Spiffy Bikes

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Toronto seems to like its spiffy bikes. Even ignoring the number of people who seem to tool around on low-riders (including a crazy woman in Kensington Market who never seemed to dismount, even as she wobbled down Spadina Avenue, bumping into the sides of parked cars) there are a lot of cool-looking two-wheelers of various sorts. These aren’t necessarily expensive bikes; they’re just unusual and remarkable.

Now compare that to Montreal, where most people ride around on $40 pieces of junk they bought from some guy in a back alley. Maybe this is one of the rare cases in which Montrealers are more practical-minded than Torontonians. They are resigned to the high likelihood that their bike will one day be stolen, so why bother shelling out extra for something that looks nice? Still, if the scruffy homeless guy trying to pry loose a bicycle post with a large 2×4 is any indication, bike theft is just as common in Toronto as it is here.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Saturday July 28 2007at 10:07 pm , filed under Canada, Transportation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

3 Responses to “Spiffy Bikes”

  • Chris says:

    My friend from Toronto and I were actually talking about this exact topic the other day. She had just returned from a trip back home to visit her family and remarked how much more expensive and/or nicer the bikes were in Toronto than in Montreal. After bouncing some theories back and forth at each other, we came to the conclusion that a lot of it might have to do with the differences between the housing stock of the inner-city neighbourhoods of each city. For the sake of the argument, lets take newer medium- and high-rise condos of each city out of the equation because, truth be told, most of the inhabitants of these buildings drive the cars in their underground parking garages rather than bikes. We’re talking about the older (and newer, to-scale, infill) vernacular housing stock. Montreal generally has two and three story walkups ‘plexes that are smaller (but taller) than the larger duplexes found around most Toronto neighbourhoods. As a result, Montrealers have to climb narrower, steeper, and more numerous steps into smaller apartments than Torontonians typically do. Because of this, it is much easier for a Torontonian to take his or her bike inside when not in use than it is for a Montrealer. This allows Torontonians to be able to have bikes that are more attractive to thieves because they don’t have to leave them locked outside by the street or on balconies as much as Montrtealers do.

    This theory might be completely wrong and I’m sure there is more to it than this but I think the argument has some merit. It’s something interesting to think about at least and makes you wonder about how a city’s infrastructure really works to shape its culture!

  • Zvi says:

    Ease of indoor storage may explain part of it, but I think that the general income level in Central Toronto is quite a bit higher than in Central Montreal as well. Bicyclists in Montreal perhaps consider their vehicle as primarily utilitarian (ie just a way to get from point A to B), whereas perhaps one’s bicycle is more of a fashion statement in Toronto. I think that if you were to compare the cars that these respective populations drive, you would notice similar differences as well.

    I always wonder if/when the “high-end” bicycle market is going to take off in China.

  • Gunderson says:

    Spiffy Bikes

    The photo of the young lady wearing a dress (almost unheard of these days!), and riding an old-fashioned Schwin bicycle (even MORE unheard of these days), could have been taken in the 1950’s!! Unfortunately, she was talking on one of those stinkin’ cellphones and managed to ruin what was otherwise a charming, nostalgic and timeless photograph!