I decided to document – using video, photo and text – my cycling commutes from home to work during a one-week period (Monday to Friday). This commute takes me from downtown Toronto to Kettleby (a hamlet just north of the city) which is about 46.5 km each way. During this week I uploaded and catalogued my documentation, and collected data, to the blog site including GPS information and my body's vital stats. With each day's log viewers encounter detailed route maps with accompanying graphs representing my heart rate, cadence and speed fluctuations along with elevation statistics. The data collected has also been analyzed and used in my work – as a means of creating video montages that mix found footage - culled from Science Fiction films that feature superhuman female protagonists - and source material collected during my cycling commutes. The sequencing, editing and pacing of these montages are the result of a calculation based on my fluctuating heart rate, speed and cadence. This blog was the first stage of a multimedia installation entitled Elusive Body that was exhibited at Forty Seven Gallery in April 2010. Click here for more information on the exhibition.
click on day to view documentation
click on day to view documentation
BACK TO INTRO6h55 - I'm in front of my apartment convincing myself to get on my bike ... it's the last day of the week just one more commute and then the weekend. The sun is out, it will warm up the body in no time at all, once that is, you start pedaling.
click on any image to enlarge
click on any image to enlarge
Legs are slow to start, the pedals seem heavy and lethargic too, bike must not be happy to be out this early either. At least it's nice and quiet on the streets.
7h22 - Climbing up that steep incline on Weston Road. So early in my ride it is always a good test to see how my body is feeling. Seems a bit slow today, the last four days have taken its toll.
There's that bright yellow house I pass everyday. Can't miss it against the dour grey and brown homes that sandwich it.
7h41 - More climbing along Jane Street between Wilson and Sheppard Avenues. Traffic is heavy with frustrated drivers too rushed and in a hurry to get this work day over with and start their weekend. Someone is honking non-stop. Not sure if it is aimed at me or the car behind me. I have no where to go but up. How I hate Friday commutes, the frantic tension in the drivers, I see more accidents along Jane on this day than any other day of the week. Now I am getting frustrated myself, I wish that guy would shut up.
7h52 - 20km into my commute. While crossing Steeles Avenue, and entering the city of Vaughn, a bus crawls past me on the left side, slow enough for me to catch a glimpse of a row of passengers butted against the window each holding a cup of coffee ... oh how I could go for a warm cup of coffee right now.
Can't stop just yet though I still have another 27km to go before I reach my destination. First I must get through Vaughn, a city very fond of low rise commercial plazas. Such a view is impetus enough for my legs to push on harder and faster.
8h28 - Just crossed Teston Road and the border between suburban sprawl and farmland. The houses no longer look alike, they don't all fall within a prescribed grid formation. This is anarchy!
9h02 - Still cycling north on Jane Street through farmland. It has been very quiet for the last half hour or so. I have been on the road for over an hour and a half, covered 42km and it feels like I just left, time has shrunk, my body no longer aches, it feels like it could keep going forever. And, why not just keep going north along Jane as far as my body can take me without stopping, how far could I get?
But, I have a job to do and must turn right in the next kilometre, I am almost there.
9h11 - I'm there. 47km later ... 23.2km/h average, worst average for this week. My body is definitely fatigued.
9h37 - Heading back on Keele Street passing ditches, trees and fences, beyond which are the farmhouses, the estates, the barns ... at least that is what I imagine to be tucked away behind all those trees that line this road. Every once and a while there is a clearing and I get a glimpse of a house or a barn or sometimes horses grazing. It is so quiet I only hear the odd bird, my head is wide open for thoughts. In such calm I only have to focus on one thing, moving my body forward and staying balanced on my bike. It leaves plenty of room for my mind to wander.
9h46 - King City, back in civilization. There are stores, gas stations, quaint homes and the odd café lining the street. A bit more information for my eyes to take in. There is also more traffic on the road, more to think about and to focus on, closing in on my thoughts, my meandering. No more singing, or fashioning intricate plots to take down evil corporations and corrupt politicians, or just how to get out of working for a living.
