"We're making a political statement, we need bike lanes on Jane, we need bike lanes on Bloor and everywhere else in the city!" said reading line co-organizer Janet Joy Wilson before leading the group out from Book City on Bloor Street West.
Reading line: cyclists and authors promote Green Line initiative
Story and photos by Jenna Campbell
Cycling, reading and eating were three major themes in The Reading Line event on Saturday, Oct. 4. The ride promoted the Green Line initiative to create a linear park space along a hydro corridor in Toronto's downtown west end. Janet Joy Wilson and Amanda Lewis from Penguin Random House organized the event in partnership with Cycle Toronto, Park People and Friends of the Green Line.
The "reading line" took cyclists to various points along the five-kilometre Green Line to listen to author readings and to discuss topics such as urban planning, growing food and, of course, cycling. Police escorted the ride, and almost 70 cyclists took part in the event.
Sweet Flour Bake Shop provided snacks and at the end of the route, Vert Catering provided sandwiches and Premium Near Beer offered non-alcoholic beer. Laurie Featherstone of Featherstone 2 Wheels Green Delivery was the 'bookmobile' - she used her bike-and-trailer combo delivery service to transport the books for the day.
The Reading Line began at 9:30 a.m. at Book City's Bloor Street West location. The event kick-started with the event's organizers, partners and authors taking part in a ribbon cutting along with three politicians representing three levels of government: Ward 13 city councillor Sarah Doucette, Parkdale and High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo, and MP Peggy Nash.
(From left) Park People policy coordinator Jake Tobin Garret and reading line co-organizers, Amanda Lewis and Janet Joy Wilson outside of Book City.
In April, Wilson and Lewis first started jamming ideas that would later evolve into the inaugural reading line ride. Wilson said their point of departure was: "Well, we both work for a book company, we should plan a book ride!"
Wilson said when she and Lewis sat down together, "All the blue-sky ideas came about." Initially they had so many ideas, she didn't think they could pull it together into one cohesive event.
"Once we had (incorporated) the idea of the Green Line, everything went into place," she said.
The Green Line was initially a design competition last year that looked for innovative and practical solutions to connect the hydro corridor, from Earlscourt Park to Geary Avenue.
Park People policy coordinator, Jake Tobin Garret, said the initiative needs the city's support so the park spaces can become connected.
“One of the things we are trying to do is to get people to re-imagine the route," he said. "Rather than separate parks, imagine a linear park space.” The idea is to connect all of the green space along the way with a continuous, bike-able and walking path.
“We had a police escort and you shouldn’t need a police escort (to go across the hydro corridor), but there are many dangerous [street] crossings. There’s a real break between the parks and we need to create those safe connections.”
Cyclist Martha Hunter outside Book City before the ride headed to the second stop at an urban meadow near Geary and Dovercourt streets.
"People ask where is the Green Line? What is the Green Line? Well you're on the Green Line," said David Harvey, the director of Park People.
Cycle TO volunteer Caitlin Allan.
Toronto Star columnist, Spacing magazine co-owner, and author, Shawn Micallef, is introduced by reading line organizer Amanda Lewis.
Micallef is the author of "Stroll", "Full Frontal T.O." and "The Trouble with Brunch." He spoke about the Green Line's design possibilities and its "off-grid-ness" potential.
Author Catherine Bush, Michael Shellenberg and pooch Clarence enjoy the green line.
Cyclist Shân Gordon likes books and bikes.
Cycle Toronto was out in full force.
Lewis and Wilson introducing author Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer at the third stop at the Geary Avenue Parkette near Geary Road and Ossington Avenue.
Author Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer read an excerpt from her novel, "All the Broken Things."
Kuitenbrouwer with Cycle Toronto's Ward 13 advocacy co-captain Jun Nogami.
Deardre Meyer, a Toronto cyclist of over 25 years, said she was really pleased to see so many people attending the event.
Next stop: Shaw Garrison Park on Geary Road.
Biketastic author, Amy Lavender Harris read an excerpt about cycling from a book that she is still writing. She would like to see more bike infrastructure in the inner suburbs.
Author Christina Palassio spoke outside the Frankel Lambert Community Garden. Palassio is the author of "The Edible City."
Tanya Neumeyer followed with a spoken word performance.
Jim O'Reilly from the Frankel Lambert Community Garden invited The Reading Line cyclists to take a look at the bounty.
P.C. Wojtkowicz from 11 Division helped escort the ride from start to finish.
Wilson said she was thrilled with how the event came together and, in general, loves it when plans are "actually actualized." But in regards to how long until Toronto will see a Green Line, Wilson said, "It's likely going to be a while, unfortunately."
"The important thing is to bring east and west corridor opportunities for alternative methods [of transportation]," she said. "Bottom line, roads are not just for cars - that's an archaic way of thinking."
Here is a map of the Green Line from greenlinetoronto.ca - feel free to contact the local councillors to say you support the Green Line and hope to see it come to fruition!
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