Bike Love: Maria Rasouli’s Bike Love! Pedal Joy!

Bike Love story number five is written by Maria Rasouli, Founder and Operator of Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals on Sparks St here in Ottawa.

Thank you, Maria for sharing your story of Bike Love!

“My parents gave me the gift of biking though the society took that joy away for over a decade. On the day I was told to stop bicycling, I could never have imagined that one day I would be free to bicycle again in my beautiful home, Canada.”

Our childhood memories and experiences mesmerise us, haunt us, and shape our hobbies and even career choices in adulthood. Have you ever wondered which kind of memories you are creating for your children?

I grew up in a small village in the North of Iran, near the beautiful Caspian Sea. Having a bicycle in the post-revolution war time was a luxury many could not afford when even essential items such as eggs, flour and sugar were scarce. Our family was not rich but we did have one Banana bicycle that was shared amongst me and my two other siblings. My dad who was in the navy had bought that bicycle for us on one of his overseas training trips. The pre-revolution monarchy government of Iran had strong ties with the USA and Iranian army personnel were sent abroad to receive military training from the USA Army.  That bike was so precious that we kept it inside for a long time. In fact, I learned how to ride that bike inside our home on our Persian carpet! It was like riding a bike on a sandy beach. 

Eventually, we brought the bike outside. My greatest joy was riding that bicycle every day after school with my best friend, Eli, balanced on my handlebar. We’d travel through the open fields and into the forest on the edge of the village. We’d often fall in the fields, or on the dirt paths, laughing hysterically at how ridiculous we looked. 

Around the age of eleven everything changed. One day, Eli and I fell off the bike in front of a soccer field where a group of young male were practicing. We found it funny and started laughing at ourselves but an older man approached us and told us in a paternal tone: 

“My daughters, you are a grown up woman. Getting on a bicycle in a skirt is inappropriate, especially around these young men. Go home and wear proper clothing. The two of you are grown up women and should not be on a bicycle.” 

This incident propelled our parents to forbid us from biking as growing women. The next time I got on a bike was on July 25 2002, the first day that I arrived in Canada; straight from the airport to a room I had rented and then hopping on a bike that a friend had left for me. He was 6.2 and I am 5.1; I was riding an XL bike after almost 13 year and all I could feel was a rush of excitement, freedom and joy!  

My parents gave me the gift of biking though the society took that joy away for over a decade. On the day I was told to stop bicycling, I could never have imagined that one day I would be free to bicycle again in my beautiful home, Canada. I often think about how different my childhood would have been if I could go biking with my family members freely and whenever wished. I love biking so much that the biking theme even makes it to my cooking! I say “Why walk when you can bike?” 

I was thrilled to discover such beautiful pathways, nature and ease of access to everything via bike paths in Ottawa. I started Escape Bicycle Tours to share the joy and freedom of bicycling. One of the greatest joys I get at Escape is seeing happy parents and their kids before and after a tour or bike ride. It is like reliving my childhood through offering the biking experience to these happy young kids. What better gift to give our children than the gift of happiness, joy, wellness and health?

-Maria Rasouli

Read more from our Bike Love Series!

Bike Love! Cécile Lecoq: Liberté, puissance et affirmation de soi

Brett Bergie’s love on two wheels

Doug Gordon falls in love with a FR8

Jillian Banfield’s story of Inclusion Through Cycling

Bike Love! Cécile Lecoq: Liberté, puissance et affirmation de soi

Bike Love story number four is from Cécile Lecoq, a Board member for Action Vélo Outaouais, she lives car free with her family in Gatineau.

Petite, j’adorais faire du vélo. J’ai grandi à la campagne, en Normandie, et on faisait souvent des balades en famille le weekend. J’en ai beaucoup de souvenirs : on allait cueillir des mûres en automne, mon père me poussait dans les côtes. Plus tard, mes études m’ont amenée à poser mes valises à Nantes, Paris et Stuttgart, et j’ai pris mon indépendance  grâce au transport en commun. 

