Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[URBAN NOTE] Toronto and Jarvis and Cyclists, again

Right now, as Spacing Toronto notes, "City Council is debating whether to approve bike lanes on Jarvis Street. Spacing has been covering it with contributor Jake Schabas in council chambers while our editors watch it via Rogers Cable web streaming (you can also watch it on Rogers Cable on TV). You can see updates on our Twitter account (much easier than live blogging), and you can follow what a variety of people think about the debate on Twitter by following the hashtag #TOCouncil. If you want to see contrasting views on the debate, check out Mayor Miller’s Tweets and that of self-appointed opposition leader councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong." These are the changes that I blogged about at the beginning of the month, which would see--among other things--one of Jarvis' five traffic lanes closed down and replaced with two bikers' lanes.

The Jarvis Street bike lanes proposal passed just now--Adam Giambrone said so on Facebook. The idea of bike lines doesn't sound bad at all, but I also have to agree with the sentiments expressed by many of the interviewed in Tess Kalinowski's recent Sunday Star front-page article "Can cyclists and motorists get along?" about cyclists` frequently evangelical tone.

They move faster than cars in downtown traffic. They can be seen sprinting ahead at intersections, sometimes weaving their way through lines of automobiles, occasionally thumping the cars that drive too close.

They don't pay for gas or licence fees, and their fight for a bigger share of the road is gaining momentum at City Hall, where some motorists say cyclists are frontline soldiers in a city-waged war against cars.

"Any day these guys are nuts. It's the Birkenstock babes gone wild," said one suburbanite of the cycling lobby, who didn't want his name used. "They have committees, they have sub-committees, they have full-time bike ambassadors."

They are also the minority – by a mile. The city's plans call for a $70 million investment in cycling infrastructure over 10 years even though only about 2 per cent of commuters travel by bike, raising questions about whether cyclists should pay to use the road through licensing fees.

[. . .]

"They're trapped and frustrated," says Yvonne Bambrick, executive director of the Toronto Cyclists Union. "Cars are not freedom. They're like a ball and chain around your ankle. A bike is real freedom. You're on your own schedule and it costs hardly anything."

Bambrick doesn't wear a helmet. In Ontario helmets are mandatory only until age 18. She might wear one if she were a long-distance commuter. But she mostly bikes in the core where she feels safe.

"There are millions of people who cycle safely every day around the world, including Torontonians, without helmets. Our streets need to better accommodate this active form of transport. Cyclists deserve dedicated space on our roads. It is up to drivers and cyclists to share the space," she said.

Bambrick is among those who say discussing bikes against cars is passé. Sure, there is carelessness and occasionally brazen lawlessness among cyclists and drivers. But it's time to get on with figuring out how all users can share the road.

Most bikers aren't like that, I don't hesitate to add. I count myself among their number, well, not recently, but still in theory. There's still a loud minority that I worry about, like David Balzer, who came up with some interesting ideas in his recent eye weekly article "Road Rules".

Temporary sidewalk detours save lives and should not be read as intrusive or reckless. (In European cities, many bike lanes are on sidewalks, not streets.) If a cyclist is riding slowly, dragging his feet on the ground and making room for you before he moves back onto the street, you have no cause to give him a dirty look. Cyclists, respect pedestrians, move at their pace, thank them and return to the street as soon as you can.

Riding slowly on a peopled sidewalk, instead of--say--dismounting and walking the bike?

I support biking and agree with many cyclists who say that drivers of cars and other motorized vehicles are frequently careless. I also think that a lot of biking advocates just don't want to get the point that there are a lot of bad cyclists out there, people who don't wear helmets, who don't know how to signal, who cut across lines and bike on sidewalks ... If drivers of motorized vehicles behaved that way, Toronto's streets would be post-apocalyptic. Maybe, just maybe, despite the protests of some bike advocates, some sort of mandatory government licensing of cyclists would be a very good idea indeed.
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