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“War on the Car” about faces into a “War on the Bike”

Toronto Cyclists Union President, Heather McDonald’s “Open Letter to Councillor Del Grande”; Toronto Sun Columnist’s Sue-Ann Levy’s “Crackdown on cycle-paths” and FreeWheel (me) drop the gloves as Mayor Ford’s election theme becomes a image branding war on cycling.

Originally published at Toronto Cyclist’s Union website – 01/30/2011

Open Letter to Councillor Del Grande

30 January, 2011 – 22:37
by Heather McDonald

Dear Councillor Del Grande

As the President of the Toronto Cyclists Union, I’d like to respond to your recent comments about cyclists.

Members of the Public Works Committee focused their discussion on the need to provide cyclists with greater safety options in addressing sidewalk cycling. We believe this is a first step in the right direction on this matter, and commend members of the Public Works Committee for taking this step!

Every workday I cycle along Queen Street West from my home to my work at St. Michael’s Hospital. Cycling is efficient, affordable and I arrive at work alert and ready for my day. I am cautious and rule abiding. After all, as a cyclist I know that any collision in which I should be involved I would likely find myself in worse condition than the driver of a car. More often than not my ride is a pleasant experience, though there have been several times where I’ve been jeered, heckled, called nasty names and told to “get in the bike lane”. I would gladly get into a bike lane should there be any such facility on Queen street or any adjacent street. Alas, there is no alternative and I am forced to put up with my vulnerable position on Queen.

Your recent comments about cyclists on the sidewalk only serves to fuel rhetoric and the harassment I potentially face on my daily trip to work.

Your statement that cyclists “rule the roost” is strange. If this were the case our road space would be allocated much differently. Instead, less than 2% of roads currently have bike lanes or dedicated space for cyclists. The Heart and Stroke Foundation states that “to improve the heart health of Canadians and reduce the risks of heart disease and stroke, …community planning and development should consider the extent to which a community has mixed land use, a variety of housing options and affordability, encourages walking, biking and other forms of active transportation and has sufficient density to provide frequent public transit service to residents.”

I implore everyone to be respectful of pedestrians and we are working on strategies to help educate cyclists on the rules of the road. However, cycling on the sidewalk is not the problem it is made out to be. The 2010 City of Toronto Bicycle Count Report found that a negligible number of cyclists ride on the sidewalk, and even fewer cyclists rode on the sidewalk when there was a bike lane available.

A sad reality in Toronto is that on average 30 people die each year in Toronto while walking. Rather than placing blame – it’s time to recognise that cyclists can be part of the solution. A recent study in New York found a 40% reduction in all collisions after the implementation of a bike lane. That means drivers, cyclists and pedestrians were safer when politicians made a decision to put in a bike lane.

The Toronto Cyclists Union is working actively to help encourage people of all ages to have the ability get around safely by bicycle. We have developed a handbook published in 17 languages to help people understand and follow the rules of the road; we offer roadside service; education and outreach to newcomers. We are working with people across the City to collaborate with neighbours and councillors to create safe passages for cyclists.

I think there is at least one thing on which we could agree. People of all ages need safe ways to travel across the City. Promoting active transportation serves many goals for our community health and wellbeing. It’s time to cease the rhetoric and move on to offering solutions that provide options for active transportation, whether it be walking, cycling or transit. I urge you and your fellow council members to resolve to set aside name calling and unnecessarily negative sentiments about cycling.

It would be my pleasure to meet with you to talk more about this issue or have you join me on my ride to work to gain a perspective on the experience. As two people who love this City, let’s work constructively to find more ways to make our City a safe, enjoyable, and vibrant place to live.

Respectfully yours,

Heather McDonald

President and Chair of the Board, Toronto Cyclists Union

***

Bravo TCU – nicely put.

