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Toronto Cyclists Scapegoats in tax revolt named ‘The War on the Car’

With Toronto taking the prize for longest average commute time of any city on the planet – and “Transit City” – part of Toronto’s “Green Plan” – starting to reach a critical mass in terms of the number of Bike Lanes on our streets – a reactionary view of cycling infrastructure resonated with voters as part of a tax revolt that became known as ‘The War on the Car’.

Well, in this writers opinion, Rob Ford is right again, it is a war on the car. Either we change our transportation model or we die (radical climate change = world war). It’s just that Rob Ford is defending the old model – the death model.)

The roots of the war on the car go back to 2007 when Toronto City Councillors were in trouble: they had a deficit, but they couldn’t legally run a deficit; at the time the Personal Vehicle Tax (PVT) and the Land Transfer Tax (LTT) seemed like progressive taxes (one worked towards the Green Plan’s objective of reducing auto trips, and the second tried slow the housing boom and prevent an economic ‘hard landing’).

Both immediately became symbols of a city management out of touch with every day peoples concerns.


It’s hard to see the political landscape evolving while it’s happening – it’s the forest for the trees thing. I didn’t understand what was going on in the spring and summer of 2010, when the polls were showing Ford with a huge lead – I figured the polls must be wrong, an error, I thought, the next poll would sort it out.

One day in early October I was talking to a Ford supporter and the words, ‘ it’s a tax revolt.’ blurted out of my face. The Fordite said, ‘Yes!’ – like it was obvious. Now it seems obvious, but not then.

Former Budget Chief Shelley Carroll stood up at the December 16 2010 meeting of council and laid out her read on the revolution that just happened at City Hall. She says it wasn’t the tax – it was they way it was implemented.

I don’t think she understands what just happened.

Here’s Carroll’s speech…

Although I agree that explaining how taxes, services and infrastructure are connected is important, I don’t think that’s to be all and end all of what happened here.

Most people are one paycheck away from missing a mortgage payment, or not being able to pay their rent. Over the last 20 years most people have been borrowing to maintain their standing in the middle class. Falling further and further in debt to maintain an illusion of success for themselves and for their children – to continue to believe that the New World Order will continue to afford them The Rights of Man and of the Citizen: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Timing is everything, as they say – and when Council passed these two tax measures in October of 2007 the Financial Melt Down was just hitting in the form of the US subprime mortgage crisis. Since then, a number of factors have combined to increase the cost of living in Toronto considerably:

  1. Although the Federal Governments Consumer Price Index shows no change (the art of deception in economic indicators has reached a point where these statistics are irrelevant to the average citizen), I think the cost of my bag of groceries has risen by about 10%.
  2. The Province’s new Green Energy plan has increased electricity prices by about 10% (Since buffered by the ‘Clean Energy Benefit’ – a 10% rebate on electricity bills for the next five years, announced by the Province in October).
  3. In early 2010 new garbage collection fees are announced, starting in 2011 a family of four (large bin) will pay $369.31/year. (On a $250,000 home that’s about a 10% increase in property tax.)
  4. The Personal Vehicle Tax ($60.00/car) and the Land Transfer Tax (average .75% on a $250,000 home).

This avalanche of new expenses that came after the Financial Catastrophe has pushed people to the brink of their ability to maintain a middle class myth – and they don’t like it. This is where we are, whether people choose to understand it specifically in these terms or not.


City Council Meeting – December 16, 2010 – Rogers TV:

Statistics Canada, The Consumer Price Index – December 2008 (pdf)
See Table 4.1 Food. ( “Ont. electricity rates to rise 46% over 5 years
- But ratepayers get 10% rebate

City of Toronto Public Notice: Proposed 2011 Residential Solid Waste Rates.

New! Toronto City Council On-Demand Video Archive (still in the testing phase, as of this writing some 2005 council meetings are up):


Posted: December 25th, 2010
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A subtle statement when someone in a car recklessly endangers the life of a cyclist…

Via BoingBoing,

Magnetic Yellow Card – cyclist-intervention
Sean Bonner at 10:13 AM Saturday, Dec 18, 2010

Magnet card designed by Peter Miller

This card was designed by Peter Miller as an alternative to the kicking-of-doors and yelling-and-screaming that usually goes on when someone in a car recklessly endangers the life of a cyclist because they were talking on their phone, putting on lipstick, passing another car in the bike lane, etc etc etc. It’s a more subtle statement, but I think more effective. Peter has provided a PDF of the card to allow others to print it out on a magnet of their choice and distribute them as needed. [Thanks to TOLA for noticing it.]

Thanks BoingBoing, Sean Bonner.


Posted: December 19th, 2010
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Rob Ford has a point in “CYCLISTS ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS…” speech – Let’s break it down

On May 25 2009 Rob Ford made a speech about Bike Lanes. The spectacle media and knee jerk liberals reacted to the use of the word “ass” and laughed at the idea of widening sidewalks and separating Bikes from the highway like arterial roads in the “519″, wards in the City of Toronto – the regions of the city that have what I’m calling, a “Squiggly Grid” – which are all the suburban planning built after the second world war as part of the Interstate Highway System in America, which was mirrored here in Canada.

Youtube user HOOFandCYCLE posted a video on September 25, 2010 called “ROB FORD – ‘CYCLISTS ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS…’“, which I have edited and uploaded portions of for this article.
Here’s the part of the speech where he lays out his vision – which I think is a good one…

“… We have boulevards in Etobicoke, green, that are 4 or 5 yards wide” he says, “if we have to take some of the green space, widen the sidewalk and have a bike only lane, it will work…”

I’ve been out there in suburbia a couple of times. Once over in Scarborough, I biked up this huge wide three-lane-each-way road (McCowan Road?) with a centre turning lane. The houses backed onto the road in those curly cue culdesacs on each side of the road. I didn’t feel safe out there.

