Toronto Cyclist Union Launches!
safe streets. a healthy city. a vibrant voice.
The brisk temperature and rain cloud threats didn’t stop dozens of enthused cyclists from gathering at City Hall for this morning’s much anticipated launch of the Toronto Cyclists Union. Congratulatory addresses and announcements of upcoming projects from Mayor Miller, Councillor Heaps and Rob MacIssac (Chair of Metrolinx) were met with applause, but it was Ibrahim Absiye, Executive Director of CultureLink and Gil Penalosa, Executive Director of Walk and Bike for Life who really shook things up.
CultureLink , a settlement agency for newcomers, offers programs to promote self-sufficiency, positive interaction and understanding between the Host and Newcomer communities. Absiye spoke of the challenge in overcoming the notion that cars are often seen as trophies of status in North America. He spoke of a day when we might learn from his clients about less impacting ways of living, rather than having them adapt to our poisonous car-culture. He concluded to a wave of uproarious applause as he confessed that he had let his own driver’s license expire in March 2006.
Penalosa, who worked with his brother to create Bogotá Columbia’s Ciclovia, 91 kilometres of car-free city roads on Sundays, upped the ante with examples of the great actions being taken in cities across the world and declared that Toronto's "baby steps” simply aren't enough to cut it. “This is not a financial issue, this is not a technical issue; this is a political issue!” Unfortunately it did not appear that Mayor Miller was listening at the time.
Given the incredible turn out of reporters and news crews, the message should hopefully be well reported and clear. City Council only responds to lobbyists. As long as pressure from the auto industry outweighs that of cyclists, then despite “official plans”, the Kyoto protocol, childhood obesity, smog and gridlock, Torontonians shouldn’t expect much in the way of change.
The Toronto Cyclists Union intends to play the City’s lobby card, and by engaging both private and public sector players from across the GTA, in addition to a huge network of bike-advocacy organizations, they have stacked their hand to win. By developing a comprehensive plan for advocacy that includes recruiting volunteer “Union Captains” for each of Toronto’s 44 Wards, the Bike Union intends to keep on top of a multitude of local issues and work with each Councillor and neighbourhood on a project by project basis.
Become a member, a volunteer, or learn more about the Toronto Cyclists Union here.
Read Gil Penalosa’s speech here.
And, one more link: National Post - Mayor Hails Toronto Cyclists Union