It’s been nearly a month since I entertained the idea of Biking in Hogtown and, true to my word, I did it. Here now is my write-up of the experience.
I found the Bixi station at Lower Jarvis and the Esplanade relatively easily. This was the closest one to my office, so the most obvious of choices. Renting a bike was mostly painless. I followed the instructions on the machine and received a print-out. I was a little perplexed that it only asked for the last seven digits of my phone number, but I suppose having an area code as part of your full phone number might only be a southern Ontario thing and Bixi isn’t aware of that. Or, I gave them a fake phone number. Regardless, not including my area code did not prevent me from renting a bike.
Actually pulling a bike out of the rack was another question entirely. It took me two tries to pull it out during the little window of opportunity. Thank goodness the number you’re given doesn’t expire after one use, otherwise I would have felt severely cheated.
After that came the bike riding portion. I must have looked confused looking at the much-too-high seat because a stranger actually stopped to help me figure it out. Thanks, sir! You were very kind. Then as I got on I was stopped once again by an older Italian fellow on his own bike, who exclaimed at my shiny wheels. I had to explain what Bixi was. What follows next was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
Now, as a casual bike-rider, I can definitely say I’ve never ridden through Thursday afternoon traffic in downtown Toronto. My bike-riding up until that point was reserved for quiet tree-lined streets in the suburbs of Scarborough. Quite a bit different from dodging the masses and vehicles on Front St in a pair of heels, juggling a handbag.
Probably not the smartest way to ride a bike for the first time downtown. I must have looked like a right fool–I certainly felt like one–but it was wonderfully liberating. I zoomed past pedestrians, weaved by vehicles, and felt a sense of camaraderie with my fellow bike-riders (although, I’m sure regular riders felt somewhat scornful towards my ridiculous riding–who am I kidding? I would have.)
And it got the job done! I arrived unscathed to my destination and met up with a friend. Granted, I could have found a closer station to our meet-up spot, but that’s simply a lack of knowledge on my part. Simply put, you need to know where the Bixi stations are. Yes, there’s an app for that, but I wasn’t going to pull out my phone in the middle of the street to go looking for it. I mapped out my route in my head beforehand and off I went.
So what do I think? I think it’s a great idea. Dangerous, though. People like me are a menace during rush hour. We’re not meant to be on bicycles, yet we’re going to try it anyway. Hopefully, God-willing, it doesn’t result in any casualties, but I can already see the criticism if/when an accident occurs: “Bixi promotes unsafe cycling by uneducated idiots.” I don’t necessarily agree with that, despite being an uneducated idiot, I just think we casual bike-riders must be extremely careful on the roads. So give Bixi a try; just, for heaven’s sake, be careful you boob! Safety starts with your own person.