Words and pictures by Jun Nogami
Today, May 28, 2018, was the annual group commute to City Hall that kicks off Bike Month in Toronto. Cyclists started at various locations across the city, converged on Yonge and Bloor, and then rode down en mass to Nathan Phillips Square. Here are the cyclists gathering at the High Park starting point.
This was MJ Pollak's last group commute. MJ has been active with the Ward 14 advocacy group for many years, as well as being the prime force behind the Polka Ride every bike month. She is moving out of town. We'll miss you, MJ!
And here we go, a group about 60 strong headed east on Bloor.
We approach Keele St.
Coming up on Landsdowne Avenue, it looks like we are cycling straight into the sun.
At Lansdowne Avenue. At this instant, one of the police officers helpfully pointed out that I was standing in a live traffic lane.
Continuing down Bloor, and then merging into the bike lanes past Shaw St.
At Chirstie Pits, we are joined by folks from the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival. They have a full slate of sunset series rides scheduled starting in July, as well as their main event on Sunday September 9.
Now at Bathurst and Bloor. At this point, we have overflowed the bike lane and have taken over all eastbound lanes.
Our old friend Martin Reis, photographer and long time bike advocate.
Now riding down Yonge St....
and into Nathan Phillips Square.
The breakfast line was extraordinarily long this year. It was hard to tell if this was due to slower serving, or to the large turnout this morning.
Liz Sutherland from Cycle Toronto was the emcee for the formal part of the program. As per usual, Mayor John Tory proclaimed the opening of Bike Month in Toronto.
However, in recognition of the unacceptably large number of pedestrians and cyclists that are killed each year in Toronto, a small number of cyclists staged a small "die in" as the mayor spoke to the crowd.
It was somewhat ironic that the die in was largely ignored by the crowd, just as pedestrian and cyclist deaths seemed to have been accepted by the majority of city residents as collateral damage and part of the cost of living in a big city. Cycle Toronto did mention the issue of cycling safety, and both the Mayor and the Director of Transportation for the City mentioned their commitment to Vision Zero.
However, given the voting record of the current City Council, any mention of Vision Zero amounts to window dressing. When City Council has had the opportunity to make genuine changes to make the streets safer for all users, for instance by supporting the Reimagine Yonge project or by making it easier to reduce speed limits on a ward by ward basis, the majority (and the mayor) have consistently sided with the convenience of motorists. This is frustrating for cyclists, and is probably doubly frustrating for city staff who work diligently on these proposals, only to be overruled by the political leadership.
Thanks to the few cyclists who were brave enough to lie down with us in solidarity this morning.