For Hamish and Jared and Janet and…

If cycling advocates can’t agree on the best way forward on building a better bike network throughout the city, disagreehow exactly does one get built?

Some believe that protected and completely separate bike lanes, installed where conditions warrant, will encourage more riders, many too fearful for their lives (somewhat correctly) to mingle directly with car traffic, to take up cycling. Ridership grows. A network grows. Others contend that just starting out with brightly coloured lines that seamlessly connect easy routes from east to west, north to south will increase ridership that will ultimately justify further spending to build a more permanent cycling infrastructure of protected and separate bike lanes.

Two opposite approaches aiming for the same ultimate goal. The elevation of cycling to equal consideration as part of the city’s transportation grid.

Into the void of tactical disagreement, let’s call it, step the decision makers, bikinghippiessome who don’t believe cycling has any place within our transportation system, who can’t comprehend how more people on bikes, getting around the city, could possibly help alleviate Toronto’s congestion. For them, cycling is a diversion, a pastime not used by serious people intent on going about their business in any sort of serious way. It’s something done by elitists or hippies, physical fitness nuts. Real commuters don’t commute on bikes.

Our current mayor is one of those types. Bikes have no place on the roads, he once famously said, comparing it to swimming with the sharks. At the end of the day, yaddie, yaddie, yaddie.

So, in many ways, it’s kind of remarkable that 4 years into his term, the streets of this city remain as full of cyclists as they do. sherbournebikelaneDMWI know it’s cold comfort to say but the situation could’ve been so much worse. Things have ground to a crawl but haven’t been irretrievably reversed.

That fact is even more remarkable given the person sitting in the Public Works and Infrastructure chair, the committee that oversees road construction and design, is Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. He is no slouch when it comes to car-centricity. Why, just yesterday in fact, during a PWIC meeting, he wanted to make sure there was a representative from the CAA present when going forward with school zone safety measures. Why? Well, because drivers of cars that “allegedly” hit pedestrians need to have their voices heard too.

Or something.


Yes, under PWIC chair Minnan-Wong, the bike lanes of Jarvis Street were torn up and moved a couple blocks east to Sherbourne where, ostensibly, “better”, “protected” and “separated” lanes were built. The more I ride them, the more ridiculous they seem, having to share the space with public transit sherbournebikelane(which they didn’t have to do on Jarvis) and almost never are they fully protected or separate. Cars and delivery trucks easily and regularly breach the porous barriers.

I will set aside my normally disparaging opinion of the councillor and refuse to accept the possibility that he simply threw cycling advocates a few small bones purposely to hear their cries of outrage in order to throw up his hands and claim that these people are never happy. There’s never any pleasing them. They want the entire road or nothing.

Instead, I choose to believe that he did the best he could, given the circumstances at hand and his inherent lack of understanding toward anyone who might willingly decide not to get around town in any way other than by car. He did not kill cycling in this city. He merely succeeded in frustrating it.

Of bigger concern is the next four years. What direction the incoming administration will go in terms of biking. emptypromiseSo far, there’s little to get excited about and much to be fearful of.

Mayoral candidate John Tory had this to say to Global News’ Jackson Proskow about the PWIC’s decision to approve a pilot project for bike lanes along Richmond and Adelaide Streets:

“My priority from day 1 as mayor is going to be to make sure we keep traffic moving in this city, and I am in favour of making opportunities available for cyclists to get around the city too because that will help, in its own way, to get traffic moving too. But I want to look at the results of discussions that are going on today and other days and make sure that whatever we do we are not putting additional obstructions in the way of people getting around in this city, because traffic is at a stand-still at the moment and that’s costing us jobs, it’s hurting the environment, it’s not good for Toronto.”

There is so much wrong and mealy-mouthed about that statement that it’s impossible to imagine the person saying it actually lives in this city let alone thinks they can lead it. Bikes in no way constitute traffic. The idea that more people riding bikes, especially in the downtown core, means less people driving cars (or using public transit) seems incomprehensible to someone like John Tory. Bikes are nothing more than ‘additional obstructions’ for people – people being car drivers – ‘getting around in this city’.

“I am in favour of making opportunities available for cyclists.” John Tory might’ve well said roads are meant for buses, cars and trucks. littlewinsThere’s not much daylight between the two sentiments.

It isn’t going to get any easier going forward. Cyclists and those fighting for them at City Hall have to accept the little victories, the pilot projects, as serious steps forward. The status quo never gives way easily, and the status quo in Toronto remains tilted in favour of cars. Two generations of bias don’t change overnight. Or in a day. Or in a week. Month. Year. Decade….