It looks to me like the open letter may have been in response to this opinion piece exemplifying perfectly the Ford-ites attempt to demonize Toronto Cyclists that appeared in the Toronto Sun last week, a piece by Sue-Ann Levy from Thursday the 27th 2011:

In my opinion this article looks like it was co-written with the brain trust in the Mayor’s Office as they develop this “War on the Bicycle” out of Mayor Ford’s “The War on the Car” theme:

(Reprinted in full – and MY “Open Letter” added in italics, (and a photo of Li’l Abner, and an adorable photo of a puppy – they are so mewling-ly cute aren’t they? )

Crackdown on cycle-paths: Levy

It’s time to enforce city bylaw banning bicyclists from the sidewalk
by Sue-Ann Levy

(Ha-ha, get it? “cycle-paths” = psychopaths. So the Sun is borrowing my ideas without credit? FreeWheel Blog: I (and you) subsidize Road Raging ‘cycle killers’) )

I will make no bones about it.

Cyclists who use the sidewalks to get from Point A to Point B in this city are for the most part rude, arrogant and a pain in the neck.

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been startled by sidewalk cyclists aggressively pedalling behind me — without warning — as I walked my two dachsies or jogged on the city’s sidewalks, forcing me and my dogs to quickly jump out of their way.

deviantart.net

"Seriously Sue-Ann; Do I look like I was born yesterday?"

(Sue-Ann Levy should be writing ad copy for Ab Busters, or the Patty Stacker or something. “..aggressively pedalling behind me — without warning…” ? What does that mean? Talk about lifestyle interrupted.And as if anyone in this town who owns purebreds actually walks their own pets anymore. And, “..quickly jump out of their way…” That’s natural wording for sure, good stuff; but wiener dogs don’t jump – deary.)

Dare tell them the sidewalks are for pedestrians. Even dare.

(What’s a girl to do? — Call in the storm troopers of coarse!)

More often than not that suggestion is greeted with an obscenity or the middle finger.

It’s not enough that the city’s helmet-heads feel they own the roads with their constant mewlings for more bike lanes on major thoroughfares.

(Political lesson #1: When mewling about a non-existent problem, always accuse those questioning you’re sanity of “mewling”. And while you’re at it add an ironic and confusing Nazi reference like “helmet-head”. I know myself, when ever I come across some mewling, no-account, progressive, intellectual, pinko geek on a bike I just wanna smash ‘em to a bloody pulp – don’t you?)

Evidently, they believe they have the right to commandeer our sidewalks, too.

But why shouldn’t they?

For years — most particularly under the David Miller regime — the bike lobby was given a free ride at City Hall.

(Sometimes there are just too many opportunities for a pun aren’t there?)

The Millerites fawned over them — giving them bike lanes and a sympathetic ear whenever they desired either.

The police have openly opted to ignore their infractions, much like they do with aggressive panhandling in this town.

(What history book is that from? The Squeegee kids were offered a carrot and a stick: continue to panhandle and get fined and/or arrested, or enroll at one of the schools the city set up to teach bicyle mechanics – so they could earn money repairing bikes.)

So it is with a sense of hope for a return to sanity on our sidewalks that I will be monitoring the renewed push to enforce the city’s sidewalk cycling bylaw, approved at public works committee Wednesday.

The bylaw, according to transportation general manager Gary Welsh, makes it illegal for those on bikes with tires greater than 61 cm (or 24 inches) to ride on the sidewalk.

He noted while the bylaw itself is harmonized across the city, the fine is not — leaving the penalties ranging from $90 in Toronto to $8.75 on a former Metro road.

He said his staff will be coming back in the spring with a proposal for a harmonized fee.

But there is no reason why the police can’t enforce the existing bylaw and fine structure in the meantime, he added.

Coun. Karen Stintz, who led the charge with a motion to council last September (which subsequently got referred to public works), said she brought the issue forward following complaints of Sidewalk Cyclists riding off-road along Eglinton Ave. (between Bathurst and Yonge), Yonge St. and Avenue Rd.

The complaints related to seniors and young families with strollers almost being hit by the helmet-heads as they endeavoured to whiz by.

