We received the following from Gil Penalosa, Executive Director of 8-80 Cities. As Executive Director of Canadian non-profit organization 8-80 Cities and former Commissioner of Parks, Sports and Recreation in Bogota, Colombia, Gil’s tireless commitment to fostering healthy communities remains front and centre. He also works as Senior Consultant for the renowned Danish firm Gehl Architects. And he serves on the Boards of Directors of American Trails, Ciclovias of the Americas, and City Parks Alliance.
The proposed name change for the Bike Union has nothing to do with the quality of work been done by the organization or with getting support from existing members.
On the one hand the current Board and Staff are dong a fantastic job and truly moving forward issues related to cycling in Toronto. On the other hand, I’m sure that almost all members will continue to support the organization regardless of its name; we are supporting the goals, plans, actions and especially the people running it.
I see many beneficial reasons for the change of name and almost none against it, other than getting used to it. I will just focus on two of the benefits: the need to increase membership to over 10,000 and the need to have the highest credibility.
There are too many people who do not feel comfortable as members of the “cyclists union” when they would feel totally at ease as members of a cycling “coalition” or “alliance” or just “Cycle Toronto”. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has over 12,000 members (up from 3,200 in 2001) and while the name is not the only reason for their success, they do point out that a strong and inclusive name has helped tremendously.
The second point is “credibility”. When a Board member or Staff person is speaking at City Council or on the radio and says it’s as director of the bicycle union, immediately many listeners block the arguments as they feel it is one sided; they do not see themselves or their children or spouse as members of a “cyclists union” while they would see them as “members of an alliance of people who ride bicycles”. We should not risk even the possibility of people not listening to our arguments just because they perceive us as one sided or too extreme.
While the change of name is not a “make or break” issue for the success of the organization, I do think that we can achieve bolder initiatives in a shorter period of time with more support from community and decision makers if we approve the name change.