People often ask me why I’m writing this book on cycling in the GTA.
At first, I told them that I’d heard so many inspiring stories that I felt obliged to collect them in an attempt to encourage others to get out on a bicycle. That reason is of course still true today, but the book has become so much more than that. It is also a celebration of cycling and of this outstanding city I call my home.
Because I am collecting other cyclists’ stories, I try to handle the project as ethically as possible. I carry waiver forms telling my interviewees that they have full control of the content of their chapter. In an interview, there are no real questions. It’s a conversation, and most often the format is simply “you talk and I write”. I try not to direct the conversation, because the most interesting things come out when I’m patiently listening. Besides, I don’t want anyone to feel I’m coaxing a certain story from them. They are free to share what they want. It takes an hour, sometimes two.
Most people do not believe they have bike stories, but I only ever have to say, “Tell me about your bike” or “How did you get started?” and the stories come tumbling out, to their surprise and my delight. Once written, I return the chapter to the interviewee for content correction. If I had some fact wrong, or if they are unhappy with how I’ve presented the story or their contribution to the cycling community, we make changes together. It’s their story and I want them to be proud of it, in print.
Today, I received an email from an interviewee who had content review for me. This was the gal with whom I did the night ride and she had some charming, but also intuitive, comments to share on what the book means to her.
Your book will be a fascinating read. It’s also quite humbling–Bike Nation has so many talented and accomplished people, people with leadership abilities, vision, imagination, and plain old-fashioned grit and courage. Bicycling has morphed into a swelling protest movement, against [such things as] car culture [and] suburbia.
My love of bicycling is inextricably bound to my deep love for Toronto, and the passionate feeling other people have for this extraordinary city comes through so clearly in your book. Thank you for honouring my beloved adopted city in this way.
While I am very pleased to read these tributes, there is one thing I need to correct. She continuously calls it “my book”. This is incorrect. The book is a collection of approximately 150 stories. While my bike stories are woven gently into the fabric of these stories to show how GTA bikes and their riders have impacted my life, it is not my story alone. It is not my book. It is everyone’s book. It is a remarkable book of stories celebrating cycling in the GTA. I’m just a collector.
That was the only thing she had incorrect. The rest is absolutely the truth. Well done, Toronto. (and I love you, too!)