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  1. #1
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Is Canada cycle friendly?

    I'm from the UK, and contemplating a move to Canada with the wife and family. Here in the UK, things aren't very cycle friendly, at all, certainly not compared with continental Europe. I understand that the US isn't that cycle friendly, either, but how about Canada - how do people view cyclists and cycling?

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    It depends where you go. Canada is a very big, diverse country.

    If you are planning to head to lower mainland British Columbia or Vancouver Island, you'll find the climate to be similar to the UK, and you'll find that there is a big cycling culture. From the cycling I've done there, I'd say it is fairly friendly.

    If you're planning to go to Alberta, you'll discover that it is cool-cold year round ... a good 7 months of winter, with generally chilly summers. It also tends to be a very fast-paced redneck province. But it is the best province I've ever cycled in for cycle-friendliness, for road quality, and for scenery.

    If you plan to go to Saskatchewan, you might still have 7 months of winter, but the summers are a bit warmer. Saskatchewan is getting busier, but it still has a relaxed country element which makes cycling there nice. The road quality, however, isn't so good.

    If you plan to go to Manitoba, Winnipeg is not particularly cyclist friendly. Winnipeggers, in general, don't particularly like cyclists and during the years I was there, there was ongoing tension between drivers and cyclists. I would compare cycling in Winnipeg with cycling in some of the larger towns in the UK. But if you go out into the country it is lovely. I really enjoyed cycling in rural Manitoba. As for the weather ... you're looking at a good 6 months of winter, but you'll have a solid 6 months of warm summer to counteract it.

    And I liked cycling in the far western part of Ontario ... the Kenora and Dryden area. Similar to cycling in rural Manitoba.

    Now when I talk about winter in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, I'm talking about WINTER! Snow, ice, bitter cold, blizzards. Bitter cold = temperatures down around -20C, -30C, -40C, and sometimes even colder than that. Cycling outside in those those tempertures is possible (I've done it), but not particularly pleasant. And if the roads are not cleared well (Alberta hasn't figured out how to plow streets yet; Manitoba has figured it out and is pretty good about it), the ice makes cycling very treacherous.

    So where were you thinking of moving?


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    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Thanks for that reply, great information.
    We're just at the rumination stage at the minute. My wife has relatives in Ontario, down near Toronto. She's a project manager, and has been looking at jobs available. I'm self employed, a wedding photographer. But if wedding photography over there is like it is here, I may go for something else. I've got a University teaching qualification, though only ever did a couple of years part time teaching, so may try and use that if it's possible.
    We are thinking of maybe trying it for a year - my wife can get a leave of absence, and if we settle well, staying on (work permitting).
    I've always liked the idea of Canada as a place to live. I admit, I've never been, but from my reading and understanding it has the best elements of Europe and America combined. It has that "New World" Sensibility - a thrusting, generous, diverse spirit, but also it has excellent good education and social healthcare (though I understand that doctors can be hard to come by outside of the cities).
    It also seems like a stunning country. Coming from the UK, and only ever having travelled in Europe, I find it hard to imagine a place with such size and beauty.

    How is the infrastructure for cyclists? Is it common to find cycle lanes and such, or is it that you're on your own roadwise, but people don't shout at you and try to run you down - excepting Winnipeg, perhaps .

    Again, many thanks.

    phil

  4. #4
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gotte View Post
    How is the infrastructure for cyclists? Is it common to find cycle lanes and such, or is it that you're on your own roadwise, but people don't shout at you and try to run you down - excepting Winnipeg, perhaps .
    Infrastructure???? Ummmmm ....

    In Winnipeg there was about 3 km of MUPs that lead nowhere, and some signs indicating that certain roads were possibly a bit more cyclist-friendly than others.

    Red Deer had about 50 km of MUPs which weren't too bad, but got a little scary during the "housing crisis" ... they went through some wooded areas in town, and people were camping in the woods because they couldn't afford homes, and some of them were a little odd. Several people felt a bit uncomfortable cycling or walking on the MUPs those years. As for bike lanes ... not a chance!!

    Edmonton and Calgary have MUPs, and, I think, about a block of bike lanes. There might be a bit more now, but I don't think that sort of thing is really a priority in Alberta. The nice thing about Alberta, however, is that when you get out of the city (and I'm not fond of cycling in the city anyway), most of the highways have wide beautiful shoulders. Alberta has the best shoulders of all the provinces I've seen.

    BC has more in the way of bike lanes and that sort of thing.

    I can't say I've ever really used much of the cycling infrastructure anywhere ... I'm more of a road cyclist, on the road with the other traffic ... so I don't really pay attention to whether it exists or not.

