This is a referral page from the following article. Instead of posting a response to the article on Mez's wordpress blog, I put it in here with a link because it's impolite to answer a 900-word blog with a 2700-word reply that uses up a tactless amount of page space on somebody else's web page.
First, Mez's article (Part 1), then following that, my response.
Perhaps it would be an utterly joyous coincidence of good old social justice if all the media darlings who are running for Mayor and a couple of long-term councilors as well lost the election, so we could have every one of them completely out of political office and gone from the damage they continue to inflict at the same time. Someone would have to pinch me to make sure the huge smile on my face wasn't the result of having sweet dreams in my sleep.Me, The Bicyclist
In testament of the fact that automobile usage hasn't decreased over time, and even though traffic planners tried to make smooth traffic flow as difficult as possible in the downtown core, I think we can basically agree that cyclists still can't find a truly friendly route.
I live along the lakeshore, so if I wanted to take my bike for a ride anywhere through the dedicated bicycle-pedestrian pathways in town, I'm all set up; but if I have to go anywhere in town for shopping or business, I'll take the TTC, thanks. Or, if I can glom a ride with a friend, I'll do that.
No way am I going to take my unsteady ass into traffic on two wheels, short of maybe on a motorcycle; and then only with paranoia and a great deal of concern about my sound judgement for being there in the first place.
Ever wonder why Harley owners like their exhausts to run loudly and filter minimally? It's because whether the motorist in front of you is a dork or not, you can gun the engine when you get close and the driver will freak just enough to be super-aware of your presence.
A friend of mine has an innovative mother, who some twenty years ago when she still rode, attached a trucker's air horn to her bicycle handle bar and used it to great benefit.Sharrows and Reserved Lanes
The sharrows referred to in your blog, Dave, remind me of my suggestion for authentic
reserved bike lanes running in the parking lane in my article http://www.feedbacktomark.wordpress.com
, in which I also proposed that the "new" (actually a 120 year-old, out-of-date transportation modality) streetcars be moved up into the air over the proposed rush-hour roadways instead of being built in ROWs up their centers, and reserved bicycle routes be moved up there with them.
Regardless of how we solve the problem of public transport mixed with automobiles mixed with bicycles, nothing positive is going to get done unless traffic planners make sure that all three can co-exist together comfortably; a view that, I'm sorry to say, bicyclists don't want to hear because of a long history of mutual non-co-existence with automobile traffic. Well, one can't imagine, consider, or plan a useful future when one's head is stuck up one's non-useful past. Sometimes one has to think outside of the ...um...box to arrive at win-win solutions.There Are Solutions.
[Note: We've got to get it into their heads (the traffic planners' heads, that is) that their job is NOT to clog up and close down normal traffic routes, but rather to make them smooth-flowing and friendly for ALL types of transport; and put into their heads a little "update" note: as all types of transport are becoming ever greener at a good pace
, none of them needs to be penalized for the 'benefit' of the others.]
Take it from my healthy paranoia about driving my bicycle in traffic: no type of bike lane is safe unless it is effectively barriered off from any kind of other traffic incursion.
But planners can't just take a lane off a roadway for bikes, because then it can't carry its bus, truck, and car traffic effectively any longer. They’ve already tried that with streetcars on Spadina and St. Clair, and neither works well for any other kind of traffic in the newly narrowed roadways with insufficient parking and double-back left turns.
A couple of suggestions that would really work could be in the form of either putting the cyclists up over the roadway with the new public transit routes (see my above website's drawings at the end), or converting Toronto's major streets to one-ways with one of the lanes made into barriered-off two-way bicycle lanes.
Converting major routes to one-way corridors will accomplish several things.
1. In a four-lane route, where buses, trucks, and automobiles were formerly only able to travel in two lanes when traffic moved in both directions, they will now have three lanes going one way, and traffic will be eased by that additional lane as it flows harmlessly by the two-way bike lanes established in the fourth. All four lanes will be between the sidewalks used by pedestrians without the necessity of road widening. Everybody wins.
