City politics

Elevated Cycle Paths: Is Toronto missing an opportunity?

Check out this article from City Journal about elevated bicycle lanes. For Toronto, maybe these elevated lanes could be designed to run along the LRTs or John Tory’s Smart Track system?

Other cities think big. In London, famed architect Norman Foster has proposed an ambitious, 136-mile elevated bike path, to be suspended above the city’s suburban rail network. Foster’s “SkyCycle” plan—which could accommodate 400,000 bike commuters daily—has the support of former mayor and potential Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson, as well as the local government agencies responsible for London’s public transportation system. Architect David Nixon envisions a floating bike lane in the Thames River that would allow a car-free commute from the city’s residential areas to the financial district.

In Melbourne, Australia, a consortium of investors has proposed attaching an enclosed, mile-long “Veloway” to the side of an existing rail viaduct running through the city. “[C]ars, bikes and pedestrians just don’t mix well,” Committee for Melbourne CEO Kate Roffey told a reporter earlier this year. “This would solve the problem of separating cars and cyclists moving east-west across the city, and pedestrians can go under or over roads.” A similar approach would seem well suited to New York’s outer boroughs, where, unlike midtown Manhattan, elevated rail viaducts remain the norm. Many commuters in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx would likely take advantage of an option that would get them from home to work in about an hour, safely and free of charge, with a little fitness thrown in.

In Denmark, bike-friendly Copenhagen cut the ribbon this past summer on its Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake—an elevated lane providing cyclists with a much-needed traverse over a pedestrian-heavy corner of the central city. “It is one of those rare occurrences in Copenhagen where seemingly everyone is happy,” wrote Classic Copenhagen blogger Sandra Hoj. “Cars have not had to budge an inch, the lower level has been returned to pedestrians, and cyclists love it. Besides easing the transition from highway to bike bridge, it is a pure joy to ride.”

A Short Encounter With An Olivia Chow Supporter

So I had an Olivia Chow volunteer stop by my house yesterday to try to guilt me into voting for Chow for mayor. I indicated that I would not be supporting Chow in this election or any election. The volunteer asked me if I believe in equality. She said Olivia stands for equality. So I asked her what that meant and she proceeded to show me a crude income curve (i.e. lots of people make a certain income, less people make a bit more, and a tiny fraction make a whole lot more). I paraphrase the rest of the conversation:

Me: So what. It doesn’t bother me that some people make more money than I do. Does that bother you?

V: Yes.

Me; What does Chow plan to do about it if she becomes mayor.

Volunteer: She will raise taxes.

Me: What taxes? She has no control over income taxes.

Volunteer: General taxes.

Me: How will that address inequality?

Volunteer: Lower income people will get more money.

Me: How much more? And how will that ensure “equality” which would imply every one is equal. Does she want to make everyone’s income the same?

Volunteer: Not the same but….

Me: So she’s for inequality.

V: No. I meant, fairness. She’s for fairness.

Me. So she’s against inequality and for fairness.

V: Yes.

Me: So what is fair? What would fair look like to Olivia Chow?

V: More poor people getting more money from rich people.

Me: How much more and who decides what is fair? Olivia?

V: Well that’s up to…

Me: Where does Olivia fit on your income curve? Where do you fit?

V: Olivia is here [points to a spot on the curve] and I am here [reluctantly points to a spot farther to the left on the curve, implying she makes a lot less than Olivia Chow].

Me: That doesn’t seem “fair” or “equal”. So you’re okay with Olivia making more money than you?

V: You’re frustrating. And at first you seemed like a nice man. I’m leaving now. I have others houses to get to.

Me: Bye. Come back next week and I’ll make you some tea.

Bike Lanes Are Racist

WARNING: This post contains foul language at the end.

The Birmingham Post (UK) reports today on the political shenanigans of transforming the northern English town into a “Cycle City”:

A £23 million scheme intended to transform cycling in Birmingham has been blasted as discriminatory and only benefiting “white, young men”.

The Department for Transport has given Birmingham £17 million to become a “Cycle City” which will create a network of safe new routes aimed at tempting commuters out of their cars.

The council will also put £6.3 million into the project which will see an upgrade to some of the busiest routes in the city including Hagley Road and Bristol Road, with dedicated cycle lanes and safety improvements at junctions to encourage more cycling.

After the views were published in the Post, there was a strong backlash on social media.

