Bike union takes mayoral candidates on ride

Hi Rocco, Rocco and Himy, where are the others? Oh, there you are Joe, in the back.: Photo: Toronto Cyclists UnionHi Rocco, Rocco and Himy, where are the others? Oh, there you are Joe, in the back.: Photo: Toronto Cyclists Union

Eight mayoral candidates accompanied the bike union on a downtown bike ride on Monday (oops, stale news!). Three of the main candidates didn't go for the ride: Smitherman hoped to arrange a one on one ride; Thomson was probably planning her exit strategy; and Ford was afraid to look like a big hypocrite (he was probably also thinking about lurking nearby with his SUV, the "road shark", ready to pounce). According to the bike union, the half hour ride gave the candidates a full experience of downtown cycling:

...allowed candidates to experience almost the full range of scenarios faced on a daily urban commute by bicycle. The ride took candidates on arterials with bike lanes, without bike lanes, on roads with construction, roads scarred by utility cuts, on minor arterials, and on side streets, though because of time constraints, candidates did not experience the less welcoming suburban cycling environment where traffic speeds are higher and few if any cycling facilities currently exist.

Pantalone, because he never learning to ride, got a nice rickshaw ride by his assistant Mike Smith. (Rickshaw looks like it was provided by Streets are for People).

It appears that Rocco Rossi used the event as an opportunity to provide a more nuanced view of his no-bikes-on-arterial-roads plan (though he still fails to address the fact that even his chosen lanes of Richmond, Sherbourne and St. George are all arterial roads; and that even his new plan covers only a tiny part of the city):

Rossi's proposed safe bike network consists of four new major lanes separated from traffic by a curb.

An east-west lane would run from Parliament to Bathurst Sts. along Richmond St., another would see the existing Wellesley St. -Harbord St. lane completed and separated from traffic between Parliament St. and Ossington Ave.

Cyclists would see the existing Sherbourne St. bike lane separated between Elm Ave. and Queens Quay and a second north-south lane would see the existing St. George St.-Beverley St. lane extended to Queens Quay and separated from traffic.

"I oppose bike lanes on arterials like Jarvis and University and I continue to hold that stance," Rossi said. "As an active cyclist myself, we need a solution, a network that is connected and separated to be safe."

A good summary of the main candidates plans. Most of the plans are inferior to the existing official Bike Plan, though Joe Pantalone, in my opinion of the main candidates, provides the most thoughtful responses on how to improve cycling and livability through a Complete Streets strategy. See all the candidates' responses. Ford didn't bother respond.

Comments

If I were protected by a police escort I might assume cyclists have more safety than they need in Toronto. Pointless sucking-up as usual.

...because no one else is doing it and I'd be pretty bad at doing such a job myself.

An event like this forces the candidates to take a stand on our issues, and the event is under our control. And it makes it obvious that Ford is a dysfunctional boor.

So - put up with it, Mallon Man!

If there is to be significant political change in bicycling, then the mayor will be part of it. I think it is great to take the candidates on a ride. I hope the Bike Union will do the same for Mr. Smitherman whenever he is ready for his one on one. This isn't pointless sucking up. It is political activism. Congratulation Yvonne.

Some Politicians (especially the aspiring ones) are like flags in the wind, all you have to do is blow. Good for Rossi to pedal in our direction.

I thought that it was a good idea too, but after seeing how the Toronto Cyclists Union responded to a candidate taking pains to understand/reach out to it's members I am yet again completely taken aback. Yet again by unprofessional bike union conduct.

Rossi proposes he would begin the very transformation the bike union seeks with what is actually a dramatic implementation of separated lanes on what are very much arterial roads.

But the bike union response is to tell him to shove it up his nose, and slapping him while they say it, after he graciously agrees to come to them? I guess Yvonne has some secret knowledge of who the next Mayor will be and burning bridges is okay with her. Even if it were Ford and he were suggesting something less than Rossi her response was amateurish and rude. Not for her maybe, but she spoke for the members of the union as I understand it.

That's fucked up, you don't represent me bike union. Stop sending me renewal emails it is not going to happen.

"His plan was denounced as “a last-minute, half-baked idea” by Yvonne Bambrick, spokeswoman for the cyclists’ union. “All he’s doing is tweaking (routes) that exist already” and separating them from traffic, rather than proposing a true network that includes the suburbs, she said. "

His plan included an adaptation of the winning ideas at the recent Thinkbike competition held here in Toronto. I just read about the outcome below here IBikeTO.

