Discovering a new city on two wheels

Whistler BikingI don’t recall hearing the glass shatter, but I remember the pain in my arm as I lay on the ground trying to figure out how I was ejected off my bike.

As I put the pieces together, it became clear that I had hit the back of a parked car, flown over my handlebars and put the full weight of my right shoulder into the hatchback’s rear window. The window shattered on impact – I was a big 14-year-old – and my collarbone cracked as a result.

My shoelace had gotten caught around my pedal as I rode my bike to baseball tryouts. I was looking down trying to get it off my pedal when I hit the car.

The only question I asked the paramedics on my ambulance ride to the hospital was whether they’d be able to freeze my collarbone so that I could play in my hockey championship two days later.

I was devastated to find out that freezing broken bones was an NHL thing – not a minor hockey championship thing.

Fast forward to this summer. I bought a bike for the first time in about 19 years.

I was motivated by the need to get in shape.

I was intrigued by the BIXI bike I road in Montreal in June with some colleagues, so that we didn’t have to spend hours stuck in downtown traffic in a taxi.

And I recalled how much fun I had had the day I went downhill biking on Whistler Mountain in 2007 – only the second time I had been back on a bike since the accident. Of course, I went over the handlebars that day, too, thanks to the ultra-sensitive disc brakes on the mountain bike. But this time I was protected by body armor.

My goal is to ride my bike to and from work. But for now, I’m taking baby steps and riding it on Sunday mornings when I don’t have to worry so much about traffic and other hazards posed by the streets of Toronto.

So what is the point of this blog – or the learned lesson?

As a transplanted Vancouverite who moved to this city in 2000, I have discovered a whole new Toronto thanks to these Sunday bike rides. I have experienced a cleaner, kinder, gentler city.

Cleaner in the sense that there are hundreds of trails, ravines and parks that are easily accessible from almost any neighbourhood. There seems to be this city within a city that runs underneath Toronto and it is lined by streams, trees and other great natural features. In fact, you don’t feel like you are in the city at all.

Kinder in the sense that the bike trails are the anti-commute. I shudder each morning as people honk horns from the comfort of their cars or elbow a stranger on the TTC. Instead, I was greeted with multiple “good mornings” as I biked along the Moore Park Ravine trail into the Don Valley Brick Works Park. One pair of bikers took the time to give me directions and alert me to the difficulty of the trail. Another couple out for a morning ride asked me for help and shared my map to guide them on their way back home.

A gentler city in the sense that we are constantly hustling, rushing, working – instead, I was able to stop a few times on my ride and enjoy some fresh air, great views, people playing in parks and cool houses in neighbourhoods I had only zoomed through in a car.

Like the CTV ads say: ‘This is my Toronto’. I think I may have found my new Toronto and it is one that I can really enjoy.

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About Jaime Stein

Jaime is the Senior Manager, Social Media at Hootsuite. He is a digital marketer with expertise in social media and content marketing. His experience stems from leading the social media strategy for two national brands. Jaime holds an MBA with a focus in Marketing and Strategy from the Rotman School of Management where he was selected valedictorian by the students of the Morning MBA Class of 2011. He is the former radio voice of the Toronto Argonauts and currently lives in Vancouver with his wife and two sons.
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6 Responses to Discovering a new city on two wheels

  1. Ed Lee says:

    nice blog jaime – what toronto trails are you exploring? i’m getting back into the biking groove after my own tumble last year.
    ed

    • jaimestein says:

      I like going off-road, so I’ve explored the Kay Gardner Beltline trail and then the trails in behind the Don Valley Brickworks. Once I get my legs up, I’d like to try some further trails down by the water – I hear they are pretty nice.

      Do you have any favs?

  2. Welcome to the club! My favourite Toronto ride is in Scarborough – starting from around Guildwood GO station and following a valley behind UofT at Scarborough and coming out on top of a bluff over looking the lake. You can then head back towards the downtown on a combo of paths and roads or head east along the lake towards Oshawa…more details and a bike map at http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/map/index.htm Ken

  3. Hi Jamie, if you can make it up through the valley to Edward’s Gardens at Lawrence and Leslie, there are some beautiful paved paths behind the homes in the subdivisions of Don Mills. The city is working on a new multi-use converted rail path that leads to Bond Park just south of York Mills, but it’s not finished yet. Glad you are enjoying the new found freedom, and I hope to see you out and about.
    Mary-Beth

    • jaimestein says:

      Cool! Thanks for the suggestion. I was looking at that area on my bike map. Maybe that will be my next ride (less hills than heading into the valley)!! Thanks for the comment.

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