Join Cycle Jarvis!

Or, the sorry political state of cycling in Toronto

On it Cycle Toronto III

Fellow Toronto cyclists, there are two things worth musing over:

1. Our fight isn’t really about the Jarvis bike lanes, and
2. Cycle Toronto is not your political advocate for better, safer bicycling in Toronto.

I’m sorry. Both are bitter pills, especially owing to the several political and physical blows we’ve withstood these past few years. Neither pronouncement is a minor indictment, and that’s probably why you won’t be hearing much about them from a Cycle Toronto spokesperson or any party with a vested interest to promote Cycle Toronto at their establishment.

As I peck this out, city staff have announced that contract workers will return to resume the Jarvis reconfiguration. Several demonstrators have vowed to continue where they left off Monday, preventing the heavy equipment from burning away the old lanes — even if their act of civil disobedience results in arrest.

Watching this sideshow has been excruciating. It’s like waiting for poison to pass through your body when you really didn’t have to ingest it at all.

Were I a betting woman (and I’m not the betting type), city contractors will probably resume under the cover of darkness as demonstrators are fast asleep. I have my stakes set on the three o’clock hour, with workers being done by the time morning rush hour begins. Keep in mind that Toronto is notorious for carrying out “emergency” operations at night.

But I must say: as someone who’s been riding a bike for nine-tenths of her life, I feel utterly dismayed with the state of cycling in Toronto.

Pleasure Cycle Toronto

For months, I’ve tried to crystallize the heart of my frustration in ways which might resonate broadly. After Monday’s civil disobedience against contract work crews, perhaps it’s time to just lay out the sorry state of cycling in Toronto. I’m even optimistic: it’s so bad right now, the only way is up.

Cycle Toronto enjoys collecting dues and handing out pretty orange stickers. It’s done little else to substantively advance the political condition of Toronto’s bicyclists.

It’s a slight exaggeration, but only just.

Strategically crucial moments when Cycle Toronto could have cut its teeth as a serious political force for bicyclists instead were times when the union dialled back and retreated with contradiction, cognitive dissonance, and benign ambiguity. Cycling adversaries have taken this as an open-arms invite to walk right over us and embolden themselves to use road rage to threaten us with bodily harm.

When the Toronto Cyclists Union, as it was originally known, was founded by Dave Meslin, the basic idea for an organized political body of mobilized bicyclists was in precisely the right place and desperately needed. It still is. Problems, however, were evident and cumulative from the get-go. The union has since incubated an ineffective, bloated entity hobbling the political might of Toronto’s diverse bicyclists.

Play some free bird!

Yvonne Bambrick, the cyclist union’s first director, very publicly eschewed wearing a helmet and set a negative precedent for bike safety advocacy. It was a squandered opportunity which a fledgling organization could have used for laying a cornerstone of commitment for better bicycling habits. While an adult cyclist’s decision to wear head protection is an elective one, Bambrick was the public face and de jure head for a community-based cycling group; with that comes an exceptional responsibility to promote best practices for cycling safety on Toronto’s arterials (versus, say, the very different conditions of Copenhagen or Portland) — especially so for youth cyclists and for others trying to establish good habits.

Even before the 2012 study which definitively found that bike helmets reduce both injuries and fatalities, years of correlative peer review recommending the use of helmets was already in place. Bambrick dismissed this with a ham-handed statement about “choice”. Were Bambrick not in a public-oriented role of leadership, her personal choice to ride bare-headed would have been of little consequence beyond her own personal risk management.

The question here was never about campaigning for compulsory helmet use, as this runs aground with class barriers for bicyclists who can’t afford a helmet. Compulsory helmet by-laws also discourage the casual use of bike-for-hire services like Bixi. But Bambrick’s decision as its de facto voice and role model put Cycle Toronto at odds with routine harm mitigation for cyclists and especially bad precedent for teaching good riding habits for our cycling successors.

Jarvis cock-up

Then in 2011, Cycle Toronto’s political currency was put to a stress test. This was the crucible to discover how well the young organization could weather against municipal opposition. It didn’t go well.

