Cycle Toronto

Cycle Toronto (formerly the Toronto Cyclists Union) is a diverse member-supported organization that advocates for a healthy, safe, cycling-friendly city for all.

Our Impact Why We Exist

Our vision is that Toronto is a city that embraces cycling as an essential part of its sustainable transportation network.  Complete streets have been implemented in all neighbourhoods with safe, accessible on and off road cycling infrastructure. The needs of people who cycle are taken into account in all municipal planning and decision-making. Toronto is healthy, safe and livable, and the city is recognized as a leading urban centre, where multiple modes of transportation are not just accepted but are actively promoted.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

In the fall of 2007, community leader Dave Meslin gathered over 70 bicycle advocates and organizers from more than 20 organizations to share his vision for a cycling advocacy strategy. He had recently traveled North America to study successful membership-funded bike advocacy groups and was inspired by the great successes achieved by these groups such as separated bike lanes, clear and easy signage, traffic lights to allow cyclists to flow through intersections easily, and even integrated suburban infrastructure. Momentum built quickly as everyone recognized the need for an advocacy arm to articulate the every-day experience of cycling in Toronto. That winter, Cycle Toronto incorporated, formed a board, held several advisory meetings across the city, and signed up hundreds of volunteers. We launched on May 20, 2008, with a public press conference at the Peace Garden in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. Community and political support was strong with guest speakers including then Mayor David Miller, Councillor Adrian Heaps, Metrolinx Chair Rob MacIsaac, Walk & Bike for Life ED Gil Peñalosa and CultureLink ED Ibrahim Absiye.

Accolades and Accomplishments

Accomplishments

  • 2,300 members strong and growing
  • Successfully advocated for creation of Toronto's first network of on-street separated bike lanes
  • Partnered with Toronto District School Board to develop and approve an Active Transportation Charter
  • Successfully campaigned to have Toronto commit to saving BIXI bikeshare and approve an Environmental Assessment for bike lanes on Bloor St
  • Convened and led a working group to create cycling and pedestrian specific amendments to the Ontario Drivers Handbook
  • Achieved bike-specific additions to Toronto’s new comprehensive zoning bylaw

Awards

  • Partnership in Innovation, 2013 -- Culturelink
  • Innovation in Advocacy Award for our Newcomer Cycling Outreach Program, in partnership with CultureLink Settlement Services, 2010 -- Alliance for Biking and Walking, Washington DC
  • Vital People Award, Yvonne Bambrick, ED, 2009 – Toronto Community Foundation 

Grants

  • Trillium Foundation, 2013 - 3 Year Grant to fund our Bike to School Project & full-time staff person via CultureLink
  • Law Foundation of Ontario, 2012 - Street Smarts Program Funding
  • Trillium Foundation, 2010 – 2 Year Operational Funding Grant
  • LiveGreen Toronto, 2010 – Grant for the Bicycle Service Station (see in “Programs”)
  • Trillium Foundation, 2009 – 3 Year Grant to fund our Newcomer Cycling Outreach Program & full-time staff person via CultureLink
  • Toronto Community Foundation, 2008/9 and 2009/10 – Transportation Grant for Toronto Cyclists Handbook to be created in 17 languages (CultureLink Partnership)
  • Bicycle Trade Association of Canada, 2009 – Grant towards CultureLink Partnership and Cyclists Handbook

Our Programs How We Do It

Ward AdvocacyWe build grassroots cycling advocacy at the local level with 21 ward groups actively outlining problems and solutions for their own neighbourhoods.

Street SmartsA comprehensive education program for both new and seasoned bike commuters, composed of two main components: on-street outreach events and public cycling workshops

Bike Month

Coordinating a strong, pro-bike media and events campaign across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area in partnership with Metrolinx, the City of Toronto, City of Mississauga, City of Hamilton, Region of Peel and York Region. Starts the last Monday of May.

Toronto Bike Awards

In partnership with the City of Toronto, Cycle Toronto coordinates this annual cycling celebration. The Bicycle-Friendly Business Awards recognizes the contributions local businesses have made to improving cycling in Toronto whereas the Community Awards segment recognizes the important work of community heroes.

Bike to School Project

We are working in 16 schools to enable diverse students, staff, and parents to discover the personal, social, and ecological benefits of cycling for transportation.

