Bikes + Children, Pt. 2

Our first Bikes + Children episode was so inspiring we just had to host a second one! Children, Part 2 was the theme of BIKE MINDS’ fourth virtual event on April 21st, 2021.

Chris and his daughter Emily shared a fun story of their bike trip abroad where, despite Emily renting a bike that was too small for her, their family cycled 200km over four days – with lots of ice cream along the way.

Céline inspired and amazed us all with the story of her family’s nomadic life, having cycled 74,000km over 10 years, with two daughters born along the way.

Next, Robin brought about a different type of inspiration, sharing her story about her family’s multi-year switch to biking that started with her husband joining a charity ride and ended with her family ditching their SUV and living car-free.

Cécile closed off the evening with a suspenseful story of her son’s first leap of independence riding to school on his own for the first time, and the flurry of thoughts she felt as she anxiously waited for him to come home that day (spoiler: he made it, smiling from ear to ear!).

Chris and Emily McCue (2:43)

The McCues went on a family cycle trip in Normandy France when Emily was 8. It was 200km in 5 days and she rode it on a 20” bike. There were some tough times along the way, but they saw and experienced great things. Emily’s longest day was 65kms.

Chris McCue is an avid cyclist and an occasional photographer & guitarist, though if you ask him, he will say he’s more of a guitar owner than guitar player. He also enjoys spending time with family, camping, canoeing and hiking.

Emily McCue is eleven years old and is a competitive swimmer. Emily has many hobbies such as playing ukulele, knitting, all types of art & reading. Emily really enjoys cycling with her family & friends, and has completed some cycling and triathlon events.

Go directly to Chris and Emily’s story HERE.


Céline Pasche (11:44)

For the last 10 years, Céline and her family have been nomads on the roads of the world. They have cycled 78,000km on four continents, from China to Alaska, from Syria to New Zealand. Celine’s two daughters, Nayla and Fibie, were born along the way. The Pasches are now exploring the Great Northern Horizon.

The family documents their travels on their website, As A Way Of Life. They speak at events and webinars on a range of topics and have even published a book, Nomads in the Heart of the Elements.

Go directly to Céline’s story HERE.


Robin Richardson (24:45)

Robin has lived and cycled in small towns and big cities in California, New Jersey, Washington, and Ontario. After their family ditched their SUV for an active travel lifestyle, Robin became more active in her efforts to improve safety for active transportation in Toronto, and joined the Bike Brigade, a volunteer organization which makes deliveries to folks in need. Her next project is to offer a selection of electric cargo bikes for rent, helping people see how easy it is to swap car trips for bike trips. Her mission is to entice more people to give cycling a try!

You can find Robin on Twitter and Instagram @CanadaRobin, and you can keep up with her new cargo bike loaning company @HappyFietsCA.

Go directly to Robin’s story HERE.


Cécile Lecoq (38:44)

Cécile came to Ottawa from France as an exchange student in 2006 and never left. She’s passionate about sustainable mobility and determined to walk, bike and bus the talk. Her family has been happily living car-free for the past two years. Apart from cycling, reading about transit and listening to urbanism podcasts, Cécile enjoys spending time with her two boys, learning to play the guitar, and (hopefully soon) going to the theatre.

You can find Cécile on Twitter @cecile_lecoq.

Go directly to Cécile’s story HERE.


Join the BIKE MINDS Movement

Special thanks to the volunteers that made the event possible: Catherine, Rie, Suzanne, Gerry, and Robert.

Spreading the joys of cycling through storytelling has proven to be a powerful tool for empowering people to bring change to their communities. Why not join the effort? Here’s some ways you can join the movement:

Our next event will be sometime in Summer 2021. We are always accepting stories – consider submitting yours today!


Want to keep the stories rolling? Check out more recaps and videos from our past events below:

Bikes + Children

What could possibly be more positive and inspiring than stories related to kids and cycling? Children was the theme of the third BIKE MINDS virtual event on March 5th, 2020, and the Zoom audience was buzzing in anticipation.

Bradley shared the story of helping his special needs daughter find freedom and joy through cycling and eventually bike camping, bringing many of us to tears – especially when his daughter made a surprise appearance at the end! Next, Janice shared how, after realizing some of her students did not have access to bicycles, she started a massive community initiative that delivered 150 bikes to members of her community in one summer. Third was Karly, who shared their story of realizing the power of cycling through a bike trip with a supportive uncle, despite not seeing themselves as athletic. We closed off with Lotte, who travels the world teaching the Danish Cycling Games to school children, starting movements everywhere and sparking the next generation of bicyclists.

Bradley Fisher (2:15)

Bradley Fisher is a lifelong Chicagoan, teacher, husband, and father of two amazing daughters. He’s determined to live a life infused with adventure, nature and discovery. Passionate about inclusive bicycle travel, he’s never happier than riding with his special needs daughter, whether on a quick errand, a day ride, or a week long tour through the mountains of Idaho on their adaptive tandem, aptly named “Lilia’s Wings”.

Bradley is a member of the Out Our Front Door exploratory adventure organization. You can reach out to him at bradley@oofd.org, and learn more about OOFD’s Bike Camping for Everyone adaptive program here.

Go directly to Bradley’s story here.


Janice Battista Lowe (14:33)

Janice Battista Lowe is a high school teacher out of Malton, Ontario where she has been an educator for over 12 years. Janice has a specialty in Youth Outreach and started a community based organization called The G.L.E. Movement, which stands for Grow, Lead, Excel. Janice’s venture into the cycling community was sparked by the pandemic and the lack of bicycles in her school community of Malton. This then propelled her Summer Cycle 2020 initiative to target that need.

This past January, Janice was awarded the 2020 Phil Green Award by the City of Mississauga’s Cycling Advisory Committee, an award that recognizes a Mississauga resident or group who has shown exceptional effort to promote cycling in the community.

Go directly to Janice’s story here.


Karly Ross (26:16)

Karly Ross has been riding a bike since they were a child. From fun adventures with family to adapting to restrictions on urban mobility, they see cycling as a source of freedom and adventure. Beyond biking and growing food in their garden, they also tutor math and study computer science, all while playing with data and fostering community development as a member of the board of Bike Calgary. Drawing on early experiences of bicycling, these days their main passion is active transportation narratives and connecting others with the stories that inspire and illuminate mobility choices and challenges.

Go directly to Karly’s story here.


Lotte Bech (37:43)

Lotte Bech is Architect and Urban Planner and Consultant in Urban Cycle Planning. She is a member of Cycling Embassy of Denmark and the International Committee of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation. She is promoting Cycle Culture with Danish experiences on cycle education for children. She is a Cycling Games enthusiast sharing the method “Learning by Playing” on events, workshops and pilot projects in schools. So far cities in Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Taiwan and Japan are practicing the Danish Cycling Games. She also organizes “Bikeable City Masterclasses” in Copenhagen for foreign urban planners, politicians and NGOs.

You can access the book by the Danish Cyclists’ Federation with 20 cycling games for children for free here.

Go directly to Lotte’s story here.


