I'm Ry and I'm currently the Communications Manager for Cycle Toronto. This is the story of how I started riding a bike in Toronto.
I was cruising down Bloor Street near Lansdowne Avenue on a frigid February afternoon when I fell in love with riding a bike as an adult. My heart sang adrenaline into every corner of my body; I couldn’t believe I’d ever stopped riding. However, my ungloved fingers were cold and I was borrowing the bike I was using, so I whipped ‘round and headed back to Bike Pirates where I dropped my last $100 on a road bike that was older than me. From that point forward, my winter cycling journey was underway.
Back then there weren’t as many bike lanes as there are now, and I’d only ridden a bike in a city a handful of times. While taking up winter cycling in the city can feel intimidating, especially when there aren’t enough safe winter bike routes, I felt there wasn’t much of a choice for me; I couldn’t afford to decline. Immigrating to Canada to pursue an education here was a significant challenge financially. I was balancing multiple jobs, but the cost of living in Toronto meant that my bank accounts were taking a big hit. I decided that my only option was to change my lifestyle by replacing my car and transit trips with trips made by bike.
While pursuing a more affordable lifestyle was the primary motivator for me riding a bike during the winter, once I tried it, I was in love! Long, early morning rides felt like a breeze, allowing me to arrive at work on time and energized to take on the day ahead. I got healthier and happier. Riding a bike would come to be an integral part of my life.
What I discovered about winter cycling in Toronto is that the biggest difficulties are often the ones that are present year-round: roads designed without people on bikes in mind, former co-workers calling me “crazy” for riding a bike, and being on the receiving end of aggressions from people in cars. The relatively little snow Toronto receives during the winter pales in comparison to these year-round obstacles. I take a day or two off after a big snow and then I bundle up and ride.
Now, even though I work from home, I get out for awesome adventures in the winter by bike. I love the crisp views of the city during a ride to Tommy Thompson Park, and relishing in the post-ride warmth of a visit to a movie theatre or restaurant (when they’re open). It used to feel like I was doing these things alone. Many Torontonians weren’t celebrating the winter in the way I was, but every year there are more people getting outdoors all year long. Safety barriers are slowly being brought down and people are embracing Canadian weather.
I’ve had so many conversations with people on the street I can’t keep track. I feel connected to my new Canadian community in a way that I never did before I hit the street. I’ve explored so many neighbourhoods and seen so many views that I never would have without a bike. I hope to see y’all out there this winter. Feel free to say “Hi!” as I ride by. Heck, hit me up on Strava and we’ll go for a ride.
Looking forward to many more rides,
(P.S: You can also join the Cycle Toronto club on Strava, with over 700 members! Come ride with us. All year round.)