Bike Minds January 2020: Bikes and Growth

Bike Minds January 2020: Bikes and Growth

Story and photos by Jun Nogami

Bike Minds is  "a bicycle-themed storytelling event where guests share positive, personal, and inspiring stories related to cycling."  There are three gatherings scheduled for Toronto in 2020. Last night was the first one, on the theme of Bikes and Growth. We were hosted by Curbside Cycle who were good enough to close early and clear their showroom floor to accommodate the audience.

Our emcee for tonight was the one and only Janet Joy Wilson, founder of the Reading Line.

Our first speaker was Julia Huys, who was 19 when she went on a 3,400-km bike tour from London to St. John's with her father. She saw it as an opportunity to share one of her father's favourite pastimes. In the end, what she learned was to slow down and to appreciate simpler things. They averaged an incredible four flats a day. (Someone should have asked which brand of tire they were using!)

Julia shared some beautiful photos accompanied by journal entries.

The tour obviously went well, as she has also done circle tours of Lakes Superior and Michigan with her dad since then.

The next speaker was Kevin Dunal. He and his wife have been car free since August 14, 2018. He said that we are all creatures of habit, and that keeps many of us from examining how much a car is really necessary in our lives.

What has he learned from this experience?

  • Using car share in the downtown area is easy when you really need one.
  • Think of transportation as a service: use what you need.
  • There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing
  • They feel much more connected to the city.
  • And, finally, everyone's favourite: not paying for a car justifies buying more bikes.

Next up was Ryan Shissler who said that moving to Canada (from Michigan) was the best mistake that he ever made.

Ryan shared his experiences with depression, under the weight of significant student loans. His slides charted his trajectory, both in terms of debt load and state of mind. At one point he was working three jobs and needed a car. However, the expense of running a car was pushing him further into debt, and so he switched to biking. Even so, initially things were not so easy.

He eventually got to a better place, in part from making friends though cycling. The happy ending to his story is that he now has a job that includes biking, as the communications lead for Cycle Toronto.

David Shellnut is a personal injury and human rights lawyer who in recent years was recovering from both an assault and also being "right hooked" while riding his bike. He talked about the way that the trauma has changed his outlook on biking. He was angry and frustrated, and it was difficult to get back on the bike. He recommended reading an article by Bronwyn Graves, published in NOW magazine in June 2019.

He is now supporting the cycling community as the Biking Lawyer, and gave us some advice on what to do if you are ever in a collision.

Robert Zaichowski is a long time cycling advocate, as well as a current member of the Cycle Toronto board.

His day job is a chartered accountant, and his comfort with data has lead him to use statistics to affect change. His analysis was part of a lobbying effort by Cycle Toronto that eventually got the City to double the annual cycling budget to $16M.

He and Albert Koehl have been tracking the slow pace at which the City has been installing cycling infrastructure; some of this has been published in dandyhorse. He closed by saying that we should keep asking questions, collecting data, and sharing our stories with people outside of this room.

Our final speaker was Agata Rudd, who told us about the tour that she and her husband did in 2014: over 5,000 km by bike in Southeast Asia over five months.

She observed that everywhere they went, they saw environmental degradation, in the form of trash strewn by the roadside, or plastic pollution on every beach in every country that they visited. This really cemented her interest in reducing waste, even during the tour. She and her husband now have a small child, and she has founded BikeSeed, a group to encouraging family biking, particularly with small children.

Afterwards, there was plenty of time to talk with the speakers and others. Curbside was also offering a 15% discount on accessories.

Thanks to all the speakers, the Bike Minds volunteers, Curbside Cycle, and also Amsterdam Brewery for the variety of bike themed beer, for a fun and informative evening!

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