your decision to get a messenger bag, I can tell you, having used messenger bags for years, that there’s nothing as cool as having a big cargo box in front of your bike so you can just toss in your briefcase or your shopping and not have any weight on your shoulders.

        Anyway, thanks for writing back to me. Let’s get on with riding.

        Cheers,

        Mike

        • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/search/label/bicycle Mr.S.

          Mike, you just do not realize how much less you know, how much more long-winded and unjustifiably opinionated you are than most of the posters here. Sheldon Brown is not uncontroversial, but he’d forgotten more than you are likely ever to know. Read and learn: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/fixed.html
          “A front brake, all by itself, will stop a bicycle as fast as it is possible to stop.”

  • Mike

    A great new feature for the blog. I congratulate Megan on her decision to ride a bicycle and to tell us all about it. That said, I really wouldn’t recommend a fixie for someone riding in a city, much less a new rider. Why would you want to take the risk of no brakes, and have no gears? I guess they’re the “cool” thing, but it’s not a smart cool. Also, no fenders and no chain guard means she better keep out of the rain, get ready for stains and keep re-oiling the chain. No sign of carrying capacity, but I guess she must like backpacks.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    From the photos it looks like Megan has front brakes in addition to the “fixie” pedal brake.

    But I agree nonetheless: I love my Dutch bike because the internal components require little to no maintenance and it’s great in the rain and for carrying loads (and other people).

  • Mike

    Front brakes and not-really-brakes that involve stopping the pedals from turning with your muscles? Hmm. I smell an imminent accident where the rider is thrown over the handlebars. Doesn’t seem safe.

    Glad we agree – Dutch-designed bikes rule as commuter bicycles. All weather, low maintenance, and serious cargo options. I have roller brakes front and back with enormous cooling fins (many people think they’re disk brakes) – I can’t figure out whether Workcycles put them in standard or because I asked for the bike to be configured for the hilly city where i live (lowered gear ratios, mainly, but the extra stopping power is great.)

  • kfg

    “I smell an imminent accident”

    Only through unfamiliarity with the wee beasty. In fact, in the winter, there is nothing that brakes safer than a fixie. I hear tell there’s winter in Toronto.

    They are also more mechanically simple than any other bike and can be readily fitted with fenders, racks and chaincases. In fact all of these things were invented for fixies. All those lovely old Dutch and Danish cargo trikes?

    Fixies.

  • kfg

    P.S.; All bicycle brakes operate by the power of your muscles. There is no other source of power available. Hand brakes, such a front roller brake, operate only with the power of the muscles in your fingers instead of the powerful muscles of your legs.

    Try pedaling a bicycle with your fingers to figure just how goofy that is.

  • Mike

    As far as I understand, bicycle brakes generally work through the power of friction, and your finger muscles are simply applying the device that causes the friction. I certainly am not directly slowing the bicycle! What you’re doing on a fixie is using your legs in place of that friction. I’ve never ridden a fixie, but from what I’ve read, they’re inherently dangerous because of the lack of brakes and their tendency to get jumpy when efforts are made to rapidly slow down. The idea of going at a fast pace with no freewheel, having to keep my legs going as fast as the wheels are turning, then trying to pedal backwards against that momentum to slow down or stop – seems like a Rube Goldberg contraption to me. I can’t imagine how you think a brakeless bike is safer in winter. But hey, your mileage etc. And I’ve never seen an old Dutch or Danish bike without a freewheel.

  • kfg

    “bicycle brakes generally work through the power of friction”

    If you do not apply muscular force there is no friction. Friction is directly proportional to force. Friction is the mechanism through which the force is applied.The ONLY source of power on a bicycle is from the muscular force applied by the rider. Your muscle makes it go. Your muscle makes it stop. There is no magical way around this.

    Small children are not given bicycles with hand brakes. They do not have the muscular force in their hands to make them work.

    So they are given fixies.

    “I’ve never ridden a fixie”

    I’ve already stated that as the source of your lack of understanding. If you learned to ride as a small child the statement is also likely false. Small children almost universally learn to ride on fixies. To give them anything else would be irresponsible.

    “but from what I’ve read”

    This is not a substitute for knowledge by experience. Nor is it even true as you just read otherwise.

    “they’re inherently dangerous”

    This is nonsense. Or, at least they are no more dangerous than any other bike.

    “because of the lack of brakes”

    A brakeless fixie is an oxymoron. You have a mental image of “brake” which is standing in the way of your understanding of the meaning of the word.

