Breaking Old Chains

Last Saturday the 6th day of April was the first warm day of spring – a mix of sun and cloud and 14°C.  When I arrived just before 3pm, the shop was busy with all the stands occupied. First things first though, I poured in some water and put the kettle on. Sam and John were busy helping out people at the stands. Brad had just arrived to take over from John. Kathleen was up at the front desk, answering questions about parts and accessories, and cashing people out with their purchases and donations. It had been busy – the racks at the front of the shop had empty spaces and Kathleen said three bikes had been sold since noon.

The coffee was brewed so I poured myself a cup and went up to the front of the shop. Just then someone came in with a bike. Her name was Nora and she’d never been to bikeSauce before. I pointed out the signs hanging down from the roof. “That’s the lowdown.” I explained that bikeSauce is a DIY bike shop, 100% volunteer run and we would do what can to help her, but that she was the mechanic. She was fine with that.

A couple of stands had just come free so we got her bike up onto one of them. She was from out west – west Toronto that is (Yonge Street being the marker of what marks east & west) and had somehow heard of bikeSauce after looking up Bike Pirates, a west end bike collective similar but not identical in scope to bikeSauce. Nora didn’t have a specific issue she needed to address, but wanted to get her bike back in shape after the winter. 

I suggested that she check the wear on her chain. Often I find that people don’t realise the significance of taking care of their bicycle chain, of keeping it clean and lubed and what it means for the good functioning of their bike and the enjoyment of their ride. Replacing the chain when it reaches 75% wear extends the life of the cassette and the chain rings (crankset) of your bike – which is good because those are more expensive to replace than the chain.

I handed her the chain wear tool from the tool board, and the reading she got from the tool was 100% wear – time for an immediate replacement. Nora had a 7 speed system and her new chain – in stock – came in at just under $14. I handed her the chain breaker tool and showed her how to use it. “Keep the old chain so you can measure out the length your new one should be alongside it”, I said.

There was a new visitor to the shop so I went to say hello and see how she was doing. Evelyn had been to bikeSauce and wanted to get some feedback on her brakes and do some general maintenance. We got her bike on the stand, a green 9 speed Norco hybrid bike with disc brakes. Both Sam and Brad came over when they had a chance and checked out her brakes. Avoid touching the rotors, Brad suggested. Apparently the oil from our skin, if transferred to the rotors, can contaminate the brake pads. Otherwise, her braking system got the green light. 

With that established, I handed Evelyn the chain wear tool and she mentioned that her bike had been serviced in bike shop in the last couple of years. She dropped the tool into her chain and the reading was an immediate replacement too. In a typical bike shop, she could hand her bike to the shop staff, who would check the wear for her, install the replacement and charge for the parts and service. But here at bikeSauce Nora and Evelyn were the mechanics of their own bikes, and we the volunteers, are more like facilitators and guides, giving suggestions for where the visitors to the shop can find tools and parts, or how to go about dealing with an issue on their bike, to other suggestions beyond what we do at bikeSauce ourselves.

This different way of being can feel a little bit strange at first, especially in a society where we are so used to being served and paying for it and not being encouraged to question things beyond just the surface. The only real considerations we might have are whether the service provider is competent, and that they are not ripping us off.

But at bikeSauce there is a certain bravery involved – since you the patron are the one who decides what you are going to donate – if anything – while the volunteers are coming in and giving of their time and life to help you. Why would they do that? Perhaps when we really come face to face with each other, there is the subversive implication that a different world is possible, and each person responds to that uniquely.

It was past four thirty and the shop was still busy, with Brad and Sam continuing to make the rounds. Somebody was trying to pry loose a tight bolt. A courier who had come in with a kickstand issue was looking for degreaser and some rags. A lady had come in with a bike without a front brake, ripped cable housing and frayed cable. A couple of people were in looking to buy a bike. There were other people in doing repairs and I never got to find out what their bicycle issues were.