An item to terminate the Jarvis bike lanes, then only a year old, was expedited by Councillor John Parker, with blessing from Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) chair Denzil Minnan-Wong. This campaign, paraded by Mayor Rob Ford and his caucus (which includes Minnan-Wong), was rammed through committee and then council. It was an embittered vow of political spite against Mayor David Miller’s previous government.

At the PWIC meeting in June 2011, Cycle Toronto’s director Andrea Garcia submitted a statement on behalf of membership. Separately, 128 independent citizens submitted statements, many of whom supporting the Jarvis lanes (in addition to a 2,000-signature petition presented by Councillor Mike Layton, who also sits as opposition on the PWIC). Garcia, along with Meslin and Herb van den Dool (of IBikeTO.ca), also gave deputations before the committee.

At the time, Cycle Toronto knew Minnan-Wong was one of its own active members. In July 2011, when he used a parliamentary manoeuvre on council floor to abruptly call the question on removing the Jarvis bike lanes, Cycle Toronto’s Garcia denounced the council’s vote. Her statement revealed a staggering political naïveté — stunning in that an organization of well more than a thousand members had magnificently failed to treat the politics of bicycling as a bona fide politics or prepared itself for the eventuality that Minnan-Wong, based on his political history, might play the union to his advantage. Instead, Garcia argued that the union’s mandate was less a matter of politics than of public safety (ironically overlooking her predecessor’s predilection against promoting basic cyclist safety through better helmet use).

(This is where doing as Bambrick does comes in handy: cue the Keenan headdesk.)

keenan-smash-opt4.gif

Even a cursory grasp of urban transportation history in North America provides the needed clarity to comprehend how far-reaching and entrenched the politics of bicycles on city streets has always been. Early motoring leagues, whose members were exclusively wealthy pleasure drivers (this was before the Model T revolution democratized the automobile), aggressively mobilized in the 1910s to commandeer the first asphalt-paved urban streets from other users — which had been laid down not for automobiles, but for safety bicycles. Let me say that again: paved roads were invented for safety bicycles.

Go home and tell your friends.

Given this, the act of forming a cyclist union was inherently political at its core. Community organizing is, likewise, inherently political. The founding of a cyclist union is a conscious act of of community organizing — which makes sense, given that its founder, Meslin, specializes at community organizing. If the cyclist union wasn’t political, then as an organization it would be little better than an exclusive social club. It’s doubtful a social club was what many union members signed on to support.

So for Garcia to say that Cycle Toronto wasn’t political was a costly mistake which has hurt Toronto’s bicyclists. Cycle Toronto alleged to shy from politics. Consequently cyclists have largely been left to fend for themselves as if the union hadn’t been chartered in the first place. What makes this dangerous is that the high visibility of a cyclist union gives a false sense of security that there is a political voice going to bat for them — irrespective of whether they’re a paying member. This isn’t so.

Even with the loss of the Jarvis bike lanes, the union still held a public relations wild card in its hand: to deliver a no-tolerance message against wilful efforts to undermine its core values — namely, to revoke Minnan-Wong’s membership.

His public about-face in council chambers flouted Cycle Toronto’s own by-law: specifically, section 10(iv), which empowers the union’s board of directors to revoke a membership should one “not support the mission, vision and guiding principles” of the union. Minnan-Wong’s conduct, even boasting his union membership just moments before he called for the Jarvis vote, undermined the heart of Cycle Toronto’s mission and left it egg-faced with embarrassment.

Cycle Toronto made no attempt to revoke Councillor Minnan-Wong’s membership or even demonstrate a commitment that cyclists wouldn’t be treated like political doormats. Instead, the union continued to bemoan and grieve over the Jarvis lanes as if it was the alpha and omega of a multi-modal master urban plan (hint: it isn’t, and I’ll talk about this later on).

It looks really good on paper

In early 2012, the Toronto Cyclists Union underwent a cosmetic change, removing the word “union” from its name. It aggressively redoubled to sign on more members — particularly evident at the end of the July 2012 Jarvis ride and with the appearance of point-of-purchase membership kits at local bike shops.

