The morning was beautiful. The sun was shining sweetly and offsetting the coolness in the air. I reached Wychwood Barns, the meeting point in my area, to convene with other cyclists and ride together down to City Hall.
Ride to Work Day is a feature of Bike Month in Toronto and cyclists gather at various spots around the city and converge upon the epicentre of city planning.
We made our way on roads with bike lanes (I love the Davenport lane), led by City Councillor Joe Mihevic, who represents Ward 21 (St. Paul’s West), in which the Barns and my apartment are located.
I’m thrilled to have a councillor who is such a dedicated cycling advocate. I remember a few months ago when a cyclist tragically died from complications from a fall he sustained on Wychwood Avenue. He fell because his bike tires had become lodged in the streetcar tracks.
This again raised the issue of removing the tracks on this street as they have long been decommissioned. Another city councillor, Denzil Minnon-Wong, suggested that cycling be banned on Wychwood Avenue. This was a nonsensical suggestion and I’m glad that my councillor recognized that.
Back to the ride …. our group of 6 or 7 started picking up more members. By the time we approached Bloor & Yonge, we had melded with other convoys from the north and eastern parts of the city and it was difficult to identify one’s original posse.
Volunteers handed out t-shirts, cyclists talked about the state of cycling in the city or their gear, baskets, trailers, etc. It was good to see kids there as well. After a few minutes the entire group started heading south on Yonge and with the assistance of police on bikes, we were able stay mostly as a large group as we moved through the downtown core.
As we approached City Hall, there were a couple hundred people there. They had set up big corrals for cyclists to lock up, which was great. Many of the same vendors and organizations who were at the MEC Bike Fest were also set up in Nathan Phillips Square. A motley crew of helmets, suits, reflective vests and skirts, the diverse group of people that came to this event milled around the tables and started to line up for a free breakfast.
Volunteers dolled out donated delicacies: hot pancakes topped with fresh fruit and maple syrup, custard tarts, bananas, apples, oranges … there was also free coffee (which was apparently delicious but alas, I’m a tea drinker and there was none to be had).
Music would have been a nice addition to the event as it was a little quiet until the speeches started. A personality from CP24 was the emcee for the event and while I appreciated that they brought in someone with great public speaking skills, I doubt that this person is a cyclist. It felt more corporate than authentic.
The rest of the speakers were great. CycleToronto, the lead organizers of Bike Month, were on-hand to launch the next four weeks of rides, clinics and events.
A number of city councillors read out a credo about the City’s commitment to cycling (did they say, “I, Rob Ford, …” at one point? It drew laughs).
A big group of students from a local high school stood on the stage and we learned how they were participants in a bike repair course. This is a positive outcome following the raid of Igor Kenk’s bike shop, in which hundreds of stolen bicycles were seized and put to better use, such as being donated to school and community bike programs.
A representative from the school said that since they improved the infrastructure for students to lock up bikes at the school, they now have the highest percentage of students who ride to school. What’s more, attendance is up and lateness is down. How cool!
Another cyclist told me about Critical Mass, a monthly event that would be taking place that Friday. I vowed to attend – it would be another first. And I did! Read about my first Critical Mass Ride.
As I rode off from City Hall that morning, I felt good to be part of something. Proud to be a cyclist. Encouraged by the leadership and commitment the councillors showed that morning. And fueled by good eats. It was a great start to the day and to Bike Month.