Wheeling And New Dealing

December 7, 2015

Let me run a hypothetical by you here.whatif

A pedestrian illegally crosses a street, grievously misjudging how fast an oncoming car is moving, say, 20 kilometres over the legal speed limit. Pedestrian is struck. It’s called an “accident”.

Who’s at fault in this case?

Pedestrian shouldn’t have been crossing the street at that spot. The driver has the right of way. But what rights does a driver forfeit by not adhering to posted speed limits?

I pose this, having made my way around my area of town over the weekend, exclusively on foot, taking advantage of the pleasant late fall weather, observing and participating in – excuse me while I butcher Jane Jacobs — our mobility ballet.

And I can only arrive at one simple conclusion: cars remain the prima ballerina assoluta of the dance. Even in the heart of the downtown core, in spots of the city never designed or unnaturally rejigged for car use, private vehicles rule the roost. roadrage1They dictate the speed and tone of place. In spots, their dominance has been challenged but not seriously so.

Cars speed. Cars park and stop illegally. Cars block bike lanes and transit stops. Cars blow past open streetcar doors. Cars are regularly driven by people using their cell phones. Cars browbeat other road users through intimidation (some intentional, some not) and the always present threat of injury and death.

Yes, cyclists break the law too. Pedestrians disobey traffic lights. But their disregard rarely alters the flow and feel of the streetscape or impinges on others.

As I responded to a reader of this site who had commented to a post last week about the need for non-drivers to accept responsibility for their actions on the roads and sidewalks, Pedestrian makes a mistake, is struck by a car, pedestrian dies. Driver makes a mistake, strikes pedestrian with their car, pedestrian dies. The dynamic is unequal. The burden of responsibility should always be placed on those capable of inflicting the most damage. Drivers should always drive like a 4 year-old could suddenly pop out of nowhere right in front of them. chalkoutlineDrivers should always drive like that elderly gentleman ahead of them won’t make it across the street as quickly as you might think.

I was making my way up an alley early Friday evening, in the dark, as it tends to be in these parts this time of year, when a big fucking pick-up truck came barreling toward me. I don’t know what the speed limit is in our alleyways but this driver was going faster than the limit would be on the road just parallel west of us. Unsurprisingly, I tucked in out of the path of the truck. If I didn’t, I’d be dead. That’s how fast this vehicle was moving. I knew it. The driver knew it. It was my job to get out of his way.

On two separate runs over the weekend, making my way along the sidewalk, cars pulled out of blind alleys, blowing right through the sidewalk and stopping at the road just beyond that. There had been no one that the drivers could see walking in front of them, so they just continued forward, operating under the assumption that any pedestrians coming that way would stop for the car. streetfestWhy? Because they’d have to, for their own personal safety.

Why is it that pedestrians and cyclists are forced to go about their business always on the lookout for some inattentive driver just lurking around every corner or alley, not paying them equal attention? The answer’s simple. Because our lives depend on it.

In order to change how we get around this city, we have to transfer the risk of “accidents” and altercations to where the possibility of inflicting damage is most. Car drivers. There has to be serious consequences for drivers who fail to adapt their driving to the circumstances they’re driving in. That means slowing down, always yielding to more vulnerable road users, shouldering the responsibility to ensure no loss of life or injury.

Drivers should be as fearful of driving in the presence of pedestrian and cycling traffic as pedestrians and cyclists are afraid of travelling in the presence of cars.

In case you think I’m just talking some radical, utopian, Eurotrash talk, read the Globe and Mail’s Oliver Moore on the former New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan’s talk last week. deathrace2000In short, that city’s gone hard and quickly in reordering its road and street hierarchy, placing private vehicle use right down at the bottom of the list. “Moving at the speed of life,” I believe she called it. As a matter of fact, drivers, you don’t own the road.

