BFC Director's Report
2023 Annual General Meeting
Thursday, June 29th, 2023, 8:00pm
Delivered by Karri Shea, President
Each year as I write my director’s report for our Annual General Meeting, I find that I am grateful for the opportunity to look back on the work we have done together, and recognize the significant impacts our volunteers, and our community members, have had on our communities. Some of our work is public-facing, and some of it happens in the background, but when you put it all together in one place, it adds up to quite a lot. Read on to learn more about what BFC has been up to over the past year, and get a little sneak peek of some exciting things to come!
Community Connections: Bike Friendly Block Party 2022
In June 2022 we partnered with the City of Charlottetown to offer the first ever Bike Friendly Block Party as a part of the city’s annual Bike Week activities. This event was a huge success, taking place in Victoria Park on what turned out to be a beautiful, sunny Saturday, and included family-friend activities such as bike decorating, chalk art, a children’s bicycle course, barbecue, bike repair station, booths from our friends at Cycling PEI, the Reach Foundation, Rising Tide and more, ending off with a Mayor’s Ride around Victoria Park. This was a wonderful opportunity to connect with the broader community, and introduce ourselves and our work, and I want to thank all of our volunteers and Hub members who helped make it happen!
Advocacy Work: Roundabouts and Municipal Elections
In June of last year we also put out a call to action to community members to initiate a letter-writing campaign, voicing our concerns about the plans for the new roundabout at the intersection of St. Peter’s and Belvedere. The initial proposed plans did not offer adequate and safe infrastructure for active transportation, and through our advocacy efforts, we were able to secure a meeting with city staff to share our recommendations for improvements. With your help, our efforts were successful and the roundabout construction went forward with the addition of a shared AT pathway and ramps to ensure safe and easy accessibility for cyclists.
In the fall, during the municipal election campaign, we reached out to all candidates in the five major municipalities in PEI to ask them a series of questions on their views of active transportation, and what they would do to improve infrastructure and accessibility in their communities. A majority of the candidates responded to our questionnaire, and we published their answers on our website for voters’ consideration as they made their choices come election day.
The Bike Friendly Outreach and Advocacy Campaign
The Bike Friendly Advocacy and Outreach Campaign is a two-year community engagement initiative to identify and address current barriers to cycling as a mode of transportation for the capital region. Working with stakeholders and representatives from a variety of age groups, populations, and marginalized communities, we have determined and prioritized solutions.
The purpose of the Outreach and Advocacy Campaign was to help us understand barriers to cycling, develop cycling skills and knowledge in the community, and advocate for changes that will make it more feasible and safer for community members to choose active transportation.
Funding provided by the PEI Active Transportation Fund allowed us to hire a team of contractors to work on the initial phase of this project, and in the summer of 2022, we were also able to hire a summer youth employee through the federal Canada Summer Jobs program. Our project team included Mitch Underhay as Project Lead, Rachelle MacArthur as Outreach Officer, Rhyanne Beatty as Communications Officer, and Drew Cassibo as Recreation Leader.
Our outreach team held a series of guided rides and pop-ups around the Charlottetown, Stratford, and Cornwall area, seeking input from community members about their experiences, joys, and fears around using active transportation for purposeful trips. This feedback, along with a number of online surveys, meetings, and other community events, was invaluable in the creation of a major report which we officially launched in March of this year.
Capital Region Active Transportation Plan
After talking to as many stakeholders and community members as possible through this campaign, we created the Capital Region Active Transportation Plan. This detailed plan gives specific recommendations to municipal and provincial levels of government and provides a thorough, prioritized active transportation network map to guide their infrastructure planning - we invite you to take a look!
With the launch of this plan, we held an incredibly well-attended and enthusiastic meeting here at the Carriage House in March to share our vision for an interconnected network of active transportation pathways in the capital region of Charlottetown, Cornwall, and Stratford, as well as recommendations for steps that can be taken to see this vision become reality. Since then, we have presented the plan to stakeholders and taken part in various meetings. One of our recommendations that has already seen quite a bit of interest and traction is the creation of a unified regional committee, consisting of council members from all three municipalities, to work together on the implementation of this kind of large-scale, interconnected network. We intend to continue to strongly advocate for this and other recommendations - stay tuned this fall to learn more about how you can help!
