Happy Bike Week! And, here's a sharp stick in the eye...
Cyclists around the City may finally be getting the message, with the help from the new cycling committee chair, Councillor A. A. Heaps.
And, that message is: the City cannot be trusted to get the job done for cyclists.
As everyone must know by now, Heaps recently announced that he is revising the Terms of Reference for the cycling committee -- after nearly nine months of inactivity -- and, among other things, plans to cut citizen membership from 15 (out of 22 total) to 8.
Much has been written about this already. The most thorough analysis can be found here at biketoronto.ca by Martin Koob.
Hamish Wilson also gives us his seasoned and succinct thoughts in NOW magazine.
Darren Stehr has something to say here on Toronto Cranks. Including: "I thought no politician could mess things up more than Giambrone, I was wrong."
Joe Hendry of The Messenger Institute for Media Accuracy sent around an interesting email, that can also be viewed here on Toronto Cranks, in which he asks:
"I would also be interested in understanding why you sent an e-mail on May 17 to the cycling committee members stating “the Committee’s Terms of Reference is currently under review.” Yet on the same day you sent another e-mail to the Planning and Growth Management Committee asking them to endorse the revised terms of reference."
Even the Globe's John Barber chimed in and ends his column by asking: "So how many pancakes will it take till the lanes start appearing? After such a promising start, the current paralysis is embarrassing."
So what else can I say, except that it would be helpful if cyclists submitted their thoughts to the Planning and Growth Management Committee, and Councillor Heaps, before their next meeting May 31st (details below.)
The most obvious question is: How, exactly, does reducing the number of citizen members on the committee "ensure that the committee assumes a more active role in advocating the needs of the cycling community"?
I also wonder why Heaps would suggest reducing the roll of the organizational representatives to simply consultants. In my experience, holding formal meetings is the only way to effectively harness volunteer expertise.
The revised Terms suggest replacing all of the sub-committees with "working groups" that would have "ad hoc" meetings. Um, isn't that what we* are already doing?
We* being groups such as: BikeFriday, Bike Pirates, CBN, Wenches with Wrenches, ARC, TBN, I Bike TO, Take the Tooker, Streets are for People, TCAT (I could go on...but, you get the picture.)
As one of my I Bike TO blogger buddies asked, with a mischievous glint in his eye: What if TCAC held a meeting and no one showed up?
Even if cycling committee meetings are notoriously long or disruptive or difficult to achieve quorum at -- so what? I am unsure as to how that actually affects council's ability to fund, promote and implement cycling infrastructure?
So (as politicians are fond of saying) let's be clear: It is the job of council to implement the bike plan.
And, let's be even clearer here: At the end of the day, we* are helping, not hindering, the City's efforts.
As another of my I Bike TO blogger colleagues quipped on this topic: Democracy can be a bitch sometimes, can't she?
If Heaps is willing to give up that wide and varied volunteer expertise that already does its best inform and represent the many communities that make up our city, under the weak auspices that this will somehow expedite the implementation of safety and education programs and, oh yeah, some bike lanes... well, in my humble opinion, he is off to a bad start. It's not quite like biting the hand that feeds you, but perhaps more like running it over with a Hummer.
Finally, the proposal to reduce the number of meetings to 4 times per year will seriously hinder the committee's ability to advise the Planning and Growth Management Committee, which meets 10 times a year. Would you not want your committee to meet at least the same number of times as the committee it reports to, and in advance of their general meetings?
Just seems obvious to me.
But hey, I'm really writing as an outsider. I am not currently a member of the cycling committee. (Nor does it look like I will get to be one!)
Martin Koob is though, and so I give him the final word:
The sad fact is both Mayor and Council have not done a good enough job in this regard over the past 6 years and the volunteers on the TCC have tried to fill in the gaps. If the Mayor and Council took their responsibilities relating to implement the Bike Plan seriously, and just did what they have promised to do there would be less for the cycling committee to do and maybe they would not need to meet as often nor need to work so hard trying to rally the public to convince Council to do what they said they would do.
Cyclists unite! Please submit comments to the Planning and Growth Management Committtee at or before its meeting coming up on Thursday, May 31.
The committee is:
Crossposted to Spacing