Join the BIKE MINDS Movement

Special thanks to the volunteers that made the event possible: Catherine, Rie, Suzanne, Gerry, and Robert.

Spreading the joys of cycling through storytelling has proven to be a powerful tool for empowering people to bring change to their communities. Why not join the effort? Here’s some ways you can join the movement:

Due to popular demand (and more great story submissions), BIKE MINDS will return in Spring 2021 with a second edition of Bikes + Children. See you there!


Want to keep the stories rolling? Check out more recaps and videos from our past events below:

Bikes + Empowerment

How has cycling empowered you to bring change to your own life and the lives of others? Empowerment was the theme of the second BIKE MINDS virtual event, and storytellers from across the world were challenged to ponder these questions when they shared their stories.

Bikes + Empowerment was held on November 18, 2020 at 8PM EST continued the BIKE MINDS Virtual series, which kicked off in August 2020 with Bikes + Fate. With the help of BYCS and the Bicycle Mayor program, we assembled a diverse range of storytellers from Ecuador, Argentina, Mexico, Australia, and Japan.

The Zoom chat was abuzz throughout the event, with reactions of inspiration, laughter, and support. We heard stories from a lifetime cycling advocate, a mother who was determined to continue cycling after having children (and purchased the only cargo-bike in her city to do so), an entrepreneur who has helped his community rediscover the bicycle through tourism, an architect who is fostering a cargo-bike culture in Japan, and a beach-loving Australian who created a community bike ride that is for everyone.

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Areli Carreón (4:15)

Areli Carreón is a founding member of Bicitekas A.C. in Mexico City, which has promoted the use of bicycles as a means of transportation and as a means to create more humane cities since 1998. Areli was elected Bike Mayor of Mexico City during the 6th World Bycicle Forum in Mexico City. She is co-author of Mexico City’s Manual of Urban Cycling, among other documents on urban cycling and public policy. She is a member of the civic coordination of 35 organizations promoting the recognition of the right to safe, accessible, and sustainable mobility in the Mexican Constitution that will mandate the passing of the first Road Safety Law in Mexico.

Go directly to Areli’s story here: https://youtu.be/WAYqNiL20FQ?t=255


Jimena Perez Marchetta (20:12)

Jimena Perez Marchetta is a bike-enthusiast, passionate social worker and feminist who believes in the power of teamwork, towards encouraging sustainable mobility in the region. She is the co-founder of “Argentina en Bici”, a national organisation created by civilians. Also, with some of her friends she created “Las Bicibles Salta”, in the city of Salta, Argentina. Jimena is Bicycle Mayor of Salta City and has a diploma in Leadership for Transformation (UPAP-UNSAM). In 2020 she was elected as a remarkable woman of transport by the TUMI organization. In 2017, Jimena co-designed and installed the first private-use bike hangar in Latin America.

Go directly to Jimena’s story here: https://youtu.be/WAYqNiL20FQ?t=1212


Cristian Saenz de Viteri (28:08)

Cristian Saenz de Viteri is General Manager of Iguana Bike Tours S.A., a teacher at the University of Guayaquil, and bicycle mayor of Guayaquil. He is Ambassador in Fundación Enseña Ecuador and a member of the international network “Teach For All”. He is an engineer in International Business Management (UCSG) and holds a master’s degree in Educational Management and Leadersip from the UTPL and a diploma in Public Policies.

Go directly to Cristian’s story here: https://youtu.be/WAYqNiL20FQ?t=1688


Jullietta Jung (47:58)

Jullietta Jung is a beach-loving, Korean-born, Australian living in Sydney Australia. By day she leads the work at Transport for NSW to look at data to develop cycling insights. She’s been working there for the past 5 years in various transport planning roles. By night Jullietta is better known as the founder of Sydney Night Rides, a community of people who enjoy riding bicycles. Sydney Night Rides is not a cycling group and it’s not an advocacy group. It’s a safe space for people to enjoy a ride around Sydney at night.

Go directly to Jullietta’s story here: https://youtu.be/WAYqNiL20FQ?t=2878


Gakusen Iwasa (58:11)

Gakusen Iwasa is from Yokohama, near Tokyo, Japan. He’s part of the new generation of urban visionaries and bicycle advocates in Japan. In 2017, he took the master class by Copenhagenize Design. Then, Gakusen started to import the Danish cargo bike “Omnium” in order to make cargo bikes more popular in Japan. Now, he’s tackling making streets more friendly for people through the Cycling Embassy of Japan. He’s also interested in holding a Bike Minds event in Japan.

Go directly to Gakusen’s story here: https://youtu.be/WAYqNiL20FQ?t=3491


Special thanks to the volunteers that made the event possible: Catherine, Rie, Suzanne, Kayla, Francisco and Robert.

Join the BIKE MINDS Movement

Spreading the joys of cycling through storytelling has proven to be a powerful tool for empowering people to bring change to their communities. Why not join the effort? Here’s some ways you can join the movement:

BIKE MINDS will return in Winter 2021 with another virtual edition with the theme Bikes+Children. See you there!

Bikes + Fate

How did unexpected or unplanned events lead you to cycling and where you are now? Were there any random encounters or coincidences in your past that helped to create your love of cycling? Fate was the theme of the first BIKE MINDS virtual event, and storytellers from across Canada were challenged to ponder these questions when they shared their stories.

Bikes + Fate was held on August 12, 2020 at 8PM EST and signaled the debut of BIKE MINDS into the “virtual” event space. Our team of volunteers gathered stories from across Canada, from Olds, Alberta to Halifax, Nova Scotia for another night of stories.

Despite lacking the usual comforts of our in-person events – laughter, applause, and sometimes beer – the event was a hit. We heard about the interface of cycling with physical ability and migration, raising children who cycle through the winter, and the challenges and rewards of fostering a culture of cycling in one’s own city.

Matt Pinder hosted the event and opened with a powerful speech drawing attention to the need for actively anti-racist behaviours from everyone involved in cycling, if we truly want to create a space that is comfortable for everyone. He challenged the audience with the questions: “Does your community group have diverse representation where people are not being tokenized? When you make a demand of your politicians do you first reflect on your privilege and the impact of your requests on communities more vulnerable? Do you partner with or volunteer with organizations that focus on equity or that serve communities facing systemic oppression?”

Jillian Banfield (8:55)

Jillian Banfield is Halifax’s Bicycle Mayor. A disabled woman who found the freedom of movement – and the love of her life – through cycling, she passionately advocates for all the things that make active transportation more accessible.

Go directly to Jillian’s story here: https://youtu.be/1qP6ENG6xBg?t=535

Erin Riediger (21:00)

Erin Riediger is an architectural intern from Winnipeg, with a passion for humanist architecture and safe equitable cities. Erin’s podcast, Plain Bicycle follows a group of Canadians who travelled to the Netherlands to fill a shipping container with second hand Dutch bicycles, with the hopes of importing everyday cycling culture into North America.

