Occasionally, I hear stories from people in the outlying cities and towns, just in passing conversation. It occurred to me that I should broaden the scope of the collected bike stories to the GTA, because these stories are often interesting and certainly reflect what happens in Toronto. On Saturday, I found myself listening to two such stories.
My first interview was in Unionville at the Timothy’s.
I was meeting with a man whose bike I had carded at one of their Thursday Night at the Bandstand events. It could have been anyone who responded—the town mayor, a businessman, some young fellow whose only mode of transport to the town events is a bike. You never know. Astonishingly, the man I met just happens to lead the non-profit organization Transport Action Ontario, what he describes modestly as a “venerable NGO” whose aim is to provide research, public education and consumer advocacy. He also sits on a council-appointed committee called the Cycling and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (CPAC), out of Markham. These are the people who advocate for cycling infrastructure in such locations as Unionville, Markham and Richmond Hill. This man also uses his bike to run errands (yes, he assures me that he even collects his groceries this way, as I do), to head over to his weekly softball games, and to meet up with friends at the pub. He is “actively involved in cycling here”. I couldn’t have gotten a more appropriate, a more valuable, a more exemplary interviewee if I’d gone through the phone book. Great information, even better bike stories. And he was lots of fun. We met at 7:30AM (my favourite time of day). Well, the timing was necessary in this case. He and his wife had a hot date planned mid-morning. They were going to cycle into the Distillery District.
A couple of hours later I found myself at a Second Cup in Pickering, seated across from another extraordinary cycling advocate. Jason Murray is our Ontario representative for International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). As a boy, Jason was riding the Rouge and Don Valley hiking trails. As he grew, he watched access to these trails disappear and wanted to do something about that. Over his years with IMBA, he has been montoring trail access and the development of trails specific to mountain bikes in both the Durham region and in Toronto proper. If you are an active participant in the mountain biking community, you know there are challenges involved. Jason has worked patiently with many organizations and has high praise for names like the TRCA, TORBA, Lap Dogs, the Toronto Fly Girls, (now part of the Durham Mountain Biking Association) and the Wild Bettys. He, along with many other volunteer crew leaders, has worked tirelessly, building and maintaining trails in Carruther’s Wood, just north of Pottery Road. He hopes to shortly see similar successes along the Humber River.
At this moment, there is also a tendered design out for a skills park in the city, and plans for a possible trail through Rouge Park. The Rouge, in case you didn’t realize this, has recently been granted status as Canada’s first urban national park.
For more information on IMBA in Canada, visit http://www.imbacanada.com or follow them on Twitter at @imbacanada.
On Friday, I attended my very first Critical Mass event. There were so many outstanding bikes I spent most of my time carding bikes and riders. There was a fellow named Johnny who carries sound systems around on his customized bike, and a young woman who has recently started a landscaping business where bikes are the main vehicle. One young man plays what looks to me like a “mouth accordion” while riding his bike. He plays the keyboard, balanced on this handlebars, while blowing into an apparatus that keeps the instrument supplied with air. There was a young man on a gorgeous bright yellow Fuji fixie; he’d stop at an intersection and gallantly cork traffic to keep the CM riders safe, then playfully skirt the mass to the next traffic point. I found a fellow who rides a low, robust machine that I could only describe as “Mustang Sally”. And finally, I rode alongside a young man who builds tall bikes. He was riding, as expected, head and shoulders over the rest of us. I have heard back from this young man already and we have an interview scheduled for next week. Watch for this and many of these other interviews. I expect them all to be as charming and interesting and cool as anything I’ve heard yet. This city and these cyclists are the best!