bikes planes and automobiles · fame and shame · snarky · whine and cheese

Why it’s the city’s fault that I’m getting fat and lazy

Our bakfiets has a flat tire. Again. This is the third flat in as many weeks.

I was biking the kids up to K’s school to meet her friend for a playdate when I realized that my turns were feeling sluggish. Sticky, almost. I got off and took a look… totally flat. Not a slow leak, not any warning, just flat.

Did I mention that I was supposed to be picking up said friend and riding her to the park where her mom would meet us later? Yeah.

We made other arrangements, and everyone got to the park. The bike is safely stashed in my parents’ garage, and the offending wheel is waiting in the trunk of my car. I’ll take it in for repair tomorrow. But boy, what a nuisance. And once again, the city has put me out of a bike for a few days.

The city? you ask. How? I’ll tell you:

Bike infrastructure in Toronto is no great shakes. Some streets have bike lanes, which frequently get blocked by delivery trucks and even police cars. Most streets have nothing. Bikes over a certain size (so functionally, all adult bikes) are considered vehicles and thus it is illegal to ride them on the sidewalk. That leaves cyclists to bike on the shoulder of the road where all the debris collects: shards of glass, stray nails from construction sites, bits of metal from auto collisions past. Oh, and don’t get me started on the potholes, which don’t seem to deserve repair if they’re less than a metre and a half from the curb. All of these things are a recipe for flat tires.

I try to ride on side streets as much as possible, not because I feel unsafe on major arterial roads (I don’t) but because I can more easily swerve to avoid potholes and debris. That just doesn’t fly on Bathurst Street, especially not in the narrow, dark, poorly repaired section that passes under the 401. And there is no way to cross the 401 (i.e. to get from south to north) except by traversing the tunnel.

So I must conclude that it’s the city’s fault that I keep getting flats. Of course the situation could be improved if our city recognized the need to keep the shoulder of the road in better repair, or if street sweepers were sent out more often and did a more thorough job at the edges of the road. Or, you know, the city could actually construct and maintain proper bike lanes so that cyclists could have a little freedom to move over when confronting a pile of broken glass. But only the folks whom Don Cherry called “bike-riding pinkos” could get behind a plan like that, right?

Bottom line: it looks like no biking for me for the next day or two at least. I’ll be in my car getting fat and lazy, courtesy of the city’s lack of infrastructure.

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