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Sarah Thomson drops out of Mayoral Race

Sarah Thomson has dropped out of Toronto’s mayoral race and put her support behind George Smitherman.

This is big news for cycling because Thomson’s “BikeCity” plan was the most thorough and best researched cycling platform out there (of the “Big Five” contenders of Ford, Smitherman, Rossi, Pantalone and Thomson herself).  Whatever you thought of her other campaign platforms, she had done her homework on the “cycling portfolio”.

George Smitherman’s transportation platform is a little less thorough (he wants to “pause” the installation of new bikelanes, while at the same time advocating for physically-separate lanes), but he did sign up for Bixi Toronto on the weekend, so that’s a good sign.

The Mayoral Race is shaping up to be a contest between Smitherman and Rob Ford.  Ford is known for not only saying cyclists are inconsequential, but that if they get hit by a car, it’s their own fault.

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Some Mayoral Candidates ride with the Bike Union

Photo by Martin Reis

Photo by Martin Reis

This morning saw some of the candidates for mayor join the Toronto Cyclists Union for a little symbolic ride and press conference downtown today:

The 30 minute ride, which stayed within the downtown core, allowed candidates to experience almost the full range of scenarios faced on a daily urban commute by bicycle.  The ride took candidates on arterials with bike lanes, without bike lanes, on roads with construction, roads scarred by utility cuts, on minor arterials, and on side streets…

Bicycles and helmets were provided by local bike merchants Curbside Cycle & Urbane Cyclist, upon request by some candidates.  Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, who was not fortunate enough as a child to learn to ride, was welcomed along and accommodated by bicycle rickshaw. Along for the ride were Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi, Himy Syed, Rocco Achampong, Dewitt Lee, and Daniel Walker – Keith Cole stopped by but could not stay, and Mark State joined us for the press conference.

Good intention, I am sure.  As Lizz Bryce has pointed out (very well), this was just a media event…  a press conference wrapped up to look like a “commute”:

The press release from the Toronto Cyclists’ Union  was positive: “The 30 minute ride, which stayed within the downtown core, allowed candidates to experience almost the full range of scenarios faced on a daily urban commute by bicycle.”

Except it didn’t.  Not even close. The candidates were riding in a large group escorted by police– hardly representative of what I go through on my way to work every day.

The Bike Union called for more bikelanes and Rocco Rossi did a Flip-Flop on advocating for bikelanes on downtown arterials.

What do you think?  Is a police-protected group ride by mayoral candidates useful at all?

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Focus on Bikes and Complete Streets, Politicians Told

The Toronto Environmental Alliance, along with various environmental and advocacy organizations, including TCAT and the Bike Union, have released priorities that municipal election candidates should pay attention to if we want, as a city, to be greener, healthier, and more efficient.

“Below are 6 priority actions, in no particular order, that will build on 10 years of environmental success. Investments in each action won’t just improve our environment, they will lead to better health and save us money as we avoid some of the huge financial costs associated with traffic congestion, waste disposal, climate change, and illnesses due to pollution.”

1. Build Transit City & Fund It
2. Achieve 70% Waste Diversion by 2012
3. Buy & Support Locally-Produced Green Products
4. Build Transportation Infrastructure Everyone Can Use
5. Implement the City’s Sustainable Energy Strategy
6. Provide Tools to Prevent Pollution

Cycling and walking are important forms of transportation that contribute to a healthier population and reduce negative impacts on the environment. We need infrastructure built to accommodate bikes and pedestrians as well as transit vehicles and cars. In the U.S. this is happening through “Complete Streets” policies that ensure the planning and redevelopment of streets are done with all users (pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders of all ages and abilities along with cars and trucks) in mind.

While a “Complete Streets” policy is developed, key transportation infrastructure, such as bike lanes, need to be built, the Toronto Walking Strategy can be implemented, and all road users can be educated about road sharing and responsibilities.

To read about each of these in detail, visit the TEA site.

Toronto Star article: Go Green, Mayoral Candidates Told

What do you think of the recommendations?  Leave your comments below, or discuss it in the News Forum.

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Mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi wants to stop (and tear out) bikelanes

(Cross-posted to the News discussion group)

Globe and Mail: Rossi vows review of transit plan
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/rossi-vows-review-of-transit-plan/article1439298/

Wow… I’m not sure of Rossi’s chances… but who would really think that we need less transit and bikelanes in the city? Elect this guy if you want to see Toronto grind to a halt due to traffic congestion.

rossi“Mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi is vowing to put on hold all planned light-rail transit lines that haven’t broken ground until he can review the project’s finances – a promise that could jeopardize a key part of David Miller’s legacy….

Early in his speech Mr. Rossi mocked the mandatory five-cent fee Toronto retailers now charge for plastic bags. He won his biggest burst of applause for a plan to prohibit bike lanes on major roads. “As mayor I will oppose bike lanes on major arterials whether its bike lanes, whether its Jarvis, whether its Finch, whether its Warden …” he said, telling reporters later that not only would he ban future lanes on major roads, he would “look at” ripping out existing bike lanes on major roads.”

I haven’t thought too much about who I’m voting for in the election yet, but yes, if you’re wondering, it won’t be for Rossi.

UPDATE: The Toronto Sun is reporting on this story as well… and while Rossi is pledging to stop (and take out) bikelanes on major “arterial” roads… he wants to expedite more and more bikelanes on quieter streets.

Rocco should know that *every* street should welcome *all* forms of transportation… and um, quieter streets don’t *need* bikelanes as much, because they are safer by nature.

Don’t relegate bikes to sidestreets, Rocco.  Cyclists are voters too, and have the same rights to get places as drivers do.

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