    What’s more, you are looking at a picture that contradicts the statement by your own model. A picture of an actual bike which is the actual bike in question.

    Why are you arguing on the basis of what you have read, rather than what you are looking at?

    I myself have two fixies each of which have three brakes.

    “seems like a Rube Goldberg contraption”

    You seem to have a mental model of contraptions that is also out of step with reality.

    A Rube Goldberg device is a complicated mechanism to accomplish a simple task.

    A fixie is a simple contraption to accomplish a simple task. In its velocipede form it has a total of three moving parts which accomplish all necessary functions of bicycle.

    It is the very antithesis of a Rube Goldberg device. Rube Goldberg was satirizing your roller brakes.

    “I can’t imagine how you think a brakeless bike is safer in winter.”

    Exactly the problem. It cannot be addressed until you come to terms with the idea that “brakeless fixie” is an oxymoron; therefore, a fixie cannot be a brakeless bike.

    “I’ve never seen an old Dutch or Danish bike without a freewheel.”

    Which only serves to demonstrate how few of these you have looked at. It is not an argument.

    Tell ya what. Meet me at Brueger’s Bagels in Saratoga Springs. I’ll bring two fixies. Then you can start to understand.

  • Octavian C.

    If I had to drive in Toronto, I wouldn’t
    There are places where driving is more convenient than riding a bike or taking transit. Granted, probably less enjoyable.
    This girl has the right idea, but winter is just around the corner.

  • seagell

    Hi Mike,

    While I appreciate your concern, I think I need to clear a few things up.

    This is indeed the bike I ride now, but it wasn’t the bike I had when I started riding in Toronto. My first bike was a Kona Dew. A hybrid. It had 2 brakes, gears, thicker tires and was a pretty safe choice. I was timid and even when I got my Charge Plug a few months later, I rode it as a single speed for the first couple of weeks, just to get used to the new bike. I switched to a fixed gear once I was confident riding downtown.

    As far as the brakes go, I think KFG has explained pretty much all there is to explain. I have had a few times when I’ve had to brake quickly and if you are used to riding a fixie, you do get used to using a balance between slowing down using both your front brake and your feet. If you balance it out enough when you’re braking quickly, which is almost a natural reaction to most fixie riders, you won’t go over your handlebars.

    I have a fender; it’s plastic and detachable. I put it on when it’s raining & take it off if I’m getting my photo taken for a blog. Other things you can’t see in these photos that I normally have on my bike: bell, lights and my helmet.

    No chain guard? No big deal! It takes 30 seconds to lube a chain, which I do once every week or two, whenever I pump my tires, to keep it in good shape. I actually rode this bike EVERY day last winter and there is not a spot of rust on it anywhere. I store my bike in a garage at work and wipe it down with a rag. Basic maintenance goes a long way.

    And last but not least, I was thinking about getting racks for my Kona back when I had it, but then I won a sweet Crumpler messenger bag at a Dandyhorse party. I rarely have to carry much stuff on my bike, but when I do, that bag can hold a ton. It has never been an issue.

  • seagell

    Dear kfg,

    Thanks for replying to all these comments while I was off the grid!

    Megan

  • seagell

    I rode all last winter, I’m a tough Maritimer. :)

  • seagell

    I really feel like I got to know the city much better when I’m out in the open at street-level. Being trapped on the streetcar was suffocating in more ways than one. I hear ya.

  • seagell

    It’s a good way to start! I work 9-5 and I find a big difference in traffic if I leave just 15 mins earlier than usual–much lighter! Still busy, but people just don’t seem to be in as much of a rush when they’re not scrambling to get to work.

  • Gclarke

    Megan; Here’s a question. Let’s assuming you live in Old Town and commute to the University of Toronto that would be about a +3km ride. If you were to draw a circle with the center point on Queens Park North how many km’s out would you say would be a reasonable commute? Would you say from the High Park Zoo to the University would be reasonable let’s say 3 days per week?

    • Guest

      C’mon, I live in the UK and cycle 6 miles (call it 9.6 km) each way to work, five days a week. From a village outside of Bristol in the UK, up and down hills and then across the city centre – google it: it’s very hilly. A 3 km ride seems like a doddle ;-)

    • dougestey

      I used to bike 8km each way from Bloor and Christie to Carlaw and Dundas every day. It only took me about 23-25 minutes; Toronto is fairly flat. Great way to wake up in the morning and burn off some energy in the evening, in my opinion.

    • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/search/label/tokyo Mr.S.

      What I have I done on your criteria? 25km each way through the busiest of Tokyo. 32km each way from Cabbagetown to Port Credit. Tokyo was far safer.

  • Gclarke

    Megan; Here’s a question. Let’s assuming you live in Old Town and commute to the University of Toronto that would be about a +3km ride. If you were to draw a circle with the center point on Queens Park North how many km’s out would you say would be a reasonable commute? Would you say from the High Park Zoo to the University would be reasonable let’s say 3 days per week?

  • Guest

    C’mon, I live in the UK and cycle 6 miles (call it 9.6 km) each way to work, five days a week. From a village outside of Bristol in the UK, up and down hills and then across the city centre – google it: it’s very hilly. A 3 km ride seems like a doddle ;-)

  • dougestey

    I used to bike 8km each way from Bloor and Christie to Carlaw and Dundas every day. It only took me about 23-25 minutes; Toronto is fairly flat. Great way to wake up in the morning and burn off some energy in the evening, in my opinion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elena-Lee/100002320134264 Elena Lee

    thanks for the article
    =========
    125cc Scooter

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/search/label/bicycle Mr.S.

    Mike, you just do not realize how much less you know, how much more long-winded and unjustifiably opinionated you are than most of the posters here. Sheldon Brown is not uncontroversial, but he’d forgotten more than you are likely ever to know. Read and learn: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/fixed.html
    “A front brake, all by itself, will stop a bicycle as fast as it is possible to stop.”

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/search/label/tokyo Mr.S.

    What I have I done on your criteria? 25km each way through the busiest of Tokyo. 32km each way from Cabbagetown to Port Credit. Tokyo was far safer.

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/search/label/tokyo Mr.S.

    “North America has no real tradition of cycling.” Nonsense. ’70s bike boom? Birth of the mountain bike? Never mind the ubiquity of bicycles in photos before the post-war car boom. You’re simply prejudiced that it does not presently have the ‘tradition’ you presume is best, and I do not doubt that you are universally bigoted about other cultures than what is parochially yours.

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/search/label/tokyo Mr.S.

    Sigh. What is about the ‘haters’ like ‘Mike’? I have a road bike, a traditional city bike, and a fixed gear bike. I love them all. I like all bikes, except ‘hybrids’, because they are ‘neither fish nor fowl’.

    Read your Sheldon Brown, and others, and experiment: braking is 70% in the front. You will not go over the bars, if you freaking know what you are doing: send your @$$ back past the seat, which will also help you descend better. Or to put it another way: the front is for stopping, the rear is only for bleeding speed. If you ride on park paths, or in civilized N.European cities, you may not need to know: in Toronto you will as drivers blow.

    I have front and rear caliper brakes on my fixed. I use the rear instead of my knees to slow down, because I have old knees, but that is preference. I use the front to stop, because I like living. Removing the rear is of little consequence; removing the front is fashion, which may prove expensive when skidding isn’t enough

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/search/label/tokyo Mr.S.

    Sigh. What is about the ‘haters’ like ‘Mike’? I have a road bike, a traditional city bike, and a fixed gear bike. I love them all. I like all bikes, except ‘hybrids’, because they are ‘neither fish nor fowl’.

    Read your Sheldon Brown, and others, and experiment: braking is 70% in the front. You will not go over the bars, if you freaking know what you are doing: send your @$$ back past the seat, which will also help you descend better. Or to put it another way: the front is for stopping, the rear is only for bleeding speed. If you ride on park paths, or in civilized N.European cities, you may not need to know: in Toronto you will as drivers blow.

    I have front and rear caliper brakes on my fixed. I use the rear instead of my knees to slow down, because I have old knees, but that is preference. I use the front to stop, because I like living. Removing the rear is of little consequence; removing the front is fashion, which may prove expensive when skidding isn’t enough

  • http://eriksandblom.blogspot.com/ Erik Sandblom

    In Copenhagen they have countdowns for pedestrians showing how many seconds until the light turns green. A quick internet search shows that Ontario towns also have countdowns, but they count down the time till the light turns red, to make the pedestrians hurry up. What a difference in mentality!

  • http://eriksandblom.blogspot.com/ Erik Sandblom

    In Copenhagen they have countdowns for pedestrians showing how many seconds until the light turns green. A quick internet search shows that Ontario towns also have countdowns, but they count down the time till the light turns red, to make the pedestrians hurry up. What a difference in mentality!

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