The whole point of the One Block North project has been to get more people on a bike. That moment has arrived, and I wanted to share with you what I’m seeing.
We’re at a neat crossroads for this bike book project. While I’ve been sharing these stories verbally for three years with anyone who would listen, our project now appears in print.
Why does that matter? I wondered that the whole time I was working on it. Never having published anything creative before, I couldn’t say. [People keep asking me, ‘What the hell is creative non-fiction, anyway?’] Was it really worth all this expense and trouble?
The moment Andrew at Tlac handed me my first sample copy a month ago, an unexpected change came over my patient listeners.
On seeing a copy of the book, my listeners were frankly astonished at the size of the project. And as they flipped through the pages and became immersed in the gorgeous design and the photos and the map, they were then drawn to read a little of just one story. Any story. As they read, I could see on their faces that seed of a desire, to be out on a bicycle, sharing the adventure with us. They were moving from, “oh, isn’t that nice” to “wow, you can do that?”
Any book is going to change the persona of those with whom we share our bike stories, from a listener to a reader.
A reader can go on the bike adventures in their imagination, without the pressure of demonstrating enthusiasm as I stand before them. It allows the person a corporeal experience: it’s a tangible thing they can take away with them, to read in quiet moments, in private places, alone. A volume is a companion, like a bicycle. Readers can put a book down and pick it up again later; they can dawdle over a story as long and as many times as they like (kind of like a great bike ride).
But this isn’t just any book. Forgive me saying so, but these particular stories carry an extra jolt of energy, by virtue of their authenticity.
This is the moment we’ve really been waiting for. Because of you and your willingness to share your stories and your editing or designing or publishing skills, more people will be setting out on their own bike adventures soon.
Thank you for your unending enthusiasm for bikes. I love that about you.
Next, thank you for graciously sharing your stories with me, and for setting aside the fear of exposure in a public forum, instead being forthright and confident of your opinions. I was originally terrified of being called out for my uninformed and entirely subjective opinion. However, having tried so many of these things myself and having witnessed so much, I can now intelligently and dispassionately form clear and objective opinions. I’m strongly of the mind that a positive, encouraging, supportive approach—where we recognize the human element in whatever form of transportation is being employed—only there can we (as Peter Miasek said) “turn the Titanic around” and make streets more accessible to all. A bicycle is just one of many valid options for getting around, but it’s an awfully good option. Our favourite, in fact, and we want others to experience just what an awfully good option it is.
Last night, Peter also shared with me that, because I happened to recommend valet bike parking to him during our interview, he went with it in 2012, and this year there will be a whopping five valet bike parking events in the Markham-Unionville area, all sponsored by those cities. Five valet bike parking events, which translates into a huge jolt of bike energy. I told you: neat, eh?
The whimsy and romance and innovation of your bike stories, the quiet determination to just be on a bicycle, these things inspired me and now will inspire others, to consider this approach. What a legacy.
At the Bateman’s launch last night, interviewees were being introduced to each other, modestly sharing their stories and realizing how much power there is in positive bike energy, in being kind and gentle and encouraging in our approach. They realized suddenly what company they were keeping (“Hey! That’s Howard Chang!” I heard someone whisper, before approaching him and saying hello; at the next launch, I hope to hear that happen several times, over virtually any name associated with a bike story in One Block North.) Several people bought their book and politely disappeared into the night, only to text or email or Tweet me to say how surprised they were, how delighted and how inspired they felt at these stories. “Yes, I know!” I say back.
This morning, my acupuncturist—who took a few copies to sell in her office—called to say someone wanted one. A non-cyclist.
Prepare for an increase in bike energy across Ontario. And because of what you do on a bike and for this project, I salute you.