December 31, 2014

New Frontiers - 2014 Year In Review

As 2014 draws to a close, the usual year in review lists, pre-made Facebook videos, and unattainable New Year’s resolutions have been making the social media rounds. While I prepared David Letterman style top ten lists for the two previous years, the past year was one about several new frontiers, which no countdown would do justice.

By far, this year’s personal highlight was realizing the lifelong goal of backpacking around Europe in June. Specifically, the trip included Lisbon, London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Bordeaux. I am thankful for the experiences enjoyed, lessons learned, and new friends met along the way. To fully enjoy what Europe has to offer, a few more trips there ought to be in order. Maybe for 2015, it could be southern European countries such as Spain and Italy?

This past year saw several cycling accomplishments. To honour my grandfather who died of cancer last year, I raised $2 641 and biked 216 kilometres from Toronto to Niagara Falls for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. Over 5200 riders took part and raised $20 million for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. It was an unforgettable experience with the countryside views, as well as the overwhelming support from donors, crew members, spectators cheering along the route, and fellow riders. To them, and especially Marv Lewenberg who encouraged me to do this ride, thank you!

This year also lead to increased involvement with Cycle Toronto. While I was not elected to its board of directors, I did become a co-captain of their Ward 14 Advocacy Group in September. Cycle Toronto held a municipal election campaign calling for a minimum grid of bike lanes to be installed for the upcoming council term, which saw a majority of elected councillors supporting it. In November, over 70 advocates participated in Cycle Toronto’s Skills Swap, which included a day of workshops and a day of pre-consultation for Toronto’s new bike plan. Hats off to Executive Director Jared Kolb, fellow Ward 14 co-captain Laura Pin, and the over 2800 Cycle Toronto advocates for their work in making Toronto a safer place to bike.
A final cycling event which deserves a mention is Bikestock. In September, over 1500 cyclists across the city rode their bikes to City Hall; making it Toronto’s largest bike rally ever. Thanks to my MP Peggy Nash for making the opening remarks, as well as joining fellow cyclists for the ride and her advocacy for a National Cycling Strategy.


HEAL4Life's Inaugural Board Meeting
To complement my involvement with cycling, I was asked to join a different board of directors, that being HEAL4Life. The first board meeting was held in April and the first Blue Jersey game (a.k.a. Basil Bowl) was held in October. Thanks Drew Williams for encouraging me to join the board, as well as to fellow board members Kyle Williams, Jeff Chan, and Judi Partridge.
The Autists at Corus Quay (Toronto)
Given my focus on cycling and healthy living, it was time to say goodbye to other commitments. For the past three years, I was on the steering committee for The Autists, a charity gala supporting the Geneva Centre for Autism. This year’s event raised $113 000 for the Geneva Centre and I wish the committee, including Rachel Truant, the best with future galas. In December, I formally withdrew from the executive of a local riding association, though I will still volunteer with next year’s federal election in a reduced capacity.

A Political Year
2014 was a very political year for Toronto with not one, but two elections; neither of which were kind to progressives. The Ontario Liberals won a majority in June’s provincial election, thanks in part to various campaigns against former Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak and a poorly communicated campaign by Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath. Horwath was accused of abandoning progressive values and opposing revenue tools for transit, though she maintained the same number of seats and survived a confidence vote with a 77% approval rating at November’s convention.

Municipally, Olivia Chow lost to John Tory because she focused too much attention on Rob Ford – whose supporters remained largely loyal to him throughout – and took progressive voters for granted. Still, the first municipal election I was involved with lead to new campaign functions such as managing data for a first time council candidate in Ward 7 (York West), as well as being asked to endorse the councillor in my ward, Gord Perks. Thanks Claire McWatt for getting me involved with data entry, as well as to Gord and his staff (Karen, Meri, Lucas, and Clive) for their continuous support of the Cycle Toronto Ward 14 Advocacy Group’s efforts.

New Goals

Last, but not least, here are my three goals for the New Year.

1. Do more one-on-one socializing as a way to get to know others better.
2. Work on better managing emotions and letting go of negative thoughts.
3. In case I decide to do a triathlon in the future, participate in at least one run this year in addition to cycling. Perhaps the Sporting Life 10K?

Happy New Year!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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