Thursday, December 14, 2006

Daily grind

When you live in a city the size of Toronto, you are constantly faced with choices. Where to eat? Pick one of a million places. Where to go for a pint? Same problem. How to get to work?

This one is perhaps the most difficult. There is the old standby, the car, but the idea of driving to work has always left me feeling mildly suicidal. Besides, by only using the car to get to points outside the city, I associate driving with going somewhere fun -- the beach, Georgian Bay, wine country. Thus, like an excited family dog, I literally quiver with excitement when someone asks if I would like to go for a car ride.

But if you're like me and the car's not really your bag, either, there are a plethora of other options to ponder: you can walk, skateboard, rollerblade, take the subway ... or bike.

I started out with the subway when I first moved here six years or so ago. But driven by a craving to get a bit of exercise and, let's face it, to save money (I am in publishing, after all) I soon chose the two-wheeled method. I've never looked back.

Toronto cyclists are a curious lot. Aggressive, yes, but in order to defend the small amount of turf you're allotted on this city's streets, you have to be. And I've seen it all: motorists yelling at cyclists, cyclists kicking cars as they sped by and, just today, an old lady stepping off the curb and only barely missing the business end of a bike courier's front wheel as he swerved into traffic.

But city cyclists also stick together. When I caught a tire in a streetcar track a while back and did a full-body flop in the middle of the street, not one passerby bothered to stop and give me a helping hand -- except a passing fellow cyclist.

They can also be amorous. My friend Hadley was once hit on by a bike courier in motion. She claims to have declined the offer. But we have no evidence of this.

So now as the cold winds and freezing rain set in, I refuse to ponder having to tuck my faithful steed away. Instead, I hunker down, put on extra layers, stuff a tuque under my helmet and, of course, keep an eye out for black ice as I pick my way through the streets to work every day. How long can I go? Time will tell. But it is certainly fun, and yes, dangerous, too.

Still, I'm convinced I've added years to my life.

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