In every community of like-minded people pursuing a vision, many organizations play important roles.
And the like-minded people — if it's a small enough community and a niche-enough issue, the same folks tend to mix and fold into the same pool of organizations. It can be difficult to track who was where and when. Because really, it's about the events that occurred.
Except for the birth of an organization — each is an event unto itself, and so the people present at the time matter.
It's not very good history without them. Bonnie Fenton is one of those people.
One imagines Bonnie standing astride her bike, windswept against a canvas of Douglas Firs and dark pastel skies, foot on the curb as she looks at the pole in front of her.
The one thing that I can remember is somewhere along the way was seeing a Critical Mass poster. I was standing at an intersection somewhere, and it was, "We're not blocking traffic, we are traffic".
It really struck me for some reason. That probably was in 1996 or 1997. And that stuck with me.
Vancouver grew to become bike-friendly in part because Bonnie showed up. If there's one message you can take from this entire exercise, it's that sometimes all you need to do — the most important thing to do — is to show up.
At that time, the newly formed Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition met in New Westminster (because that was also where people were showing up).
The meetings were in fact Board meetings, cause there was nobody else, there wasn't anything else.
Marion Orser was there, and I think actually I saw a VACC newsletter at that point. They were pretty basic then, but I saw something that she had written. And I remember thinking that was pretty cool. She was writing about cycling advocacy.
Pretty cool. Bonnie is pretty cool. Because she now lives in Germany, I only know her by Skype, but the ease and joy with which she tells the story reduces this to a minor atmospheric condition.
She was among the first paid staff members of the programming and advocacy organization that would become HUB Cycling. Supported by a working Board, Bonnie set up the first bicycle education courses in community centres and schools across the Lower Mainland, figuring it out as they went along.
One wants to say "more importantly", but instead I'll ask you to consider the impact of the balanced portfolio — she also served as chair of the City of Vancouver Bicycle Advisory Committee, and attended countless hours of council and staff meetings to listen to, stand for and challenge all manner of cycling and transportation-related issues.
From zoning and by-laws, to policy and project votes, Bonnie was there. Then she left, just prior to the 2008 municipal elections.
To see the changes that are able to happen with a new local government, to me it was stunning to watch. Maybe when you're sitting right there in it, it doesn't seem like it, but from my view from a distance, it's just been incredible to see what's possible.