Whimsy vs Protest, and why you should ride on the Gardiner on June 7th

Tamils have taken the Gardiner. What does that have to do with cyclists? Nothing, except for the comparison that is happening (and will happen) between Critical Mass taking the Gardiner last year in whimsy, and the current Tamil's protest which is doing the same.

Here's one example:

8:24 p.m.—Members of Toronto's Tamil community have taken a page from Critical Mass' books, and have effectively shut down the Gardiner Expressway

Or from the comments on the sites reporting this, such as on BlogTO

damn you critical mass, you started this!!

Cyclists did not gain from taking the Gardiner, largely because it wasn't done in protest but instead pure whimsy.

If the protesters stay to the morning then my drive in to work would be hell. So I'll cycle in instead. Cycling, even under these conditions would not be affected, except to provide me more to look at as I pass by the affected area.

Cyclists will likely continue to be blamed for the protest moving to the Gardiner. Mind you we're blamed with just about everything wrong with the city, so what's another burden on our shoulders?

And the Gardiner is coming down anyway, so who cares? Really? Moving more protests there just gives us all the more excuse to tear the thing down faster. And good riddance.

We can all ride on the Gardiner soon enough. Ride the Bike For Heart event on June 7th and ride on the Gardiner for a great cause. As the Gardiner will coming down soon, you won't have many chances left!



You are a brilliant antagonist-activist, and i applaud your innovation and dedication. ANd I completely disagree. If you've not noticed, positive progress is being made in Toronto, and cycling is moving forward on many different fronts, including community engagement.

I would suggest that the community focus on working together in a positive, collaborative way, rather than negatively disrupting the City. And, more cyclists have be made to understand that they are part of traffic, and traffic has an obligation to cooperate.

I'd like to see your energy to ascend a Controlled-Access Ramp refocused on the la-la riders that blithely cruise the Door Zone on Queen West and Bloor West, completely self-absorbed in their looks, and oblivious of their own safety. Helmets, safe distances, and respecting rules of the road like stopping for traffic lights. What a scene that would create, thousands of cyclists behaving like vehicle operators! wooo!

This City did not get built on Whimsy, nor does anything but loud attention get produced from Protest. so I suggest those with connections and percieved power get down to work and forget the shenanigans. That's what I've been doing - until this post struck my ire.

Best wishes for continued success,

Hey Brian, I cruise Queen W safely and look good doing it.

Clever Anthony. Thought you were looking to get arrested for leading a riot until I read the last paragraph.

Per the CM ride,
"...Cyclists did not gain from taking the Gardiner,..."**

Were they out to "gain" something or was it enough that they gave Toronto a glimpse of a different order of priority for our streets? Heard a passerby comment at the last CM on how quiet 200 plus cyclists were compared to the 20 plus cars that would normally occupy the same space.

Riddle me this Brian. Are there any good cyclists in Toronto? You constantly focus on a minority of cyclists who, according to you, are scofflaws. Why are the majority of cyclists, who are good though maybe not on par with your expert cycling skills, being painted with the same brush as the scofflaws. Why do these good cyclists have wait to have their aspirations realized while you focus on the scofflaws? Why are their concerns dismissed because a very few cyclist decide to blow lights or do not bow down to the cycling fashion police?

You are so obsessed with them that you missed the point of the post. It is about the Ride for Heart. An event where a lot of cyclists try to do a lot of good... and they gotta wear helmets doing it.

I would like to expand on Brian's point by asking the following question:

Has Toronto's cycling community reached a point where it ought to move away from activism and embrace a more collaborative approach when it comes to cycling advocacy?

Not really apropos of anything, but I think I'm one of the good cyclists (I stop at red lights, only ride on the sidewalks when the road is terrifying, and pass right turners on the left), and I'll be cycling in to my newish suburban job for the first time tomorrow. Wish me luck.

I'd like to see your energy to ascend a Controlled-Access Ramp refocused on the la-la riders that blithely cruise the Door Zone on Queen West and Bloor West, completely self-absorbed in their looks, and oblivious of their own safety. Helmets, safe distances, and respecting rules of the road like stopping for traffic lights. What a scene that would create, thousands of cyclists behaving like vehicle operators! wooo!

