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Spinning a tale

A bicycle musical in a post-Ford landscape

Spin tells the story of Annie Londonderry, who in 1895 became the first woman to cycle around the world, with songs and wit.      Credit: Tanja-Tiziana

When Evalyn Parry debuted her bicycle-musical Spin in 2011, Rob Ford had been mayor a mere three months. Elected largely by suburbanites for whom four-wheeled transportation is a necessity, his pledge to end the “war on cars” was as resonate as his “stop the gravy train” mantra. Four years, one crack pipe and three months’ worth of Daily Show segments later, Ford is departing the office to which he brought an unfortunate fame. The situation for Toronto cyclists is, at best, moderately improved.

Parry telephoned Ford’s office, inviting him to attend. Despite his claim that he personally returned every constituent’s calls, she heard nothing and Ford never showed. Now, with John Tory landing the job he’s spent a decade chasing, she has renewed hope she’ll glimpse our chief magistrate in the audience when the piece returns to Toronto.

“Tory isn’t anti-bike the way Ford was,” she says. “Traffic is his buzzword, but he doesn’t see cycling as a major policy issue. He’s acknowledged the need to modestly expand separated bike lanes. That’s fine but not substantial. There needs to be continued vigilance by cycling advocates to push for more.”

Spin tells the story of Annie Londonderry, who in 1895 became the first woman to cycle around the world. It also demonstrates that the bicycle is more than a mode of transport, turning a rusted 1972 Galaxy into a musical instrument. Performing Spin has also informed Parry’s understanding of Toronto’s bike infrastructure. Touring the show across the continent, she’s seen how other places do it. When it comes to spots TO could learn from, she (surprisingly) cites NYC as our best guide.

“They’re leading the way,” she says. “Separated lanes and changing the way intersections work. Drivers and cyclists alike are embracing the system because it’s making the city safer for everyone.”

As for the situation here, Parry, like many on the left, is licking her post-election wounds.

“I’m trying not to be too depressed about the nightmare amalgamation has created for Toronto, especially downtown residents,” she says. “But at least we didn’t wind up with a second Ford in office. Things could certainly be worse.”