Recently I was more than a little annoyed by a Toronto bike blog. The offending words:
“Unlike the dull, grey cycling monocultures of Portland and Vancouver, where the ‘old guard’ is very much in effect, Toronto’s bike culture is as socio-economically varied and multicultural as the city itself.”
This coming from someone living in a city that has just elected Mayor Rob Ford by a landslide, struck me as a little rich. I have to admit I got annoyed enough to bark out a comment – something I usually avoid, because I think everyone has a right to their opinion (no matter how wrong it may happen to be).
Read about Great Bike Rides in and Around Vancouver Here – Vancouver Cycling
Still, it set me to thinking about Vancouver’s cycling culture. I experience it as marvellously diverse and vibrant, ranging from the borderline anarchic (such as a few of the participants in Critical Mass) to the utterly staid (such as me), with all manner of fun things in between: bike polo, Bike to Work Week, bike messengers, electric bikers, bike patrollers, a mayor on a bike, strong activism, North Shore mountain bikers, and interesting T-shirts!
It occurred to me it would be hugely fun to publish a (probably pretty long) blog post with photos illustrating the rich and fun diversity of Vancouver’s cycling culture. Unfortunately, I do not personally have enough such photographs.
So this is an appeal to please help me show that Vancouver’s Cycling Culture is anything but dull, grey and monochromatic.
Not because we care what some blogger in Toronto thinks; but because we want to celebrate ourselves!
So if you have any photos that show off our cycling culture that you are willing to share, please send them to me, telling me what you want the caption and credit line to be. I hope to gather enough to do a really fun post! If it turns out as well as I hope, I will save it as a separate page, so it will become a permanent record of our amazing cycling culture.
Update: Here is my post about Vancouver’s VIBRANT cycling culture!
Michael Watkins says
I left a reply at the aforementioned author’s article.
I think you have to look at this from our point of view in Ontario and even Quebec.
Commuting by bike in Vancouver looks more like a “club” or “inclusive” thing to do.
Cycling advocacy groups in Vancouver (and BC in general) have done themselves no justice in the images they show of what a cyclist should look like. Usually when thinking of cycling in Vancouver we out here think “sports bike, spandex, reflective vest/jacket, helmet”, because this is what is shown to us by your advocacy groups. Of course your mandatory helmet law does help.
When I was thinking of moving to BC a while ago I was excited about so many things. Then I started to see what the “biking culture” looked like and I got that “dull-grey” impression.
When I first started cycling in St. Catharines I was in the minority up against people on road bikes, spandex, helmets and the high-vis vests. I received more flack from these people then I ever have from a motorist because of what I wore (or didn’t wear actually). Thankfully today I am in the majority when it comes to how cyclists dress and ride in this city.
Despite Vancouver’s ever growing bicycle infrastructure, Toronto has impressed me in the way they have next to no bike lanes but have an extremely high number of year round cyclists who are “casual-dressed-commuters”.
Not to sound like a Toronto defender, but I also believe Toronto has misleading numbers when it comes to the amount of people commuting by bike. I believe they sit at around 1.2% which includes the ‘burbs (about 5 million people). Nobody rides in the suburbs there. If you take the 2.5 million people who live in TORONTO, I’m fairly confident that Toronto would rank as high or higher then Vancouver and that’s without the proper bike lanes that Vancouver has.
It doesn’t mean either side is right or wrong. We just view things completely different in how cycling should be shown and promoted. Most people here in the east hate wearing helmets or dressing in “special cycling” clothes that it seems so many do in Vancouver.
Also it wasn’t “Toronto” that voted Ford in. It was Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York that voted him in. If Vancouver amalgamated with the surrounding cities, I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for you guys to get a Rob Ford type mayor. Imagine if the road justice guy (or someone similar) became mayor of Vancouver or had a say…
Remember that for the past 8-years Toronto has had a cycling mayor who had a great vision for cycling in that city. It never progressed like it should because of opposition from suburban councillors.
thanks Ryan … some interesting broadening of the view, which I shall have to think about …
Ryan, Toronto does have regulation for under 18y.o. concerning helmets. Well I not sure with your comment that you of were in Vancouver you have ridden you 2 wheels, I am myself ridden in both Ontario and Quebec in numerous cities and towns. I don’t know that their is a big difference in styles. There is always your spandex type, but you always find the mtb riders, the communters with high-vis. vest, the bmx… many others… but it’s in Vancouver that you see the most of each. They don’t ride the same kind of route. Your tourist people are on the seawall around Standley park; your fixies (fixe-gear) on the main streets; the commuters on the cycling streets and the seperated bike lane; and your spandex type that found on roads that are long with less intersection and wider shoulders (like Marine Dr.). Depending on where and how long you have been here, you might have hit the wrong crowd. I would invite you back and re-introduce you if you want.
