City sideswipes bike advocates

Rating: NNNNN Strange that Bike Week kicks off Monday (May 28), just as the new Toronto Cycling Committee co-chair wheels.

Rating: NNNNN

Strange that Bike Week kicks off Monday (May 28), just as the new Toronto Cycling Committee co-chair wheels in a new plan to slash membership.

The change pushed by Scarborough Southwest councillor Adrian Heaps proposes cutting membership from the current 22 to eight, supposedly to streamline the committee for fast action.

But let’s be clear — inefficiencies and delays in improving cycling don’t rest with TCC members, who are all volunteers. It’s the shortage of staff (now somewhat rectified) and the low status of cycling in the bureaucracy that have our wheels trapped in sewer grates. Reports can languish for months, sometimes years.

Heaps’s executive assistant, Dianne Hilliard , noting that Heaps is himself an avid cyclist, assures NOW that the proposed trim isn’t intended to exclude activists from a committee already faulted for inaction by some in the cycling community.

The plan, she says, is to appoint a greater cross-section of representatives. “The committee has just sort of stalled,” says Hilliard. ” We have to be aggressive if we want to meet the mayor’s commitment to finish the bike network by 2012.”

True, the last full meeting of the old TCC was in September 2006. Members have found it difficult to advise on cycling issues for the entire city, and quorum difficulties have hampered their work. Late-night meetings have boosted the attrition rate. But many on the committee are convinced the proposal to excise two-thirds of the volunteers will only further marginalize cycling rather than increase its profile. Some worry that a streamlined body will only increase their workload, leaving them little time to champion new causes.

Some cycling advocates aren’t so cynical, but I’ve watched as citizen discussions on traffic issues disappeared, as when the Gardiner/Lakeshore task force was absorbed into the mayor’s office.

Despite the city promise to increase spending on bike infrastructure, is it possible that the future of cycling, despite its ever-increasing popularity and its role in fighting climate change and smog, will be less bright?

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