Sour Gripes


Bill is on holidays so this is one of his highlights from last year.

Is my memory a bit biased? As I travel about town it seems to me there are fewer young cyclists. I must admit there are undoubtedly more adult bikers. That is, of course, not even including the “ e” bike that really bears little resemblance to a bicycle meant to pedal. Even during the school vacations and what I can remember from last summer I don’t see the packs of young riders I remember traversing about town when I was a boy.

From the moment the streets were clear of snow we mounted our trusted steeds and dashed off to freedom. (Winter sand was a spring hazard.) Our boundaries were expanded. We could cross town in a fraction of walking time. We went places that seldom got visited over the winter. We had wheels! Bicycling was our transportation, our sport and one of our main past times. Strictly speaking we were criminals. Much of the time we rode on the sidewalks. I believe our parents thought it less likely to get hit by a car. Pedestrians in those days must have been far more understanding or tolerant than today. (Were they too less numerable?) Since more often than not we rode with a few friends I can only wonder if we were copying “Bike Gangs” or if they just graduated from “Bicycle Gangs”.

Last summer I thought there were far fewer bikes parked by the quarry. (Again: Just me?). I wonder if more youngsters are computer bound? Is it that we are a bit more paranoid about letting our kids (still a term some dislike) dash off for hours at a time with only a hint of where they are? Some explanation may be that there are more types of bikes and given purposes for them. Quite a number congregate at the “skate park” on occasion.

Like I said our bikes were as a rule single speed all purpose vehicles. On one occasion we were jumpers since brother Bob wiped out going down Queen Street West hill (A parcel carrier caused wheel lock up). Since he was first in line we ramped over him and got some air! He was free from serious injury and we added another memory to the bike annals. Never the less we did a lot of biking.

SAFER TIMES? My younger female cousin likes to remind the world that in her youth when she spent some time with us that we tied her up. She was a runner and escape artist. In fact they made (and I’ve seen one in the not too distant past) a harness that allowed a parent with an arm of groceries to keep the scamper kid from dashing into traffic. It might even be illegal today. Being quite a number of years older (I dare not say a number) I was supposed to keep an eye on her while outside in the yard. I was so inept that even though Mother was positioned by an overlooking window the little scamp had to wear the harness and be tied to the Russett apple tree. Still she got a break a way a few times. She is a strong willed girl and “Had somewhere she had to be”. She sure was angry when headed off before she left the yard.

Some of our relatives could see that, when she got a bit older, we might enjoy giving her a joy ride by bouncing and swaying the Park Street “SwingingBridge” while she sat down in terror. Boys can have a nasty sense of humour. They could not figure out why we were allowed to take her to CadzowPark to swim and play “So far from home”. At that time that was the norm. I guess in this day and age a young girl would not be trusted with preteen siblings to cross town. I too might give it a second thought today. Is it a sign of an unsafe environment or press fed paranoia?

REMINISCING: Wayne had a brand new shiny green Supercycle from Odbert’s Canadian Tire (era correct I think). He was proud as punch and his Dad mentioned that it was a big purchase ($49? WOW!) and that he should take care of it. As it happened my cousin was walking to The Quarry and asked if Wayne might give her a ride at least part way on the bike cross bar. The first leg of the journey proved rough. They sped down Elgin Street West and the brakes were less than stellar. Although they missed the corner the curb did not stop them. However the front door of the house that still stands there did. They were shook up but were very lucky that no cars were in the intersection. The bike however went home minus the front forks and wheel. Wayne was distraught and it may have been omitted that he had a passenger upon telling his dad. We did not get a report on that reaction but I seem to think Wayne ended up with another new bike. (Warranty?) Just another bicycle memory.


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