The position of bike mayor may not be a familiar one to many Canadians. Bicycle mayors are volunteers who advocate for cycling as transportation in their cities. Halifax’s Jillian Banfield describes the position as being “a visible champion for cycling for transportation.”
Banfield became Halifax’s first bike mayor in 2019 after being nominated by the Halifax Cycling Coalition.
Like many of us, Banfield started cycling as a child. While in grad school in Ontario, she first started using her bike as a means of transportation, purchasing a basket so she could use her bike to get groceries and visit her local community garden.
Changes to infrastructure
Now, cycling is the main way she gets around. When she moved back to Halifax, Banfield had to have surgery on her ankle for her arthritis and discovered that cycling was a painless way for her to get around.
“I really leaned into that,” Banfield said. In addition to cycling being a way for her to get around, she was also told that cycling could be a way for her to delay any more surgeries.
But as she started relying on her bike more and more, she realised that Halifax’s cycling infrastructure was “not very good.” So, she figured she would do something about it.
“I’m somebody who looks into, well if this thing doesn’t work the way I want it to work, what are the problems and can I help solve them at all?” Banfield said. This inspired her to get started with cycling advocacy in Halifax. She started by joining the board of the Halifax Cycling Coalition and was eventually nominated by them to be the first bike mayor of Halifax.
Bikes for mobility
One of Banfield’s biggest focuses during her term as bike mayor has been learning and talking about how bikes can be used as mobility aids. Her first project as bike mayor was a survey about what the phrase “all-abilities” meant to people, which had to be done online due to the pandemic. Still, Banfield found the experience worthwhile.
“We got a lot of stories about a real range of disabilities, and some I hadn’t really considered at all before. So it was really enlightening for me. And it sort of empowered me more to talk about my experiences of disability in cycling,” Banfield said.
Most recently, Banfield has been helping community members organise Halifax’s “kidical mass” rides, which are designed to help kids feel safer on the roads.
Banfield is one of a…
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