Go directly to Erin’s story here: https://youtu.be/1qP6ENG6xBg?t=1260

Saba Shahsiah (34:45)

Saba is a member of BIKEPOC, a social cycling group creating safe spaces where BIPOC women, trans, femme and non-binary identifying folks in Toronto can ride their bikes and be empowered together. Riding a bike for her is an act resisting the status quo, and a tool for her independence and agency.

Go directly to Saba’s story here: https://youtu.be/1qP6ENG6xBg?t=2085

Felix Lee (51:17)

Felix Lee is a quirky cyclist who is passionate about all things single speed. He is a racer, an organizer, and a Cycling Canada official. He lives in rural Alberta with horses and chickens and cats.

Go directly to Felix’s story here: https://youtu.be/1qP6ENG6xBg?t=3077

Arcy Canumay (59:45)

Arcy Canumay grew up cycling on the neighbourhood streets of Metro Manila in the Philippines. For 5 years, he lived in Tokyo Japan and regularly cycled to the train station and around his neighbourhood. Now in Canada with his family, he is the Bicycle Mayor of Waterloo and is actively working with organisations and the community to make cycling a safe transportation option for everyone in the city.

Go directly to Arcy’s story here: https://youtu.be/1qP6ENG6xBg?t=3585

Kelly Granigan (1:11:52)

Kelly Granigan is a Professional Engineer by trade. In her personal life, she is passionate about the environment, and finding creative ways to save a little more money, while increasing overall happiness for her family. She lives with her partner and 2 kids in Edmonton, Alberta. Edmonton is a very car-centric city, but Kelly and her family find joy in moving about via foot, bike, and transit, year round.

Go directly to Kelly’s story here: https://youtu.be/1qP6ENG6xBg?t=4312


Special thanks to the volunteers that made the event possible: Catherine, Rie, Gerry, Suzanne, Kayla, and Robert.

The BIKE MINDS team hopes to host another virtual event this Fall, but we need more stories to make that happen! Do you have a bike-themed story to share? Submit it here: https://bikeminds.ca/submit-a-story/

Bikes + Limits

Mar 3, 2020 @ Curbside Cycle, Toronto
Story & photos by Robert Zaichkowski. Originally posted on Dandyhorse.

The BIKE MINDS storytelling series has covered a wide variety of bike related stories since its inception in 2018 involving themes such as belongingtravelcareer, and growth. The storytelling event even launched in Ottawa this past January with a second Ottawa event currently in the works. The theme for the Tuesday, March 3, 2020, event at Curbside Cycle was “Bikes and Limits” – illustrating how the power of bikes can be pushed to the limits, though there was no limit to the energy of the event’s emcee Janet Joy Wilson.

Jun Nogami

Jun Nogami – a University of Toronto engineering professor and author of the Biking in a Big City blog (and a regular dandyhorse contributor) – kicked things off in the fast lane by talking about the World Human Powered Speed Challenge, for which he is the U of T team’s faculty advisor and a chief timing official. The challenge is held annually at Battle Mountain, Nevada, on a straight section of State Road 305 known as the world’s fastest track. Riders have five miles (8 km) to accelerate and a 200 metre window where their speed is recorded before slowing down for one mile (1.6 km). The bikes are essentially recumbents with an aerodynamic shell. While earlier bikes such as the one Canadian Sam Whittingham used to reach 82.82 MPH (133.26 km/h) had clear windshields to see through, newer “camera bikes” and their aerodynamic improvements broke the record by at least 3 MPH (4.8 km/h) when first introduced in 2015 with the current record standing at 89.59 MPH (144.17 km/h).

Anne Fleming

Anne Fleming’s story was about a kayaking and mountain biking trip she and her husband took in Newfoundland 20 years ago, which she started with a brief aviation history about Gander. The town of 11,000 people welcomed over 6,000 during the September 11 attacks and was an important refuelling stop for early transatlantic flights since the airport was built in 1935 including during World War II. The area was known for wood, bogs, lakes, and rivers while a long hill – which Fleming likened to Poplar Plains – tested her limits. When the “tick mist” cleared, she saw the remains of a DC-4 plane crash from 1946 which she was not prepared to see, but her guide told an inspiring story. The crash prompted the largest rescue effort at the time which helicopters had to be de-assembled before being delivered to Newfoundland. 18 survivors were rescued over two to three days and the crash was featured in a CBC Land and Sea episode in 1992.

Mark Franklin

Mark Franklin is the founder of Career Cycles and spoke at a past BIKE MINDS event in 2018. His talk focused on his experiences as a trip leader for Backroads Active Travel based in Berkeley, California in which he led 25 people on a ride from Banff to Jasper. The job posting for trip leaders called for those serving others, hard working, sophisticated conversationalists, and problem solvers to meet the demands of an upper middle class clientele. After the application and interview, candidates then had to go to California for a weekend event where 60 people would compete for ten spots. They would respond to situations such as a suitcase being left behind, trying to raise and lower helium sticks, and go through tests involving problem solving, teamwork, mechanics, and public speaking. Franklin later designed his own trips including career counselling and left the audience with a new word – liminal – which refers to a transitional stage.

Najia Zewari

Najia Zewari moved from Afghanistan to Canada six-and-a-half years ago and co-founded the ck out of the Gateway Bike Hub in Thorncliffe Park. She reflected on how she felt depressed upon moving to Canada given she couldn’t connect with her surroundings. Through the Afghan Women’s Organization, she was among 15 women who took up CultureLink’s Bike Host program and Evergreen Brickworks also helped with bike training. Despite only being aware of her surroundings in 2017, Zewari’s experiences led her to learn bike mechanics through the Gateway bike hub, a group ride to Open Streets, and work with Markham Cycles before the Women’s Cycling Network started in October 2019. Zewari noted how the bike was a tool for empowerment and helped connect her with more communities.

Michael McMahon

Michael McMahon is a self professed “web geek” and talked about riding the BT700 with Melanie Chambers in which BT stands for butter tart. The BT700 is a 770 kilometre bike loop in Southwestern Ontario which starts and ends at St. Jacobs – a Mennonite community north of Waterloo – and passes through Owen Sound, Collingwood, and Orangeville. The ride is held at the end of the season with trail apples, tastings of beer, wine, and cider, crazy elevation gains, and close friendships made from such intense experiences. While there were several highlights, McMahon also mentioned some challenges such as how bringing a backpack was not a good idea, his tires were too narrow to handle some of the rougher terrain (40 mm tires were recommended), and some of the nights were as cold as 1’C in Mono Cliffs.

The final BIKE MINDS Toronto event for 2020 called “Bikes and Boundaries” will take place at the Ontario Bike Summit on Sunday, April 5 with tickets being available on March 20. The emcee left us all with a final message: We all can be “spokes” people for change, one story at a time.

Bikes + Growth

Jan 30, 2020 @ Curbside Cycle, Toronto
Recap and photos by Janet Joy Wilson & Jun Nogami. Video production and editing by Ryan Shissler, Low VELOcity Cycling. Originally posted on Dandyhorse.

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.

Julia Huys

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.

Video credit: Ryan Shissler, Low VELOcity Cycling

Kevin Dunal

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.

Ryan Shissler

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.

