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3,000 kms and Positioning the Toronto Cycling Community in a Non-Bike Friendly Environment

OK – I have hit 3,000 kms and it is time to update my blog (I seem to have gotten into a pattern of doing that every 1,000 kms). Many thanks to Mayor Ford for getting me thinking and giving me something to write about this time!

The ongoing debate between cars and bikes sharing the same road infrastructure in Toronto generally positions the two communities as diametrically opposed to one another; bikes gain at the expense of cars and vice versa. Countless media and political statements reference the “war on the car”. Debate around the Jarvis street bike lanes was oriented towards the negative impact on traffic flow and how the cycling community benefited at the expense of cars.

This orientation and perspective sets up a “win-lose” dynamic and one in which, given current political shifts, will likely result in significant losses to the bicycling community.

I think that cycling advocates need to seriously consider how they position their messaging in a fashion that is palatable to the anti-cycling establishment. This does not mean to acquiesce to their positions, but to change the context of the discussion in a way that supports the interests of Toronto’s cycling community.

Would we get farther if messaging was based on the underlying message that promoting cycling infrastructure actually benefits vehicular traffic flow and makes for a less stressful driving experience in Toronto? I think we would.

Studies that have been conducted on “bike boxes” (recently introduced in TO) demonstrates that they improve the flow of traffic for cars and, particularly, make for easier right hand turns because there is not a long line of bikes heading straight though the intersection. Great message and, by the way, it makes it safer for me on my bike as I don’t get squeezed by cars turning right.

How about bike lanes? When I am in a bike lane, cars do not need to worry about where I am going to go, or if I am going to veer out in front of them. Cars can drive by me (usually I am driving by them) totally unobstructed and without fear of hitting me. But then I pull onto Queen and head down Peter Street where I am continually jockeying for position with cars creating stress on my part and their part! In my mind, the average driver out there is truly concerned for my safety and don’t want to hit me. Putting me in a bike lane makes it easier on them!

I know many people who are really impressed that I bike to the office. They would love to do that they say, but they are afraid of the traffic and concerned for their safety. So they drive to work. Hmmm…my bike takes up a lot less space than a car. Imagine if these folk left there cars in the driveway and biked to work instead. More bikes, less cars, less gridlock. Wouldn’t that be great for those who choose to drive their cars to work!

So the messaging is this: increasing bicycling infrastructure improves traffic flow and creates a less stressful and safer driving experience for all. “Mister Mayor Ford, as a bicycle commuter, I want to make things better for car drivers – I want them to have less gridlock and enjoy their drive in a less stressful environment…you know, connecting bike lanes would help accomplish that! Oh, BTW at a considerably cheaper cost”.

Something to think about. As for 4,000 kms before the snow flies? Hmmm…..

Posted: October 27th, 2010
Filed under: Uncategorized | 5 Comments »