June 13, 2016

Listening to a Legend

Cycle Toronto may be Toronto’s primary cycling advocacy organization today, but it is relatively recent in the larger advocacy story. Bike Pirates started two years prior in 2006, while Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists – the folks behind the ghost rides for fallen cyclists – and the Community Bicycle Network have existed since the 1990’s. In order to better understand the historic side of cycling advocacy, I interviewed one of Toronto’s legendary advocates, Wayne Scott. From the “food as fuel” campaign to demanding justice for fallen cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard, Scott’s 35 years of advocacy have been felt throughout Toronto’s cycling community.

A 1998 CBC clip from the show "Big Time with Daniel Richler"
featuring Scott, Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists & other advocates

RZ: Your first cycling campaign was “food as fuel” for foot and bike messengers. How did this process unfold?
WS: I was in the music business until 1981 when I started as a bike messenger. I wanted to claim the extra food needed to maintain a healthy body weight as an expense. If car operated couriers could claim fuel, why couldn’t bike (and foot) messengers for their elevated food intake? Few found this idea valid at the time; not Revenue Canada, accountants, lawyers, or other cyclists. It took eighteen years of research and improving communication with understandably auto-addled bureaucrats. In July 1998, after a third trip to court, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled 3-0 in our favour and set a food as fuel deduction – without receipts – at $11 per day (now $17).

RZ: What was HOOF&CYCLE’s (H&C) role in the cycling community?
WS: The Toronto HOOF&CYCLE Courier Coalition – Toronto’s first official bike messenger organization – was established in 1996 in response to a slip and fall I had on the delivery ramp at Metro Hall. Its function evolved over the years, but is now winding down. Originally, it was the only bike messenger organization in the world focused on the interests of both foot and bike messengers. The focus is on the work and sustainable transportation in which the bicycle is a tool. Our work focused on safety first, as well as efficiency and sustainability.
Councillor Kyle Ray presented Wayne Scott with the Markus Cook Award in 2003 for service to
the bike messenger community. Derek Chadbourne (right of Scott) was the 2002 recipient.
In 1995, Toronto was recognized as a cycling mecca not for policy, but largely for our bike messenger community’s impact over the previous decade. By the mid-1980’s, there were about 500 bike, foot and transit messengers delivering documents and small-load freight throughout the downtown core and beyond. The Metropass introduction in the early 1980’s expanded our couriers’ range, while handcarts, dollies and cargo-bikes increased load size capabilities.

RZ: You represented H&C on Toronto’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee. How did that committee function?
WS: During the more than six years I was on the pedestrian advisory committee – spun off from the Jack Layton-chaired Toronto Cycling Committee in 1998 – the focus was on advocating for a more reasonable transportation model for our motor-vehicle congested hometown. A key question asked was how to deal with 21st century transportation needs, given the vast profits reaped in Ontario through the automobile-reliant status quo? The political perception of the committee and its proposals was we were radical “activists”, but many ideas brought forward are still being debated at City Hall today.

The key problem remains our society’s addiction to cars. While I never had – or even applied for – a driver’s license during my 65 years, too much of Ontario’s economy (75 – 80% in the 1990’s) is dependent on the auto industry and its spinoffs (e.g. media), especially with Toronto bookended by Oshawa (GM) and Oakville (Ford). In 2000, Chevrolet aired an ad with the tagline “why trust lunatic couriers when you can drive it yourself”; claiming a Cavalier was superior to a bicycle for in-town, rush hour deliveries. HOOF&CYCLE – partnering with Toronto’s pedestrian & cycling committees – got Advertising Standards Canada to take the ad off air. When GM refused to issue a retraction, we filed sixteen additional automobile ad complaints (one print & fifteen on television); leading to the initial 2001 media perception Toronto was waging a “war on the car”.

Controversial 2000 Chevrolet ad with H&C commentary

RZ: What was your experience like as a cycling ambassador?
WS: The team of CAN-BIKE trained cycling ambassadors were a prominent educational presence at city functions, day camps, flea markets, and festivals; transporting stuff on bike trailers and handing out bike maps. Summer 2005 – before the Lakeview coal plant was decommissioned – was the worst smog season Toronto saw with 55 smog days. From 2000 to 2005, the smog caused worsening migraines which required medicines to block them. Even back then, I was the oldest person on the team and given my worsening health condition, I was not able to finish my stint in the cycling ambassador program.

RZ: Why is Darcy Allan Sheppard relevant to new cycling community members?
WS: Having worked on this case full time for six years, the focus expanded from one cyclist’s fatality to an indictment of a society that routinely treats vulnerable road users (cyclists and pedestrians) as second-class citizens. Sheppard’s slaying on August 31, 2009 occurred during a by-election in St. Paul’s triggered by (former Attorney General) Michael Bryant’s resignation who was appointed CEO at Invest Toronto by then mayor David Miller.
This poster accompanies Sheppard's ghost bike. Originally on Bloor Street (near Bay Street), it
has been temporarily moved to Queen Street (at Old City Hall) until August 31, 2016 or DAS7.

Bryant was immediately charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death and 17 witnesses provided statements corroborating security video showing the motorist running down the stationary cyclist from behind. A special “independent” prosecutor from British Columbia – Bryant’s home province – was appointed. The charges were dropped without a trial on May 25, 2010 because the prosecution doubted their ability to achieve a guilty verdict. The prosecutor then broke with precedent by reading 50 pages of his untried theory of the case into the record as fact; reported as such by a non-skeptical press to a gullible public. There needs to be a concerted call for an open investigation, given this case has negatively coloured all cycling related issues in Ontario ever since.

RZ: What final piece of advice would you give to cycling advocates?
WS: Those who truly want to improve this city need to understand the way the system works and how it is corrupted by Ontario’s economic over-dependence on automobiles. There needs to be a sharper focus on active transportation (including pedestrians) as a viable form of mobility. We are all inherently pedestrians who choose to use bikes, cars, or transit. The biggest cost of depending on motor vehicles as our default means of transport is we squander our natural gift of healthy, efficient, & sustainable human-powered self-mobility.

Happy Bike Month!
Rob Z

NOTE: The pictures used in this post were from Wayne Scott

UPDATE (2021/01/27) - It is with great sadness to announce that Alan Wayne Scott has died today. From food as fuel to Darcy Allan Sheppard, his tenacity and dedication will be sorely missed by many in Toronto's cycling community. RIP.

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