I want to recognize our project lead on this, Mitch Underhay, for his tireless and passionate work in bringing this report into fruition. The creation of this plan is truly a significant moment and milestone for our organization, and one that we have been leading up to since our inception. This plan will act as a roadmap to foster a culture of active transportation, for both governments and our own advocacy, for the next decade. The publication of this report also marks a transition for Mitch as he steps away from his role as our executive director, though he will continue to remain involved with BFC as a valuable part of our Hub team. I am so grateful to Mitch for being by my side throughout this journey and for all he has done to make BFC what it is today.
Outreach and Advocacy Video Campaign
As part of our Outreach and Advocacy Campaign, we are creating a professional video series on choosing active transportation for Islanders. There is a current gap in public outreach programs which give people the knowledge and confidence they need to make the individual switch from motor vehicles to AT, as well as a gap in education for drivers of motor vehicles about how to share the road safely. This video campaign, filmed with our signature friendliness in mind, will help to fill in that gap, supporting the creation of a bike-friendly culture here in PEI.
This video series will help enable more community members to choose AT by providing solutions to local concerns such as wayfinding, cycling safety on our Island roads and roundabouts, tips for commuting by bicycle, the new e-bike rebates, clarifying Island laws around cycling and e-bikes, and much, much more. The specific content of this video series has been developed from the findings of the engagement sessions held last year, so that it can be tailored to meet and help overcome the specific needs of our community members.
We are thrilled to announce that filming for this video series will take place this summer right here in PEI under the direction of our new producer, Alexandra MacDonald. Alexandra McDonald is a multi-faceted creator in Canada who specializes in creating captivating film content across various avenues. She has spent the past 2 years associate producing feature films in Nova Scotia, as well as working alongside multiple directors assisting their vision. Alexandra is the founder of 5 Russell Films Inc which has produced the short film DOORs (FIN,CFF) the upcoming music video Logical (Emily MacLellan) and the upcoming spring summer collection video for the brand Slowly Slowly.
Along with Alexandra, we want to welcome cinematographer Charles Jannasch to the project, as well as our own Isaac Williams, who will be taking on the role of Production Assistant. In June we put a casting call out on social media for community members who might be interested in taking part in filming and were blown away with the response! Initial filming took place in July and word is that the rough cuts are looking good! Needless to say, we are very excited to have Alexandra, her enthusiasm and her experience on board to take the reins on this ambitious project and can’t wait to see the results.
The Outreach and Advocacy Campaign and the Capital Region Active Transportation Plan were both made possible with funding from the Prince Edward Island Active Transportation Fund.
We are excited to announce that BFC guided group rides are back, after their successful launch last summer!
Please join us SATURDAY AUGUST 12 for a family friendly ride to show safe connections, shortcuts to improve your route, separated active transportation (AT) pathways and quiet streets to build your confidence as a commuter cyclist.
The group will depart from the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market, located at 100 Belvedere Avenue, at 10:00AM and 2:00PM. This coming Saturday’s route is called “Market South.”
The route Market South is just like the name says: start at the Farmer’s Market and head south on the Confederation Trail. Following two intersections, we switch from the packed gravel to pavement and ride the complete length of Fitzroy street, which connects to the Victoria Park AT lane.
The trio of Queen Elizabeth Drive, Edinburgh Drive, and Nassau Street brings the group back towards the Trail and the end of the ride. This final connection, via Ravenwood Drive, includes dismounting and using the crosswalk. This route is novice and family friendly. We’ll ride at an easy pace for 45-60 minutes. Bring your helmet and water bottle! The route is 10km in length.
Stay tuned for Market North! BFC will soon be hosting similar group rides on Wednesday and Saturday mornings for the rest of the summer and into the fall. I want to thank Isaac Williams for his work on planning our routes and organizing our guided ride programming this year.
