City Biking: It’s an extreme sport- treat it like one!

In a previous post I spoke about how biking was the way forward in urban commuting. But here is the big disclaimer. The biggest issue that people have with biking in the city is safety.

Biking in the city definitely comes with its own risks, and from my own anecdotal experiences, probably far more than walking, driving, etc does. But does that mean you shouldn’t do it?

Absolutely not. There are plenty of extreme activities that countless numbers of people engage in everyday. By extreme, I don’t necessarily mean it has to come up on your youtube fails search, nor does it have to come with a soundtrack of aggressive rock music. It just means that the risks are higher.

With biking in the city, the risks are higher. This is a fact. Toronto, and many other cities that are not bike friendly, do not have the infrastructure to support the safest forms of cycling. But, arguably, cycling infrastructure comes with demand and not the other way around. The more bikers demand it, the more likely it is  to happen.

Pro-biking propaganda aside, the best thing you can do as a biker is to be aware of the risks. It is this awareness that will save your life. Always, better too cautious then too careless.

So what are the risks and how do you overcome them?

  • Doors. People in parked cars not checking and opening up the doors into bikes is a huge risk. Being “doored” as it is commonly referred to is not entirely avoidable, but it can be prevented. First and foremost, avoid busy streets that allow for parked cars. Second, pay attention to the tail lights, if they are on, someone is in the car and you must must ring your bell and warm them. Third, if someone is in the car, try to make eye contact. If you are still not sure, move over (safely of course) and give them enough room to potentially open their door.
  • Streetcar tracks. So many of my friends have fallen victim to these terrible things. Your wheel gets caught and you fly off the bike. Best case, a couple of scapes and bruises, worst case.. you don’t want to know. Most important is to know the size of your wheels. Can they get caught? Most road bikes have thin wheels and they do pose a risk on the tracks. Avoid, and never ride too close if you are parallel to them. If you must cross do so head, and do not cross them at too much of an angle. Note where the tracks make turns, especially if you also have to make those turns
  • Taxis. So unpredictable. They will cut you off for a fare, make unpredictable u-turns, and make your overall trip a nightmare. Take note of taxis around you, ring your bell. I have found them to be most receptive to the bell, they know what it means, they are on the road all the time.
  • Right hand turns. Cars making right hand turns often forget to check for bikers. If you see a car making a turn, stop, do not take the risk. If you can go around them, do that but do it safely. The cars behind them may not be aware of your intentions to overtake and they may also proceed to go around them. Bells and whistles. I have said it before, and I will say it again, you are better off to cautious then too careless. Don’t be afraid to be the person who is always ringing their bell. This is your safety we are talking about.

The bottom line here is definitely awareness. You can ski, surf and mountain climb, but you cannot do it carelessly. Same goes for biking in the city. Above all else, wear a helmet. I cannot stress this enough. There is no reason in the world for you not to be protecting that brain of yours.

 

 

 

 

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Being a parent makes you a better traveler.

As you may or may not know I am a mom to a wonderful little three year old boy. I have not mentioned him often, because the majority of my posts are about babyless travel experiences. That doesn’t mean I do not travel with him. In fact, we just booked a trip to L.A. to visit grandma at the end of the August, just the two of us.

Too often I hear these words: I am not ready to have kids, I still have so much to do, so much to see… 

I wish I could blow that argument completely out of the water, but I do admit there is some validity to how much easier life is without a child. That said, I cannot disagree more with the idea that having a child some how stops your ability to explore this awesome planet. That is nonsense, and I hope for the sake of their future children that view changes when they have kids. If anything, parents have a responsibility to expose their children to the unlimited capacity of adventure that we have right in front of us. The best way to do that is, of course, to travel with your children. If that is not always possible, traveling without them and telling them about your amazing adventures will also foster that same wanderlust that you have too.

So yes, there are some definitive differences that come with traveling with kids, they can be positive things  too!

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My City Sunday: Cabana Pool Bar

This past Sunday I decided to step out of my typical routine and try something a little different.

For some that may mean spending a Sunday biking by the lake or maybe even getting out of town. For me it was checking out an increasingly popular Toronto entertainment destination.

Cabana Pool Bar, located a little out of the way from the downtown core at Polson Pier, was definitely not my standard outing choice (read: I don’t wear bikinis and stilettos, have a glowing tan, or take anything about the club scene seriously even remotely seriously). Despite that, I managed to really enjoy myself- maybe because the daytime poolside feel diminished the pressure to conform to the crowd?

So even if you are like me and don’t fit the typical Cabana go-ers mould, follow these recommendations and you will probably have a good time. And hey, why not try something new next Sunday? Or at the very least I will save you the time, money, and frustration if this makes you realize this place is really not for you. Either way, you know I am here to help.

