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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Envisioning a Better ByWard Market: Public Realm Plan

On December 1st, the City of Ottawa Financial and Economic Development Committee passed the “Byward Market Public Realm Plan“, and the plan goes to council for final approval next week. Bike Ottawa wrote a letter in response to the proposed plan. We supported it, we also stated the need for significant improvements at the implementation stage.

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