It's that time of year again: Anti-cyclist newspaper articles

Parked on the Sidewalk: Perth Ave., April 6 2009.Parked on the Sidewalk: Perth Ave., April 6 2009.

It's that time of year again. The snow is long gone, the potholes are getting patched up, and many "fair weather" cyclists have returned to riding and increased our numbers on the streets. This is also the time of year when most major newspapers publish an anti-cyclist rant of some form of another.

The Toronto Star kicked it off on April 28th when they published a letter titled Ahh, the annual rites of spring. Letter writer Rick Morris rants about cyclists breaking traffic laws, and seems to show some signs of jealousy about how cyclists can get ahead in car-gridlocked traffic. The Star also published a couple of responses to this letter, from Gabriela Byron and Brian Huntley.

The Toronto Sun came out swinging yesterday with Joe Warmington's Pedal-pushers a problem article.

Joe's rant starts off with the typical bashing of sidewalk cyclists, and I can actually agree with him here. Sidewalks are for pedestrians, and roads are for vehicles. I'm not sure why he didn't rant about motorists parking and driving on sidewalks though. In all honesty, in my neighbourhood I see more motorists parked and/or driving on sidewalks than cyclists, causing a MUCH more dangerous and inconvenient pedestrian environment than any sidewalk cyclists around here.

The next standard anti-cyclist point that Joe tries to make is that many cyclists are evil lawbreakers:

Many don't wear helmets or abide by stoplights or signs, don't wait their turn in traffic and instead fly up the right or left of it.

Well, Joe, you should dust off your law books and verify your facts. Helmets are only mandatory for people under 18 years old, and there's nothing illegal about passing stopped traffic on the left or right. I'm sorry if you're stuck waiting behind other motorists blocking your way, but if it's safe to do so, I will pass and continue on my way while you sit there and fume. Joe is right about many cyclists not stopping, but motorists are almost as bad in this case too, with much deadlier potential.

Next we have the typical "cyclists don't pay for anything" whine:

Many are hazards to themselves and everybody else, which is not really fair since they don't pay for licensing or insurance or the tax charged for every fuel fill-up that maintains the roads.

Joe, I'll show you my tax bill if you're interested. As homeowners and renters in the City of Toronto, we pay for the roads just as much as motorists do. And the only reason why motorists are required to have insurance is because of the massive amounts of carnage they generate. Yet as cyclists, we still pay for all the extra policing and medical services required to sustain the motoring population.

I enjoyed this quote too:

Right after Car-Free Day in Toronto this September I wish they would then have a Bike- Free Day -- just as a reminder to these cyclists that using our roads is a privilege.

I see Bike-Free Day every day when I cross Highway 427. It's a mess of asphalt and mostly single-occupancy vehicles choking each other to death. When one motorist kills or hurts another, the grind comes to a complete standstill (I often read about some nasty incident in the paper after seeing some unusually bad motor vehicle traffic). If this is what Joe Warmington actually looks for, then I'm afraid that he might actually be psychotic.

And here's the best one that Joe could come up with:

It's mind-boggling because there is nothing more dangerous on the road than bikes.

Yeah, Joe.... Cyclists are the ones killing, maiming, and choking people to death in Toronto. Joe should try to do some actual reporting, perhaps dig up some statistics, and then see who is causing the most danger on Toronto's roads.

Joe's final anti-cyclist point is:

It might not be popular to say, but by original design, bikes really don't belong on the road at all with streetcars, trucks, cars and motorcycles -- for the same safety reasons that ball hockey is outlawed on city streets, too.

Sorry Joe, but bicycles have been on Toronto's streets for longer than trucks, cars, and motorcycles, but maybe not horse-drawn streetcars.

So, in Today's Toronto Sun there are actually two articles that respond to Joe Warmington's rant. First off, we get treated to a dose of Sue-Ann Levy. Sue-Ann tries to score some cyclist sympathy points at the start of her article by talking about a recent ride she did in her neighbourhood, but then the rest of the article continues to bash cyclists. She always turns her articles into right-wing vs. left-wing battles, calling anyone who disagrees with her "Millerites". She didn't use her standard "socialist silly hall" or "His Blondness" quips in this article though. Darn.

(Note to TCAT and the Bike Union: You're doing well according to Sue-Ann when she calls you the "more-powerful-by-the-day bike lobby", and "the bike and clean air lobby, who've never had so much power at City Hall as they do now." Keep up the good work!)

Lastly, a breath of fresh air from the Toronto Sun this morning. Vivian Song responded directly to Joe Warmington's column and stood up for cyclists. Apparently, Vivian is one of the few sensible people down at the Toronto Sun who actually cycle to work.

