BREAKING NEWS DEPT.
Ever since we heard the one about the late, great ‘zine, “Chicks United for Non-noxious Transportation” in which the father of one of the writers, a father who happened, as we understood it, to have a very Christian bearing and outlook on life, espied the magazine where it lay in a pile in the writer’s living room, we have cringed a little less at hearing the word “chick” applied to a woman. The story goes that the father’s only remark at seeing the acronym splayed [um–please rephrase –ed.] across the magazine cover was “I thought the word ‘chick’ was derogatory.”
Well, so did we. But for Crazybikerchick, a.k.a. Tanya Quinn, it’s a self-chosen moniker. And some would argue the words “crazy” or “biker” are just as loaded as “chick,” if not more so.
In person, Tanya doesn’t seem like a confrontational sort. She seems the soul of diplomacy and tact. She seems really nice, if you want to know the truth. She knits, for chrissakes. We tried to introduce her to the blobber who calls himself “crazyguyonabike” (but it turned out he’s hitched, alas).
But there she was the other day, pinioned on a barstool on the stage at the NOW lounge, surrounded by six leering men.
Okay, the guys were pinioned too, and maybe it was the klieglamps that made them look as if they were leering. One thing the lights definitely did was highlight [ahem! –ed.] the shiny pates of the male panelists.
The occasion, of course, was NOW magazine and Car Advertiser‘s inaugural “Town Hall Meeting” to discuss the question: “Where is Toronto on the Road to Total Bikeability?” The venue was the NOW Lounge, where about a hundred people crowded the stage or the bar as was their wont.
Our man Blobby was there and sends this report.
At the far right [there you go, name-calling again –ed.] was a balding and/or crewcut Adamn Giambrone, Toronto city councillor and former head of the Toronto City Cycling Committee (TCC). Today he is head of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). If he is to be believed however, his true calling is to lead the Tooker Gomberg bikelane project (TTT). Where will this migration of T’s and C’s lead? Read on.
Just to the left of Giambrone, the svelte form of Danm Egan [typo? please check spelling of “svelte” before publication. –ed.], his balding pate gleaming, balanced his own stool in a stiff vertical.
Next over was Wayne Scott, with as shiny a dome as anyone could hope for, sticking out of a black leather biker (there’s that word again) jacket. Wayne’s a former member of Toronto’s Pedestrian Committee and the founder of the organization THC-3, or “Toronto Hoof and Cycle Courier Coalition.” He’s famous for a persistent and ultimately fruitful battle with Canada Revenue agency, which won the rights for human-powered couriers, on foot or bicycle, to claim a part of their daily food expense as “fuel costs.”
Au Centre was the panel moderator, NOW magazine and Walmart advertiser‘s Mike Smith. Poor guy. Hair on his head was thick and lustrous, although short. But we won’t dally with Mike. Suffice to say he was no Misha Glouberman, although he had a nice line about Tanya being the only female at a “sausage party.” We don’t understand it, but we think we’ll use that…
Tanya was beside Mike. Bald? Hardly. Woolly? That’s more like it.
Next over was Darren Stehr, well known as a NOW magazine and Walmart Advertiser photographer, who tonight was speaking as a member of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists. We liked what he had to say, but out of fairness we must mention that his head was even shinier than that of Wayne Scott. If we could find one we’d post an image of him but he’s careful which end of a camera he finds himself. One of these will have to do.
Finally, and lucky for him closest to the microphone, was the man who would be king (of ward 29 anyway), pun meister extraordinaire, TCC member, TTC rider and driver of the TTT (Tooker Gomberg Memorial Bikelane) project, Hamish Wilson. Also balding. Did we mention that?
Mike Smith started out by telling the assembled masses that Adamn Giambrone would be leaving early (due to a cross-commitment, not a lack of commitment, Mike was certain). Coming on the heels of the TTC’s public meeting a couple weeks back, where Giambrone, titular head of the TTC, “left early” without hearing the questions and concerns of the TTC riders he’d invited, this news was met with nary a grumble. After all, if the guy can’t be bothered to stick around to hear folks commentiing on stuff he’s actually responsible for, why should we expect him to stick around when he’s already crawled off the sinking ship? That is to say, he’s no longer the head of the shambled cycling committee. As you read here last week, it’s AA Heaps [no, not that AA, this AA –ed.] who’s to be TCC head. Where was Heaps on the august occasion of NOW magazine’s “first town hall” on cycling in Toronto? We don’t know. Perhaps he was “waiting for his appointment to be finalized” Perhaps he was stuck in traffic.
So unfortunately, as Adamn Giambrone spoke, there was a decided chill in the air among the assembled cyclists. At the table in front of us, Angela Bischoff took calls on her cell phone, while beside us, Marty Collier muttered to his neighbour. Was there a hush in the room? Nah. the odd chuckle, certainly.
Ears did perk up momentarily when Giambrone said he would be happy to repaint the stretch of Bloor Street West that crosses his ward with bikelanes, as the first installment of the TakeTheTooker bikelane project. But soon he was droning on with an excuse about why he could not, in fact, “just do it.”
It may have been a result of the lack of interest in what Councillor Giambrone had to say that his speaking style adopted the clipped, “take no prisoners” rhetorical style made famous by the beleagered U.S. politician and former war czar, Donald Rumsfeld. Or it may be that’s what Giambrone really sounds like. We don’t know. In any case, it bored us.