Now you got to know that we have lots going for us and that I haven’t felt more included as a cyclist anywhere else. Where else can you have a discussion with a stranger on a red light but on a cyclist street? Where else can a cross my friends randomly?
I find that Critical Mass a great opportunity to see our culture and to live it in mass. (for those against it… well think of it when there is a ton of cars going in or out of a stadium parking after a hockey game, it’s kind of the same : creating bike traffic is less worst than single occupancy car traffic)
I have chosen to live in Vancouver and I have chosen to live in my community (live, work, play and shop) and the cyclist culture here is a great bonus!
Average Joe Cyclist says
Hi Sarah. I agree, the cyclist culture here is great. I went on a recent Critical Mass and was blown away by the diversity – nothing monoculture about that ride! I wrote about it in another post, Inside a Critical Mass.
I live outside the Metro Vancouver area (suburbia) but here is a creative song about bike lanes (video format) our group put on utube performed for Bike to Work Week Fraser Valley, at Wentings Bike Shop (Mission) Celebration Station….a bit noisy background but you can hear the words, kinda fun.
I love what Vancouver has done for cycling….I try to minimize my use of spandex (sometimes it just is too comfortable though), however prefer more regular clothes if not going too far…but I do wear a funky helmet and try to be seen with lights and bright cycling jacket at all times when cycling, seems to make safety sense. I don’t think it is about where you live so much rather we should support any place that builds their city with options other than a car to get around…..haven’t cycled in Toronto so can’t comment on their infrastructure
Thanks for the link, Sue 🙂
I also love what Vancouver has done for cycling. Yesterday we had to go downtown on some business, and just kept saying “What a Pleasure” as we biked over the viaduct and up Dunsmuir. Then we had lunch at Scoozis because we were hungry and it was so easy to get there – we were the only customers in mid afternoon, and would not have been there if not for the new bike routes. I hope eventually business owners start to realize that bike lanes can actually INCREASE business.
I too have not cycled in Toronto. I was under the impression that they had pretty good infrastructure, but I may be wrong. I hope they do, because Toronto is one of the few other cities my wife and I would live in when we retire – we both love it. I guess a lot will depend on what Mayor Ford does over the next few years.
Stretches of Lake Shore Blvd in Toronto have a beautiful multi-use path that can be a great “east-west” bike-way if you live close to the lake.
Toronto does severely lack in proper bike lanes…actually any bike lanes. Despite the lack of bike lanes though, it’s still actually really safe to bike in and does deter people from commuting by bike.
If you look at this map (http://goo.gl/WnDS) no cyclist has actually been killed while riding in Toronto (suburbs yes though). I actually do believe one cyclist has been killed since that was updated, however it was his own fault (crossed in front of a streetcar)
For me, I personally feel that Montréal far outranks Toronto in every aspect of biking.
Great to know the death rate is so low – I sometimes wonder how we manage it, such as this morning cycling in a driving downpour in the pitch dark – I guess most people really don’t want to kill us, and of course, we really want to stay alive!
I think Montreal is superb for biking! Definitely the best I have seen.
Anyone who had the chance to check out MOV’s Velocity exhibit last year knows just how diverse and vibrant Vancouver’s bike culture is, both past and present. Don’t know if some of the info from this exhibit has been archived on the internet somewhere…? Would be a great resource.
@Ryan: bike culture is about so much more than the clothing people wear when they cycle. I will give it to you though that there are a lot of MEC gear clad cyclists in Vancouver. I think this is partly a product of having a wet, temperate climate where a lot of cyclist ride year round with the “proper” gear.
Thanks Jeremy, I will see if I can find anything on the internet.
