by Alayne McGregor (and Hans Moor)
Noise, fun and change
When you look back at 25 years of Citizens for Safe Cycling, three things become clear: We made a lot of noise, we had a lot of fun, and we caused a lot of changes.
There was the time when Jantine and Maggie had to defend the cycling budget before city councillors who had been listening to delegations all day. They wanted the politicians' attention, so they wore their helmets and rang their bike bells after every major point. Sure got everyone's attention, and the budget was saved.
Or there was the time CfSC objected to the Bank Street Bridge being left too narrow for sharing after it was rebuilt. An official opening was announced; CfSC members showed up on our bikes, ringing our bells, and made the point before everyone that bridges need to accommodate cyclists. Every city bridge built since has space for bikes.
Successful in real results
CfSC has been successful because we've done our homework. Whether it's 70 pages of comments to the Ontario government on their bicycle policy review (which resulted in bicycles finally being recognized as a means of transportation), or 35 pages on a proposed city official plan, or 20 pages showing how the LRT plan would remove the cycling routes down town, we've cared enough to look at the details, because those make the difference in getting real results.
But has not been easy. Going back through 25 years of history, you'd swear there wasn't one year where we didn't have to fight off an attempt by city staff or politicians to either kill a cycling committee, cut a cycling budget, or fire a cycling coordinator.
Making a difference
CfSC volunteers have also made the difference in the basic work of promoting cycling day in and day out. For 20 years, we've been running booths to promote cycling at community events and workplaces, running workshops to promote cycle commuting and cool-weather cycling, and reaching out to women to address their particular cycling barriers. Our highly-trained instructors have taught effective cycling skills to children and adults to keep them safer on the road. We've run many campaigns to educate drivers on how to share the road with cyclists, and to educate cyclists to get off the sidewalk so they won't endanger pedestrians.
CfSC started in 1984 with a small group of cyclists. They were motivated by the deaths of seven cyclists in the previous year to work to ensure this never happened again. Their efforts succeeded, at the same time as the number of cyclists in Ottawa-Gatineau has continued to substantially increase.
Focus on advocacy again
Over the years, there were ups and downs, like everywhere else. We lost our bike education funding, but this allowed us to focus more on bike advocacy in City Hall, at the NCC and at Provincial authorities. It also allowed us to reach out more to other organisations to cooperate. In 2013 we organise our second Spring.Bike.Ottawa! event, where we invite around ten local individuals and organisations to talk about their cycling activities. That can be a neighbourhood, a bike coop, a bike share, the City's plans, NCC initiatives or other cycling groups.
We are probably one of the oldest and most professional volunteer cycling advocacy groups. Those are not our words, but of someone who has had contact with many different groups across Canada. We are proud of what we do and who we are. We are happy with Ottawa as a cycling city and we are proud to have several advocacy awards winners among our members.
We are approaching our 30th anniversary in 2014 at a time that cycling is becoming more and more main stream. What a great birthday gift.
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