Lower Simcoe Taxi Stand… Wait, That’s A Bike Lane!

I found these images on the blog Torypages. Looks like taxi drivers have found a new place to wait for fares on Lower Simcoe… the bike lane.

More photos here.

UPDATE: Here’s reaction from other sources in Toronto

Anger as cars clog new Simcoe St. bike lane (Toronto Star)
So, this is a cycling city? (Toronto Star)

UPDATE the 2nd: The Toronto Star is really digging in to this story!

Traffic cops powerless to enforce bike lanes

Keeping lanes clear may take higher fines and more ticketing power

three main obstacles for parking enforcement officers trying to enforce bike lanes.

One, there’s no specific bylaw. Smith can’t track how many tickets are issued to cars sitting in a bike lane because such tickets are bundled with any others handed out for parking in a no-stopping zone.

Next, the fine is too low. Last November, Yvonne Bambrick of the Toronto Cyclists Union made a presentation to the Toronto Police Services Board, asking for tougher enforcement around bike lanes.

She wants the $60 fine for cars that cross a solid white line to enter a bike lane to be doubled to $120, which is closer to the $100-$150 fine charged for parking in a fire route or a handicapped space.

“We’re told to stay as far right as possible, then we’re forced to swerve into traffic,” says Bambrick.

Her suggestions were passed on to the city manager. Councillor Adam Vaughan, a police board member whose ward includes the convention centre, says council should be discussing a bike lane bylaw by the spring.

“Ticketing is the only way to do it,” said Vaughan, who said the discussion would include the possibility of raising the fine.

Smith also sees it as a major problem that parking enforcement officers are required to ask drivers to move before ticketing them. Most will just pull away if they see an officer approaching their illegally stopped car.

The constable, who is on the Cycling Advisory Committee, thinks parking officers should have the power to immediately issue a ticket to any car parked illegally, and to have the ticket stick even if the car leaves. That’s a recommendation police have made several times to the province, which has said only that it will consider changing the “drive away” ticketing rules.

LINK (Toronto Star)

Angles Morts – Blind Spots

Angle Morts

My French is pretty terrible, but the visuals in the video blow are certainly clear enough.

While many could see this as why cycling is dangerous, I believe that this video illustrates the need to re-imagine city streets and change a collective attitude concerning public space. In Toronto, I have noticed that drivers will rarely double-park. They will drive up on sidewalks, block bike lanes and park on the grass, but never will I see someone block in another car. How messed up is that logic? How disrespectful is that behaviour? And how much does this illustrate that a hulking mass of steel and rubber can dominate our public space?

Cycling is not a dangerous activity. Unattentive, selfish and careless individuals make our public spaces dangerous for everyone.

On the Dangers of Cars

smog free car

Aside from the sensational headlines, this article brings to light many of the dangers of private motor vehicles. Dangers that are so common we mostly ignore them until they affect us individually.

From StraightGoods.ca:

Cyclist’s death highlights auto hazards

Cars are death traps in many ways.

by Albert Koehl

Darcy Allan Sheppard accomplished this year what almost 3,000 other Canadians will fail to do: get more than fleeting public attention for his death on our roads. If Sheppard’s death had not occurred in downtown Toronto, in gruesome circumstances, and under the wheels of a car driven by Ontario’s former top law-maker, the public would already have forgotten his name.

While the tragedy on Toronto’s Bloor St. may have highlighted the frailty of the human body in conflicts with the car, the fact is occupants of cars are hardly safe from the danger on our roads.

Polluting emissions from car and truck traffic claim 440 lives in Toronto alone each year.

Although cyclists are over-represented in road fatalities, the most common victims of road accidents are drivers and their passengers, comprising three quarters of all deaths. Motor vehicle occupants also count heavily among the 20,000 Canadians wounded so seriously by motor vehicles each year that they require hospital care, often for long terms.

So routine are serious traffic accidents that we more often hear about them as obstacles in the morning traffic report than in news headlines.

Cars aren’t deadly just because of collisions.

Polluting emissions from car and truck traffic claim 440 lives in Toronto alone each year, according to the city’s public health authority. Climate change, which is caused in significant part by transportation emissions, will claim more lives still. Over 35 percent of Toronto’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are from motor vehicles.

The tragedy of these numbers is not that we accept them so willingly, but that we accept them despite the obvious alternatives.

First, buses and streetcars are many times safer than cars, while emitting a fraction of the air and climate poisons. A 30 percent reduction in traffic emissions would save 190 lives in Toronto each year and result in $900 million in health benefits, according to Toronto Public Health. Mass transit can be improved quickly with better and more frequent bus service.

Second, bicycles produce zero climate and air pollutants — while posing minimal risks to other road users. Cycling fatalities can be reduced. In certain European countries where bikes have been given dedicated space, cyclists (despite shunning helmets) are much safer.

“Good fences make good neighbours” wrote the poet Robert Frost. Painted lines for bikes make good relations on our streets.

Yes, cyclists must obey the rules of the road, although this doesn’t help cyclists injured by motorists in so-called “doorings” that are all too common. When I cycle, I fairly diligently obey every rule of the road but sometimes marvel at the irony of it all: complying with the rules of a society that has already carelessly passed through urgent warning signs of climate change and unnecessarily wasted so many innocent lives.

Third, cars are transportation products, not necessities. Other personal transportation products would make our cities safer and healthier. Power and speed, along with polluting emissions, are car design features, and consequences, that kill.

We may be able to justify the use of a car to carry groceries, take kids to soccer practice, or pick up grandparents — but do milk and eggs really need to leave the mall in a machine capable of achieving 0-60kmph in 6 seconds? Low cost, low emission, low speed vehicles, similar to the electric ZENN car, provide another logical alternative, especially since city traffic doesn’t average even 40kmph anyway.

Finally, when our roads are safer and more hospitable places, people will walk more.

The car may be part of our culture but this is no reason to stand in the way of safer and more efficient options. The facts support a war on traffic deaths and injuries, traffic pollution, and vehicle GHG emissions that have made us all —- motorists, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians —- victims.

Albert Koehl is a lawyer with Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal), a Canadian environmental law organization.

In November 2007, Ecojustice and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, a church-based social justice organization, demanded that Canada’s Auditor General investigate the government’s oil and gas subsidies and the cuts to programs for poor households.

Photo via Flickr