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.