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LEVY: True confessions — I’m a cycling addict

I knew I’d become addicted to cycling to work when I took a terrible tumble off my bike enroute to an interview in mid-July.

Coming down Boulton Dr. towards Dupont St., I was trying to manoeuvre my way perhaps a little too confidently through some never-ending watermain construction and holes in the road when I had a close encounter with an illegally-parked car.

Bleeding from my left knee and in a fair amount of pain on my left side, I climbed back on my commuter bike and continued to the coffee shop where I was meeting a contact, ironically on my council downsizing story (which ran five days before Premier Doug Ford introduced Bill 5).

My interview subjects were astounded.

But with a pack of ice in one hand (for my knee) and my tape recorder in the other, the interview proceeded.

I even biked home that day, but very gingerly.

During the month that it took for me to heal properly, I continued to cycle to work and to interviews, although far more cautiously than prior to the tumble and with regular warnings from my concerned wife to “be careful.”

Yes I confess: I’ve become completely and utterly addicted to commuting by bike this summer.

Sue-Ann Levy rides her bike in the designated bike lane on Harbord St. in Toronto on May 10, 2016. (Dave Abel, Toronto Sun)

It was not just for the fitness and environmental benefits. I found I could keep an eye on the state of the city’s streets — and the etiquette of road users — far better from atop my commuter bike.

Sadly, I’ve been able to observe the decline of my beloved adopted city from a front-row seat: The street sleepers and beggars; the drug-addicted wandering and screaming; the litter and weeds growing out of concrete; unkempt outdoor garbage bins; orange-and-black cones left in areas where work is not being done; and the decrepit rutted streets with holes the size of craters.

I devised a route to work that allowed me to stay off the major thoroughfares as much as possible by using the Beltline near my home, side streets and the bike lanes on Sherbourne St.

Yes, I’ll also admit that I use the bike lanes. Still, I remain unconvinced that narrowing a major arterial like Bloor St. to two lanes for drivers and removing all but a few parking spots was the right thing to do. And don’t get me started on the ridiculous rarely used lanes on Woodbine Ave.

To get through the construction and the traffic bottleneck on Yonge St., near St. Clair Ave., I regularly got off my bike and walked it on the sidewalk, having found out that cycling on sidewalks is against city bylaws (at least for adults).

But take it from me, cycling is not for the faint of heart in this congested city, where complete streets constitute throwing all manner of vehicles on the same thoroughfare and squeezing construction in between.

I can most assuredly say my key concerns were not with drivers. Contrary to what mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat would have us believe, I found that drivers have learned to live with cyclists and other than a small minority of impatient yahoos, they treated me with respect.

Nope, I found I had to be much more wary of other cyclists and pedestrians.

Frankly, I felt more at risk from impatient (often helmet-less) cyclists who whizzed by me without warning (a bell would be nice!) or in the case of one obviously diehard female cyclist, cursed at me for riding too slowly in “her” bike lane.

Pedestrians? Well, I was astounded by the number who would step off a curb (even seniors!) to jaywalk across a street, their eyes firmly planted on  their iPhone screen.

If the city’s leftists want to adopt a Vision Zero approach to road safety, perhaps they might start by encouraging pedestrians to apply their vision to the hazards of the road around them instead of their smart phone screens. Just saying.

By far, the biggest safety hazard, in my view, was the decrepit state of the city’s streets (see note about my bike accident above).

That has led me to conclude that if city officials truly mean business about encouraging people to cycle more, perhaps they should be a little more selective about the bike lanes they choose to construct and far more aggressive about fixing our roads.

I wheely think our streets are a disgrace — said as a cyclist, not a driver.

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