Toastmaster's Ice Breaker: My Bicycle Obesession


This is the Ice Breaker speech I gave to the Westmount Toastmaster Club on the 2 October 2018.


Madame Chairman, fellow Toastmasters and most welcome guests.

Last week, I went to to the movies with my wife Ellie.  One of the commercials before
 the feature film was by the Ford Motor Company.  It started with children are playing
in a city park. They discover a magical blue ball of light that entices them away from 
the safety  of the park. They jump on their bicycles and follow this wondrous ball which
 leads them through dangerous city streets filled with speeding cars and drivers talking
 on cell phones. As they ride behind this ball of light, the world before them, with the 
bicycles and cars all  jumbled together, is miraculously transformed into a better 
place with separate lanes for cars and bicycles. The luminescent ball ultimately 
becomes the soul of a new Ford electric car.

I thought, wow!  This Ad might be a good introduction for a talk about what could be 
the future of city streets and the role of bicycles.  After a few days of mulling it over 
I wrote to Ford asking for a copy of the Ad.

Now I will tell you why I joined Toastmasters.  I want to hone my leadership skills and 
improve as a  public speaker, because I am deeply committed to making Montreal 
more bicycle friendly.  Ellie says it is my obsession. She is correct, I am an obsessive
 person, but it was not always about bicycles.

Growing up beside a lake, I had an early obsession with sailing, later in life as an
engineer I could be obsessive about work, now retired I needed to put my energies
 into something new.  

My current obsession, how to make the world  more bicycle friendly, grew upon me 
gradually.  I always enjoyed riding bikes but I never before puzzled over how actually
 achieve  improvements to Montreal’s bicycle infrastructure. The puzzle began when
 I took some economic and urban studies courses at Concordia a few years ago.  

It was then that I began to think of the many relationships between cycling and 
different aspects of a city’s life.  For example, the Concordia campus is interlaced 
with busy automotive city streets in every direction. Yet even in this congestion, there
 is an outdoor oasis of quiet where students gather. It is across from the Norman
Bethune Statue and beside the de Maisonneuve bicycle path.  How is it that 
something as simple as a bicycle, that offers so many benefits to the both the
individual and society, in terms of cost, health, and environment, can still have
 so many people opposed to it’s further expansion? Montreal is one of the best
 places for cycling in North America, yet it still falls far short when compared to 
the best cities in Europe,  The vast majority of the main artery streets in Montreal 
have no provision for bicycles at all. Until this changes, the potential benefits to 
this city from de-emphasizing cars towards cycling and other modes of 
transportation will remain elusive.

I joined various cycling advocacy groups, writing letters and participating on various
 committees. Sometimes these were effective and sometimes not.  I had the 
feeling that to achieve success multiple approaches were required.

I gave my first public talk at the Atwater Library lunchtime series.  I think I 
did all right, but I know I could have done it better if I was more practised 
public speaker.  It was about the early history of cycling in Montreal, and 
only part of my real goal.

With a group of like minded friends, we re-founded the historical Montreal Bicycle Club. 
It’s purpose is to promote public awareness both of the city’s early history of of cycling 
advocates and  the current bike path network in and around Montreal. I posted a 
calendar of day rides and overnight excursions on the new Montreal Bicycle Club 
website and waited to see who would hit the RSVP button.

    You might ask if club riding does anything to further construction of more bicycle paths in 
Montreal?  I believe it does. Bicycle touring is fun and provides a reason for devotees to 
meet on a regular basis.  Also by showcasing the region’s bicycle paths we become aware 
of issues for which we can lobby.

This club and the various advocacy groups I belong to give me the opportunity to 
speak to city officials, councillors as well as the general public about a variety of 
ycling issues. I need, at my fingertips a collection of speeches on cycling topics, 
and the practise required to make each speech  interesting and informative. My 
challenge to you, the members of the Westmount Toastmasters, is to provide 
constructive feedback on these speeches, and to help me achieve my goal which 
I believe will ultimately benefit everyone in this room.

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