On Monday, at the invitation of Cynthia Dunsford, I attended a small gathering of “cycling people” at the Queen Street Commons to have introductory discussions about the possibility of forming a “bicycle users group” here in Charlottetown.
We had a good group of people, from hard-core cyclists to “3 blocks home and back” people like me, and people from both of the city’s cycle shops. There was also a reporter and camera operator from Compass and a radio reporter from SRC, all there to observe the proceedings. The discussion was focused and positive and there were an unusual number of practical ideas bounced around. We talked about bike lanes and bike racks and bike helmets, about how we ride bicycles in the city and what the challenges are, and about how to best proceed from here to advocate for a better cycling environment.
The session was mostly “guided brainstorming” and an opportunity for us to get to know each other and explore the possibility of working together.
At the end of the session we emerged with a tentative plan to get together with the City of Charlottetown in September to discuss the best way to work with the city.
At no point did we actually formally create a “bicycle users group,” and, happily, we spent no time at all talking about the usual organizational deadweight (bylaws, bank accounts, etc.). In other words we all left the meeting as we started it: a ragtag group of individuals affiliated only by our interest in the cycling issue.
So what did the CBC report? BUG wants bike lanes in Charlottetown, a story that starts:
The Charlottetown Bike Users Group (BUG) is lobbying the city to give it room on the streets. It is asking for designated bike lanes along the main traffic arteries of the capital. BUG spokesman P.J. Stephen said sharing the road with motorists who show no respect for cyclists bugs him.
BUG spokesman?! How can a group that doesn’t exist have a spokesman? Or a name? Or a lobbying effort? Apparently, according to the CBC, “BUG is also looking for more bicycle parking” and “said it doesn’t need fancy bike racks.”
I can’t conceive how a reporter in the same room as I was, for the duration of the meeting, could leave with the impression that somehow a formal organization had been created, a lobbying effort launched, and official positions taken. How did an informal “verb” get reportorially conjured into a formal “noun” without our knowledge? It just didn’t happen the way it was reported.