Where do begin to clear the air?
Let’s begin by stating the obvious. Clearly cyclists have a vested interest in seeing more bikes and fewer cars on our already over-congested roads here in Toronto, or anywhere else for that matter. Not only would more Cyclists on the road do wonders for our air quality index, and overall ecological standards for living, but with fewer cars getting driven and parked, it would also improve traffic flow for everyone else right across the board. Of course, everyone’s got ideas about how this can be accomplished (or at least attempted) so I’ve started compiling some of the top suggestions and opinions. The trouble here is that ‘opinions’ are like, uhm…hairdos. Everyone’s got their preferences, and inevitably they keep growing and changing all the time anyways, so where do you begin making the cuts! Instead, let’s just start the running list somewhere in the middle of the pack, and come up with a presentable outlook on the currently hot subject of Bikelanes. Hopefully by looking at this one solution, we’ll come up with a realistic view that can make Cyclists (and other HelmetHeads) look good in Public, while not embarrassing us in front of the Motorists and Pedestrians of Toronto with any ridiculous fashions, or self-centered zeal.
The reason we’re starting with Bikelanes, is because it seems as though certain “traffic” issues in Toronto are coming full circle again. First we had Bikers vs. Pedestrians (thanks mostly to thoughtless side-walk riders who give all good Cyclists a black-eye), then it became Bikers vs. Cars (R.I.P. Darcy), then it was Pedestrians vs. Cars (with a horrible run of Pedestrian deaths last month), and now with the fracas on Jarvis Street, and pandering politics from people like Rocco Rossi, it seems that we’re getting back to Bikers vs. Cars again. Of course, with this subject gaining refreshed visibility, every frustrated Motorist in the congested core of the City wants to weigh in with their beefs as well…Especially virulent are the opinions from those politically potent Motorists and Retailers from affluent neighborhoods, and the countless transient businesspeople who come in from the 905 to complain about traffic, smog, and the perceived hindrance of any Cyclists who might disrupt their downtown driving schedule.
Even taxicabs idling on the side of the road to wait for fares will seemingly take precedence over designated bikelanes. This article from the Star exemplifies how designating a bikelane means absolutely nothing if Police and Parking enforcement show no interest in enforcing the rules, and supporting their existence.
So how will Bikelanes help with congestion, if they take away roadspace? The answer lies in human nature and economics. Short of doubling the cost of gas (to limit frivolous or single-occupancy driving), or building a second tier of elevated roadways (a MAJORLY expensive and disruptive overhaul), or perhaps getting people to rethink their protocols around signal light controls and pedestrian traffic (yeah, good luck with that) the only other thing that will improve traffic flow is to either get fewer people driving, or alot more people riding in every car. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t look at our other options (and we will), but first we need to learn from past mistakes before trying to plot paths into the Future…
“Expanding roads to fight congestion is like loosening your belt to fight obesity” – Unknown
Let’s start with our own municipal government. There are countless examples of the progressive ideas, responsible measures, and visionary leadership required to assure that cycling has it’s place in this city. However what’s more noteworthy are the actions of those who would oppose future growth in this positive direction, since ultimately it’s the Future that being built today that will have the greatest impact.
Take Rocco Rossi for example. Seemingly speaking from the “Let them eat cake” school of governance, he’s an obscure entry in teh Mayaoral race, and his credentials appear to be built upon his social charms and Fundraising abilities. Speaking to an gathering of powerbrokers and other elite players at a recent Empire Club gathering at the Royal York Hotel, we were able to see more clearly that Rossi speaks from a platform of fiscal prudence, and budgetary constraint where he intends to sell of prized Public Assets such as Toronto Hydro. He’s also trying to leverage ‘hot-issues’ by openly and vocally attacking the TTC (and thus Adam Giambrone’s candidacy), as well as not only calling an end to all bike lane construction on “arterial roads”, but also consider ripping out any existing bike lanes which are already on “arterial roads”. Could an otherwise unknown candidate, with such powerful business connections, a pandering and Populist approach to politics, and who feels comfortable in such circles of power and staged photo-ops, be bad for the future of cycling in this city? We’ll let the Voters be the judges.
The debate around the Jarvis Street bikelanes shows us the first obvious flaw in the process where traffic is measured by the number of vehicles that can pass through, rather than the number of people! What is also not being factored in is that, like any market force where there is a strong demand, volume will rise with increased supply. So the traffic flow benefit to increasing size is temporary at best. Conversely though, by reducing the supply of roadway, the demand will also drop as soon as people realise that it’s not a great route during rush hour. This is the hard choice that faces urban planning now, and which is required to raise the ridership in both Cyclists and Transit users. Short term pain, for a longer term gain…
“Calling Bike Lanes – the War on Cars’ is like calling Parks – a War on Buildings” – V.Dodge
BTW: What’s a “Sharrow” anyways?
While they might not be such a new sight anymore, most peopel in Toronto still ddon’t seeem to know what these are, let alone what their intended purpose is. So to be clear, discussions to date indicate that sharrows, as developed by the Transport Association of Canada (TAC) are not intended to create space for cyclists, but rather to Show cyclists the correct position to ride on the road (the ideal distance from curb).
It seeems that Paul Young, a health promote at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre had some interesting things to say about “sharrows” over at torontocranks.com
This is a fundamental distinction (between “sharrows” and bikelanes). A bike lane in contrast demarcates a space for the cyclist and a space for the car. The separated space is critical in providing a sense of safety because the drivers generally
respect the line. The City’s Cycling Masterplan cites safety as the number one concern for would-be cyclists. The number one preferred safety improvement cited by the report was the installation of more bike lanes.
Photos taken approximately one year after the sharrows were installed on Dundas E. show that 80% of the cars (between 5 and 6 P.M.) routinely drive over the sharrows – even when cyclists are present. As a result cyclists cannot ride in the proper location as demarcated by the sharrow because the car is on the sharrow.