Even after Minnan-Wong let his membership lapse, Cycle Toronto could have rebuked and censured him as a public servant who crossed a serious alliance of citizen-bicyclists. They still could, but even after the October 2012 death knell for what was already a fait accompli on Jarvis, Cycle Toronto has all but cowed from the PWIC chair.

What one ought to expect from a 2,500-plus member club is that it have a representative present to depute at every municipal meeting item germane to the welfare of Toronto’s bicyclists and the cultivation of an active transportation policy. This is core to political advocacy, the nitty-gritty of why people mobilize: to have an efficacious, visible, vocal, persuasive presence at the municipal table. A strong organization has opponents who recognize that an unwillingness to sit to negotiate in good faith will be done at their political peril. This concept appears lost to Cycle Toronto.

In October 2012, at the PWIC meeting, Minnan-Wong sponsored an item to municipally re-classify electric motor scooters (i.e., the so-called, motor-assisted “e-bikes” with a gasoline motor scooter form factor) as “bicycles”. His wilful erosion of bicycling advocacy in Toronto delivered another message: the city, under his watch, will continue endangering Toronto’s safety bicyclists, whose meagre (and dwindling) infrastructure now stands to be commandeered by motorized vehicles manned by unlicensed, even reckless motorists — some of whom may be driving with suspended licenses.

Nevertheless, Cycle Toronto didn’t appear before the PWIC to depute against this hostile item. Instead, its director, Jared Kolb, submitted a letter to the committee which merely frowned upon the item — leaving only two citizen bicyclists to face the PWIC as deputants (disclosure: I was one of those deputants). The other five deputants favoured re-designating electric motor scooters as “bicycles”. To the committee, it looked as if bicyclists had largely conceded this issue from the get-go.

To summarize: rather than pressing forward with a bold, assertive, smart, and multi-pronged plan to champion holistic, multi-modal, active transportation while going to bat for bicyclists, Cycle Toronto is still lamenting the tactical loss of the Jarvis lanes, treating them more like a Custer’s Last Stand than a single casualty within a much wider theatre.

This brings up the other point:

Get over Jarvis. Jarvis isn’t a person, and giving it a candlelight vigil is insulting to anyone whose memory must be marked by a vigil.

As recently as Monday, Cycle Toronto cheapened the sombre ritual of candlelight vigils by promoting one for the Jarvis lanes. Rather than reserving it for a fallen bicyclist (such as for bike messenger Mike Rankin, who was struck and killed last week by a taxi which gunned its throttle to “clear” a yellow traffic light), Cycle Toronto’s obsession with Jarvis seems to be almost maniacal.

As with other fatalities still fresh in our minds, Cycle Toronto’s decision to promote a Jarvis vigil was callous and self-absorbed. In addition to Rankin, the one-year marking of Jenna Morrison’s death has just passed, and now another woman, exactly the same age as Morrison, was crushed by one of Mayor Ford’s privatized Green For Life garbage trucks and is now clinging to life.

Nearly all of Cycle Toronto’s tweets have, meanwhile, been monopolized by protest coverage on Jarvis. It’s bad enough to behave this way as an organization, but given the union’s size, it just looks clownish and gives multi-modal adversaries like Mayor Ford’s caucus even more fodder for sneering at and contributing to the very real dangers which Toronto citizens on two wheels must confront daily.

Our fight (and it is a fight) is for something immensely greater than Jarvis. Let this chapter rest. There’s much greater work to do.

tl;dr: Get over Jarvis.

More to come . . .

* * *

About Astrid Idlewild: Astrid (@accozzaglia) is an urban design graduate from McGill. She is a film photographer, #RIDEOCCUPYSURVIVE button fundraiser for Jenna Morrison, former bike messenger, the brains behind the DenizenTO TTC subway shirts, and The Kodachrome Toronto Registry curator. She rides a Sekine (which mercifully shares only three letters with the Linus bike and little else).

