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Bicycle Culture Sells Condos 8

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

All photos by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

Despite everything that has happened with the economy and real estate market  with our neighbours in the United States, Toronto has continued developing new condominiums across the city without pause. Everywhere you look, you can find construction cranes in Toronto – it’s actually a bit scary.

Canadians have a false belief that they are somehow shielded from experiencing any economic pain, and I talk to a lot of people who strongly believe that Toronto’s real estate market will always rise.

It’s also common for us Canadians to think our banks are more conservative, and that we don’t borrow nearly as much as those consumerist-fiends south of the border. This is of course a myth – but whatever helps people sleep at night.

But I’m not here to talk about the economy today – I’m here to talk about how bicycle culture is used to sell condo buildings.

In a city like Toronto – where most people still own automobiles – it really says something about our shifting society when new real estate development sites are featuring bicycles to sell homes.

Bicycles symbolize lifestyle and urban liveability. They represent liberty, freedom and mobility.

I came across this phrase on a new development site in my neighbourhood:

“The purity of mobility”

When car manufacturers use this phrase, it makes me want to puke – but this almost makes me want to buy a unit in this building.

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

A few blocks away, another new condo development site features a fresh painting of a woman on a beach cruiser with a basket doing her groceries.

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

Unfortunately, when you look at the artist’s rendition of this same building, it is sadly lacking bicycles. I can count at least 12 people in this photo, 4 automobiles and one streetcar. But not a single bicycle – not even on the terraces where some bicycles will no doubt end up.

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

A couple blocks away yet is another new development site – this time a commercial building. This is of course the most bleak rendition of a new building that I could find – prominently featuring a parking lot with pedestrians who look like they are lost – searching for their cars.

You couldn’t apply the phrase “the purity of mobility” to this rendition. “The impurity of mediocrity” would more aptly describe it.

Let’s face it – parking lots are dull places.

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

Using bicycles to sell condo buildings is a sign of bicycles becoming part of the  mainstream. It would be depressing if the bicycles featured on these condo billboards were solely sales gimmick and there were no signs of bicycles after the billboards were torn down.

But that isn’t the case here – bicycles are everywhere in this city. Where we are lagging behind the world in bicycle infrastructure, we make up for in bicycle culture. We have a fairly strong contingent of more than 34,000 bicyclists who enter and exit the core downtown area on an average day in the fall season.

And although most people might not ride bicycles for transportation, most inhabitants of Toronto own a bicycle – and a good number of them ride for recreation.

This new building was completed just days ago and already has a bicycle locked up on the front stairway:

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

The several bike racks at this townhouse complex are usually full:

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

And where there are no racks, people will find a pole to lock their bikes:

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

Toronto Condo Development Bicycles

Selling real estate isn’t the only market where bicycles are being used either: clothing stores across the city are decorated with stylish retro bicycles to sell clothes and fashion. Plenty of new bike shops are opening up all over the city too.

All signs are pointing toward the fact that bicycles are becoming mainstream – even in some car-dominated North American cities.

You may choose to embrace it (or not) – but you will find it very difficult to ignore it.

All photos by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at

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8 thoughts on “Bicycle Culture Sells Condos

  1. She Rides a Bike Mar 26,2011 5:39 pm

    At this moment, CNN is running a show about the increasing cost of energy world wide. The consensus seems to be it’s not going down. Not really a surprise to me but I spent most of my adult life trying to anticipate how things are likely to be rather than simply how I hope they’ll be. That’s why I learned how to ride a city bus, how to read a commuter train schedule, and use a bike to get around. My husband and I agree that if we ever relocate we will be looking for a place to live that accommodates a car-free lifestyle. It’s not a matter of being green but of being able to maintain a lifestyle that we can afford. We simply will not consider living arrangements that require us to own a car and have to deal with the hastle of traffic congestion and the cost of maintenance.

  2. Transportation Safety for the Self-Propelled Mar 31,2011 12:02 am

    You might be interested in a paper I co-wrote on “bicycle-oriented design” which attempts to get a better understanding of why some building owners choose to invest in “extra” ordinary bicycle parking and infrastructure. You can find it here.

  3. Transportation Safety for the Self-Propelled Mar 31,2011 12:16 am

    Let us know what you think, and also any cities or buildings or designs that you think we should be looking at.

  4. Danial123 May 5,2011 5:50 am

    It is great to see such a post that reflect to all aspect of this topic at the same time by exact news.
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  5. Jefferson Risner Feb 2,2012 5:37 am

    I hope that in the future more buildings and establishments will support the bike culture. This will help us lessen the effects of global warming. And it also promotes green and healthy living.

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