Slowly but surely Metrolinx is becoming a household brand-name as it offers greater visibility for it’s exciting expansions of Ontario’s mass-transit infrastructure. Through new services in it’s operational GO Transit division, which is already very well known to all Commuters here in Southern Ontario, Metrolinx is also making a big push to break away from the commuting pack into much more leisurely and adventurous modes of rail travel as well. Not only can GO Transit enthuse weekend sightseers, but it’s also purposely re-geared itself for the pleasures of cycling as well. Most obviously with the provision of specially equipped trains that can carry our bikes down to spectacular routes and scenery that surround Niagara Falls!
GO Transit now offers an additional trip on Friday evenings to facilitate longer weekend getaways both down to The Falls, as well as offering a quick weekend train trip in the opposite direction back into Toronto from the Niagara Peninsula. From June 24 to September 5th passengers can take their bikes along to tour The Falls and Vineyards of this famous wine-growing area at no extra charge! So let’s consider the new experiences that easy service opens up to even the most casual cycling enthusiast…
Well here we are on the first day of December, on the first day of Rob Ford’s mayoral mandate, and already we’re provided with the first examples of the kinds of media events and posturing that will either draw the first jeers of ridicule for the new regime, or the first signs of suburban solidarity from the 50% of Torontonians who brought Ford to power…Depending on which side of the tracks you’re sitting when the Rob Ford’s gravy-less train to municipal prosperity either rolls past, away from, or right over your neighborhood in it’s headlong rush to dismantle everything that doesn’t sit well with the new administration at City Hall.
If first impressions are anything to base our outlook on, then today’s events should be a telling reminder of what we can look forward to during at least one term of reactionary, pandering, and short-sighted politics here in Toronto, and the backlash driven political desires of it’s dispossessed suburbs.
If you think about it, you couldn’t blame Cyclists for hoping that at least a few intriguing new technological developments might come out of a geek-powered event named the Sustainable Mobility Summit. Thankfully that’s exactly what happened this past week at the 2010 Summit held in Ottawa Ontario, where Google Maps announced that its new Bike Directions service, which had already launched in the United States this past March, is now also coming to eight Canadian cities as well. Conference-goers were the first to learn that Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton Calgary, Winnipeg, Gatineau, and Waterloo, and Vancouver, will all be getting mapped out with Google’s Bike Directions. Furthermore, as the host city for the Summit, Ottawa will have the distinct honour of being the first bike-friendly urban center to boast GoogleMap’s new Bike Directions features here in Canada!
What’s interesting though, isn’t just what this service offers us here in the Present, but what it can evolve into in the very near Future…
After having to delve into the underhanded PR methods that were used to develop and support the temporary Police State that was invoked during Toronto’s G20 Summit, it’s still rather difficult to remind ourselves of the beneficial roles that PR plays in forming and supporting Public Opinion. Rather than rehashing the litany of horrifying physical abuses and civil rights violations from last weekend though, let’s attempt to remind ourselves the role that PR can play in creating an orderly and peaceful society.
Here’s a great little piece of German PR that really helps put a proper perspective on how so many many more people could manage to peacefully use public roadways everyday… if they weren’t taking up so much more space with single-occupancy cars.
In case we’ve forgotten…Here’s what a clear and beneficial PR Message looks like:
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
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…