I think, like on the 400 series of highways, bikes should not be allowed on these roads – they are not built for us, they are highways with stoplights on them – damn straight. The traffic laws concerning bikes on these neighbourhood freeways enable a collective denial that allow us to bury our heads in the sand to the fact that these are dangerous killer roads running through neighbourhoods full of children and people who would chose cycling if it were any kind of option at all. The non-exclusion of cyclists perpetrates a myth that this transportation framework is not at fault for dividing communities and the individuals with-in communities, one from another.

McCowan Road south of Ellsmere Road at Brimorton Drive - looking South --- Can we agree that City of Toronto needs to appropriate a metre or so of yard space along arterial roads for Bikeways?

This stretch of McCowan is a good example of what Mayor Ford is thinking. I imagine a wider boulevard and a two way Bikeway on the side closest to the street in this case, and the sidewalk over by the fences (a Bikeway should be wide enough in one direction to pass another cyclist, about 3 metres wide, so X2, 6 metres wide for a two way Bikeway). The city would have to appropriate about 2 metres for yard from every rate payer along here and could offer planting hedges in place of fences which are great sound barriers, help reduce green house gases and trees process the highly toxic heavy elements in car exhaust really effectively. Of coarse safety is probably a factor in the fencing as well as noise pollution – but the Bikeway also addresses boththose issues – more bikes equals less automobile traffic volume – and non-vehicular traffic is a neighbourhood watch program with out any meetings.

That done people would begin opening up their back yards to access the infrastructure, and it would look a whole lot nicer pretty quickly. be continued…



Looking at maps of suburbia in the writing of this article I discovered another new way to get commuting cyclists through the Squiggly Grid (see comments at City of Toronto Transportation Grid: “Graph Paper” layout vs “Squiggly Grid”), Hydro Corridors! – like this one in Scarborough – that runs from the Don Valley at Eglinton Avenue to Pickering’s Brock Road.

I also made a map of my Bicycle-Freeway Vision called “Pickering to Don Valley Bikeway“.

Here’s an Image (links to Google Map for a closer look).


Posted: December 16th, 2010
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“Bikeway Route” around dangerous Coxwell and Lower Gerrard

Older areas of the cities road grid are laid out like graph paper – as such it is easy to find alternative, convenient, efficient and safe routes for commute Bikeways. If these routes are “enabled” for bikes, and to deter car traffic, they will become the cyclists preferred route – in my humble opinion.

Tonight I walked a route from Woodbine to Jones and found new avenues for a Bikeway that circumvents the dangerous and congested, Lower Gerrard between Coxwell and Greenwood Avenues.

Here’s an image of “BikeWay: Gerrard-Fairford-Woodfield Alternative“.
(Title links to the Google Map)

See the map at the Toronto/GTA Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki)

BikeWay: Gerrard-Fairford-Woodfield Alternative around Lower Gerrard - Coxwell to Greenwood.

Traveling West along Gerrard Street East in the Upper Beaches…

At the bottom of the big sweeping hill that starts just east of Woodbine on Gerrard Street is Coxwell Avenue. At this corner the street turns south down Coxwell to Lower Gerrard then continues west into the Core of the City of Toronto – ending at University Avenue south of College Street. Its a great route, but it has an evil side…

This ‘work around’ the extremely busy, and dangerous Lower Gerrard between Coxwell and Greenwood takes Fairford to Woodfield and then avoids Gerrard with an alley route that gets the cyclist to west of Greenwood – just short of the Jones Avenue Bike lanes.

Woodfield Avenue, just north of Gerrard, looking west along the alley that goes almost to Jones Avenue

This beautiful alley could be enabled as a safe, efficient and convenient Bikeway route.

On the Map I’ve added obvious, connecting routes along the way, to existing bicycle infrastructure in the neighbourhood:

The Great Dundas Street East Bike Lanes
Jones Avenue Bike Lanes
Greenwood Bike Lanes


Posted: December 14th, 2010
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BoingBoing spots Cyclist Braving 5th Best Snowstorm in Minneapolis – St Paul History

The snow you see on the ground this morning is the remnants of a monster storm that cycloned over Minneapolis – St Paul over the weekend. A strong southerly flow up the Appalachian Mountains and a weak system over Hudson Bay whisked the storm away before it could drop much snow here in Toronto.

Images via Environment Canada

No snow day for you, now get on your bike and go to work!

Via BoingBoing yesterday, direct from Minneapolis…

It’s a blizzard. Grab your bike.

Maggie Koerth-Baker at 3:29 PM Saturday, Dec 11, 2010


It’s now mostly stopped snowing, at least in my corner of Minneapolis. Depending on where you measure, somewhere between 14 and 20 inches of snow fell here today. And it’s still blowing around.

So, naturally, this was a perfect day to travel by bicycle.

After all, our estimated 4,000 winter bike commuters are the reason Bicycle magazine named Minneapolis the #1 bike city in America. Cheers to you, winter cyclists. That said, I hope most of you weren’t out in this mess today.

Photo taken by Christopher Baker.

And in other sports…

The Metrodome roof collapsed!

Fox news video.

Via: Minnesota Public Radio:

Dome Buster: 5th biggest snowstorm for Metro

Posted at 2:47 PM on December 12, 2010
by Paul Huttner

BoingBoing article re-posted in it’s entirety by Michael Holloway


Posted: December 13th, 2010
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