After being at UOIT for nearly a month now, and cycling around this area for two or three weeks, I feel ready to shoot my mouth off a bit about the Oshawa area in general, and cycling here in particular.
Here's a bit of background for people who don't know the area well.
this document, Oshawa's history is "without parallel." That really makes me smile. I hope nobody in Prague or Istanbul or Beijing read it, they'd be pissed to know that their city's history is dwarfed by that of Oshawa. (It is kind of cool though that Ian Fleming attended spy training in Oshawa, and got the idea for James Bond here. And Bobby Orr played hockey here for the Oshawa Generals. That's pretty neat for a hockey fan.)
Oshawa can either be considered a city in its own right, or it can merely be considered the last outpost on a stretch of sprawlurbia from Toronto east to Scarborough, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and finally Oshawa. My vote is that it's part of Toronto's sprawlurbia.
I'm sure that some parts of Oshawa looks like this:
But I haven't seen those parts yet. I'm told there's a nice recreational trail that meanders south through the city all the way to the lake, but it's not part of my commute and I haven't seen it. I generally think of Oshawa more like this:
A big sprawl of residential streets placed around some strip malls.
Oshawa, in fact, is probably in a lot of trouble. When the Peak Oil age begins, Oshawa will have three major problems:
a) Like any North American city, it is based on the automobile as a method of transit. The residential areas are flung far and wide from downtown, and you need a car to get anywhere. In five years, when gas is $1.45 (Canadian) because of $100.00 barrels of oil (see previous Peak Oil posts regarding this), it's going to hit the people of Oshawa hard.
b) As I said, Oshawa is the furthest east of Toronto's stretch of sprawlurbia along Lake Ontario. LOTS of people here commute into Toronto to work. This, as above, will hit people hard once gas prices skyrocket.
c) And the coup de grace?? Well, Oshawa is economically based on the car industry. GM Canada has been here a long time, and has fueled the city's economy for decades. GM is in serious economic trouble already, and will be in even more trouble when people finally start buying fuel-efficient Hondas and Toyotas and say goodbye to gas-guzzling GM's.
And what about cycling here? For those of you who know Oshawa, my trip home in the evening goes like this: I leave UOIT taking Conlin east to Garrard. I take Garrard south all the way to Manning, turn west on Manning and take it to Garden. Take Garden south to Burns. Take Burns west to Brock, and take Brock south to the Whitby Go Station. And why the Whitby Go Station when I work in Oshawa? Because the Oshawa Go Station is hidden behind so much construction right now that it is entirely inaccessible to bikers.
Now much of that trip is actually fairly pleasant. Garrard in fact has a long bike lane (I think it's a bike lane... there's definitely a lane but NOWHERE along it is there any bicycle signage). Unfortunately, as I'm bailing south on Garrard, the few other cyclists I've ever seen on it are riding along the sidewalks. : (
Manning is awesome. After a bit of an uphill climb I get a rockin' long downhill that curves north and then west again. I should check my computer to see how fast I'm going on that descent, but it must be about 50km/hr.
The worst part of my whole day - even worse than riding on Highway 7 in the morning - is the five minutes I'm on Brock street getting down to the Whitby Station. Brock is torn to hell along the side where bicyclists ride, and it's a busy four lane street with people who are in a rush to get to the 401 driving beside you. It's yucky. That's as eloquent as I can be. It's yucky.
All in all, I guess I have a fairly easy ride through Oshawa/Whitby. It's just so discouraging to never see any other bikes in the city. When I get back into Toronto and ride from the Danforth station back to my place it's such a "homey" feeling... seeing other cyclists on the road, feeling like you (as a cyclist) belong on the streets.
That's the big thing that Oshawa lacks - an acceptance of bicyclists (or even an awareness that they exist) - and it's going to be a slow learning curve for this city when the oil runs out and they have to start struggling to figure out how to get by without cars.
P.S. - This morning I grabbed a pair of cycling shorts I don't usually wear, and was half an hour away from the apartment before I realized that I don't wear them because they have a big hole on the back of the upper leg. God knows how many people I flashed this morning.