On March 30 Cycle Toronto had its annual general meeting to celebrate a year of good work and look ahead to the future of cycling in the GTHA.
Story by Rachel Lissner
All photos by Nicholas Jones
This year’s Cycle Toronto annual general meeting saw a lot of positive growths in the organization’s ninth year. Over 200 members packed the house at the Garrison on March 30, braving the wet mixture of rain, snow, and sleet, to cast their ballots for six new board members and discuss the highs and lows of 2016. You can read the full Annual Report here.
Jared Kolb and Alex Cheeseman
Meredith James, the outgoing board president, started the evening by outlining how the board has been trying to increase the equity in both itself and Cycle Toronto. They brought an outside consultant in to help them reflect the diversity of the city they serve. Such attempts include bringing the organization to more accessible spaces (this includes the Garrison, a fully accessible venue); simplifying board governance and increasing transparency, finding the right talent for the board, creating new opportunities to get involved, and supporting more lived experiences within the cycling community.
James also acknowledged this was just the start of the board’s work. She identified that there is more to do, by continuing to boost broader outreach, new connections, and new opportunities for engagement. She ended her presentation by sharing a quote about the joys of cycling from a participant of Bike Host, a program that pairs newcomers with cycling mentors, put on jointly by Cycle Toronto and settlement organization CultureLink: “[Y]ou feel like you live here like those who have for a long time.”
Cycle Toronto Staff
Year in review
Jared Kolb, the executive director of Cycle Toronto, unpacked 2016 for members. Protected bike lanes remain the focus, as part of the Minimum Grid campaign. While Toronto currently has just 22 kilometres of protected bike lanes (and 200 kilometres of bike infrastructure total, not even half of the 500 kilometres of the grid), a poll Cycle Toronto commissioned with Evergreen saw that 86% of people surveyed want investment in a safe cycling network, with support second highest in Scarborough.
Cycle Toronto’s other signature campaigns, Danforth Loves Bikes and Bike Lanes on Bloor, were also met with a lot of success. The Bloor bike lanes were installed as a pilot project and have received strong support from the local community, including local businesses (although its not without its detractors). South Etobicoke saw movement on cycle tracks on the Lakeshore from Norris Crescent to First Street. There was also a new commitment from the provincial and federal governments to commit more money; cap and trade directly lead to $225 million for cycling infrastructure in Ontario.
Cycle Toronto joined forces to form the Accessibility Coalition with: StopGap, Walk Toronto, Friends and Families for Safe Streets, Cycling without Age, and other inclusive transportation groups. The Coalition urged the City to reconsider allowing private vehicles with accessibility permits to park in protected bike lanes, which ultimately the City agreed to.
Last year also saw the founding of Friend and Families for Safer Streets, a group that fights traffic violence and advocates for Vision Zero. Sadly, 2016 was the deadliest year on record in Toronto, and saw 77 lives claimed by vehicle-related fatalities. The City said its goal is to reduce deaths by 20% by 2026, which is clearly unacceptable for those in the active transportation community.
In addition to its new projects, Cycle Toronto is committed to growing and maintaining long standing outreach efforts. Get Lit, its autumn campaign that hands out lights to cyclists, the Bike Awards, Bike Month, bike valet, and its continued partnership with CultureLink helped spread cycling initiatives across the city. The Toronto Cyclists Handbook was rebooted and its latest update includes translations in 13 languages and 30,000 copies printed.
But 2017 has its own challenges clearly cut out. Over at the PWIC, several corridor studies were shelved and there are efforts to defund cycling items. North York is starting to revise its stretch of North Street and the fight is on to make sure bikes are in its future.
Good news rang out from vice treasurer Jesse Moses’s financial report, taking over for Damion Ketchum, the outgoing treasurer. He kicked it off by declaring that for the first time in the organization’s history it hit a cash coverage ratio of three months, improving from last year’s ratio of one month. This means there is flexibility to invest in more long term projects and revenues, up by 20%, are more diversified than last year.
Moses noted that the non-profit has improved on targeting grants and capped it off by saying Cycle Toronto could possibly set its sights on being a $500,000 organization in the distant future.
