This Issue |
Equity. We hear a lot about it these days, and we tend to use the words “equity” and “equality” inter– changeably. But in fact-checking Isaac Würmann’s feature on Ottawa’s bike lanes (“The Missing Links,” p. 27), I found a vivid illustration of how these two concepts differ. The drawing in the Autumn 2016 issue of Momentum Magazine shows three people riding together, each on a similar bike. But not everyone is succeeding — the adult in the lead is having a fine time, but the problem for the small children who struggle to keep up is obvious: their tools just aren’t working for them.
The picture points to the difference between equality and equity: equality is about even distribution for all, while equity assesses the current situation — Who has received more in the past? Who faces more challenges? — before doling out the goods. And the goods, in this case, are bike lanes and other resources that help get more people commuting on two wheels, adding up to decreased traffic congestion, reduced pollution, improved physical and emotional health, and the other social goods associated with biking.
That said, the current situation isn’t all about income levels. Würmann’s article uses income levels as a way to reveal how some neighbourhoods are stranded by a sea of arterial roads, while others are connected by segregated bike lanes. But it would be wrong to assume that everyone views bike commuting through the same lens. To truly dig into the issue of equity when it comes to bike infrastructure means tackling some bigger questions. What keeps people back from biking as a form of transportation? Who speaks for bike commuters, and why?
To answer these questions means bringing more voices into the conversation because it’s difficult to understand what people need — what, exactly, their current situation calls for — if their voices aren’t heard. It’s interesting to note that this story is by a writer new to Ottawa Magazine. Würmann is a third-year journalism student at Carleton University who first wrote the piece for a reporting class and was encouraged to pitch it to us by his professor. At Ottawa Magazine, we welcome new writers because that is what will make our publication relevant in this fast-paced digital media environment. We want to give ideas, writers, and disrupters of all stripes a space to debate in a world that is increasingly accusatory and divisive. And even if that means agreeing to disagree, as might be the case in Ron Corbett’s piece on Papanack Zoo and Sam Chilton’s look at the two sides of the GMO debate, at least we have offered a fair — and fact-checked — examination.