Thursday, July 4, 2013



The cyclist image reached its tipping point just a year or so again, plummeting from sainthood.
It's now so acceptable to complain that even the guru (in his own mind) David Suzuki concedes that a lot of the criticism of the arrogant and dangerous behaviour of cyclists is valid.
 And Suzuki has never seen a lefty or eco cause that he hasn't adored if it hurts motorists.
We should thank Karen Stintz (but not elect her mayor) for her self-obsessed attitude when she got a $110 ticket for cruising through a stop sign on the bike she occasionally rides to City Hall. (Because she thought it would make her look good to downtown activists to ride 7 km to Silly Hall twice a week. After all, the left considers drivers evil and suburbanites grubs you find under rocks.)
 Since even stupidity is never completely black and white, Stintz argues that there really isn't a stop sign where she was caught sweaty-footed, but the cop considered it an intersection where people on wheels should stop. So she'll probably win on a technicality in court but not in public image because she volunteers she often (always?) rolls through stops like most cyclists in Toronto.
As the chair of the transit commission and one of the supposed leaders of Toronto city council, one would expect more of Stintz, She got elected after she replied to an ad looking for candidates and has done her best to make herself acceptable to voters, even taking speech lessons to calm her strange speaking patterns.
 But isn't it nice when dubious politicians blow themselves up!
One would argue that all councillors, particularly those who supervise the multi-billion-dollar TTC operation, should set an example for the rest of us, not feed the transportation scofflawism that makes the routine car trip downtown a guerilla operation with bodies hurtling by stalled cars as if they were berserk missiles.
Unfortunately we get stuck with militant cyclists/councillors like Glen De Baeremaeker who boasted to the Star that the first thing he does when he gets up is put on his bike gear. I suppose the second thing is to reread the Little Red Book about all the things he and officials can do to handicap all those cars and trucks who insist on also being on the road when he rides to council.
I would like to see a study comparing the efficiency of vehicles and bikes in moving people. I would add delivering goods but we all know that even hardened cyclists don't deliver items like furniture. I suggest to you that if we ever got an honest examination of the impact of one person on one bike on a busy city street, we would find they cause two to three times the impact of a car. But such a study will never happen because of pols like Stintz because they believe the bike benefits are more important than the 80% of us who move around Toronto each day by vehicles because the TTC isn't convenient or is too crowded.
I have written about the casual approach by too many cyclists to too many rules of the road, in, for example a blog on May 9 titled Cyclists are the biggest road menace. And if you go to, you will find several columns on road issues and how City Hallers yell at each other and talk expensive transportation dreams without bothering to try to get more out of the existing system by actually applying common sense approaches.
One thing has become obvious to me, and it should be to the columnists/commentators who now consider it safe to no longer toe the line where bike lanes and cyclists are part of a Holy Grail approach to moving people where motorists are handicapped and pedestrians and cyclists are considered half-way to Heaven.
It was always obvious on the old regional council called Metro that downtowners were more demanding in taxes, services and social assistance, and suburbanites believed in less demands on government and a more conservative approach to taxation. Bikes were a downtown thing needing help to survive while suburban cyclists could look after themselves.
The downtown-suburban split on most issues cripples much of the supposed decision making of council since amalgamation. Rob Ford could be a slim moderate mini-controvery mayor and he would still be attacked by the Adam Vaughans of the world because he's a suburbanite.
 And since Ford wanders from disaster to disaster like a Model T weakened by rust, city politics resembles a mud fight during a college initiation.
All you have to do is drive from my neighbourhood in downtown Etobicoke to, say, University and College, and the number of cyclists soars along with their militant behaviour the closer you get to the centre.
 In much of the suburbs, cyclists are fewer and restrained and have little impact on traffic. Downtown during rushhour they handicap traffic. Banning bikes during rush hour on major streets like Bloor or King is something that even cyclists that I know think would be a good idea. And more $110 tickets for the Stintzs of the world, who are so arrogant that they don't even  try to conceal that they have been caught breaking a bylaw, might calm the two-wheeled anarchy.
I have a soft spot in my heart for The Netherlands because my mother was born there and I find it such an interesting country to visit. As I recall from the September when Toronto officially twinned with Amsterdam, Dutch cyclists on their plain bikes could give many lessons on behaviour to those in Toronto. And I'm talking about an estimated 880,000 bikes in a city of 800,000.
RecentlyI yelled at an older woman dressed in black riding a bike without lights and reflectors the wrong-way on a one-way street around 10 p.m. ,She screamed back. Why couldn't I leave her alone? Because if I hit you, you damn fool, it would change my life, and yours too, because you would probably be buried.
I find driving around T.O. these days a dangerous gamble, like I was juggling lighted dynamite. There is always someone walking behind the car when you back up, or trying to take the parking spot from you, or meandering in front of you on a turn talking into their phone. Traffic is dangerous enough without cyclists ignoring traffic signs, roaring down sidewalks and thinking they can float through the night as if the Star of Bethlehem was shining down on them like a spotlight.
I may drive the acceptable rate over the speed limit (but never in a school zone) but I obey bylaws and rules, from not littering and obeying stop signs, and generally not being a member of the growing pack of scofflaws that figure acceptable behaviour legally is what you can get away with.
 I care about survival, me first, then the cyclist.
It may be a stretch but is the reason that I see more motorists of all ages, particularly younger ones, routinely rolling through stop signs and gambling at lights,  because making illegal turns or not stopping has became routine in recent years, particularly for kids on bikes..
I don't think accident rates have spiked because of this but it certainly takes a toll on the nerves of drivers. You approach a routine traffic signal watching for the guy who isn't even going to catch the amber as he speeds through. Just going down your home street can be an adventure because of cyclists and motorists not even pretending to stop at the side streets. And construction, landscaping and delivery trucks seem to compete in awkward parking that blocks easy traffic flow.
When I get home without a dent or near collision (and I hasten to add I have an almost perfect accident record), I settle before the TV for a couch potato hour to relax with an old movie. Nope, never a Western, because after all I have already had my fill on the way home of stampedes and runaways and punks seeing how far they can go in thumbing their noses at the rules of civilization.
Survival of the fittest, they used to say, before cyclists decided they were the gods of the road.  

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