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Jay Pitter, Project Lead,

Jamie Stuckless, Transportation Consultant, jamie@jamiestuckless.caDecember 6, 2021 – (Toronto) Cycling organizations from across Canada are coming together in 2021 to participate in The Joy Ride Project and address the equity gap in cycling.

Equity-seeking groups are disproportionately excluded from the health and social benefits of cycling due to issues like gender-based street harassment, profiling and poverty. Despite the significance of these barriers, these and other socio-spatial challenges have rarely been the focus of cycling advocacy organizations.

“For me, the moment George Floyd was murdered in an actual bike lane transformed what was an important potential project into an urgent life purpose,” says Jay Pitter, an award-winning placemaker & author who is leading this project. “As someone who leads equitable placemaking & urbanism projects across North America, I knew we needed a Canadian intervention that was both structural and relational, as well as bold. I don’t mean polite, Canadian bold, or lip service diversity bold. I mean the kind of bold that transforms policy, spurs deep accountability, spurs equitable infrastructure investments and makes cycling a joyful, safe, and accessible mobility option for everyone.”

This national collaboration is rooted in a year-long conversation that began with Jay Pitter delivering the keynote at the 2019 Annual Ontario Bike Summit. Ms. Pitter’s address was centred on her question of “Who’s not here?”, which prompted participants in the predominantly white audience to consider what voices are often absent from cycling conversations. The presentation also highlighted how cycling’s emphasis on building cycling infrastructure has created new barriers for many communities through gentrification, while also ignoring the psychological safety barriers faced by equity-seeking groups.

“As cycling advocates, our hope is to create spaces that are safe for everyone to ride bikes, and that means considering safety from all perspectives,” says Jamie Stuckless, an Ontario-based cycling advocate who is co-leading The Joy Ride Project alongside Ms. Pitter. “We’ve heard the call to action that we need to urgently shift our approach and do more to centre equity and the lived experience of folks who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. This project was initiated to build capacity to do this, and provide the tools to move beyond listening and into action.”

Through The Joy Ride Project, cycling and transportation advocacy organizations will focus on building organizational capacity, engaging with equity-seeking groups to gain insights into their lived experiences and barriers to cycling, and co-creating a cycling equity framework to guide key aspects of cycling advocacy initiatives across Canada.

Participating organizations are leveraging their collective resources to fund the project and the initiative is being incubated at the Canadian Urban Institute, where Ms. Pitter is a senior fellow.

“The Joy Ride Project is an excellent example of the kind of reimagining we need to see of placemaking, equity and community-building across our cities as we rebuild after COVID, taking care to address the structural inequities so prevalent in our society,” says Mary W. Rowe, President and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute. “The project will include research and immersive professional development for 10 leading cycling organizations, and co-create the first-ever national cycling equity framework for Canada. It will engage Black and other equity-seeking people to share their insights, lived experiences and the barriers to inclusion that traditional approaches to cycling have resulted in for equity seeking groups.”

Interest in the project has been high amongst cycling and transportation organizations, with commitments from 10 groups across Canada, including 8 80 Cities, Cycle Toronto, The Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), Good Roads, London Cycle Link, HUB Cycling, the British Columbia Cycling Coalition, the Winnipeg Trails Association, Velo Canada Bikes, and the Ecology Action Centre.

The project launched in September 2021 and will run until April 2022.

Quotes from Participating Organizations

“At TCAT we are passionate about walking and cycling and want to ensure that the benefits of active transportation are extended to all Canadians. We feel privileged to have this opportunity to participate in a national initiative to learn and work together to build equity and justice into transportation planning and public spaces. ”

Nancy Smith Lea, Senior Advisor, The Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT)

“As an organization that advocates for a safe, healthy, vibrant cycling city for all, we at Cycle Toronto are thrilled to participate in a national cycling equity strategy that centers BIPOC communities and helps us do the necessary work to make cycling a truly safe and joyful travel option for everyone in our city. ”

Keagan Gartz, Executive Director, Cycle Toronto

“Since 1894, Good Roads has understood that better roads make better communities. In 2021, this means understanding how the maintenance and management of our transportation systems determine socio-economic outcomes. The Joy Ride Project being led by Jay Pitter and the Canadian Urban Institute promises to provide these insights. ”

Scott Butler, Executive Director, Good Roads

“8 80 Cities is excited to work on this collaborative project with Canadian partners to advance mobility equity. We are committed to supporting the transformation of streets into safe, comfortable, and accessible places for everyone. This work is critical to address existing gaps in cycling advocacy approaches that have often failed equity-seeking communities. ”

Amanda O’Rourke, Executive Director, 8 80 Cities

“ Equity is one of London Cycle Link’s core values. We welcome this opportunity to learn from and with Jay and Jamie, as well as cycling advocates from across Canada, sharing stories and hard truths that will inform our work in making cycling a more viable option for everyone. ”

Molly Miksa, Executive Director, London Cycle Link

“HUB Cycling wants to support equity seeking groups to access the mobility, convenience and joy of cycling. We are pleased to be collaborating with groups across Canada to learn how to better do this with the guidance of Jay Pitter, an award winning placemaker working at the intersection of urban design and social equity. ”

Erin O’Melinn, Executive Director, HUB Cycling

“The BC Cycling Coalition (BCCC) welcomes the opportunity to be a part of the National Cycling Equity Program. BCCC is a non-profit, member-driven society founded in 1998 to provide a voice for cycling across the Province of British Columbia. By our actions, education and advocacy, our vision is that active transportation in British Columbia is safe, practical, accessible, inclusive and enjoyable for everyone. Being a part of the National Cycling Equity Program provides a chance to learn and grow as a provincial organization, and to put a solid foundation to what being inclusive truly means – the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. ”

Mike Koski, General Manager, BC Cycling Coalition

“Winnipeg Trails is along for the “Joy Ride” because we are in a constant process of deconstructing and decolonizing our (and our city’ and our country’s) way of thinking. As an organization, we aim to be creative, inclusive, action oriented and thoughtful, and sometimes we get things right, sometimes we don’t. We think Joy Ride will help us break down barriers to everything from the ability to peacefully enjoy any outdoor space, all the way to the barriers to how we run projects or convince people to join our own board. ”

Anders Swanson, Executive Director, Winnipeg Trails Association

“The Ecology Action Centre’s Sustainable Transportation Team is dedicated to learning and transforming our programming and advocacy for an equitable and just future. We are deeply grateful to participate in this project and learn from the formidable Jay Pitter. ”

Anika Riopel, Coordinator Welcoming Wheels, Ecology Action Centre
Simone Mutabazi, Community Cycling Activation Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre 

“Vélo Canada Bikes is fundamentally about cycling for everyone, everywhere. But when we look at who the infrastructure is built for, it is not being built for everyone, it is only being built for a few. If we want to have cycling be available to everyone, then we need to address the systemic issues and structures that have allowed for a homogenous cycling culture of predominantly white males. This project is about addressing equity and the systemic barriers to equity in order to allow everyone, no matter who or where, to be able to ride with joy.”

Brian Pincott, Executive Director, Vélo Canada Bikes