The Power of Volunteering Commitment

On Thursday night (March 28th) we had the second strategy meeting at bikeSauce. I had a feeling that the turnout was going to be something of a challenge; the novelty of a first meeting had brought together ten of us, but with a second meeting novelty begins to turn into commitment and commitment isn’t perceived to be easy – either too hard or too scary.

As it turned out, there were three of who turned up – Ned, Geoff and I – and that was pretty good as far as I was concerned. It made the meeting go faster – we even finished early – and we touched the core of what the meeting was about; improving communications within and outside bikeSauce, and winning new volunteers for the cause who stay the distance.

Most people think of bikeSauce as being a bike shop, and it often flies under the radar that it is as much of a volunteer shop as it is a bike shop. Everyone at bikeSauce is a volunteer and is there because they want to be – it’s a 100 volunteer run organisation. There are some really dedicated people who keep the enterprise running – but the fact is, every organisation needs new people, new ideas, new challenges. It’s a two way street.

Artists, graphic designers, screen printers, writers, computer systems developers, advocates, strategists, people creating the magical experience of communal eating would all be welcomed with open arms. I see so many tremendous opportunities but it amazes me at times how the people who could make a meaningful difference have not connected yet.

But as the saying goes, if it was so easy, everyone would be doing it. Maybe because it’s hard to spot the opportunity is what makes the people who do stand out – after all, it says a lot about a person’s character that they’re going to do something even though they’re not being told and/or paid to do it. Solidarity still exists as does sacrifice. Both of those have mattered tremendously in our leaps in humanity and they matter tremendously now. As much as we may need it, radical change is rarely ever wanted or funded. Stand out now.

Spring Bike Maintenance

Saturday morning started off brisk – minus 7 degrees, plus probably something of a windchill, but the sun was out and the ale was so blue and so beautiful. I set off from home with the two pairs of Jagwire brake pads I bought earlier in the week. The destination: bikeSauce. The mission: replace the break pads, brake cables and housing.

The ride was pleasant. The streets were pretty quiet. A lot of potholes but almost all the ice banks had gone. Still a lot of riders haven’t been tempted to get their bikes on the road – so there was still some of the novelty and acknowledgment of passing other cyclists on the route.

I got into bikeSauce just before 12.30pm. Jessie was there with a couple of people in the shop. The man was cashing out, while the woman – her name was Ashley – had her yellow mountain bike on the stand and a bottom bracket challenge in her hands.

I put the Devinci up on the stand and made a cup of tea. A man and his son turned up – they were looking for a road bike for the teenage son – maybe so he could make a trip and tour around Niagara with some friends. Are you sure you need a road bike? was the general gist. It seemed he was set on that so there was the usual suggestions – try another day, check out Craigslist, consider buying a new bike and here are some suggested bikes and local bike shops.

Then with tea drunk and conversation over, there were a couple of bikes sitting out front with Ready to Test Ride labels taped onto the saddles. Might as well test these out, I said to Jessie. I was heading for the door with the Trek City hybrid and pass Sam on the way in. – Going for a test ride. – Enjoy

The Trek passed and Sam and I came up with a price – $120 – priced to sell. I took the Giant Mountain bike out but the saddle was too low so I came pack within a minute. Not sure about the shifting I said. You take it out. Sam raised the saddle and went out with it for a couple of minutes. It came back a fail – lots of skipping and the chain dropped he said. I filled out the comments in the checklist and Sam took it back down to the basement.

Now it was time to work on my own bike. The rear cables and housing hadn’t been changed for three years and there wasn’t a rush this Saturday afternoon. Someone put on some tunes, Jessie said so I went up to the computer and put on She Bangs The Druns. It sounded very springlike. The Stone Roses, Jessie said, have a question, half a declaration. In either case, he liked it. Then Albert came in at 3pm, “covering for Brad.”

There was a certain point in the afternoon when the sun was coming in and everyone was in the shop, working on some part of the process, not complete but somehow perfect, and I thought, there’s no other place, no other situation I’d rather be in right now than this one. It just seemed so perfect.

Reasons to Avoid Good Strategy

With the past weekend’s winter storm, the snowy slushy streets (picture by Kensington Market)…

and the minus -24C nights with frostbite in minutes warnings, it’s a good time to practice my study (dare I say, hobby?) of looking into strategies. Good and bad strategy.

I recently borrowed a book called The elite bicycle : portraits of great marques, makers and designers at the Toronto Public Library. Despite the title (Elite??) there were some good examples of companies that have designed good strategies – like Brooks Saddles, Selle Italia, and Reynolds Tubing. There were some companies that would fit right in with that company – Brompton Bicycles for example? But I also thought of others that really could have been there once but have lost there way – been hampered by lacking good strategy. Raleigh Bicycles?

If the starting point, the foundation of good strategy involves identifying and naming underlying malady or critical obstacle, a lot of people are going to get squeamish. It’s tempting to avoid that kind of painful truth, and maybe even invent a less offensive one. Which obviously does not set the grounding for good strategy!

I’m going to be going into a monthly meeting at BikeSauce in a couple of weeks time to talk about strategy. Of course, I want to explore all the compelling reasons for developing good strategy.

But advocating radical change? I have a feeling that there are going to be uncomfortable moments, that there’s going to be fear and resistance and some not so nice things are going to show up, things we thought would not be in a good place like BikeSauce. In fact, even in an organisation and group of people who are trying to make a positive difference, there are going to be some people wishing that the subject of strategy didn’t come up at all.

Rather than let them lurk in the shadows and sabotage progress, I‘m planning to acknowledge the opposition straight out. I‘m calling it the Reasons to avoid good Strategy, and it goes like this:

Reasons to Avoid Good Strategy

Strategy sounds like something organised, what corporations do, and generals, war. It sounds evil man! And square!

Discipline, cohesion and uncomfortable truth? I dunno man. I kind of got used to the the comfort and convenience of taking the easy way out, where we can all nod our heads paying lip service, ya know?

Hey, aren’t we North Americans? Aren’t we entitled to skip pesky nuisances like strategy and let the rest of the world pick up the tab for our screw ups?

Sure, some people say that not wanting to speak differently unless you know it will go well, and not moving unless you’re guaranteed success is a pathetic and incredibly cowardly approach to life – but there’s a kind of fatalistic beauty in not standing up, in not even bothering at all. Right?

What will happen to the beautiful poses I’ve been perfecting so long? I’d be naked – naked without them!

It’s terrifying. I’m too scared to.

But then where’s our deference/contribution to the Status Quo If we took such a proactive approach?

How can I get over all I know? All the facts and the figures I learned years ago?

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. I may well find out what’s missing at the meeting! But I hope that whoever is there is going to look back on it one day and say – it was *^*#^*! great to have been in that meeting where we could really open up and say how it is and still be accepted. It was such a relief!

Next Week: Reasons to Embrace Good Strategy!

Bright Hopes


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 – and in the meantime, feel free to share your feedback.