  • Cycle Toronto is made of people.

    Wish they’d do something different? Join (or start) a ward group and lead your neighbors and fellow members to take actions you feel are important.

    Run for the board and, when elected by your bicycling peers, become part of the “bloated entity” of 2 paid staff and a handful of volunteers.

    It’s fun to criticize, and it serves a purpose. But criticism alone won’t “steer” Cycle Toronto. Unlike the motoring clubs and AAA of the 1920s, there’s no propelling force of money pushing Cycle Toronto – no rich members, no dealership / gas station / mechanic trade associations. It’s pretty much done under volunteer power and $2.50 / member / month. The way to improve Cycle Toronto is to get more propulsion – motivated volunteers turning out to improve decisions and carry out more actions at the local or city level.

    If convincing your neighbors / Cycle Toronto members that your ideas are worth acting on is too frustrating, or more work than you have time for, or you feel they’re idiots, then you might not be a politician, and that’s normal.

    But there’s a limit to what lone citizens can do without organizing, and theres no alternate Cycling Union to join. I speculate that if there was, the effect of 1000s of independent, impatient, opinionated cyclists joining it would soon replicate the problems you criticize Cycle Toronto for.

    And while small is beautiful, size matters when it comes to being able to credibly threaten “political peril” to your opponents. Cycle Toronto cannot hurt Denzil Minnan-Wong “at home” in his ward. The Ward 34 group has 5 active members. Until Cycle Toronto can influence ward voting as much as BIAs and Residents’ Associations, it will not be able to play political hardball.

    If you are convinced that bold action would win the hearts, financial support, and votes of Torontonians, then please join your ward group (or more likely, start one in your area) go do some actions, and prove it works.

    Until then, I have faith in the board we elected. They’re the best we got. And I’m proud of what we’ve done in the Ward 19 advocacy group. And I would love to see more Torontonians get involved and take action on improving cycling conditions, as you have.

  • Astrid – You seem to have put a lot of work into a rather lengthy and multifaceted crtique of Cycle Toronto (formerly Bike Union). So, apart from the expressed opinions, I must ask, “What are you doing to improve cycling in Toronto?
    Making adversaries with Toronto’s only volunteer organization isn’t going to cut it. I’ve given my time freely towards supporting cycling advocacy in Toronto over the last four years, and if it wasn’t for the Toronto Cyclists Union I would likely have never committed myself to that pursuit.
    A great many people want better cycling conditions in Toronto, but you can’t claim to be supporting the same by ridiculing the efforts of others. I urge you to focus your effort and writing skills towards the better objective, improving community support for cycling.

  • Sounds like you’ve got some strong opinions about this and ideas about how cycling advocacy could be done better. Like you, I was (and often still am) very angry about cycling in Toronto. Today my anger can be fueled by my work as a therapist on a trauma unit. I see on a day to day basis the painful and heartbreaking toll that our City’s roads take on our most vulnerable citizens. I turned my anger into action a few years ago as a very avid volunteer in the then just starting bike union (and before that bEAST). Yes, there’s always more that could be done – but it only takes me my ride home or a trip to city council to see where were starting from. I do however believe that change will come more promptly when we mobolise with a united front. That’s why I poured so much time into the bike union (now Cycle Toronto) for over four years.
    I’ve bit my lip in the past when you’ve criticized the funding model (maybe you have better ideas than a membership model to pay the two already underpaid staff -if so I’m sure the current board would like to hear them). The financial statements are available for view if you’d like to see them and I am sure a board member could fill you in on how Jared fills his days well beyond what is asked of him.
    With all due respect, hear me out for a minute, because I’ve bit at this for a while. Your criticism would be a lot more effective if done constructively.
    If you’d like to talk more about it, I’d be interested to do it in person over a drink of your choice. When we fight against one another the other side has won.

  • This article really touches on some of my frustrations with bicycle advocacy in this city and hits at the reasons why I’m not a member of Cycle Toronto. But, because I am not a member, they have have an easy excuse to not listen to me.

