Today is the first day of Toronto's annual Bike Month. As usual, there was a group commute from various corners of the city, converging on City Hall for a City-sponsored pancake breakfast.
So how was it? I have no idea, really. I did the complete opposite and rode out of the city this morning, as usual, since my job is in that scary hinterland that few downtown Toronto cyclists ever venture out to: Mississauga. Actually, it's not that scary. I enjoy my commute, and it's often the best part of my day.
Last year I did the group commute to Toronto City hall from High Park, ate breakfast, then turned around and rode back west to work. It was a great way to start the day off, but perhaps a bit too much cycling so early in the day and I got to work even later than usual.
This year, however, the City of Mississauga, via Smart Commute Mississauga and the Mississauga Cycling Advisory Committee hosted their Bike to Work Day Pancake Breakfast on the same day as Toronto's, so I headed straight west this morning.
My lovely wife and I stopped in High Park just as the Toronto Pancake Ride was heading out. Most of the riders were already assembled, so I just had a quick chat with a few friends before everyone departed. It was certainly fun seeing all of these cyclists together at High Park, especially the three or more teams of tandem cyclists. But I was soon on my own, as the number of cyclists I see on the roads seems to diminish the farther I get from home.
The ride to work was pretty uneventful, but since I left earlier than normal and took a different route, I beat the worst traffic and felt like I was exploring new territory again (Bloor St., all the way to the end!). I even noticed more cyclists than usual today, and exchanged some friendly waves and nods.
I arrived at the Mississauga Central Library Square, across the street from City Hall, a couple of minutes before the Mississauga group commutes arrived. I grabbed a banana, and patiently waited for the pancake breakfast table to open up.
[img_assist|nid=3094|title=Smart Commuters|desc=Some of the VIP cyclists (hey, we're all VIPs!)|link=node|align=center|width=500|height=336]
The cyclists started to arrive around 8:00am. I counted about 50 cyclists during the time that I was there, which to me is a pretty good turnout, considering that there are days when I don't see a single other cyclist during my commute. Good diversity of ages, and a mix of spandex road warriors and dressed-down casual riders. However, I noticed that the commuter cycling population here doesn't seem to represent the ethnic diversity of Mississauga, especially compared to my bus commutes.
[img_assist|nid=3095|title=Cyclist Breakfast Club|desc=Enjoying the sunshine and food after the ride|link=node|align=center|width=500|height=426]
It was a pretty casual and friendly atmosphere. Lots of smiles, laughter, and people out enjoying the sunny morning while eating their free breakfasts. Thinking back on it now, as I type this from my office, I feel like Mississauga's downtown often lacks this friendly laid-back vibe that cyclists and pedestrians bring to an area.
One of the main attractions this morning was the Mississauga Transit bus outfitted with a new bike rack on the front. These are the same style of rack that the GO buses use that I have raved about here in the past. Many people queued up to try their own bikes on the racks, while a Mississauga Transit employee explained how to use it and answered everyone's questions.
[img_assist|nid=3096|title=Bikes and Buses|desc=Mississauga Transit employee shows how to use the new bike racks|link=node|align=center|width=500|height=312]
I tried my recumbent bike on the bus rack, but the wheel lock arm didn't close down far enough on the 20" front wheel. This is unfortunate, as the stated minimum wheel size is 16", and I have had no trouble with my 20" wheeled folding bike on the GO racks. I wonder if there's some kind of adjustment that can be done to make those wheel locks tighten down better.
I was a bit bummed that my 'bent didn't work on that bus bike rack, but it's still exciting to see that so many of the GTA's transit systems are already equipped or in the process of equipping their buses with bike racks (GO Transit, TTC, Brampton Transit, York Region Transit, Oakville Transit, Burlington Transit, Hamilton Street Railway, etc.) This will certainly make car-free travel even more accessible.
After chatting with a few more people, I hopped back on my bike and rode the short distance to work. And now I sit here, wishing I was still out in the sun riding my bike. It was a nice start to Bike Month, and I'm excited to take in as many other events as I can. I can hear my bike calling me, telling me to skip out of work early and take the long way home.