9h58 - Heading into Maple and Vaughn. From the overpass I can see the rooftops of all those cloned homes, all in perfect grid formation ... Legoland
10h09 Cycling south on Keele in Vaughn I speed through the intersection at Major MacKenzie Road only to stop to a dead halt. Traffic is at a standstill. Southbound lanes blocked off, mega road work being done. Fortunately for me a worker on site sees me. He clears a path and waves me through. I thank him and he replies by telling me that soon we will all have to ride bikes. I smile. That will be the day!
10h29 - Back within the city limits of Toronto, cycling through York University campus ... I can't help but find this area bleak, it lacks a soul. Or at least I haven't yet been able to locate one. Maybe I just haven't stopped long enough and penetrated deep enough into the concrete.
10h54 - Back on Keele Street cycling southbound over Hwy 401. One of the worst parts of my ride, the road is chopped up and there is always too many cars on the road heading in every direction. As most drivers are adverse to using their signals, I have to guess where they are going and maneuver myself accordingly. So far I have been lucky in this crapshoot.
11h01 - Finally off of Keele Street heading east on Lawrence Avenue. I have hit the last 10km mark, not very far to go now.
10h26 - Turn right onto Brock Street toward Queen Street where I will make a left and then a quick right on to Gwynne, then left on to Melbourne, right on to Dufferin and then, I will have made it - ground zero.
11h28 - ground zero. Finished my commute ... until Monday rolls around.
Heart Rate Graph
BACK TO INTRO7h05 departure a bit chilly but it is only partly cloudy this morning. A bit of sun will be good it helps to energize the body and my body could use a bit of help. It reluctantly starts turning the pedals, moving the bike forward ever so slowly ...
click on any image to enlarge
click on any image to enlarge
7h45 On Jane Street, as usual, heading north passing Alex Auto, Jane Pharmacy, the Dollar Joint, La Stella Bakery, Nice One Nails, India Africa Groceries, B's Place, Cash Money, Royal Caribean Cuisine, Grace Food Market, Juicy Jerk ... Many small businesses housed within the two-storey building that line the street.
I become overwhelmed by how my viewing experience is saturated by advertising. Like a virus it infects every surface - light posts, the sides of buildings, front of buildings, on top of buildings, in every window, on the back of buses, on the side of cars and trucks. Nothing is immune. Not even my brain.
7h54 - Still cycling north on Jane there are no more small buildings lining the road. A series of high rise apartment towers have sprouted, lining both sides of the street.
I notice that I am coasting quite easily through this territory. The winds are from the SW, a tailwind. This is good, my body is hurting and the view is not encouraging, the wind is helping my body to propel my bike forward beyond this area and getting me closer to my destination just that much faster.
8h36 - Now cycling through the suburban sprawl of Vaughn and Maple.
8h52 -Still on Jane Street, north of Maple in farmland now. It's much quieter here only traffic I encounter is heading south toward Toronto. I'm alone heading north to where I must go. My mind is at ease I can focus on my pedal stroke, keeping my cadence above 100rpm. So easy, my body and bike have become one spinning me forward across the pavement faster and faster. I reach 120rpm, two full pedal strokes per second ... I go higher and my bike responds driving my speeds above 30km/h. Feels good but doesn't last for long I come to a red light at King Road intersection.
9h16 - Almost finished my journey along Jane Street, approaching Kettleby Road where I turn right. Almost there.
9h22 - Six minutes later I'm there.
9h40 - Heading back now, south along Keele Street. The wind is in my face but as it is mostly downhill from here on in, it isn't holding me back too much. It will only get better when I reach the city as the buildings provide protection. I can only depend on the trees to break the wind during this part of my commute. The houses and barns are too low and far from the road to be of use to me.
