dandyCommute series: Parkdale to downtown

dandyCommute #5

Veteran bike commuter David Giddens describes the sensory pleasures (and pains) of cycling through Toronto in a story that includes a hawk, a white squirrel, acronyms and the joys of navigating downtown’s one-way streets.

This series will continue with more photos and everyday stories about riding uptown, midtown and downtown, and what some of the challenges and joys are of riding to work every day.

We are inviting dandyhorse readers to share their commuter stories! Published commuters/authors will receive a prize. We’ll be adding an easy to use, fill-in-the-blank template soon. The dandyCommute series will continue until at least the end of 2013.
Super commuter = anyone who rides a bike to work.

dandyCommute #5: Parkdale to downtown (approximately 12 km one-way)

Story and photos by David Giddens

I was blond and single when I started pedaling to work. My family laughs at that – and you would too if you saw my grizzled mug lately. My commute is relatively short, flat, and easy. This is why I have done it five days a week, 50 weeks a year for nearly 25 years now. Those short rides add up: 12 kilometres daily x five days x 50 weeks x 25 years = pedaling all the way around planet Earth, including the oceans (which is quite a trick). Twice.

Because I have a poor sense of direction and a rich sense of forgetting where I am, I make up little acronyms to remember the routes I need to pedal. My most heavily-used acronym is FAR, meaning:  Florence, Argyle, Robinson. Those three little streets let me weasel my way from the Heart of Parkness (aka Parkdale) at Dundas and Roncesvalles, to the foot of the CN tower without following any major routes, until I meet Queen beside the Cameron House near Spadina.

On my way into work each morning, I get to use the so-called semi-actuated Intersection at Ossington and Argyle. The name is off-putting, but for cyclists, S.A.I. means three dots painted on the asphalt. If you stop your bike on top of the dots, the light turns green quickly. It gives me a nice ‘front of the line’ feeling every time.

I’d like to ride home the same way I come downtown, but that would mean going the wrong way on many one-way streets – and that is illegal. Do we do illegal things? No ma’am. Never. So I always (usually, often) ride along Wellington and Douro and Sudbury streets home in among all the new condos and urban infill and so forth. The part of Sudbury that connects to Queen is so spanking new that it has a big “Unassumed Road” sign on it. I don’t really understand what that means, but when I ride it, I often mutter to myself about what a nice unassuming road I’m on.

Everyone remarks on the expanded senses of sight and sound that open up to you when you skip the car and take your bike. This spring I made a one-minute video that is sort of about that. This is what my commute looks and sounds like, more or less.

I actually can hear birds chirping on my way in to work many mornings, and there’s no shortage of unique sights as I head through Trinity Bellwoods park. Check out this fantastic hawk who was giving me the stink eye last week as I rode under his tree.

And a little longer ago, in the same spot, I got a good solid sighting of Moby Squirrel … Thar she gnaws!

Even if you do actually notice these things, you just can’t easily stop and fumble for your cell phone and preserve odd moments like this if you are driving a car, can you?

Leaving aside the ears and eyes for a sec, I can say for a fact that it is your schnozz that’s the biggest beneficiary of a two-wheel commute. I read somebody smart somewhere, who referred to smell as our rudest sense, which is fine with me, because I like many rude things. And I tell you, I could find my way to work with a blindfold and earplugs on my bike. It would be dangerous, but there is a vivid map of scents to follow: at Argyle and Ossington, there is a fantastic medieval tang coming from the wrought iron shop – it’s a great clean whiff of molten metal; at Gore Vale and Queen, the kitchen blowers behind a beautiful new hipster bakery create a plume of the best French toast scent ever; on Bathurst, there’s an old bath house that smells like a nice oak fire (a very nostalgic scent); and on my way home, along Wellington, there’s the distinct barny pong from the trucks full of pigs.

They are a bit too big to be cute, but the pigs are certainly inquisitive and their snouts are pressed out the truck air holes, sniffing right back at me, which is slightly disturbing. That would have been a peculiar note on which to end these commuter’s observations, so I will add this sentence:  Here is my route more or less.


David Giddens works in television. His wife and kids cycle with a greater sense of purpose and direction than he does.


dandycommute / super commuter = any one who rides a bike to work!

This story is part of a new series about commuting by bike to work.

This series will continue with more photos and everyday stories about riding uptown, midtown and downtown, and what some of the challenges and joys are of riding to work.

We invite dandyhorse readers to share their commuter stories too! We’ll be offering prizes to contributors to this blog series too, continuing through 2013.

Email supercommute@dandyhorsemagazine.com to submit your story and you could win a prize from one of our sponsors.
(NEW: Check out our new easy-to-use, fill-in-the-blank upload template for the dandyCommute series!)


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