In some places, at least. Not any longer. While we here in Toronto are still moving about in the dark ages.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Car Troubles

December 2, 2015

Last week, Toronto writer, Shawn Micallef, fired off the following tweets:

It’s been a bad few years for pedestrians in Toronto, deaths up 90% over the past 4 years, 34 so far this year (and counting), compared to 18 in 2011. speedingcarsAs Jessica Smith Cross wrote in Metro over the weekend, that accounts for 59% of road deaths in Toronto this year. In the first 10 months of 2015, over 1500 pedestrians have been struck by cars.

And the official response from those tasked with the oversight of street safety, the Toronto Police? Do The Bright Thing. “We have to put ourselves in the position to be seen,” Constable Hugh Smith informs us.

How twisted is that? Those most vulnerable, the ones not behind the wheel of a heavy vehicle, sanctioned to go lethal limits of speed, those of us with the least control, are held responsible to make sure we don’t get run over. Because, you know, drivers have places to go, people to meet.

So even when we are full in our rights, crossing a street legally, as Micallef pointed out, we have to check and re-check around us to make sure somebody’s not rushing to make it through that light or checking their phone or just simply zoned out, unburdened of any consequence of their inattention. overthespeedlimitHow many of us pedestrians have had to stop up short in an intersection out of fear that driver may not have judged his stopping distance correctly? Who amongst us pedestrians haven’t had cars blow through a well-lit crosswalk or open streetcar doors?

Why just yesterday, in fact, I had to pick up my pace crossing a street at a green light as some fucking jag off making a left turn, committed to going despite me being in his way in order to avoid a collision with oncoming traffic. A collision, no doubt, that would’ve harmed me, the literal innocent bystander, more than any of the occupants of the cars involved. And in the end, invariably written up as an “accident”. An unfortunate “accident” but an “accident” nonetheless. Harm but no foul.

Drivers go about their driving business with relative impunity. Even the most egregious transgressions, like impaired driving or vehicular manslaughter, are rarely met with the severest of punishments. intheintersectionJail, sometimes, but usually not for very long. How many people do you know who’ve ever had their licence revoked permanently?

Is that too much to demand from someone who’s got into a driver’s seat drunk and killed somebody as a result? Never mind incarceration. Should they ever be allowed to drive again?

Or how about those driving at dangerously high speeds, just one little unforeseen glitch away from losing complete control of their vehicle? They do so knowingly, not only at the risk of their own lives but everyone who just might be in their path. Another tragic “accident”.

How much over the speed limit is too much? 20 kilometres an hour? 40? 50? At what point do we say, you know what? Maybe you shouldn’t be driving a car?

We know a car travelling at 30 km/h puts the odds of a pedestrian dying if struck down at about 5%. At 50 km/h? 37-45%. 64 km/h? 83-85%.pedestriandown

We know this and yet, as Mr, Micallef pointed out, cars whipping down Jarvis Street are regularly travelling at 10-20 kilometres over the legally posted limited of 50 kp/h. That puts them right smack dab in the high probability kill zone if they hit a pedestrian or mow down a cyclist. Even without the possibility of casualties, racing cars make for an unappealing environment for anyone else not driving in the area.

We know all this and still, not only do we put up with it, we accommodate it with wider lanes to compensate for driver error, tearing up bike lanes which, according to Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation under then-mayor Michael Bloomberg, slow traffic down and greatly reduce the rate of road fatalities. pedestriandown1New York has recently experienced the fewest traffic deaths in a 100 years! But here in Toronto, whatevs. Mom’s got to get home a few minutes quicker to have supper with the kids.

My intention is not to demonize drivers here. I’m demonizing the system that continues to coddle them, entitle them, under-charge them and very, very, rarely penalizes them appropriately for the life-altering and often life-ending choices they make (largely for others) when they are behind the wheel of their vehicles. The political and societal clout the cult of the automobile is far greater than any good it delivers, often falling short by orders of magnitude.

Others cities throughout the world have recognized this and are attempting to reorder the hierarchy of their transportation system. Not just European cities. Cities we here in Toronto look to in terms of inspiration. New York City, for example. De-escalating our car dependency can’t be written off as simply some lifestyle choice. deathrace2000It is now nothing short of an absolute necessity.

