Just recently, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) was glad to announce that 91% of its buses will soon be equipped with bike racks for this Summer, and despite how little they may actually be getting used, during this ongoing and surprisingly slow adoption phase, the TTC remains upbeat on the service. At just over $2 million for the upgrade, most Cyclists and Mass Transit proponents consider this a pretty economical way to encourage new ‘multi-modal’ Ridership for years to come. Yet even the most positive pundits would likely have presumed that this initiative had already shown sufficient feasibility to proceed to this level of service though, so many people are wondering why the TTC has installed these racks right across their entire fleet before showing some early success on key routes. Most people didn’t even realize that Toronto had bike racks until they started seeing them for themselves. The resulting question then, is why has the adoption rate for this service been so sluggish to during this period? Is this simply a mishandled piece of Public Relations?
Obviously, the hardcore Cycling Commuters aren’t going to trade in their winter tires for metropasses, and all the existing TTC Riders probably won’t suddenly swayed into taking a bike along with them on their regular daily commute just for kicks. Yet surely there are all sorts of new possibilities and benefits that this service opens up for consideration, even though we’re left to find these for ourselves. At the very least, these Bike Racks would appear to be a simple and (relatively) economical way to either draw more Riders into the transit fold, or benefit current users with the option to cycle in or away from their first or last stop, all while laying some basic groundwork for the future of grass-roots growth in Transit ridership overall….So what’s the holdup in moving ahead with it?
Is there an issue with Public Perceptions?
Or does the problem start down at the source of most Mainstream Media Content nowadays ?
In a Perfect World ?!?
From the very outset, let’s be perfectly clear… Pedestrians on our city streets are assured the inalienable and basic human right to safe and secure access to our public spaces…Except when this access encroaches upon the open roadways, and contrary to traffic laws of course. The key issue here is the assurance of the Personal Responsibility required from all road users in assuring the protection of each other and ourselves. So if everyone is keeping public safety first in mind, then many other issues can more easily fall into place by default…Especially if we could evolve some of our traffic flow protocols along the way, once we can assure that the basics are being properly respected!
So what we’d like to consider here are not ways to limit the free reign that Pedestrians enjoy at Green lights (and sometimes abuse, just like any others on the road), but rather how Pedestrians can be more aware and participative in contributing to the smooth flow of traffic when things get abit tricky. Thus making our streets safer for everyone.
Of course we’ll be looking at this from the Cyclists point of view, and focusing on the one tool that we have to communicate danger to Pedestrians by learning to use our bike bells in a way that Pedestrians can appreciate, and respond more positively to…Perhaps from there maybe even considering a few basic signals as well
Forever Bicycles, Ai Weiwei – Nuit Blanche 2013
Bike bells are almost as universal as car horns, but there are still some rather peculiar differences in how they’re both used and perceived all around the world. Considering how useless they are amidst heavy automotive traffic, it seems that bells are really only useful (at least marginally) for alerting Pedestrians according to what we discovered under Bike Bell Protocols. Not surprisingly, there are differences in these protocols around the world, and they aren’t limited to just how bells are used, but also in how people react to being dinged by a bell…So let’s take a quick world tour, and see what lessons we can bring back.
Personally, I quite like the sound of those tinkly little bell’s on kids bikes, but if we’re talking about cycling through urban road traffic, bike bells are pretty damned-well near useless when it comes to getting the attention of a hermetically sealed Motorist. They do however serve a (somewhat flawed) purpose with other Cyclists and Pedestrians, but since the results and reactions are so unpredictable, perhaps we could all benefit from a better shared understanding of what we can realistically expect from the use of bike bells, and how they can still serve to raise awareness, despite the risks of just adding to the overall confusion…
As we discussed previously ( “Us and Them” ), there are many factions in Politics and the Press who’d prefer to dwell on the ‘differences’ between people, and try to inflate, leverage, and exploit any of the contentious issues that arise in order to further their own immediate agendas. In an effort to try and close the various rifts that can form between Motorists and Cyclists, perhaps we could all take a wider perspective, and look for the common values that will benefit all Commuters and Travelers alike, regardless of their chosen mode of transport.
In terms of how we use our roadways, we could all stand to learn and apply better protocols, and learn to appreciate traffic flow from a more socially functional point of view. In an effort to develop values that can be applied evenly across the road, and thus help smooth out traffic flow patterns and problems for everyone, let’s look at some cultures that have embraced both Cycling and Automobiles. Not surprisingly, we can look to European culture for examples of this duality, and although the French, British, and of course the Germans have all been instrumental in the development of both 4 and two-wheeled transport, it’s clear that Italian automotive history and bicycle technology have played an undeniable role in forming a worldwide Culture that has advanced both of these pursuits to an Artform, with their panache, passion, and an undeniable sense of style…
Our News Media has clearly been pandering to the Public desire to “Go Green” by chasing down existing stories to support a more ecological point of view, yet what has it done to actually update our social views on Consumption and the prevailing Car Culture? In order to at least take a more productive personal view of our worsening traffic congestion problems, let’s try to put aside our presumed right to drive around in our already over-crowded urban centers in near-empty automobiles as solo occupants. Pausing for a moment to consider an alternative way of traveling, where instead of driving ourselves around in big empty cars and struggling to find parking at every stop, we instead saw ourselves enjoying the freedom of biking around our local destinations after piggy-backing on buses for the longer haul distances in between…and from there considering what other resources are available to feel the needs, currently being met with generally wasteful and problematic automobile traffic.
Rather than expect The Press (much less the Mainstream News) to serve a central roll in preserving an open Democracy, it’s instead become the accepted norm to essentially absolve the News Media of any true social responsibilities by simply presuming that by being a reflector of Society, that the News Media is just providing us what we expect as Consumers. A more pragmatic view is that, aside from the bone fide Journalism that we count on from trusted sources, and the alternative programming from a handful of Public Broadcasters or Specialty Channels, the Mainstream News Media really isn’t developing or investigating many genuinely new issues or ideas. Instead the mandate appears to be simply stoking the stories that already exist into a biased point of view that caters to a chosen demographic, and thus pandering to base audience desires to gather as large an audience as possible in order to drive its Ad revenues.
As purveyors of packaged info (-tainment?), most Media outlets are simply taking breaking stories from their various central news agencies, and presenting them in terms that will appeal to us, on a variety of levels, all packaged with adoptable meanings, in digestible formats. This general approach continues to serve as a reminder that the News Media is often playing on our need to form “personal” opinion (for better or worse), and inadvertently reminding us how easily swayed we are by the powers of the underlying Government/Public Affairs and Public Relations campaigns that are being run in the background of these “news stories”. These stories rarely conflict with the more visibly apparent forms social engineering such as Advertising and Entertainment, that we can more clearly appreciate for what they more openly seem to be.