Toronto cyclists win strong Cycling Advocate in Mary-Margaret McMahon, councillor elect, ward 32 Beaches
Update! Friday, November 19th, 2010 (see below)
I talked to Toronto City Councilor Elect in Ward 32, Mary-Margaret McMahon as she toured The Beaches Interfaith Lunch Program, today at “The Synagogue” in the West Beaches. McMahon unseated long time Beaches councillor Sandra Bussin in a landslide (15,951- 5,998) at the civic election last month – part of a popular disillusion with ‘politics as usual’ that swept in Mayor Elect Rob Ford, the maverick come statesman.
Mary-Margaret was wearing a green and white gingham waist coat with sharp cut lapels adorned with a green and white porcelain bicycle broach as she sat and talked with a mainly older crowd of about thirty lunchers. Seeing the councilor elect at this lunch for the hungry after the election and then noticing the bicycle broach I had to quickly re-evaluate a first impression I had gleaned through a quick scan of her election web site while I did research for a story I wrote here at BikingToronto earlier this month, “An Anti-Cycling Mayor Rob Ford does not a Council make“.
In the piece I mistakenly labeled Mary-Margaret McMahon a Green-conservative which I intoned in the piece meant a shift to the right, which for simplicities sake I was asking readers to interpret as a reactionary shift, a shift away from flexible thinking and progressive ideas.
So, after introducing myself as a cycling advocate and a blogger at BikingToronto, I asked Mary-Margaret McMahon what she thought of my Green-conservative label.
She said she was “fiscally conservative” but that she was “not affiliated with any political colour”. I brought up the idea of independent and she jumped on the term, “Yes!” she said, “Independent, I’m not a member of any political party.”
So I told her I would change her colours in my table. Right then, she was changing colours in my mind.
Next I asked her what her position was on expanding bicycling infrastructure in the city.
“I want to do what works,” she said. “I want to make sure the bike paths and lanes connect so people can get from one side of the city to the other.”
“Like it was originally intended to do”, I interjected,
“Yes, right now it’s a hodgepodge of lanes that don’t go anywhere. I’m especially interested in bicycle lanes that are separated from traffic by a physical barrier … I don’t feel safe when I’m out with my kids, just like everyone else.”
And then she remembered a date from her busy schedule,
“Oh, on Saturday I’m going on a cycling tour of the neighbourhood with Paul Young. You know, of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre?” (SRCHC)
“I know Paul,” I said, “Maybe I’ll see you there!”
With that I turned to go and she went back to sit with the lunchers. A spirit was in the air, I could feel it. City Councilor elect Mary-Margaret McMahon was making the whole room feel good with her energy and enthusiasm.
When I got home I went back to McMahon’s election website to have another look. Turns out my original research was woefully inadequate!
This is from her “Community Involvement & Activism” page:
Car-Free Day Street Party:
I’ve organized this much-loved, fun neighbourhood festival for the past six years on Cedarvale Avenue, closing the street from 10 am to 10 pm. The street’s beloved 85-year-old Italian Lucy, who barely speaks English, comes out with her piping hot homemade pizza; neighbours give impromptu tours of their home renovations and gardens; kids wreak havoc on the street, rollerblading, biking and skipping; parents join in on dodge ball games, road hockey and basketball; and teenagers run craft activities, face painting and origami. We enjoy a waste-free potluck in the middle of the street for dinner, followed by a talent show using a neighbour’s porch as a stage. I measure the street, design the layout for the permit, apply, obtain and collect the necessary money for a permit, get insurance coverage from the Sierra Club, organize, set up and remove barricades and make the poster for advertising.
I saw lots of bikes locked up to the fence at Woodbine station, so I contacted the city and asked for more bike racks. It took me three years of hounding ,but this spring we finally got 10 more racks! They look dynamite covered in bicycles, and we could even use more!
At our community cocktail party, I met three guys who were interested in starting a cycling club. I organized and advertised a meeting shortly afterward. We decided we would promote bike rallies at the local schools and give the teachers and parents a bike rally template. We hosted another meeting with several other cycling clubs in the east end to discuss advocacy, policies and bike-lane planning. We plan to keep connected and form an umbrella group East End Bikes. DECA Bikes has hosted a pay-what-you-can bike tune-up workshop at a local church. It was so successful that we had a queue at 11:30 am and had to give people numbers and send them down to the local café for a coffee. We offered free juice and bicycle-shaped cookies. We had music playing and cyclists were receiving personal lessons on how to tune up their bikes. Councillor Janet Davis came to the event with her bike, as well as many reporters. We will run it one more time in the church and then start running the workshops regularly at the East Lynn Park Farmers’ Market when it opens in June.
So there you have it cycling fans, the shift in Ward 32 has definitely not been in a reactionary direction – in fact cyclists should be happy to know that the new city council now includes a great cycling advocate who rides and, well before this election, has worked for better and safer bicycling infrastructure!
Hey!! Isn’t that BikingToronto founder, editor and man about town, Joe T?!? Yes it is!
On the Saturday Bicycle Tour of the waterfront…
I need my chain repaired again, (looks like a new chain is in order) so I’ll see Paul Young at the South Riverdale Bicycle Repair Clinic tomorrow, and I’ll report back here on the Bicycle Tour councilor elect McMahon mentioned.
[Note: I didn't have my note pad with me at the lunch today, so this conversation is from memory, about 2 hours after it happened. I hope I got it correct-ish. (michaelholloway111[at]gmail[dot]com)]
Update! Friday, November 19th, 2010
I talked to Paul Young about the Saturday Tour with Councillor elect for ward 32, Mary-Margaret McMahon.
Turns out this is not a bicycling tour but a walk-about, a reconnoiter of Leslie Street between Lake Shore Blvd. and Queen Street East to see if it’s possible to add Bike Lanes and pedestrian allowances during the redevelopment that is coming as part of the new TTC Yard at Lakeshore. Cycling advocates are lobbying for bicycling infrastructure that will make this Big Box Store Avenue safe for things other than Cars. The Cities planners are saying, at this point, there’s no room for bike lanes.
We beg to differ.
For more details, contact Paul Youg via the South East Toronto Bicycle User Group (SET BUG) page, at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre’s website.
Also, check out this article I’ve just posted: “Lakeshore and Leslie Redevelopment: wide freeway like streets, lots of parking – and No Bikelanes!!”
Posted: November 17th, 2010
Author: michael holloway
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