politics

Red light running: the war on people

Warning: this video is graphic in its portrayal of the "war on cars".

If only these drivers were licensed! Oh wait. I can't believe just how many of the red light runners aren't slowing down at all. See scary, graphic video

MTV digs into the car/bike animosity on Vicious Cycle

In a very quick discussion, MTV's Vicious Cycle forum skims over a bunch of issues around cyclists and drivers sharing the road. By the end it feels like they've managed to mention all the issues and stereotypes without actually engaging on any of them. I do like the argument partway through between the courier and the taxi driver when the taxi driver claims to know as much about cycling as courier because he bikes about 3 times a month - precious. What we've learned:

  • cyclists: angry
  • motorists: scared
  • we all need to pay attention (oh really?! I wish I had thought of that already)
  • bike lanes are cheap
  • there's no political will (or even a very active backlash)
  • we're supposed to "share the road" (whatever that means: do we share it according to need or want?)
  • Sunny is a funny, crazy bike courier (love her quote about putting the safety on the gun before going out on the road)

Admirable that MTV is tackling this just before winter - usually the media dredges up the war of bikes versus cars in the spring.

Book Review: One Less Car - a look at the politics of the bicycle and car


Photo by velomama.

During these dark Toronto days (both literally and politically) it's good to step back and take a look at the landscape of the insurgency and the counterinsurgency of cycling. Whether we like it or not, the simple act of riding your bike in Toronto (and North America) is a political act. Some cyclists are more intentionally activist and involved in changing the system, but the mere presence of a bicycle on the street makes a political claim to that road and to the institutions that support it.

As Toronto shifts into a new era where the Mayor sees all cyclists as irresponsibly "swimming with the sharks" (as if we had decided to climb Mount Everest), it's helpful to read One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility, which analyses how we got to where we are, as Torontonians and North Americans. The author, Zack Furness, assistant professor in Cultural Studies at a university in Chicago, happens to both an academic and a bit of a bike geek. You don't have to wait for the book to arrive in the mail as you can read some of his interesting writing online, including the first chapter of the book, an engaging analysis of the politics of cycling in the turning point of the 2004 Republican Convention in NYC and the Critical Mass ride that sparked a massive and harsh crackdown by police as the peaceful rides became criminalized. Only now is NYC shifting towards spending more money on installing bike infrastructure than clamping down on Critical Mass.

Must we fight for safer streets? On Goldhawk Live

Caller Scunny suggests that solving transportation and creating safer streets for cyclists will be a big task for the new City Council, and that the cycling community couldn't ask for a bigger target than the mayor-elect. Will cyclists end up suing the City for its lack of safe cycling infrastructure?

Love and sympathy for Toronto


Photo by chewie.

Some sympathy from Copenhagen and a love note from Montreal:

Toronto, we both know you’ve never been the best looking city, but one of the biggest parts of looking good is accentuating your best features. One of the best things about you was your friendliness towards bikes. You have beautiful dedicated bike lanes along many of your major streets. You have city-subsidized programs to teach both kids and adults how to bike. Hell, you even decided to copy us over here and might launch your own BIXI program in May 2011.

But here you are, toying around with Rob Ford. He called cyclists a “pain in the ass,” and said he cannot support bike lanes. Come on, Toronto. You can do better!

Who's gonna win? Bike culture or politics?

Legislating cycling: for the good of cyclists or a form of punishment?


Photo of errant cyclists by Tino.

Even in the obscure corners that this blog occupies, we hear people enthusiastic about legislating cycling. Writing this post really feels like beating a dead horse long after its been buried and then exhumed and then beaten again. A small segment of the population remains enthusiastic about legislating cyclists and/or bicycles, so I feel a strong need to cover this territory again.

Toronto has studied the issue of mandatory licensing for cyclists a few times already. Each time the city's staff have studied the issue and come to the conclusion that it would be difficult to implement; and won't meet the assumed goals. The proponents aren't even clear on the means, whether it be licensing for cyclists or registration fees for bicycles or both, so the report has had to make guesses about the intentions and means.

What is the purpose of legislating cyclists? How is helping anyone? Let's look at the stated goals and see if they justify the means.

Make cyclists pay their fair share

Toronto becomes more polarized around "war on car" / "war on bike"

There is some danger of assigning "mandates" to elections. Toronto just elected as mayor the worst choice possible for supporting walking or cycling. As Eric at Curbside puts it: "Today the city of Toronto voted in its 64th mayor, a porkchop of a man who, by all looks, rarely refuses gravy." So does this mean the war on the car has been won by the drivers?

Lloyd of Treehugger thinks so, that there's a big backlash coming:

The people of Toronto have spoken, loudly. Bike activists and environmentalists across the country should listen, there is an anger out there. Much of this was about taxes and purported waste, but a lot of it was about the war on the car, which we just lost.

Eric disagrees:

The fact is, people will handcuff themselves to streetcar tracks before any rail is removed and while the number of cyclists is only going to explode. We’re located in the Annex, home of Toronto’s powerful left-wing elite, and truth is, the Annex is spoiling for a fight. Not since the Spadina Expressway protests has there been a galvanizing reason to join minds. And, this time its going to be all about the bicycle.

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