This week was an exciting one. I met with two inspiring individuals who live in a class all by themselves. In addition, I interviewed two extremely driven individuals who have both dedicated a great deal of time and money to making a difference in the Toronto cycling community.
On Friday night, I enjoyed a delicious tapas meal at Mezzetta Cafe with a 68 year-old woman who has a checkered past, not unlike mine. One of her favourite jobs was with the first all bicycle courier company in Toronto, which was called Sunwheel Bicycle Couriers. This plucky woman has a few cycling partners, with whom she travels around the Canadian landscape in search of holiday adventure. She is currently finishing the most ambitious challenge yet: this summer they are circumnavigating Lake Superior, after which they will have completed all of the Great Lakes. The time required? They’ve allotted a measly three weeks.
Early Saturday afternoon I found myself seated across from the man who keeps the heart of the Community Bicycle Network pumping. In February, one of my interviewees had recommended I interview someone connected with the now defunct BikeShare program, and being an obedient creature, here I was wanting to hear about both BikeShare and the Community Bicycle Network (CBN). BikeShare allowed anyone to rent a bike for the entire cycling season for the princely sum of $25. They had to shut down the program in 2006 when they lost city funding. The CBN is still in operation though, and it offers reasonably-priced bike repairs through Toronto’s first unionized bike shop. Given that bike mechanics are considered part of the working poor, this is a terrific step forward. The programs are so much akin to how I live my life that when he invited me to consider joining the CBN Board of Directors, I told him I’d give it some serious thought. Like I need more volunteer opportunities in my life right now…
The mid-afternoon interviewee was a 44 year-old paralympic hopeful. His hopefulness rests entirely on someone else’s availability, since he’s already handily passed the gruelling physical challenges set him by the National Paralympic Cycling Team. Not only does this powerhouse of a man cycle, he competes in triathlons as part of his olympic training regime. In his spare time he also enjoys kayaking and off-road cycling. His disability does not hold him back, but you’d better sit down to read this. He’s blind. He continues to train hard, confident that athletes with similar abilities and goals can be found. He needs a captain for his tandem bicycle competitions and a guide at running races. In case you want to apply for these positions, this man prefers to spin at 180 – 200 RPMs on the tandem and he runs a 4 minute mile. Did I tell ya he’s 44?
My last interview this week occurred Sunday afternoon, when I met with the man who started the Toronto Off-Road Bicycling Association (TORBA). Contrary to what I’d been led to believe, TORBA members are avid environmentalists who follow strict sustainable standards when building Technical Trail Features (TTFs). They work closely with city officials to build, improve and maintain over 100 KMs of trail currently available in the Don Valley. I have asked this man to alert me when their spring clean-up and TTF build days are scheduled: I’d like to lend a hand with some of these colourfully named trails. Among my favourites are Road Apples, the Kitchen Sink, and Four Play.