Video credit: Ryan Shissler, Low VELOcity Cycling

David Shellnut

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.

Video credit: Ryan Shissler, Low VELOcity Cycling

Robert Zaichowski

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.

Video credit: Ryan Shissler, Low VELOcity Cycling

Agata Rudd

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.

Video credit: Ryan Shissler, Low VELOcity Cycling

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! We can all be spokes-people for change … one story at a time.

Ottawa Debut

Jan 29, 2020 @ Mill Street Brew Pub, Ottawa
Story by Laura Mueller. Photos by Mark Davidson

The first-ever Ottawa edition of BIKE MINDS opened on Jan. 29, 2020 with a confession from event co-founder and host Matt Pinder to the sold-out crowd: BIKE MINDS isn’t just about storytelling – it’s an advocacy event. The launch of BIKE MINDS beyond Toronto featured a grab bag of tales, from personal reflections to trip recollections, and even a first for the event – a cycling-themed poem.

Linda Collette

Linda Collette lives in Ottawa and loves the diversity of people living in Hintonburg. She thinks it is an edgy neighbourhood, which makes it interesting. She love being close to bike paths and Gatineau Park.Through volunteer work, and being social, she has met incredible people who have worked hard to transform the community. One of her volunteering gigs includes being Mrs. Santa Claus at the Carleton Tavern on Christmas Day.

The evening began with a trip back in time on a Rocky Mountain adventure with Linda Collette and her friend, Denise. While the story took place 20 years ago, the sense of independence that Linda derives from cycling is still very much present to this day.

A mix of travel guidance, bike-repair advice and spectacle, Linda’s story did not fail to entertain. After recounting some of the iconic trails that formed the backdrop for the adventure, Linda scored some points with the bike mechanics in the room by explaining her MacGyver repair techniques, using cutlery to fix a flat tire and even replacing a bolt with a shoelace.

The climax of the story came when Linda described her friend flying over her and landing straight in the frigid Athabasca River – complete with a splash of water to the face for Linda to illustrate the point!

Denise Inglis

Denise Inglis is a cycling instructor extraordinaire.  She teaches people how to bike, safe biking in an urban environment, bike maintenance and a love of cycling.  She leads youth on cycling outings exploring the city on 2 wheels; She leads older adults on weekly cycling outings; and in her spare time she volunteers by delivering Meals on Wheels by bike, and enjoys chauffeuring her bike loving dog around town. If Denise looks familiar, it is because she also stars in many of the City of Ottawa bike tutorials.

Denise began her story by asking the audience what their lives would be like if they couldn’t ride a bike. Far from a thought experiment, she was describing the reality of many women in her community – in particular, those who are newcomers to Canada.

As a cycling instructor, Denise was recruited by fellow Velo Vanier volunteer Rose Anne Leonard to teach women how to ride a bike. Rose Anne, who ran the Velo Vanier’s free bike-share program, noticed that very few women took advantage of the service. Determined to change that, she recruited potential students by reaching out to women when they came to collect their children after school. Soon, Denise found herself instructing a new type of student.

Her very first student, Esther, made great progress in a matter of hours. Since then, Denise has taught many more women how to cycle – following in the footsteps of the Netherland’s renowned Mama Agatha.

The 2019 Bruce Timmermans Award winner also garnered a lot of questions about her other volunteer cycling gig as a meal-delivery courier for Meals on Wheels, operated out of the Good Companions Centre. Click here for more information.

Paul Galipeau

Paul learned to ride a bike before he learned to read and is a prolific routebuilder with the Ottawa Valley Bikepacking Collective. Through past positions with Parks Canada and the Rideau Trail Association Board and currently as RideWithGPS Ambassador, Paul’s passion for human-powered geographic exploration of Ottawa has unlocked an approach to self-supported endurance adventures that nearly anyone can take on. Follow Paul on Instagram @paulmsg.

Paul inspired and entertained the crowd with his TED Talk-style tale of following his heart – a.k.a. the boundary of the City of Ottawa.

Aiming to inspire, Paul encouraged attendees that if they were attending BIKE MINDS, they too were the kind of people who could bike the 300 km perimeter of the city in 24 hours. In fact, he’s looking for people who’d like to do just that this coming summer.

It will be Paul’s second time making the trek. The odyssey began in 2017, when he mapped out a route that closely followed the heart-shaped boundary of the city’s limits. An avid trip mapper, he posted the route to a local cycling group on Facebook, but didn’t get any takers.

Fast forward 638 days and Paul found himself home alone with a free weekend. Thinking the journey might take 48 hours, he set off from the Prince of Wales Bridge, heading west. Along the way, he couldn’t help but notice the irony of the Ottawa welcome signs, which promote Ottawa as a bike-friendly city – in rural locations devoid of any cycling infrastructure. But, the signs do send a message to drivers to share the road, and to Paul, that seemed to be working.

When he reached Ashton Village west of Ottawa, Paul was ready to throw in the towel, but a hot meal got him back in the saddle and he kept going until his bike lights burnt out at 1 a.m.

After a few hours of sleep, he was back at it, hopping barriers and exploring parts of the city that would be impossible to traverse by car.

If you are interested in joining Paul to repeat the journey this summer, you can get in touch with him via Instagram @paulmsg. If you’ve biked the perimeter of Ottawa or another municipality, Paul encourages you to use the hashtag #loopyourcity to share your trip.

Jay Heins

Jay is a dad, husband, son, entrepreneur, and huge Bon Iver fan, in that order. Works with Tanya at home doing education technology consulting. Escapes to the Gatineau Park by bike when things get hectic and thinks in poems while riding. Ambivalent racer: loves flow moments, dislikes crashing. Helps with organizing and comms for local cycling events including Tuesday Night Crits and the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series.

Jay treated the crowd to a creative interlude and a BIKE MINDS first – the performance of an original poem.

To open, Jay reflected on the parallels between riding a bike and reading poetry – the pleasure, vulnerability and joy, measured in moments. Jay thinks of poems while riding his bike.

The poem Jay wrote and performed is called Machinery of Joy.

Chris Bouchard

Chris Bouchard has worked in the public and private sectors, leading a variety of policy and infrastructure projects.  Working with researchers at the University of Ottawa, Chris’s forthcoming book will discuss how different governments are implementing cycling infrastructure.  Chris loves riding with friends and family. While inter-City adventuring, they have explored countries in Europe, Africa and North America by bike.

Next up was Chris Bouchard, who recently moved to Ottawa for a job in academia following a decade-long career in active transportation planning in the City of Toronto.

While they worked with brilliant minds in Toronto, Chris noticed a gap. Even the most perfect transportation plan would not get people home safely because transportation is a social process.

That’s where the machinery of government comes in – something that Chris is now studying and writing a book about.

One story Chris reflected on is a network of cycling trails that were built not with the support of a pro-cycling mayor, but rather, under the leadership of Rob Ford. The mechanics of how different governments are implementing cycling infrastructure is now the focus of Chris’s work as a researcher at the University of Ottawa.

Chris came to urbanism from a very interesting starting point, having hand delivered Jane Jacobs’ manuscript for Dark Age Ahead while working as a bike messenger.

