Gavin is one of the people Arno urged me to talk to, when we first met in late 2013. I remember taking down all the names of these people who seemed to me, even at that time, to be like a Mount Rushmore of cycling advocates.
I heard bits and pieces of Gavin's role over time, but never contacted him to talk; even though he was no longer staff at Translink, the regional transit authority responsible in part of bike network improvements, I sensed he was somewhat removed from the cycling community and, as one of the principals at planning and design firm Alta, quite busy.
Early on, though, I became aware of the experience and credibility he brought to HUB's advocacy efforts. A mapping workshop for the nascent #UnGaptheMap cycling network campaign pulled a few dozen volunteers, Local Committee and Board members into the organization's cramped office space one weekend day in the spring of 2014, and as he moved through the office to help with this map or that, the waters seemed to part for Gavin.
Over time, I learned the reason for that. In the late 1980s, he was present for the start of what would become the NGO Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (B.E.S.T., which runs the Bicycle Valet among other programs), and eventually VACC/HUB Cycling and the BC Cycling Coalition (BCCC).
We were sitting around chatting, a bunch of university friends, and we realized that amongst us, over the course of six months, that out of the group of eight that were there in the room, that four or five of us had been involved in misses, near misses, that could have cost us our lives.
I was at BCIT at that time, I had friends who were at SFU, ...and there was another friend who was up at UBC. So we were riding all around, from Burnaby to the west side of Vancouver.
And all of us were remarking on the fact and realizing that wow, it's very dangerous out there, riding our bikes, and something's gotta be done, because somebody's going to die soon, or get seriously injured.
From that moment, we were sitting there, we're all like, 'Okay, let's do something.'
I soon realized that I had seen Gavin once before, in the early 2000s. In an early incarnation of Momentum Magazine, back when it came stapled and had more of a local spin, Gavin and his family were featured on the cover, in a memorable photograph that, without directly showing his wicked sense of humour and quick laugh, speaks to their infectious nature.
My first conversation with Gavin occurred when we met for our interview this spring, at the cafe Bows X Arrows on Fraser Street. (He lives nearby, as do I, and we have kids around the same age.)
I learned that he studied with the right people. He worked with the right people in the earliest advocacy groups, as well as with local government. He also happened to do it at the right time for cycling. And given his forthright nature, Gavin was probably the right person to immerse himself in what became the conflict over cycling.
In those days, the real challenge was that the engineering fraternity felt that if people get out and ride, they'll gain confidence, they'll gain the skills that they need, and they won't want to build separated facilities. They'll realize that it's much more efficient and effective if you're riding in and amongst traffic. And they'd be happy to do so.
Intuitively, we all felt this was bullshit. We just didn't have the evidence to suggest otherwise.
Gavin's support for landmark research on cycling in BC helped chip away at misconceptions about cycling, and justify a more evidence-based approach to transportation planning, which today informs much of what helped turn Vancouver into a leading cycling city in North America in less than two decades.
From the 1996 adult helmet law, to the Burrard Bridge experiment (and fiasco) of a few years later, to the Cambie Canada Line Bridge bike-ped walkway, Gavin's been at the heart of a number of significant cycling events over a quarter decade.