Supporting cycling infrastructure and building a stonger cycling culture can range from a low level of involvement, from just an hour of time per month, to taking on a volunteer role, whether supporting a campaign or leading a working group. It's important to assess how much time you have so that you don't overcommit and burn out. Start out small, read about cycling projects, connect with your neighbours and family members to talk about cycling, and bring up cycling topics in your community. You always have an opportunity to reach out to your workplace, your neighbourhood or residents' association, or school to bring them in to the conversation.
Email, phone calls, and letter writing campaigns
- Sign up to receive email updates from Cycle Toronto. Make sure you click the options to receive Action Alerts and subscribe to District Announcements. We email our members occasionally to ask them to send emails, write letters, or make phone calls to advocate for cycling infrastructure. If you have neighbours who want to see more cycling infrastructure, ask them to sign up for Action Alerts and District Announcements, too!
- Email your councillor to express your support for cycling infrastructure in your neighbourhood. If there is a particular project happening, mention it! If you're not sure who your councillor is, you can type in your address to this city webpage. When you email your councillor, always provide your address so that they know you are a constituent.
The Ward Advocacy Program is at the heart of Cycle Toronto. Individuals come together in groups that build relationships with residents associations, businesses, schools and local elected officials. The vision of the program is to build a movement of grassroots advocacy in local wards which will improve cycling for everyone in the city. The Ward Advocacy Program is meant to engage cyclists and non-cyclists alike to support activities that promote the everyday use of bicycles by improving infrastructure, facilities and the public perception of cycling as a valid and vital mode of Transportation.
You can get involved in ward advocacy in a number of ways:
Joining an existing ward advocacy group
If an advocacy group already exists, you're in luck! There will be at least one volunteer running the group and you'll want to attend their meetings to find out where they need help. Some activities you might be able to help out with could include:
- Communication support: helping to write submissions to the City, particularly on projects happening in your neighbourhood, helping to run social media accounts or newsletters, or helping to monitor the email address
- Advocacy support: tracking advocacy issues in your neighbourhood or acting as the lead on specific projects or developments
- Outreach support: acting as a liaison between other groups, such as Residents' Associations, Community Improvement Areas (CIA), Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), and friends of park organizations; helping to organize or run bike rides or outreach events
- Leadership role: supporting the ward leader as a Co-Leader or Vice Leader, for instance
- Meeting-based support: making sure meetings stay on track as the meeting Chair or note-taker
If a new ward advocacy group does not yet exist in your neighbourhood, you can help to found one!
When important cycling projects are brought to a committee, deputations can be an important way to show local support. We typically receive a one week notice before agenda items are posted to the committee's page on the Toronto City Council and Committee Meetins, Agendas, and Minutes (TMMIS). In advance of a major committee meeting, we will hold a training session to go over the procedures and protocols of deputing at City Hall and walk through how to deliver a deputation.
If we need volunteers to depute at a committee, we typically distribute the notice through a ward advocacy group Google Group, as they are often the most impacful when a resident deputes on a project in their ward.
Cycle Toronto has four long-standing committees, which support staff on strategic and tactical issues. They are composed of board and non-board members. If you're interested in joining a committee, make sure you subscribe to our Ring & Post newsletter, where we announce new committee openings.
If you are involved with any community organizations, such as a local resource centre, a resident's association, or a recreation centre, talk to them about cycling! Cycle Toronto is interested in partnering with organizations that are based in the community to conduct better outreach across the city. If you have success bringing it up with your community or if you work with an organization that is curious to know more, please let us know! Cycle Toronto can also offer customized digital workshops.
Here are some ideas that you can raise with your community organization:
- Writing letters of support when bicycle infrastructure is going to be discussed at Infrastructure and Environment Committee (IEC) or City Council
- Improving bicycle parking, such as by installing a bicycle rack at a building
- Find ways to make it easier for members to cycle, such as by fundraising to buy community members a bicycle, setting up workshops to teach people how to ride a bike or how to repair a bike, etc
- Developing a proactive 311 squad to report issues to the City, such as broken glass in a bike lane, broken ring and post bike parking, etc
- Cycling Network Plan webpage on the City of Toronto website
- Toronto City Council and Committee Meetings, Agendas, and Minutes (TMMIS)
Keep the momentum going
If you found this guide helpful, please consider supporting our work. Donors and members are crucial to Cycle Toronto's success. Your support helps us advocate to expand ActiveTO to accelerate building more bike lanes across the city this summer. Even $5 a month helps us work through the pandemic toward a safer, healthier and more vibrant cycling city for all.