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How To Deal with an Anti-Cycling Mayor?

Toronto is waking up this morning with an “Oh My Gawd, what have we done?” look on it’s face.

More people voted for noted anti-cyclist mayoral candidate Rob Ford than any other (but not the rest of them combined, it should be noted) yesterday, meaning that on Dec. 1st, he’ll become mayor.

Now that the campaign is over, it’ll be interesting how Toronto and the cycling community deal with the next 4 years.

Will the organized and political parts of the cycling community realize that, just like Ford has to build bridges with City Councillors, they have to build bridges with a Ford-run City Hall?

Or will they just devolve into the anarchistic behaviour of the more extreme factions of the cycling community?

What do you think is the best path?

  • Martin Reis

    Together with some friends I think I will start a bike buddy/ambassador system. Maybe an orange arm band or something similar. ‘If you see someone who wears an orange armband that person welcomes
    you to ride with them if you like (for safety …)’
    At least, that way there would be a witness.

    Kinda like the Bike Train Joe and I organized way back when … although this one would be more random and more often and anyone can do it.

  • Very good idea, Martin.

    BikingToronto will help promote it!

  • Rhain Louis

    Martin, that’s a great idea!

  • I like it, and I have an orange arm band already.

    It won’t do cycling any good to have militant factions roaming the streets, making themselves a problem that anti-cycling types can rail against, and we know they will. We need to continue promoting cycling and its benefits to ourselves, drivers and the city, and not shove it down people’s throats.

  • I really like that idea, Tino.

    As for the ‘anarchistic’ behaviour: I think some is always warranted. I think, for example, the URS may be the only one putting bike lanes in for a while. I hope to see many more folks at Critical Mass – not to cause trouble, obviously, but to say ‘we’re here and we’re not going away’

    As for building the bridges: I’m not sure about how that’ll go. It has to be done but perhaps the route is more through our councillors

  • Critical Mass this Friday will be interesting. I may try to attend just to see what happens.

    I’ll have to figure out a costume though. :) Halloween Mass is always very fun – if only for the costumes.

  • I don’t like that URS essentially vandalizes the streets (which annoys people as the city spends money to clean it), but I do like that they bring attention to where infrastructure is needed.


  • annied

    I like that. Not only for the safety component, but also as a way of building community. We’re gonna need it…

  • To watch for now; 1) blame instead of responsibility; 2) inverse of blame; claiming every good thing (see: Harris, economic recovery), trumpet every announcement many times (see: Harris, Harper); 3) demonizing those who disagree (see: ‘special interest group’ vis. Mike Harris); 4) Make sure that maximum money/power flows to your own ‘special interest groups’ (see: privatization, consulting, appointments)

    4) Is critical – cycling MUST be seen to be mainstream and inclusive. It also must introduce accountability in some shape or form. The cost of not doing this is to be a sidelined to (spoken with a Mike Harris sneer) ‘special interest group’.

    Media coverage doesn’t hurt either – reframe their damned arguments – make their ‘War on on the car’ to our ‘War on my grandchildren’

  • Re: URS Exactly, Joe. It creates a message that lasts a long time and gets many people talking. And in the case of the TTC station operation, I *fully* support that one. There wasn’t any misrepresentation at all – just reposting the rules in a form that made people think and consistent with other station design.

    It’ll be interesting to see what face activism takes over the next few years. Of course *nothing* beats getting folks out there to ride. And the way to do that is to make them safe. That’s why I like the armband idea. And perhaps we, here, can organize something around bike month to help new riders figure out how to feel safe as they start. Choosing routes, small group rides. So many folks seem to think riding their bike in the city means always riding down Bloor. Sure, there are times that that is necessary but not always when you start out. Maybe a sort of mentoring program? Just thinking out loud now…

  • Great idea Todd… a BikeMonth Bike Buddy campaign! It’ll give us and Martin a few months to work on it. :) Perfect timing with Bixi coming in May too.

  • AL

    critical mass; election edition = west end cm that ends with a bike lift on the front lawn of soooomeone’s house. OR cm daytime edition that ends with a bike block or bike lift on the front steps of city hall at lunch time.

    sayyyying just sayin.

  • @Martin – I think the arm-band idea is an amazing concept and I’d love to be part of it in any way I can.

    though we now have an anti-bike mayor we still have a lot of pro-bike champions in council and even gained some new ones through the election. Unfortunately, something I only realized last night in an effort to drink away the thought of a ford vistory was that we now have 2 fords in council. We also still have a lot of things we can fall back on like the Bike Plan as well as great organizations like the Toronto Cyclists Union. Long winded story short, we just have to keep on truckin’ (err, bikin’?), developing strong relations with those in council and to be even more engaged in the democratic process.

  • I have to confess, this is worrying me. I think, as well, the cycling community very much needs to develop a consistent message that is palatable to the Rob Ford crowd. So, instead of focusing on our needs as a cycling community, why not messaging along the lines of : “Bicycling infrastructure is good for cars”. Bike lanes reduce car/bike accidents and reduce stress levels on both drivers. I know that bikes weaving in an out of traffic can be stressful for car drivers. Bike boxes (newly introduced) actually make for faster flowing car traffic and easier right hand turns.

