When I was a boy I visited my cousin in Saskatoon. When we played in her front yard I was always on the lookout for the coolest kid on their block, a boy who would cruise around with a 7/11 big gulp and one of those t-shirts that said surf across the front. What made him cooler than all of us was that he had a banana seat bike. It was rad. My own bike was built for one, with its small seat and compact handle bars. But my cousin’s friend had a big green bike with room for several kids to sit on the long seat, a sissy bar on the back for even more kids to hang on, and huge handle bars for yet another rider. Add to this a piece of cardboard flapping in the spokes and he was quite a sight to see and hear coming down the street. It didn’t matter how many kids tried to climb aboard, the goal was simple: good times for anyone who could find a place to hang on.
We don’t need new arguments, we need new metaphors, it’s been said. This metaphor, this picture of a pile of kids on a bike, laughing and going on their next adventure, has struck a chord in me. It is a picture of a welcoming movement that is focused not on the bike, but on the fun of the journey, and on the relationships we were forging together. We knew that at some point we would make our way down to 7/11 with a handful of nickels and dimes to buy a Slurpee, but how or when we got there was secondary to the adventures we had along the way.
The metaphor of the banana seat bike is a picture I have of our community. Author Peter Block wrote, “The essential challenge is to transform the isolation and self-interest within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole.” Metaphors change the way we see ourselves and those around us. Like that kid who shared the edge of his banana seat bike for others to join, I think we are learning how to live in community. How we share what we have, show true hospitality, and create deepening community connections depends on how do we create a movement of neighbourliness that fosters the Good Life for everyone in our city. It’s only on the ride that we realize that our wellbeing is intricately and vitally connected to those coming along with us.
What made these childhood experiences on the banana seat bike so meaningful to me was the cool kid who welcomed me aboard. It took a person to see me, come over to me, and invite me in. In our city it only takes a few people to set the tone for how we live, work, and play together. We can be those who welcome others along for the ride. You can look out for others, walk over to them, and to invite them into something bigger than both of you.
A vintage orange and chrome ‘Tornado’ banana seat bike hangs in my office. It’s a daily reminder to me that my city is more than a city, it is a movement of people learning to welcome, love, and live in ways that extend beyond ourselves. The Good Life is about community and the journey we take with others. So ride on, you fit here.