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Halifax’s bike mayor looks back at her three year term

Jillian Banfield became Halifax’s first bike mayor in 2019 and is excited to pass on the torch

Jillian Banfield the Halifax bike mayor Photo by: Jillian Banfield

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.

Jillian Banfield on her Tern ebike. Courtesy: Jillian Banfield

“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 network of almost 130 bike mayors across 36 countries, and one of four across Canada. The network is run by Amsterdam-based organisation BYCS, which offers support to the bike mayors when they need it. They also coordinate meetings between the network so they can see what other bike mayors are doing in other parts of the world.

“It’s been pretty cool to talk to people in India and find out what the cycling issues are there,” Banfield said.

The appointment of Halifax’s new bike mayor is expected to be finalised soon and Banfield is excited for the announcement. “Once that is finalised, people will be excited to see who it is because it’s somebody who is well known and well liked in the city,” Banfield said.