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The War on Bikes Part 1: The City of Toronto

“Well, actually, I’m wearing pinko for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything, I thought I’d get it in. What’d ya expect, Ron MacLean here, to come here?” – Don Cherry (Rob Ford’s Mayoral Inauguration 2010)

It’s been three years since “war on cars” became the “war on bikes” in the fair city of Toronto. It’s at this time the development of an integrated bike path system through many of the major streets in the city turned into painting over lanes and leaving fixie bike riders (among other cyclists) to brave their ride amongst cars.

“I can’t support bike lanes, how many people are riding outside today? We don’t live in Florida, we don’t have 12 months a year to ride on the bikes. And what I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks, sooner or later you are going to get bitten. Every year we have dozens of people who are hit by cars or trucks and no wonder, roads are built for buses cars and trucks not for people on bikes. And you know I feel… my heart bleeds for them when someone gets killed but it is their own fault at the end of the day” – Councilor Rob Ford (City Council Meeting 2007)

Let’s do a Regal Bicycles breakdown of that impassioned speech:

  • How many people are out there riding today? – This speech was in March but still the likely answer to this is: A lot
  • We don’t have twelve months a year to ride on the bikes – We beg to differ
  • I compare bike lanes to swimming with the sharks – we’d say the concept of removing bike lanes and having cyclists mixing with cars is more akin to swimming with the sharks
  • My heart bleeds for them – No, it doesn’t
  • It is their own fault – You can’t make a generalized statement like this. Are there incidents where cyclists to blame? No doubt. But to suggest that they are always to blame or even more often to blame than motorists is indicative of the ignorance present in some of our municipal politicians Let’s set aside the impeccable logic of that council speech for a moment and take a big picture look at what has politically gone on in city hall. The concept of “concern for the taxpayer” has been a phrase often used to justify cost cutting and simplistic city planning for the past few years.
“They want to get home to their families quicker and that’s what I’ve done, I’ve listened to the taxpayers and done what they wanted me to do,” – Mayor Rob Ford (During the removal of the Jarvis bike lane 2012)

The “taxpayer” is code for the political constituent that elected Ford in the first place. He cites concerns for getting them home on time as they drive up Jarvis in their cars. A true concern for the taxpayer should include the bike commuter who, at this point, may be fine with just getting home in one piece.

Even if motorists are more concerned with commute times than cyclists, their use of the street should not supersede the safety needs of cyclist. Ideally, city planners will find a fair equilibrium of interests, but it seems Toronto is pandering to older, richer, drivers. Toronto is not planning for the future.

The killer of course in the whole conversation is that the removal of bike lanes HAS decreased commute times for drivers on Jarvis…by an average of two minutes. You can’t put a price on decreasing safety, but you apparently can put a price on decreasing commute times by two minutes and that number is $275 000 (the cost of removing the lanes).

We’ll be talking about the Sherbourne bike lanes in our next post, come back next week for our take on it! And as always, we’d love to hear your opinions, leave a comment below!

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