10h59 - Back in the city, on Keele Street just south of the 401. I pass a mix of plazas and working class housing.
11h07 - now on Caledonia Road. It is lined with small businesses. Further south the businesses are taken over by residential neighbourhoods.
11h24 - Almost there I see the No Frills at the corner of Dundas and Lansdowne. Do I need groceries?
11h30 - I'm here.
7h03 departure take my usual short cut through Milky Way. Feeling a bit of a chill. The air feels damp it might just rain today. Hope I can avoid it.
7h29 about 7km into my commute. Waiting for the light to change green at the intersection of Rogers and Old Weston Roads, next to the Nova Era Bakery. Where is that guy I saw Monday slouched against the building, maybe I am too early or he could be inside having a coffee.
7h41 about 11km into my commute. Traffic has picked up. Waiting at the intersection of Jane Street and Tretheway Drive. Well at least I'm not alone there are a number of people standing at the curb waiting for the light to turn green, looking just as bored as I feel.
8h01 at the 17.5km mark. Waiting at the corner of Jane and Finch Avenue, another red light. This one seems to take forever to change. It is a fairly large and busy intersection but then everything seems to get bigger and wider the farther I go from the centre of the city. I take a quick scan of the area it is amazing how many big high rise apartment complexes there are at this intersection. They are preceded by large parking lots attached to one storey, sprawling shopping plazas.
8h22 Still cycling north along Jane Street, past Rutherford Road. An hour and twenty minutes into my commute and 26km covered (16 of which has been on Jane Street). I'm in the city of Vaughn. There are no more high rise apartment complexes in my view just large cookie-cutter row housing running along the side of the road one block after another, interrupted by the odd shopping plaza. I never see anybody outside, coming or going, just rows of identical houses. I imagine each house having identical occupants.
8h37 32km done, still another 14km to go. Still on Jane Street heading north. In Maple now, surrounded by farmland with little if any traffic on the road. I keep a steady pace without worries of annoying drivers. There are so few intersections to wait at I'm no longer stopping every few minutes. My only worry the dark grey clouds slowly taking over the sky above me, I may not make it to work before the rain starts.
8h58 The rain has started and it is coming down quite hard. I stop to cover my camera with plastic. Although I am dressed for the rain I can really feel it in my legs. They feel stiff as I start pedaling again.
9h18 the rain has stopped just as I have arrived, now to work. Covered 46km with a 25km/h better than yesterday even with the rain, not bad.
9h29 Cycling south on Keele Street, I'm now in King City. I have 43km to go. The roads are quiet as I pass the odd farm or private residence whose mansion is neatly hidden away from the street by rows of beautiful old trees.
9h38 I pass a wooden sign along Keele that advertises Ballroom Dance lessons. Here in the middle of nowhere?
9h42 I'm cycling downhill and take in the view. The autumn colours are so beautifully rich with the rain. Makes cycling in the rain almost worthwhile.
10h15 Now in Maple cycling along Keele, pass an empty baseball field. Actually there isn't a soul in sight. All this open, flat land butted by rows of identical houses, void of humanity, it looks more like an odd landing strip with its converging lines grafted out of grass and paint . Seems more ready to accept some spaceship than a group of kids. Maybe that is what happened here, some spaceship chose to land here wiping out all of humanity within a few kilometer radius while leaving intact the rows and rows of identical houses. I realize my legs are feeling stiff from a sudden chill in the airl. I have to force them to pedal faster, I still have 29km to go.
10h41 I'm crossing Steeles Avenue, which borders the north end of the city of Toronto. 19km from home, at least another hour to go.
11h26 cycling south on Caledonia Road. The street is narrow and the trucks that scream past me aren't instilling me with much confidence.
11h45 Only half a kilometre to go.At the corner of Queen and Lansdowne streets waiting for the light to turn green.
11h47 I'm here, another 46km accomplished with 25km/h average.