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Some Mayoral Candidates ride with the Bike Union

Photo by Martin Reis

Photo by Martin Reis

This morning saw some of the candidates for mayor join the Toronto Cyclists Union for a little symbolic ride and press conference downtown today:

The 30 minute ride, which stayed within the downtown core, allowed candidates to experience almost the full range of scenarios faced on a daily urban commute by bicycle.  The ride took candidates on arterials with bike lanes, without bike lanes, on roads with construction, roads scarred by utility cuts, on minor arterials, and on side streets…

Bicycles and helmets were provided by local bike merchants Curbside Cycle & Urbane Cyclist, upon request by some candidates.  Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, who was not fortunate enough as a child to learn to ride, was welcomed along and accommodated by bicycle rickshaw. Along for the ride were Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi, Himy Syed, Rocco Achampong, Dewitt Lee, and Daniel Walker – Keith Cole stopped by but could not stay, and Mark State joined us for the press conference.

Good intention, I am sure.  As Lizz Bryce has pointed out (very well), this was just a media event…  a press conference wrapped up to look like a “commute”:

The press release from the Toronto Cyclists’ Union  was positive: “The 30 minute ride, which stayed within the downtown core, allowed candidates to experience almost the full range of scenarios faced on a daily urban commute by bicycle.”

Except it didn’t.  Not even close. The candidates were riding in a large group escorted by police– hardly representative of what I go through on my way to work every day.

The Bike Union called for more bikelanes and Rocco Rossi did a Flip-Flop on advocating for bikelanes on downtown arterials.

What do you think?  Is a police-protected group ride by mayoral candidates useful at all?

  • Joe,

    While I think today’s mayoral candidate’s commute is a useful exercise, and I applaud the Cyclists Union for the initiative, I agree with you, it’s not even close to the commute many of us have; and that’s not just because of the police escort either.

    The Cycling Union’s press release might give a false impression. While the candidate’s may have experienced a police-escorted “full range of scenarios” faced by urban cycling commuters, the downtown core is the only place in Toronto where an urban cycling scenario exists. The other roughly 80% of Toronto’s geographic area is effectively suburban.

    Cross the Don Valley, get north of St. Clair or pedal west of High Park and you’ll notice higher automobile speeds and far fewer bike lanes, sharrows, etc., to protect cyclists.

    On my commute in northwest Scarborough and Markham (admittedly not Toronto), I need to deal with long, straight stretches of open road that encourages higher truck and car speeds.

    Not only are bike lanes far between and disconnected, but the lack of protection for cyclists means I rarely see a cyclist on the road along my commute; the vast majority use sidewalks and, while illegal and dangerous for pedestrians, I can’t really blame them. The result is another issue that’s different from downtown riding. On most of my commutes, because I’m the only rider on the road – there is no mass of cyclists.

    I’m not saying that I face any more or less issues than any other cycling commuter, urban or not. I just don’t think that during their ride today the mayoral candidates got a feel for very many of the issues I face in my daily cycling commute in Toronto and the Cyclist Union’s press release might give the impression that they did.


  • Great points, Steve, and thanks for articulating them so well.

    The Cyclist Union does a great job promoting bikes to those at City Hall (and those who want to run the place), and this event was a good one, even though only two of the *major* candidates (Pantalone and Rossi) bothered to show up.

  • Greetings, this is Mayor Candidate Dewitt Lee and I just want to thank the T.C.U. for their resourcefulness to get the candidates out on a bike, its important before you past judgment or give your opinion on something you have some experience in the matter – although the bike ride was far from “the real deal” it did provide a taste of what cyclist go through. I made a few points at the press conference that followed… 1. I think we should encourage tourists more to enjoy Toronto via bikes and if Mayor I will provide leadership to see that happen. I also mentioned that BIXI bike is important to me and Toronto and I hope we get enough support to start the project here and I mentioned that Curbside Cycling is providing discounts to people who lived in the apt. complex that caught fire on Wellesley are eligible for discounts on rentals. I want to also thank Yvonne from the T.C.U. for speaking up against the bike lanes project Mr. Rossi presented. Too many times candidates throw together something just to have something to show.. Lets not accept mediocrity – but demand the best..

  • Thanks for the comment Dewitt. Good to hear from a candidate who attended.