There were four interviews this week and as expected, all three people have unexpected, enchanting, inspiring stories.
The first interview was with a young woman from Sao Paolo, Brazil. I had spotted a three-wheeler on the U of T campus and had been intrigued. Now, I have to admit to being vaguely disappointed with the timing because I had just heard a three-wheeler story from a woman who, for health reasons, can only ride a three-wheeler because of its stability. I was working on the assumption that this would be a similar story—someone who rides a three-wheeler out of necessity. How wrong I was. This woman cycles throughout the city on her Tri-Rider because she wants to. If not for the Tri-Rider, she would not be outside and getting exercise, because she would feel less safe. “Why does it have to be two wheels?” she asks simply. She calls it her BMW, and if you met this vivacious woman out riding the streets, you’d suddenly want one, too.
We are beginning to get into the meat of the advocacy stories, which are extremely inspiring but sometimes very difficult to capture. Advocates are very modest people. On Wednesday morning, I met with an unassuming engineer who just happens to have a heart for people overseas. He, along with an astounding collection of ready and avid volunteers, ships bikes and parts to other countries, like Cuba. Over five years, he has sent 7,000 bikes, over 2,000 large boxes of bike parts, and over $10,000 worth of bike equipment. His program is known by the enchanting name Bicycles Crossing Borders. I have to confess to having made another assumption here. This man was recommended by a woman whose bike trailer he had built. I thought I was going to politely hear another bike mechanic story. uh hunh. I’m relieved that I don’t allow myself to act on these fool assumptions.
My Saturday story was from the owner of The Bike Joint. Now, here is a man who has inhabited the margins of my book from its inception. He was the man at the helm on the night of the Ice Races, although I didn’t realize it at the time. His name came up when I interviewed someone from the Charlie’s Freewheels program. Over the course of interviews, I kept hearing the name “Derek” tossed around, as being somehow germaine to the story. So, when an interviewee recommended I approach him at the Ride of Silence, and he quietly handed me back a card on which he had written his number and the name “Derek”, I blurted out, “Not Derek Chadbourne! I’ve been chasing that name all year!” Derek does not stand out in a crowd, but the extraordinary work he does with ARC, with Charlie’s Freewheels, with the messenger community, and in his own bike shop, all this does stand out. Derek is probably more responsible for keeping unwitting cyclists like me safe than perhaps anyone in the city of Toronto.
Finally, yesterday I met with the man who serenaded us all at last month’s Critical Mass event. He plays the melodia while he rides. This young man loves community endeavours—the inclusivity, the non-profit aspect, the spontaneity of parking yourself on a street corner and beginning a jam session. His melodia is attached to the handlebars of his striking blue Miata 618 GT road bike.
Astonishingly, he is extremely well educated and is an very talented musician. And what does he want to do with his life? Well, first and foremost he is an environmentalist. There is a collection of complex interactions where we all spend our time cultivating humanity in one way or another. It cannot be described naively, because we all have a global scale contribution whether we realize it or not. “I want my local interactions to be pushing for a long-term existence.”
And then, his creative side drives him to encourage those who are artistically introverted, to help them find in themselves the freedom to express themselves openly and freely. He has already been successful in this endeavour in Vancouver. Here is a sample of his exceptional work with the Drive Street Band at a community Hallowe’en festival:
He wants to encourage the inner musician in all of us. We will be seeing more of this outstanding man in the cycling community shortly, I think. Meanwhile, he delights listeners on bikes, in cars, on foot, at public events like Critical Mass when he plays his melodica.