On July 20, the Halifax Cycling Coalition (HCC) became aware of threatening comments towards cyclists made by MLA candidate Jennifer Ehrenfeld-Poole on a Facebook post from 2018. The HCC stands alongside Bicycle Nova Scotia and its official statement. We are deeply concerned and disheartened to see this disturbing rhetoric shared by a would-be political leader.
Comments like those expressed by Ms. Ehrenfeld-Poole are often brushed off as a joke or considered benign; however, these types of comments are not benign as they advance a dangerous narrative that dehumanizes cyclists and leads to road violence. A recent study showed that around half of non-cyclists view cyclists as ‘less than human’, and that holding a dehumanizing attitude towards cyclists is associated with aggressive driving towards cyclists. Rhetoric that dehumanizes cyclists may embolden others who hold these views to commit traffic violence against others.
We are now in a climate crisis, and over the past year, COVID-19 has made inequalities even more apparent, while at the same time leading to a surge in interest in cycling. Now more than ever, we must reconsider our transport system for the wellbeing of all—and cycling must play a role. We need leadership with the courage to ensure communities in Halifax and across Nova Scotia can share in the environmental and social benefits of active transportation through inclusive and protected cycling infrastructure. We call on our policymakers and leadership candidates at all levels of government to share their financial plans and commitment to make Nova Scotia a great and safe place to cycle for people of all ages and abilities.