This afternoon, I had my first phone interview, a direct result of the media publicity we’re trying to generate now that One Block North is published. After all the interviews I’ve done, you’d think I’d be comfortable with the process.
I was terrified.
On the phone was a very nice man from Outward Bounders (www.outwardbounders.com), a website that “publishes stories, events and products for and about people of all walks of life pushing boundaries through adventure travel and exploration.” What could I possibly tell them that they didn’t already know? And would they ask me some controversial question that I’d be unhappy answering? Did I tell you I’m just a commuter, and shy? We small mammals fret over things like interviews.
When he called, Meres Weche, the founder, was keen to know how I got interested in bikes, what kinds of bike stories I was hearing in Toronto, and what I’m doing now. Those are easy questions, and he could hear the passion for a great bike story in my voice. I relaxed a little.
He wanted to know whether there was a specific type of story I heard most often in Toronto. Was it the courier story, he wondered? Well, as many couriers as Toronto has, and as fond as I am of their stories, I don’t believe that’s the most common story I heard. I told him that the range of stories in Toronto is broad–those who build cool designs, those who transport goods with cargo bikes, those who commute but do fun things on the side (like riding at night), those who love doing distances, and those who just visit the corner store for bread and milk. I told him that Toronto has everything, and that the city’s bike stories reflect that. Yes, there were a lot of courier stories, and Toronto has a proud heritage of couriers and advocacy, but that’s not the only story in Toronto.
The scariest question (for me) was how did I manage the “war on cars” rhetoric, the “us vs. them” mentality in the book? My response was that, while cyclists are the ones most likely to suffer in a collision, and are often obliged to take more than their share of responsibility on the road to remain safe and to foresee problems, they remain–on the whole–an extremely gracious group of people. If I’ve learned anything from this interview process, it’s that an aggressive attitude will serve no one, that we can’t use the “angry douchebag” approach, but instead need to be sensible and calm. That we need to start meaningful conversations, to encourage non-cyclists to view us as people, not vehicles. And with any luck, we can encourage more people to just try riding a bike. That’s a really difficult position to take when you’ve just been in a frightening confrontation with a car, I know.
At the end of the interview, we got talking about cycling in other cities, and other countries. It was an understandable question, given what the website does! When I explained that I believed every city has a different bike culture, based on things like geography and climate, politics and economy, he asked if that made me want to capture those differences. That was when I told him about Totally Spoke’d, the new spoken word program at CFRC radio. I said I was collecting Kingston bike stories, but wanted to be able share them more immediately. Three years is a long time to wait, and I’m an impatient mammal, as well as being small. With the radio programme, I can collect a story one month and read it live on air the next. Would I like to travel and collect stories elsewhere? Well, I’ve already done that in Jakarta and Tehuacan, but yes! I’d love to do that again.
The interview process still scares me, and I have several more booked in the next couple of weeks. Yikes! I don’t feel like I know a lot about bikes and bike cultures even now. I don’t always feel qualified as a cycling advocacy spokesperson. However, I noticed today that each question made me more determined in my role as an encourager. As I told Meres, no matter where I am, bike stories are always unique, they’re always a love story, and they always inspire me to want to get on my bike. It’s pretty simple: I want to keep sharing bike stories, optimistic that they’ll inspire others to get out there, too. Awesomeness will ensue.
Outward Bounders will be posting the interview soon. For that, and more information on cool adventures you can experience around the world, visit http://www.outwardbounders.com, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Outwardbounderscom/111760678912583 and @Outwardbounders.