Part Two of Board members and Committee Chair Bike Love stories!
During the final week of Bike Love Month we’ll hear from some of our board members and committee chairs and their love of bicycles. Board members and Chairs do countless hours of volunteer work to keep Bike Ottawa going. We do it because we love riding bikes, we want to be able to keep riding them safely around our City, and we want others to feel they can choose to ride a bike if they want to. It’s not always easy to keep up the volunteer hours, but the work is rewarding when we see changes happen.
That said, the Board can’t (and doesn’t!) do it all alone, so if you ever want to lend some volunteer hours to us, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be really happy for the help!
In the meantime, happy riding!
Madeleine Bonsma-Fisher: Member-at-Large, Explorer of Data to Fight The Good Fight.
The Good Bike
This is the story of how I became friends with a bike, a story spanning four cities and twelve years.
I grew up in a small farming community in Southern Ontario, where riding bikes was something that kids did on sidewalks and that families did while on vacation. Nobody ever rode a bike to get anywhere. But in Grade 12, I became friends with an exchange student from Germany named Marieke. She was the first person I knew who rode a bike to get places, riding around on country roads to see the local landscape. At the end of the school year, Marieke went home, but before she left, she gave me her bike.
I took the bike with me to university. Slowly but surely, I got used to the freedom and independence the bike gave me. I rode it to the farther-away-but-nicer gym. I rode it to the park. And when I got a co-op job without bus access, I bought a balaclava and some rain pants and I rode my bike to and from work every day for four months.
After four months of cycle commuting, I felt a new sense of gratitude for that bike. I felt like the bike was now my friend. I had glimpsed a beautiful way of life that I had never known was possible, and I wanted it. I can tell something in me changed because before this point I have no pictures of the bike, but afterwards, the bike appears in my photos more and more, my trusty sidekick.
I started visiting the community bike repair shop and learning how to do basic repairs. Staff at another bike store had told me my bike was bad and I should buy a new (very expensive) bike from them. But the community shop people told me it was a good bike, and I felt a rush of pride for my friend, the Good Bike.
Biking became a way to explore new places. I rode from Waterloo to New Hamburg with my roommates one day. We rode our bikes to the strip malls on the edge of town to go dumpster diving. For a second co-op term, I rode my bike every day to and from work.
I lived in Halifax for a summer, and with the help of the community bike shop, I packed the Good Bike in a flat box, got on a plane, and biked all over that seabound peninsula.
While there I bought a second bike for visitors, fixed it up, and sold it again at the end of the summer. I biked to the grocery store, the beach, and the North End. When I moved to Toronto for grad school, it wasn’t a question anymore, my ride was my bike. I loved biking in Toronto. I biked in the winter, I biked in the rain, I biked at night, and I biked while pregnant.
Now I live in Ottawa, and now I bike with my child, and it’s the best. I wish everyone could feel the freedom and joy that riding a bike brings, and I hope that we will build our cities so that all people can safely enjoy the magic of biking.
William van Geest: Advocacy Working Group Chair, Juggler of All the Things, Wonderfully Optimistic, with hints of sarcasm.
For most of my life, I haven’t thought of myself as a biking enthusiast. I’ve been what the Dutch call a fietser: someone who uses a bike, sure, but who doesn’t really think much of it. The bike they’re riding just happens to be the best option for getting around.
There have, though, been a couple situations in which I felt particularly grateful to have a bike. One was when I sprained my ankle quite badly. Anyone who’s had to use crutches knows how slow and tiring this can be. A couple weeks after sustaining this injury, I realized I could still bike, and the injury had almost no effect on my biking speed. (Bonus: the front rack on the Bixis I was using in those days (living in Montreal) could accommodate my crutches.) I’ve since had other impeding injuries, but surprisingly often, I can still hop on my bike to get around.
The other situation in which I’ve fallen in love with my bike and the lifestyle it affords is in the bike-touring trips I’ve taken. There’s something supremely romantic about being able to live for weeks, even months, with only your bike and the items you stash on it, travelling hundreds of kilometres. There’s also nothing quite like discovering new worlds in the solitude, quietness, and environmentally-friendliness that bike-riding affords.
More recently, though, I’ve realized that bikes offer a means to a more human-friendly world. Unfortunately, we’ve built our world such that the vast majority of our destinations are accessible by automobile—with the inevitable consequence that destinations are widely separated from one another. Bikes, though, bridge these gaps ably. They’re relatively speedy, certainly nimble, and can be had for cheap. They also consume relatively few of earth’s precious resources to make and operate, they can be adapted to myriad abilities and body geometries, they don’t pollute the air, and they’re quiet. I’ve come to realize that, while bikes may not be the solution to every problem, they’re a heck of an invention, and that if we built a world wherein it’s safe and appealing to bike, many of us would, and we would all be better for it.
Finally, the more I get to know people who bike, the more I discover a fun-loving, kind, and just slightly off-the-wall community. The folks at my local bike shops I’ve found to be some of the most generous vendors I know. I’m also constantly amazed by the commitment and selflessness of the advocacy groups I’ve worked with. And I can’t count the number of times I’ve stopped at a light and chatted at a stoplight with another person biking.
So, yeah: I’m in it for the long haul with bikes. You should be too! There’s always room for more.
Barbara Greenberg: Member-at-Large. Communicoter of things. Doer of Stuff.
I have many bike loves, different bikes give me different joys, but honestly, nothing compares to my first Adult Bike. I donated it a back, after having not ridden it in a few years, and at the time I wrote the following, and it holds up, and I can never top it. 3 working gears. Never got a flat. Best bike ever.
Dear Raleigh Matterhorn, aka The Tank, I found you for 80$ at a garage sale over 10 years ago. I spied you from my apartment window. You were a bargain. I learned to ride on the city streets of Toronto. Riding Davenport to Spadina. Sailing down the hill, checking right for drivers from Macpherson who routinely ran the stop sign. Two step left turn to Huron. Going to classes. Going to teach. Riding through the snowy streets. Riding to meet friends. Learning to cross streetcar tracks at the right angle. Shaking my fist at drivers. Smiling at the feeling of flying. I rode you pregnant and full bellied. I rode you to races and then home again after. I brought you to Ottawa. I bought you a copilot seat and I rode you with my wee kid. We climbed Delores, we sweated up the hills. We rode to museums. But your gears stopped working, and eventually I was told you would cost more to fix than buying a new bike. So, I put you aside for a new bike. I said I was sorry, it was nothing personal, but a heavy bike and and ever growing kid, it just made sense. But you’ve been sitting around lately, looking sad, and it’s time to donate you. Maybe someone else can get some use out of you for a few more miles. But I’ll always remember you, biking your immense weight up the hills, never being afraid to ride over any debris because your tires were basically invisible. You’ll always be my first bike love.