High Visibility: Biking to the Frontline featuring Carmen Jones
Our daily lives are in a period of adjustment. Schools, public facilities, and many workplaces have closed and people are encouraged to stay home except for essential trips and exercise. Even when we venture into public we attempt to keep two meters of physical distance. Toronto isn’t the same as it was in the beginning of March.
As we continue adjusting to the current situation, people continue riding bikes. You may not be able to go on a ride with your friends, but bicycles remain an essential transportation tool. Many people have actually increased the amount they are riding. High Visibility is a profile series of Toronto bike riders and Carmen is just the first. She spoke with us recently about her experiences riding a bike in Toronto and why cycling during COVID-19 is important for her as an essential worker.
Biking to the Frontline
Carmen wears a sign that says "Just a nurse biking to work"
Carmen Jones is an oncology nurse working at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. She’s been riding a bike recreationally since she was a child, but it was only a few years ago when Carmen started commuting by bike. At the time, she wanted to increase her fitness and reduce daily frustration stemming from taking the TTC to work.
Initially, Carmen found the 7km ride a bit difficult, especially the mostly uphill route home. That difficulty didn’t last long as Carmen quickly became accustomed to the extra activity. “Now I don’t find it hard at all,” she says.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Carmen has completely stopped taking public transit, preferring to ride a bike every day. “It actually feels much safer on the roads because there are so few cars.” With fewer drivers on the road Carmen says her biggest concern is maintaining physical distance due to more people walking or running at the edge of the road or in bike lanes. “I wish for urgent action to create dedicated road space for people on bikes and foot, and to create safe and secured, sheltered bike storage.”
When we begin to return to "normal," Carmen wants Toronto to learn from the experiences we’re undergoing. “The streets are peaceful without all the cars. I hope other people realize this and we make changes so we never have to go back to previous levels of congestion.” Enabling people to safely ride bikes improves the livability of Toronto’s neighbourhoods, but the realities of riding a bike are often hard to see if you rarely travel on two wheels. “I wish drivers and politicians cycled more. It would give them a better understanding of the hazards people on bikes face every day.”
Carmen notes how transformative cycling can be, telling us that “You can’t bike in this city without becoming an advocate for safety and change. We need to come together as a united group of people who want change. There is strength in numbers. Cycle Toronto is our voice at the table.”
Stories like Carmen’s are important reminders that being able to safely ride a bike is as essential during the pandemic as it was before physical distancing became an aspect of our daily lives.
While preparing for some uncertainty ahead, Cycle Toronto continues to seek new and innovative ways to deliver our work throughout COVID-19 and beyond. If you are able to, please consider making a donation or becoming a monthly member. Even $5 a month helps keep our advocacy, education, and encouragement work going. Your support means we are able to continue working with you to make Toronto a safe, healthy and vibrant cycling city for all.