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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Winter cyclist profile – Jonny the musician

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Spring is now officially here, but as there is a little bit of snow to contend with, we offer you one more in the series of winter cyclist profiles.

Name / Occupation / Age
Jonny James / Musician / 30

What do you use your bike for?
Commuting to work, grocery shopping, avoiding RIDE programs…pretty much everything.

How often do you ride?
365 day a year, give or take a few.

How long have you been commuting by bicycle and what made you decide to start?
Since I moved to Toronto to go to university. This city is a lot more bike-friendly than Guelph.

What would you say to convince someone who is considering commuting by bicycle to go for it?
It’ll make you sexy. Plus, even when your blood pressure skyrockets because of some jackass in a car, you’re still exerting yourself physically (as opposed to sitting behind the wheel). Plus, as a cyclist you really realize how ridiculous people look when they have road rage. Screaming, tearing off in their car, honking their horn… People look hilarious when they fly off the handle.

When did you start commuting in winter and why?
I have always ridden my bike through Toronto’s winters. There is no excuse to keep your bike indoors through the winter in a city like this. It’s not Winnipeg or Montreal.

What are the biggest challenges for winter bikers in Toronto?
Being seen and making your presence known on the streets. People assume that if you’re out riding your bike you must either be nuts or a bike courier, or both.

What reaction do you get from co-workers?
I’ve never had so many requests for dates in my life.

What’s the best thing about commuting by bicycle in winter?
It separates the hardcore from the hobbyists.

Can you give a brief description of your route?
Northbound to work, southbound for groceries, westbound for shows, eastbound for shopping.

Where are your favourite places or streets to bike in Toronto? Least?
Everyone’s favourite: The Russell Hill Rd. hill with the curve, south of St. Clair Ave. You can easily reach speeds in excess of 50 km/h. Plus the multiple curves keeps it interesting. Least: Anywhere north of St. Clair Ave. It seems as though people (in cars or ped-x) north of St. Clair are unaware that people use bicycles anymore.

What do you like about biking in Toronto in winter?
Blazing by commuters stuck on their way to work, or on their way home. People don’t realize, but, cycling is way more efficient, healthier, environmentally conscientious and it makes you sexy. Burn a couple hundred calories each day just riding to and from work.

And dislike?
The fact that the bike lanes are the last things (if ever) to get cleared after snowstorms. This puts cyclists at risk.

What could the City do to make winter biking better?
Make bikes lanes on every city street. Also, the only way things will change is if you make it so uncomfortable for motorists to drive that they begin looking at alternative modes of transportation (bike, transit, walking) for getting around.

What’s your favourite piece of winter cycling clothing?
My new Manzella gloves ($9 @ LeBaron) with grippy pads on the palms and fingers.

Do you have a different bike for winter riding?
Yes, an old ’80s Fiori Roma road bike with slicks. I stopped using my fancy bike after getting sick of cleaning salt and grit off of it every day after work.

Any bike gadget/gear winter cyclists should not go out without?
Lights. I use the MEC turtle lights (about $3 each) which can easily be removed and taken with you when you lock your bike up.

Have you ever combined transit and biking?
Transit is too unreliable, slow and expensive. Why use transit when you can get there cheaper and faster?

Favourite winter bike stories?
Taking a header into a snowbank just last Friday. I managed to pull off a beautiful ostrich-like configuration by landing with my head and neck buried in a snowbank, after losing control on a side street.

Scary winter bike stories?
I don’t like to think about all of the close-calls.

But, I will say that now, instead of getting angry and giving people the finger, I’ve learned to give bad motorists the thumbs up. It feels better and it’s hard to stay angry while giving someone the thumbs up after being cut off. Usually I just start laughing.

Anything else? Please feel free to rant and rave!
Why is it that in Europe, and all around the world for that matter, men and women ride bicycles well into their 70s, 80s, 90s…and here we lock up our elderly and in the meantime we make the streets wider so they can be more congested with automobiles? On a daily basis you do not need a car. We need to break the unhealthy attachment to the automobile. And, by the way, a car doesn’t make you sexy.



  1. Most European cities were laid out before any type of mass transit–and certainly before the motor car.
    The higher population density per square kilometre means that space use comes at a premium and the modes of transport that have the greatest benefit for the most persons prevail.

    Automobile ownership was not a factor in family life until well after WWII. The nations of Europe have such population densities that the railway networks take precedence in transit planning.

  2. Great interview – great outlook on biking…and life.

  3. I have switched from giving the finger as well(maybe the yoga:P).Those of us north of Stclair are a hardcore bunch (stclair-finch for me) not many of us and the cars are alot faster than the south and there are no bike lanes anywhere.

  4. Great interview. A nice, fresh look into modern urban live. Congratulations Johny!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. i couldn’t agree more, biking – whether commuting or just hitting the road for the shear preasure of it – will (aside from all the other important social, political and environmental reasons) make you very sexy! you are a great example of that… fancy a bike date?

  6. hi johny,

    i used to think muso’s were a bunch of free-loading potheads. but you changed all that johny. commuting year-round on a bike in trono is the most hardcore thing i can imagine. all power to you!!