Monday, February 05, 2007


To the driver in a long stream of cars who let me turn left on Saturday from Dundas on to Gilmour Avenue... thanks.

To the driver who let me turn left from Annette onto Runnymede Road... thanks.

To the drivers who took extra care passing me on a snowy day... thanks.

Everyone who cycles in Toronto has plenty of stories of rude, impatient, or just plain psychotic drivers. Many of us find the sight of someone shrieking curses at us while operating a two-ton battering ram so alarming that we forget something: most drivers in this city, most of the time, behave with courtesy, respect, and responsibility. We remember the worst of the drivers we meet, and we remember the worst things they do.

I want to highlight the best: the drivers who let us in, the drivers who wait behind us for a safe place to pass, the drivers who stop to let us go. The polite drivers. The majority of people, and the majority of drivers in this city.

To all of you... thanks.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Bike repairs

I recently had occasion to take a car in for its biannual drive-clean test. The engine emissions passed the test comfortably, but the car needed an oil change, which meant an inspection, which uncovered problems with the ball joints and the brake pads and rotors. It all cost over two thousand dollars.

Last week, I rode my bicycle to the Loblaws, and noticed that the ratchet in my rear hub had started slipping badly. On the way home, I found myself in the middle of a road with a car approaching, pedaling furiously, and getting nowhere. Alarmed, I went to the bike shop. The proprietor cleaned and greased the wheel ratchet, then gave me the bad news: back gears of my bicycle came riveted to the hub, and the shop owner could not take it apart to fix it. After a decade of service, my faithful steed needs a new back wheel. The bill could run as high as sixty-five dollars.

Aside from taking less space on the street, not adding to the Earth's warming or my waistline, and (most important) making getting around the city a pleasure, my bicycle costs thirty times less than the cars I pay to maintain and insure. Buying, fueling, and insuring a car can cost up to half the after-tax income of many workers. A cycling colleague of mine once put it this way: drivers spend more time working for their cars than they save by driving them.