I spoke to Vivian last night, and I could sense that she was all fired up about Joe Warmington's article. In her own pro-bike piece, she shreds Warmington's rant with statistics of motorist mayhem, and statistics about who actually enjoys their commutes more. Numbers that Warmington can't argue against.

Last year, motor vehicle accidents killed 42 people in Toronto -- 21 pedestrians, 13 drivers, six passengers and two cyclists. Who's more dangerous to whom?

Keep up the good fight, Vivian. It's an uphill battle at the Toronto Sun!


They see a few irresponsible cyclists, so assume all of them are. Do we assume all drivers are bad because of the one or two a******s that try to run us off the road?

But I don't like the cyclists that give us a bad name, for instance this morning there were a few cars ahead of me at a light on Queen at University. I waited in line. One cyclist filtered up on the right hand side, but there wasn't room and she banged into the minivan and then stumbled. She then proceeded to yell at the driver. I don't know what she yelled, but the minivan was stopped at the time, and was more or less in the center of the lane.

What's deal with the cops standing on Bathurst and Adelaide Street during rush hour? Are they looking to hand out a swath of tickets to cyclists who ride through the pedestrian lines or are they there to target cyclists who fail to stop when making a turn on to Adelaide while all automobiles are stopped at the red light?

I'm curious if anyone else has seen or been the target of a Toronto police crack down lately.

There are too many cyclists who are just plain dumb. I can understand riding on the sidewalk, though I don't approve of it, but at least recognize you're not supposed to be there and be considerate of pedestrians. I've seen a couple people riding on the wrong side of the street, apparently (???) to save time at intersections. And one guy almost ran into me once because he appeared to be texting.

Of course, I've also been nearly hit by several cars who made right turns without signalling - one of whom was making his turn from the left-hand lane.

Toronto. The city that hates bikes. Always has.

Actually, I do. I have to assume all the car drivers are terrible drivers, because the moment I switch off and trust in the greater good of the driver beside me, could be the moment that the driver decides to drift into the cycling lane, cut me off or worse.

In any case, it's human nature to vividly remember the negative. There are a lot of bad drivers out there and there are a lot of bad cyclists. It's not about the vehicle itself, it's about the person. I feel that education is the only way to fix a lot of our issues.

You're right on dash. Never do I lose focus. Mostly I make a game out of it, but sometimes I get very very tired of constantly looking out for car drivers intent on (unknowingly?) taking my life. Being alert works... so far.

The twitter feed on our site has a comment from someone that got a $110 no-bell fine. Lets not start a debate on how ridiculous that is as I'm sure we all agree.

On my morning bike commute I passed a marked cruiser that appeared to be stopped to ticket two cyclists. The cruiser was stopped quite far out from the curb I might add making it difficult to pass on a bicycle without hitting or crossing the streetcar tracks.

I put a wee black dinger from MEC on my bike just to avoid the ticket - since then I use it almost daily - PING!

If a cyclist disregards the rules of the road, then why shouldn't they get a ticket? Cyclists have to be accountable for their actions.

I remember last fall, trailing another cyclist along Danforth, after he left the sidewalk to join the road - riding at dark, in black clothing, without a light, or a helmet, or hands.

As I contemplated whether or not to engage my new found travelling companion, I noticed the light ahead turn red, then seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, he went right through the intersection and off into the night.

I should also mention that I find it highly amusing that Sue-Ann Levy apparently thinks that a "Clean Air Lobby" is such a bad thing. Unfortunately, the Dirty Air Lobby still has a chokehold on Toronto.

$100 fine for not having a bell is pretty extreme. But it's also pretty dumb to have to pay a $100 fine just because you couldn't be bothered to put a $5 bell on your bike.

Sorry vic: I think that's a typo. Should read "Clean Hair Lobby"

Yay more unfounded hatred and fear, I was just thinking our news media wasn't giving us enough of that on a daily basis.

Thankyou for the daily dose of negativity garbage, media publications!

In all seriousness no wonder I and a growning number of concious folks only check alt. news sources anymore, the mainstream ones are all corrupt.

Ping?... dang!

Until I realized that it was a waste of my time.

Does John or Jane Doe at Toronto newspaper X really believe all those stereotypes?

The big papers make their money off feeding people their own ignorance, and those people just love it because it confirms everything they secretly stereotyped about cyclists or cars or X.


Will you ever find something truly worthwhile in these rags? I doubt it but, I would like to be proven wrong

What I find ifrustrating is that I see most motorists breaking traffic laws on any given ride (besides in parks). The overwhelming majority of motorists don't seem to care for the speed limit, for instance. Many also don't signal and park illegally wherever they choose.

The double standard of many of these motorists is incredible.

You can almost tell how much of a paper's revenues come from the automotive sector by the commentary about cyclists vs cars and pedestrians vs cars. The more car freindly the paper or the more pro-car bias it seems to have, the more car ads that paper seems to carry.