I was also annoyed by that blog. As a Toronto resident who always spends a couple of weeks each summer out in Vancouver, I love to bike around town and to see the diversity of riders. They might be a little more fitness oriented on average than in Toronto, and you could argue that the general population in Toronto is more diverse, but I wouldn’t call a city that has roadies, commuters, and gave birth to north shore mountain biking a monoculture.
I have some photos from the velo exhibit here:
and also some photos of your great bicycling infrastructure here:
Hi jnyyz. Great to hear a voice from Toronto! Thanks for the links, too. Is it OK if I use any of your photos (with credits and links, of course)?
I loved your post at http://jnyyz.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/a-few-notes-on-cycling-in-vancouver/ – really interesting and well illustrated post on biking in Vancouver – I will definitely recommend it to others.
I added a link to your blog, because I really like it.
Feel free to resuse contect, Joe! As I have noted, what you have in Vancouver in the way of bike infrastructure is paradise compared to Toronto, and with Hornby, you are getting further ahead.
Great, thanks 🙂
I took posted some Dunsmuir separated bike lane shots on Flickr today. Feel free to use them however you see fit!
Thank you Paul!
I commute daily from a townhouse community at the base of Burnaby Mountain to Newton. Every day I encounter some subset of the following:
– small children on bikes, going to/from the park with their parents
– people on mountain bikes, with full-face helmets
– regular commuters like myself, on mountain or hybrid bikes
– athletic folks in flashy spandex on racing bikes
– “questionable types” near SkyTrain stations, with a variety of kinds of bikes
– elderly South Asian gentlemen on bikes
– people on bikes with motors (electric and gas)
There are others, I’m sure, but this is what comes to mind. I have no photos (or convenient way to take them), but this doesn’t appear very grey to me.
Thanks, good points. Come to think of it, I have also seen elderly women on electric bikes – a new suburban phenomenon! And then there are all the people who seem to use their bikes to make a living, for example by collecting empty bottles with them. It’s really definitely not just helmeted people in spandex on road bikes …
Tonight I saw at least four of these types of cyclist on the way home. I didn’t notice any kids, Spandex, or SkyTrain types, but all of the rest were represented.
I really can’t help but laugh at the idea of a ‘monoculture’ here… A few times a week I ride with probably one of the most unusual, random groups of people possible, folks from all walks of life with little in common but our collective love for our bikes.
I mean, if things like our Wig Ride were really what was considered “normal” then I don’t know what all is going on out there in Toronto!
Hi Bryn. Great photo – OK if I put it in the post (when I do it – still collecting photos)?
I think that was a comment out of ignorance, without really thinking through what he was saying. It’s a bit of an eastern Canada thing, isn’t it? To off-handedly put down western Canada, without knowing the facts or considering that you are being offensive to thousands of people? (Not eveyone in the east obviously, but a few individuals.)
Hey Bryn, great web site – never saw it before. Added a link under Biking events – thanks 🙂
Well, neither Vancouver nor Toronto are as dull as….Calgary. Where I am right now. Too many one-way, 4 lane roads downtown to move car traffic faster. Most of their signed bike lanes are by the rivers.
May I humbly submit that I lived and worked in Toronto for over 20 years. I also cycled in that city for 13 yrs.before I moved to Vancouver in 2002.
I can vouch that in a 365 degree way, Toronto IS more multicultural in terms of sheer diversity: they have a much larger Afro-Canadian population as well as many folks from a broader range of countries from the Middle East and Latin America. The census will show it. That’s why they have annual Caribana fest that attracts blacks from the U.S.
Average Joe Cyclist says
Hi Jean. Nice to hear from you, and thanks for your input. I have yet to cycle in Toronto, but look forward very much to having that experience one day. Actually I have Afro-Canadian kids, and from that point of view, I really regret we don’t live in Toronto. But when we were choosing a city to live in (when we immigrated to Canada), the weather looked a lot less scary in Vancouver 🙂
From a cycling perspective, Toronto actually has a visibly high number cyclists riding often during the day downtown. Really with over 1 million commuters pouring into the downtown core daily during the work week, cyclists are much more accustomed dealing with slower, higher car congestion on its streets compared to downtown Vancouver. I cycled in from Scarborough daily to work in its downtown for several employers over the years there. And this was 10 years ago, before cycling % became higher in city of Vancouver.