Eugene Yao, 1946-2008: A Chinese Activist

Eugene Yong Ging YAO - 1946-2008

Cross-posted from Spacing Montreal

Eugene Yao was born in Shanghai in 1946, and came to Canada in 1969 as a student of McGill University in electrical engineering, where he met his wife-to-be, Winnie Ng, a sociology student. He was later president of the Chinese Canadian National Council. In recent years, he became known for starting a commuter bicycle shop in Toronto called The Urbane Cyclist. (Toronto Star | Activist Magazine)

From a friend of Yao:

Eugene was the most generous, kind-hearted person you could imagine. He was a forward-thinking man, and decided to leave traditional employment behind. He was married to Winnie Ng, well-known NDPer and immigrant-labour-rights activist in Toronto. They let me stay at his house for a month when I was working in Toronto and refused to let me pay them a cent, loved by all my friends who were clients of Urbane Cyclist.

I had just got my bike stolen when I moved in with them and Eugene kindly supplied me with a sturdy old beater for the month! Of course, it ran like a dream….

This article was also crossposted to Comme les Chinois.


  1. thanks for the post.
    I didn’t know Eugene particularly well, but Urbane is a great creation. I was lucky to get seated there, and more blessed to hear a call for more bike lanes from Ms. Winnie Ng in her speaking time.
    There’s a bike design award being set up at OCAD in Eugene’s name. 416-977-6000 x459

  2. I didn’t know Eugene but saw his benevolent work style at Urbane. I admire his curation.

    His history of seeking his own path resonates and I think Toronto and cyclists are the better for his presence.


  3. I only learned about Eugene after his passing, he sounds like a beautiful guy. I’m not downtown, but I’ll go to Urbane for my next bike, I like the concept he brought to Toronto.

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