BIKE MINDS Storytelling Series Episode #2
Story by Robert Zaichkowski. Photos by David Keogh.
Fellow bike blogger Matt Pinder and transportation researcher Michelle Kearns kicked off the BIKE MINDS bicycle storytelling series last month with a discussion about bikes and belonging. Tickets for the February 21 episode sold out within an hour. Over 50 people packed Fix Coffee & Bikes to enjoy some stories and free beer courtesy of Amsterdam Brewery. Michelle Kearns started by asking, “How can bicycles have an impact on your life?” She noted the speakers brought perspectives on a variety of bike lifestyles - including families, bike sharing, and suburban - and how lucky she is that her job involves studying something she is passionate about.
The Bikes & Lifestyle episode featured the following speakers:
- Derek Rayside, family cyclist
- Chelsea Cox, General Manager, Hamilton Bike Share
- James Morley, film producer
- Darnel Harris, Black Creek community researcher
- Ian Slater, long distance bike commuter
- Kristin Schwartz, Bike to School coordinator
Derek Rayside – whose family and triple tandem bike were featured in Metro last fall – called his bike story one of transformation and love. Rayside works as a University of Waterloo professor and was living in Kitchener with a car and home. He and his family moved to Toronto in 2011 to help get his wife Stephanie a job. Given traffic was so bad he could walk past four buses when his street, Queen’s Quay, was under construction, he started taking the Greyhound bus to Waterloo and looking into bikes.
Since neither Derek nor Stephanie liked existing cargo bikes, she and Derek found an appealing triple tandem design by Amsterdam’s Ronald Onderwater. After extensive customizations and months of delays, they got their triple tandem in time for the 2015 trail opening. Rayside’s family now do everything by bike from hauling groceries, lumber, and Christmas trees to helping a rider with a flat tire.
Chelsea Cox asked the audience about Hamilton. While most had visited there, very few used the SoBi bike share. SoBi currently has 750 bikes with GPS and allows bikes to be locked outside of hubs for a $1 fee. However, riders are encouraged to return bikes to hubs for a credit. Cox stressed the need to focus on equity by ensuring SoBi stations are placed in lower income neighbourhoods, subsidized memberships offered to targeted individuals, and outreach and education programs made available. Everyone Rides – SoBi’s sister organization – helps Syrian refugees experience the joy of cycling.
James Morley, a film producer with Mountain Man Media, talked about doing a long-distance ride to Oakville, which lead to his creation of a short film called “Riding with Rome”. The film featured Dr. Romeo Bruni; a family doctor who used to work in an emergency ward for 25 years. His story of biking 500 kilometres per week (or 23,000 to 25,000 kilometres per year) is inspiring with a good dose of humour.
Suburban advocacy got some representation from Darnel Harris. His discussion on Jane and Finch focused on the need for dialogue, as well as mobility greenways for the Finch West LRT allowing two cargo bikes to ride abreast and accommodating eco-friendly storm drainage.
While he gave a similar presentation at last year’s Winter Cycling Congress in Montréal, Harris freshened the content by using the “in between city” term and talked about Copenhagen’s building of bike routes where people want to be. He then got the audience to guess six different kinds of wheels including skateboards, wheelchairs, and kick scooters to make the point all non-motorized wheeled transportation have speeds of 10 to 20 km/h and belong in the same place.
Ian Slater started his story by joking about being a 'loser' growing up in a small town since he didn’t drink and didn’t drive. While he biked everywhere in his youth, Slater focused on cycle touring and recreation. He brought a Kona road bike to Europe for a month and a half where the cobblestone streets caused him to get four flat tires and a bent wheel. After returning to Canada and getting a job at York University fifteen years ago, Slater started commuting along side streets and the Humber River and Black Creek trails. The lengthy commute eventually prompted Slater to use different roads and he suggested advocates include side streets in their focus along with new infrastructure – and that we should make the cycling community more inclusive.
For the final presentation, Kristin Schwartz talked about CultureLink’s Bike to School project. She discussed the organization’s focus on education – something formerly done by the Toronto Police – and their progression from a research project at three schools to a TDSB wide program. The Bike to School program provided 130 bikes at four schools to give students opportunities to practice riding, as well as engaged in capacity building including two Students for Bloor press conferences. For some fun facts, Schwartz highlighted the doubling in cycling rates among 14- to 17-year-olds since 1996 and the popularity of suburban cycling among youth with schools across Toronto participating in Bike to School Week. Overall, the focus has been on how fun cycling is.
Matt Pinder wrapped things up by announcing the keynote speaker for the upcoming “Bikes & Discovery” episode of BIKE MINDS on March 21; that being Chris Potvin whose son James has autism and biked from Whitby to Ottawa. Tickets will be available on Friday at 9 a.m. BIKE MINDS will be looking for a larger venue for their final episode in April.
Robert Zaichkowski is an accountant, member of Cycle Toronto’s advocacy committee, and writes the Two Wheeled Politics blog.
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