It's that time of year again. The snow is long gone, the potholes are getting patched up, and many "fair weather" cyclists have returned to riding and increased our numbers on the streets. This is also the time of year when most major newspapers publish an anti-cyclist rant of some form of another.
The Toronto Star kicked it off on April 28th when they published a letter titled Ahh, the annual rites of spring. Letter writer Rick Morris rants about cyclists breaking traffic laws, and seems to show some signs of jealousy about how cyclists can get ahead in car-gridlocked traffic. The Star also published a couple of responses to this letter, from Gabriela Byron and Brian Huntley.
The Toronto Sun came out swinging yesterday with Joe Warmington's Pedal-pushers a problem article.
Joe's rant starts off with the typical bashing of sidewalk cyclists, and I can actually agree with him here. Sidewalks are for pedestrians, and roads are for vehicles. I'm not sure why he didn't rant about motorists parking and driving on sidewalks though. In all honesty, in my neighbourhood I see more motorists parked and/or driving on sidewalks than cyclists, causing a MUCH more dangerous and inconvenient pedestrian environment than any sidewalk cyclists around here.
The next standard anti-cyclist point that Joe tries to make is that many cyclists are evil lawbreakers:
Many don't wear helmets or abide by stoplights or signs, don't wait their turn in traffic and instead fly up the right or left of it.
Well, Joe, you should dust off your law books and verify your facts. Helmets are only mandatory for people under 18 years old, and there's nothing illegal about passing stopped traffic on the left or right. I'm sorry if you're stuck waiting behind other motorists blocking your way, but if it's safe to do so, I will pass and continue on my way while you sit there and fume. Joe is right about many cyclists not stopping, but motorists are almost as bad in this case too, with much deadlier potential.
Next we have the typical "cyclists don't pay for anything" whine:
Many are hazards to themselves and everybody else, which is not really fair since they don't pay for licensing or insurance or the tax charged for every fuel fill-up that maintains the roads.
Joe, I'll show you my tax bill if you're interested. As homeowners and renters in the City of Toronto, we pay for the roads just as much as motorists do. And the only reason why motorists are required to have insurance is because of the massive amounts of carnage they generate. Yet as cyclists, we still pay for all the extra policing and medical services required to sustain the motoring population.
I enjoyed this quote too:
Right after Car-Free Day in Toronto this September I wish they would then have a Bike- Free Day -- just as a reminder to these cyclists that using our roads is a privilege.
I see Bike-Free Day every day when I cross Highway 427. It's a mess of asphalt and mostly single-occupancy vehicles choking each other to death. When one motorist kills or hurts another, the grind comes to a complete standstill (I often read about some nasty incident in the paper after seeing some unusually bad motor vehicle traffic). If this is what Joe Warmington actually looks for, then I'm afraid that he might actually be psychotic.
And here's the best one that Joe could come up with:
It's mind-boggling because there is nothing more dangerous on the road than bikes.
Yeah, Joe.... Cyclists are the ones killing, maiming, and choking people to death in Toronto. Joe should try to do some actual reporting, perhaps dig up some statistics, and then see who is causing the most danger on Toronto's roads.
Joe's final anti-cyclist point is:
It might not be popular to say, but by original design, bikes really don't belong on the road at all with streetcars, trucks, cars and motorcycles -- for the same safety reasons that ball hockey is outlawed on city streets, too.
Sorry Joe, but bicycles have been on Toronto's streets for longer than trucks, cars, and motorcycles, but maybe not horse-drawn streetcars.
So, in Today's Toronto Sun there are actually two articles that respond to Joe Warmington's rant. First off, we get treated to a dose of Sue-Ann Levy. Sue-Ann tries to score some cyclist sympathy points at the start of her article by talking about a recent ride she did in her neighbourhood, but then the rest of the article continues to bash cyclists. She always turns her articles into right-wing vs. left-wing battles, calling anyone who disagrees with her "Millerites". She didn't use her standard "socialist silly hall" or "His Blondness" quips in this article though. Darn.
(Note to TCAT and the Bike Union: You're doing well according to Sue-Ann when she calls you the "more-powerful-by-the-day bike lobby", and "the bike and clean air lobby, who've never had so much power at City Hall as they do now." Keep up the good work!)
Lastly, a breath of fresh air from the Toronto Sun this morning. Vivian Song responded directly to Joe Warmington's column and stood up for cyclists. Apparently, Vivian is one of the few sensible people down at the Toronto Sun who actually cycle to work.
I spoke to Vivian last night, and I could sense that she was all fired up about Joe Warmington's article. In her own pro-bike piece, she shreds Warmington's rant with statistics of motorist mayhem, and statistics about who actually enjoys their commutes more. Numbers that Warmington can't argue against.
Last year, motor vehicle accidents killed 42 people in Toronto -- 21 pedestrians, 13 drivers, six passengers and two cyclists. Who's more dangerous to whom?
Keep up the good fight, Vivian. It's an uphill battle at the Toronto Sun!