Bike union on Cranks


TorontoCranks has posted a lengthy interview with Toronto Cyclists Union project coordinator, Dave Meslin.

Here’s a small snippet of one of Dave’s answers to whet your appetite:

…we have a city that treats cyclists like crap. There’s a lot of talk about bikes at City Hall, but little action. People are angry. They demand more. They want it now. I’m planning on tapping into that energy with the same strategy that I’ve used with my other projects: Think big. No compromise. Make it fun. Make it sexy. Fight for real change. Operate within a hybrid model that combines professionalism with gutsy creativity. Break the rules. Celebrate victories. Build momentum slowly and methodically. Always bring snacks to meetings.

Check out the entire interview.

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10 comments

  1. I think the cyclists union is great idea and much needed.

    BUT…

    1. as long as bike couriers are acting as advocates you are not going to get awywhere with anyone. They have the least amount of respect of the road and are the worst ambassadors for cycling advocacy.

    2. As long as the diehard cycling activists hold onto the “I HATE CARS” attitude the movement will get nowhere. The people that the city needs to attract in order to make cycling widely acceptable are the ones currently in cars or on transit. Telling them how much you hate them will not make it easy for them to feel welcome in advocating for a similar cause.

    3. The city needs to be sued for not providing adequate cycling infrastructure. They are putting 1000s of people at risk each day that they do not implement the Bike Plan. Its the only way to get them to move quickly. Look at the TTC’s implementation of the stop-announcements.

  2. Milo,
    1. You have to include the couriers. They put in more miles than anyone, and they know the real dangers. Part of the reason they ride the way they do is because traffic gives them no choice.
    2. F- cars is a legitimate attitude, and playing nice with people who have ‘car-head’ is going to get you nowhere.
    3. Sue the bastards! Here I agree. In fact, this is the only activism/stunt that is going to achieve anything. The one thing about people in authority, ironically, is that they have no balls. Make them liable and we’ll get what we should.

  3. “2. F- cars is a legitimate attitude, and playing nice with people who have ‘car-head’ is going to get you nowhere.”

    and you wonder why people don’t listen to you?

    Milo, your point 1 and 2 and reasonable and from my experience what many non-riders (car and TTC) think about the issue.

  4. Aidan >> I do not doubt you want a better Toronto with great cycling infrasturcutre but the attitude of Fuck cars is not going to get anyone anywhere. We’ll just get the same old same old. The reason City Hall doesn’t take cyclists seriously is specifically that attitude.

    If the cyclists union does one thing and one thing only it should be to get bike lanes. Safety safety safety is what every person says it stopping them from commuting on bikes. Spacing’s bike profiles go a long way to showing what type of people can ride and even when you can ride (thanks for winter riders profiles).

    But telling people they are jersk, idiots, etc becasue they are driving is the worst PR apporach. It hasn’t worked yet so try something different. I think this Mez guys sounds like he is game for this, but he has some serious attitude hurdles to get over (not his, other established advocates).

  5. Re: couriers

    We do not need to have couriers advocating for “the real dangers on the road.” Anyone who rides regualrly to work in the downtown core can tell you the real dangers. Couriers are the worst example since they constantly put themselves and drivers in danger. They are not blameless in this PR war with drivers.

  6. milo> Perhaps he’ll add his bit in later, but I know Mez has said the bike union is not about “fuck the cars.” You are entirely right, it doesn’t work, but there is a vocal core who continue that line, even though it won’t work politically or socially (nobody wants to join the angry team that swears).

    It’s analogous to the “all the condo’s are awful” crowd. All condos aren’t awful, and their proliferation has lowered the rents and made good apts available for a lot of that same crowd. But condos are still the enemy somehow? Being against all condos reduces the effectiveness of more thoughtful urban planning.

    Etc. It’s generally the problem with reducing arguments to black-and-white. The middle is where gains are made, but it lacks the drama I suppose of getting to say “fuck the cars” et al.

  7. I agree with Shawn. (And, of course, the problem of black & white arguments is not only perpetuated by activists, but also by the media who thrive on conflict and by politicians who benefit from complex issues being simplified into a slogan.)

    Let’s remember that cars don’t move without drivers. So the question is, what is our attitude towards drivers? My approach with the bike union will be:

    1) to acknowledge that many drivers are cyclists, and vice versa.
    2) to remember that every non-cyclist is a potential cyclist.
    3) to reach out to non-cyclists
    4) to acknowledge that non-cyclists have valid safety concerns
    5) to work towards safer streets, and more bike lanes, to reduce safety concerns and get more torontonians on bikes.

    the problem isn’t the existence of cars. the problem is three levels of government who are still underfunding sustainable transportation, resulting in streets that are designed for, and give preference to, cars

    If the city provides safe, affordable and reliable alternatives then many people will get out of their cars.

  8. Milo, I have interviewed a lot of bike couriers, very few have cared for cycling advocacy. A lot of them view it with disdain. Bike couriers that do advocate spend most of their efforts on creating green zones. Wayne Scott comes to mind leading the effort in that area.

    I agree with you,”I HATE CARS” is the wrong way to go. It is typically first out of the mouths of the media, they are always trying to simplify things and turn it into a conflict. We do spend a lot of time talking about cars because we interact so much with them. A lot of cyclists talk about the environment and the effect cars have on it, I do not think this translates into hate. The irony is that most drivers and cyclists share a lot of common ground when it comes to making roads safer.

    The City has stats, I think very suspect stats, that say most people do not ride as an alternative due to distance and not safety.I say suspect because I think that people that live closer to the downtown or their destinations would typically point to safety compared to those who live in the farther reaches. Until someone comes up with survey results that accounts for distances that is how the City will respond.

    Concentrating on bike lanes I think may be a little shortsighted. Bike lanes are yesterday’s issues. We still need them and now but we can not get stuck on them. Not only do we have to play catch up with bike lanes we have to progress past bike lanes. Like it or not, there is a high probability that we will be finding hundreds or thousands of new riders forced onto the streets because they have to be there, they have can no longer afford the ever increasing costs of driving. Bike lanes will help, but they will also need things like showers, better bike parking and access to skills building, etc, etc. Without that our City will have hundreds of miles of useless and unproductive real estate, in the form of unused roads, that will serve no one.

  9. Milo is completely right – if you want respect from other road users you’re not going to get it by swearing at them, running red lights, and whining about not getting the respect you “deserve”.

    Whiners and jerks don’t deserve any respect – if you want to change how things are you have to work with other people – even those you don’t agree with.

    The best way to fail at something is to alienate those who can help you.

    If “anti-car” cyclists don’t like it – then you don’t need them. “Anti-car” activists have tried to revolutionize Toronto for decades and have failed miserably – because they’ve been exclusionary.

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