Advocacy Forum 2020 Wrap-Up

Cycle Toronto Advocacy Forum 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Advocacy Forum in mid January. After months of planning, it was great to see all the attendees, speakers, and moderators in one room and the discussion that followed! We've compiled some of our thoughts on the sessions and provided a summary here.

Ward Advocacy Program

Tamara Nahal presenting at the Advocacy Forum

We kicked off our first session with a presentation on the Ward Advocacy Program by Tamara Nahal, Community Engagement Manager with Cycle Toronto. She began with a background on the program, described what ward advocates do, and identified all of our existing and growing ward advocacy groups. This led into the Ward Advocacy Program Review.

As part of the review process, Tamara met with current and former Captains and Leaders as well as engaged ward advocates to learn more about how the program was operating and how it could be refined. Her findings have been circulated in a report to Ward Captains and the Cycle Toronto Advocacy Committee. Recommendations included the re-introduction of the Ward Advocacy Fund to help ward advocacy groups run events including bike rides and workshops, as well as improving the communication process between Cycle Toronto and ward groups to facilitate sharing of information.

Help found or run a ward advocacy group

Cycle Toronto is recruiting members and leaders for three ward groups:

If you're interested, get in touch with Tamara by email.

If you're curious if your ward has an active ward advocacy group, click through the map on the Ward Advocacy page. Our ward advocates are always interested in having new members join!

Campaign Update

Kevin Rupasinghe presenting at the Cycle Toronto Advocacy Forum

Kevin Rupasinghe, Campaigns Manager with Cycle Toronto, led a review of the major Cycle Toronto campaigns. This included a review of Danforth Loves Bikes, Yonge Loves Bikes (both Uptown and Downtown!), Bloor Loves Bikes, and Protected Bike Lanes on Eglinton.

In addition to providing updates on our major campaigns, Kevin provided some background, such as how our major  campaigns take form. This can include cycling network connectivity and alignment with city priorities, transit and density, destinations, local support and more. He also  highlighted how we work on campaigns, which involves working with a range of stakeholders, including: resident’s associations, business improvement areas (BIAs), businesses, schools, parent-teacher associations, trustees, teachers, and councillors.

Advocacy doesn’t just end with major campaigns: Cycle Toronto is also actively involved in the following areas:

  • City of Toronto Cycling Near-Term Implementation Plan for 2019-2021 and beyond
  • Toronto Police Services’ Strategic Targeted Enforcement Measures (STEM) program: pushed for funding (passed)
  • Automated speed enforcement: pushing for its adoption (passed) and pushing for its rollout on arterials rather than small, quiet residential streets (ongoing)
  • Demanding regulations and municipal control of kick-style e-scooter pilot (suggestions adopted by the province)
  • Workingwith Ministers of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) to track dooring of cyclists as collisions (ongoing)
  • Pushing for Vision Zero Plan to be better integrated with cycling and protected intersections (ongoing)
  • Snow clearing and winter maintenance (ongoing)
  • Construction hub coordination (ongoing)
  • Climate emergency alignment (ongoing)

Cycling and Pedestrian Projects presentation

Becky Katz presenting at the Cycle Toronto Advocacy Forum

Becky Katz, Manager of the Cycling and Pedestrian Projects within the Transportation Services department at the City of Toronto presented at the Advocacy Forum. She walked attendees through the many stages involved in project delivery, and continued on to the three categories of work in the Near Term Implementation Program:

  • Renew - refresh, upgrade, and improve existing cycling infrastructure
  • Grow - build new cycling infrastructure
  • Connect - connect existing bikeway networks with a focus on arterials, intersections, and missing gaps

In addition, Becky shared some of the factors that go into selecting routes for the Near Term Implementation Plan, which include: current and potential cycling demand, trip generators, connectivity, barrier crossings, equity, transit access, network coverage, and safety. Once this analysis is complete, all of the potential routes are ranked based on their analysis scores in the city, which you can see in the Analysis Scores of Proposed Cycling Network map.

Cycling Engagement in Schools

Sam Perry, right, presenting at the Cycle Toronto Advocacy Forum. Andre Harris, left, observes.

