Most people think of The Bike Doctor as a Vancouver institution. Its founder Paul Bogaert, however, started his career in transportation medicine in Victoria, as part of a family move out west, from Ontario.
I bought an old 10-speed and repaired it, and started to use it to ride around Victoria, exploring the city. In high school, I met somebody who knew about a cycling club, and told me about the Victoria Wheelers, and I started racing bikes.
While racing, and fomenting plans to become a mechanical engineer, Paul worked at legendary Victoria bike shop Russ Hay's.
A racing injury put a hard end to that phase of his life, and, at loose ends, he began helping a brother run a furniture store. And then the pieces started to come together for Paul.
I started a bike shop in Victoria called Bike Doctor. I realized that a small business can be fairly straight forward, and I thought I could do that with bicycles. And it worked out well.
After some success in Victoria, Paul closed up shop and went travelling, ending up in Vancouver, and once again at loose ends. What's a young guy with bikes in his blood to do?
I thought that I would start up a business again, be self-employed, and so I turned again to the bike business.
I opened up a shop under the Broadway Skytrain Station called Broadway Station Bikes. And there I met quite a few people that I still know now. That would be 1989 or '90.
He rhymes off names that would be familiar to many folks active at the time, like Suzanne, Gavin, Marilyn, Tannis, Richard, Peter, Scott, Rob...they were The Bicycle People, and they were doing things like getting together, organizing the first few protests, and fighting for cycling facilities for places like the Burrard Bridge.
I liked the idea of supporting this group and improving cycling. It wasn't about promotion at that time. Some of the signage and marketing of Bike People wasn't something you'd want your business associated with.
Mostly it was with time. I think I was able to help out a little bit with business plan advice, as people made pitches for grant money and applied to set up things.
Paul's not one of those people to run on at length about himself, such as his role as one of the founders of Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (B.E.S.T.), which became a critical pillar in building Vancouver's foundation as a cycling city. ("I think I gave what I could. I didn't go crazy, certainly other people worked a lot harder and longer on these projects.")
Others will go farther in acknowledging Paul's consistent presence over the years, and unfailing willingness to buy an ad, provide a sponsorship, or give in-kind goods towards projects and campaigns.
But when asked to name a past initiative that would have attracted more of his time and passion during those early, defining years of the organization, there's no question - B.E.S.T.'s off-shoot PEDAL Society, and its non-profit bike shop Our Community Bikes (OCB).
I've been supporting OCB right from the start, and that's one of my favourite projects, aside from a whole bunch of bike lanes.
It's just so present in my world. It helps a lot of people with their cycling efforts.
Just being aware of where you live, and the people in your world who sometimes are slightly invisible if you're not looking.
I remember spending a great deal of time figuring out how Our Community Bikes would operate. We went to Eugene and Portland to tour other bike cooperatives. A big group of us toured around some shops, and met with the Centre for Appropriate Transportation.
It was a pretty cool centre. They had a whole bunch of cargo, and recumbent and work bikes...many, many, many years before the boom right now.
Paul has seen a lot change in this city, some of it represented by the change-over in his business - from the dominant presence of racing and mountain bikes, to the emergence and foothold made by the utility and transportation segment, represented by commuter bikes, step-thrus, and cargo models.
It's all the result of a vast shift that came from many of those efforts from two decades ago. It's also clear to Paul, however, that confusion and misperception related to the role of cycling in our society persist.
People are so upset with the city. But so little money is spent on cycling infrastructure compared to everything else to do with roads. It's astounding how angry some groups get with what's done to promote cycling.
[There's] no perspective on the benefit by having less people in cars. Motorists benefit hugely from the fact that there are more people cycling.
But they see these incidents of a bike getting in their way, and that's all they're focused on.
It's interesting - sometimes I speak to people who say harshly critical things about government, attitudes, social progress with a smile on their face, and yet it's clear how angry they are.
Conversely, Paul's critique comes with a straight face that, and you know he's more interested in honesty and the truth o the situation, rather than wallowing in an emotional response. Just pointing out the occasional injustice, and filing it away for later. ("I think ideologically it's very obvious where the Liberals were in terms of transportation. They're happy to spend billions of dollars building massive transportation infrastructure, but not public transportation, transit and other more progressive initiatives.")
What keeps coming back into the conversation with Paul is recollections of what he calls 'the old guard'.
The group of people he's been part of are not really old. But they're of a time that feels so long ago.
Because times were different. So much progress was needed, so much was to be done. And it came down to everyday people, the common cause, and the new world they created for themselves.
Some of the most memorable stuff was way in the beginning. Just amazing dedication and fun that we had as a group of people.
And kind of in the fringe, because it was a very odd thing to be all about - cycling, right?
So for me being totally immersed in the bike industry, and then having all these people who were just doing everything they could to encourage people to cycle was awesome. I had a great group of friends through that.