    Rob Ford is NOT going to impel me to stop biking to work. But I don’t think we need to very carefully look at our strategy as cyclists to ensure we don’t return to the dark ages.

  • cFletch

    I am very disappointed. And a little uneasy.
    I was hoping for more bike infrastructure in our neighborhood – but Etobicoke is Ford territory. I’ll bet the only thing we get now is more “No bikes on sidewalk” signs.
    I wonder if the attitudes will change at all? Will Ford voters be more likely to take his stance and honk me off the road?

    Count me in on the armbands too!

  • Peter Smith

    i agree _completely_. cyclists are pretty much just anarchists anyways, so why even bother addressing them with respect when most people don’t ride because it’s not possible, and the few that do are daily terrorized by terrorist drivers. smart.

  • duncan

    I’m excited to see the election of many new councilors who have the potential to be pro-cycling, pro-transit, pro-walkable neighbourhoods and pro-community building.

    Does the City of Toronto still have bike ambassadors? I can’t quite recall what the program was called, but I know someone who participated in the program in high school. And I think the idea above is also excellent.

    Though, if I hear the stupid idiom “gravy train” one more time I’m going to puke on an SUV.

  • The Bike Ambassador program stopped a couple years ago.

    Peter, I’m sure you maybe typed that incorrectly. *SOME* cyclists (a very small percentage) may be anarchists, but the vast majority are not… and Ford and all right-wing people should be told that.

    Heck… we have right wing cyclists as members here on BikingToronto. :)

  • Ford Fan

    I am a Ford supporter. I volunteered for, and contributed financially to Ford’s mayoral campaign. Having “said” that, I am not anti-bike. Indeed, like so many people born and raised in Toronto, my first foray on to the roads was on a bicycle as a child/youth, years before a driver’s licence was something I even seriously contemplated. It seems to me that bicyclists and automobiles coexisted with relative ease until some of the more strident elements within the bicycling community made a political issue out of what had formerly been a recreational, transportation and exercise issue. When bicyclists recognize that trying to stay to the right of faster moving, vastly heavier motorized vehicles is conducive to safety and a lower collective blood pressure for motorists and cyclists alike, the greater the chance that, for the most part, harmony can prevail on Toronto’s roads.

  • Whether we elected a pro- or anti-bike mayor, armbands are a great idea and Nodders’ point is brilliant. Too many of us use straight line thinking – bikes interrupt traffic – but don’t look at it as more bikes mean less traffic, so more bikes mean cars can get around easier and more bike infrastructure also makes it easier on both cyclists and motorists – oops, sorry, I mean people who ride and people who drive. ;)

    I say build bridges. The mayor is just one vote and council appears fairly pro-bike. The risks – like alienating the public and the Councillors who want their votes – outnumber the benefits of opposition.

  • Tom Polarbear

    Someone suggested that everyone going on this months Critical Mass should wear Rob Ford masks, even if they are those back of the cereal box face masks!

    Where can I get one?

    And instead of yelling the customary “Happy Friday” is can be replaced with “Come Ride The Gravy Train!!”

  • duncan

    Ford Fan, please take a look at your own comment and evaluate your own biases and you’ll see that you have decided that cycling, an activity you believe was once for recreation, exercise and children has been “hijacked” by political misanthropes.

    Fortunately, this is not the case. For many, in Toronto and elsewhere, cycling is their primary method of transportation. This militant group you allege exists is so few in numbers (if any at all) that as I ride my bike around town today, and any day, I’d have a hard time trying to find any of its members.

    Placing the blame on cyclists for not yielding shows your lack of understanding of the laws that govern all vehicles on our streets. I encourage you to keep reading BikingToronto and to evaluate your bias. Stop believing in some alternate, politically charged group of people on bicycles and start seeing them for who they are, your neighbours, your colleagues and fellow human beings.

  • Hear-hear, Duncan. :) Here-here?

  • I keep reading that Mary-Margaret McMahon is “conservative”, but I don’t know why.

    I’ve met her personally (she’s a great person) and she actually lives on my street … but she is definitely pro-bike.

    You may find this article about her in the Star interesting:

    One of the keys to your campaign was your environmental and sustainability background. In real terms, how are you going to put that into practice?

    In our ward I would like to see more community food gardens. We have waiting lists at the two gardens we have right now. . . . I also want to complete the comprehensive bike lanes plan. I’d love to pilot some physically separated lanes, so I can bike around safely with my kids.

  • Not having a solution with which to quell the anti-bike Mayor, I am worried that there will be no more bike lanes built in the future. He did pledge to use $55 million for a network of off-road bike/jogging paths across the city. He wants bike lines on roads where they “make sense.” Wherever and whatever that means.

    There is barking already about the removal of downtown TTC streetcars for buses. But Ford wants to complete the Sheppard Subway Line from Downsview to Scarborough Town Centre and extend the Bloor-Danforth line to Scarborough Town Centre (as the roads continue to fall apart?).

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