It was a mild, breezy Saturday afternoon in September of 2014 when several cyclists gathered in downtown Edmonton. But their bike ride along 102 Avenue was less about pleasure and more about using pedal power for public protest.
The group created a pop-up bike lane, with 10 blocks sectioned off with pylons and flowerpots, for 90 minutes. The point of the city-sanctioned event? Edmonton needs safer roads for cyclists. “Bike lanes give people who can’t afford cars more options to get around, promote health and help Edmonton become a globally competitive city,” says Robin Mazumder (MSc OT 2011), the event’s organizer.
Up until recently, Mazumder lived in Edmonton, working primarily as an occupational therapist. He dived into city-building and, in 2014, was named to the Top 40 under 40 by Avenue magazine.
One of Mazumder’s first projects arose when he experienced symptoms of seasonal affective disorder during his first winter in the city. He learned that a light therapy lamp would cost about $300 – so he started #lightbrightyeg (YEG is Edmonton International Airport’s code) to bring three lamps to the Stanley A. Milner Library. They offer therapeutic benefits in a social space and fight mental health stigma, he says.
Mazumder is now pursuing a PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo, where he is exploring how urban design affects mental health. His occupational therapy education at U of T helped shape his approach to promoting vibrant, safe, inclusive communities, says Mazumder. “I gained a holistic understanding of health. Our environment affects how we feel and function.”
Here are a few ways city-builder Robin Mazumder worked to improve quality of life for Edmontonians:
- #HumanScaleYeg: In 2014, he organized a free public screening of The Human Scale, a documentary about modern city life.
- #yegsnowfight: Mazumder helped create Edmonton’s largest annual snowball fight, which attracts several hundred participants.
- Mayor’s Task Force for the Elimination of Poverty in Edmonton: As part of a group of citizens, businesses and organizations, he collaborated on a 10-year poverty-fighting plan.
- REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities: Mazumder was a board member of this non-profit, which tackles social issues such as sexual exploitation, youth crime and mental illness.
- Make Something Edmonton: He was a board member of this city-funded group, which supports community-building projects such as art festivals, street libraries and social-enterprise challenges.
Watch: Make Something Edmonton asked Robin Mazumder to share his advice on how to embrace wintertime creativity