Shawn Smith

Shawn Smith is a professional engineer with 16 years of experience in the transportation sector. In his current role as Senior Project Manager at WSP in Ottawa, he is helping build more active and healthy communities across Canada.  Shawn can often be seen cycling around his neighbourhood with his wife and three kids, spreading smiles, warming hearts, and dreaming up ways to get more people on bikes.

Shawn’s story, entitled “My Journey of Self Discovery: Cycling at the Speed of Life” detailed a journey from childhood to transportation engineer and author, illustrated by photos.

As a child growing up in the east end of Ottawa, Shawn experienced the freedom of getting around on his own by bike, and celebrating cycling by displaying his elaborately decorated bike  in a local bike parade.

But like many teenagers, he soon traded his two wheels for four and lost touch with cycling for a whole decade. Eventually, while working as a highway engineer at the provincial Ministry of Transportation, Shawn took a temporary posting in Thunder Bay. There, he rediscovered his love of cycling through a 4km commute, which he often extended by taking the scenic route. 

When he returned to his office in Toronto, Shawn tried biking to work, but felt something was lacking. He formed a bike users group at his workplace and felt the success of a few wins: indoor bike storage was added, and the group held lunch-and-learn sessions for other interested staff.

Shawn wanted to do more to influence his colleagues and his profession. He made the leap into an active transportation role in York Region, where he was able to see the implementation of his big idea for a median cycling facility to protect cyclists from highway ramps.

Now back working in Ottawa, Shawn also published a book, called Happy Trails, which details 40 biking and hiking adventures in and around the Greater Toronto Area.

Cécile Lecoq 

Cécile came to Ottawa from France on a one-year exchange program in 2006, and never went back. She’s passionate about sustainable mobility and determined to walk, bike and bus the talk. When she’s not reading about urbanism, she enjoys spending time with her two boys, playing the piano and going to the theatre.

Cécile’s story opened with a description of observing Car Free Day by making the nerve-wracking, 15 km trek to work by bike for the first time since moving to Aylmer five years prior. 

She never considered herself a motorist. In fact, Cécile works at a transit agency. But she had been driving to work every day for one reason – her 18-month-old son.

Cécile detailed a struggle that many parents face – the search for affordable and accessible daycare. When she was offered a $7 per day daycare spot for her youngest son, she jumped at the chance – only to later discover how difficult it would be to take him there by bike and get to work on time. 

Eventually, Cécile decided to make a change – she gave up the affordable daycare spot for a more convenient (but more expensive) option. That allowed her to get back to commuting by transit, giving her time to read books en route, which she thinks led to a promotion at work. 

Later, when their car needed to be replaced, Cécile’s family decided to get an electric cargo bike instead. This big improvement in her quality of life all started with that one Car Free Day bike commute.

The Ottawa volunteer team was proud to host this debut event but needs your help to keep the series going! Submit your story today and be featured at one of our next events.

The BIKE MINDS Ottawa event organizers: Rie Nakamura Drolet, Mark Davidson, Suzanne Woo, and Matt Pinder

Bikes + Community

March 31, 2019 @ Ontario Bike Summit
Story by Joan Milway. Photos by David Keogh.

How does cycling help people to find and create a sense of community? The March 2019 installment of BIKE MINDS aimed to answer this question. The event was held in partnership with Share the Road to kick off the annual Ontario Bike Summit, and featured the largest BIKE MINDS audience yet – 120 people! Jamie Stuckless, executive director of Share the Road welcomed the large crowd to the summit, and Matt Pinder shared an intro on the value of community and the mission of BIKE MINDS.

Sarah Bradley

Cycle Toronto is a member-supported, not-for-profit organization that works to make Toronto a healthy, safe and vibrant cycling city for all. They focus on advocacy, education and encouragement in order to shape policy and infrastructure, and build community to transform our city’s cycling culture. They engage a diversity of people in their work, pursuing evidence-based solutions that make cycling a viable option for all Torontonians.

The first speaker of the evening was Sarah Chau Bradley of Cycle Toronto. In her presentation, titled Finding my way by bike wherever I land, Sarah spoke about her experience growing up in downtown Toronto biking around wherever she had to go, and discovering her city by bike through bike raves, races and fundraising rides. When she moved to different cities around North America she was always able to find community and things to do with a bike – even when she was working on a farm in rural British Columbia.

Sarah told the group about how even though Cycle Toronto is known for their advocacy work, they also do quite a bit of work educating and encouraging people to ride their bikes more. Cycle Toronto hosts a wide range of group rides that are open to everyone, and can be a great place to form friendships and make memories. Even if you haven’t ridden a bike since you were a child, joining a Cycle Toronto group ride is a surefire way to find community.

Dave Shellnutt

Dave grew up cycling on the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada. No​w, Dave cycles year round to work as a lawyer in Toronto representing injured cyclists, ensuring they get the support they need. Unique to most lawyers in this field, Dave takes a proactive view of penalty enforcement when it comes to car drivers who have dangerously or negligently hit his cycling clients. He advocates with the police, prosecutors and city officials to ensure that the toughest penalties are applied.

Next up was Dave Shellnutt, otherwise known as The Biking Lawyer. Dave spoke about how he has been able to use his legal background to support the cycling community. Through representing injured cyclists, Dave has seen how careless drivers can be and has become a more defensive cyclist as a result – ringing his bell, wearing a camera while riding, and never instigating or escalating a conflict. Although the constant defensiveness can be draining, Dave has found positivity and community in advocacy – whether it be through attending a ghost bike ride or a die-in, or providing free “Know Your Rights” workshops to people who ride bikes. Dave shared that it is profoundly invigorating to give back, show up and support your community.

Caitlin Lee

Caitlin Lee is a fourth-year civil engineering student at the University of Toronto with a personal vision to design safer, more connected and efficient cities. Growing up in the suburbs, biking has been her go-to way to explore new places and get some fresh air. When she’s not worrying about the next problem set or assignment due, she enjoys combining biking with photography, documenting her adventures and capturing the new sights she sees.

Caitlin Lee shared a story of her journey of growth, adventure and belonging while biking in the ‘burbs, and how she found a home away from home in Brampton. When Caitlin moved to Brampton to stay with her aunt during her internship at the Region of Peel after her third year at University of Toronto, she began cycling the five kilometre trip to work everyday, This opened up a new side of Brampton to her.

A flat tire one day led Caitlin to a drop-in repair session at the Brampton Bike Hub, where she was first welcomed into Brampton cycling community. She joined PedalWise, where she received mentorship and learned about nutrition and how to properly handle her bike. Caitlin started documenting her trips on Strava, and explored parks and conservation areas by bike. She joined Bike Brampton community rides, and for her goodbye Brampton ride with her mentor she went for a 100 kilometre ride to Tottenham, breaking her own personal record. All in all, discovering the bike community in Brampton changed her entire experience living there.

James Hetmanek

James Hetmanek is the President of bicycle-power event service company Tune Your Ride and Director of the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival. In 2019 the TBMF is celebrating 10 years of presenting free concerts in and between Toronto’s great community parks on stages powered by stationary bicycles.