Newcomer Cycling Outreach / Bike Host

We are educating newcomers on the advantages of cycling in Toronto and encouraging daily cycling through training and workshops. A unique, award-winning partnership with CultureLink Settlement Services.

CAMPAIGNS

Protected Bike Lanes on Richmond and Adelaide

In 2001, the City's official bike plan identified Richmond and Adelaide Streets as candidates for protected bike lanes. We've continued advocating for these lanes, which in 2011 were included in an approved network of protected bike lane plan. An environmental assessment is now underway and Cycle Toronto continues advocating for the best possible configuration for cyclists in Toronto.

Good Roads Campaign

In collaboration with the city, we are encouraging cyclists to phone in road hazards to the new 311 hotline. The goal is to ensure a rapid response for road repairs that are essential to keeping cyclists safe.

 

Newcomer Cycling Outreach Program / Bike Host

This program is a unique partnership between CultureLink Settlement Services and the Cycle Toronto. Many newcomers to Toronto have migrated from countries where cycling is a major form of transportation, but many leave cycling behind due to different road conditions, traffic and perception. Since cycling is affordable, healthy and convenient -- three areas many newcomers struggle with -- CultureLink saw an opportunity to ease the migration transition, and so approached Cycle Toronto about developing a co-ordinated outreach plan. 

This program:

  • Produced posters in 2009 promoting cycling in Toronto’s top 16 languages. 60 community resource hubs that serve newcomers agreed to display them.
  • Unveiled the Toronto Cyclists Handbook in Toronto’s top 17 languages.
  • Developed the Bike Host program where volunteers learn about the settlement process and then is matched to a newcomer who has an interest in cycling. Together they can explore Toronto by bike. 
  • Delivered hundreds of interactive workshops over the past 4 years at ESL and LINC classes, to discuss cycling safety and local rules of the road.
  • Trained community animators who speak the same languages as newcomers to deliver workshops, CAN-BIKE classes and participate in cycling advocacy throughout Toronto.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

" In 2011, 28% of Toronto Region residents – almost 3 in 10 – were second-generation (Canadian-born children with at least one parent born outside the country). Together with those born outside Canada, they made up more than three-quarters (75.8%) of the Toronto Region’s population"

Social integration and pride in the community is stimulated in neighbourhoods where active transportation (i.e. biking and walking) is easy and safe.  Second-generation children can play an important role in helping their parents integrate in the City, including sharing knowledge about cycling and healthy, affordable, sustainable, transportation alternatives.

Participant Vignette

Yu Li immigrated to Canada with his wife in 2000. “We quickly set out to fulfill the stereotypical North American suburban dream,” says the 37- year old computer programmer. They bought a car, then a house. The high cost, frustration and stress of his daily commute to work soon took their toll. “I seemed to be more impatient and irritable while driving,” he says. “Then I rediscovered my old friend, the bicycle.” Yu began biking to the GO station. Eventually he and his wife moved closer to their places of employment. “Now I ride to the office, to my children’s daycare, and to run all sort of errands,” he says. He encourages newcomers to join him in advocating for improved cycling infrastructure. “This partnership between Cycle Toronto and CultureLink is so important,” he says. “It speaks directly to newcomers in their own languages. Its success will be a win for everybody: healthier, more fulfilling lives for newcomers, a stronger cycling community, and a more vibrant city for every Torontonian.”

Street Smarts

Street Smarts is a comprehensive education program for both new and seasoned bike commuters. It is composed of two main components: on-street outreach events and public cycling workshops.

With our on-street outreach events on Tuesday nights from May to October, we aim to build bike commuter capacity by offering free maintenance services, installing free safety equipment, teaching strategies to fight bike theft, and promoting safety and respect on the roads.

With our free public cycling workshops on Saturday afternoons starting at the end of April, we help novice or hesitant cyclists overcome some initial barriers, get familiar with cycling rules and techniques, learn how to fix a flat tire, and become more comfortable riding a bike in Toronto. 

