Archives for posts with tag: bixi

Looking at a map, Toronto and Barcelona are much the same shape.

Cities, sprawling over flat plains, contained by two rivers: one to the east, the other to the west. A hook like protrusion (the Port Lands and Islands in Toronto, Barceloneta in Barcelona) into a large body of water to the south.

torontoToronto, and its subway

Travelling around Barcelona recently, I couldn’t help but think of home every time I looked at a map.

barcelonaBarcelona, and its extensive metro

There are differences of course, given that they are not the same place. Barcelona is contained by a mountain range to its north. The mountain range cups the city and keeps it dense. Toronto has no such boundary and sprawls northward indefinitely. Indeed, a northern boundary had to be artificially created, with Ontario’s Greenbelt.

The on-paper cartographic similarity of Toronto and Barcelona had me day dreaming of a Toronto with more developed transportation infrastructure.

The skeleton of Barcelona’s metro is reminiscent of Toronto’s – a large U line that loops north to central-south and back up again. A line that cuts east to west. There are even small off shoot lines in the periphery a la the Scarborough RT and Sheppard line. Barcelona’s subway system, however, is extensively developed and covers the entire city in ways Toronto could never dream of. Another case of cartographic-deficiency was the coverage of Barcelona’s “Bicing” service vs Toronto’s Bixis. The equivalent to Toronto’s Bixi’s, Barcelona’s “Bicing” city-bikes cover the entire city at a very high frequency.

toronto bixi

Toronto’s limited Bixi range

barcelona bicing

Versus Barcelona’s extensive Bicing network

The comparison is somewhat absurd, but this is what was going through my head every time I consulted a map of Barcelona. I thought, naturally, of home.

I’ve written a lot recently about the concept of geognitive dissonance: geography-induced cognitive dissonance. These are moments when the supposed linearity of space gets warped, and you experience a non-contiguous geography. Times when your senses mix, and vision defers to more subtle, powerful experiences of taste, touch, smell that break at the seams of our notion of objective space. Basically, geognitive dissonance is when you’re in one place, but something causes you to feel like you’re in another place, a place you’ve been before and know quite well.

I realize that I’ve inadvertently written about geognitive dissonance many times without naming it as such.

I’ve written about how the sweet-stale subway scent in Berlin transported me to Toronto’s TTC;

I wrote about closing my eyes on Toronto BIXIs, and feeling as if I were on a bike I got to know in Montreal;

I explored the proliferation of heterogenous big box architecture, and how it served to emphasize the difference of context in a pharmacy of the exact same layout in Montreal versus Halifax.

Though there isn’t a post about it, today with my dad, I biked a former rail path that has since been converted into a bike trail in Nova Scotia, and when I closed my eyes, felt I was in Toronto’s belt line – the same soft gravel crunching under moving wheels, the same sense of enclosure between the trees on each bank, the same light filtering through the leaves.

This is a powerful concept, I think.

It demonstrates that reality is not linear. That our world can never be known fully as objective, and that our senses have transformative, transport-ative properties. Vision and observation only go so far to explain the relationships in this world, as I, for one, experience geognitive dissonance quite often. Perhaps daily.

I know reality through a nuanced, deeply entrenched personal geography, and that personal geography is located squarely in the realm of my senses, altering my perceptions and the spatial locations of vantage points that I interpet the world from.

Yesterday, I used Toronto’s version of the popular Montreal bikeshare, Bixi for the first time.

The experience was fun: riding through the very un-cyclist friendly streets of Toronto on a very progressive, efficient mode of transportation. It was like a puzzle piece not fitting properly into its spot.

The experience of riding a Bixi is not like riding a normal road bike. It has a unique frame, which results in a broad steering capacity They also boast a wide, comfortable seat, and gear shifters of a design distinct to Bixi bikes. The bikes have a certain sound and rhythm distinct to them; the internal chain clicking away, the sound of the gears shifting.

As a result, it was a strange experience of riding a bike in the streets of Toronto, a bike I had grown to know in Montreal and sensually associate with that city’s streets. When I closed my eyes, the feel of the bike, its rhythm, its feel as it meanders through the streets all made me feel as though it was just another breezy day on some Plateau street in early Autumn. But then, suddenly, I hit a street car track and opened my eyes, remembering that I was far away from the Bixis of Montreal, a small biker on the wide streets of Queen and Spadina in the heart of Toronto.

See also same-space different-place