How many TreeHugger hot buttons can be pushed in one post? After Toronto cyclist Charles Prinsep was killed in 2007 while riding across the country, his friends set up Charlie's FreeWheels. It takes kids at risk in Toronto's roughish Regent Park and teaches them to fix bikes.
But Charlie had other passions besides bikes; he was off to the Sorbonne to study urban planning, and was seriously into tech, geo-tagging and blogging about his bike trip until the day he was killed. This Saturday, all of these passions come together with a high-tech historical bike tour of Toronto's Regent Park.
Regent Park was a massive postwar slum clearance program, the kind where they tear out all of the streets and build "towers in the park" although these were pretty squat. They quickly became far worse slums with more problems than the townhouses they replaced. Just north of the park, the same townhouses have been gentrified and sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It's all being replaced now with a mix of condos and social housing; everyone is hopeful that it will be a better project than the one it replaced. But the old Regent Park had stories to tell, as do the kids fixing bikes at Charlie's Freewheels.
This Saturday, they get to tell them in a novel way: on their bikes, they will use FourSquare combined with audio commentary to capture their experiences of living through the gentrification of the area.
Co-director Colin Heilbut explains:
A group of FreeWheels graduates are going to be leading a historical tour through Regent Park, sharing vignettes of the neighbourhood and how it has changed and explaining how they see the role of bike culture in this transformation. Each stop along the tour is going to be geo-tagged with Foursquare and linked to audio and video commentary via our mobile site so that cyclists who miss the original tour can recreate it anytime with just a bike and phone (and helmet!).
We wrote earlier that "Charles was also passionate about cities, constantly envisioning simple and practical ways in which the urban culture he so appreciated could become more environmentally responsible." He would have loved the idea of such a mashup of bikes, tech, history and helping.