Via The Tyee:
How MakerCulture Is Reinventing Politics
Cyclist advocacy movement: bike camp
Hundreds of cyclists huddle in a cramped conference room. The room’s walls are covered with pieces of paper on clipboards. At the top of each page are suggestions on how to best promote cycling issues in Toronto, followed by a series of empty dots. Jason Diceman, a facilitator for BikeCamp, yells above the crowd.
“Read these, fill in one dot to record your opinion! How many dots?” Diceman playfully asks the crowd. “One,” the crowd responds. “Tell your friends!” Diceman jokes. “Fill in one dot and sign the sheet!” As Toronto’s next municipal election approaches, city cyclists join forces to strategize about how to get their issues on the agenda.
The Toronto Cyclists Union (TCU) and community members met at BikeCamp in mid-October last year to outline what issues they want to push for during the 2010 mayoral race. Their strategy is decided on democratically. The TCU aims to act on those ideas which received the most dots.
What were BikeCamp’s three top ideas? The first is get a segment on cycling rights and rules into Ontario’s driver handbook and driving courses. Second, to promote a specific route or bike lane with support from wards across Toronto. And the last is to get cycling education in schools.
Brainstorming is the easy part, according to Margaret Hastings-James, a BikeCamp organizer and avid cyclist. The hard part is actually getting people to work on those projects. “The most important thing that will come out of today is getting some new energy. People that are interested to pick up on some specific campaigns or events and to actually run with that and make it their own project,” Hastings-James explains.
Hastings-James has been a bike advocate since 2003, after she was hit by a car while cycling. Luckily her injuries weren’t serious, but the accident made Margaret realize the need for more bike lanes and stricter traffic rules. Although hundreds of cyclists showed up for BikeCamp in October, only a small group donates their time to bike advocacy.
“You come and there’s people here all presenting awesome ideas and then they leave the room and it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, who’s going to implement all this?’” says Hasting-James. But she remains positive. Rising gas prices, concern for the environment and crowded streets have increased participation in cyclist movements. Only decades ago bike advocacy was virtually unheard of, but now attracts support from people in all walks of life.
“It’s really encouraging to see a lot of new faces here today. I find that the movement in general in Toronto is changing face,” said Hasting-James. “It’s not the same die-hard sort of ‘enviro’ freak types… there’s a lot of variety in people here.” In only one year of operation the Toronto Cyclists Union is 730 members strong. And continues to grow.