Cycling Without Age
Last year we announced our Cycling Without Age initiative, which is an incredible project in which volunteer pilots offer trishaw rides to community members who otherwise would not be able to enjoy the experience of cycling on their own. Cycling Without Age is a global initiative with more than 2,700 chapter locations around the world. We are so excited to have begun the first PEI chapter.
The first of two long-awaited trishaw bikes has arrived, and our project lead, Stephanie Friere, recently took her first passenger, Phyllis, on the inaugural ride! This bike currently resides at Andrews of Stratford, where we will be piloting the program over the summer months offering rides to residents there as well as members of our community with Parkinson’s, and was purchased thanks to the generous support of the PEI Parkinson Association. A second bike, made possible with funding from the PEI Active Transportation Fund, has been ordered and we are eagerly awaiting its arrival!
Following the pilot of the program this summer, we will be looking to expand our ranks of volunteer pilots to be able to offer rides to as many of our community members as we can. We are so grateful to Stephanie Friere for her dedication to this project and for giving us the opportunity to give back to the community in this way.
Bike Tool Lending Library
A new project we will be introducing this year is the Bike Tool Lending Library, which will provide handy bicycle repair kits, including QR codes to how-to videos and instructions, to be lent out through the provincial library’s Library of Things program. Many thanks to Kate Shaw for her initiative on this project and to Carlos Consejo for offering his expertise in developing the kits. This project was made possible with funding from Charlottetown’s 2023 Community Sustainability Microgrant Program. We hope this project will help make cycling, and making your own bike repairs, a little more accessible for all community members!
Shifting Gears: A New Phase for BFC
Bike Friendly Communities is an organization made of volunteers. Our core team of Hub members have given of themselves, their time, and their expertise, because they believe in our cause and they believe in what we can, have, and will accomplish when we come together. In less than four years since our launch, we have accomplished nearly miraculous things without any of the resources, finances, or staff that bigger, more established non-profit organizations may have. We have reached a point where the interest and demand for what we do is beginning to outpace our capacity to offer it. Recognizing this, we have developed a strategy for the year ahead, and to borrow the name of one of our very first community events, we are calling it “Shifting Gears.”
Shifting Gears will allow Bike Friendly Communities to “level up” our capacity as a community-based organization, as the post-pandemic demand for our work grows. We will achieve this through developing a robust organizational strategy; securing core funding to hire staff consistently; and onboarding larger volunteer teams so our growth can be self-sustaining in years to come.
The result of this project will be a scaled-up operation that can meet the growing demand for our services and programming, with a structure that increases the resilience of our organization and reduces our reliance on a very small number of individuals; and the organizational financial sustainability to hire a full-time permanent Executive Director, as well as other seasonal staff members to operate and expand our summer programming. This will give consistency to our largely volunteer operation and enable the board to shift from being a ‘working board’ into its proper role as a ‘governance board.’
I want to thank Anna Keenan for her expertise and for working with me to develop this plan to set BFC up for a long and successful future as an organization. We’ll have more to share on this soon, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here!
In addition to the Hub members recognized above, I also want to express my gratitude to my fellow board members, Scott Brown (vice-president), Greg Burrell (treasurer), and Carlos Consejo (secretary), for volunteering their time and expertise to help guide our work and make sure all of our projects are running smoothly!
Last November, BFC was recognized as the recipient of the Sustainability Award at the 7th annual Faces of Fusion Awards put on by Fusion Charlottetown. What I said that night, as I accepted the award on behalf of our organization, was this: Bike Friendly Communities is an incredible example of the power of grassroots organization, and what can happen when community members come together with common cause.
I mean that whole-heartedly. To our volunteer hub members, and to our board, thank you for all you do. To everyone who has ever volunteered, voiced your support, sent a letter, or attended one of our community events, this award belongs to all of you. This work belongs to all of you, and we are so grateful.
Bike Friendly Communities