    In my opinion, the right thing for the group to do is entertain, just for a minute, the concerns brought up here. Ask themselves “what if people viewed us this way, and what would we do about it if they did?” If the answer is “nothing different” then we end the discussion. But, if the answer is “I guess we could improve _____…” then they’ve only bettered themselves.

  • Dave Meslin

    Hey folks,

    As the founder of both Cycle Toronto and the Jarvis Emergency Taskforce, I thought I should probably contribute some thoughts here.

    First, l wanna thank Astrid for starting a discussion. Within any movement or organisation, it’s important to foster debate & criticism. Any group, no matter how amazing they are, will screw up at times and without encouraging a culture of feedback and dialogue, those mistakes will go unchecked. So, thanks for being a shit-disturber. I’ve built a whole career on being a shit-disturber. We need more of us.

    That said, I gotta say that I disagree with most of what you’ve written here about Cycle Toronto, how they’ve handled the Jarvis situation, and what they’ve been able to accomplish as an organisation.

    First, the parts I agree with you on:

    1) Yvonne should have worn a helmet, and kept her non-helmet attitudes to herself. I’m a huge fan of Yvonne’s and I can say that I’m not sure that Cycle Toronto would exist right now, if it hadn’t been for her leadership from 2008-2010. She invested thousands of hours into the bike union, at a time when we were just getting started and had little resources. (No office, no revenue, etc). She was a rock star, both politically and administratively. But like you, I always wished that she would keep her views about helmets to herself, and just put one on her head – for the group.

    2) The “Union”. As you know, I was strongly opposed to dropping the word “union” from our name. But it was a democratic decision, and I’ve moved on.

    Now, here’s where I disagree:

    I think Cycle Toronto is doing an amazing job. And Jared’s job is Mission Impossible. First, he has hardly any resources. When I went on my research tour to learn about membership-funded advocacy organisations, I was blown away by what I saw. I visited groups in San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, Portland, Vancouver, Chicago and Ottawa. These groups were astounding, and had between 4 and 15 full-time staff. Staff job descriptions included: advocacy, membership outreach, fundraising, communications, event planning, database, marketing, reception, IT, etc….

    Meanwhile, Cycle Toronto has had one or two staff – doing ALL of those roles at once. That’s a TONNE of work. So that partially explains why Jared can’t be at every PWIC meeting. He’s not a full-time advocacy person – he’s a full time everything person. It’s incredibly demanding. Media requests, tech problems, board meetings, finance planning, general admin, event planning, Council relations, keeping in touch with ward-based groups, sending Action Alerts, sending out the Ring & Post newsletter, website updates, research, etc… Holy moley. I wouldn’t want that job. Over-worked. Underpaid.

    But Jared’s job is also Mission Impossible because he can NEVER make everyone happy. It just can’t be done. Let’s take the example of Denzil Minnan Wong. Yes, many members wanted us to revoke his membership when he double-crossed us and orchestrated the removal of bike lanes on Jarvis. But many members did not. By not revoking his membership, we pissed off people like you. But if we had revoked his membership, we would have pissed off people who want to see Cycle Toronto maintain a collaborative relationship with the Chair of the Public Works Committee. After all, Denzil was quite successful with his bullshit spin about Sherbourne being an adequate replacement for Jarvis. Heck, we even had members who told us not to fight for Jarvis at all!! They were like “Screw Jarvis. It’s over. Start working with Denzil on Richmond, Adelaide, Hoskins, Wellesely, etc…”. Those folks wanted us to be propositional, rather than oppositional. They were willing to let Jarvis die, in the name of maintaining a good relationship with Denzil, who had successfully framed himself in the media as a bike hero.

    So, what did Cycle Toronto do? It listened to both points of view, and took a middle-ground approach. It didn’t revoke Denzil’s membership – but it didn’t back down on Jarvis. Cycle Toronto worked their ass off trying to save Jarvis. It was a great campaign, with a multi-pronged approach: Provincial court challenges, massive protest rides, “Drivers for Jarvis”, local ward-based planning, online petitions, Freedom of Information requests, press conferences, intense lobbying, etc… They didn’t cut ties with DMW, but didn’t let him off the hook either. It was a very calculated decision.