I currently tend to like the Globe and Mail the best out of the mainstream daily papers. But none are perfect.

Besides, the new media love stories with "conflict" so telling the story of our activism for cycling infrastructure as the "war on the cars" sells more papers. Which is why our advocacy (ie our discussions with our neighbors, family and friends) has to be seen as more moderate, and why I tend to point out the paper is creating and selling "Hype" -- or is that hyperbole? Most people become more level headed when I offer them that reminder.

Watched the great debate last night on TVO: cars, bikes, transit, walkers, et. al. How come only the two Americans seemed to know how to get it done? The debate among the Torontonians was the same as GoldHawk last year, and has been the same NIMBY self-interested discussion for the last 10 years.

The Score:

Totally useless cycling, walking, driving, transit leadership in this city intent on fighting rather than getting things done = 1

Cyclists and pedestrians living in fear all day and all night = 0

American cities who get on with it = Overtime Win!

This town sucks, fire everyone on the panel and hire that guy from Portland.

This morning on my way to work as I was riding up Perth Ave., just a wee bit north of where the pictured car is parked, I saw another car pull up and park on the sidewalk. The kids walking to school on the sidewalk had to switch to single-file and squeeze between the car and the house's front yard.

To my left, a couple of bike cops came into the scene. I pointed out the illegally parked car, and that the cops should give the driver a ticket for parking on the sidewalk. One cop's excuse for not giving the ticket: "They're probably dropping a kid off".

Yeah, well...great. First of all, I didn't see any kid enter or leave that car. Second, there's plenty of room to park your car illegally ON THE ROAD, or legally ON THE ROAD if you park on the other side. Lots of room for other road users to pass when the cars are parked on the road, legally or not. But very little room for pedestrians to squeeze by when parked on the sidewalk. No way a stroller, wheelchair, or other walking aid would have fit through.

To the bike cops: I hope you enjoyed your casual joy ride around the city this morning. I hope I didn't disturb you too much. Better save up that energy for ticketing cyclists with no bells.

"If a cyclist disregards the rules of the road, then why shouldn't they get a ticket?"
-Tom Flaherty

Who says cyclists are immune to tickets? The Toronto Sun? Are you really that nieve?

There are more drivers getting tickets than cyclists yes, but that is only because the majority of road users are in automobiles. If there were more cyclists than automobiles mark my words you would see alot more bike cops and alot more cyclists getting ticketed.

Sigh at these illogical and hastily blurted out arguments.

My comment was intended to counter the perception ( ref. the Sun article) that drivers have re: cyclists being permitted to do illegal things.

During this time of the year there are plenty of cyclists that do crazy things on the road - and I'm totally fine with a system that is fair for all road users.

"During this time of the year there are plenty of cyclists that do crazy things on the road "
So do cars but you dont see "Motorists out of Control" in the Sun or any major publication.
It mostly comes down to a power struggle over the established form of transportation (cars) and the alternative and enduring form of transportation (bikes).

If there weren't trillion dollar industries surrounding the car im sure we wouldn't be having this conversation. Just look at the doc "who killed the electric car".

Two wrongs don't make a right but a mode of transportation that harms no one but yourself... why is it the motorists are the most vocal against cyclists when we cause no harm to anyone (usually) but ourselves [in a accident only, overall cycling is more healthy than driving as it improves the circulatory system and provides a good cardio workout not to mention you can socialise alot easier not being in a glass/metal cage]

Take for example the Safari van, im sure the guy in the van is completely fine yet the cyclist is being blamed left right in center for "listening to music" and "not wearing a helmet" while he probably will never be the same from his injuries. Maybe it was his fault but that isn't my point.

My point is:
Where are all the articles about all the motorists who listen to music WHILE on the cellphone WHILE in a sound muting metal cage and then get in a accident that injures/kills someone.
Few and far between.

Where is the justice?

I support equal treatment for both cyclists and drivers.

All drivers are not bad - and cars are here to stay, so we need to find a way to get a long; and remember, there are also bad cyclists out there.

The perceptions that some drivers have formed about cyclists are real, and it is more advantageous for cyclists to recognize this reality instead of raging against it.

The best course of action is to rise above bad behaviour and take the high road, when a driver lets me into their lane I usually give a thankful hand gesture to ensure they know I'm not taking the road for granted.

If you see a driver doing something illegal or unsafe then by all means report them to the police, I have.

"when a driver lets me into their lane I usually give a thankful hand gesture to ensure they know I'm not taking the road for granted."

Yea Im gonna thank a car everytime I see him for not turning me into grape jelly.
That sounds like a wonderful way to live.
Bow to all the generous motorists, they let a scary mean cyclist into their lane!

Tom you are full of double standards.

