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Are you starting to bike to work this summer?

For most people, the approaching summer weather is meant for patio drinks and walks by the waterfront — but for me, what I love most is being able to dig out my bike and start cycling to work again.

After months of hibernating, eating like a bear, watching Netflix and hoping for better weather, the first ride of a new season always makes me a bit sore. Make sure to take your bike somewhere for a proper tune-up. I am lucky enough to have a friend who is a bike mechanic at Velotique and I got a great deal. It pays to have a friend who understands how to fix bikes, but if none of your friends are bike people, it may be worthwhile to learn yourself. At some places in Toronto, like Bike Pirates, they give you the tools at hand and you can do the work yourself for a cheaper price.

Unfortunately, before I could get my bike tuned for the season I ran into my first hurdle. I made the irresponsible mistake of leaving my bike outside all winter and it sustained some pretty serious salt damage from the road. This caused my U-lock to rust to the point where I couldn’t open it. Always keep your bike indoors during the off-season.

When I was finally able to get on the road, I felt like a bird that was stretching its wings after a long sleep. I travel from the east-end and I soared down Dundas East on a bike path and waved at the cars stuck in traffic. It felt like a dream come true until I heard my panier bag disengage from my bike behind me and spill all over the road. I was forced to stop and clean up all of my belongings while swearing to the gods over my poor luck. I discovered after re-jigging the panier lock that it had been malfunctioning all winter and latched it to my bike with bungee cords for the remainder of the ride (note: always travel with bungee cords if you are a cycling commuter).

I arrived downtown with little time to spare due to my unexpected panier emergency, and found Dundas East blocked off at Parliament St. for construction! I decided to deviate south to Sumach St. which is the equivalent of riding on the surface of a volcanic crater (my bottom was very sore). Lesson learned; always give yourself plenty of room when getting back on the bike at the beginning of the season because navigational mistakes are sure to happen here and there. It is also frustrating when you do find an alternative cycling route (in this case on Gerrard St.) and delivery trucks park in the middle of the cycling route. This should be considered illegal and puts many cyclists in danger.

Delivery truck blocking the cycling path on Gerrard St.

The other challenging thing about cycling earlier in the season in Toronto is trying to account for the bi-polar weather in Southwestern Ontario. On one of my commutes last week, I put on a sweater, a jacket, took off both, changed pants, and arrived at home sweaty, cold, hot, and exhausted. Understanding Toronto weather is confusing to say the least.

All in all though, after a couple of days of adjustment, I am happy to be back on my bike, and collecting my bikos. I got back on my bike just in time for “Bike to Work Day”, a Toronto event where Mayor John Tory hopped on a bike at Bloor St. to ride with commuters in celebration of cycling in the city. The event is a precursor to ‘Bike Month’, an annual event in Ontario that celebrates all aspects of cycling. To ring in bike month, the City of Toronto will be giving away tote bags with cycling goodies at locations all over the city for the month of June and taking pictures of cyclists who love to ride.

Cycling is one of the positive benefits of being urban dweller. But it’s much more than that. There is absolutely nothing more enjoyable than feeling of the wind blowing through your hair as you cycle by vehicles stuck in traffic.

Zooming past morning downtown traffic in Toronto.

Will you be biking to work this month? Let us know if there are any problems with your commute, in the comments below!

37 muncipalities approved for Ontario cycling funding

Ontario is well on its way to becoming one of the provinces most dedicated to cycling, with $10 million funding for the Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program.

Cycling Infrastructure is a part of the province’s #CycleON Action Plan 1.0, which is a plan to increase accessibility for bike riding. Ontario is allocating funding for cycling lanes, off-road cycling, cycling traffic signals and signs, transportation bridges and bike racks. The funding will be allocated to 37 municipalities across the province. Municipalities were eligible for funding up to 50 per cent of the total project, with a maximum of $325,000 per municipality. The program was launched on July 3, 2015 and nearly 150 municipalities showed interest.  Out of the 37 approved municipalities, 25 areas are set to receive the maximum amount of funding.

Toronto and the GTHA, Whitby, York Region, Richmond Hill, Brampton, Markham, Newmarket, Mississauga, Niagara Region and Tecumseh received maximum funding. To the east, Brockville, Peterborough, Ottawa, United areas of Prescott and Russell will also receive $325,000 for cycling projects. In Southwestern Ontario, Chatham-Kent, Cambridge, London, Lasalle, Kitchener, Kingsville, and Windsor has been approved. Northern Ontario will also receive the highest possible amount in Orillia, Thunder Bay, North Bay, Temiskaming Shores.

#CycleON Action Plan 1.0  outlines the guiding principles to make Ontario one of the top cycling destinations in the world. The plan sets out five goals for 2033.

The 20-year plan outlined specific objectives to create an ideal cycling network. These objectives stress the importance of creating a diverse cycling community, improving infrastructures to benefit cyclists on the road, and making highways and streets safer. It also emphasized that promoting great cycling trails to encourage more people to use their bikes and increase cycling tourism opportunities would help develop cycling as a way to commute as well.

With more investment and infrastructure into creating safe and fun cycling paths, it will create a stronger biking community and healthier people. It will be exciting to see the results of the municipalities approved for cycling funding and to bike throughout Ontario on well-funded paths.