An Open Letter to Councillor Doug Ford by Bike Union Chair after his flippant remark

An Open Letter to Councillor Doug Ford in response to his comment appearing in the Toronto Star:

Dear Councillor Ford,

As the President of the Toronto Cyclists Union, I'd like to respond to your recent comments about cyclists. In a recent Toronto Star article on gridlock solutions, you are quoted as saying “Would I pay $5 to get downtown quicker and not knock off 14 bicycle riders on the way down Queen Street? I would do it in a heartbeat.”

Your attitude towards cyclists is downright disrespectful and uncompassionate. A sad reality in Toronto remains that on average 35 vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) die each year after collisions with motor vehicles. On average, 3,239 pedestrians and cyclists are injured each year due to a motor vehicle collision. This translates into an injury rate of 3 cyclists and 6 pedestrians per day. Your comments are deeply hurtful to anyone who has faced the traumatic repercussions of motor vehicle collisions.

On a more personal note, you and I both find ourselves using Queen Street to get to work. Every workday I cycle along Queen from my home to my work at a downtown hospital. Cycling is efficient and affordable, and I arrive at work alert and ready for my day. I am cautious and rule abiding. After all, as a cyclist I know that any collision I should be involved in, I would likely find myself in worse condition than the driver of the car. More often than not my ride is a pleasant experience, though there have been several times where I've been jeered, heckled, called nasty names and told to "get in the bike lane". I would gladly get into a bike lane should there be any such facility on Queen Street or any adjacent street. Alas, there is no alternative and I am forced to put up with my vulnerable position on Queen.

Your recent comments about cyclists only serves to fuel rhetoric and the harassment I potentially face on my daily trip. I am simply trying to get to work where I might find myself providing care for a member of your family, a close friend or one of your constituents. I happen to choose to get to work by bike and I would like to be treated like a human being on the street.

Rather than placing blame, it's time to recognise that cyclists can be part of the solution. A recent study in New York City found a 40% reduction in all collisions after the implementation of a bike lane. That means drivers, cyclists and pedestrians were safer when politicians made a decision to put in a bike lane. Moreover, the thousands of cyclists who ride on Queen Street every day free up transit spaces and ease congestion.

I think there is at least one thing on which we could agree. People of all ages need safe ways to travel across the City. Promoting active transportation serves many goals for our community's health and well-being. It's time to cease the rhetoric and move on to offering solutions that provide options for active transportation, whether it be walking, cycling or transit. I urge you and your fellow council members to resolve to set aside mean-spirited remarks towards cyclists. Unnecessarily negative sentiments about cycling must cease - if only for the sake of being kind to our fellow citizens.

It would be my pleasure to meet with you to talk more about this issue or have you join me on my ride to work to gain a perspective on the experience. As two people who love this City, let's work constructively to find more ways to make our City a safe, enjoyable and vibrant place to live.

Respectfully yours,

Heather McDonald, President and Chair of the Board

Toronto Cyclists Union

Very nicely done.

Can we conclude from Ford's comment that until a tunnel for cars is built (which is never) is he going to continue to hit 14 cyclists a day?

Comments

35 vulnerable road users killed every year by cars that hit them! The truly horrific thing is that this is less than a tenth of the people killed by cars with their lethal pollution.

Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, has produced a report showing how car pollution kills 440 people in Toronto every year and injures another 1,700 people so seriously that they have to be hospitalised. The mortality costs (yes, that's mortality as in "death") are $2.2 billion each year. His report may be found at:

http://www.toronto.ca/health/hphe/pdf/air_pollution_burden.pdf

This report also shows how the victims of car drivers are disproportionately children and the elderly.

Particularly disgusting and horrific are Dr. McKeown's discriptions of the harm done to innocent children by these loathsome poisoners. The deaths, the injuries, the childhoods ruined by lung disease. About lung disease, Dr. Mckeown writes on page i of the Executive Summary:

"Children experience more than
1,200 acute bronchitis episodes per year as a result of air pollution
from traffic. Children are also likely to experience the majority of asthma
symptom days (about 68,000), given that asthma prevalence and asthma
hospitalization rates are about twice as high in children as adults."

I do not understand how any human being with the slightest speck of heart or conscience could turn the key in a car ignition and start poisoning innocent children. What could possibly be going through their heads? What can they be thinking? How does one complete the thought "I am about to start poisoning innocent children, but I just do not care because..."

This goes a long way towards explaining the behaviour of people like Doug Ford. Since he is already poisoning people, hitting them is not such a big deal.

Next on the chopping block: the Dupont bike lanes? There's a bike lane traffic counter set up eastbound under the railway bridge just east of the intersection with Dundas and Annette. These bike lanes make navigating the awkward road and intersection with a connecting stretch of roadway to Dundas much safer. A cyclist was once killed there, making the cycling infrastructure logical. There's also the West Toronto Railpath nearby.

No matter the congestion, the configuration of the road just isn't safe for cycling without a bike lane, but Dupont is a logical route to downtown for people in the Junction and surrounding neighbourhoods. At rush hour, however, it appears that there's a lot of congestion which may be motivating angry emails to the councillor. (I say "appears" because it's possible the bike lane had nothing to do with it; rather, the numbers of cars may to blame.) These lanes should not be removed, and I ask that the bike union and all cyclists pay attention to any future developments regarding these lanes.

I rode over the counter tonight, so I guess I'm doing my bit. It is definitely a needed lane.

Getting rid of the bike lane will do absolutely nothing for drivers anyway. I've already dealt with the occasional spatially-challenged driver who thinks that he can somehow pass the other cars by squeezing into the bike lane, and they have proven over and over again that there is just not enough road space, no matter how you paint the lines.

Yeah, I've noticed the Dupont counters too. They've actually been there earlier too, but I imagine they had to redo the count since they were quickly dismantled last time they were deployed.

I really hope this isn't a sign of things to come, but I'm not going to hold my breath. Part of the new plan is to move the east start/end of the lanes to the west of Lansdowne, for the purposed of improving congestion at Dupont and Lansdowne. I'm not a traffic engineer, so maybe this is actually a brilliant idea, but judging by the way people drive there now, I'm guessing this will make absolutely no difference. And while the lane will still go under the tracks, it's going to stop in the east before meeting up with any streets, making it even more of a "lane to nowhere." I think they'd be better off to extend the lane eastwards to meet up with one of the residential streets east of Lansdowne so more people will be comfortable biking that route.

Anyone want to take bets that if Dupont goes it'll be another 11th hour movement at a committee with no community feedback?