At worst, with one lane reserved for parking to accommodate businesses that need parking access for their customers, the automobile traffic will have its normal two –faster-- lanes during business hours, and three lanes when the parking lane disappears during rush hours.
2. When one-way streets are instituted, experience tell us that traffic lights can be much more easily programmed to allow continuous non-stop (for the most part) flow for the full length of the avenue all the way through the city.
3. Where traffic is non-stop on a one-way street, it flows in packets through the green lights and there is a long, mostly vacant space between the packets, which allows pedestrians to cross safely at traffic lights and intermediate street corners, eliminating the need for point-and-walk style pedestrian crosswalks except at special locations such as outside the main entrances to seniors’ residences and schools.
4. Where one-way street systems are in use, there is an option for motorized street traffic to choose them as a swift-moving through-town route to move from one end of the city to the other in any of the four cardinal directions.
Then, a viable choice is made possible for motorized vehicles, of taking a through-town non-stop route or driving an expressway route; and as a result, the traffic flow on the expressway rush-hour routes becomes greatly diminished. No more need to think about adding extra or reserved lanes or installing toll stations. Again, everybody wins.As my Significant Other will gleefully inform you, I’ll take any opportunity to rant, so here goes:
"But nooooooo", the wimps groan. "If the streets are one-way, traffic might have to go all the way around the block to get where it’s going." Whoops! Slight inconvenience! Lord preserve us from going around the block to get where we’re going in the name of good traffic management. Let’s keep the unworking system after all. We're accustomed to it.
[Of course, rogue cyclists don't fall into this wimp category, because experience tells us that they don't respect the one-way signs on streets anyway (or stop signs, or open streetcar doors, or prohibitions about riding on the sidewalk, and tell us that they have far too many required components like proper lighting or a warning device like a bell or horn foisted upon their tender little souls).] Thankfully, none of this little aside applies to most cyclists, and especially never members of the organized bicycle lobby who want the city to reserve lanes for them. They not only obey all the rules of the Highway Traffic Act, but do not hesitate to report and expose their enemy automobilists for transgressions in the name of upholding its various requirements, especially when the buggers park in bike lanes. Well aware are they of the rule about living in glass houses, and avoid at all costs an association with transgression in their own crystalities.
Since the bicycle cops tell me they are stopping more and more cycling rogues and issuing summonses for traffic violations, maybe the city can use the fines as an income source to help pay for road paint and barriers. Come to think of it, maybe fines for jaywalkers can be used to paint crosswalks at street corners. Think I’ll buy stock in paint.A Disgruntled Mayoralty Candidate? Who? Moi?
OK, I'm a mayoralty candidate for the upcoming 2010 Toronto elections who once in a blue moon takes his bike that has the proper goodies on it for a ride.
And even though I'm over 18 I wear a helmet. ( I also don't smoke. I like my life.) [But the helmet is a habit that's left over from my teenage years when I started driving a motorcycle. Back then, my father told me that he understood why motorcyclists wear helmets. "It's because," he said, "when they wake up in the hospital, they'll have something left to think with so they can realize how stupid they were to be on a motorcycle in the first place." My dad was not 100% in favour of his boys riding motorcycles.]
But even though I'm mostly a pedestrian and TTC user, I still get royally ticked off when I see a bicyclist going the wrong way on a one-way street to get home because he just lives half-way up the block or driving down the street at night without the proper lighting. What if cars did that?
I may be naive, but I think that if you don't want to ride around the block, then you can get off and walk your bike home up the sidewalk; and while you're at it, take your smirking, wrong-way driving butt into the dollar store and pick up a couple of bike lights and front fork reflector, and pop into a hardware store to get a horn or a bell, too. There are legitimate bicyclists out here trying to get you a better and safer bicycling situation, and you are not helping their cause.
In spite of my numerous platforms’ bottom-line commonality in seeking a better future for generations to come by basing our city's planning --beginning today-- with an eye to the future; and in spite of my having actually given some thought to things like balancing the city's budget, encumbered as it is by huge deficits; and developing working, harmonious traffic patterns for all
forms of transportation; and a host of other much-needed improvements, you may not hear too much about me in the immediate future until I make some kind of media breakthrough.