C’est seulement une fois installée à Ottawa puis Gatineau que j’ai renoué avec le vélo, cette fois surtout comme moyen de transport, et c’est en découvrant ses magnifiques sentiers au gré des déplacements que j’ai adopté la région. Je ne l’aime jamais autant que lorsque je fais un détour au retour du travail pour longer la rivière ou affronter les dénivelés du Parc de la Gatineau. Le vélo me donne un sentiment de liberté, de puissance et d’affirmation de moi.

“Le vélo nous lie, et les moments qu’ils nous offrent resteront gravés dans nos mémoires.”

Il occupe aussi une place importante dans ma relation avec mes deux garçons de 10 et 7 ans, d’abord parce qu’il a créé une belle complicité entre nous. Les écouter raconter leur journée au retour de l’école ou du camp de jour, s’arrêter spontanément au bord de la rivière pour faire des ricochets, se faire prendre par une averse au retour du marché et rentrer le plus vite possible en riant à gorge déployée… Le vélo nous lie, et les moments qu’ils nous offrent resteront gravés dans nos mémoires.

Le vélo a aussi fait de moi une meilleure maman. Il m’a appris à lutter contre les élans qui me poussent à vouloir les protéger à tout prix. Il m’a appris à les laisser conquérir leur autonomie, d’abord sur les trottoirs, puis sans les petites roues, puis dans les rues résidentielles. Entendre le petit s’exclamer : «j’ai réussi tout seul, je veux faire le vélo toute la journée, j’aime le vélo!» lorsque je l’ai lâché pour la première fois, et lire la fierté sur le visage de mon grand quand il va seul à l’école ou chez des copains sont d’énormes récompenses.

Et c’est pour avoir le cœur un peu moins serré quand je le regarde partir que je milite pour que ma ville prenne soin de lui.

Don’t miss these other Bike Love stories:

Brett Bergie’s love on two wheels

Doug Gordon falls in love with a FR8

Jillian Banfield’s story of Inclusion Through Cycling

Bike Love: Brett Bergie’s love on two wheels.

It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s time for the third story for Bike Love month!

Brett Bergie is a long distance bromptoneer- she trained to ride the 2020 Trans America Bicycle Race in 2020 on her Brompton. Yes, you read that correctly! She currently lives in Calgary where she advocates for safe streets, and is considered an honourary member of the Ottawa bike community.

“Time on my bicycle remains an opportunity to be truly present in my surroundings and activity. I feel my weight on the saddle, the pressure where my hands rest on my grips, and the responsiveness of my bike propelling forward with the rotation of my feet.”

On a chilly, grey day in early spring, just before arriving in the old town far from home, the road turns sharply on a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario. The low grey ceiling prevents me from seeing across to the other side. Vastness, openness, and coldness give me a chill, less so in the bone, more so in my soul – a moment when solitude feels uneasy.

Bicycling longer and farther than my friends are willing to go almost always means bicycling alone. Young and curious, I find myself lost on occasion, feeling unsettled and frightened each time. More than finding my way again, in those moments I wish I weren’t alone. After some time pedaling and meandering, I situate myself again and point my bicycle home. I evaluate my energy stores and feel some assurance I will make it. Elation comes first but then depletion.

In the weeks and months after the pandemic is declared, I habitually take to my bicycle. “Outside is not cancelled,” they say. While the threat of COVID-19 disrupts and upsets social connection and routine, I discover I can still draw pleasure and security rolling on two wheels in the open spaces, the green spaces, and the empty spaces.

For fleeting moments, life feels familiar. On the bike, my mindset is contemplative and unhurried. Time fails to dictate my actions as it does across life’s other compartments. Riding my bicycle is an indulgence in sensory pleasure: quietude, coolness of tree canopies, permeating aroma of a growing season, an open and uninterrupted horizon, and force upon my cranks. I feel a deep affection and gratitude for the contours of the land in all its natural beauty. Far removed am I from another element of nature – this pandemic. 