    And then we finally lost Jarvis for good. That was two weeks ago. Again, we had a strategy meeting. Do we keep fighting, or do we let it go? Some people never wanted to fight for Jarvis in the first place. Others wanted to fight to the death (or at least… were willing to get arrested). Cycle Toronto decided that for them, the fight was over. I agreed. We had exhausted every technical opportunity to win the fight at City Hall.

    Here’s the thing: Any successful movement has to have multiple ‘wings’ or ‘arms’ that can implement different styles of advocacy. Take the environmental movement. On one side, you’ve got the far radicals like Earth First or the Earth Liberation Front who promote direct action and even destruction of property. Then, on the other side, you’ve got the World Wildlife Fund, which is sponsored by RBC, Loblaw and Home Depot. Most groups fit somewhere in the middle (with Greenpeace leaning more towards ELF, and Sierra Club leaning more towards WWF). When government wants to invite people “to the table” to talk about a policy, they’ll invite the WWF or Sierra Club. And if the media wants to host a roundtable discussion on a policy item, they are more likely to invite WWF or Environmental Defence than Greenpeace, and definitely not the ELF. Now, if WWF tried to act more like the ELF – or vice-versa – they would both be letting down their membership.

    The difficulty with Cycle Toronto is that we don’t have a diverse movement with multiple well-organised groups. ARC is still around (Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists), but their work is mostly limited to memorials. Meanwhile in New York, they are lucky to have Transportation Alternatives (“at the table”), and Times Up (a group committed to direct action).

    In Toronto, when a deputation needs to be made at city hall, by a respected advocate who has credibility amongst Councillors… it’s a job for Cycle Toronto. But when a rally needs to be organised, with hundreds of angry cyclists, and someone yelling through a megaphone – that’s also a job for Cycle Toronto.

    That is a HARD job, and requires constant assessment and re-assessment. It’s a tight-rope. Lean to far one way, you’ll piss off one side. And vice-versa. And I think they’ve done an amazing job of walking that tight rope.

    Once the final vote had come in for Jarvis, and we had lost, the role for Cycle Toronto to play was over. Luckily, I had started another group called the Jarvis Emergency Taskforce – the ‘Greenpeace’ of the bike movement. haha. JET had 500 followers on Twitter and 100 subscribed to a txt-based alert service. After the vote, I took JET offline. I wasn’t sure if people really wanted to drag out the Jarvis fiasco any longer. But after hearing from many angry cyclists who wanted to express their anger, I put it back online, pulled together a team (the leads were Iva Jericevic and Danny Brown) and they held PUBLIC meetings, to discuss what shape the protest would take.

    Those at the meeting decided to adopt a hybrid approach of 1) Peaceful civil disobedience, and 2) a creative art-based response, which took the shape of a vigil.

    The direct action was stunning. One of the most inspiring moments I’ve seen in the history of our movement. In particular, seeing a physician arrested, standing up (or, sitting down in this case) for the Jarvis bikelane, and getting a really concise and strong message into the media – was beautiful.

    And the vigil was beautiful too. I see nothing wrong with having a symbolic vigil. There is nothing inappropriate about it at all. I’ve been to lots of vigils to mourn actual deaths (too many to remember), and I’ve been to many symbolic vigils. Both are powerful – both are effective community-building experiences. In fact, some of the folks who organise ARC’s vigils for cyclists who have died – also attended the JET vigil.

    I was at the scene, at Dundas and Sterling, last year when Jenna Morrison’s body lay on the ground, under a tarp. I stood vigil there for hours. sad. angry. outraged. And when I stood on Jarvis this week, I wasn’t mourning for ‘Jarvis’, the street. I was mourning for the people who ride on Jarvis – and praying that they don’t also end up under a tarp – like Jenna.