Sam Perry, Project Worker at CultureLink’s Bike to School Project, went over his work. First, he introduced the scope of his work, which includes:

  • Cycling education program in elementary and secondary schools
  • Bike to School Week, part of Bike Month, focused on encouraging youth to ride their bikes to school
  • Tobermory Bike Hub at 15 Tobermory Drive near Jane and Finch
  • Families and Educators for Safe Cycling, which mobilizes and supports parents and educators to do civic engagement in support of better cycling infrastructure near their school with a focus on five key corridors: Finch, Yonge North York, Eglinton, Bloor, and Danforth

Sam provided a major tip for engaging with schools: teachers and parents are often busy and you need to go to them, but they may still be interested in helping out. Do as much of the heavy lifting as possible to make that it is easy to support your efforts. School communities are ideal for commuting by bike and are very supportive of safe streets and cycling infrastructure. Although mobilizing support can be challenging, it is well worth the effort.

Sam was joined on stage by Abrah McKeen, Community Connector, Gateway Bicycle Hub; Mike Eminowicz, Dadvocate; and Andre Harris, Gateway Bicycle Hub Lead Mechanic. Abrah shared her experience working at the Gateway Bicycle Hub to enable people to ride bikes that might not have considered it an option previously.

Sharing your message: how to effectively get your story out

Ryan Shissler presenting at the Advocacy Forum

Ryan Shissler, Communications Lead with Cycle Toronto, shared how to constructively communicate your message online and actually get things done. He challenged advocates to expand on the facts and figures that show how successful cycling infrastructure is and to create a story. To do this, first pick your message. This could focus on safety and vision zero, environmental impacts, affordability, health benefits, or many more. Then, ask yourself three questions:

  1. What is it like now?
  2. What can be changed?
  3. What will the result be?

Part of sharing a story about cycling infrastructure is crafting a compelling narrative. When sharing your story, ask yourself the above three questions to craft an interesting story: for instance, about what is holding you back from riding your bicycle more, what would allow you to do it more, and how it would change your life.

Ryan shared some tips and tricks to picking the right social media platform for your message, with consideration paid to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Want to learn more? Contact us for tips!

Coalition Building panel

Panelists of the Coalition Building panel speak at the Cycle Toronto Advocacy Forum. Pictured from left to right: Keagan Gartz (Moderator), Nancy Smith Lea, Jess Spieker, Daniella-Levy Pinto, and Councillor Brad Bradford.

In the Coalition Building panel moderated by our Executive Director Keagan Gartz, we heard how it's important to have both patience and urgency in our work from Councillor Brad Bradford, which really emphasizes knowing when to push and when to rest. Nancy Smith Lea of The Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT) shared our coalition work on the  #BuildtheVisionTO, a coalition-based campaign  launched by Cycle Toronto, TCAT, Friends and Families for Safe Streets (FFSS), Walk Toronto, and 8 80 Cities to survey candidates for the 2018 municipal election with a focus on safe streets.

Daniella Levy-Pinto of Walk Toronto pushed cycling advocates to think about how we can support accessible infrastructure design and find commonalities with pedestrians: because "everyone's a pedestrian at some point." We heard from Jess Spieker of FFSS, who shared the stories of those affected by traffic violence and how impactful they can be.

Meaningful Engagement panel

Panelists of the Meaningful Community Engagement Panel speak at the Cycle Toronto Advocacy Forum. Pictured from left to right: Armi de Francia (Moderator), Marvin Macaraig, Husna Raghe, Siva Vijenthira, Najia Zewari.

In our Meaningful Community Engagement panel, we heard how the methods of consultation have historically failed racialized communities. Cycling advocates can learn from these lessons by working with members of their own and other communities, not telling them what's best.

Najia Zewari talked to us about founding the Women's Cyclist Network in Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Park and growing it to over 50 members.

Marvin Macaraig spoke about taking a 'big tent' approach to cycling and how to find commonalities with other groups. He shared the history of Scarborough Cycles and how they got to where they are today: a program of Access Alliance running three bicycle hubs!

Siva Vijenthira of 8 80 Cities spoke of a project in Macon, Georgia (US). They approached residents to talk about transportation, not just bike lanes, and gained a lot of valuable insight from people who wouldn't normally attend an event about cycling infrastructure. They hosted a Community Cookout to bring everyone into the room. For volunteer advocates who might not have the budget to throw a cookout, she suggested joining an existing event or working with a community leader to talk to residents.

Husna Raghe, Charlie’s Freewheels Board Member, shared her experience working with Transportation Equity TO and how she talked about cycling equity in a mini-conference and with a zine workshop. She also shared how cycling infrastructure is often perceived as something for young urbanites who move into gentrifying neighbourhoods. To racialized communities, they have not represented an expansion of transportation choice.

This year’s Advocacy Forum was a great way to dive deep on advocacy and cycling infrastructure, meet other volunteers, and get energized for the year ahead. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to do this again in the future!