His plan involved re-thinking the Bike Plan, which many acknowledge is outdated and needs tweaking.

No bike lane separate or otherwise exists on Richmond St and it is dangerous to ride against traffic on Richmond, but this is just a tweaking of an existing route!? (as if tweaking existing routes is a bad thing! )

His plan is as a proposal, intended for discussion and adoption not immediate implementation.

To suggest that "All he is doing" is nothing by separating bike lanes in a city that has no such facility is ludicrous!!!!!!

I can't be more disappointed at amateur hour. If her's were a volunteer position I would call it par for the volunteer course, with apologies to the many professional volunteers engaged today. But she gets paid to do this? Not with my money, not again anyway.

I have to direct my anger at the mouthpiece because I honestly don't believe bike union members were represented in this matter.

what did Yvonne say?

“It’s a weak and downtown-based plan that doesn’t address the concerns of cyclists in the inner and outer suburbs and nor does it really do anything to improve the disconnected network that we currently have in the core”

“a last-minute, half-baked idea”

“All he’s doing is tweaking (routes) that exist already” and separating them from traffic, rather than proposing a true network that includes the suburbs, she said. "

Criticism without a hint of constructive or a path to dialogue. Dismissive and condescending and with use of "weak" "half-baked" "last-minute" downright insulting. Her suggestion that a true network would include suburbs suggests she believes this a false proposal, calling it a lie in essence.

This plan by Rossi is introduced as in addition to the current bike plan...

It is all 7th page news, but I think TCU members need to be more aware of how they are put out there.

besides being introduced as in addition to the current bike plan, which somewhat fills gaps in network when/if ever implemented, this plan was specifically introduced as a Downtown Bike Network.

Why would it include suburbs? It is for downtown commuters or other commuters to connect with after entering the area.

Her response was so knee-jerk I would presume she would like to endorse another candidate on our behalf...

I would have thought some people (such as James Mallon) would be a bit more positive about this ride given the negative statements and promises given by the leaders in this mayoral campaign. Far from being "a sucking up" exercise, the ride was an opportunity for reality medicine for mayoral candidates. Getting some media hits was the payment to the candidates, which everyone expects, but in return the bike union reps get their own media hit by pointing out how much the politicians are failing cyclists.

Being an advocate is always a delicate dance of keeping good relations with politicians and bureaucrats, while knowing when is the best time and method for criticizing these public officials.

Given that such a ride has never happened before, I'd say that it was a success and shows how the Toronto Cyclists Union has changed the political landscape by being taken seriously as a lobby group.

Because if I were a candidate that wished to make inroads with a demographic by studying their situation and listening well enough to consider coming on such a ride, I would not do it a second time.

Not after having been slammed so cheaply after presenting an honest effort just after the ride.

What she said in response wasn't even relevant, or accurate. It was in fact at odds witht he purpose of the event itself.

If we're going to throw out good proposals based on who they come from the first place to do so is among your own leadership. Why? Because it is the best way to avoid being damaged by such a ridiculous political misconception as to consider it in the first place.

the first thing I see wrong with that pic at the beginning of this article is that they are being escorted by bike cops, but no one walking on the sidewalks? Was the street closed to traffic etc for the photo op?

Cyclists would see the existing Sherbourne St. bike lane separated between Elm Ave. and >Queens Quay

oh, where are STOCK and FIRST STUDENT going to store their school buses if not in the Sherbourne bike lane??

Really, Tweetme? Are the candidates that fragile that they can't take a bit of bruising in the media? They'll keep coming back for more. I could agree that Yvonne appeared to be a bit harsh in her response to Rossi, but to be fair, Rossi has already said that he'd scrap the official Bike Plan so his presentation on Monday was only a way to appease a downtown core while trying to have us forget that there is a large part of the city (including the area outside of his handful of streets) that aren't covered.

Should we just forget that we matter? I say thanks, Rossi, for giving us an interesting proposal for those streets. Now let's get realistic about the rest of the Bike Plan. Built it!

I received the following from Yvonne, Director of Communications of the bike union:

@ Tweetme

Please note that journalists only take the small portion of what you say about a subject that best fits their story angle.

I started that interview stating that I was happy to see Mr. Rossi supporting cycling infrastructure, and the increased interest in physically separated lanes.

