I am now officially in the hounding stage. With three months left on the project, there are certain people with whom I am determined to meet, especially given how often they come up in comments or on Twitter. All four interviews this week are a result of persistence and each story is even more inspiring than I has expected. And I have high expectations!
The first interview this week was in Cabbagetown, with Steve Brearton. Steve is another outstanding Toronto writer. You can find his work in such places as Spacing, where he has a regular column on cycling, and dandyhorse, where this month he has an article dedicated to the memory of Jack Layton. If anyone understands the history of cycling, it’s Steve Brearton. We did discuss some of these details in the interview, but more importantly, we discussed the cycling community here in Toronto, how strong and vibrant it is, some of its unique qualities, and our roles in it.The conversation really challenged my advocacy role and made me think about some of the assumptions I ride with every day.
Steve’s favourite ride right now is his Frei Rad, which he pulled from his shed for me to photograph.
While I have not met a Frei Rad yet, I’m pretty sure it’s got clout in the cycling world because I also noticed a Marinoni and a Pinarello parked in the shed. I definitely know what those are (as in, not to be sniffed at). Steve also pointed out his beloved Specialized, tucked in behind the others.
Immediately after speaking with Steve, I cycled across town to the Jameson bridge to speak with Tammy Thorne. Tammy is the esteemed editor of dandyhorse magazine, the very same at which Steve is a s regular contributor. Tammy and I have been doing similar work, trying to bring awareness to cyclists and cycling infrastructure, only she has been doing it since the Toronto Cyclist’s Union came into being four years ago. Each issue showcases at least one cyclist on the street and one cycling advocate, and often as not, they’re people I’ve met. I recognize several of my interviewees in the pages. I even found Howard Chang of Les Domestiques in a recent issue, and can now state categorically that, not only does he look much younger than he actually is, he’s also got the trademark good looks going for him. Nice to have my statistics backed up.
Tammy has an incredible heart for cycling in Toronto. Her passion for bringing about change is infectious. And, the bike she rode to the interview is pink!
She tells me she and several of her dandyhorse volunteers are planning to “pink it up” someday soon, so watch the streets for them. And if you’re not already subscribing to dandyhorse, then you definitely should. Compulsory Toronto reading for any one, cyclist or not.
One of the names I’ve been tracking since the early spring is Evalyn Parry. I bought a ticket to her production SPIN back in March and was dumbfounded at how she and her team chose to use a bike. SPIN marries musical theatre with Evalyn’s love of cycling (she herself rides a Batavus Blockbuster, which she has named Stein).
The production brings attention to the women’s rights movement and how three women put themselves out there on a bike hoping to change attitudes. The word ‘spin’ also encourages us to consider the effect marketing has on our purchases. That the women portrayed in SPIN changed attitudes is a given, but that Evalyn is drawing further attention to their lives and their roles in society bears consideration. I was very moved by the performance, and again in our conversation.
As if this isn’t an interesting enough take on the world of cycling, Evalyn goes one further. The production SPIN can actually take a variety of forms, but when she chooses to perform the onstage version, one of her band members—Brad Hart—plays percussion. The percussion element is a bike. He plays the frame and the handlebars. Three of the spokes are tuned and then played. The bell naturally comes into it. But the best part is the seat. Because it’s an older seat with springs, it resonates. The seat is played as a bass percussion element. So, a bike as a musical instrument! I’m so smitten.
My final interviewee this week was a 14 year-old girl who rides her bike to school. An interviewee recommended her a few months ago, but only now have we had a chance to talk. She has been doing this commute for two years, since her family moved to Canada. She has little fear of things people normally find intimidating here, yet her commute is 30 minutes long. Her demeanour is accomodating, friendly, kind. When I ask what she rides, it’s a mountain bike. It all sounds very straightforward, but not very likely given her age. Digging deeper, I discover that this gal is from a very small village near the northern border of India. Her village was “on a mountain”. When you get on a bike there, you’re either riding uphill or downhill. It occured to me more than once during the interview to wonder whether I was speaking with a future sherpa. She is a very inspiring young woman indeed.
I have one last story today. In late March, I met with a 16 year-old man about his green Huffy Tundra, which I’d found at the Eglinton West subway station. This young man’s schedule is very hectic, so he mainly commutes and very occasionally does charity rides as a leisure activity. That very day, he was heading out to buy a new bike, and what he found was a second-hand black Raleigh. This ‘new’ bike has logged over 1250 KM since he bought it. He knows this because he has added a speedometer to track his mileage. Pretty impressive considering his age and his schedule, no?