In memoriam: Cycling advocate Wayne Scott

Longtime champion of cycling worked tirelessly to improve street safety and the labour conditions of bike couriers

Wayne Scott never shied away from a fight, whatever the odds – and as a pedestrian and cycling advocate in Toronto the odds were usually bad, or worse.

Wayne died late last month from a long battle with cancer that would slowly deprive him of the baritone voice that got audiences to take notice. His illness would also deprive him of his ability to ride his cherished cargo bike.

After turning 30 and ending his rock and roll career in the early 1980s, Wayne became a bike courier after seeing a “Bike Messengers Wanted” sign in an office window. “I can do that,” he decided, putting aside his plans to become a graphic designer. And so began his decades-long battles to improve the working conditions of couriers.

In 1982, Wayne challenged the Canada Revenue Agency’s discriminatory practice of denying foot and bike couriers the right to deduct the cost of food and drink that fueled their bodies – even though car-reliant couriers could deduct the gasoline that fed their vehicles. In 1998, he emerged from an appeal court with a precedent-setting decision that accepted his “food as fuel” argument. “The little guy finally won one,” marvelled a local courier at the time.

In the intervening years, Wayne led a fight for compensation for workplace injuries. In 1996, he led a charge by couriers to improve dangerous conditions at a delivery entrance to Metro Hall. Wayne and his colleagues then succeeded in converting a proposal to license couriers into the city’s first annual “Messenger Appreciation Day” in 1997, celebrating couriers for their positive contribution to commerce, air quality, and the climate.

Wayne formed the HOOF&CYCLE Active Transport Workers Guild in 2005, reviving a similar organization he helped create a decade earlier. HOOF&CYCLE (Wayne always insisted on the capitalization) engaged in a variety of road safety initiatives, including the successful call to Ontario’s Chief Coroner for a review of pedestrian and cyclist deaths. As a former Toronto Cycling Ambassador, Wayne brought the city before the Ontario Labour Relations Board in 2010, alleging a failure to provide a safe workplace, namely city streets. (The case was dismissed, albeit on a curious technical interpretation.)

The belief that cars are ill-suited to urban life underpinned Wayne’s advocacy. Indeed, he never owned a car, with the notable exception of a kitty car that he once pedalled, as a toddler, to a local grocery store, parking it outside and helping himself to a bag of candy. He then ran home to show his surprised mother, forgetting his car. Today, Toronto City Hall is finally adopting Wayne’s point of view with policies such as the Vision Zero road safety plan, which acknowledges the lethal danger of cars.

Since 2009 Wayne devoted much of his energy to the case of Darcy Allan Sheppard, a fellow courier killed on Bloor Street in an altercation with former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant. Wayne’s sense of justice was deeply offended by the selective handling of contradictory evidence by the special prosecutor brought in to oversee the criminal negligence charges (subsequently withdrawn) against Bryant. Each year, on the anniversary of Sheppard’s death, Wayne organized a memorial.

Wayne approached each chapter in his life, including his battle with cancer, with the same poise, tenacity, and good humour that he brought to his advocacy, only lamenting in his final months that he would be forced to leave his life partner, Katherine on her own.

For Wayne, it turned out that a lifetime wasn’t quite enough to convert Toronto into a bike-friendly city, but his successes, despite the odds, moved us markedly forward. The ghost bike he placed in Darcy’s memory on Bloor Street remains after a decade. That it is still tolerated on the most prestigious shopping street in Canada underscores his diplomacy.

Wayne maintained the bike diligently, refurbishing frequently, replacing faded posters and flowers, recovering and restoring it when maintenance workers hauled it away.

Crucially, Wayne established respectful relationships with the Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Association and merchants whose premises overlooked the bike. He made sure they knew what it represented. He also ensured they knew how to contact him.

Wayne maintained the ghost bike for the eight years he lived with cancer. The disease’s progress made it hard to continue, but he persisted, almost to the end. To hear Wayne speak about his many causes was to anticipate imminent mayhem. But to see him advocate his causes was to watch a diplomat, not a street-fighter. Rest in protest.


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22 responses to “In memoriam: Cycling advocate Wayne Scott”

  1. How about cyclists obey the rules of the road. Like stay off sidewalks as that is ILLEGAL under the highway traffic act and like a car striking a pedestrian on a sidewalk can lead to criminal charges.
    Anyone else see bicyclists blow through stop signs, red lights, wrong way on one-way streets and other infractions. Oh yeah, bikers think they are special and don’t need to follow the highway traffic act. That’s for vehicle drivers.

    • By the way, Greg, nice of you to deface an obituary to a man who accomplished so much in his life, with your mean attempt to smear ‘those people’. Hope it makes you feel bigger.