Despite the drivers complaining about scofflaw cyclists, most of the times I get yelled at, it was because I was following the rules! Nothing seems to get drivers riled up more than a cyclist who stops at stop signs, obeys the 30 km/h speed limit, and uses the left-hand lane when they're turning left.

Still, I'ld rather be me than them.


Why so angry?

The recognition described in my comment is directed at another person, not a car, and I don't prejudge all drivers and label them like you; I have found that it is better to assume that everyone I meet is enlightened until proven otherwise (imagine how you're doing right now).

If I decide to gesture at another road user for willingly sharing that space with me, it only serves as a modest reward of positive behaviour. It also gives me piece of mind when I decide to respond to bad drivers, just ask the cabbie that cut me off at Bloor & St.George today.

You remind me of some cynical college student that has to vet all the things they see and experience through an ideological security blanket, because they lack the wisdom that would otherwise guide them towards a higher understanding.

So, to reassure you, I don't bow to bad drivers and I will certainly not bow to your narrow view.

So we're being called Millerites? Damn, I really need to ride around town with my rifle all plainly visible (unfortunately, doing the same with a handgun, while more unambiguously non-Millerite, is quite unquestionably illegal).

... are you one of the cyclists who rides through red lights, rides wrong-way on one-way streets and generally makes life miserable for pedestrians? The sanctimonious tone of your posting says it all... and explains why Toronto cyclists have a terrible reputation. Learn your responsibilities, not just your rights.

Unfortunately, Toronto cyclists are developing a reputation as the rudest, most entitled in the world. it is shocking how many of them think it is OK to ride wrong way down busy one-way streets, roar through intersections full of pedestrians, and ride on sidewalks. This week I watched a cyclist yell and curse at a pedestrian who was crossing on a green light (the cyclist was running a red light!) The behavior of cyclists is so appalling that I have stopped biking in this city. Now I walk or take public transit to avoid dealing with their aggressive and embarrassing behavior. Toronto cyclists need to grow up. Take a lesson from countries and cyclists who do it right... you'd never see a Copenhagen cyclist behaving in such an appalling manner. They'd get a fine on the spot. Nobody in a civilized country puts up with this kind of thing for long.

The cops have to go through a big hour long rigamaroll to get rid of an illegally parked car like that. As you said - they were probably dropping someone off, which means part way through their effort to remove it, the driver will come along and remove it themselves. This causes even more time and effort to do the paperwork and calls to cancel what they started. Cops are so bogged down by the red tape that they lose all interest in ticketing the "minor" parking offenses, preferring to leave it up to the parking enforcement team instead.

I'm not defending them. I'm just offering up a reason as to why they tend to avoid infractions like that. It's all part of a larger problem.

As I cruised along Dundas on my commute home on Friday I came across a vehicle parked in the eastbound Bike Lane, on the east side of Yonge. It was a commercial vehicle (G4 Securicor - but not the armoured truck) so I thought I might as well ask the driver if they knew they were in a Bike Lane, and it went something like this:

  • Cyclist approaches slowly on the left side of the vehicle and comes to a stop beside the driver's door, with arm leaning on truck for balance.
  • The driver is alone in the vehicle and is talking on his cell phone, oblivious to me gazing upon him.
  • I give an audible "HEY!" and the driver turns to see my helmeted head filling his door window, expressing some shock too - the cell phone hand starts to shake noticeably. *Note to self: Avoid startling armed guards.
  • "Why are you parked in a Bike Lane?
  • The driver gestures with both hands awkwardly to the take out food joint to his right.
  • "You have to move or I'm calling the police"

I ride ahead and pull over to get my cell phone out of my bag, and before I can press the first button he leaves peacefully.

Wow, I think, was that ever easy.

I don't recommend that everyone engage drivers in this way, but in the moment it felt like the right thing to do for me. Plus commercial vehicles are usually operated by employees, so there is a expectation of fair conduct on their part.

'Killing them with kindness' might be a more advisable approach, but the results speak for themselves.

Gotta love the Toronto Sun, it's basically the Conservative propaganda machine in Toronto for low-brow readers. The Globe and Mail and National Post are the same, except they use english for readers past grade 3.

The Toronto Star is not much better - they recently ran editorials against bicyclists because they are reducing Jarvis street from 5 lanes to 4 lanes and putting in bike lanes. I'm guessing a lot of people who work at the Toronto Star use Jarvis to drive to work.

It's good to see independent blogs like this popping up - I think it's only a matter of time before people see the bias in newspapers and realize the only "free" press that exists right now is on the web.

Ever been to Montreal? They have seperate bike lanes on almost all major streets (by seperate I mean there's a concrete barrier between bike lanes and trafffic). You can also rent bikes all over the city with their Bixi system. Toronto is way behind, and the auto sector has such a strong strangle hold on the media that everyone freaks out when we do something simple like introduce a bike lane on Jarvis.