I don’t think it’s going to be as much fun, hair-pullingly, jaw-droppingly fun, following a competent mayor as it was, you know, that other, previous mayor. The words, posts aren’t going to write themselves as they once did. Not everything you set out to explain will start with the basic disclaimer: I couldn’t make this shit up if I wanted to.
But I’m prepared to take the trade-off and accept that, in going forward, while things on the mayoral front may be more dry and issues oriented, they’re also NOT GOING TO BE TOTALLY INSANE! TOTALLY, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW, EVEN MAKES JAY LENO SEEM FUNNY INSANE! (Jay Leno’s still doing late night, right?)
Yesterday, mayor-elect John Tory responded reasonably and not in the least big unhingedly when asked about city transportation staff’s intention to start narrowing road lanes where possible to dimensions that improved safety for all users, made extra space available when applicable for bike lanes, wider sidewalks, all the while seeking to reduce traffic congestion by making things run more smoothly if not faster.
We all know how the current mayor would’ve reacted. A blustery War on the Car bellow. He would huff and puff and blow hot air all over the transportation department, vowing not to rest until this bureaucratic, downtown elitist plot against all things good and drivey was soundly beaten back to the drawing board.
The mayor-elect had instead at least taken time to familiarize himself with the issue beyond a 4 word title. He was humble enough to admit he wasn’t fully up on the matter but as far as he could tell, the staff was proceeding with the intention of ensuring congestion was not going to be made worse. It might get slightly better, if the mayor-elect understood correctly.
It was a far cry from the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from our mayor over the past four years. Hell, it was even a near cry from Tory’s intemperate (relatively speaking) reaction last week to the news of city staff seeking an injunction against the taxi app company, Uber. This time out, Tory didn’t reflexively react. (I’ve used Uber. Uber is good. Stop messing with Uber.) He laid out his priority. That any change couldn’t cause more congestion. He’d be watching ‘like a hawk’ to make sure it didn’t. If lane narrowing didn’t do that, if it even helped to ease congestion as transportation staff suggested it might, the mayor-elect wouldn’t have a problem with the idea.
I may disagree with what Tory deemed to be a priority. Safety for all users of our streets, and a move toward more equal usage on what is ultimately a public space would be my preference over the rule of private vehicles. Moving people not just cars and all that. “It’s all about safety, not just for the people in the vehicle, but also for our vulnerable road users,” according to the city’s manager of pedestrian projects, Fiona Chapman.
Still, the loudest, dumbest voice in the room wasn’t that of the mayor-elect which, by Toronto 2010-2014 standards, is a step in the right direction. In more combative, always campaigning hands, this plan could have been used as a divisive, wedge issue to pit suburban-urban camps against one another. The idea is not a ‘radical’ one, as Tory pointed out. There is no sort of Toronto exceptionalism when it comes to traffic and traffic planning. If it worked in other places, why not give it a try here?
While mayor-elect John Tory remains hawkishly car-biased, that he stepped back and gave room for city staff to do their jobs should be noted and applauded (especially by those of us who are publicly declared non-fans of the man). Who’dve thunk reasonableness would feel like such a breath of fresh air around here. But, you know, there it is.
— hopefully submitted by Cityslikr
John Tory is doing what any sensible politician in his situation would do. He’s saying that he’s looking for a win-win solution. No mayor (or mayor-elect) of a city that includes Scarborough and Etobicoke is going to say “Hey, you drivers have been privileged and pampered for too long. We’re going to give you *zero* consideration in any discussion of transportation in the city. In fact, we’ll go out of our way to inconvenience you every chance we get so we can get you out of those cars on onto bikes or public transit.” Not even David Miller, after having spent the day binging on Jane Jacobs books and Christopher Hume articles and chatting with John Sewell would have said something like that.
But a win-win solution doesn’t seem to be good enough for some people. Some prefer a zero-sum game. It’s not enough for cyclists and transit riders to win. Motorists must also lose.