Cyclist Profile: Peggy Nash — ‘Cycling a positive behaviour’

In the lead up to, and during, Bike Week this year I will be featuring some cyclist profiles. These will be profiles of regular people who ride bikes in the city. There might be the odd courier or cycling advocate thrown into the mix for good measure, but, by and large these will be ordinary people who just want to ride.
In recognition of her commitment to cycling, which she showed this morning by hosting a Bikers Breakfast at the Parkdale Library to kick of Bike Friday for us south-west-enders, my first profile is on:

Peggy Nash, MP for Parkdale-High Park

When did you start cycling?

Do you mean to work or in general? I started cycling about 6 years old. My office is only about 15 minutes from my home, so when I can I take my bicycle. I don’t always commute. I must confess I am more of a fair-weather biker. The reason is I think I probably just haven’t got myself into the year-round gear. Like anything else, if you suit up properly for it, you can deal with the elements. My husband is year-round commuter by bicycle: all weather, all parts of the city. He is a community legal worker.

What is your favourite route to commute on?

My regular route is Parkside and Keele Street. But, my favourite commute route is Indian Road. Parkside Drive during rush hour is a dangerous place to ride. This is a real shame because it is right beside High Park and it seems to me to be a perfect place for a well-laid-out cycling route. Obviously, there are roads in the park [for cycling] but, for waterfront access I do see cyclists going down Parkside Drive. If there was a safe bike lane [on Parkside] it might also slow some traffic down, because right now it is a real speedway.

I do not bike in Ottawa — I walk.

Where is your favourite place to bike in all of Toronto?

Definitely the waterfront trail. I like taking the waterfront trail out to Oakville.

What is your number one Bike Wish for Toronto?

More dedicated bike paths that are actually away from major traffic routes. That thin white line isn’t going to save your life. I really like dedicated bike paths that afford you a safe dedicated bike lane.

What is your favourite thing about biking in general?

It’s good clean fun.

Since I had the ear of a federal politician, I thought I’d stray a bit from the regular profile-style questions to ask about a life and death issue for cyclists, which is legislated federally: truck guards, or as they are sometimes called, underride or underrun guards. I have amassed quite a bit of information on this and will write a more complete post on this issue later.

For now, know that Nash’s colleague Oliva Chow, MP for Trinity-Spadina, has put forward a motion to make truck guards mandatory. But, according to Chow’s assistant it could be another two years before this is even read in the house. The Ontario Coroner’s report of 1998 recommended that Transport Canada investigate the feasibility of requiring large trucks to have side guards.

You can print off the petition to make truck guards mandatory here. It is meant to be printed and mailed in (free of charge) so that Chow can present it officially in Parliament. Apparently, e-petitions are not “official”.

Truck Guards, yes, I had heard about it. I think that is a really positive proposal. I spoke to a person who I met on Queen Street who was devastated that a friend of his was killed with a right turning truck.

Is there anything we can do to expedite this motion and make it law sooner?

Yes. To expedite it, to have it become law, you need all-party consent. If all parties agreed it was a motion they would support, then it can be put forward. Maybe the minister [of transport] needs to hear about some of the problems from cyclists. Having cyclists from HIS riding contact him would be a positive thing. I’m a big believer in making your opinions known. All I can say is: cyclists unite and make your voice heard.

And, what do you think about the petition to give cyclists a tax break, similar to the recent transit tax break initiative?

Tax break for cyclists? I haven’t seen the motion. In principle I am not someone who believes in advocating tax cuts because … well, the Conservatives tax cut for this and that and then that means less money for social programs. On the other hand I do support rewarding positive behaviour and I see cycling as a positive behaviour.


3 comments

  1. “by and large these will be ordinary people who just want to ride”? – well you did qualify it, and it is quite helpful to have real politicians really ride. What about making cycling to work mandatory for all city politicians for one week in a year, maybe even June, to get a better understanding of Bike Weak! vs. cartillery.
    Useful helpful info and links on sideguards, more pls, but most regs meet with resistance and truckulence.
    Like stoplights, bells, speed limit, tolls..

  2. One possible tax break for cyclists is to remove the sales tax when purchasing a bike. We shouldn’t be taxing things that good for the environment.

    It is also possible to raise (sales) tax revenues by lowering taxes. So few members of the NDP understand economics it wouldn’t surprise me that Nash might not know this.

    Hamish – forcing people to bike would not nearly be as successfull as giving them incentives. We need better (bike) infrastructure in Toronto if we want lure people out of their cars.

  3. shaunpierre – it’s only the politicians that I’d make ride a bike for one week in a year, or as suggested in a public forum, just remove their driving privileges.

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