Wednesday, June 3, 2009


If We Build Them, Will They Really Come?

In the last three days, I travelled 70 kms around Toronto's west end and spotted three cyclists,
That is if you count the one that hit me while he carried his bike up the St. George subway stairs, and the one I saw pushing his bike through the Royal York subway station.
There was only one person actually peddling along a road, even though in my neighbourhood of Royal York and Bloor, new expensive bike lanes have been built or have been planned for every roadway except those in Park Lawn Cemetery.
(Damn it, now I've given them a new location.)
Since we have spent so much equipping TTC vehicles to carry bikes, and far more millions squeezing cars on roads so that the occasional cyclist can zip along, you would have thought cyclists would be everywhere, although I doubt they would ever reach the numbers I saw in 1985 in Beijing.
(Beijing now bans bikes in some areas as a million cars each year are added to its roads.)
Under cross examination, I will confess that my six trips by car and two by the TTC were not during rushhour and ranged from Bloor and Yonge out into southern Mississauga.
And there are certainly many days when I have seen more than just three bikes. But it must be obvious to all but the dumb people pushing bike lanes that the concentration of cyclists in the central city and around the campuses is not typical of what you find on suburban streets.
However, when sensible councillors like Doug Holyday say that they often travel around Toronto without seeing a single cyclists, they are ridiculed by council's majority of woolly socialists and limp liberals as just being silly.
And council will vote for more bike lanes, say on Jarvis St., which has been the most efficient north-south route from and to Bloor and has now been fatally wounded.
Perhaps the most galling argument comes from the politicians and activists who concede that there are many expanses of bike lanes not being used much of the time but that really doesn't matter because if the city builds more bike lanes, they will come. (Thus stealing the philosophical heart of a great movie about baseball, Field of Dreams.)
Ironically, that's a variation of the argument justifying why the city doesn't build more roads or improve the crumbling ones because if it did, that would just attract more traffic.
Here is what City Hall must do to end this bike-lane madness that rewards guerilla commuters who may use them when it's not snowing or raining. (Let's remember the old joke that Canada has 10 months of winter and two months of bad skiing.)
The politicians should do an honest census of present use.
The politicians should ban cyclists from major traffic arteries during rushhours. They plaster signs around for everything else; that would be an easy thing to do. And all you have to do is to have two people on bikes on one block of Bloor during rushhour and you kill one lane in that block for the cars who are moving far more people. Don't give me that crap about all the cars with only one person in them. Bikes really don't play much of a role in moving people during rushhour, even if pols who must smoke funny cigarettes say they do.)
The major measure is for politicians to tax cyclists. Motorists pay for the roads through their taxes on permits and gasoline. They have to pay to park in front of their homes or on their lawns. In fact, so much money is collected from motorists, it goes into general revenues to fund programs that have nothing to do with cars or roads or traffic jams.
Why should cyclists not pay for their share of the expensive asphalt surface? I know they want to have the rights of pedestrians on sidewalks and at X-walks, to ride against the traffic and make turns without stopping, but now that they boast of their bikes costing hundreds of dollars and capable of speeds higher than the posted limit on city streets, but there must be some responsibility for the extra costs and inconvenience to which they are putting other people, including pedestrians.
City Hall taxes everything else, even cats, which are the ideal urban pet and should be free of such nonsense. The Miller Lites eventually plan to tax us for everything. A council that puts parking meters in parks can certainly install them for park benches too.
Isn't it logical that such a body would try to recover some road costs from cyclists? And if it doesn't, Toronto motorists should launch a class action suit against City Hall. Under the Charter, all Canadians must be treated equally, and when you tax only one group of the people who use a city service, you are being discriminatory.
Since council's majority is used to giving deals to their buddies in unions and politics, the sad reality is that we are going to have to sue it to get it to treat the huge majority of motorists on the road as well as it now does the guerilla commuters.
Maybe we should all paint our cars green. But let's not try anything logical. That never works at City Hall.

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