At some point during the rush Arnault had come in to help. Now it was approaching five and the shop was quieter and more relaxed and he was sitting on a stool by the door. Sam had gone and I was about to follow. I fetched my Raleigh and the sunlight was flooding the inside of the shop. I stood there and faced it.  It felt good to be able to take in the April sunlight with that angle. Though Nora had gone, Evelyn was still cleaning off her drivetrain. I knew she’d be in good hands with Brad and Arnault. She said bye as I made my way to the door. I never got to tell her that she should wipe that new chain with degreaser to get the shipping grease off it, or to keep her new chain clean and lube it regularly. Maybe there’s only so much you can say in a given period of time else it might be overwhelming. 

bikeSauce to me seems more like a process than an event. That becomes apparent when you come back again and again. I think it’s worth it. I hope that by starting up this blog again you’ll feel inspired to come visit and experience it like a process too. There’s something special about growing in community and the great thing is we do that every time we invite each other and maybe even more when we accept.

Mandeep.

 

Devotion

Dear Reader,

When you’re a child it’s easy. Choose honesty. But you can’t stay a child forever. I used to feel so hurt to see people choosing dishonesty, with their masks, their deceptions, and their parroting voices. How could they? How could they betray their own heart?

Dishonesty is a foreign land. It’s not my home, it never can be. The language there lacks soul and depth. Everything is reduced to numbers, measures, money, the known. Mystery and the unknowable are not tolerated. If you look into the eyes of the people there they look haunted, defeated; they’ll look away. They won’t let their mask slip.

I learn the language so I can navigate through – it is a perilous route not a place to build a home in. I meet people on the journey – some trying to find freedom, and others who wish to remain ensnared. Both can be very persuasive.

We all have to make this journey. If we didn’t go through with being so dishonest, how would we experience the suffering of it, its utter futility and so be motivated to transcend it? Commit then to your true calling and don’t settle for less than what you deserve; kindness, respect, love, and all the support you need.

Recognise the qualities of a true friend. Don’t forget who you really are. Awareness is your guide to honesty. Don’t lose your guide. Love your guide, be devoted and faithful to your guide Awareness. Study his or her skilful means. Spurn desensitivity – desensitising will make you a stranger to your own heart. Awareness, even when painful, will keep you moving.

With Awareness then, strive for home. Your longing for human connection, of taking care of the world within and around you, of being seen for who you really are, what your heart truly desires in and for the world, what you truly need. When setbacks come, don’t be despondent. Trust that as you follow what you know to be true, with integrity and self-inquiry, you will be supported.

Awareness reveals the truth, and the truth is worth revealing. One day when you’ll awaken to joy, to the experience that nothing is greater in life than being the real you, the inner conflict has come to an end. You are shining brightly in the world. You have won freedom, the greatest victory there is. You are a living example how;

When we suddenly flower, and bare the full fruit of what a human being really is, then we go out to another completely.

Mandeep.

Over 23% Cycling Mode Share in Toronto (aka Great Aspirations)

Hello Polar Vortex!

Minus 17 degrees Celsius (add 10C on top of that for windchill) and snowy, salty, messy roads. A deep blue sky! Isn’t January a beautiful month to be alive and ride?!?

Great Aspirations.

Talking about beauty, what are our highest aspirations for the city we live in? For it to be a more equal city, a more affordable city, a more connected city, a cleaner city, a friendlier city? A city that helps us to realise our true (mostly hidden) potential? A city that is a very different arrangement from the one which plays its part in contributing to 26 people owning more wealth than the poorest 4,000,000,000?

Not everyone is going to share their highest aspirations. They’ll sound crazy! Not to mention the wounds and disappointment from them being shot down somewhere. But what the heck – when you’re with friends, isn’t sharing aspirations something worth doing – something to live for?

So the current mode share of cycling in Toronto is between 1 and 2%? Current. Today. January 2019. But time does not stand still. Change is inevitable. Toronto is not going to stay between 1 and 2%. The mode share in Vancouver is 6%, Copenhagen is like what, 23%? So those are a couple of targets to get us started on this aspiration trip. (Click on the link for a description of mode share in this snapshot from cycling in Germany).

So what would have to be true to get us to beat this 23% target for cycling mode share in Toronto? That’s what we need to start asking. What do we need to change in the way we’re doing things today? Ready or not, 23% is coming. So let’s go meet it.

Now we’re in the future, at 23% cycling mode share. Let’s start looking back, going in reverse. What did we do to get to 23%? What conversations did we have? What thinking did we change in ourselves and others? What truths did we let go of, so that they were replaced by new truths? Wasn’t it interesting what happened when we somehow got together and became committed to forming a strategy?

Don’t forget to tune in next week!

Being the Change in the World

Being the Change in the World.

