advocacy

If not now, when? If not here, where? Separated bike lanes in Vaughan's Ward

Most cyclists - and even non-cyclists - in Toronto want to see bicycle lanes separated from traffic. Most of them think that it should be the top priority for improving conditions for cyclists, even more important than adding more bike lanes. Councillor Vaughan, however, seems to disagree. At least, Vaughan has done little for cyclists in his ward and has been negative about the first real ambitious plan for separated bike lanes in his ward. Yet Vaughan considers himself to be a bike-friendly councillor. If that's true, I put it to Vaughan to explain: if not this plan, which one? If not now, when? We'd like to know.

The 2009 City survey of cyclists and non-cyclists, ten years after the first survey of the state of cycling in Toronto, added a new option to the question on the top priorities for cyclists and non-cyclists in improving conditions for cyclists. Regular ("utilitarian") cyclists stated that their top priority is to separate bike lanes from traffic (77% said it would improve matters a great deal), even more important than adding more bike lanes (59%). Even among non-cyclists 2/3 found separating bike lanes as the top priority for improving conditions for cyclists.

Sign petition for separated bike lanes in downtown Toronto

Sign the separated bike lanes petition if you are interested in seeing a leap forward in appropriate infrastructure for cyclists downtown. Councillor Minnan-Wong, head of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, had presented the idea to the media last month. It's not a done deal by any means since local Councillor Vaughan and residents need to be on side, and some public consultation is already going on to change some streets such as Richmond/Adelaide. The petition calls for pilot projects to being in 2011. If that is politically possible it would give us a good idea of the options and would be reversible if not a good idea.

The final plan might look sort of what is described here and here. There will be plenty of time and space for public consultation to figure out the exact details, so sign if you approve of this in principal.

To: All City Councillors and Mayor's Office

I support the immediate implementation of a connected separated bicycle lane infrastructure with pilot projects beginning in 2011. This single step can greatly enhance the safety and efficiency of Toronto streets at a very low cost.

Separating a core of continuous bike lanes from traffic: some reasons why it's a good idea

Alan Heisey can't understand why some cycling activists are still hostile to separated bike lanes, given how common they are in other cities. So Heisey, who proposed separated bike lanes on Sherbourne Street at the City last year, provides us with an outline of some reasons why it is desirable to have a core network of continuous bicycle lanes separated from traffic in Toronto. I, however, think that Heisey has more to worry about the Mayor's opposition rather than some cyclists.

A. Torontonians Want Bicycle Lanes Separated from Traffic
A 2009 City of Toronto commissioned survey asked City residents if they wanted separated bicycle lanes on roads. 66% of all respondents most of whom would be motorists wanted separated bicycle lanes and 77% of commuting cyclists wanted bicycle lanes separated from traffic.

B. Separated Bicycle Lanes Increase Pedestrian Safety
Separated bicycle lanes have been proven in New York City to significantly reduce serious pedestrian injuries on the streets they are installed in. See the New York Times in the last months on this issue. The evidence that bicycle lanes separated from traffic are safer for cyclists and pedestrians is irrefutable.

In the Netherlands almost the entire network of bicycle roads is separated from traffic and the rates of injury and death for cyclists are lower than in Canada or North America even though most cyclists in the Netherlands don't wear helmets, which are ubiquitous in North America.

Getting bikes into the "Wheels" sections of newspapers

It's a bit of tilting at windmills to try to push newspapers into cover more than just the latest, shiny car or gas-guzzling SUV. Local quixotic advocates (such as former courier Wayne Scott) have been trying to get the media to play fair by pushing for inclusion of even a little bit of cycling in the automobile sections of newspapers (not to mention television or the internet). It would be a big accomplishment, given that our local Toronto Star "Wheels" section is the largest such car fetish read in the country.

Recently the Ride the City folks suggested that the New York Times could dedicate one day a year to a Bicycle section in place of their Automobile section. They even included a mockup of what it might look like. It's all very utopian, but it can be useful for us to dream.

Replace the New York Times Automobiles section with a Bicycling section once a year. That would be just one week devoted to bicycles and bicycling—the remaining 51 weeks would continue to be devoted to cars.


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?

The Tossing of King Rotford

On a 'lighter' note ...

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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