In the state of Washington, when drivers injure cyclists with their cars they be prosecuted. Dave Janis, a cyclist in Seattle, claims the creation of a bicycle union there improved cycling safety.
“We want to ensure that when drivers hit cyclists with their cars they are punished appropriately,” Janis said.
By June, Toronto cyclists may have the same kind of protection.
Toronto’s new Cyclists Union is the first bicycle-based advocacy group in the city to lobby on behalf of its members.
While there are already cyclist groups in the city, the union hopes it will unify their goals. Coun. Adrian Heaps of Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest supports the Cyclists Union.
“This union is meant to bring together the various groups … to corral everyone,” he said.
Founder Dave Meslin has fought for cyclists’ rights in Toronto for a number of years. He believes that the city is ready for this.
“Our main focus is going to be advocacy,” he said.
Meslin hopes that the group will grow and develop into a service group. He claimed it would be like the Canadian Automotive Association, except for cyclists.
Toronto has seen attempts to create a bike union before generally concentrated downtown. To make it last this time, Meslin said, the union would incorporate bicycle riders from across the city.
Anthony Humphreys, is the ward co-ordinator for the union, he is finding cycling enthusiasts. These bikers will represent their wards’ biking needs and report to the union any problems that cyclists are experiencing. According to Humphreys, they have already recruited over half of the representatives for the 44 wards in Toronto.
Like the proposed Toronto Cyclists Union, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington has found success as an advocacy group. Dave Janis is the safe-routes-to-school manager for the statewide Alliance.
“We have a contract lobbyist who works in the state’s capital… We have members in every legislative district,” Janis said.
Consequently, the Alliance has had a number of legislative and educational achievements since it merged from two organizations in 1991. According to Janis, the group has just helped pass new legislation that will make it mandatory for new drivers to learn about cycling safety in their drivers’ education programs. This, the Alliance hopes, will help to decrease the number of cycling accidents occurring on the roads.
“We are making the roads safer for bicycles,” he said.
According to Meslin and Coun. Heaps, the creation of the Toronto bike union has citywide support.
“There has been no real opposition,” Meslin said.
Dave Janis of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, said that other cycling groups in Washington have supported the larger alliance on a number of occasions. In Washington, the Cascade Bicycle Club is another large advocacy group.
“We do some collaborative work, but there are different issues,” he said. “They do some education programs that we are less involved in.”
The union in Toronto will work with the existing Toronto Cycling Committee, which meets at City Hall. According to Heaps the union will keep the members informed of committee meetings.
“The union will help to generate awareness among bikers,” he said.