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The Green Heroes team hit the streets of Toronto for the last Pedestrian Sunday of the summer months, in search of fashionable people with practical tips on staying chic on the bike ride to work. While at the event, we met with the head of the Toronto Cyclists Union, Yvonne Bambrick, who works with the bike union to provide a unified voice for cyclists in Toronto through outreach and awareness. Yvonne took a moment to talk to us about the joys of biking, the benefits to ourselves and the planet, and how easy it is for each of us to pick up a bike and ride to work.

Yvonne has been biking since she was a child, strapped on the back of her father’s bicycle. To her, biking has always been a normal thing, and so, it was a normal extension for her to start biking to high school at age 15 from her East York home to downtown Toronto. She loved biking for many of the same reasons as us – she found it easy to get around, convenient, and inexpensive.

Yvonne points out that she is not anti-car; in fact, for a time, she was working in Montreal in jobs that required her to own and drive a car. But when she decided to do her Masters degree and sold her car to move to Australia, she never looked back. She recognizes, “Cars are tools. We need to re-assess and evaluate how we use the car tool, considering overall the negative effects from production through to use and disposal and everything involved.”

Now reliant primarily on her bike, Yvonne does things differently, explaining, “I have changed my lifestyle accordingly and I have chosen the kinds of jobs that don’t need it, and I have chosen where I live accordingly as well.” Most of the GreenHeroes team is already committed to riding their bikes to work and around the city, but Yvonne reminded us just why we keep at it. It’s one of the most efficient ways of travel, because unlike inefficient transit systems, you’re guaranteed to arrive at your destination at a predictable time.

Forget sitting in a line of idling cars; we’d rather be exercising, minimizing our environmental footprints, and having fun cruising around the city. We get to make our own efficient routes, and relax along the way. Did we mention the cost savings? Riding our bikes means we avoid the costs of a metropass and car payments, insurance, gas, parking, tickets, and repairs. Instead, our dollars can go straight into the local economy as we wine and dine around town. As Yvonne explains, “the benefits are collective and not just individual, and that’s the beauty of being on a bicycle.”

Chic Tips

Think you can’t be chic on a bicycle? Think again! Bikes are sexy (everyone is talking about it), so if you plan on biking to work, you’ll be right in style. Try some of our collected favourite tips to stay chic and comfortable on your ride. And comment below or enter our contest with your own tips!

John Bessai, GreenHeroes Producer:

1. Avoid having your fancy pants getting stuck in the chains of your bike. Use Velcro straps to hold back your pants, and get the added fluorescent bonus provided by some brands of the strips, to keep you safe!

2. Stow away a plastic bag in your bag so that, should the heavens decide to open up while you’re shopping, your seat will stay nice and dry and protected for your bottom

Anna Denkers, Bikes to work:

3. Why not wear a pair or bike shorts under your skirt? That way, you don’t have to worry about your skirt flying up as you pedal your way down the streets.

Simon Strauss, Toronto Cyclists Union, Board Member:

4. These days, helmets are the coolest things to hit the streets. Skip the old-school head covering, and go for something a little more skater-chic.

Yvonne Bambrick, Director of Communications, Toronto Cyclists’ Union:

5. Plan your route in advance, and choose your preference on how you get there: fastest or safest. If you haven’t biked in a while, try new routes with a buddy, and try practicing routes on the weekend. There are also great resources, like this handbook, available to help you.

6. Purchase a skirt guard for your bike to protect your skirt from the back wheel, so you’ll always arrive in style, with a full skirt in tow.

7. Attach flowers onto the front of your basket. It makes everything look prettier, so maybe you’ll smile more, and make others smile too. Plus, it’s a theft deterrent. It takes a certain type of person to make off with flower-loaded bike. You can pick some up on the cheap at your local dollar store.

Aviva Friedman, GreenHeroes Team Member:

8. Pack a change of clothes. If your work has a shower, great! If not, try finding a gym nearby where you can go to have a quick rinse-off, or just take a few extra moments to cool down

Melanie Redman, Social Mission Collaborator and GreenHeroes Team Member:

9. Attach a detachable wire basket onto the back of your bike, for better balance. That way, when you go to purchase fruits and veggies from the local market, you can easily pop off you basket and use it for shopping!

Practice dismounting in a skirt. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro!

Do you ride your bike to work? Do you hop on your bike when you need to get somewhere? What are some of the benefits you’ve had from biking, and how do you see a better biking future? Share your story here for your chance to win a prize in our contest!

Don’t forget to leave a comment here and on the Pedal Power campaign page!

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