As the world population rises and is increasingly drawn to cities, the issues of sprawl, congestion, pollution and obesity that have plagued developed cities are going to become more widespread. Some observers suggest that all cities must go through these growing pains – that all developments are long term projects and must pass through their dirty, brutal and painful phases before they can be graceful, complete, realised ones.

And perhaps that is true? But reading this article on London, when “You don’t feel like a citizen of your own city: it’s all so prohibitively expensive,” can’t help but think the three generations goal hasn’t come to pass. Whether its London or Paris or Toronto, it seems like we’re still going through these issues: we still haven’t realised the city’s true potential.

That some people are happy to exploit the situation in the vain hope that to profit out of it will bring happiness and meaning into their lives is a story as old as time. Conventionally we might refer to that group as being the elite, the moneyed class, the billionaires or even the aspiring, the remainder of the 1%.

For a lot of other people, the middle classes and probably a lot of the working classes – the city means keeping hearts hidden and disconnected. Buried under career, distractions and little luxuries; avoiding all entanglements. Unbreakable, impenetrable, safe. They see the homeless person in the street – know that society can permit such a fate to fall on another that could easily be themself – and, to varying degrees of hardness, bolt up the hatches. Varying degrees is an important point. Some hearts in this group – a considerable percentage even – may still be pliable. Hearts and minds still loveable, softenable, to be won!

Some people are already motivated to change things. Perhaps they’ve come to understand that the suffering, the exploitation and alienation, are the results of human action, derived from the fear that comes from an incomplete understanding of our true human situation. That what brings meaning into our lives is to understand our true situation and act rightly in response to that. I’m not saying that’s going to be easy. Just critical.

We’re all on this spectrum somewhere. It’s okay to argue that Loving could be the greatest aspiration and is achievable.

20 km/h speed limits for all vehicles in Toronto?

For the new megacities its not been lost in translation. Bad air quality, insufferable traffic jams in city streets, lack of proper infrastructure investments, – these are all examples set by the developed of the modern world. Yes, the current narrative has domineered for too long, but every one of us has it in us to bring something else to the table and change the ineffective script.

Being able to get more people on bikes would be a dramatic change in the plot. Just like The Netherlands and Denmark, Britain, Canada and the United States all have great internal resources to draw upon. This mission is feasible. The capacity exists. Now it is about coordinating will.

The steps? There is no chicken or egg. There is only infrastructure, Mikael Colville-Andersen says in Copenhagenize : the definitive guide to global bicycle urbanism (above photo credit).

Well let me throw another hat into the ring. That there is not only infrastructure, but reducing speed limits in cities to 20km/h. Why not? I think most reasonable people will accept that discrimination has no place in a modern, civilised society. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are all unacceptable. Yet discrimination continues every minute every day on our streets when fast moving tonnes of steel speed by vulnerable human bodies with little thought or consequence.

A common speed limit for all traffic will begin to address this blatant discrimination on our streets. Won’t there be more traffic jams? Well perhaps there will be. But is the avoidance of traffic jams – which is hardly the case now anyway – a sound justification for tolerating discrimination in what is supposed to be an equal society, where every life is valued and respected equally?

In fact, not only will it bring long overdue fairness, it will make many journey more quickly achievable by bicycle. Space will be more equally distributed. Those afraid to do the healthier more responsible things – walk and cycle – will find the streets have suddenly become so much safer and pleasant. A certain proportion of them will shed their previous inhibitions. Highly visible, others can be inspired to ask themselves – why not me? The gap between the present and the future will close. Children, the elderly, dogs, squirrels and bird life will rejoice. Face to face contact, spontaneous meetings, actually noticing our streetscapes rather than rattling through them in alienated boxes will reconnect us with our humanity and overcome the common hostility and alienation of the rat race workerbot life, which almost every teenager knows and dreads. With the coming robot workforce – it needs to change anyway.

These objectives are feasible because we all know what a 20km/h means. We all know how to respect a speed limit. There probably will be infrastructure changes – but now it may be to accommodate cars as guests on city streets, rather than owners of it.

What has been absent is the political courage to make it happen. As the great majority of politicians are professional and career politicians, they are beholden to voters, to public opinion, to you and I, else they run the risk of not being re-elected. That’s puts them in a difficult position, a dependency – enough votes. So it’s important that we – everyday citizens – have the courage to understand the situation and make the changes – in attitudes, in actions. One of the signs of this will be the arrival of political courage.