    As far as jobs go, I think you would need to prove that your area of expertise is on the NOC list ... a list of employment where there don't appear to be enough Canadians to fill all the spots. Rowan tried to move to Canada to be with me a few years ago, but Journalism wasn't on the list so he couldn't stay. Do your research ... moving to other countries to work isn't very easy.

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    BC has wonderful cycling infrastructure. There still are plenty of negative motorist vs cyclist interactions and absolutely horrible drivers.

  6. #6
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Asking if Canada (or the USA for that matter) is cycle friendly is like asking if the EU is cycle friendly. That covers A LOT of territory. There are cycling friendly places in Canada, USA and EU. Just have to locate the one that works best for you.

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  7. #7
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    For cycling in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), you may want to ask up in the Eastern Canada forum. I know several folks form Toronto hang out in the Commuting forum as well.

    My experience cycling in Canada is limited to my annual trip to the family summer place in the Rideau Lakes region of rural southeastern Ontario.

    Highway departments in the area seem to have rejected the idea of paved shoulders. Pavement ends at the white line where a narrow shoulder of rounded pebbles begins. It's not at all rideable. Even locals on mountain bikes have difficulty with it. The pebbles roll out from under the tires as the bike sinks in a couple of inches.

    In contrast, the actual dirt roads are well-maintained. Here any gravel that's spread is sharp, crushed limestone that's packed pretty well, and stays that way. My road bikes and I sail along dirt roads without a care.

    Given that on the highways road cyclists have no choice other than the main lane, drivers seem much more forgiving. Those times when a car passes too close, almost always the plates on the car are from the States. Still, there are certain highways I won't ride on the weekends, sticking to the county roads instead.

    When I return to New York State, I have a renewed gratitude for our wide, paved shoulders.
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    Gotte:

    It all depends where you intend to live. Toronto I find is a good place to cycle. Stores, shops are all close together so you don't have to travel long distances to get somewhere. For the most part, drivers I find are considerate (but there will always be a-hole drivers out there).

    Toronto does not have dedicated separated cycle tracks like you'd find in Europe (their not that advanced in their thinking yet) but what you will find are a number of bike lanes all scattered around the city. The cities bike lanes lack connectivity, but even where there is no 'bike lane', it is still easy to get around by bike.

    If you are in the Greater Toronto Area, I would have to say Mississauga has the next best type of bike pathways. They have very few bike lanes but are building massive bike pathways where bikes and cars are separated. The problem however is that only a few of them exist and in the suburbs, everything is very far apart.


    Hope that helps. It really depends on where you intend to live.
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  9. #9
    Pro Paper Plane Pilot wunderkind's Avatar
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    Vancouver area has decent cycling infrastructure. Vancouver proper is being run by a maverick cyclist mayor and therefore lately has seen a significant bicycle infrastructure being erected. Sometimes with controversial results. Nevertheless, it is good. The North Shore mtns, have some of the world's best mtb facilities. Off to the south and east, there are some great roadie circuits. The Tour de Delta annually draws a ton of pro-cyclists globally due to purse $$$.
    Alas, real estate price in Vancouver is not for the weak at heart (or bank account). Ridiculously bubbled-up. But if you have the cash, this is the Canadian city you want to be in. I ride a few times a week to work. They have recently created a cycling "highway" called the Central Valley Greenway. Nice to be on.

    Toronto is great. Huge metropolis. Dunno much about cycling facility. Lots of parks with MUPs. But due to sheer geographical size over Vancouver, cyclo-commute from the 'burbs to the city centre could be a challenge. When I lived in Mississauga (bedroom of Toronto), it is quite car centric due to size again. It is flat and at times windy. Lack of any interesting elevation change make cycling and even driving dull. That's why there are so many midnight car races in 'sauga and Markham. TO is great for its richer history and culture IMHO. Salary is better too. RE pricing is more palatable. But the homes are dead dull. Red bricks everywhere. Unless you can afford the high-end homes.

    So are Canadians bicycle friendly? I think in general Canadians are more tolerant than its southern neighbours.
    Last edited by wunderkind; 09-05-10 at 10:51 AM.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info, chaps. It sounds like Canada is a bit like the UK (Only prettier, I bet) in that it's not as bad as I hear the US is, but not as good as Europe.
    Again, many thanks.