Program Impact

In 2012 we

  • Taught 500 people about basic bike maintenance through free on-street tuneups
  • Installed 700 free bike lights for cyclists who needed them
  • Delivered 14 free safe cycling workshops in communities across Toronto
  • Distributed 1,000 copies of the Toronto Cyclist Handbook teaching passers-by about traffic laws and safe riding techniques

Bike to School Project

The Bike to School Project creates an environment in Toronto high schools where diverse students, parents, teachers and staff can discover the benefits of cycling for transportation, in safe, healthy and happy ways. We offer:

  • Educational programs in cycling skills and road safety
  • Support for after-school clubs
  • Access to bikes
  • Evaluation tools
  • Community connections

Funding and Program Partners

The Bike to School Project is a collaborative initiative of Cycle Toronto, CultureLink Settlement Services (a settlement agency), the Toronto Cycling Think and Do Tank (a research group based at the University of Toronto), and Evergreen (an environmental education organization.) The project is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation (2013-2016). We reach students and schools through CultureLink's Settlement Workers in Schools Program, and through our relationship with the EcoSchools Program at the Toronto District School Board.

Program Impact

The program will reach 16 high schools and over 1600 diverse students over three years, and develop leadership skills and volunteer capacity in school to enable continuation of the initiative after our program is completed.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"A 2013 study of children 10 to 14 years old in 16 diverse GTA schools confirms earlier research in finding that less than 1% (0.5%) of boys and no girls were meeting the recommended level of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) at least 6 days per week."

Incorporating more active transportation (walking, cycling, etc.) enables anyone to enjoy increased levels of physical activity as part of daily life. Our project assumes that many students live within a bikeable distance (under 5 km) from their high schools and that we can spark a cultural shift which will support more students to travel by bike more often.

Participant Vignette

“A councillor from my church decided to give me her bike; this was one of the very best gifts I received,” says Jessica, a student at Central Commerce Collegiate, site of an after-school cycling club initiated Cycle Toronto's partner, CultureLink. “In the beginning, I rode my bike on the sidewalk, since the road with cars frightened me, and at the time not many people commuted to places with their bike.”

She joined the cycling club in the spring of 2013, to enjoy some fresh air and outdoor activities before settling down to do homework. “As a member of bike club, I have had so many great opportunities. I got to meet new friends, go on bike rides to places in Toronto and enjoy beautiful views. Also, I got to share and express my own thoughts at the meeting in City Hall about the contra flow bike lanes on Shaw Street. Each experience has led me to understand myself and about the community better.”

She sees many benefits to cycling, and the cycling club at her school. “If I need to commute to places around Toronto, I choose my bike so I don’t have to deal with getting car sick, and it saves me cash that I can keep towards my savings or use. Thank you so much for supporting our Bike Club in Central Commerce, it has really brought friendships together and provided consciousness for better healthy living.”

What You Can Do

Newcomer Cycling Outreach Program / Bike Host

Activities a donation will support

The most common question is “Where can I learn to ride?” People are more likely to ride if they’ve done so with an instructor.

Financial support will enable us to:

  • maintain a fleet of bicycles to offer instruction upon
  • provide housing for this fleet, as well as helmets, locks and discounted CAN-BIKE classes
  • supply good quality bicycles to our dedicated volunteers/community animators 
  • pay for community animators to become CAN-BIKE Certified Trainers, creating lasting jobs for newcomers 
  • organize group rides and day trips for newcomer youth and seniors to destinations such as the Toronto Island

Donation impact

This expansion of our program to include cycling instruction and getting more people onto bikes will:

  • promote healthy and sustainable lifestyle choices among newcomers and their families
  • involve and include more newcomers in public discussions on transportation policy
  • promote leadership among newcomers in the greening of our city
  • make our city more liveable for newcomers and all Torontonians

Street Smarts

Donation impact

Achieving our target fundraising goal of $20,000 will allow Cycle Toronto to reach 2,000 people at 20 workshops and 24 on-street events over the course of six months and promote safe cycling across Toronto. We’ll work with our Ward Advocacy Groups to make these events attractive, exciting and relevant to local needs.

Bike to School Project

Activities a donation will support

Investment in this project will enable us to better support the surge of activities during the spring months, beginning with a cycling leadership camp in March and continuing through Bike Month in June.

Donation impact

With financial support for the Bike to School Project, Cycle Toronto and our partners will enable more young people to discover the personal, social and ecological benefits of cycling for transportation, serving as a catalyst for a larger cultural shift in attitudes and behavior regarding getting around our city.

Contact

Jared Kolb
Executive Director
416.644.7188

Finance & Governance

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