Time on my bicycle remains an opportunity to be truly present in my surroundings and activity. I feel my weight on the saddle, the pressure where my hands rest on my grips, and the responsiveness of my bike propelling forward with the rotation of my feet. The bicycle is the ultimate expression of simplicity – and I am the faithful servant of simple pleasures.

It occurs to me that while the risk of COVID spread occupies my mind, consciously and subconsciously, my bicycle is my best tool to dislodge worry and unease. My mind lends itself to the air’s fragrance, not the droplet count. When in motion, seeing people evokes a wave instead of a threat response. I feel an overwhelming sense of connection and community.

And now I wonder if bicycling was ever a discipline of solitude.

Don’t miss the other #BikeLove stories!

Doug Gordon’s Bike Love story about falling in from with a FR8.

Jillian Banfield’s story of Bike Love: Inclusion Through Cycling.

Bike Love: Doug Gordon falls in love with a FR8.

We’re very excited for our second Bike Love story!

This one is written by Doug Gordon. If you’re not familiar with Doug, he is the co-host for The War on Cars podcast and is a Brooklyn-based writer, television producer and safe streets advocate.

If you’re not familiar with Doug’s work or the podcast The War on Cars, you should settle down and get familiar (after you read his story about Bike Love, of course!) You can also find him online at @BrooklynSpoke.

“In just one short trip through the Jordaan neighborhood with my daughter sitting on a small
seat right behind the handlebars, I knew instantly that I Had To Have This Bike.”

I fell in love in Amsterdam.

It was during a 2012 vacation with my wife and daughter, then nearly three years old, that I first met what would become my bike. After two weeks of riding around and exploring the Dutch cycling paradise as a family we returned our rental bicycles to WorkCycles, the bike shop owned by my friend Henry Cutler. Already a little depressed to be thinking about our final 24 hours in the city before we had to catch our flight back home to New York, we hung out in Henry’s shop admiring the full line of bikes — from classic Dutch omafiets to cargo- and kid-carrying bakfiets — wishing we could take them with us. Before we left, Henry encouraged me to take a test ride of a relatively new model he had designed, the WorkCycles Fr8. (Pronounced “freight.”) Engineered with a weight limit Henry described as “let me know if you find out,” it rode like a dream, gliding across canal bridges and narrow Amsterdam streets with ease. In just one short trip through the Jordaan neighborhood with my daughter sitting on a small seat right behind the handlebars, I knew instantly that I Had To Have This Bike. Still, with just one child I hardly had the need to spend any amount of money on a bicycle designed to carry at least three. (And I mean “at least.” Henry has piled five kids onto his Fr8, something that hardly turns heads in a city like Amsterdam.)

Cut to a year later. 

Kid number two, our son, had arrived and I was ready to pull the trigger on a bike that could carry him and my daughter. I instantly remembered the Fr8. A few emails with Henry and a credit card number later, my new bike was on its way. When it arrived, I fell in love all over again. After all, what is love if not connection? Connection with a spouse or partner, sure, but also connection with a special object or even a meaningful place. The Fr8 was both of those things: an object that connected me with a place. Many places, in fact. I used the bike to carry my children on adventures to places I love, from Prospect Park near my home in Brooklyn to Central Park in Manhattan and everywhere in between. Over the years with the bike, my kids fell in love with new playgrounds and the opportunity to meet friends no matter where they live. My wife and I fell in love with the convenience of not having to lug a stroller onto a bus or down a flight of stairs to the subway or the ability to get a week’s worth of groceries home with ease. As my kids got bigger, I fell in love with avoiding the almost inevitable middle-aged “dad bod” by getting some good exercise anytime I had to pedal my kids, their gear and myself up a big hill or over a bridge. To this day, every time I ride the Fr8 I recall my 2012 test ride in the Jordaan around Henry’s shop, our wonderful trip to the Netherlands, and the love I still feel for its abundant cycle paths, vibrant cities and friendly people. If one simple, well designed machine can do all that, what’s not to love?

