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Toronto Cyclists Union Promotes Local Advocacy

June 21, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

When I first read about this, I was a bit blown away. I can’t articulate exactly why I think it’s such a great idea, but in my defense, sometimes you just know great things when you see them. This idea (which might not be brand new; read-on) and implementation from the still-new Toronto Cyclists Union seems to be something great.

Here’s what you see if you click on the My City link of their home page:

The Toronto Cyclists Union strives to provide a strong, unified voice for all cyclists, from all parts of Toronto. No matter where in our city you live, we want to bring together people for the common goal of ensuring that cycling is a legitimate, accessible, and safe way of getting through our streets.

Which ward do you live in? Who’s your councillor? Where are the bike lanes in your neighbourhood? Will the City’s bike plan affect you? What cycling events are going on near you? How can you find other local cyclists, and make changes in your part of Toronto?

Find out about advocacy and events in your neighbourhood

There is more on the page, but this top half of the page is what I’m after. The final text and link get to the real magic:

The argument is “local advocacy”. Yes, advocacy at the city/town level is important, as is advocacy at the state/province and national levels, but don’t forget about advocacy that’s super-close to home—your neighborhood or ward.

Sounds simple enough, right? It is, and sometimes the best ideas are simple. We can often be on the lookout for these grand solutions and we may inadvertently neglect doing the obvious infrastructure work—organizing at the (very) local level.

Clicking on Ward 20 produces this:

I was reminded of this ward idea when I saw it posted over on TheWashCycle blog.

And thanks to joe (from BikingToronto?) for pointing out that Toronto Cyclists Union may have actually gotten the idea to connect users with their individual wards from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. And that seems very possible. Not that it matters, but I want to give credit where credit is due. We all need to continue to borrow ideas from one another and expand on them.

I’ve poured over the SF Bike Coalition website before, but somehow this “wards” idea never struck me; it just never made an impact on me, and I’m sure I had to run across it before because it’s a main link (Current Actions) on their website. My guess is that maybe I just didn’t identify the phrase Current Actions with this idea of local advocacy. (If you think about it, it’s almost micro-advocacy.)

The link on the Toronto Cyclists Union site, on the other hand, reads My City. That, to me, could actually make a big difference. These days, everyone knows what “My <whatever>” means. Ever since the rise of YouTube, every site seems to have a “My <whatever>” section where you can customize the type of information made available to you, fill out your user profile, and generally take more responsibility for your user experience at that particular website. The same applies to the real world regarding cycling conditions in the ward you live in. And the real-world application requires some extra effort, too.

The Toronto Cyclists Union also tells us explicitly to “find out about your ward, who represents you at City hall, what events are going on, and what other opportunities are there to connect with cyclists in your community.” It could (and I would argue, should) actually go further and tell us to contact our local councillors, either by phone or email or both, and tell them our story, tell them who we are, where we live, how important bicycling is to us, and so forth. How do we cycle? When do we do it? Do we take the kids to school? Do we do our grocery shopping via bike? What is it we like about cycling? Why do we think it’s important for our neighborhood and our city? How can our neighborhood be improved for cycling? How can our councillor help us improve cycling in our ward? What specific initiatives are we working on that could affect our ward?

Our local politicians should hear all of these things from us, so let’s make it happen.   :)

…looks like I forgot to mention that each ward page also lists all the local bike shops and bicycle user groups (BUGs) in your local/ward area. Very cool stuff. Not sure how I left that out. Duh. Sorry.