Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cycling in Oshawa & Whitby

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.
According to
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.


selsine said...

Hmm did you know the Ian Flemming also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? I didn't but he did. Did you also know that one of the real life inspirations for James Bond is from Winnipeg? Yeah, William Stephenson this is what Ian Flemming said about him: "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is... William Stephenson"

All taken from Wikipedia I'm afriad...

Claire said...

Really??? Chitty Bang Bang was one of my most favorite movies as a kid. Interesting.

Melissa said...

Gosh, you can't just go around flashing people Chris.

Anonymous said...

If you ventured along Anderson in your ride you might have seen a mule in the field.. or was it an donkey .. mmm maybe an ass?

iNGRiD said...

I disagree that you A) have to have a car to get anywhere in Oshawa, and that you B) are unable to access the Oshawa train station. I work at a hotel right beside the train station, and I walk partway home from there through the construction almost every day.

Tuco said...

James Bond... Winnie the Pooh... isn't all popular culture based on Winnipeg natives? : )

It'd probably be for the best if I'm wrong about needing a car to get around Oshawa. And I guess I am wrong, some people probably take Durham transit, but if we dug up some "method of commute" stats for Oshawa I'm sure they'd be HEAVILY tilted towards cars. And I don't know... after 5:00 pm when the Go Trains have come in and about 1000 people are driving their cars away from the Oshawa Go Station through that construction... I really have no desire to bike through that mess. Whitby for me. : )

slinkykitty666 said...

I think that's awesome your cycling. funny, i sometimes put off cycling to work when the pollution levels are so high. "choke" i can't breathe...
i'll do the TTC thing.
good for you..

Jenny said...

I agree with everything you've said about Oshawa, the fact is that it's built like a suburb, not like a city. When the city was being built up, the clear principles that they were relying on were "endless space" and the car. I don't think there is a single bike lane in the entire city. Most people ride bikes as a recreational activity in Oshawa, never to get around, and those that actually take PT are students (my high school gave out monthly Oshawa Transit passes instead of using a yellow bus company, I'm pretty sure that's the only thing that kept Oshawa Transit running). I wrote an entry about Oshawa a while ago, you can check it out here.