Richardson: Springtime in ToledoWritten by Rachel Richardson | | email@example.com
Springtime in Toledo means lots of things. Among them, it means lilacs near the university, trillium near the streams at Wildwood, and Robinwood Avenue in the Old West End coming to life in ways even my imagination had forgotten since last year.
For many Toledoans, spring also means it’s time to get out bicycles and start incorporating them into day-to-day routines. Whether it means hipsters riding to work up and down Adams Street or organized pub crawls, most everyone I
know makes the transition joyfully.
Bicycles have even worked their way into the local economy, with Glass City Pedicabs taking to the streets of Uptown and the Warehouse District. It has taken me a long while to embrace this part of the city’s culture.
Until recently, I claimed a bicycle phobia. Upon further examination, I think it was more like some drawn-out and extremely counterproductive obstinacy that I mastered as a 7-year-old when my stepdad insisted I learn to ride a bike like the rest of the kids in the world. Stubbornness is difficult to release when you’re stubborn.
So, recently, I took myself to Toledo Bikes! (at the corner of Washington and 12th streets) to take advantage of this extremely valuable local resource and buy myself my first bicycle.
I’ve known about Toledo Bikes! for years (formerly known as The Bike Co-op). I’ve performed music at its fundraisers and learned, theoretically, the importance of the bicycle for a community in 2012 from some of th group’s most ardent mouthpieces. I’ve beamed about the new bike rack program headed by the Arts Commission that called for designs from local artists to line the streets of Uptown and watched City Council members become activist government officials passionately taking up the cause and considering the needs of the bicyclist as a legitimate commuter on our city streets.
Frankly, I was starting to feel left out. Having politely declined invitations for a nice bike ride enough times to stop being asked, I realized that the only way to get into that fold where my friends were having so much fun was to take a forward step. Timely conversations on the topic led me to a kind offer from a friend who volunteers as a mechanic at Toledo Bikes!; she promised she would keep her eye out for the perfect green bike for me.
A couple of weeks later, our schedules worked out such that we met there on a warm Sunday afternoon. I walked in to find my new bike sitting in the middle of the shop having just been donated by a man I know and admire from each of our activist work. It wasn’t green.
But the coincidence was too good to pass up. I spent the afternoon watching dedicated volunteers work on little details of my new bike that would have never occurred to me. They even installed a basket and made sure the headlight worked.
You could say they showed my new bike a little good, old-fashioned ToledoLOVE.
While all of this was going on, I was trying my hardest not to get in the way, but also making conversation with the mechanics and learning that one of the major players in the operation is a transplant to Toledo from Tucson, Ariz. Needless to say, I was thrilled to learn that he already feels at home in Toledo and seems to have seen enough return on his investment to stick around.
The icing on this cake came in the form of a stack of fliers on a table with pictures of and a message from the late Dr. Robert Brundage, a man who taught all of us how to be activists and whose legacy involves one of his most lovable traits — his constant travel by bike. Dr. Robert had made his way into my consciousness in a completely different way earlier that very week which only gave me more of an idea that I was doing the right thing by jumping into the experience of riding a bike in Toledo.
My journey home from the shop was beautiful and I took many many detours through Downtown which gave me mixed emotions because it was surreal and very cool to have intersections all to myself.
But, of course, I dream of a day when a Sunday afternoon in Downtown Toledo has enough hustle and bustle to make me a little nervous.
In the meantime, though, I look forward to rediscovering my city from a whole new, two-wheeled perspective.
Email columnist Rachel Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.