Olivia Chow will bike to work on her first day in the mayor’s office.
For the passionate group that makes up Toronto’s cycling community, that representation doesn’t come a moment too soon. On her first day as Toronto’s new mayor, Chow will join CycleTO, a Toronto advocacy group for local cyclists, in a morning ride to City Hall, where Chow will provide brief remarks. Representatives for Chow confirmed that she cycles to work regularly.
“She understands the benefits of riding a bike,” said Michael Longfield, executive director of CycleTO, in an interview. “She’s been riding a bike for decades. We’re happy to see that, and we’re hoping that her own choice to ride a bike will translate into policies as well. We’ve made a lot of rapid progress in the last three years, and we hope to see that continue.”
Chow’s symbolic ride to her first day in office follows a chaotic election, which featured over 100 candidates and several hot-button issues, including Toronto’s bike lanes. Longfield says her choice to ride could signal even more progress on urban infrastructure for cyclists in the years to come.
“It’s encouraging to know that of the candidates who were stoking anti-bikeway rhetoric, they collectively received less than 50 per cent of the vote for the mayor’s office,” he said. “That mentality is a thing of the past. Torontonians have rejected that. They’re looking for solutions, and to make our city more livable. The ability to choose more trips on bikes is a really important part of that.”
Ultimately, says Longfield, infrastructure like bike lanes serves far more than the cycling community.
“It creates more order on our roads,” he said. “This gives people more transportation options, which is a really important step to easing congestion in Toronto. The city’s only going to get bigger, and that’s a good thing, but we have to make sure there’s options for people to get around so that fewer of them have to rely on single-occupancy vehicles.”
Albert Koehl, an environmental lawyer and coordinator for Community Bikeways, echoed Longfield’s sentiments, saying that a cyclist like Chow in the mayor’s office signifies easier times ahead for Toronto’s cycling communities.
“She understands what it’s like to cycle on city roads,” he said. “All of us know the danger of riding on these roads without bike lanes. So to have someone who’s experienced that, and someone who’s sympathetic to the needs of the residents, means there’s huge potential.”
Koehl says he hopes to see Chow implement the City of Toronto’s Vision Zero plan by sticking to the plan for bikeway infrastructure – something he says her predecessor John Tory did not do.
“We don’t want to wait for another global pandemic for the city to meet its plan targets,” he said. “The plan sets out the installation of 33 kilometres of bike lanes per year…we’re not optimistic about hitting that this year. We just want her to stick to the bike plan.”