It wouldn’t be a Cycle Toronto AGM without MPP Glen Murray and Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon (Beaches-East York, Ward 32) in attendance. MPP Murray, Ontario Minister of the environment and climate change, gave a passionate speech about the importance of cycling in fighting climate change and recent changes at the provincial level around cycling safety. Such as introducing the one meter rule and easing on environmental assessments for cycling infrastructure.
Cllr. McMahon briefly addressed the crowd to state her support for cycling across the city and especially in the east end. She expressed her excitement for the Woodbine bike lanes coming in June, and reminded the crowd that 2018 is an important year with provincial elections in the spring and municipal elections in the fall.
Fundraising chair Alex Cheesman grabbed the mic at one point in the evening to reveal this year’s Dutch auction prize was Kolb suiting up as a raccoon and taking unlimited photos with members for the price of $8,000. The auction raised a hefty $6,000 and Kolb remained dapper in his blue suit.
The new board members!
This year saw largest amount of candidates running for the board. Fifteen people ran (one candidate dropped out, making the original total sixteen) and there was a significant increase in candidates who were women and people of colour. Increasing the board’s equity was a goal for 2016 and this area saw some positive development, voting in three women and two people of colour. There is still work to do on this front, including geography and type of employment, to make the board reflect the population of the city.
The new board members are:
• Adrian Currie: Cycling Advocate, Actor & Film Maker was born in Jamaica but grew up in Toronto. With a BA in Economics and a BA in History both from McGill University, he presently sits on the Cycle Toronto Advocacy Committee. He is one of the co-chairs of the newly formed, Bicycle Parking Working Group. He is also a board member of the Community Bicycle Network and am a past chair. He represents Ward 18.
• Francesca Allodi-Ross: Weekdays Allodi-Ros works for community legal clinics in Etobicoke and west Toronto, providing free legal advice to low-income people about their rights at work. Other times she is organizing for social change around income inequality and racial justice. She represents Ward 19.
• Jessica Rosenberg: During the day Rosenberg is an environmental lawyer but tries to find time to cycle and explore the city. She is a member of the CycleTO Ward 18 group, and co-organized a custard tart tour for Bike Month (it was sTARTlingly delicious). She was born and raised in Toronto, and has been transported by bicycle since before she could walk. She represents Ward 18.
• Joseph Travers: Has been commuting to work by bike in Toronto since 2005. For the past 11 years he has run the website bikingtoronto.com where he shares news, events and photos of everything bike related in Toronto. He is currently a co-captain of the Ward 31 advocacy group, a co-chair of the Danforth Loves Bikes campaign as well as a volunteer member of Cycle Toronto’s Fundraising Committee. Professionally, he works in the research and evaluation field in database management, analysis and visualisation. He represents Ward 31.
• JP Solmes: A 37 year old father of two who is passionate about cycling. He commutes every day by bike (sun, rain or snow) and has a direct interest in the cycling infrastructure of Toronto. When family and work commitments allow, he also rides and race (road). He represents Ward 19.
• Priyanka Vittal: A Third Culture Kid (TCK) Vittal is a Canadian born in India, raised in Singapore, living in Toronto. Priyanka is an environmental lawyer by trade and passion. Outside of that she's a self described thrift shopping and walking tour aficionado. Around the world the bicycle has been been her trusty companion. Since moving to Toronto, cycling has become a greater part of her identity and has been a significant factor in her everyday life. As a cyclist she is an all season daily commuter; weekend recreationalist; and new to touring. She represents Ward 19.
The outgoing board members include:
• Meredith James
• Damion Ketchum
• Ben Leszcz
• Liz Sutherland
• John Taranu
• Tom Worrall
The new president of the board, Brandin O’Connor, ended the meeting by presenting the new bylaws, which included allowing non-directors to serve on subcommittes of the board, and thanking the outgoing members for their service. The motions were adopted and the meeting adjourned.
Ride on Toronto!
Rachel Lissner is the founder of the group: Young Urbanists League and community organizer.