This week was unintentionally dedicated to unusual people. I realize most cyclists behave unconventionally from time to time (being forced to ride on the sidewalk because the traffic is heavy and the infrastructure is light, for instance). However, my interviewees this week take that a step further. They are all very politically engaged people, some going so far as to call Rob Ford a “friend” as they attempt to bend his ear. None of them has a license, by choice.
Excellent conversation ensued, and I learned a thing or two. They are all living intriguing and creative lives while impacting positively on their own community. Three of the five took me into the West Toronto Railpath, something I’d never experienced before this week. Ever been there? It is an OMG moment of bliss. I strongly recommend it.
On Tuesday morning I met my first interviewee at linuxcaffe, where we sat in the front window and watched cyclists. This fellow involves himself in most cycling events in town, so I have actually carded him multiple times. I got some terrific stories from him on the Trailblazers program and on the Cyclops musical rides around town, and from such events as Bells on Bloor. Because he likes watching people, he has noted some surprising statistics, some of which he shared with me (and which I will soon share with you!)
On Friday, I had three interviews, which worried me. I was afraid either I’d be too burnt out to listen or my hand would give out and refuse to write. Neither happened but I ascribe success to how much I enjoyed my company and their stories that day. This project is extraordinary.
In the morning, I met with someone who has won an award. This weekend, the International Bike Messenger Award was announced. I bet you didn’t know there was one. I sure didn’t. My second interviewee—Wayne Scott—has won this honour in past for his Food as Fuel initiative.
(In fact, I have now interviewed two people who have one the prestigious bike messenger honour, the other being the ubiquitous Derek Chadbourne.) Wayne argued successfully that couriers need to eat to do their jobs properly, just like delivery vans need gasoline. Couriers can now claim food as an expense required for work. Guess where we were during the interview? We were picking up Frank de Jong Green Party lawn signs the day after the election, using Wayne’s cargo trike. Wayne himself has also run for office, so you can imagine how well known he is at city hall.
For more information, check out the Toronto Hoof and Cycle Courier Coalition.
I actually met my third interviewee at Bike Pirates earlier in the week, where he was looking to buy a secondhand bike. When the volunteer I’d come to speak with found him the perfect bike within minutes, I had to follow-up on the new love affair.
I asked him whether he has named the bike and he laughed. Indeed he has! This “shockingly pink bike is absolutely Jane Fonda” so he has named it Barbarella. He told me he loved it as soon as he saw it, and the love affair continues unabated. I am interested in how cyclists tend to embue their bicycle with a separate personality and his response was, “Being a guitar player, I am fully away of the relationship.” He says guitars, like bicycles, are often viewed as a lover or as a partner in crime. Barbarella is the first bike he has ever named, but he is not the least embarrassed to admit to it.
For our interview, we rode into the railpath—my first ever experience—where a second love affair began, this time for me. My friend told me he sometimes refers to it as “the wormhole” because you come out very far from where you started, in a short time. It’s pretty awesome.
That same evening I went to hear the story of another tall bike, this time built by a very artistic young woman who added a propeller to the rear. It’s absolutely adorable. Better yet, I got to ride it. You should have heard the reactions from people as we travelled to the railpath for my experiment, and the looks of shock and delight on the faces of adults, children, dogs, birds… as we slowly ambled along the path. There is something absolutely reassuring about watching everyone get drawn into the notion of getting on a bicycle. And tall bikes are a lot more fun than I can describe here. No, really! The view is spectacular, people are wide-eyed and they all interact with you spontaneously, and you have this little butterfly in your tummy the entire time. Oh look! I did describe it!
This creative young woman happens to also be one of my favourite farmer’s market vendors. Want a cashmere/merino blend of something snuggly for winter rides? Visit Sara’s site at www.sartoria.ca.
Finally, on Saturday I met with ‘the sheriff’. People call him this because he chooses to wear a nifty dress jacket around that he bought secondhand: it happened to have a felt six-pointed star sewn onto the left front and he has just never removed it. He tells me he has spoken out frequently for improvements to his beloved Junction Triangle and to the cycling infrastructure generally. We had a charming conversation at a bakery on Symington Avenue watching the local traffic and discussing the current political climate, and then we too headed into the railpath. I felt invigorated by both the conversation and the ride.