Unless Toronto’s car-bound leadership recognizes that fact, we will jeopardize whatever competitive advantages we have as an international city. We have to stop pretending that somehow Toronto’s different than other places. We aren’t. We built this city on the belief that prioritizing car travel was the future. It wasn’t or, at least, that future didn’t last. It is our duty to now fix that mistaken but hard to shake belief.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr


De-Pave Paradise And Tear Down That Parking Lot

September 14, 2015

guestcommentary

(A post-concussion follow-up to yesterday’s post from All Fired Up in the Big Smoke’s Los Angeles correspondent, Ned Teitelbaum. Another in our series, To Live and Drive In L.A., The Battle for Road Space edition.)

***

Still emerging from the fog of my concussion, the city starts to come back into focus.

I see how the City Council passed the Mobility Plan 2035 by a broad margin, with all but two of our city council members voting in favor of it. rowenaavelaThe plan is a series of goals that includes such boiler-plate objectives as expanding bicycle ridership and providing frequent, reliable on-time bus arrivals. It looks great on paper. But implementing it without pissing off drivers? Well, that’s another matter.

Take Rowena Avenue, for example, in our Mayor’s own Silver Lake district. The street was one of the first to be put on a road diet two years ago, and there has been nothing but controversy since. Traffic is backed up, and nobody seems to be using the bike lanes. Drivers are frustrated, and frustrated drivers go where frustrated drivers go, namely onto our residential side streets. But the change looks likely to remain since it helps the city move toward its Vision Zero Initiative of reaching zero traffic deaths by 2035.

Bravo, I say.

But the acrimony over the Rowena fight has now wafted over to the Hyperion Bridge fight next door. hyperionbridgelaThere, another re-striping war has been engaged. Once again, activists want to reduce the car lanes, this time from four to three, with the extra space going to both sides of the bridge for walkers and cyclists. A template of a letter that people can e-mail to their City Council representatives was put out by the advocacy group LA Walks and urges the city to back this plan so people can enjoy “the bridge’s beautiful and historic belvederes,” from both sides. And indeed, one major difference between Rowena and the Hyperion Bridge is the latter’s almost irresistible invitation to stop and gaze, to take up the river breeze and just breathe. The letter asks, “Why do we want to prevent people from enjoying one of the city’s best views of what will soon be a revitalized LA River?”

No arguments from me. But the Board of Public Works has already balked once at the idea, and even the Mayor’s own rep at the time of the vote, Matt Szabo, refused to back the plan. Said Szabo, referencing the Rowena traffic clog, “I can’t in good conscience vote for anything that would compound that situation.”

toliveanddieinLA

Perhaps Mr. Szabo should take another look. Yesterday, I was on Rowena, and I noticed a distinctly calmer traffic flow. I even spotted a cyclist. I said ‘Hi’ but I don’t think he heard me.

sunshine hazily submitted by Ned Teitelbaum


Biking In Barcelona

May 8, 2015

Cycling in Barcelona is not perfect. If the yardstick used to measure that is, say, the Netherlands, and an afternoon two wheel jaunt from Noordwijk to The Hague. bikingbarcelonaThere are moments of perfection certainly on a bike in Barcelona. The ride back down toward the old town along the sequestered lanes running along the Avinguda Diagonal or the middle of the street separation providing a great run on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes.

Shouldn’t we all have access to bike lanes on an ‘Avinguda’ or a ‘Gran Via’?

But there isn’t an obvious network of bike lanes in Barcelona, at least not to visitors lacking a full knowledge of the city (or maybe even a bike route map). I’m talking an effortless flow from one set of lanes to the other, made easy with robust signage. Bike signing in Barcelona goes from emphatic to non-existent within a matter of blocks, regularly leaving a cyclist directionless at a point in the ride when three different options suddenly become available. bikingbarcelona3(This doesn’t appear to be exclusively a Barcelona thing as I discovered an hour or so outside the city on a very gentle hillside ride where a path would abruptly end at an impassably rocky incline or a precipitous drop off the side of a cliff into a river some unhealthy kilometres below.)