— Doug Gordon

If you missed our first Bike Love story by Jillian Banfield, the Halifax Bike Mayor, read it here.

Report: East End Advocacy Update Meeting

By Daniel Domen

On January 19, 2021 we held our first ever East End Update meeting, and it was the largest meeting of East End cyclists we have ever had! The meeting was attended by Councillor Kitts, Luloff, Dudas, and Tierney, as well as city staff Zlatko Krstulic, Philippe Landry, and Deborah Lightman.

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Jillian Banfield’s story of Bike Love: Inclusion Through Cycling

This month we’re spreading Bike Love and featuring stories from local and not-so-local people about their own Bike Love.

We are very happy to have Jillian Banfield, the Halifax Bike Mayor for our first guest post. Thank you Jillian for sharing your story with us.

“My love for my bike, though, is complicated by ableism in society and the internalized ableism that I have only started to unlearn in my 30s despite a lifetime of disability and chronic illness.”

My bike is my mobility aid. Much like some people use wheelchairs or white canes, my bike allows me to move about the world when I otherwise couldn’t. I feel lucky to have stumbled upon this solution for my mobility needs that also provides me fresh air, exercise, and a close community of #BikeHfx friends and family. My love for my bike, though, is complicated by ableism in society and the internalized ableism that I have only started to unlearn in my 30s
despite a lifetime of disability and chronic illness.

As a kid, I was taught to be careful. Be very, very careful. My joints were painful, so a slip on the ice or playing tag at recess were to be avoided. I sat out many activities in gym class because no alternatives were offered. There was only one standard to be met, only one way to get a good grade in that class. The stress of trying to conform to that standard, the feeling that there was something wrong with me haunts me to this day.

My piano lessons stopped when the teacher decided my hands – with their stiff and swollen knuckles – couldn’t do what was necessary. Again, there was only one way to learn, one way to play well.

I loved to swim. My body could move so freely, the water hid my uncoordinated movements and protected my tender joints. During physio appointments, I swam in a very hot, very chlorinated pool, mostly populated by older folks at the rehabilitation centre. I pretended I was a fish.

Again, though, swimming lessons chipped away at my feelings of belonging. I reached a level where I could not physically meet a requirement to pass to the next level. I tried 3 times to get my blue badge, then I stopped, angry that my legs would never kick the “right” way.

In cycling, I face some of the same challenges. I was slow to graduate from my training wheels. I feared falling, I lacked coordination and confidence in my body. As an adult, I embraced cycling, both out of love and out of need. I ride a standard 2-wheel bicycle and I can ride for hours. I know that these facts mean that people perceive me as nondisabled and as partaking in a niche sport. I feel compelled to convince people that I’m disabled. I work to convince people that it’s not just me – that bikes and cycling infrastructure can help loads of people like me.

My bike love is complicated because my early experiences taught me that my body didn’t belong and wasn’t worthy of inclusion. Since I started cycling, I found a way in which my body can flourish. But riding a bike also erases my disability experiences because of ableist assumptions about what disability is and who cyclists are. For me, though, bikes can be tools for inclusion, and that fact pedals me forward.

— Jillian Banfield

Bank Street Renewal

By Alex Wilcox

In late November, the City of Ottawa held a working group consultation for the preliminary design of the reconstruction of Bank Street from Riverside Drive at the Rideau River in the north, to Ledbury Avenue in the south. This project has been underway for quite some time, Bike Ottawa previously participating in the functional design study for this project in 2016/2017. This stretch of Bank Street is a significant artery in south Ottawa. At the north end of the project limits, the street transitions from an urban main street to a more suburban artery in the south end.

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Budget 2021: Some Progress, But No Bold Moves

Ottawa City Council is expected to pass its 2021 Budget on Wednesday, December 9th. The city will spend approximately $8.9 million (M) on dedicated bike infrastructure – down significantly from the 2015-2018 years when the city was budgeting $20M in “Cycling and Pedestrian Plans.”

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