    • Hey Greg! The leading cause of death in Canada for people aged one to 17 is motor vehicle collisions (aka people driving their cars into other people). If you truly care about safety you should direct your rants in a different direction.

    • I am sooooo confused as to what this has to do with the article and a man advocating for WORKING cyclers who ride as their job… The issue you’re addressing is entirely irrelevant. An issue in itself, I’m sure it drives a lot of us crazy, but in this case, irrelevant. The point of the article was to honour somebody who brought to light the lack of rights for non-motorized couriers. Not your gripes with the cycler-vs-traffic situation. hahah..

    • Replay to Greg: Really? I watch cars, trucks and big delivery vehicles blow through stop signs and red lights every day.. and they can do a lot more damage than a cyclist

    • Your comments are inappropriate, untimely, misplaced and disrespectful.
      I have known Wayne for many years, and all I can add is that this article is a very accurate and inspiring tribute.
      Wayne was not one of these “disrespectful” cyclists that you refer to, and his memory should not be tarnished by such comments.
      You would do better to post your comments in a general cycling forum, rather than associating them with a good man who is no longer here to defend himself.

    • I’m guessing you just read the title and started to write this garbage comment. You might want to lighten up or you’ll die bitter as you remember your life was full of hate. Move on keyboard warrior no one cares.

  2. Allan Wayne Scott was an amazing person. He left Toronto a better place than how he found it. I can’t say a better compliment about him than that. He’ll be dearly missed.

  3. I was married to a bike courier for many years and Waynes advocacy made an actual difference in our lives.
    He was a tenacious, justice seeking fighter.
    RIP and thank you Wayne.

  4. Well Greg I challenge you to try walking in someone else’s shoes and to try cycling downtown yourself for a change so you can see exactly how dangerous it is for cyclists in many places. Not to excuse illegal behavior and infractions because there’s no excuse for that but as a cyclist I see motorists fragrantly disobeying the law on many occasions myself. Including blowing through red lights and cutting off cyclists, making right turns in front of them without paying attention etc. So we can both play the anecdote game. Maybe people wouldn’t need to ride on sidewalks if there was actual cycling infrastructure there to support them like many other cities have. Not that it’s appropriate do you think that people really want to ride on sidewalks if they have any other choice at all? What’s the choice other than to be mowed down by some negligent driver not paying attention? Is it their fault that they don’t have a safe place to ride because the city planners decided to just ignore them instead of to incorporate them into the overall traffic plan? The city has been negligent about providing safe places to bike especially compared to many other cities like Montreal and Vancouver.

  5. Stats are that drivers break just as many laws as cyclists do, but in different circumstances. Rule following is pretty even across modes of transportation.

  6. Your spiteful keyboard does not hold a candle to the incredible and compassionate human being memorialized above.

    How about motor vehicle operator’s stop their yearly carnage of thousands of other motor vehicle operators, pedestrians, cyclists and children? Perhaps you can enlighten us with the “official” database of cyclists killing motor vehicle operators.

    Oh, wait. It doesn’t exist.

    Such is the lonely life of policing sidewalks from a keyboard.

  7. It is becoming the “Norm” for cyclist .. at the same time vehicles.. tend to beat pedestrians crossing with the green light getting stopped .. for vehicles wanting to turn right .. everyone needs to slow down .. Give each other respect ..we all are special .. RESPECT

  8. Replay to Greg, how dare you continue your assumptions about him? He was an advocate for all citizens of Toronto for decades. He worked with many people across the board in all social circles, and not one of them would even think of saying what you have about him.
    Or do you mean Darcy does not deserve a memorial? If you honestly believe that, I do not think you know much about the true details about the case, and what happened before and immediately afterwards. If you knew you how it went down, I don’t think you would be posting this now.
    Either way for you to say such a thing when this article is about a Hero of Toronto is despicable.
    Rest In Protest Alan Wayne Scott <3

  9. I nearly replied to Greg until I remembered Wayne Scott’s example and sought better of myself. An articulate response would fall on deaf ears.

    By creating safe traffic spaces for cyclists, Wayne Scott enabled cyclists to ride on the road safely, which is safer for pedestrians and for motorists, too. He improved all of our lives. Among other great qualities, he was the cyclist any annoyed motorist should praise — he obeyed the rules of the road to the letter and in spirit, respectful of drivers, pedestrians, and his fellow cyclists, whether he was on wheels or on foot. Even against cancer, he maintained his love, his humour, his passion, and his diplomacy. We are better off by his contributions to the city and diminished by his passing. HOOF&CYCLE

    We all would do well to emulate his example. Elevate our intent. Learn dignity. Be happier.

  10. clearly there are not enough who brave their way to voicing honest need as it stands.

    It may be time we come together and figure this one out in memorium.
    Happy to see in light of this notice, his intention for progress is taking place through honest discourse.

    sincere condolences to the family at large.

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