(As a “helmet-head” myself, I know I always endeavor to whiz by things whenever possible – I always transpose the danger I feel in traffic and mirror the fear onto those less able to defend themselves, it makes me feel better and, it’s the natural order of things – isn’t it? Just look at the helmet-head Hilter, in Germany.)

She said she hopes the campaign will start by improving public awareness of the bylaw and then lead to enforcement.

“We have initiatives to make it safer to ride in the city,” Stintz said, referring to the many bike lane projects either completed or underway. “That doesn’t include cycling on the sidewalk …sidewalks are for pedestrians.”

Budget chief Mike Del Grande enthusiastically endorses a clampdown on Sidewalk Cyclists.

He said he almost got mowed down twice by cyclists while walking his dog. The spoke-heads, he said, didn’t even think, or know how, to use “their friggin’ bell” (if they even had one).

“The reality is the lowest common denominator is the pedestrian (in this city),” he said. “Cyclists feel they have a God-given right to do whatever they want.”

Del Grande wants to be clear he has absolutely nothing against cyclists.

Nor do I. In fact, while I do not ride my bike in the winter, I regularly cycle in the summer (and on the road). Del Grande feels cyclists have to be responsible and accountable, too, by obeying the rules of the road.

“They have a sense of entitlement … they feel they are entitled to do what they want and do it anytime,” he said.

(Next thing you know these helmet-head, spoke-heads will begin to think they’re entitled to safe infrastructure so they can continue to reduce traffic congestion, pollution and noise with their friggin’ peddling.)

“They rule the roost.”

(Yep. They rule the roost – that for sure eh.)

Read the story at The Toronto Sun

Li'l Abner Cartoon by Al Capp

Yep, 'They rule the roost', don't they Salomey?

Unless more drivel like this enters my purview, I’m taking my tongue out of my cheek for a whole year now – that hurt.

:]

Dachshund and Li’l Abner images linked to source.

Related Posts:

Councillor Stintz Wants to Target 5% of Cyclists Who Use Sidewalks

..and comments by FreeWheel there:

Comment 1

Comment 2

Comment 3

mh



Posted: January 31st, 2011
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Introducing a new blog title: “FreeWheel”

It’s a new decade and after almost ten months with the old, uninspired blog title, “Michael Holloway’s Blog” it was time for a change.  Compared to some of the great titles people who blog here at BikingToronto have come up with – like “Duncan’s City Ride”, “Fletcher Five” and “ThumbShift” – Michael Holloway’s Blog was a tad “un-cool”.

I’ve been thinking about a new title for a while now – this morning, thinking along the lines of what bike parts might best describe what kind of Blog this has evolved into, I thought a freewheel might describe this place well – the more I played with the idea the more I liked it.

wikimedia.org Freewheel.jpg

A freewheel is a clutch inside the sprocket stack on your rear wheel, it transferees power to the drive wheel when you pedal - Freewheel Blog advocates for cycling in a free thinking manner.

Let me explain; I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about bicycling — although the way I write the things I’m thinking about may give readers a different impression than that — but I’m not affaid to write about stuff that I may not know all that is necessary to know on a particular topic in order to make a useful contribution to the commons, but this is a blog – and for me that means a place to learn and grow. Mistakes, omissions and just plain bad spelling is out there for all to see — all I can say is that any errors I make – I hope I learn from.

As such I’m a bit of a loose cannon in the bicycle advocacy world, or a more positive allusion – A FreeWheel.

mh



Posted: January 21st, 2011
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The Toronto/GTA Bicycle Mapping Wiki gets a New Icon

Thought of this and made it with Microsoft Paint.

Points of the Compass image from “Education Technology Group“.

The Biking Toronto Toronto/GTA Bicycle Mapping Wiki is a not for profit entity.

mh



Posted: January 16th, 2011
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“War on the Car” – the death throes of the culture of an obsolete technology

Apparently Mayor Rob Fords “War on the Car” mythos is taking hold elsewhere too – as the 50 years obsolete technology hangs on in it’s final dieing gasps of irrelevant continence, the obstinate denizens of the death culture lash out at any nearby targets – like cyclists.