Here is a more complete quote from CityTV (http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynews/topic/mayoral2010/a...):

Rossi says that under his plan, "You will be able to bike from the Annex to the Harbourfront on a single safe, direct bike lane."

Yvonne Bambrick, communications director for the Toronto Cyclists Union, said she's pleased Rossi's proposal addresses the increased interest in physically-separated bike lanes, but said ultimately the plan falls short.

“It’s a weak and downtown-based plan that doesn’t address the concerns of cyclists in the inner and outer suburbs and nor does it really do anything to improve the disconnected network that we currently have in the core,” she said.

Bambrick did note the cyclists union is pleased to see cycling included in each of the major candidates' transportation plans, calling it a "shift from previous years." She also said the cyclists union would like to see increased enforcement of vehicles parking in bike lanes.

@jamesmallon - My main goal in planning this event was to give candidates as close to an authentic commuter experience as possible. Once I found out that police escorts were mandatory in order to go ahead with the event, I knew this would not be possible but decided it was still worthwhile to proceed.

Finally, I also know for a fact that his 'plan' was indeed last minute and not even his own - I'm familiar with the person who seeded these ideas and convinced him to make an announcement at our event.

I live in Hamilton. We have bike lanes. There's no noticeable war on the car / war on the bike here. Our mayoral candidates don't suck. And while we do have other problems, at least you can ride your bike in peace. I suggest you move to the Hammer.

Perhaps the Bike Union has positioned itself a bit too confrontational, and showed it. If the point was to support Rossi's interest in separated bike lanes, then the Union should have stuck to saying just that. Seems a great opportunty was missed to show some agreement and urgency, and to take the topic of separated bike lanes to the media and mayoral campaign debates.

So it's true, Rob Ford is too fat to ride a bike.

Good to see that most people here are supporting their opinions of the Bike Union's actions with an apparent sensibility.

However, ridicule is not the same as debate, and the challenges that are set in the path of cycling advocacy will be overcome by working together, not ripping on one another.

The Bike Union is acting in the interest of cycling, and if you have a different point of view, present it, or step up and deliver, contribute.

Any fool can spout unfounded criticism, and it's a weak, pathetic, and totally ineffective way to make your point.

The Bike Union is presently pissing in the wind. If you want to make change in Toronto you need to stick to some clear principles:
- figure out what the few issues are that all of the cycling/pedestrian advocacy groups agree on, and build an alliance based on just these few, which means stay away from the helmet issue, among others.
- find a way to get politicians to ride the streets the way the rest of us have to.
- separate your opinion of the candidate's place on the political spectrum from their performance on cycling issues, which might have been the issue with Rossi.
- get a spokesperson who realizes "journalists only take the small portion of what you say about a subject that best fits their story angle", so is careful not to say things that can be taken out of context, or to use value-laden words.
- stop preaching only to the choir: make Joe/Jane Torontonian understand that safer cycling means safer cycling for their children, safer cycling does not increase driving time, and more cyclists means fewer cars in their way.
- communicate with the police better, as better traffic policing of all traffic will do more for cycling than any amount of infrastrucure.

When you can do most of this, you'll get my membership.

I had guessed that what Yvonne B. said would have been taken partially out of context, but she knew she was addressing the press. Give these an option between "said she's pleased Rossi's proposal addresses the increased interest in physically-separated bike lanes, but said ultimately the plan falls short." and "a last minute, half-baked idea" and you know what will be in print next to the name of the organization you represent. It is not as though this is the first time.

As well, I for one realized when it was first said he would scrap this or that, that the Mayor, if Rossi or another, could not unilaterally scrap the Bike Plan. So I took the statement for what it was worth, posturing, nothing more.

That plan does provide facility currently lacking, true e/w corridors through downtown with n/s access at both e/w extensions. How long the candidate fostered the idea is immaterial to it's relative merit.

I don't believe candidates are frail, I do believe that the image of the TCU is incredibly frail with good reason.

One remedy in relation to candidates is to avoid shutting out dialogue with pronouncements that are essentially about the candidate and not the subject matter the candidate offers. This approach evokes the level playing field which in turn would suggest that the TCU is equal to the task of debating a serious mayoral contender & thereby a player itself

I do not believe this to be the case & believe that is a widely held opinion, so it behooves the TCU to project that image at every opportunity, even if the speaker does not care for the candidate.

