Cyclist Profile - Jamie the communications director

Name / Occupation / Age
Jamie Rilett, Director of Communications to the Honourable Donna Cansfield, Minister of Transportation, 36

What do you use your bike for?
Commuting, recreational rides, occasional triathlon.

How often do you ride?
4-5 times per week, depending on my travel schedule.

How long have you been commuting by bicycle and what made you decide to do it?
Four years. I started as a way to fit exercise into my schedule.

Can you give a brief description of your route?

Currently I ride from Rutherford Road, straight down Bathurst and take Harbord over to Queen’s Park. It is 25 km, but a fairly easy route excepting going through the valley just and the hill going north at Davenport.

What's the best thing about commuting by bicycle?
In the morning, you feel like you have already accomplished something at 8:00 am and in the evening the stress just disappears as you pass cars stuck in gridlock.

Any advice for new riders?
Don’t give up. The first couple of weeks it is easy to find a reason to quit, but after that, you will loathe those times you can’t bike. Build your stamina at your pace. Don’t get frustrated if people are passing you. I recall the first couple of weeks some hills where the pedestrians were going faster than I was.

What would you say to convince someone who is considering commuting by bicycle to get on board their bike?

Figure out the time, and expense you spend commuting and compare that to your ride. I have justified two bike upgrades with the savings. You can also throw in the cost of a gym membership if you need further justification.

What do you like about biking in Toronto?
And dislike?

Many will disagree, but I find motorists much more amenable to cyclists in the city. Coming from the 905, I notice a marked difference in attitudes. In the city, you are expected and, maybe not welcomed but tolerated. North of Finch, a cyclist feels like a trespasser, and the speeds are higher.

No question, streetcar tracks are my biggest dislike. Narrow tires and smooth, slippery rails are not a good mix.

Where is/are your favourite place(s) to bike in Toronto?
There is a part of the trail through the Don Valley where you come up a hill and find yourself a few meters from the DVP and then you descend back into nature. It is a dichotomy that continues to impress.

What's your favourite cycling street in Toronto? Least favourite? Why?
Favourite is Harbord. Cyclists own that street. Least favourite is Avenue. Between parked cars, and speeding commercial vehicles, it is a turkey shoot for a bike.

What's your favourite piece of cycling kit/clothing/gadget?
It may seem basic, but when I switched to cycling shoes and clipless pedals, I was amazed at the difference it made.

Favourite bike stories?
On the day of the blackout, cycling through all the chaos of downtown where nothing was moving except pedestrians and bikes. It was a feeling of freedom of being amidst the chaos, yet apart from it. While recognizing the seriousness of the problem, it was difficult not to feel just a little smug while passing all those people crawling along in their metal boxes.

Scary bike stories?

I was screaming down the hill on Bathurst just past Davenport and I had to move into the centre lane to pass a stopped bus. I was concentrating on what the bus/ passengers were doing and I didn’t realize that the streetcar tracks turned into the maintenance yard until my front tire went into the groove. My front wheel went right while the rest of the bike and I were still subject to the Law of Inertia. While hurtling to the ground and sliding, it occurred to me that there was a truck directly behind me.

The truck was able to stop and other than a cracked rib, some road rash and tearing my cycling jacket, and pants, I was pretty lucky. I am overly cautious around streetcar tracks now.

How could the City and Province help you enjoy riding more?
While cycling is mainly a municipal issue, the province can assist by helping municipalities to work together on coordinated planning. Also, as provincial highways are re-built, wide shoulder lanes to accommodate bicycle traffic are being incorporated where possible. (Obviously, not on 400 series and freeways where cycling is prohibited for safety reasons.)

How did you start biking?
I have had a congenital heart condition all my life which acted up in my early 20s. By the time it was sorted out, I was 30 pounds overweight and in need of exercise. After trying various activities, biking won out. I was able to go at my own pace and gradually scale up my fitness level. Commuting enabled me to find the time and forced me to do two workouts per day.

What sort of bike do you ride?
I have a Specialized Allez road bike for commuting, and an Oryx mountain bike for weekend use.

Helmet or no helmet?
Helmet. No question.

Bikelane or no bikelane?
Bike lane wherever possible.

I met Jamie on board the Toronto-Niagara Bike Train media launch -- which I will be writing about here soon.

Crossposted to Spacing


I'll agree with Jamie that there is quite a difference between driver attitudes out in the burbs and in the city.

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