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perfect ride

Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

In France recently without a car, we used various modes of transportation in cities and their surroundings: rental car, taxi, train, bus, funicular tram and subway. And we certainly enjoyed some extensive bicycle-lane networks and vast pedestrian areas.

It got me thinking about how many wheels make for the 'perfect ride' to move around town. Two? Four? Twenty? Zero?

My take: The number is irrelevant. It's about a frame of mind.

Have you ever seen a motorist driving too close to a cyclist? Cyclists zipping through a red light? Cyclists and pedestrians getting upset at one another on a shared pathway?

Mobility in a big cities such as Toronto and Vancouver is more than a transportation issue. It's about lifestyle and quality of life. Infrastructure planning and societal culture are woven together.

Driving to work takes me about 40 minutes most days because I don't take primary arteries. Biking takes 55 minutes.

"Wasting" those extra 30 minutes a day of travel time by biking saves a multiple of that in fitness time.

I spend 10 hours on the bike a week without thinking about it, or having to plan it in a way that takes away from work or family time. So I bike most days and drive when the weather is bad or if there's need for a car.

A lot of people would like to bike to work, but they genuinely fear for their lives in the city.

When I go downtown from our uptown offices in Toronto, it would not occur to me to either drive or bike: a subway ride takes 20 minutes door-to-door. Once downtown, walking to a destination is often the best option.

So this is my definition of a perfect ride: the ability to pick the mode of transportation that fits my needs.

I am a motorist, an automotive engineer at that, and a car lover. But I just happen to ride a bike, walk or take public transit when it makes sense.

We live in a car culture. This mode of transportation gives us freedom, but driving everywhere – even in electric or self-driving cars – is neither sustainable in terms of road capacity nor good for us physically and mentally.

We need to put some real pressure on elected officials to take a less partisan approach to develop best-in-class city planning strategies, supported by the multimodal mobility infrastructure.

But we also need to put some real pressure on ourselves to be more open-minded and respectful of others' perfect rides.

An integrated network of bike lanes, friendly pedestrian areas and subway stations is a dream. In the near term, I would simply like to be able to drive without the fear of hitting cyclists who feel they don't have to stop at red lights … to bike on regular city streets without fear of getting run off the road … and to enjoy the shared pathways as they were designed.

It's a frame of mind. Respect other people.

Trained as a mechanical engineer in France, Julien Papon turned his love for cars into a corporate career with a large automotive manufacturing company before founding Vitess Bicycle Corp., a premium cycling brand.

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