Hmm for thousands of cyclists to behave like the average vehicle operator they would have to be helmetless, and eating or drinking while talking on the cell phone and paying minimal attention to the task at hand. Safe distances? How much room does the average car driver leave between the vehicle in front of him in downtown traffic? Respecting rules of the road? How about coming to full stops at stop signs, and at red lights before turning right, and signalling the turns before they are midway through them. Oh and that little thing called a "speed limit". Throw in yielding the right of way and safe lane changes, not to mention stopping to run in for a coffee in a no-stopping zone, and illegal parking, and its clear that vehicle drivers have little respect for rules of the road too - they just break different ones.

I **totally ** hate paying for the "privilege" of going on a smooth but limited access public road that our tax dollars make smooth for free rides, except it's only accessible to mobile furnaces.
Ideally, there'd be some activism to wake the sheep up about being bled - and get pressure for the road tolls to help save the climate/cut smog.
For broader thinking - what about having the proper bike lane in from Parkdale using the Gardiner? Sure it's a big big dream - but is there a way with some political will? Say there was a climate and energy crisis.... could we rise to the occasion and provide some options for the proper solution??


As someone, like yourself, who is a certified CAN-BIKE instructor, I understand the impatience you have with "la-la riders cruising in the door-zone".

But why should I not "lead" some riders to descend on the Gardiner on-ramp for a charitable cause? The Ride for heart, the annual ride on the Gardiner, has been a Toronto tradition for many years. Yes, I do realize that we gain only very small amounts of goodwill by participating, however cyclists lose nothing by participating. And the chance to legally ride the Gardiner can't be beat!

Yes, cycling has gained traction and legitimacy at City Hall, in spite of last year's whimsical CM ride on the Gardiner. And, also in spite of last year's CM ride upstaging the Criterium, we're still getting this bike race again this year! (on May 29th)

News media seem be less aggressive against cyclists, and cycling in general, than in years past. In fact media coverage of cycling has been on the increase for several years now. And I hear that at least one of the mainstream Toronto dailies is doing a special cycling feature very soon!

I fully realize that a charity ride on a road closed only for the use of cyclists teaches no-one about how to ride in traffic, and is merely a diversion from the many cycling issues we are trying to advance. But we need diversions, too, do we not?

No, the city does not get built on whimsy. Whimsy is, however, partly how we celebrate.

My own father died because of a heart attack. I have a good reason to ride; as do many others.

Further, I don't think that it is fair for you to demean my choice in recreational riding, any more than I would yours. And just as you have done for off-road riding, I too would like the chance to encourage others to get out and ride their bikes, even just for fun and whimsy.

Here's but one example from:

The city of Toronto has gotten itself into something like a mild-mannered uproar over protesters who walked onto the Gardiner Expressway (an elevated, arterial, limited-access highway in the heart of the city), shutting the roadway down last night. Torontonians should expect more protesters to use this tactic in the future, not necessarily from Tamils, but from anyone seeking attention, since these recent protesters were only following in the tire prints of bicycle activist group Critical Mass.

...and he goes on further to add:

Which means that a precedent has now been set, and any cause — no matter how serious or frivolous, justified or crackpot – that can gather a couple of hundred people has a proven tactic at their disposal to seize the attention of the city.

Which brings me back to what I said in the orginal post: This is all the more reason to tear the Gardiner down...

I won't ride my bike on a restricted 400 series roadway and cars, by the same rationale, should not occupy bikeways.

Cyclists need to take the high road, and that is not Gardiner Expressway!

Hahah, Laughing At Myself...

You got me Anthony. Well done. Boy, did I paint myself with flourescent lame-marking paint! I apologize, and offer my condolences in your Family's loss. That is excellent reason to participate in the Ride For Heart on June 7.

I can become overwhelmed with frustration at times. Here's a case in point : I was teaching a CAN-BIKE session in Parkdale last week, trying to guide my student thru arterial riding. 6 different cyclists on Queen West all blew thru a stoplight that we were stopped for, and the lesson fell apart. My student looked at me as if to say "what's the point? why are we doing this?" If the majority in that situation does something contrary to what is lawful, appropriate, and meaningful, then what I am doing dosn't work, and boy do I feel like a waste of flesh and bone in that circumstance. Education will not work if the majority refuse to learn, or morevoer, change.