    Phil

  11. #11
    "Per Ardua ad Surly" nelson249's Avatar
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    Much like the UK, it varies from locale to locale even in the same region. In SW Ontario, the Kitchener-Waterloo area is pretty good but you get a ways outside of town it seems to get progressively more hostile as cyclists are often viewed as rich snobs getting in the way of people doing real work. There are some really nice trails around as well where you avoid the hassle of dealing with traffic.
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    Senior Member clasher's Avatar
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    K-W isn't a bad place to cycle. The nice thing about a lot of cities, and southern Ontario in general, was that city and highway plans were drawn up based on grids, so you can usually find side roads that run parallel to the major roads. I find this helpful when I go to Toronto, and when I'm out for long country rides. Speaking of which, I've never really run into hostility when I ride in the country, usually just from rich yuppies that live in the cities Especially around K-W, people are used to seeing horse and buggies on the road instead.

    Montreal is also very cycle-friendly, but it has mean winters too. Aside from the Southwest part of BC, most of the country experiences winters that will include -10 to -30s for days on end and snow, and slush. Salt is used on the roads in Ontario to keep ice from forming. Winter cycling can get frustrating sometimes but I see it as a perk myself.

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    As far as jobs go, I think you would need to prove that your area of expertise is on the NOC list ... a list of employment where there don't appear to be enough Canadians to fill all the spots. Rowan tried to move to Canada to be with me a few years ago, but Journalism wasn't on the list so he couldn't stay. Do your research ... moving to other countries to work isn't very easy.
    If you haven't already, have a very good look at this site ... it is the government site on immigrating to Canada as a skilled worker.
    http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigra...lled/index.asp

  14. #14
    Oscillation overthruster Dr. Banzai's Avatar
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    There is no debate, the cycling friendly cities are truly the big three. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Vancouver is the one you can ride year round in with fenders. The snow and cold back east can limit your season.

    Vancouver's cycling network and infrastructure is excellent. the Mayor rides a bike to work every day and is forcing bike lanes on reluctant commuters and business owners. In 20-30 years' time this forward thinking will be appreciated.

    I can ride from New Westminster to downtown Vancouver on fully dedicated bike routes, take any bus or rapid transit with my bike for $2.50. It would be hard for me to live anywhere else considering we also have an indoor velodrome.

    I love it here and a close second will be Victoria. I have been cycling in Calgary and Toronto recently and the bike infrastructure was acceptable but not like here. Not even close.

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    Senior Member jdon's Avatar
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    Come on over! Here are a few photos from last autumn. This is near Burlington which is just West of Toronto. No bike lanes but they aren't required. Most towns are getting more bike friendly and adding lanes but we are a long way from being accepted by all drivers.






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    Interesting posts. BTW I was born in Stockport but came here as a very young child). Lived in Toronto (pronounced Trawna) and the GTA all my life. Still in Toronto but we are planning to move out to somewhere less crowded.

    My wife and I regulary bike the Niagara region. Great scenery, little traffic, and hundreds of kms. The regional goverment encourages bicyclists to the area. It's about a 45 minute drive from west Toronto. Another great bicycling area is Prince Edward County about 2 hours west of Toronto. A third is Perth in the Ottawa valley. I've included some links you may want to look at: http://perthchamber.com/cycling-route-maps/
    http://www.niagararegion.ca/explorin...e/default.aspx
    http://prince-edward-county.com/?page_id=72

    Oops: Prince Edward County is about 2 hours EAST of Toronto

    As to commuting by bike in Toronto, I'd say we are making good headway. More MUP's, more bike lanes, a public bicycle rental program on the way, etc. Still Toronto, actually the whoe GTA is subject to a lot of gridlock and it is not getting any better.
    Last edited by wonderbread; 09-06-10 at 07:36 PM. Reason: corrected a direction

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    Pro Paper Plane Pilot wunderkind's Avatar
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    +1 on Niagara region. Specifically Niagra-on-the-Lake area. Wonderful place!
    OP, if you miss UK, you can always drive west of TO and arrive in an area where all the little towns are named after the old country! There's even a London city there! With a River Thames going through it. It's quite a nice city actually with lots of parks. Should also be a good cycling town.
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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Like UK/Europe, Canada/US is *mostly* cycle friendly.
    Born/raised in Europe, I much prefer USA/Canada for many reasons, including cycling.
    Have ridden extensively in Ontario and a bit in Saskatchewan. Ridden in about 38 states in the USA.
    Canucks are great/friendly folks.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    What sort of cycling are you thinking of? Touring? there is some spectacular scenery, and some serious climbing to be done not far from Calgary. Commuting? Depends on where you end up in relation to your intended workplace, one thing to remember, it tends to be bigger out here. My commute is 18km one way, I could easily have ended up farther out than that, and i couldn't have handled it.

    I can only talk about Calgary, and find it fairly reasonable, and they are starting to improve on the pathwaysystem now, which is fairly extensive. I spend about 75% of my commute on MUPs or Multy Use Pathways. Most of those get fair snow clearing in Winter, but I still use some serious studded tires.

