Ordinary Spokes volunteer wants to see everyone on a bike


dandyARCHIVE: Melody McKiver

 Ordinary Spokes volunteer wants to see everyone on a bike

Story by Tammy Thorne

Illustration by Irma Kniivila

 ~ This story first appeared in issue 9, our youth and employment issue from 2012 ~

When I started researching for my interview with activist Melody McKiver I noticed an interesting tag line on her web pages. It said: Decolonizing the shit out of everything.

But, how does one go about doing that, exactly?

Turns out McKiver can provide ample examples.

For one, McKiver was an inaugural member of the popular east-end DIY shop Bike Sauce before leaving Toronto for St. John’s where she is now part of a cycle collective called Ordinary Spokes.

Spokes is comprised of a group of cyclists with a mission to encourage cycling in the east coast by providing a DIY Space and maintenance workshops in a collectively-run, volunteer-based repair shop, and to build St. John's bike culture by teaching people to repair their own bikes. The volunteers also fix up old donated bikes for sale to generate revenue for the shop. If a bike can’t be saved, they make something else – like a stool – out of the scraps.

Bike Sauce board member and Bike Chain coordinator Toby Bowers says, “Ordinary Spokes is awesome. Melody is passionate and hardworking within her community, and an upbeat and genuine person. Running bike co-ops in smaller [cities] can be tough for many reasons (such as, fewer visible cyclists, lack of materials available, less income because of a smaller population served), but having someone like Melody no doubt helps to keep things going.”

Bowers says he’s sure St. John’s – and particularly, Ordinary Spokes – is benefiting from having Melody in their wheelhouse.

“Melody was instrumental (both literally and figuratively) in Sauce’s launch: In addition to helping organize and promote a pre-opening fundraising concert, she played drums in the opening act,” says Bowers. “In the shop, Melody is both fierce and calm,” he says. “She’s able to keep a good head while helping in a busy place, and still keep an ear and eye out for excesses of privilege and oppression, two things that make an open learning space stop being an open learning space for all.”

Keeping an ear and eye out for excesses of privilege and oppression, and creating an open learning space for all, is what McKiver is doing to help decolonize her own communities.

McKiver is committed to oppression-free living, a passion she brings to Ordinary Spokes, where cycling is not as popular or populous as it is in Toronto.

“Here, in Newfoundland, chances are if I see a cyclist I know them. And I’ve only been here a year and half.” McKiver says, but adds that St. John’s is now implementing a bike plan.

She notes that much of the advocacy has been driven by mountain bikers and road riders, but that finally there’s now a small group of people talking about cycling from point A to point B – the commuter cyclist.

“St. Johns is a very small city, but people are really starting to talk about bike lanes and bikes as a viable commuter option,” she says. Still, it is, of course, completely different from Toronto. “Here, I’m not dealing with heavy traffic and streetcar tracks like I was in Toronto. But in Toronto, you have strength in numbers.”

McKiver affectionately remembers getting backed up in bike traffic in the College Street bike lane, but laments the loneliness that was her commute when riding up to York University. She started her journey to finding her own sound by studying fine arts at York University – entering as a violin student and leaving as a violist – with a minor in race ethnicity and indigenous studies.

The 23-year-old with Anishinaabekwe roots was named by her mother, a pianist, who encouraged her daughter to find her own sound. And, she’s heard all the name-related jokes that come with being a multi-instrumentalist masters candidate in ethnomusicology named Melody. That doesn’t bother her though, what bothers her is inequality and inaccessibility.

“In Toronto, north of Lawrence, it’s a different situation completely. Everyone knows [crossing the 401] is terrible and there is no getting around it.” She’d like to see a dedicated bikeway to York via Downsview, and worries that the current bike infrastructure discussions are only focussed on the downtown core. “There are 100,000 people every day coming in and out of York. Thankfully bikes are allowed on the TTC,” she says, adding that the multi-modal commute along with group rides and route strategies were key to making the epic commute to York more palatable.

“My biggest pet peeve,” she says, “is when friends say they are ‘too scared’ to try commuting by bike and that bugs me – so I’d like to offer a challenge: Just try it for a week. It’s a lot of fun and if it was really so scary, there wouldn’t be so many people doing it.”

Still, she admits that the “highway” cutting right through the middle of Memorial University is scary. “It’s the exact opposite of St. George [on U of T’s downtown campus].”

McKiver also volunteers at the aboriginal resource office on Memorial campus and says Jessica Yee of the Native Youth Health Network is someone she truly admires. “I really admire everyone at the Native Youth Health Network. Indigenous youth are amazing,” says McKiver.

McKiver participated in several of the Native Youth Health Network events and initiatives while she was studying in Toronto -- most recently the Indigenous Young Women Speaking Our Truths, Building Our Strengths national gathering in Saskatoon - the first ever in Canada by and for Indigenous young women. It’s held in partnership with the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). (McKiver notes that NWAC’s project was recently defunded by the federal government.)

“Indigenous youth are the future of Canada, and that is great.”

She notes the strong youth-led opposition to the tar sands and now the pipeline project.

“Some people view [rising gas prices] negatively, but it is important for us as a society to move towards a healthy lifestyle and work together to make things safer, and more fun, for everyone. I mean, I’ll take a big detour to spend more time on my bike on the way home, but I wouldn’t take a longer bus or car ride home.”


 ~ This story first appeared in issue 9, our youth and employment issue from 2012 ~

Related on the dandyhorsemagazine.com:

Critical Mass St. John's: Newfoundland's biggest city is hilly as hell but still they ride (NEW!)

Bike Spotting at Bloor and Brunswick

Pedal Power in Parliament: Olivia Chow (from the same issue, issue 9, as this archive story)








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