CYCLISTS UNION LAUNCH Inspired by successful member-?driven groups around the continent, this new org aims to provide an amplified unified voice for T.O. cyclists. Speakers include the mayor and Metrolinx Chair Rob MacIsaac. Tuesday (May 20), 9 am to 1 pm, in Nathan Phillips Square. Free. www.bikeunion.to. Rating: NNNNN
Why a new cyclist union?
We didn’t have a member-driven group that was advocating specifically for cyclists’ rights. We’re sort of filling a gap that all the others in their niches couldn’t, and trying to unify the voice of cyclists.
One of the most important things we’re doing is trying to get the city to follow up on the Bike Plan that has stagnated.
The other thing we’re trying to do is break down stereotypes about cyclists. We’re not just couriers or guys in spandex.
Are other groups feeling like you’re stealing their thunder?
No, no one’s expressed anything like that. It’s a pretty close community, and everything has been nice and clear. Here’s the difference: we’re specific to bikes, we’re a pragmatic group, and we’re not doing public action – things that can be misconstrued.
Is member insurance in the works?
With any start-?up group you have to start small and make it sustainable. To start, we’re offering smaller things that are more feasible for us to do – like bike lock removal. We want eventually to offer insurance, based on successful models like Australia’s. That’s stuff that will come with time.
How’s the city helping out?
They’re supportive. They’re looking forward to having a strong voice in the cyclist community. The other thing that’s quite unique about what we’re doing is that we’re reaching out into all the wards, and we have almost all of them covered with ward captains.
Is the city helping with funding?
In other cities there are cyclists’ groups that work in tandem with cities. They take contracts for things the city would otherwise have done, like event bike parking. It looks as though we’re going ahead with that – it’s something that can be contracted out to us. So not so much funding, but they might send contracts our way.
What is the cyclist’s number-one foe?
It’s the way our roads are set up. Until our municipal government shows drivers through actions like painting bike lanes that they need to take cyclists seriously, most drivers will continue to think cyclists have no place on the road.
We can do so much better. Toronto is positioning itself as one of the greenest cities in North America, but if we lack the most basic infrastructure required for sustainable transportation, how green are we?
Top of the cyclist wish list?
We’re recognized as equal partners on the road. Cyclists pay taxes, too. Why should the roads be solely for automobile drivers?
What kind of bike do you ride?
I ride a beater with flowers on my basket. After I had a bike stolen, I decorated my new one, putting flowers on it. Personalizing it has been a theft deterrent. I love my bike; it’s a reflection of me, and people recognize me around town.
Favourite place to take it for a spin?
Anywhere I’m going, really. I love riding around the Islands – that’s my favourite, because there are no cars.