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.
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?