James Hetamek from Tune Your Ride was next up, talking about his experience connecting people, parks, music and bikes at the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival. In partnership with Cycle Toronto and Arts in the Parks, Tune Your Ride leads group bike rides from park to park with different concerts in each park. The concerts themselves are pedal powered by members of the audience. Without the support of volunteers and funding partners, the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival would have never been possible. According to James, when you bring bikes and arts together you create and nurture spiritual capital.

James shared that while this will be the last year for the TBMF, after this year he will be putting his energy into a new project called Best of Our Neighbourhoods, or BOON. BOON brings the elements of the TBMF to parks around the city, but activations will be led by local groups to make them more community-focused.

Janet Joy Wilson

Janet Joy Wilson is Artistic Director & Co-founder of The Reading Line. She produced six free events to connect authors, cyclists, community changemakers & businesses on literary group bicycle rides along routes requiring cycling infrastructure improvement. She has dedicated volunteer time locally and globally to Cycle Toronto, Habitat for Humanity and Canadian Ecology Centre to name just a few. She is committed to helping make this city a better place one book and one street at a time.

Janet Joy Wilson from The Reading Line gave an enthusiastic overview how she bridges communities using bikes and books on “Book Rides”. She started The Reading Line with a coworker once they realized their shared love of bike advocacy. The Reading Line is a group bike ride that goes from park to park, with multiple stops where different authors read from their books. They have even had Toronto’s poet laureate out at one event, which drew lots of media! In addition to creating bike advocates out of book lovers. She uses the ride as an opportunity to promote bike powered businesses and partner with organizations like Evergreen Canada. With grants and funding she was able to steadily scale up the event and expand to the point where last year hundreds attended the Viaduct edition of The Reading Line.

Justin Jones

Justin Jones is a project manager, sustainability professional and rabble rouser with over a decade of experience working to make communities happier, more accessible and more sustainable. He has been working with the Share the Road Cycling Coalition for 6 years, helping communities all over Ontario become better places for people on bikes. He lives in Collingwood, Ontario, where he is often found on the Town’s numerous trails with his wife, two daughters and two Golden Retrievers.

Our sixth storyteller was Justin Jones, who shared his life story of bikes, community and family. Hailing from Carstairs, Alberta, teenage Justin would have never pictured himself where he is today – living in Collingwood and transporting his young family around by cargo bike. When Justin turned sixteen, he bought his first car, and it was everything to him. He drove his friends everywhere with him, even the 300 metres between his school and the convenience store.

When he eventually moved to Toronto to do his Masters, Justin began by walking everywhere, but as his friend group and community grew, he had to start taking the TTC. After just a few weeks, he began to become frustrated with transit. He became bike-curious, and tried it out. The experience was life changing, and he began using his bike as a tool – the best tool – to get from A to B in the city. When he moved to Hamilton he founded an advocacy campaign called Yes We Cannon and built a community around the vision of a safer street with quality cycling infrastructure, which was eventually approved and built by the city. He made friends, and together they helped people see their streets in a different way.

Sabat Ismail

Sabat is a student and a year-round cyclist who is interested in city-building. Her love of cycling lies in the bicycle’s ability to create space for radical re-imagining.

Our headliner for the evening was Sabat Ismail, who spoke about bikes, community and empowerment. Sabat began riding in her Markham basement, with her training wheels and her dad teaching her. Eventually she made it out onto the sidewalk, and continued to ride her brother’s hand-me-down bikes. Finally, in June of 2014 her dad offered to buy her a new bike! She got a neon green CCM and biked all over Markham – and found it to be way better than the local bus. She found it empowering to be in charge of her own mobility, and interacted with her community and neighbourhood in new ways.

When she moved to Toronto, Sabat began going to Bike Pirates and built her first bike at their trans and women Sundays. Whereas before going to Bike Pirates, she wasn’t aware of how much space she wasn’t taking up, she suddenly felt an empowerment to take it up! This raised some questions, including: who do we offer space to in this world, and at who’s expense? Sabat met a woman from Black Girls Do Bike, and was inspired to start BikePOC, a group for BIPOC (Black, Indigineous People of Colour) who identify as women, trans or non binary. The mission of the group is to create a safer space and generate exposure for these folks in the cycling community.

Bikes+Community was the last BIKE MINDS event of the Spring 2019 season. Did you attend an event in 2019? Please fill out our feedback survey to help us improve for future events!

Bikes + Career

Feb 27, 2019 @ Fix Coffee + Bikes, Toronto
Story by Caitlin Lee. Photography by David Keogh.

Despite the snowy weather, it was a full house at Fix Coffee + Bikes for the sixth episode of BIKE MINDS. This episode’s theme was Bike+Careers. We heard stories about how some have built their career with the help of bikes and how others have used their life experiences to improve active transportation for the next generation.

Armi de Francia

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Armi de Francia is a city builder and Active Transportation Coordinator who strives to enable more communities to receive the benefits of active and sustainable transportation. She has contributed to active transportation and community engagement projects in the GTHA, Montreal, and Ottawa. Armi realized how bikes can leverage the potential of communities through her experiences growing up in the suburbs, travelling, working with schools, and implementing community events. In this episode of Bike Minds, Armi will share stories of how bikes connect people to opportunities and to each other in areas beyond downtown Toronto.

To kick off the event, Armi de Francia, Active Transportation Planner and Coordinator spoke about how her upbringing in the suburbs shaped her career in active transportation and how bikes have the potential to leverage racialized communities.

Armi grew up biking as a kid in Scarborough despite the lack of infrastructure, bike racks and even a helmet. A near miss collision when she was 12 years old stopped her from biking and and this continued when she eventually moved to Pickering and was only able to drive and take transit to get around. She completed her Master in Urban Planning in Montreal and was inspired by the bike infrastructure and walkability there. That experience, combined with attending a road safety workshop by Cycle Toronto, allowed her to gain the confidence to start riding again.

In 2015, Armi attended a presentation by Veronica O. Davis about mode equity and she learned that the neighbourhood she grew up in was not the only racialized community that lacked access to bike infrastructure. With this in mind, she shared examples of how we can create spaces for marginalized people to share their experiences. Becoming a bike host mentor allowed her to share her own experiences and through The Untokening, a multi-racial collective, she met other racialized bike advocates and found a place for her own voice. Armi has learned how bikes can connect people and create freedom and through her lived experiences she is committed to leveraging racialized communities in the suburbs so they can receive the benefits of active transportation and overcome barriers she had while growing up.

John Spagae and Ollie Sheldrick

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BikeSpace is a community-built web app supported by the City of Toronto and Cycle Toronto. It lets people report the issues they find when trying to park their bikes in the city. Contribute to Bikespace’s open data set and help reinforce the need for improved bike parking in Toronto.

Next up was John Spagae and Ollie Sheldrick, Web Developers for Bike Space, a community web-based app that allows users to identify and report bike parking issues. They talked about the origins of Bike Space, its evolution with support from agencies and the community and what they have in store for the future of the app.

