Hosted by Ward 29 Bikes it featured an impressive slate of speakers: Dan Egan, manager of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, Yvonne Bambrick of the TCU, Brian Betsworth of Cycle26, Don Wiedman of the Bikes+Transit Club, and Christina Bouchard, the dynamo behind Toronto Bike Month. Rounding out the 45 attendees were workaday cyclists, members of the Danforth BIA, a cute baby and a stuffed monkey -- proof positive that cycling is not just for the narrow few?!
Thank you to one and all for braving the downpour and contributing to the success of the venture. I can only reason that it was the rain and a spontaneous case of hydrophobia that was responsible for Ward 29 Councillor Case Ootes being missing in action. And here we were thinking that politicians relish engaging their constituents on important issues. Well, so much for thinking. Regardless, he missed a real opportunity to gauge and profit from the situation.
[img_assist|nid=3178|title=Dan Egan holding court|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=250|height=167]
I suspect the substance of the evening's debates mirrored those of other cyclists elsewhere. That is, it was an array of broad, general issues bounding a few specific, local concerns.
Some generalities touched upon: progress of the Toronto Bike Plan, city wide cycling connectivity and amenity, education, safety, snow removal, political obstacles and opportunities. These are topics that tend to resonate with all Toronto cyclists. Of more compelling interest locally: Bloor/Danforth lanes, a lane down Pottery Rd and Broadview Ave. (as per the Bike Plan), rush hour conditions along Danforth, etc.
But there's no mistaking it, the proposed Bloor/Danforth bikeway is the hot issue. During Yvonne's presentation, in what has been referred to as the Bambrick Effect ;-), a spontaneous, at times raucous, discussion broke out between BIA members and cyclists on the topic.
Unfortunately it didn't really accomplish anything -- with one significant exception that is. I expect it impressed the members of the BIA with how important an issue this is to cyclists -- both those within and outside Ward 29.
If they're wondering why, perhaps they should turn the clock back to 1992 when independent consultants first affirmed to the City of Toronto what most cyclists had demonstrated by their choice of route: Danforth/Bloor was Toronto's best east/west corridor for bike lanes, completely consistent with Toronto's transportation and environmental objectives.
Nineteen ninety two. That's before the Taste of the Danforth. Before many of the businesses currently on the strip existed -- remember Bargain Harolds anyone? -- when smoke stained Greek "social" clubs and cobblers' shops were common. Before some of the high school age kids of BIA members were even a gleam in an aspiring Danforth businessman's eye.
Nineteen ninety two. It's a long time to wait for what independent study has concluded to be the most rational allocation of a public resource, namely our main drag. So to the BIA: if you're fed up with the issue after a couple of weeks, imagine how cyclists feel going on a couple of decades.
Now let's put the genie back in the bottle for the time being because the evening's intention wasn't to go at a single issue. It was, in the words of the flyer, to connect with cyclists, get feedback and information, and build our cycling community. And, you know what? I'm happy to report it succeeded. It was a pleasure to convene a host of such experienced, enthusiastic individuals -- some of which are itching to get involved! Looks like our circle promises to grow.
Attendees were urged to fill out a questionnaire designed to define priorities and direct efforts where they would be most productive. We're currently processing the results of the survey and I expect it should be uploaded to 29Bikes.ca shortly.
One surprising fact already gleaned from the survey: a single respondent -- one! -- indicated that we should have no further meetings! Hmm. I've two theories on this.
One involves Ward 29 Bikes stalwart, Tom Flaherty, who in his zeal for maximum outreach was last seen flinging flyers advertising the meeting into the open windows of cars racing by on the Danforth.
Theory number two includes an unidentified man, a shadowy character bearing an eerie resemblance to a certain Ward 29 Councillor who shall remain nameless. With sophisticated siege and assault tactics akin to those rolled out in the War on the Car, this cipher blitzkrieged the sandwich tray in back, waged an all out war on the complimentary veggie wraps, then quickly disappeared, complaining about freeloaders filling up at the public trough.
Nawh, but it couldn't be.
At any rate, we certainly don't regret to inform that individual that we indeed plan on holding more meetings in the future. And we hope to see you there.