In Star Trek, there's the concept of a 'prime directive' an interplanetary code of ethics around contact with alien worlds and races, which basically boils down to one golden rule — go and explore, but don't mess with the natural order of things.
For example, you can beam down to a planet full of pre-industrialized beings, but don't let them see you do it. And please avoid freaking out the cavemen aliens by wearing your Starfleet bling.
Just go local, let them be them, and don't use advanced technology to fix their problems.
Because for planets not part of the Federation, fancy Starfleet rules don't apply — and, if applied, they will inevitably and artificially corrupt that world.
One of the my favourite film openings of all time is actually Star Trek: Into Darkness (um, yes) — where a youthful James T. Kirk violating the prime directive in most spectacular fashion:
And yet, I also present this as analogous to how I once, in my role at HUB, also violated a code of sorts, by not letting Jackie just be.
As a co-founder of, and driving force behind, the Maple Ridge - Pitt Meadows HUB committee (alongside husband and co-chair Ivan), Jackie would have been expected to abide to a few basic operating procedures and policies related to representing the organization to local government.
But one aspect of my role was very clear — to support the committees in every way reasonable and possible in doing their job, whatever their job may be in any particular city.
In Vancouver, it's about prioritizing, diversifying, celebrating the work being done for cycling. In Burnaby and Richmond, it's about education and engagement. And so on.
In Maple Ridge, things are more complicated. First, it's about de-stigmatizing cycling for transportation. It's about equitable treatment, and investments. (And not equitable compared to trucks and cars — equitable compared to bikes in neighbouring cities).
It's about talking, writing, organizing, showing up, and ultimately pushing for change.
And ultimately, I almost single-handedly quashed Jackie's spirit for all of that. What a loss it would have been.
Sometimes you can talk forever and nothing gets done.
You go along Lougheed Highway, and then you get to Meadowtown Mall, where the bike lane ends. At some point they repaved the road and didn't repaint the bicycle symbols on the bike lane right where it crosses two busy exit lanes for motor vehicles. So it just looks like two white lines, but it's not visible that it's a bike lane.
So [fellow committee member] Dave started advocating for that. He has all his contacts with MOT, and he told them it's really dangerous. We had complaints from other people as well.
So nothing happened. He talked to people dozens and dozens of times. So then I thought maybe we should send out a little more official request from our HUB Committee. I sent out a couple of emails and they kept promising, yeah we're going to do something about it.
But nothing ever happened. It took a long time, like over a year, and then I got an email from Dave. He said, "I had two very close calls". I got upset, and I thought, he's been working on this for such a long time. I've been sending emails, and they keep promising to do something, but nothing ever happens.
That's when I sent that angry email that you got so upset about. I said something like, "I can't believe that you guys don't make this one of the most important things that need to be fixed!"
There was no response, but you were copied on that email, and you were upset with me for using the language that I did.
You said we've been working so hard at improving the relationship with the MOT people, and then they get an email like this.
I don't want my friends to get killed. That's where I was coming from. It made me very angry, and I had to express that anger. They had to know how I felt about it.
If you've ever wondered where the emotion comes from in cycling advocacy, that pretty much sums it up.
This was sometime in 2015; the impact of our disagreement regrettably resulted in Jackie stepping back from the committee temporarily.
Luckily, she wasn't gone long. For one thing, HUB staff taking over my role around that time must have learned from my example, or simply had a firmer grasp of the cycling advocacy version of the prime directive.
Because few care more, and put more effort towards supporting cycling in Maple Ridge, than Jackie. She also has a pretty good grasp on the gap between the story the City of Maple Ridge tried to tell the rest of the world about its cycling facilities, and the reality.
We pick up the story in mid-2006, with Jackie spearheading her family's move to the Lower Mainland:
I looked at the Maple Ridge website and it said Maple Ridge was one of the best places for cycling in all of the Lower Mainland.
It seemed like a very progressive city. They were one of the first cities that banned pesticides. And one of the first Smart Growth on the Ground communities. So I thought, "Yeah, that's where I'm going to live."
So we bought the house. A couple of months later we moved here, and then I started to think ok, now I'm going to go biking.
The welcome wagon lady came by, and she had a bike map — oh, let's take a look. So I found the bike route to downtown Maple Ridge. But then I found myself biking on Lougheed Highway, alongside big semi-trailers and stuff.
Is this the best place for cycling in all of the Lower Mainland? I wonder what it's like everywhere else?
It's no longer on the website. It stayed there for another six, seven, eight years. I brought it up many times.
The irony here, of course, is that if the city wanted to use 'creative marketing' and sleight of hand to appease the people like Jackie, they instead committed a large and strategic miscalculation.
I thought, well I want to do something. I noticed there was a Bicycle Advisory Committee. Those meetings were open to the general public, so I thought, oh let's go take a look and see what's going on.
When we started going, we just sat down at the table with everybody else. We went a number of times. And then at some point, the staff liaison said, "Wait a minute, you guys are kind of disrupting the meeting. You're not part of the committee. So next time, you're going to sit in the corner there and be quiet until it's question and answer time." So we felt we were kind of muzzled.
I went on an assessment ride and they were all road cyclists, going at high speeds. I don't know what they were assessing but they went so fast they wouldn't have had any time to assess anything.
So we thought, well maybe we should organize as a group. We knew about the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition. That made us think maybe we should set up our own chapter of VACC. So that's what we did, together with other members of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, and some from the community at large.
It was so far away. Vancouver is so far away. We were pretty much on our own too. Okay, we're a VACC chapter, but we were on our own. We didn't see any directors come to our meetings. For the first five years or so we were pretty much on our own.
That was then. Today, you'll find Jackie is part of a small but vocal and active group of advocates known and respected within Maple Ridge for helping keep city staff, mayor and council on their toes with regards to new developments and street engineering that impact — or can impact — cycling safety and accessibility in any way, not to mention growing investment and prioritization for events and school-based education.
She seems tireless, but she's not. The pace of progress and levels of community engagement can be slow and low, and as is the case in advocacy (but especially in places like Maple Ridge), sometimes you can't tell if you're really helping make change happen, or just not seeing the diminishing returns.
What keeps her going is the camaraderie and solidarity of the committee , and the knowledge that by being part of cycling advocacy, you're part of something much bigger — a world-wide movement of better cities for people, not just for cars. ("It's just cool to be a tiny part of that.")
You can see this through her work on the committee's blog, which she and Ivan manage. You can also see it through her work as a contributor to the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows News, to which she has been a steady contributor since 2011. Even the Vancouver Sun doesn't have a cycling column.
As the movement slowly but surely progresses in Maple Ridge, we can thank Jackie for not giving up. For not agreeing to be muzzled. And for being herself.