We were relieved when he came to the end of his spiel and said “Have you heard enough from the optimist on the panel? You have. Will you be hearing from the pessimists now? Yes, you will.”
Or words to that effect. What a pain in the patootie.
Danmiel Egan spoke second. It bears mentioning that both Danm and Adamn were fully suited in jacket and tie, but except for that and their shiny domes and the strange resonance in their names, the similarity ends.
Because Danm is a manm who gets things donm [Hey! You drop a jelly blob onm the keyboard or what? –ed.]. He rides a bike, he doesn’t just talk the talk.
He’s also refreshingly frank, on occasion. This was one of those occasions. He told us the bike plan is a 15-round fight, not a 5-round fight–which is lucky, because “we’ve lost the first five rounds.” The good news is, the bike and ped. sections of the transportation dept. have just hired four new full-time staff members.
It may be that in the ten rounds to come we will see more cycling infrastructure built in Toronto.
Wayne Scott took the floor. His main argument was that while the city views cycling as a summertime recreational activity, cyclists are on the roads 365 days a year. But cyclists, according to Wayne, are not a voting block. Advocating for cyclists is not a vote-getter.
Somewhere in the room, Dave Meslin smiled to himself. Things will change…
Tanya had the floor. It’s worth mentioning that Tanya’s famous for one screed in particular at her blog, her “open letter to motorists,” which according to NOW magazine and Car Advertiser has been “translated into several languages and distributed around the world.”
Tanya’s argument is that Toronto is a great city for cycling despite itself, and there are “ever-increasing numbers of cyclists” on the streets despite the pitiful infrastructure. “Everyone knows the car is the worst way to travel in the downtown core” (a message held up again most recently in NOW’s “commuter challenge” published last week). Tanya said it’s the suburbs that need help. This is a view many hold, of course, not least those who actually have cause to ride a bike out there. Finally, Tanya repeated the oft-said truth that in order to improve conditions for cyclists, things must change for car drivers. “Toronto’s streets need a radical redesign, to favour transit over the private automobile.”
Darren Stehr spoke fifth. He alone read from a prepared statement, subsequently republished at Martino’s Bikelane Diary. Unfortunately, nothing we remember him saying is on the published transcript, which raises doubts about anything else we report here. What were we drinking? Steam Whistle. “It’s an Accsheptable Brew(tm) .”
What we remember Darren saying is that if anything is making things better for cyclists in Toronto, it’s not the city leading the way. Mostly, when it happens, it’s the city getting out of the way: of advocacy groups like ARC, Streets for People, the Bike Pirates, and the mythical BEAST (Bike EAST (Everyday Access to Saner Travel)) (formerly Dundas EAST).
To Darren also goes the honour of the most telling comment of the night: he asked “Where is our champion? Cyclists need a champion on city council. Since the death of Dan Leckie, and departure of Jack Layton to the federal stage, there has been a vacuum in local government regarding the needs of cyclists. Where is our champion?”
Shortly after this Adam Giambrone excused himself and departed for his other engagement. A busy man. Close the door on your way out, would ya?
Finally, Hamish grabbed the mike. It remained in his hands for the rest of the evening. “Amanglemated Motoropolis,” “Carrupt” politicians, “tilting at windshields,” and numerous other bon mots fell from Hamish’s practiced lips, encouraged by titters of laughter from the depths of the room. He did not go on about the Gardiner Expressway extension at great length, perhaps because he’d had the satisfaction of a letter in print at the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser on the subject that very day. According to his letter, the interest alone on the money now set aside for the so-called Front Street Extension” could pay for the entire length of the Tooker Gomberg Memorial bikelane (aka “Take the Tooker). At one point he referred to “traffic corridors,” and our notes tell us he missed the opportunity to pun with “CAR-ridders” or the like. He will be hearing from our readers, we are sure.
The floor opened to questions, and we dutifully put up our hand. Unfortunately, Mike Smith recognized ours as the voice who had challenged Adam Giambrone earlier, calling out from the crowd “how about trying narrower streetcars” when the councillor had said there would be no room on Eglinton for bikelanes if there is also to be a dedicated streetcar R.O.W. According to Giambrone, there are no narrower streetcars to be found in all of the modern world, a claim that we loudly doubted. We were also shunned by Mike Smith, perhaps, for our having pointed out that for Adamn, “bicycle” and “transportation” cannot truly be formed into a rational sentence.
Instead, Smith called on Angela Bischoff, who was channeling her pal Jean in Montreal by cellphone. Pretty important stuff: he wanted very badly to tell everyone to go to the Toronto Pubic Space meeting the next day. Some other important questions came up. Many of them could most usefully have been answered by Adam Giambrone, but sadly, he was well and truly gone.
After the meeting, we mingled in the crush at the bar, where we found ourselves in the realm of advice from Dan Egan.
“Don’t alienate Adam Giambrone,” he hinted darkly. “He’s a powerful man. He’s single-handedly turned around the TTC.”
We laughed. “He also single-handedly did nothing with the bikeplan.”
Giambrone, powerful? Sorry, Dan, it’s we who are powerful. We have blobs, after all. What’s Adamn going to do, cut off our computer or