Opinion: Why we don’t ride to work

See, they get it in other parts of the world. Photo: Wikipedia

Monday was the 28th National Ride To Work Day in North America, when all motorcyclists who normally drive on their commute are encouraged to leave the car at home and take the motorbike.

Don’t confuse this with National Bike To Work Day in May, which encourages all cyclists to ride their bicycles to work. Of course, there’s also National Walk To Work Day, which is always the first Friday of April. And this February, Washington, D.C., debuted Bus To Work Day; I don’t know if it was successful, but then, I really don’t care.

Frankly, every day when the roads are clear should be ride to work days. We all know that motorcycles take up less space on the road and so ease traffic congestion, though they do emit dirtier emissions than most cars.

Those motorcycles take up no additional space on the road whatsoever. If those riders were each in cars, however…

Here in Toronto, the weather was sunny and warm all day, so there was really no excuse to not take the bike. All you’d lose is being able to drink coffee while you drive; when you get there, parking would probably be free. The city now allows all day parking in metered street areas for motorcycles at no charge, since it’s not possible to fix a parking receipt to a bike, and it’s seen as an encouragement to ride, to ease congestion. The city also allows bikes in its municipal HOV lanes, and soon, the province will follow suit. Ontario has said that single-rider bikes will finally be allowed in the provincial HOV lanes once the Getting Ontario Moving Act is passed this summer.

But still, bikes are seen by most people as recreation vehicles, not practical transport. This is because our weather generally prohibits them for four months a year (and legally prohibits them in Quebec during winter), so most bike riders also own cars for year-round transit – certainly those outside of downtown Toronto and Vancouver, anyway.

But it’s mainly because there is no advantage, other than free parking, to riding the bike in traffic. We’re not allowed to filter between lanes, as riders do safely and effectively in most parts of the world, so we sit there in the congestion, breathing in the fumes, sweating in the still heat or dripping in the rain, looking into the windows of the cars where the drivers are sipping coffee and straightening their clothes and enjoying the air-conditioning.

The verdict is in on lane filtering, and it’s understood to be both safe and effective. It just looks dangerous.

Don’t worry – I’m not about to rant about the unfairness and stupidity of illegal lane-filtering. We’ve done that many times before at Canada Moto Guide, here and here and here for starters, and our position isn’t going to change. But everything evolves and it’s likely that if we keep up the pressure on our politicians and lawmakers, somebody will eventually realize the benefits of permitting the practice. After all, 10 years ago, there was no free parking for motorcycles in Toronto; last year, there was little hope of opening the provincial HOV lanes to single riders. Time changes everything.

With the movements toward legalizing lane-filtering in Australia, California, Hawaii, Utah, among others, who’s to say that we won’t see the light in Canada and finally allow the practice? The City of Toronto has at least been thinking about it. And then, when Ride To Work Day comes around on the third Monday of every June, we really will have no excuse to leave the car at home, and we’ll save time, gas, and money on our two-wheeled commute.


  1. I used to ride to work in downtown TO years ago (from mid-town) and was able to hit a few ramps on the DVP for some fun. Lane filtering in the core was practical and parking was free in any unused lot corner. Now that I work in deep, dark Scarberia, commuting by bike on jammed 4 lane surface routes is not practical. Unfortunately riding in the ‘burbs offers me no benefit, or joy.

  2. i ride to work all the time! I rode in on national ride ot work day, and i rode in today. if the sun is shinning why would i want to take the car?

  3. I did ride to work to downtown Montreal for years, every day during riding seasons. Main reasons is free parking (big savings there) and even without splitting lanes riding is quicker in traffic. Did enjoy it a too, after a while the stress of riding in heavy traffic goes away. Never had a problem.

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