My partner and I had a lengthy discussion about protest and activism over dinner the other night. We both at long last agreed that protest without negotiation or resolution is meaningless.

In the case of cycling advocacy in toronto, the time has arrived to move on to spreading positive communication, celebrate accomplishments, and make use of the gains we have made. There is excellent momentum now, thanks to the hard work, dedication, and perserverance of committed individuals. We've got attention, we've got credibility, and we've got pockets of success that shine like beacons. Focus on these, and Toronto will transcend. The message has to get to all of Toronto, via tv, radio, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, print media, any and all means.

I apologise to anyone I may have offended with my comments. I am a person of integrity, honesty, respect, and honour, and my passion for cycling advocacy comes from a good place.


As someone who has participated in some pretty creative and hairy activism activities, I'd never, eve,r underestimate the power of "whimsy".

The Church of Stop Shopping, The Yes Men, The ElectroHippies--activism is rife with 'whimsical' activists who often make their points more profoundly through fun and humour than dour protesting and boring rallies.

I know some folks want to be collaborative but change only works if there are some radicals to keep the pressure on from the outside so that the institutions have to concern themselves with driving the moderates into the radical's hands, if they don't make concessions..

Read activism history.

You'll find this to be true. It takes BOTH sides to "make it happen.

PS: I'm not surprised that cyclists ran the red in Parkdale. Before the construction, cars kept running through the reds at Jameson, too.

"...6 different cyclists on Queen West all blew thru a stoplight that we were stopped for, and the lesson fell apart. My student looked at me as if to say "what's the point? why are we doing this?"

It was a good opportunity to point out to your students the reality of riding on Toronto streets. You can do everything right but cannot depend on others to do so and that sometimes you have to adapt.

Facing aggression or even being hit by a driver while stopping/waiting for a red light is a fact of life. I stop at red lights and stop signs, last Friday that earned me three acts of aggression. The cyclists who blew by me faced none of it.

I though you must not have been reading it right the first time. Glad you caught on.

Your apology accepted.

Sorry to hear about your reckless students. I've been noticing a rise of that behavior. It does not seem to be growing quite as fast as the number of cyclists, which I hope is a saving grace, because I'm not sure that I would want to have blowing red lights as part of our cycling culture. I nearly hit one (a red-light-blowing cyclist) yesterday when I was driving my mini-van; hit the brakes instead. If he looked he took an awful chance that I was paying attention.

Mind you, I also avoided two cars this week that did the same thing as the cyclist! I'm glad I'm not a lead-foot anymore, as I would be giving myself much less of a chance to avoid crashes an collisions than if I still were a lead-foot.

The Ride (not Bike) for Heart event actually sounds really fun. Oh, and the whole charity thing is nice too. I'm curious though, what's the elevation change like? I'm pretty wimpy so while I'm sure(ish) I could handle the 25km route, if it's flattish, I might go for the 50km option. I don't really pay attention to these things on the rare occasion that I'm in a car.

The elevation change is and isn't significant. On the 25k route the most significant parts are the on and off ramps. On the 50k route, you do have to climb to York Mills, but it is a pretty gradual climb.

My 73 year old Dad will be doing the 25k route (plus about 20k round trip to the start). My 78 year old uncle may be joining us. 25k isn't that hard. Just pick an appropriate pace. ;)

This will be our family's third year on the ride for heart. Adelaide was four when she first did the 25km loop, and on her 12.5" wheeled bike. We took the streetcar to Queen & Dufferin & rode the rest of the way, including home to Mimico afterward. Last year (and likely again this year) she was on a 16" wheeled single speed, and we rode there, did the 25km loop, rode home. We even did our grocery shop on our bikes on the same day.

You have to keep a moderate pace, but it is not too onerous, even for a beginner.

Having some company along to keep you motivated helps, as there's not too much to look at along the way.

Yeah, I looked it up on Google Earth and the 25km loop seems to be totally flat so I'm sure that will be really easy, even for me. Now I'm pondering doing the 50km loop which doesn't seem like it should be too bad either. (And, hey, if I'm going to do something like this, I should probably be pushing myself anyway.)