Back in Barcelona this can mean finding yourself suddenly lurching from a blissful ride taking in the sights to merging into fairly heavy traffic, either motorized or on foot.

This is when you discover, however, just how bike friendly Barcelona is.

Space on both roads and sidewalks is immediately shared.

I’m not sure I heard an angry car horn or any violent ringing of bicycle bells when bikes found their way out of their lanes and onto roads or sidewalks. People simply adjusted. Cars made way for bikes. Bike riders adapted to the pace of the pedestrians they now rode amongst, oftentimes in very narrow, medieval sized street widths. Skateboarders weaved in and out of the crowds. There seemed to me to be a lot of skateboarders in Barcelona. An ancient mode of Catalonian transport, I guess.bikingbarcelona2

While, I’m sure, not the exact definition of complete streets, it certainly felt like it to these untrained, North American auto-centric eyes where we all jealously guard our designated territory. Roads are for cars, trucks and buses, maybe. Sidewalks given over to pedestrians. Cyclists carve out some in-between space, somewhere, preferably, out of sight and mind. Isn’t there a park or someplace you can do that? Higher order transit all goes underground. To each their own and seldom should there be any overlap.

A hierarchical dynamic, anointing levels of importance, designed to create inevitable conflict.

At a cava stop at a streetside café owned by a former associate of some sort of Moses Znaimer (“He’s so rock’n’roll! Toronto’s so rock’n’roll!!”), I settled in to watch this sense of complete streets. It wasn’t necessarily a wide sidewalk. Parked cars had taken a chunk from some of it. The café had about 6 tables occupying some of the space. Metal balustrades divided the remaining portion of the sidewalk into two lanes as much as they kept larger, motorized vehicles from using it.bikingbarcelona3

A glass or two in, two mothers sat down at the table next to me. One had a wee little baby in a stroller beside her while they split two other children, both in the upper single digits in age. Eight? Nine? My eyes aren’t as good as they used to be.

While the two women conversed over a beer and coffee, the two older kids essentially were left to play in the traffic, the pedestrian traffic. There was some hide-and-go seek, some other game of back-and-forth, up-and-down the street following rules I couldn’t fully grasp. A discarded stick got incorporated at some point of time. When a dad of one of the kids arrived on his non-motorized scooter that immediately became the centre of attention.

The kids went about their business, nobody paying much attention to anything going in and around them. And there was a lot of street action going on around them. No cars, granted, although at one point of time things moved to a driveway directly off the street to some unseen parking spots which brought dad out of his seat to instruct the kids back down away from that area. Still, the sidewalk was hardly a dead zone.bikingbarcelona1

People, big people, strode back and forth. People, families on bikes, a dude taking his dog out for a walk-ride. Skateboarders, of course. Bar staff came in and out of the bar, sometimes with trays of food and drink. Still, the kids played on, not oblivious to what was going on around them but not intimidated by it either.

Just as importantly, the parents seemed to barely take notice, outside of the parameters that parents always notice, are always aware of what their kids are up to at any given moment when there’s even a possibility of harm in the vicinity. There was nothing resembling hyper-vigilance or helicoptering, to slightly paraphrase the term of the moment. The kids were left to their own devices on this little section of busy urban sidewalk.

While there was a big park on the other side of the street across 6 lanes of automobile traffic and a couple officially designated bike lanes, this part of the street was also considered public space, a safe spot for kids to go about the business of being kids while their parents took some time to catch up, chat about this and that, over drinks. It doesn’t have to be green space to be public space. bikingbarcelona4Not all the time. Not exclusively.

But we aren’t Barcelona, you’ll counter, or Paris or Amsterdam. That’s there. We’re here.

Sure. I won’t argue with that, only to say let’s stop pretending it’s some accident of history that created our separate built forms, our different approaches to how we use our cities, allocate functions to where we do what. It’s a matter of choice not fate, very purposeful decisions that have been made and just as equally can be unmade depending on what we deem to be of importance in how our cities run.

cavaly submitted by Cityslikr


For Hamish and Jared and Janet and…

May 15, 2014

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.