From George Monbiot Blog in The Guardian.co.uk:

Tuesday 4 January 2011

In search of the famous ‘war on motorists’

The only transport war being waged in this country is by motorists – against pedestrians and cyclists


Where is this famous war on the motorist? Can anyone point me to the battlefields, the graves of the war dead, the statues commemorating the unknown driver? Who has been waging it and when was it fought?

What I see is that driving has become cheaper over the past three decades, while other forms of transport have become more expensive. That the space dedicated to cars – both on the roads and for parking – has expanded, often at the expense of other kinds of public space. There is precious little enforcement of either the speed limit or of other rules – such as parking on the pavement in residential areas. When someone is killed or injured as a result of careless driving, the penalties are tiny, if there is any punishment at all. As a result, motorists are able to take space – and even life – away from people pursuing other activities.

The only places in which you can see what looks like the outcome of a war are hospital wards which treat people with terrible injuries inflicted by poorly regulated drivers. But in this case the “war” is being waged by motorists against pedestrians and cyclists.

The two men who have just announced that they will “end the war on the motorist” – Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, and Eric Pickles, the communities secretary – are living in a dream world. Or, perhaps more accurately, a media world, in which the fantasies of the rightwing tabloids are treated as if they were reality.

Yesterday they said that they are “removing national planning restrictions put in place in 2001 that required councils to limit the number of parking spaces allowed in new residential developments and set high parking charges to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport.”

There are two obvious and immediate outcomes. The first is that there will be less space for housing. Land is finite, and development land is in short supply. This means that there’s a pay-off between the amount on which you can build and the amount on which you can park. Pickles and Hammond seem to be putting the demand for second and third cars over the need for new housing. Either housing sprawls over an ever wider area of countryside (which, incidentally, makes people even more dependent on their cars) or less of it can be accommodated on existing sites.

The second is that there will be less money for local authorities, which means that services must be cut even further. Parking fees are an important part of many councils’ revenues – something has to go.

But the wider impacts are just as important. This is about private interests trumping the wider public interest, about allowing people to pursue individual self-interest, regardless of the cost to society. [...]

Read the rest…

In keeping with BikingToronto Blogger “nodders” take (Toronto Cycling Community in a Non-Bike Friendly Environment), that in this culture of reaction a less confrontational approach is required… I would add that disabling the car culture should be approached with calls for more transportation alternatives. The car has run out of room in the cities that it itself has built; the car will entangle itself in it’s own obsolescence as more and more cars crowd a finite amount of driving space, especially in the inner cities – as such people will look for alternatives – those need to be built now.

References:

Read more of George Monboit’s enlightened blog posts at the Gardian.co.uk

mh



Posted: January 16th, 2011
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‘The Great Wall’ – Highway 401 – cyclists describe ways across the busiest highway in the North America

For cyclists and pedestrians, the 401 highway cuts Toronto in two – for them ironically, the highway is a barrier to transportation.

In exploring the ways in which cyclists navigate the Great Wall I hope we can discover what’s missing from the infrastructure puzzle to enable a sustainable city.

Today in comments – over at a post introducing the “Great Wall” theme here in The Blog – Todd Tyrtle left some tried and tested solutions. So far I’ve made a map of the first of his suggestions.

Click on the map image below (opens in a new window) to go to the map in The Wiki, which links to the original Google Map.

(You may be wondering, ‘What happened to Google Maps embed feature anyway???’. It’s in beta, still testing, hopefully it will be back soon.)

(Google Map link: http://goo.gl/maps/smKD )

Todd Tyrtle's Avenue Road Route - Over the Great Wall

Toronto/GTA Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki – “Finch Ave. West to Bloor St. West and Avenue Road“.

mh



Posted: January 4th, 2011
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