Wednesday, August 28, 2013



I was trying to make a turn at University and College to deliver Mary to a hospital appointment but cyclists were buzzing all around me and sneaking through a red light and living up to their rep as road anarchists.
Just another day in the traffic chaos of downtown which grows worse every week, especially when there is construction on every block.
Plenty of time in the resulting traffic jam to recall an interesting article by a chap named Peter Shawn Taylor in the summer edition of Canadian Business. I have never heard of Taylor but he certainly knows how to think outside the box, a cliche phrase that I dislike but seems to fit here.
Taylor is in favour of road tolls, which I hate. They're just an awkward means to raise some money while employing a lot of dubious bureaucrats and expensive computer equipment.
A sub headline on his article caught my eye: "Tolls are a fair, free-market fix for gridlock - and a great way to make Prius drivers pay their share."
Another block of type illustrating the column read: "A Prius takes up just as much of the road - and causes just as much rush-hour congestion - as a gas burner, but pays a fraction of the gas tax.  How is that fair?"
Of course it isn't. Governments soak motorists through horrendous gas taxes which used to be collected just for roads and road maintainance but became such a golden gush that they use our road taxes for every service that they struggle to deliver.
 Building cars that use less fuel is a good way to go - although often when you consider the additional purchase costs they are not as much of a bargain as they seem - but they still use the same roads as the rest of us do, and we pay more for the privilege.
But Taylor, and good for him, prompted me to think as well of those freeloaders on our roads, the cyclists. I'm not talking about kids or pleasure riders but those who hurtle regularly down streets and sidewalks and x-walks  and through stop signs to work or on deliveries, often trying to copy Lance Armstrong in their gear and their expensive bikes.
Since cyclists insist on having safe space around them, and that is only reasonable, they use up almost as much space as a car but the problem comes with their speed which is generally slower except for the maniacs. Two or three cyclists riding along a city block effectively close one lane to a greater number of cars and trucks. One cyclist certainly has as much impact on rushhour traffic as one vehicle, but it's the motorist and the municipal taxpayer who have to pay for every inch of asphalt while the rogue cyclists thumb their noses at the Establishment..
So the question isn't just why we are using tax money to provide special bike lanes for them, it is why we are not expecting adult cyclists to pay a bit towards the roads that we build and maintain through expensive taxes on our homes and our fuels.
So we enter a red-tape world that I hate, but we're talking about annual bike licences for adults, which would be useful for revenue and to reduce theft. We're talking about real fines for blatantly breaking traffic laws and not having a licence. And we're talking about banning cyclists from major roads during the morning and evening rushhours which lately seem to run from 7 to 7.
The fashion in government is for user pay. The lefties in government aren't big fans of that. They want others to pay. The 10-speed socialists would hate the idea of any fees or new rules for bikes since they are the great shield for cyclists on the grounds that environmentalists vote for them.
But there is no disputing the basic fact that the socialists love to ignore. Private vehicles move all goods and most Torontonians to works and play. Drivers pay the most for the roads while subsidizing the TTC riders which don't pay the complete cost of their ride. And cyclists pay zip while cursing The Man for not fixing more potholes and not providing more bike lanes which effectively reduce the road space available for the cars that move most of the people.
It's not fare.

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