Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Share the Road bicycling promotion organization of Ontario

I hope to write a bunch of posts out of the National Bike Summit, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists.  As always, there were many great sessions (and undoubtedly many great sessions that I was not able to attend), good people, good conversations because of sessions, and lots of great ideas exchanged.

Share the Road is a provincial wide biking-pedestrian safety organization that developed as a response to the "War on the Car" trope that was the heart of the successful Campaign in 2010 by Rob Ford to become Mayor of Toronto.

I get the e-letters from the Toronto Star and Toronto Globe and Mail (which is why I write about stuff happening there) so I have kept up with the various actions there, both anti-bike--removal of bike lanes--and his attempts to scuttle the Transit City agenda of the previous administration.

Eventually the League is likely to put up powerpoints of the presentations, but I wanted to mention a couple observations I had on her presentation.

1.  I was struck by her point that when "cars are pitted against bikes" in the narrative, "bikes lose."  I think she's right (even if Washington Examiner columnist Harry Jaffe doesn't think so, see "Cars losing war for DC streets").

So the director, Eleanor McMahon, who once worked at United Way of Toronto which is also an incredibly creative and focused community organization--probably the most interesting and effective United Way affiliate in North America (for example, check out their Building Strong Neighborhoods Program), has taken the tack of recapturing the narrative around traffic safety and the reality that most "drivers" are also cyclists, even if they only cycle occasionally.

2.  Part of this repositioning the narrative involved building a partnership with the Canadian Automobile Association, which like the American Automobile Association (more on this in a separate entry), is very much focused on promoting traffic safety, including bicyclist and pedestrian safety.

3.  With the support of CAA and other organizations, Share the Road worked with marketing and advertising firm Top Drawer Creative to create a great advertising campaign--television, radio, print, out-of-home, and web--focused on the idea that bicyclists are people--brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, etc.--and that most people do in fact bike and therefore are the same as you.

Share the Road TV Commercial from Chris Tarroza on Vimeo.

Now, AAA is sponsoring this ad in the US.

4. I was just as impressed with one of the SRC initiatives as a "state-wide" organization, which uses the League's Bicycle Friendly America program as a model for a Provincial-certification and motivation program with cities throughout Ontario, to get them to up their game on biking issues.

I don't know to what extent state-wide biking advocacy groups do that in the US, but I don't think I've come across such a systematic effort thus far.

5. And they sponsor an annual bike summit--as does just about every statewide bike advocacy group.

6. But they also will be holding an annual Ontario Youth Bike Summit, which most groups don't do, starting this fall. (Recycle-A-Bicycle sponsors a National Youth Bike Summit, held in NYC.)

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