Finding bike parking that isn’t already full, occupied by abandoned bikes, or in poor condition is a struggle that many cyclists face. Recognizing this issue, John and Ollie wanted to create a platform that could address this problem and be entirely user-driven. Thus, Bike Space was born through a partnership of Civic Tech Toronto, the City of Toronto and Cycle Toronto. Through Bike Space, users anonymously report bike parking issues with information about the type of issue, location, date and time of the encounter and users can send a photo for context.

Bike Space had a successful launch and gained a lot exposure from news coverage and social media. However, John and Ollie emphasized that a small project like Bike Space wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers behind it. Developing Bike Space was more than just the technology involved; a lot of time, energy, talent and coffee was devoted to bringing the app to where it is now and the volunteer team is currently researching ways to improve the impact of Bike Space so that user participation can continue to drive positive change. Bike Space is available at www.bikespace.ca and the Bike Space team is always welcoming requests for new features to add in their next update.

Fiona Sauder

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Fiona Sauder is an Ottawa born actor, director, writer, and educator who has worked throughout Ontario and internationally. She has had the pleasure of collaborating with such companies as Soulpepper Theatre, Canadian Stage, The Blyth Festival, Nightwood Theatre, Driftwood Theatre, Young People’s Theatre, YES Theatre and Theatre Gargantua. Fiona is a Dora Award winning performer and creator, and recipient of the Timshell Challenge Award for Excellence and the Jon Bannerman Scholarship for Theatre. She is a graduate of George Brown Theatre School and the proud Co-Artistic Director of Bad Hats Theatre.

Fiona Sauder is an actor, writer and co-artistic director at Bad Hats Theatre. She shared how stories come from unexpected places and how two bike collisions became the inspiration for her theatrical production.

Her story started in 2014, when she was working as a server and biked to work regularly, taking the same route every day. It was in June of 2014 where a typical commute to work quickly turned upside when she was struck by a turning van. Beyond the scrapes and bruises, Fiona realized just how “innately theatrical a city street is with all the moving parts”. This collision became the spark that inspired Fiona to start writing a play about bikes and cities.

As Fiona began to write the play, she started to examine the concept of collisions, and began experimenting with chance, luck and timing. A second collision at the same intersection in 2015 left her in the hospital, but she came out with a profound understanding of just how sudden, unrepeatable and precious these collisions were.

With the help of talented artists and cyclists, Fiona has been been developing her piece, The Bike Show. The Bike Show is and ongoing project about challenge and discovery and includes original music and gestures. While literal collisions became the source material for the story Fiona was able to tell, she reminds everyone that “the smallest instances have significance and can lead to monumental expressions”. More information on the Bike Show and Bad Hats Theatre can be found at: https://www.badhatstheatre.com/.

Anthony Smith

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Anthony Smith does geospatial analytics for urban development and transit planning at Metrolinx. He uses big data and storytelling to guide placemaking and new mobility options for people.

Anthony Smith is an Advisor at Metrolinx, where he conducts geospatial analytics for urban development and public transit planning. He shared his story about growing up, finding a job, love and facing adversity.

Growing up, Anthony was introduced to bikes in high school when he joined his school’s bike team and fell in love with mountain biking. His career in bikes started at a Sporting Life where he began by selling bikes to customers for three years. After receiving his Masters in City Planning, Anthony worked at WSP and most recently Metrolinx, helping build a regional commuter cycling network.

Through biking Anthony also found his love, Stephanie. They share a passion for biking, embarking on journeys together and competing on the same cyclocross team. However, it was also through biking regularly that Anthony’s life changed through a collision with a car. He was left with a fractured vertebrae and is still recovering from the incident.

With support from friends and family, Anthony’s collision initiated a petition to change the legal system and protect vulnerable road users. He emphasized that while his career was built because of bikes, his passion to do what he does is to plant trees for the future and invest in our youth.

Brian Doucet

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Brian Doucet is a Canada Research Chair in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo. Originally from Toronto, he lived in the Netherlands from 2004 – 2017. Since returning to Southern Ontario, he has used professional and personal experiences of cycling in Holland to advocate for better bike infrastructure within his own community and his research is now oriented towards the relationship between mobility and neighbourhood change. Despite primarily cycling to work, he does not consider himself to be a ‘cyclist.’

The headliner for the evening, Brian Doucet, is the Canada Research Chair at the University of Waterloo. Brian shared his insights on Dutch bike culture and road design from his time living in the Netherlands from 2004 to 2017 and what this means in the context of mobility in cities. Despite cycling to work, he does not consider himself to be a “cyclist”.

Brian opened his talk by sharing an album of pictures he captured of everyday, ordinary cyclists riding in Holland that would only be seen as abnormal elsewhere. From a young girl standing on the back of a bike texting to a parent holding their infant child while they ride. He was caught off guard by the stark differences in transportation between the Netherlands in Canada.

Reflecting on his research work and how people get around, Brian explained about how the infrastructure in the Netherlands is so successful. Firstly, he shared how the Dutch design things simply with safe and separated cycling facilities. Whether it’s big connections like the Hovenring roundabout or small connections like street crossings, Brian noted that it’s not just about the kilometers, but rather designing the correct connections to the entire network. The main lesson he took away was that while the culture and climate between the Netherlands and Toronto are much different, the Netherlands spends $50/person per year while Toronto only spends $3/person per year.

When he moved back to Ontario, in Kitchener-Waterloo, Brian’s perspective changed. He a lot of saw in Kitchener that could be improved, from sharrows to discontinued bike lanes. Thinking about the relationship between cycling, mobility and neighbourhood change allowed Brian to see an opportunity to use his professional knowledge and personal experience in the Netherlands to advocate for better cycling infrastructure.

He explained how there are two mobility experiences in Toronto due to the way transportation infrastructure has historically been built. “It’s not drivers versus cyclists”, Brian notes. It is simply: those who can only drive and those who have mobility choices to drive, walk, cycle or take transit. The real challenge for cities like Toronto is how to bring mobility choices to places that were designed for driving.

The Winter 2019 BIKE MINDS series continues later this month with Bikes+Community at the Courtyard by Marriott Toronto Downtown on February 27. Join our mailing list for updates!

Bikes + Travel

January 30, 2019 @ Fix Coffee + Bikes, Toronto
Story by Michelle K. Photos by David Keogh.

BIKE MINDS kicked off its 2019 storytelling season at Fix Coffee ­+ Bikes with a focus on the impact of traveling on the saddle, unexpected destinations, and the challenges and hurdles overcome along the way.

Matteo Zammit

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Matteo rode his bike from Toronto to Miami, attempting to understand life with less money by only spending $50 on food, relying on dumpster diving, fishing, foraging and the barter system. He then spent three months in Haiti, followed by four years living out of saddlebags cycling North and Central America volunteering and following permaculture/appropriate technology/natural building projects and hubs. While traveling, he explored how permaculture and off the grid design can help people rich and poor lead better lives, while also protecting our world.

