On Sunday I had a ride that was only about two hours long but was so packed with things that I have to break it up in to multiple entries. This is what I call a good day.
As you remember, when we last met I am on the side of the road at the Bloor Viaduct learning about mental health activism in our city. I put my bike back in the road and head west, crossing the viaduct and heading in to the busy city proper. I’m thrilled to see that bike lanes have been installed in so many places, filling gaps in our network that have existed for decades. It makes for a very comfortable ride.
My route takes me in to the heart of downtown and as I head there I see more and more bikes. Many of them are being ridden by food delivery people with large square backpacks on their back filled with jerk chicken, eggplant parmesan, kottu roti and kung pao chicken. Many of them are being helped by electric motors – I’m really surprised at the sheer number of electric-assisted bikes out. It’s transformed our city.
I get to Queens Park and am about to switch to yet another new bike lane when I notice something through the trees.
This has been an especially hard few months for our homeless population. Libraries and other indoor places one can spend time have been closed due to the pandemic. There are shelters but they are very crowded and not safe. And so I’m seeing more and more tents in the city. Some are on sidewalks, other like this one are in parks. Usually city staff ask people to take them down or even remove them forcibly. I am not sure but I think that this year they’re looking the other way a bit more. After all, every person in a tent is a person who is not potentially transmitting (or catching) the virus in a shelter. The weather these days is pretty pleasant with daytime highs in the high 20’s and lows in the mid teens. Definitely manageable in a tent.
I go down to Queen West – one of the more touristy areas of the city and one filled with stores. Lots are open now. Mountain Equipment Co-op has a short line of people looking to buy bicycles, camping gear, running shoes and kayaks. Outside Brandy Melville, a clothing store targeted exclusively at thin young women, a long, socially-distanced line of thin young women waits to go inside.
As I ride I see many of those same delivery drivers pulling up to restaurants, picking up orders. But now I see something else: people are sitting at tables outside those restaurants with people taking their orders. Restaurants with outdoor patios are open for business.
I turn down an alley and it opens up in to a world of colour. For many years not only has street art been allowed here, it’s been encouraged. And with many artists living, studying and working in the area there’s no shortage of good art to be found. So much that in today’s post be sure to swipe right on the photos as they’re galleries with several photos inside.
I come across one interesting installation – what appears to be a mutant phone booth. I get closer and see that many different people have written all over it – all on the subject of truth.
There’s even a “phone book” installed and inside are a pen and blank pieces of paper. People walking by are encouraged to interact with the art by leaving their own messages. Most are really sweet though the Hindi message made me giggle and roll my eyes a bit. Someone has the humour of a 12 year old boy.
Finally I come upon a new section that I hadn’t seen before. It was only added back in June as the Black Lives Matter movement started picking up momentum. An event called Paint the City Black brought a number of artists from around the world to the city to paint sections of the alley including some new walls put up around construction sites. Some are beautiful, some are thought provoking, many are both.
I was not alone in the art-filled alleys. Several other people had converged here, enjoying the experience of an outdoor “museum”, clicking photos and talking about what we are seeing.
After seeing all of the three blocks of the space, it was time to go to my next destination. On the way out, I pass a group of homeless men sitting on the sidewalk at the end of the alley talking about their friend. Around the corner two EMTs closed the doors of the ambulance, their friend sitting up looking a bit out of it in the back. I turn back on to Queen Street, passing trendy restaurants and boutiques.