An Edmonton cyclist who faced a racial slur while riding his bike downtown late last month says he feels hopeful after meeting with Mayor Don Iveson Friday afternoon.
“I’m really happy that the mayor reaffirmed his commitment to cycling, active transportation, not only in the downtown core but for all Edmontonians,” Bashir Mohamed said.
“On the racism side, I know racism-free Edmonton has lagged behind recently so I’m really happy that he’s willing to engage communities like Black Lives Matter, like aboriginal communities, any other group in order to address racism.”
On Friday, July 29 Mohamed was cycling in the area of 104 Avenue and 104 Street when he became involved in a heated encounter.
“People in a truck honk at me, guy gets out says, ‘get off the f-ing road you N-word,'” Mohamed told Global News earlier this month.
The driver of the truck has since apologized to Mohamed. But the cyclist said the incident clearly shows there’s a need for a better relationship between cyclists and drivers in Edmonton.
“It has opened up two very important threads of dialogue in our city,” Iveson said. “One about the very real experience of racism that many Edmontonians still have, which we have a lot to do – more work than most Canadians would ever care to admit – in order to change. So we discussed some strategies, or at least some initial relationships that could be built.”
Iveson said the words used by one person by no means reflect the views of the city.
“I think to extrapolate about the city because one person has used absolutely unacceptable language is not the right conclusion. I think the conclusion is that any person who would use that language is out of place and out of time. And those views and that language are not welcome in our city. Full stop.”
Iveson said the second thread of dialogue Mohamed’s experience has exposed is the need for better cycling infrastructure.
“If for no other reason than to reduce the conflict that we see on our roadway, and that was part of Mr. Mohamed’s experience, we know that we need better cycling infrastructure. I’ve been an advocate for this forever and we’ve unfortunately taken some steps backward on putting better cycling infrastructure in the city,” he said.
“I really commend Mr. Mohamed for bringing forward his concerns and seeking to elevate the discussion about what we can do in our city to improve conditions for cyclists who are facing conflict on our roads.”
Mohamed said Iveson’s commitment to better dialogue between the city and cyclists is really encouraging.
“In addition on the racism side, to also have that dialogue too with the community, that just makes me feel like all the stuff that’s happened in the past few weeks, has been worth something.”
After his conflict went public earlier this month, Mohamed said it stopped being him. He realized he was fighting a larger battle and hopes by coming forward, he’s shone a light on very important issues.
“As a person of colour it happens, right? And it’s a part of my reality. But throughout this whole experience I had this sudden realization that there’s a huge chunk of the population that just doesn’t get it and thinks that we live in a utopia. That really shocked me. But I think this incident, bringing it forward, showed people that these issues do exist,” he said.
“I love Edmonton. I grew up here. It’s my city. I’m not going to let anyone say otherwise and I’ll keep biking. I’m not going to stop.”
Watch below: Incident involving racial slur spurs call for civility between drivers and cyclists, filed by Erin Chalmers on Aug. 5, 2016
Mohamed filed a report with the Edmonton Police Service but officers said there are no grounds to charge the driver.
A report on cycling infrastructure in the downtown core is due back at Edmonton city council in September. Iveson is hopeful bike lanes could be installed in the areas with the greatest conflict by next spring.