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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.

"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


Posted: January 31st, 2011
Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

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

  1. 1 misslynx said at 7:34 pm on February 4th, 2011:

    I have to say – I think you’re being a little bit too harsh on her. While I certainly don’t agree with her anti-cycling stance or her rather bizarre contention that we’re somehow secretly in control of everything, the problem she’s talking about is not nonexistent by any means.

    The unfortunate fact is that while yes, there are more sensible and well-behaved cyclists than the anti-bike faction want to admit, there are also more irresponsible jackasses on bikes than most of us want to admit. As a cyclist who has also been known to actually walk places, I have, many times, run into exactly the sort of thing she describes – idiots on bikes (I don’t want to dignify them with the term cyclists) blasting down the sidewalk at top speed, narrowly missing pedestrians and apparently not caring whether they give anyone a heart attack.

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable to be an avid cycling and advocate for better cycling infrastructure, etc., without feeling the need to defend everyone everywhere who rides a bike no matter how badly they behave while doing it.

    While there may be a few situations in which we’re forced onto the sidewalk due to suddenly running into construction or other road hazards, the vast majority of the time there is no good reason to do ride on the sidewalk, and most of the people who do it only do because they can’t be bothered to actually learn how to ride in traffic safely. So honestly – I don’t mind the idea of a crackdown on that, and don’t see it as a “war on the bike” any more than expecting car drivers to behave responsibly is a “war on the car” like the conservatives seem to think.

    The flip side of rights is responsibilities – if we want to fight for our rights (and I do), we also have the responsibility not to be – or defend – inconsiderate jackasses.

  2. 2 michael holloway said at 5:28 pm on February 7th, 2011:


    Thanks for commenting. I’ve been gathering my thoughts for a couple of days before I responded.

    I agree there is a problem. When I dove messenger at the turn of the century (sic :) I saw couriers using the sidewalk as if they were Masters of the Universe – one mistake someones hurt – and messenger becomes an instant schmuck. But, I question the writers motives. A call for more safe cycling infrastructure (like pointing to the proposed Richmond Bikeway, and calling for more of the same) AND targeting unsafe use of the sidewalk – by all users – could have been a progressive tangent to this story – but I believe there is a hidden agenda here; the Toronto Sun and the brain trust in the Mayor’s Office and reactionary Tories are attempting to demonize cycling – playing off their victory-over-truth in the Darcy Allan Sheppard case – towards more car lanes, more car sales and more unsustainable economy – which will be the death of us all.

    It cannot stand; I don’t think I was overboard – I don’t think that’s possible here.

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