But at the Edgbaston District committee Coun Deirdre Alden (Con, Edgbaston) said she was concerned that such a large amount of effort and investment was being spent on a mode of transport predominantly used by young men.

“The vast majority of cyclists on our roads are young, white men,” she said.

So let’s follow this logic. The argument for bike lanes goes something like this:

– cyclists are part of the transportation mix and should be provided with a safe way to travel

– bicycle lanes make the road safe for cyclists

– if we build more bike lanes, more people will cycle

– cycling is good for the environment, reduces traffic congestion, and benefits everyone

– so let’s build bike lanes

Councillor Alden says:

– only young, white men use bike lanes so FUCK THEM!

Putting aside the fact I don’t like bike lanes for a variety of reasons, I would never think to argue that they are racist. Perhaps I’m not trying hard enough. Ageist maybe? After all, I am white but I’m not young.

 

Forget Subways

I’ve been saying this for years just not as convincingly.

Candace Malcolm makes the case for NOT building subways in Toronto:

We are on the cusp of explosive new technologies that will revolutionize how we commute. Innovative tech startups are fixing the problems we currently have with cars: that they pollute too much, are too expensive for many, and congest our overcrowded roads.

Read it all and ride a bike.

What did Mary-Margaret McMahon do wrong?

The National Post reports this morning that Toronto City Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon was recently struck by a car at Woodbine and Gerrard while she rode her bike. I feel terrible for her and hope she recovers quickly. The driver of the vehicle has been charged with careless driving, which seems about right, and his behaviour at the scene is shameful.

Of course, the Councillor is using her accident to advocate for more bike lanes in the city – you know how I feel about that, dear readers – but I won’t criticize Ms. McMahon about bike lanes during this difficult time.

Instead I just want to focus on her statement to the paper and suggest she did one thing wrong that may have led to the accident. Here’s her statement:

“I couldn’t have been closer to the curb without being on the sidewalk. I don’t take up a lot of space as it is, and I’m a highly cautious cyclist.”

By hugging the curb so closely, she tempted drivers to pass her on a very narrow road. She should have been further into the lane which would have forced drivers to veer into the other lane to pass her. It’s actually safer this way because the driver is forced to pay attention to the other lane of traffic as well as the cyclist.

Check out the Toronto Cyclists Handbook, ibikeTO, or the Ontario Cycling Guide for some good advice.

Cycling and Women’s Rights: A Lesson for Conservatives?

I found this article in The Atlantic today: How the Bicycle Paved the Way for Women’s Rights.

“By the 1890s, America was totally obsessed with the bicycle—which by then looked pretty much like the ones we ride today. There were millions of bikes on the roads and a new culture built around the technology. People started “wheelmen” clubs and competed in races. They toured the country and compared tricks and stunts.

The craze was meaningful, especially, for women. Both Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are credited with declaring that “woman is riding to suffrage on the bicycle,” a line that was printed and reprinted in newspapers at the turn of the century. The bicycle took “old-fashioned, slow-going notions of the gentler sex,” as The Courier (Nebraska) reported in 1895, and replaced them with “some new woman, mounted on her steed of steel.” And it gave women a new level of transportation independence that perplexed newspaper columnists across the country.”

bike-women

The writer Adrienne LaFrance continues:

“The bicycle, as a new technology of its time, had become an enormous cultural and political force, and an emblem of women’s rights. “The woman on the wheel is altogether a novelty, and is essentially a product of the last decade of the century,” wrote The Columbian (Pennsylvania) newspaper in 1895, “she is riding to greater freedom, to a nearer equality with man, to the habit of taking care of herself, and to new views on the subject of clothes philosophy.”

What struck me about this passage was that the bicycle had become a political tool almost as soon as it was invented. In this case, it became a tool to advance the cause of women’s suffrage. LaFrance goes on to explain how women’s fashions changed as a result of cycling and how newspapers columnists and reporters reacted.  Read the whole thing: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/the-technology-craze-of-the-1890s-that-forever-changed-womens-rights/373535/

There is a lesson here for conservatives. As I stated in an earlier post, right now the bicycle is a political tool of the Left, a means to demonstrate your environmental and left-wing bona fides. But, just like the environment, the bicycle properly belongs to conservatives. Consider this closing passage from the article:

 “…I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have felt like—in an age when American women were still decades from the right to vote and inundated with men’s opinions about their ankles—for a woman to to go outside, hop on her bicycle, and ride as fast as she could wherever she wanted, leaving the rest of the world wondering where she might go. 