Toronto has now and has for a long time been home to groups that support cycling with vitriol and bile any time they see an opportunity. Inviting candidates on rides is nothing new, reacting with belittling, condescending remarks to candidate statements is really nothing new. The TCU is supposed to be new. So get it anew. Confrontation of the candidate in this manner only works from a position of strength, the TCU does not have that. Better luck in the future.

Too right, @Tweetme. The TCU representatives have to act professional, get people who can, or close shop for doing more harm than good.

Are you serious that Pantalone was riding in a bike rickshaw for this ride? That's weak...

I saw Pantalone riding a bike by himself along the Martin Goodman trail on a weekend a couple months back. So it was either his double, or the guy knows how to ride on two wheels.

It was useful to have this ride - as artificial as conditions were with the police help; shows up what level of carisma the politicians have, maybe not as thoroughly as the TCAT survey, but still good.
I only was able to glance at the event/news, but I was pleased that Yvonne was quoted as hitting the Rossi plan - he's proposed bringing back the Spadina Excessway after all - so he's out there!
Yes, the TCU is open to criticism - and I wonder if the championing of the Jarvis lanes, when we could have great lanes right beside it on Sherbourne, if that "victory" helped create the bikelash that is part of the resonance of Ford etc., and their attacks on bike lanes on major carterials. The nearness of Jarvis to Sherbourne is immediate proximity compared to the suburban network. Or, to coin a term maybe - the suburban notwork...which is worse than the cores' notwork.
We must! have a commitment to putting bike lanes in along some of our major roads: yes, there's the frustration of Bloor St., even though bikelanes could help expand the subway by shedding its crush load, but the Richmond/Adelaide lane ideas have been floating around for 18 years already now as well.
Momentum on that project may well have been squelched by Adam Vaughan, and he's also failed us on east-west streets like Harbord, and Bloor too, but unfortunately it seems the TCU has been too obliging there, though there are only soo many hours in the day, and a plethora of pressing issues and administrivia that means some things fall between the cracks.

Toronto's Bike Plan has been sold short since its inception. When I hear 'tweaking existing lanes' it sounds a lot like 'scrapping new lanes'. Good on the Bike Union for putting on the event, holding candidates' balls to the fire, and defending the idea that we can do better.

Both of you make good points and I hope the bike union staff and board take them to heart.

I don't like the idea, however, of someone not buying a membership until everything that the organization says is in line with their views. There's always disagreement within an organization and I'm sure the bike union board has plenty of discussions and arguments on the best approach with the public and media. I encourage you to join and also put your disagreements to the staff and board.

Seconding herb's comment. Tweetme, james: unless you feel that either 1) any toronto cycling advocacy organization is useless or 2) there will be a competing "Toronto Union of Cyclists" started up any day now, then why not join the union and argue for your preferred policies?

Of course you always have option 3) being right on the internet is fun. However that doesn't really contribute to positive change.

Herb, I agree: "I don't like the idea, however, of someone not buying a membership until everything that the organization says is in line with their views." Problem is, there is more I disagree with than agree with about their approach, so I cannot in good conscience join.

Antony, you are not helpful. Yes, all of the organizations presently are useless to me, and think there is too much to change in the Union's approach for me to have any success, so why would I bang my head against a wall? As for being accused of being a troll, I think none of my criticism are out of line, and the notion that a public entity should be protected from criticism (especially from me who would love to feel able to join) is an absurdity which entrenches unsuccessful institutional thinking. On the other hand, you can blame the Union's lack of success on me and drivers, because that is easier than reflection.

What would have happened if the CU came out and endorsed Rossi's plan? A plan that appeared last minute from a candidate that spent a lot of time beforehand vilifying bike lanes? They would have been considered entirely loopy if they did. Rossi's bike plan was simply a political tactic to garner some votes. His team probably saw some positive bump in Sarah Thompson's numbers when she talked bike lanes.

One would also have to question if Rossi would have wanted the CU's endorsement of his candidacy, it would be like a kiss of death. Cycling voters are far outnumbered by those who supported his earlier stance on bike lanes. If his plan is for real, it is a lot easier to sell a plan that cyclists find unpalatable to motorists. This way he can say he was not caving to cycling interests.

If he had been serious, he would have done the ride, reflected on what he learned and then come up with a plan.