Our first storyteller, Matteo, shared lessons from his travels throughout the Americas. Matteo’s journey was not only one of self-sustenance and adventure, but one of cultivating awareness of the suffering of others.  He traveled about 8,500 kilometres in North and Central America for four years with only four saddlebags, and very little money (about $1,000 per year).

After living for a year in Colombia at age 17, Matteo returned to Toronto, quickly disgusted by its decadence and frivolousness. He began to live a life centred on appreciating the value of money: “I was trying to instill into myself the principle that every cent wasted was an insult to the causes that needed it more.” After a summer of “negative thinking”, he decided to stop moping and return to “see more suffering to shock me into reality.”

The gift, he says, of his travels in the Americas was the awakening of his passion for permaculture and sustainable living. The pressure of modern life has caused many cultures to lose vital traditions of self-discovery, such as being forced to travel solo – a “good education” enabling one to consciously look, and “feel and see today’s suffering of oneself and others”, engaging with things that are hard, embracing suffering with “reverence and gratitude”, as Matteo puts it, all for the betterment of the human species.

Mark Takefman

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Mark has worked in business development and administration for over 30 years and has been an organizational developmental officer in the citizen sector in the US, Canada, India and China.

Mark shared his experience starting and guiding a bicycle tour in Chengdu, China, a city in which he lived for five years while working for a NGO, the Chengdu Urban Rivers Association.  He found himself always driving to Anlong village for work projects, finally realizing “this is crazy, we can bike there!”

He worked with Natooke, a custom bicycle shop, to plan and host regular rides to Anlong, a sustainable farming community about 40 kilometres away, using existing separated bicycle paths, backcountry roads and farmers’ fields to guide the way. Interest was instant, with groups of over 50 people, comprised of locals, expats and students participating.

Laurie-Ann Tao

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Laurie-Ann is a climbing instructor and coach, working as a supply teacher at Havergal College and at Basecamp Climbing, along with spending her spare time working at Mountain Equipment Co-op. Laurie-Ann is a professional adventure seeker and spontaneous traveler and can always be found planning her next trip.

Laurie-Ann, the third storyteller of the night, and self-proclaimed “attempted cyclist”, began cycling in the city last summer with the encouragement of her roommate, BIKE MINDS’ own Matt Pinder.  She previously thought it unfathomable, but being a thrill-seeker, decided that “cycling fits right into that!”.  She now rides in the city, even at night – at times with a pizza in hand.

With admittedly little cycling experience, Laurie-Ann decided to complete a bike tour last November, giving herself two weeks prior to departure – one week to decide if she was serious about it and one week to prepare. She had no idea where she would go.

After two weeks of questions, and much doubt, she decided “F that”, getting a friend to help her put together a touring bike ready for the road.  She ended up traveling 230 kilometres in 25 hours, heading eastward from Toronto to Prince Edward County.  Although it was challenging as it rained 80% of the time, and she experienced what it was like to ride in hail and high winds, she found solo cycling gave her so much time to think, to feel.

Her advice to others, including novices, is to “just go.” Her next plan is to not endure much legwork on two wheels – that is, she is planning a motorcycle trip to Colombia in two years!

Omar Khan and Udai Kapila

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Omar is an avid cyclist, spending a lot of time on his bike, whether it is commuting to work, moonlighting as a delivery guy or going out for leisurely rides in the city.  His bicycles are central to his life in Toronto. Udai is a 20-something professional that has lived and worked downtown for 10 years. He is passionate about finding happiness in his daily life and has separation anxiety issues with his bike. In the summer of 2016, the two became Canadian citizens and decided to drop everything to see the country by bike. So they took the train from Toronto to Vancouver and spent the next 70 days biking their way to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Over the course of the journey, they were immersed in the sheer immensity of Canada, the kindness of its people and the joy of being on a bike for the majority of their waking hours.

Omar and Udai, although four years apart in age, knew each other and grew up in Dubai together. They also each moved to Canada (again four years apart), both becoming citizens in 2016.  After some time taking transit from downtown Toronto to and from work in Mississauga together, they decided to become commuter cyclists, gradually progressing to biking to Niagara Falls. But they wanted to do something bigger, so they planned a bike trip across Canada, from British Columbia to Newfoundland, buying their ticket to Vancouver a year in advance to give them time to prepare.

“Cycling is suffering”, which is what is actually great about it, notes Omar. Despite a rough start (a crash on the highway within the first half hour), the Rockies became their “training” ground, where they had to complete three difficult passes – Mount Coquihalla, Rogers and Kicking Horse.  They discovered the Prairies were not completely flat but presented the challenges of maximum exposure and wind resistance. From there, they travelled the edges of the Great Lakes, into the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and back into Canada via Sault Ste. Marie.  They continued into Ontario, and onto the Great Trail, eventually reaching the Atlantic Ocean.

All along their journey, they encountered generous hosts via Warm Showers, meeting lots of cyclists along the way, all the while noticing and absorbing how culture and language changes across the Canadian landscape in real time. Their main take-away from their cross-country journey was the unforgettable people they encountered and interacted with.

Jacqueline Diaz

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Jacqueline is a seasonal forestry worker in Northern British Columbia during the summers. It was through tree planting that she was introduced to the world of bike touring. In 2016 she hitchhiked to Victoria, built a bike at a co-op, attached buckets to it, and pedaled to Mexico City. It was a life-altering trip and she refuses to shut up about it. Most recently, Jackie has joined Charlie’s Freewheels through their build-a-bike program, and advanced mechanics workshops with the goal of using cycling as an educational tool to make a difference in her community.

The night’s headliner, Jackie, began her talk reliving the moment of her arrival to her grandmother’s house in Mexico City after months on the road: the streets became familiar, she turned off her GPS, the realization of the miles behind her, and the aloof reaction of her relatives when she arrived!  She had cycled thousands of kilometres from Victoria, BC, to Mexico City in the span of four months.

Although she was not an avid cyclist, she had been intrigued by bike tour stories she heard from colleagues while tree planting in BC.  At first, she experienced many doubts and probing questions; with the help and encouragement of the Victoria bike co-op, Recyclistas, she built a road-ready bike – complete with bucket panniers – within a week and a half. Her bike, “Baby Frankie”, was born.  Despite being secretly nervous (to the point of wishing someone would steal her bike), she forced herself to post an #accountabilitypost on Instagram and began her journey.  “Why?” was the question she encountered most, and to this her response was it would be a trip of ultimate self-sufficiency, one of complete independence, solitude and moments with wilderness.  Well, these were her expectations.

It took no time at all for these expectations to be shattered, and the reality was that she was hardly ever alone on the journey, meeting people from all over the world, and experiencing unforgettable moments, such as crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, with a group of other cyclists.  These encounters have become lifelong friendships; she maintains contact with many that she met on her trip – the amazing adventure was in the people she met.  Even though she doubted herself every single day she was on the road, she did it – something that she remembers even now when dealing with daily difficulties.

As Jacqueline says, there is “no wrong way, no right way” when travelling by bike.  The key is to let life happen, and leave the door of spontaneity open.  Her plan is to travel to Argentina by bike next!