I had almost completed my tenure at HUB Cycling when I finally met Andrew Feltham, chair of the New Westminster HUB committee, and long-time volunteer.
It wasn't for lack of trying on either side, but a circumstance of the extraordinary lengths that advocates must sometimes take to be part of a movement — one with little in the way of structure or established precedent, one with very few rewards — and still have some semblance of a personal life.
Evenings and weekends to a volunteer advocate like Andrew means a little for the family, a little for himself, and then as much as he can squeeze out for cycling. The monthly meeting, some follow-up, a letter to Council or the Record....and not much else.
As a working family man, I understood, and so not seeing him on my terms or the organization's terms — mixer! picnic! optional extra meeting? — was the nature of the beast. Ultimately, Andrew and his New Westminster cohorts Marion, Fulton and others, were getting the job done.
I remember my first visit to New Westminster by bicycle, I went along Marine Way. That was my first encounter with the Queensborough Bridge, and I realized they had not put a single thought into cycling. So they had a nice bike lane all the way along Marine Way until you got to the Queensborough Bridge, and I thought I was lucky I survived that exchange.
Despite all the talk of Vancouver's influence, it doesn't have any bearing on Andrew's work or outlook ("I almost never go there — my world is Richmond and New Westminster — I go around it"), and yet his language and approach is decidedly big city. Mature, soft-spoken, unforgiving.
We always have a battle — road closed on a bikeway. And we're telling our kids to go to school on a bikeway. Really? Detour marked, but no accommodation. It's a big fight every time.
To me it's a cultural thing. Just for people people to recognize that cycling is a valid form of transportation, and accommodated.
Yeah, we don't have millions of dollars to spend on cycling, I'm okay with that, I don't expect that.
But I do expect that when we do work on facilities that they support cycling as much as they support pedestrians, as much as they support motor vehicle users.
It's not unreasonable, and neither is Andrew. What's interesting is that, in Vancouver, tables are pounded and insults are flung, no matter which side you're on, and yet it's a city moving at light speed in terms of cycling infrastructure.
Compared to New Westminster, where the pace of change, while steady, has been slow...and yet, without any breakdown in civility.
People like Andrew keep at it — perhaps because they live in a city with more to gain from every improvement that is made, and thus more to lose if they should lose their head and become untrustworthy negotiators.
In Andrew's ideal world, in fact, someone like him wouldn't even be necessary.
We need to be writing letters to tell people to do their job. To me, that's a bit frustrating.
But I think the work needs to get done. People need to be told this is not acceptable. You're not doing your job.
I hate doing it, but until the culture changes, that's still a really important role. But we'd prefer we don't have to do that.