    You wrote: “Cycle Toronto’s obsession with Jarvis seems to be almost maniacal.” Quite the opposite. Cycle Toronto fought hard for a bike lane that deserved to be fought for. When it was over, they moved on. As they should. There are other battles to win.

    “Nearly all of Cycle Toronto’s tweets have, meanwhile, been monopolized by protest coverage on Jarvis.” Not true at all. During the three days that Jarvis was bring removed, Cycle Toronto sent out 19 tweets (not including RTs or replies). Of the 19, only TWO were about Jarvis. That’s because Cycle Toronto was busy doing other things: Organising to protect the Rogers Road bikelane, promoting a memorial ride for Mike Rankin, advocating for protected lanes on Wellesley/Queen’s Park/Hoskin, live-tweeting a PWIC meeting, promoting a fundraiser, promoting a winter cycling workshop, and promoting their info table at the Wychwood Barns. That’s a LOT of things to tweet about. Jarvis was a side note.

    If they had mentioned Jarvis more on Twitter, some would have complained (“Move on folks!!!”). If they hadn’t mentioned Jarvis at all, some would have complained (“Don’t give up! This is our moment of glory!”). You can’t make everyone happy. But they try, and they try hard.

    I’ve sat in on a dozen strategy meetings about Jarvis over the last few years. With board members, with activists in Ward 20, with Councillors, with lawyers, with Councillors, with Jared, with Yvonne, with Andie. Each time, there were hard decisions to make. And each time, I think we made the right one. Cycle Toronto deserves so much credit for doing so much, with so little – especially in such a hostile political environment.

    When Andie wrote that bike infrastructure is “not political”, I think she meant that it shouldn’t be a right/left issue, nor a downtown/suburban divide, nor even a car VS driver fight. She meant “this is something we ALL care about – human safety. Let’s work together to find solutions”. That doesn’t mean that Cycle Toronto is apolitical, or isn’t aware of the political context that informs cycle policy. It just means that there are attempts being made to widen the tent, bring in new allies, and broaden our community support beyond the usual suspects.

    In the same letter that Andie wrote that bikelanes are “Not Political”, she also wrote “It’s time for Ford Nation to meet Bike Nation.” That’s a threat, from a union.

    See what I’m saying? Andie, Yvonne and Jared have to be the WWF and Greenpeace at the same time. It’s impossible – and yet they’ve done it well.

    If anyone thinks we need a more radical cycling group, that is prepared to be more militant, or more partisan, or more ‘political’, or whatever, they should start one. And if anyone thinks we need a more moderate group, that doesn’t organise rallies and shout into megaphones, then they should organise one too. And/or, they should get involved with Cycle Toronto, as a voting member, join a subcommittee, join a local ward group, run for the Board of Directors, and try to shift the policy direction from inside.

    I’ll just finish by again thanking Astrid. We’re all frustrated about how things are going. Toronto used to win awards for being the best bike city in North America, and now we’re a joke on the national scene. And it’s not just a Ford thing. Things were pretty crappy under Miller too. It’s sad, and as a cyclist – it’s scary. And we need to be talking about how we can respond, as a community.

    But I don’t think Cycle Toronto is part of the problem. I think they’ve been part of the solution. Let’s not forget who won us the Jarvis bike lane in the first place. It was the bike union. I think that was an important fight, and I was proud of the bike union when they won it.

    Now that bike lane is gone. Cycle Toronto tried hard to defend it, and that made me proud to be a member. Jared is my hero. And so is the board, and all our volunteers and staff (present and past). And my heroes include the volunteers in Ward 20 (Lynda Young, Genessa Radke, Michael Black, Chris Drew, Peter Low, etc) who ran the on-the-ground outreach campaign. And my heroes also include the people who put their bodies on the street to stop the trucks, and those who organised JET (Iva & Danny). And my heroes include anyone like Astrid, who cares enough about this issue to write long blog posts like this one.

    We’re a community. We need to encourage critical analysis, but we also have to put ourselves in each other’s shoes and try to appreciate the complexity of a movement that is large and growing, but young and learning.

    yours,
    ~ dave

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