Local Food.

A subject of sustainablity that really interests me is local food. With Saturday’s forecast a high of minus -9C with 60% chance of snow, its a good time to think about the coming farmers market season in Toronto, which starts in the middle of May. Yes, there are Saturday markets at St Lawrence, Wychwood Barns and at Evergreen Brickworks, where I will be. But for most people, farmers markets really come alive in May, as the first strawberries and rhubarb hit the stands. So this weekend, I’m planning to look into Ontario’s Local Food Strategy.

There may be more musings on local food and the subject of strategy in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for that!

Thanks for coming back to this still brand new blog.if you haven’t already, I hope you will consider bookmarking it and checking in again next week – there will be a new post every Thursday. Thanks again, and feel free to share your feedback.

Bright Hopes

Welcome!

First of all, welcome to my new blog! I hope to write honestly and intimately and not to be afraid of sharing the truth as I see it, even if it is hard and contrary to general opinions. Let me aim and hit the target of giving my best.

New Megacities, Same Old Problems?

By 2035 another 15 cities will have populations above 10 million. The Guardian is currently publishing a series on these starting with Baghdad, Dar es Salaam and Tehran.

Check it out here, but be warned. Reading about people grappling with the same old fallout of pollution, congestion, and dehumanising urban building is painful, especially when you know we have the capacity to be doing things so differently and without this unnecessary suffering. Our own cities could have been setting that different example.

Bright hopes in London, Manchester & Paris!

The ambitious (for now) and of course achievable Transport for London Cycle Plan came out in mid December. Even though there’s been some criticism that the plan doesn’t give more specifics I think we should also appreciate how much work has been put into this. Of course, I don’t want to just stop at bold statements and vision – I want to see the action follow through and the sooner the better. There may be flaws but let’s remember we’re in this together so what can we individually to help? Spreading the word and normalising what some people consider radical is a first step.

Chris Boardman really hits the nail on the head in Greater Manchester’s Beelines Cycling & Walking Proposal by highlighting that the proposed network is not for people who already cycle or walk for the majority of their journeys but to focus on enabling the two thirds of people who currently use their car as their main mode of transport.

Ideally, Beelines would do more than just tremendously inspire everyone in Toronto to join the new enlightenment, but I think at least 20 percent of drivers could be persuaded in the next three years.

If you haven’t heard this before, I’m happy to share this quote again;

“Cars no longer have a space in the big cities of our time.”

That’s from the former Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë. Current mayor Anne Hidalgo apparently has. initiatives to follow on from just right words; reducing parking spaces by 55,000 per year, city wide maximum speed limits of 30km/h, and investing €150m in cycling infrastructure.

30 km/h still sounds too fast though. I think we could show Paris their miscalculation by setting the example of reducing the speed limit to 20km an hour on the streets of Toronto.

Bike Sauce AGM feedback.

Yesterday, January 9th was the BikeSauce AGM. Seeing a such a healthy turnout and on a freezing dark January night with the wind howling and the snow blowing outside reminded me how much passion and initiative there is in this city – and why a sense of community matters so much.

Ideas were exchanged, plans were made. I’m particularly excited by the deeper advocacy and outreach ideas and the after meeting conversation I had with Anibal and John. A made in Toronto BikeSauce bike that also helps more people overcome the barriers of getting onto bikes and making Toronto the true, caring, inclusive city it’s going to be? Stay tuned!

In the meantime, Bike Build on Wednesday nights is a dedicated volunteer night and everyone is welcome, regardless of what you think your mechanical aptitude is. If you care about community, sustainability and resourcefulness, well doors open at 5.30pm – 341 Broadview Avenue is the address – and you are welcome.

Check out the About Page of the blog!

On Tuesday I wrote out the About page for this brand new blog which you are now reading. It took me more hours than I care to admit and I still doubt it’s finished. But I’m closer to explaining my intentions than when it was just a blank page. I really recommend you check it out if you haven’t already.

There is no reason for the old mentality of divide, exploit and profit over others to linger on with its putrid taste. Not unless you’ve lost all faith in the possibility of true happiness, lost faith in yourself. Humanity has never had the collective opportunity that we have now for actually being happy. We have the capacity, that is available, it’s now only a question of will.

Thanks for reading. I hope you join me again for future posts on mandeepscreative.com – and in the meantime, feel free to share your feedback.