City cuts off discussion on its cycling Facebook page

Cycling chief cites "abusive language... and inappropriate postings" for decision to put the brakes on online forum created to fill the void left by the dismantling of the Toronto Cycling Committee

Citing “abusive language… and inappropriate postings,” the city’s transportation department has decided to place the official City of Toronto Cycling Facebook page, a popular online forum for the cycling community, “under review” and suspend discussion.

In a message posted on the page earlier today (Thursday, March 9) by the city’s cycling chief, Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, writes that issues with “spam and offensive material” necessitated “a great deal of moderation… and staff resources are currently focused on building new cycling infrastructure.” 

Hayward Gulati’s announcement comes after the site was closed to members posts without warning February 22. A message posted by Hayward Gulati then stated only that the forum’s continued role was “under review,” and provided a link to the city’s terms of use for social media sites.

Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati 2.png

While discussion on the site could become unruly – sometimes outsiders logged in to just rant, and some posts, my own included, could be openly critical of staff and their political masters – word is the department’s interest in keeping the site going waned when the staffer volunteering to moderate the page left the city’s employ.  

Hayward Gulati states in her Facebook message that the discussion group is not a “core service” of the department. However, the decision to place the forum under review, has had the unfortunate effect of further fragmenting the still necessary urban transportation conversation. 

The Facebook group, which boasts more than 4500 members, was created to help fill the void left by the dismantling of the citizen-led Toronto Cycling Committee (as well as the Toronto Pedestrian Committee) by former Mayor Rob Ford and his handpicked chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, and current deputy mayor, Denzil Minnan-Wong.

That the Facebook page was able to attract participants from so many different corners of the cycling community, especially on issues of road safety, speaks to how successfully this forum had plugged Torontonians into our municipal government.

In an urban hub like Toronto that is behind in meeting our rational transportation needs, any real street-level improvement in our traffic congestion problems over the coming decade(s) depends on our wider understanding of mobility realities. The city’s cycling Facebook page provided a small but important way for us to come together to achieve our shared goals.

Hopefully transportation department bureaucrats will give some thought to fixing whatever moderation problems there might have been, instead of cutting off another vital connection to the public. That should be of interest to every Torontonian, whether they ride a bike or not. | @nowtoronto

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