Organizing on Your Bicycle

AuthorChristopher Waters
organizing on your bicycle » 133
chapter 6
Organizing on Your
Cycling is not just a mode of transportation or an individual recrea-
tional activity. It can also be an organized activity along one or more
axes — social, political, economic, and so on. Socially, we could start
with the classic “club ride.” In many parts of the country, cyclists
assemble on weekend mornings from spring to late fall to pedal the
country’s back roads with other club members. It is a great way to
stay t, to hone group riding skills, and to establish friendships with
like-minded individuals. It also feels safe and empowering to ride
in groups. By the same token, cyclists come together in community
to advocate for greater investments in cycling infrastructure, rebal-
ancing of our roadways through law, and to inspire a culture shift
through public education toward a mode of transportation that is
healthy and sustainable. Cyclists may also establish community bike
shops or other forms of social enterprise to increase the accessibility
of cycling. Organizing small-scale occasional group rides, grass-
roots advocacy eorts, or pop-up bicycle maintenance workshops
are wonderful and a big part of how cycling builds momentum.
But, if you want to start or run a “formal” club or organization, this
chapter is for you. I briey examine legal issues associated with the
creation and operation of a club or organization (and for shorthand
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purposes, these terms are used interchangeably — what matters in
terms of law is the type of corporate structure that is created to carry
out the activities), including liability and how to minimize it. I will
also look at sports coaching and the legal obligations associated with
it. The chapter ends with a primer on insurance law for bike clubs
and the leadership of those clubs.
this chapter’s takeaways
If your riding club, advocacy, or community activities are becoming
organized, consider whether you should incorporate. While incorpor-
ation requires what feels like endless paperwork, a company can own
property and shield its members from personal liability.
If you decide to incorporate, expect a number of administrative
steps to complete the process, and be ready for the expectations
that come with corporate status. These vary from province to prov-
ince there are many guides to which you can refer. Basically, you
will be incorporating a not-for-prot corporation. In most instances,
a bike club will not qualify for charitable status but you should con-
sider whether that is a possibility.
» Once you incorporate, you will need to follow certain steps to
comply with corporate law. Again, follow the rules applicable to
your jurisdiction.
» In running your aairs, be attentive to various areas of the law
that apply to your operations. This includes human rights and
privacy laws.
» Once you start doing bike club things especially when organ-
izing rides and events — you need to think about people hurting
themselves. Make sure you understand your liability exposure. If
you have coaches training athletes, make sure you and they under-
stand everyone’s full range of legal obligations. Make sure you use
proper liability waivers.
» Aliate with provincial cycling associations and take advantage of
the insurance policies that come with membership.
organizing on your bicycle » 135
incorporating (or not) your bike club
There are “clubs” and then there are “Clubs Inc.” A club can be noth-
ing more than an informal association of like-minded individuals,
coming together to enjoy a shared activity. Many Canadian bicycle
clubs are simply loose associations of people with shared interests
and a mailing list, rather than formally structured organizations.
At some point, however, an association may reach a higher level
of organization and even begin acquiring property, at which point
the club may wish to incorporate. Incorporation has virtues: an
incorporated entity has a “separate legal personality,” meaning that
it has a separate legal personality distinct from its members. One
corollary of this concept is that liability is generally limited to the
corporation itself and does not extend to its members or, to a lesser
degree, its directors and ocers. This may become an important
consideration as the club’s activities become more sophisticated and
its liability exposure increases apace. I will have more to say about
liability further below.
A corporation may also be the legal owner of property; it may
enter into contracts and leases; and it can sue (and be sued) in its own
name. A corporation also endures indenitely, until dissolved, and so
its persistence does not depend on its founders and members.1 Char-
ities are almost always corporations — this will be expanded on below.
The disadvantage of incorporation is red tape. There are all sorts
of regulatory and paperwork requirements that corporations must
meet. There are also requirements relating to governance structures
and accountability that must be observed.
The balance of this section assumes that a bike club or advo-
cacy/community group has made the decision to incorporate, and
therefore I outline the basic legal considerations that arise in those
circumstances. A word of warning: this chapter is not intended as
a denitive guide to the process, not least because of the number
of provincial and territorial jurisdictions in which a club can be
incorporated that have slightly dierent rules and procedures. In
practice, it is useful to seek the assistance of a lawyer to help nalize
this process — perhaps even a member of the club willing to do the
incorporation for free or at reduced cost.

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