Toronto, the city of "Bike Rage"
I find it rather interesting that after a summer of fuel provided by our media of the "war on the car" that it took so long for yet another case of Road Rage involving a motorist and a cyclist to occur. After all, this city is known for its Bike Rage, as evidenced here:
Toronto is at the top of the list for both "Drivers attacking cyclists" and "Cyclists attacking drivers." How's that for notoriety?
And now, the media's coverage of the Bryan/Sheppard incident is yet another example of Bike Rage that the world sees, like this:
- In Toronto, Bike-Car Road Rage Escalates (NPR, September 7, 2009)
Which leads to believe that the cyclists in the city aren't seeing the love that they've been promised by City Hall or from Queens Park, and that there are forces out there to keep cyclists "in their place." Meanwhile cyclists aren't content to put up with the awful excuse and behaviour that motorists call "driving" on our city's roads. I thought drivers are licensed, but not that you can tell. Motorists act like maniacs, and are constantly risking the lives of pedestrians, cyclists and each other. They have a deadly weapon under their control yet refuse to acknowledge it. No wonder when a motorist hits a cyclist (as Bryant is alleged to have to done to Sheppard) the cyclist "freaks on their hood" (as Sheppard is alleged to have done to Bryant's car).
Of course there’s irony in this, because people would like cyclists to be licensed. Let’s start by raising the bar for Motorists, who have killing machines under their control, before going after the cyclists.
The further irony is also not lost on me that Bryant, with past ties in the Provincial Government, is alleged to be the bad guy in this, and is looking to worm his way out. The province has done nothing at all to help cyclists in this province, except to fund a few speakers to talk about cycling for our health and tourism. Great, some promised love, never delivered.
The irony extends: Gil Penalosa of Walk and bike for Life is one of those speakers that the province has funded to talk. His talks are always about how "Now is the time to take action! Not in six weeks, or six months, or next year, or two years; but NOW!" I have heard his speech enough times to still hear his Spanish accent and enthusiastic tone ringing in my head.
Many jurisdictions in the states have passed "safe passing laws" and "3-foot bills" to provide clear guidance in law to motorists as to what is too close when passing. Ontario has no known plans at this point. But for the premier to worm his way out, I expect this to be suddenly announced at the "Ontario Bike Summit" in Waterloo later this month. (Hey, Premier! Too bad, but it's late!! And too bad that it's one of your buddies who had to kill someone to make this happen.)
And the City isn't helping either. By constantly stalling and delaying bike lanes, it's turning our support against many of those who could be allies in City Hall. And our strike has only caused more delays. City Hall can re-open it's own decisions, and I hope a councillor tries. But I don't expect much.
The answer is for our governments to stop with the mixed messages. Make it clear that bikes belong on our roads with actions, not just words. Fund cycling infrastructure, pass better laws, create better policies, paint bike lanes, fund cycling education in our schools, put more onus on motor vehicle drivers to avoid the collision, make insurance more expensive. Enough of the platitudes of how good for us biking is; make it easier and safer to do so. And if it means fewer cars, then good: we'll all be better off.
And, as Gil said: Do it Now!