Illustration/ Lena Binnington
Illustration/ Lena Binnington

Biking is great for a multitude of reasons—it has so much versatility built into it. Biking is a sport, a hobby, a way to travel, a way to exercise—a lifestyle, effectively. I bought my 18-speed CCM bike for around $125 at Zellers in 2008 and it is still easily the most useful thing I have ever bought.

Bikes can satisfy the needs of almost any student. Most of us can’t afford to drive a car on our own and public transit can’t take us everywhere. Can’t afford a bike? You can rent Bixi bikes downtown for $5 a day, or at U of T’s Bike Chain for a week with returnable $100 deposit. Can’t afford that? You can probably convince a friend to lend you one.

A bike is a beautiful people-oriented machine. It runs on pedal power alone. Only the rider controls its speed, not a ruthless motor that burns ever-increasingly expensive gas. Bikes will move so long as the the physical effort required to do so is put in—there is surely some philosophy to that. It can go almost anywhere a person can, but faster. Importantly, one can zoom past the congested roads—pretty much any thoroughfare south of Bloor, but College St. is especially brutal—during rush hour.

With a bike, you don’t have to worry about monthly car rentals, gas prices, or insurance rates. You can laugh at all those drivers who endlessly circle downtown for the privilege of paying handsomely for a parking space. All a cyclist needs is a pole in the pavement, and a good lock.

Biking in Toronto is both a pleasure and a challenge for newcomers. Some Toronto streets feature well-maintained bike lanes, such as the new lanes along Sherbourne Avenue that have barriers to keep cyclists and cars separate. Some, like Bloor, put you right in the action, forcing you to share a lane with speeding cars.

In that way, biking builds up your confidence, too. It challenges you to assert yourself in the hazardous Toronto streets and take a stand on the asphalt against those big metal boxes. It makes you plan your routes, learn your way around the streets, and to take new roads and alleyways that you never would have gone down before.

While the warmer months may make for pleasant pedaling, many brave Torontonians still take to the streets in winter, bundled up with cold wind slapping against brave red faces. Biking can be enjoyed and endured year round.

Ultimately, being a cyclist brings you into a people-friendly world. I still remember my back wheel breaking down near Spadina and Baldwin and coming across Carlos; a good samaritan who had opened up a small bike repair shop called Cyclopedia in a garage nearby. He fixed my wheel, tuned up my brakes, and didn’t even ask me for money—he knew I was having troubles and kindly helped me out.

While I can’t say the same for motorists, I have yet to meet a cyclist I did not like. Bikes often resemble the people who ride them, and those people are economical, practical, and certainly free-spirited. The kind who love to feel the wind in their hair, but only through their own pedal power.

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