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr

10 Responses to For Hamish and Jared and Janet and…

  1. Sonny says:

    Hopefully the full Council will vote for the bike lanes to alleviate congestion.

    F GW and the car driving suckers as the price of gasoline will hit record highs this year!

  2. GW says:

    Well, I’ll say one thing for you. You make your feelings about motorists abundantly clear. I’ll think about you and your contempt for other people’s lifestyle choices on my next morning commute. 😉

    • steve says:

      Your the voice of the elitist throwing stones in a glass house.

      • GW says:

        Really, Steve? Pulling out the “class warfare” car so early in the conversation? If car ownership; constitutes “elitism”, then judging by the gridlock on Toronto’s streets, we have a pretty egalitarian society.

        Given the rampant abuse of the word by both sides of the political spectrum, perhaps it’s best if we just retired the words “elitism” and “elitist”.

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear GW,

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke hope that if your next morning commute is from behind the wheel of a car, you also think about just how heavily subsidized that morning commute is.

      You’re welcome.

      • GW says:

        Listen guys, I get it. It’s standard operating procedure for you to label anyone you want to demonize as “privileged” in some way. But is a TTC passenger “privileged” because his/her ride is subsidized by non-riders? Is a cyclist “privileged” because the city constructed bike lands paid for largely by non-cyclists? Are parents of school-age children “privileged” because non-parents subsidize their children’s education? Are artists “privileged” when they are the beneficiaries of grant and other subsidies? Or is something only a “public good” in your minds when you personally approve of it.

        So yes, I’ll reflect on how my morning commute is subsidized, just like yours, Steve’s and Sonny’s. We’re all in glass houses (or glass boxes in the sky) here.

        Of course, on my morning drive, I’ll also be reflecting on how you and the rest of that downtown activist social media clique you swirl around in would happily deprive me of that transportation option, for purely ideological reasons.

      • cityslikr says:

        Dear Mr GW,

        We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are happy that you’ve finally acknowledged that your lifestyle choice is subsidized by others. It’s an important first step in this conversation. Congratulations.

        But please note the comparisons you make to driving a private automobile. Public transit. Public school. Public art.

        That’s the real ideological divide here. Yours is based purely on the individual while ours is more inclusive, tending toward a greater good.

  3. GW says:

    In that same spirit, let me congratulate you on acknowledging that the war you and your cohorts have been waging isn’t on the car, the backyard or the shopping mall so much as on the individual. You’ve given hints of this in previous posts, but you threw up enough chaff about economics and environmental matters to obscure that streak of authoritarian collectivism that underlies your views on cars, suburbs, single-family houses, etc.

    Yes, cars are a private possession (so are bikes, BTW), but they roads they travel on are public. And that’s where the subsidy comes in, isn’t it? Art produced by an individual only becomes “public” once it’s been subsidized. If he/she sells it to a private gallery or collector, it’s just as private as an automobile.

    And your accusation that my “ideology” is based solely on the individual would only make sense if I had said that I don’t support public transit, public art, public schools, etc. But I didn’t say such things, because I in fact support all of these. Ooops, straw man.

    I believe in balancing the individual and the collective. Part of that balance is allowing individuals some personal space, personal property, and a certain degree of privacy and autonomy, while also providing for the “public good”.

    Where do you see that balance falling?

    • cityslikr says:

      Dear Mr GW,

      We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are just curious if this is the type of authoritarian collectivism you are so heroically battling against every time you get behind the wheel of your car.

      • GW says:

        Once again, I’d say this represents progress in that this time you’re not asking that I read an entire book.

        I don’t agree with everything discussed/proposed in the article, but there was much to like in it. The writer clearly has respect for the suburban lifestyle, even while arguing that it needs to evolve. Unlike certain people, she doesn’t see the suburbs simply as a problem to be solved. As she points out “That is a lot of people, and a lot of built environment, for urbanists to just wish away”. I couldn’t have said it better myself, except that I probably would have been tempted to add a shot at Christopher Hume just after that.

        The article frames these incremental changes to the design of suburbs as rational, bottom-up responses to changing demographics, economic factors and shifts in priorities among younger generations, a much welcome contrast to the snobbery, self-righteous moralizing and top-down central planning so beloved of Toronto urbanist columnists and bloggers.

        I think the big lesson coming out of this article is that suburbanites need to take their destiny into their own hands in terms of modernizing their communities, and not let carpetbagger activists from the core with their grand schemes for building the perfect society drive the discussion.

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