Once again, this month has proven outstanding in the bike stories collected. The number of Twitter references above don’t do it justice; maybe my search abilities fail me.
Last week I met with Councillor Mike Layton, because so many people were disappointed at my inability to collect stories from his father, the Honourable Jack Layton. Mike very graciously shared bike stories that involved the entire family—Mike and his sister, Olivia Chow, and of course Jack. The stories were moving and warm, funny and inspiring. They involved many memorable elements of the Toronto landscape. There were even a couple of stories that involved my beloved Manitoulin Island. The Layton family have given countless hours to improving the infrastructure and changing attitudes in the GTA. In office, Olivia and Mike continue this good work.
Thank you Mike, for generously sharing at this time.
Before heading out to celebrate Thanksgiving with an American friend and her family, I rode over to High Park to speak with a unicyclist. Uni riders—at least this one—see things differently. This fellow has three unis: a 36” wheel, a 29” wheel, and a 24” wheel. They serve for different terrains and different seasons. He rides the streets and off-road (yes, unis can stump jump!), both short and long distances, summer and winter. As long as you have some experience and know what you’re about, anything goes, on a uni. They aren’t just for the circus, although that’s the impression many of us carry. This man actually prefers to commute by uni in Toronto.
Unicycles are safe, affordable, and a whole lot of fun. His favourite part of riding around town on a uni is that he collects smiles. Now, who wouldn’t want that?
This week I found myself at city hall again. This time, I was interviewing Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, whose schedule has not coincided with mine until now. Glenn has been cycling to work ever since he was elected eight years ago. His commute is 20 KM, one way. He rides in from Scarborough. Glenn by the way is my age (I’m younger than my eyes, slightly older than my teeth, if you must know!) so this is saying something. He rides every day, in all weathers. Glenn only leaves the bike home when the weather dips to below -20, when the gears freeze up.
Like all commuters, Glenn wanted to talk about being engaged in the community as he rides past. His favourite parts are slowing down to watch everyone playing at the dog parks and stopping to buy lemonade from young entrepreneurs. He loves chance encounters with other cyclists, and surprising his doctor with excellent test results.
Glenn may be my age in human years, but he acts (not unlike me) our age in dog years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
After Glenn and I parted, I walked across to the Clean Air Partnership office and met with Nancy Smith Lea. As Nancy talked, I slowly realized the entire patchwork quilt of bike stories was coming together in an astounding manner. Nancy Smith Lea was an ARC co-founder, a board director at CBN and a founding member and board director of the Toronto Cyclists Union. After two women were killed in collisions with large trucks (alarmingly similar to Jenna Morrison’s death), she worked alongside key stakeholders to produce the 1998 coroner’s report Cycling Fatalities in Toronto, 1986-1996: Recommendations for Reducing Cycling Injuries and Death. Nancy is currently the Director of the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT).
Nancy’s story illustrates so beautifully what so many other cyclists are doing, and more importantly, why. This year, I believe we are witness to a cycling murmuration, on a magnitude not unlike the starling murmuration recently captured in Ireland.
The number of cyclists out this year demonstrates a change in attitude, regardless of what’s happening at city hall, regardless of infrastructure needs. We are a cycling city. Go Toronto, Go!
Finally, I met with Steven Sal Debus, founder of the company Modrobes. I discovered Modrobes at the Live Green Festival on Yonge Street last year, where I bought a very pretty skirt made entirely of recycled bottles. Whenever I wear it to work, people want to touch it. (I assure you, it’s very comfortable.) Steven himself I discovered at Bike Polo. Yes indeed. He taught me everything I know about the sport. I’m not making this up, you know!
How do the two fit together? Modrobes offers 100% sustainable product lines, unique the world over. The company develops garments for urban cycling, outdoor and lifestyle customers. Sustainable clothes for urban cyclists. While I was there collecting bike stories from Steven (and he has some excellent tales) he showed me a new tweed jacket he’s designing for the gentleman cyclist. It’s lightweight, fashionable, durable. It’s made from recycled bottles, like my skirt. And if I may say so, it looked swish.
Steven also offers activewear made of eucalyptus plants. This fabric not only trumps cotton on environmental friendliness, but it also leaves you smelling much fresher than the sweaty outcome of cotton and technical wear, at the end of your ride.
We may be just a small clothing company but if we can make the world a tiny bit better then I’ll feel like I did my part as a designer and human.
For more information, visit www.modrobes.com
Christmas is coming, you know. I’m just sayin’.