Most of our time is spent on advocacy. While Ottawa is a fairly bike-friendly city, cyclists have to make their voices heard. It is not that we bring the pitch forks out, but if you want to improve the city, you have to stay in touch with your city councillor, city staff, NCC staff, provincial and federal Members of Parliament, community groups and many more people.
Advocacy starts with understanding how the city works.
The city works with budgets and the planning for those budgets starts early. Once you start reading about it, you might be too late already. Further, you have to understand where the money comes from in order to know what you can ask for. The city gets money from taxes (like property tax) and from rates (like water and sewer bills). There are multi-year hard costs like road construction, building community centres etc and annual soft costs like staffing and advertising.
So the city doesn't just have money on the shelf for that bike lane you'd like to have tomorrow morning. Therefore, it is so important to start years in advance. In our instant gratification society, that is something that is hard to accept, but that is the reality. It is important that you start to mobilise people or join an existing group, approach your own city councillor, design a vision that the city could finance with some effort and clearly communicate the benefit for all citizens.
At our request, Charles Akben-Marchand prepared a primer on 'understanding the city budget'. Most cities work the same, so it might also apply to your city. If you understand the budget you can campaign much more effectively. Without explanation, you might find it a wee hard to understand, but it is a good start. Here is Charles' presentation in PDF (2.8 Mb), given at our Spring.Bike.Ottawa event in March 2014; it is pretty timeless though.
Advocacy Working Group (AWG)
Chaired by our experienced volunteer and former board member Paul Clarke, we bring issues such as snow clearing, bike lanes on bridges and deteriorating paths to the attention of those responsible.
Latest AWG News
Winter cycling network
CfSC's Next Ottawa Report on Bicycling
The AWG also discussed the upcoming 2015 Report on cycling in Ottawa. A CfSC team dedicated to the task has already begun preparing our annual tally of progress and concerns. Some issues suggested for the next report include addressing the dangers that right-turning trucks pose for cyclists at red lights, better communicating/educating about the implementation of new cycling infrastructure and how to use it, as well as intersections where cross-rides could enhance safety.
Stay tuned for the release of the 2015 report to see which issues are featured, and how progress on last year’s top 10 problems measured up.