    You will find it markedly less crowded, that alone makes for a less fraught scene in my opinion. While Matchka is correct about the temperatures it can get down too, Calgary frequently gets the magical Chinook winds in Winter. The first time you stand by the river, looking at HUGE slabs of ice blocking it, while being completely comfortable in shirt and shorts, will have you scratching your head and saying "something is a bit strange here..."

    Anyway, Calgary, and Canada in general, is well worth a visit. Let me know if you head out this way.

  20. #20
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coldfeet View Post
    Depends on where you end up in relation to your intended workplace, one thing to remember, it tends to be bigger out here.
    That is definitely something to note.

    In Canada, I'll spread out a map and pick a town 30 or 50 km away to cycle to and back. Chances are there won't be any towns between the one I'm starting in, and the town I'm going to.

    The first time I went to the UK, I spread out a map, and picked a town that looked as though it was about 30-40 km away, but I didn't look at the scale of the map, and I had Canada in my head. I set off for my ride, and minutes after I left the starting town, I was surprised to discover I was in my destination town. In 30-50 km in the UK, I could cycle through any number of towns ... there were towns everywhere. In a way I found it cozy, knowing I was never outside walking distance of a town if something went wrong with the bicycle.

    But Canada is very big, and there can be a long distance between towns. If you do Hwy 93 between Radium Hotsprings and Banff, for example, there are no towns for over 100 km. There are two very small settlements along that route and if you get there when the tiny shops are open, you can get supplies, but otherwise there is nothing. There isn't even cell phone coverage in that distance.

    So that's something to get used to ... when you ride outside the cities, you've got to be self-sufficient and/or have a back-up plan.

  21. #21
    Oscillation overthruster Dr. Banzai's Avatar
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    Also found this:


  22. #22
    Conquer Cancer rider Boudicca's Avatar
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    Ottawa is probably better for biking than Toronto, although the winters are brutal. But then many of us don't bike in the winter here anyway. Toronto is ok, provided you stay within the core, and the drivers are mostly moderately considerate, compared to some of the places where I have lived. But the bike lane network isn't particularly good, with the exception of most of the Waterfront trail and the trails up the Humber and the Don Valley. The burbs are endless (and pretty soulless, to my city mind), with far too many houses and far too much sprawl.

    Here's a link to the Toronto bicycle map.

    http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/map/index.htm#tcm
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    I lived in Toronto until I came to Montreal 25 yrs ago, and commuted year around by bike. The drivers were not quite as friendly as in Montreal but the roads were a lot better paved. There were nice recreational trails on the Humber and Don rivers and along the waterfront. Toronto has a good selection of well stocked bike shops and a lot of bike commuters in the downtown area. Bike theft is a problem.

  24. #24
    Member pmhlb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boudicca View Post
    Ottawa is probably better for biking than Toronto, although the winters are brutal. But then many of us don't bike in the winter here anyway.
    I have returned to cycling after many years, and am amazed at the amount of bike trails in Ottawa. According to the
    Ottawa Bicycle Guide:

    Ottawa is a great city for cyclists. There are over 170 kilometres of bike paths in the city, many of them along our scenic rivers and canals. It's also easy to cycle on the roads — with many major routes featuring special bike lanes to make commuting easy. A recent report shows that Ottawa has more bicycle commuters than any other city in North America.

    Many Ottawa city buses have bike carriers on them. You can position your bike, take the bus across town, and then get off and ride around a whole new network of bike paths.

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  25. #25
    Senior Member AaronJohnTurner's Avatar
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    Here in Alberta you'll find decent to good cycling infrastructure in the downtown cores of Edmonton and Calgary. The major issue is that both cities were very much designed around motorized transport, and for each of their approximate metro populations of 1.2 million and 1.5 millon people (respectively), each city is much larger geographically and less densely populated than many US and EU cities that have many more times the population of Edmonton or Calgary. Both cities have bike carriers on many buses and allow bicycles on their Light Rail Transit trains. The population denisty in both urban and rural Canada tends to be quite low in general. Many commuters here ride 30-50km per day.

    That being said there are gorgrous cycling oppourtunities in the mountains and prairies of British Columbia and Alberta that are hard to find elsewhere.

    Just my two cents, I've only been to 3 provinces.

    I regularly ride from my town of Morinville to downtown Edmonton for fun, and at 40km that's a relatively short distance between cities/towns. The joys of living in the second largest and the twelfth most sparesly populated country in the world.
    Last edited by AaronJohnTurner; 09-09-10 at 05:27 PM.
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