Indeed, “to ride as fast as she could wherever she wanted, leaving the rest of the world wondering where she might go”, no government regulations to hold her back; no bicycle paths to hem her in, to keep her “safe” from the buggies and Model Ts.  Just a woman and her bike and a sense of freedom and adventure.

1870velocipede_ferret

So what is the lesson here for conservatives? Consider that, in Toronto, only 35% of the cycling population is female, and I would surmise that most of those women tend to be left on the political and cultural spectrum. Conservatives need to make cycling attractive to conservative women by going back to the early days of cycling and appealing to the spirit of a “woman is riding to suffrage on the bicycle”. In today’s context, that would be “conservative woman riding to political change on her bicycle”.  It’s a stretch, but come on ladies, let’s ride!!! You don’t need bike paths, provincial strategies or Olivia Chow politics to enjoy your bike. Just ride.

http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=caa5970aa08c1410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

More on Cycle Paths or Tracks, whatever

Coincidentally, an editorial in this week’s Macleans magazine (http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-editorial-can-we-end-the-car-bike-detente/) asks the question: Can we end the car-bike détente?

I’m not sure the editors are using the word “détente” properly unless they are advocating for the ending of the easing of tensions? Does that mean they want things to get worse or better? I’m not sure from the headline. But the text suggests the latter so I’ll take them at their word.

There are some interesting stats here: “Academic research from Montreal, which boasts a well-developed 600-km system of bike paths, reveals separate cycle routes have a 28 per cent lower injury rate than comparable roads where bikes and cars are forced to compete for the same road space. Elsewhere in North America, the experience is similarly noteworthy. Between 1996 and 2005, 225 bicyclists died on New York roads in collisions with vehicles, but just one fatality occurred when the cyclist was in a marked bike lane.”

I wonder how many of the 225 cyclists were crazy couriers? I assure you couriers do not and will not use bike lanes. And how many pedestrians were killed by vehicles in New York? In 2013 alone, 286 pedestrians were killed in the Big Apple.  (http://www.villagevoice.com/2014-02-05/news/nyc-pedestrian-deaths/)

But this Calgary pilot looks promising. “Like many other big cities, Calgary is planning a major bike lane development in its downtown core, set to open next summer. And yet, this plan is not being presented as a fait accompli in favour of cyclists. Rather, it’s a one-year pilot program, after which the city will judge its success or failure against numerous performance indicators that take into account the interests of all parties.” Maybe Olivia Chow should not flippantly commit to constructing 200 more kilometres of cycle paths until the city takes into account the interests of all parties.

I guess now is a good time to show you what I drive when I’m not riding my bike:

IMG_9558

 

 

 

More pandering and nonsense from Olivia Chow

Mayoral candidate, Olivia Chow, announced on Friday that, if elected, she would oversee the construction of 200 additional kilometres of “on-road” bike lanes in Toronto over the next four years. I have yet to write my post on why I think cycling is conservative so I won’t give everything away here, but I will confirm that “bike lanes” on city streets are NOT conservative. If you’re not riding a bike now, a bike lane is not going to make a big difference. And if you are, then you don’t need a bike lane. The last thing this city needs are more ways for drivers to hate cyclists.

My position is this: A bike lane tends to make a rider feel entitled and complacent. You think you’re safe in the bike lane so you don’t pay as much attention. Remember there are others riders using the lane – slow riders and bad riders. I prefer that they just get out of the way. And dare anyone to step or drive in your precious bike lane – the outrage!! The best way to ride in the city is to use the lanes we already have on the major routes (e.g Bloor Street viaduct) which do not in any way impede traffic) and to learn to ride within the existing infrastructure. It’s not that hard and is very safe if you do it right.

But I also fell that it’s the left-leaning cyclists who tend to like bike lanes because they think more people will use use them. And they may be right. But I suspect only lefty cyclists will use them. So more bike lanes, means more lefty cyclists, which means more whining and more complaining, which means more bike lanes, which means more lefty cyclists. Aaaahhhh!

http://read.thestar.com/?origref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.ca%2F#!/article/53a4b114ec0691f05a0001fe-chow-vows-to-revive-2001-plan-for-on-street-bike-lanes