  • Ignore the pictures on the website. It makes the place look like a Maxim Model Convention, and it is not entirely accurate. Sure their are some pretty fit, good looking people there. And daylight doesn’t always help if you are trying to stay low key, but all in all everyone is friendly and there to have a good time. Shitty people are everywhere, and hopefully most of us overcame their impact in high school.

Keep good company. If you love chilling out in the sun, lounging by a poolside, but aren’t crazy about clubbing, you can still have a great time if you come with likeminded friends that you are comfortable with. Strength in numbers, right?bythepool
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My City Sunday: Toronto Online

It’s not always easy to navigate a new place based entirely on online information. You may try hard not to fall prey to tourist traps, and to instead experience the true essence of a place as if you, yourself, were a local. Admittedly, some places are more “online” than others. For example, when we were going to Bocas del Toro, Panana, we could not find very many accommodation options. Yet when we got there we realized there were ample options that just did not have an internet presence.

Having lived in Toronto my whole life, I feel like I am a pretty good example of a local here. This means I can speak to what internet land would recommend visitors to Toronto to do. So I am going to take this opportunity to evaluate how well the internet directs travelers to great places to see in my city.

Here goes:

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Google is on to me already…

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The controversy of travel..and why it’s okay.

Do you remember this?

This is the original movie in a multi-part series (2006, 2008-my personal fav., 2012) of Matt Harding dancing all around the world that went very, very viral. With the original video published almost a decade ago, it is easy to see why this is one of the most impressive examples the endless possibilities we have of integrating our expansive digital world with our boundless physical one. As I have said before, the internet is one of the best resources for travellers and non-travellers alike. The ability of these videos to enable the viewer to both experience and be inspired is a pretty commendable achievement. But these videos do more than evoke wanderlust, they embody a powerful message about the act of travel. 

What I mean to say is that these videos speak a lot to the core experiences of both enthusiastic travellers and their gracious hosts. Watching Matt travel the world and dance with the locals is a heartwarming idea. And as you watch, you may find yourself witnessing on some of the fundamental truths that transcend borders, languages, cultures, and more. It reflects this universal desire for the very same thing, for happiness.

But with this common desire comes some bleak realities. Travel, and especially the ability to travel is not all equal. And thus, travelling conjures substantial dichotomies and inevitable controversy. Acknowledging this is essential to the code of ethics of any traveller. So, before progressing with this blog I want to take a minute to make a few important statements on travel and just some of its larger implications.

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Swimming in a Nicaraguan Lake

Of course it was not just any lake. This lake was home to Ometepe Island, a volcanic island that had not one, but two volcanoes, attached at the hip, okay maybe the toes.

The Journey

It wasn’t easy to get there. Imagine leaving Granada early in the morning and hoping on an old school bus painted in rainbow colours. At first it seems okay, pretty full, but this should be expected from cheap ($2) transportation (read: not for tourists). Slowly but surely it gets more and more  crowded. At one point a young (very) pregnant girl gets on with a backpack. They are called Chicken Buses, presumably because they are suppose to have chickens on board. No chickens here, just lots of people. No place to sit, she just stands there. She is quite far away from me, but I just cannot handle that no one is getting up for her. I become that awkward self-righteous tourist and I don’t really care. She sits down and says absolutely nothing. Women holding children are standing too, know one cares. Definitely every person for themselves here. Get on earlier if you want a seat. Two hours later we arrive in Rivas and hop into a cab. Nothing is difficult, since we are targeted as tourists right away- everyone knows we want to go to the island. Where else?

Another dollar and we are at the ferry. Some tourist fee, of course, and the ferry ticket, pop some Gravol and I am good to go. By go I mean I pass straight out on the boat, and don’t wake up again until we get there. Bet it was beautiful.

Ometepe from the boat

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My name is Polina, and I am afraid of flying.

Okay confession time. I am a terrible flyer. I am terrified of dying in a plane crash, to the point where I promise myself every time I am on an airplane that I will never, ever do this again.

There must be another way. I think to myself, as the image of Rose on a raft and Jack holding on to it float through my head. Of course, by the time the plane lands, I think, Okay, maybe this isn’t so bad. 

Yet every time I fly, my response and anxiety worsen, to the point where I feel like one day I will not be able to travel by plane at all.

I know I am not the only one with this fear, and I certainly know that I am not the only travel obsessed wanderluster with it either. So overcoming this is high on my priority list, because I would hate to base travel decisions on something so irrational. But that’s a post for a different day. Today is about confronting not overcoming.

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