*shrug*

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


A New Generation Of Suburban Resentment

March 25, 2014

How would you best sum up Councillor Michelle Berardinetti’s (Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest) first term in office? is a question nobody’s asked me until now.surprisedbythequestion

Hmmm. Councillor Berardinetti, huh? Ward 35 Scarborough Southwest, eh?

Elephants, bike lane hatred and other terribly misguided public transit views.

Yeah. That about sums it up.

As to the elephants, I can’t offer up much in the way of analysis. Something about moving them from an unhealthy environment at the Toronto Zoo to a nicer place more conducive to the elephant lifestyle. How best to do that. Bob Barker. Different coloured t-shirts in the council chamber.

I remember Councillor Berardinetti being all up in that debate. No judgement from me about it. Wasn’t high on my list of things to be concerned about. bobbarkerKudos to the councillor for making it one of hers.

While she seemed to love the elephants, Councillor Berardinetti had little time for bike lanes. During the 2010 campaign, she claimed that some residents living along Pharmacy Avenue had moved because they could not “get out of their own driveway”, and within a year of taking over as councillor in Ward 35 had the damn bike lanes torn up along with those on Jarvis Street. In fact, run through this list of council votes from July 2011. Councillor Berardinetti pretty much came out against every pro-biking measure.

We get it, councillor. You represent a suburban ward. Everybody likes to drive there. Bikes have no place in your vision of how a city moves people around.

Or LRTs, for that matter.

Between she and Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre), they played point for the 7 other Scarborough councillors who eventually helped then TTC Chair Karen Stintz flip the planned Bloor-Danforth LRT extension to a subway. crybabiesNot so much good cop-bad cop, the two traded off on being perpetually outraged and indignant. World class transit! Scarborough is owed! Selfish downtowners!

“You can’t go to residents with revenue tools and not even deliver a subway,” Councillor Berardinetti pronounced. Subways are the only mode of transit worth paying for. Nothing for nothing. Something for subways.

Yeah so, pretty much stamp their feet, whine loudly and hold their collective breath until they got their way.

To give her full marks, at least Councillor Berardinetti had been consistent in her opinion that Scarborough deserved a subway, any subway. She went along with Mayor Ford when he sought to bury the Eglinton crosstown and agreed that his Sheppard subway folly didn’t need any of the Dr. Gordon Chong suggested revenue tools to proceed. The councillor was an early and eager adopter of the Scarborough LRT/subway swap, even voting for an additional property tax increase to fund it, waitingforasubwayan inclination she didn’t show a lot of on almost any other issue so far during her time at City Hall.

Throughout much of this term, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti has proven herself comfortably in line with Mayor Rob Ford, especially on fiscal matters. She’s voted to keep taxes low, freezing and eliminating important sources of revenue. Just this year, as a member of the Budget Committee, she pushed a motion to ignore the staff recommended property tax increase, lowering it by .25% and making up the difference with any surpluses from the projected Land Transfer Tax revenue. Credit where credit’s due, the councillor didn’t then turn around and vote in favour of a report looking at any possible reduction in the LTT rate.

She pretty much reflects the arc of the city council story during the Ford era. As an original member of his powerful Executive Committee, Councillor Berardinetti enabled all his destructive instincts early on. But as he pissed away his power to influence the agenda, she slowly changed course, jumping from the Executive Committee during the mid-term shuffle. berardinettifordShe had also left the Budget Committee for a while from March 2012 until January of the following year. A trendsetter, let’s call her. Totally comfortable with his policies but unhappy with his politicking.

Maybe this might play well for her constituents.

In 2010, she handily beat incumbent Adrian Heaps, concluding a bitter struggle that had gone back to the 2006 election that resulted in lawsuits and all sorts of legal wrangling. Ward 35 went strongly pro-Rob Ford in that election, so maybe she’s tapped into a certain ambivalence toward the mayor amongst her residence, loving the message, just not the messenger. If that’s the case, she may be hard to unseat.

