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

College Street
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.

New TCAT reports show how Toronto is falling behind other cities in bike facilities

TCAT has surprised me with two reports announced at the same time, the Benchmarking Active Transportation in Canadian Cities report and the Building Better Cycling in Cities: Lessons for Toronto report.

Benchmarking Active Transportation in Canadian Cities, compares the performance of active transportation in Toronto against other cities in Canada, the United States and Europe, and I've just started getting into its meaty content. Some of its results include confirming the "safety in numbers theory" - the more cyclists and pedestrians the safer it is for both; low active transportation mode shares equal high private automobile shares; low gas taxes often mean higher private automobile shares.

TCAT/Clean Air Partnership researcher, Kevin Behan claims there are many ways Toronto could improve conditions for pedestrians: “More people walk to work in Montreal and Vancouver than in Toronto. Both of those cities have pedestrianized streets and lower speed limits in residential areas. Toronto opened its first pedestrian priority streets after the conclusion of this study but doesn’t have lower speed limits in residential areas. "

Will anti-bike lane rhetoric win elections? Do all residents want fast car traffic?

TorontoCranks informed me of some anti-bike lane campaigning taking place in Scarborough, Ward 35 - Adrian Heaps' ward. There's no love lost on Heaps by hardcore cycling advocates (including TorontoCranks who considers Heaps an "arrogant jackass") but TC points out that Heaps has done a lot to improve his ward. And at least Heaps has voted for all the bikeway network projects before council in the last 4 years while he was also the chair of the Cycling Committee.

Can an anti-bike lane screed win Michelle Berardinetti this ward? I'm skeptical since I don't believe the issue is front and centre for lots of people who are likely more worried about their jobs. TorontoCranks makes the great point that the bike lanes on Pharmacy, which Ms. Berardinetti complains about so loudly, were installed on what is basically a residential street. Much like the Dundas East bike lanes, the Pharmacy lanes have calmed traffic and made it safer for all the residents. This may be something which the locals have noticed.

Bike union takes mayoral candidates on ride

Hi Rocco, Rocco and Himy, where are the others? Oh, there you are Joe, in the back.: Photo: Toronto Cyclists UnionHi Rocco, Rocco and Himy, where are the others? Oh, there you are Joe, in the back.: Photo: Toronto Cyclists Union

Eight mayoral candidates accompanied the bike union on a downtown bike ride on Monday (oops, stale news!). Three of the main candidates didn't go for the ride: Smitherman hoped to arrange a one on one ride; Thomson was probably planning her exit strategy; and Ford was afraid to look like a big hypocrite (he was probably also thinking about lurking nearby with his SUV, the "road shark", ready to pounce). According to the bike union, the half hour ride gave the candidates a full experience of downtown cycling:

...allowed candidates to experience almost the full range of scenarios faced on a daily urban commute by bicycle. The ride took candidates on arterials with bike lanes, without bike lanes, on roads with construction, roads scarred by utility cuts, on minor arterials, and on side streets, though because of time constraints, candidates did not experience the less welcoming suburban cycling environment where traffic speeds are higher and few if any cycling facilities currently exist.

Pantalone, because he never learning to ride, got a nice rickshaw ride by his assistant Mike Smith. (Rickshaw looks like it was provided by Streets are for People).

BIXI Toronto reaches 500 members almost a year before it launches

BIXI Toronto memberships have reached 500 as of September 1st! This is a reason to celebrate! Why? Despite news reports suggesting this is a "lukewarm response", we are still nine months before the launch date and 3 months before the requirement to get 1000 memberships. They've also made the threshold high by only selling yearly memberships - the monthly memberships would have allowed many more people to dip their toes in the water before diving in.

City Hall made it quite difficult for bikesharing to get off the ground: they're providing no money to get it started, and even to get a loan guarantee (which only allows BIXI to get a better interest rate from private banks) City Hall made a number of harsh requirements. BIXI Toronto has reached the half-way mark after only one month out of 4 months.

With a bit perspective we can see that this is in fact remarkable that BIXI Toronto already has 500 members and over 1300 fans on the Facebook page. It's clearly popular. What other company selling a product requires that people purchase the product a year before it comes out? Only Apple fans would be crazy enough to do that.

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