James: Can you define, or list, your thoughts on the bike union's "lack of success"? I tend to agree with you, and am not a member by choice.

That's really rough. I had a roommate once who was a PR-flak, and I just keep remembering his rules for talking to the press: pick a message that's simple enough for the press not to take out of context, and stick to that message. Yvonne looks to have taken a good position when we see the whole thing, but she does appear to have failed to make a press-safe message with it. It's really horrible that the press conducts itself so poorly that such cynical and stupid practices are necessary to avoid alienating people whose support we may need, but such is the world we live in. I certainly wouldn't dismiss Yvonne or the Bike Union on account of this slip, but it's certainly still there, and regrettable.

(And before some wiseass starts going on about whether or not my comment follows my roommate's rules; I'm commenting in a blog, not speaking to the press)

The Weapons of Mass Distraction are keen on a degree of conflict and the truths that they may see are somewhat determined by their advertising dollars eg. climate carisis, and if there are nuances, if it isn't good and punchy enough, cut! If it bleeds it leads; conflict is what sells, and it's about the ad revenues, not truth eg. Eric Margolis being excised from the SUN and Rick Salutin now gone from the Globe.
So yes, with this situation, it's very difficult to get a nuance like say climate change worked into a bike story; reporters tend not to be keen on detail but sharp quotes, and for some of us, short and snappy is difficult. So I thought Yvonne did well, or well enough, and it's great that there are the blogs around that allow for better expositions of details and nuance though it can devolve to diss&cussins at times, especially in the comments of the major outlets, which can be worth a scan, just to see how many antagonistic motorheads and deniers there are out there, not that many of them have the courage to go beyond being anonymouse.
So thanks commenters, thanks bloggers!

james, I think you're sincere, your suggestions are sensible, and I don't blame you for any (perceived) lack of success of the TCU, which shouldn't be magically protected from criticism.

That being said it's not constructive to relate to the TCU like a political candidate, 'voting' for them if you agree with their policies.

Primarily cause there's no-one else to vote for - no TUC that has concise talking points and a laser-sharp focus. The alternative is for other groups to do the advocacy (residents' associations?), for individuals to work on their own, or to do nothing and hope. If everyone is "useless" and you believe those are better options, that's totally understandable.

But if you think that something like the TCU is a good idea, then giving constructive criticism on the internet is a pretty ineffective way to advance your vision for improving cycling in Toronto.

@Antony, it does not matter anyway, as Toronto has a mid-western automobile culture, not a European, Montreal, or Tokyo (where I am for a year) one. I do not know how to do it, but the high-payoff low-hanging fruit to achieve is traffic policing focused on the reduction of injury and death. This is what the main message all the bike advocacy groups should be about, as the rest is just distraction, or antagonistic to the mainstream of our traffic culture. This is the difference in Tokyo, which is far safer despite the much higher density of traffic, and non-existent bike lanes.

Hammer home the message to the city, the police, the province and the courts: letting people commit manslaughter on the roads is why everyone knows someone who has died because of a car, even if they were themselves in a car, and why the leading cause of children's deaths is same. That is the real issue.

LOL I just read a comment criticizing [in fun i'm sure] 'lil Pants for riding the Rickshaw. C'mon he came out, he's a gentleman, so what if he doesn't ride. Maybe 44 centimeter frames are not as easy to find as you think!

Darren S I doubt anyone suggests endorsing the Rossi plan then or now, only like was said seeking it's relative merits and offering constructive criticism. Constructive.

You have to offer the constructive without the condescending to be heard so TCU would have been ignored in that instance.

Antony & James Constructive criticism is never, ever ineffective if you can show 1 person read it in the light it was offered it wins. So keep it up James.

Vote Pants! Vote Pants

LOL I just read a comment criticizing [in fun i'm sure] 'lil Pants for riding the Rickshaw. C'mon he came out, he's a gentleman, so what if he doesn't ride. Maybe 44 centimeter frames are not as easy to find as you think!

Darren S I doubt anyone suggests endorsing the Rossi plan then or now, only like was said seeking it's relative merits and offering constructive criticism. Constructive.

You have to offer the constructive without the condescending to be heard so TCU would have been ignored in that instance.

Antony & James Constructive criticism is never, ever ineffective if you can show 1 person read it in the light it was offered it wins. So keep it up James.

Vote Pants! Vote Pants