But if anybody were to run against her based on her record, take her to task for her habit of underfunding the city’s ability to pay for programs and services, call her out on her subway love taking priority over common fiscal (not to mention transit) sense, Councillor Berardinetti would have a lot to answer for. She’s been very much at the epicentre of a couple of the city’s most divisive debates over the last three years, nutcrackerand has not provided a particularly cooperative voice, opting instead for the us-versus-them, suburban-versus-downtown tone of anger and resentment that has plagued Toronto since amalgamation. Having been put into a couple positions of leadership as a first time councillor, with an opportunity to change that tone, she failed to provide much leadership at all.

It’s hard to imagine she’ll grow into the role going forward, having adopted the familiar position of Scarborough councillor with a chip on their shoulder that seems to be the commonplace feature with many. Why change? It’s an approach that’s been working since long before Councillor Berardinetti came to Toronto City Hall.

unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr


Still Swimming With The Sharks

July 22, 2013

So, tired of all the congestion and gridlock in the city? Working hard, trying to figure out how to get more cars off our roads? ideaI’ve got a simple but obviously overlooked solution.

Strip irresponsible, reckless and dangerous drivers of their right to drive. Stop our collective shrug when the misuse of a motorized vehicle leads to death and bodily harm. Accidents will happen. For sure. But less so if we cull from the driving ranks not only repeat offenders but anyone who uses a car or truck as a weapon of intimidation and confrontation.

Two articles in the Toronto Star today highlight a certain War With Cars rather than a War on Cars.

On Thursday night, the police allege that a driver ran down and killed a pedestrian he’d got into some sort of set-to with. For me, if found guilty of the array of bodily harm charges he faces, this driver would never be allowed to legally drive again. deathrace2000aZero tolerance. One strike and you’re out. Privilege revoked irrevocably.

The exact opposite of what appears to happen, even for multiple offenders.

Like the driver involved in a cyclist’s death last November. With 8 driving infractions in just over 2 and a half years, including speeding, disobeying a police signal and violating novice driving conditions, the driver added to that tally with a failing to remain at the scene of an accident that caused death charge. Is it unreasonable to expect at least some sort of time out in the form of a suspension of his license?

Especially since it seems everything was not as it first appeared when news of the accident broke.

Police said that the cyclist was struck when he rode through a red light. deathrace2000bUnfortunate but hardly the fault of the motorist who struck him. Even fleeing the scene could be viewed sympathetically for the driver, just driving along, minding his own business, obeying the rules of the road. Out of nowhere, bike rides right in front of him, bang. Driver panics, takes off. Shock gets the better of good judgement and any sort of concern for a fellow human being.

Turns out that might not be exactly how things transpired.

In a letter responding to inquiries from the dead man’s family’s lawyer, the Crown now says that it is “not taking the position that [the cyclist] was travelling north or that he ran a red light.” In fact, “…they’re acknowledging [the cyclist] was stationary or near-stationary, waiting to turn left, as he was lawfully obliged to be, when he was rammed from behind.” Turns out that it was the cyclist who was minding his own business, obeying the rules of the road when, out of nowhere car slams right into him from behind, bang. deathrace2000cDriver panics etc., etc.

It’s enough to make you think there’s an inherent bias when it comes to dealing with accidents on our roads. That our mayor is not alone when he suggested back in his councillor days that, “… it’s their own fault at the end of day” when a cyclist is struck by a bus, car or truck. Responsibility for road safety lies squarely on the shoulders of pedestrians and cyclists and not those with the greatest capability of inflicting damage upon those they so reluctantly share space with.

We can talk all we want about building biking infrastructure to encourage more people to see cycling as a viable means of transport around the city, there’s undeniable merit to that discussion. Ditto mandatory helmet laws and bike sharing programs. deathrace2000But until we treat everybody equally when it comes to using the roads, when there are actual consequences to bad behaviour and lack of diligence, when driving stops being regarded as an inalienable right rather than a privilege, bike culture will remain on the fringe, a hobby for only the foolhardy and pinkos.

Unfortunately, it’s a status quo too many people and institutions would be only too happy maintaining.

disquietly submitted by Cityslikr