Meet Arcy Canumay, Bicycle Mayor of Waterloo, Canada

photo courtesy of Arcy Canumay

A boy who rode his bike around rice paddies in the southern Philippines so long each day that his mother would get mad at him now zips around on an e-bike as the Bicycle Mayor of Waterloo, Canada. How did that happen?

Meet Arcy Canumay. After being born in Davao and growing up in Las Piñas, he worked in the tech industry in Manila; then Tokyo for five years with Accenture; then back to Manila where he met his wife and they had their first child, a son.

They decided to move somewhere different and, like so many before them, came to a new country and set out to find work in Toronto, Canada. A meeting at a mobile app developer conference, however, landed Arcy a job 94 miles south in a tri-city area known as the Regional Municipality of Waterloo (Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge), considered a top-ten technology hotspot in Canada. It is also the home of two universities — the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

Before long, Arcy — who had enjoyed walking; taking trains and buses; and riding bikes in Tokyo — got a job with the region’s sustainability initiative named TravelWise, which encourages and incentivizes options for commuting in place of single-occupancy motor vehicles. Arcy quickly discovered a problem, however. He was driving around in an SUV.

Surprised to discover there was a bus that would connect pretty easily from his home to his office, he started riding it. Things really took off, however — and perhaps that boy in the rice paddies even felt his heart soar a little again — when Arcy sold the car and bought an e-bike, which he named Ebi (pronounced Ebby, which is short for e-bike). Arcy had felt empowered to do this after hosting mobile tune-up services for bike commuters at companies such as Blackberry where he saw first-hand how possible it was.

Fast forward a few years and a second child later when Arcy discovered BYCS, an Amsterdam-based social enterprise that offers consultative services to cities around the world that want to become more accessible for people on bikes. There was a job opening, and Arcy applied. Perhaps it was time for his family to emigrate again? The Netherlands sounded great!

Arcy didn’t get the job. But he did catch the eye of BYCS and they encouraged him to apply to become the Bicycle Mayor of Waterloo (see his profile on the BYCS website here). This is a pro bono position where people use their skills and passion to influence change and encourage more people to ride bikes. His application and endorsements sealed the deal.

As Bicycle Mayor, Arcy took over promotion of National Bike Month (June in Canada) in Waterloo from TravelWise during the pandemic. This was tricky, as there were so many unknowns at the time about what was safe and what wasn’t. Outdoors seemed okay, however, and bicycles are naturally distanced, so Arcy invited the city’s elected mayor along.

Arcy and the Mayor of Waterloo, Dave Jaworksy, rode bikes to the hospital to say thank you to the nurses and doctors. They rode to a new rainbow crosswalk. They rode the Ironhorse Trail and visited an old train station and library. In short, they showcased what people in lockdown could still honor and enjoy in Waterloo.

Arcy then encouraged the addition of pop-up barrel-protected bike lanes, such as what many other cities were adding at the beginning of the pandemic. A different protected bike lane that had been in a pilot test became permanent and connected to the Ironhorse Trail. As a result, cycling doubled, and perhaps even tripled.

This year, Arcy joined bicycle mayors around the world in a social media campaign for World Bicycle Day, for which people posted photos of themselves waving on or by a bike and tagged #RollingWave. Numerous elected officials, including the President and First Lady of the USA, even participated!

Arcy is also encouraging three more special hashtags during the rest of June this year. See below. Why not join in the fun? I posted a #SoloRide photo from my travels to New York City last week!

In addition to frequent partnerships with the other Canadian bicycle mayors (the Bicycle Mayors of Halifax in Nova Scotia*; London in Ontario; and Victoria in British Columbia), Arcy is excited to report that Vancouver HUB Cycling has been joining in on the hashtags as well.

Is all of this effort growing the numbers of people riding bikes? A nationwide bike count, conducted by the national bike advocacy group Canada Bikes/Velo Canada (in which Arcy and his daughter recently participated) will reveal the latest data soon. As a result of rubber-hits-the-road reality observed while doing that bike count, Arcy is interested in doing more targeted outreach to immigrants, multicultural centers, and a wide range of faith-based communities to diversify the profile of those who are riding bikes.

Arcy now works as an international advisor with a firm named Frost and Sullivan where he helps companies grow their businesses in the Philippines. Maybe one day he’ll even get an opportunity to visit the place where he grew up — and feel like a kid again. Or maybe that’s already why he smiles so broadly while riding Ebi every day in Waterloo!

photo courtesy of Arcy Canumay

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As Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor, a League Cycling Instructor, a PeopleForBikes Ambassador, and the author of Traveling at the Speed of Bike (book and blog), I shine a light on people making it more welcoming to ride bikes and access public space close to home and around the world. Meet some more below! If you’d like to put stories to work for your company, municipality, or organization, see here.

Meet Greg Masterson (Metro Atlanta Cycling Club)

Meet Marjon Manitius (Brookhaven Bike Alliance)

Meet Byron Rushing (Atlanta Regional Commission)

Meet Creighton Bryan (Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy)

Meet Betsy Eggers and Jack Honderd (Peachtree Creek Trail and Brookhaven Bike Aliance)

Jon’s Leap of Faith (Street Minister and Bike Saver Extraordinaire)

A Second(er) or Two about Why You’re Needed (City of Dunwoody)

Meet Matt (Painter of New Cycle Track by Mercedes Benz Stadium)

Meet Dr. Walter May (Reinhardt University)

Meet Alex Gee (World Bicycle Relief)

Meet Shawn Deangelo Walton (Everybody Eats ATL and WeCycle)

Meet Charlton Bivins (Clayton County Cycling Club)

Meet Emmett McNair (tour guide extraordinaire)

Meet Mike Fluekiger (Primary Mechanic at Global Spokes)

Thank You, Courtney (NYC’s Peoples’ Bike Mayor)

Meet Carden Wyckoff (Wheelchair Warrior at 6 MPH)

*Meet Jillian Banfield (Bicycle Mayor of Halifax)

Meet 31 Women Making the USA More Welcoming for Riding Bikes (the “You Go Girl!’ Series)