There are two reasons for this. First, resistance from the status-quo. The city doesn’t work that way. Without exception, council's decisions are made for the present with no eye (none whatever, zero, nil, nada) to their impact on the future. Moreover, the city believes in spending large amounts of money on projects before it has the cash in hand and then working frantically to make it up later by imposing new taxes (e.g. development tax, billboard tax) to make us pay for them; or running to senior government for money to make up budgetary inadequacies, sometimes at a cost to other municipalities whose transfer payments have to be cut back as a result of funneling the province’s limited wealth towards Toronto.
Thinking about how new initiatives might impact the future of Toronto and whether in that respect they’re worth spending our own money on them, hasn’t yet become fashionable in council, so the idea is foreign to local political media coverage as well.
And secondly, there's no point wasting serious news media time on a so-called "fringe" candidate who can only do fringe-y tricks like solution-finding to the city’s difficulties, or thinking about how Toronto can begin rectifying its thousand current struggles by insisting that all council's decisions take into account their effect on the city's future so we can decide whether or not they're worth spending our money on. (That small philosophical change in how council thinks about the effect of its decision outcomes on its future would, over time, bring the city into balance both economically, and replace 'plentiful' development with 'cogent' development.) The news world knows it's in a dog-eat-dog competition with every other broadcaster and newspaper on the street. Actually getting Toronto working isn’t as important as selling papers and on-air advertising time, and you can’t sell papers by paying any attention to a fringe candidate.OK, Maybe I Rant A Little
Am I bitter about this? Honestly, it's not easy knowing that I'm a genuinely pragmatic choice for Mayor, yet a potentially distant finisher who's up against some really shallow-thinking competition with a huge media presence and strong financial backing. I truly understand. Papers must be sold! On-air advertising must be sold! Even the media understand the irony and inequities, and publish articles making fun of fringe candidates who complain about the media's obvious hijacking of elections all over the world.
"Headlines for dollars" is such a taken-for granted part of life, nobody notices that leading news media typically pander to the habit of being headline-grabbers when they play up criminal stories on the front pages and show us the grieving victims at 11:00 so we can all watch them cry and hear their pain while the criminals privately howl with glee about how [with descriptors like "shooters", "gangsters", "toughs", "gang war", "drug-dealer", "daring"] much glorification-style media space they're getting. Compare this to descriptors like ["murderer", "criminal", "punk", "drug peddler", "deviant", "cowardly", “heedless”, etc.] to notice that the second variety is a language of reportage that doesn't encourage criminality and that isn't employed as a news story-writing tool because it doesn’t generate enough excitement for the readership. Maybe if the news media switched to the less-lauditory forms of reportage they could become an ally in fighting crime instead of encouraging it. And, While I'm Ranting,
I think people ought to vote for a candidate that wants to sell off Hydro, which is has typically earned strong solid profits and a great deal of money for the city (and everybody knows how much the city needs every cent it can get!) so that whoever purchases it can make all that money instead of the city, and we can all contribute to the wealth of private owners instead of ourselves when we pay an outrageous Hydro bill that's typically at least double the cost of the electricity we actually use. Once the utility is sold, the couple of billion-dollar deficit maintained by the city won't even get dented. It would be like just throwing a strong liquid and fixed asset away.
Who could afford to buy a big expensive utility like that, anyway? Surely not the super-rich clients of said candidate’s former mentor’s former employer.
In fact, why should voters bother to think about candidate validity when the media is doing it for us?
Let's just give up our right to think for ourselves and vote for one of the three latest media darlings who haven't, judging by their pronouncements, got a clue amongst them that we're not just slightly better than unthinking automatons anyway, that will vote for whomever the news media tells us to vote for and who in order to earn their votes will blather anything that gets them headlines in hopes that we'll be impressed.
...Hey, wait a minute!...Maybe the news media is right about us... No, no, that would be too sad to think about. Why, that might mean that the gay community would be interested in voting for a politician whose track record exposes inadequate attention to detail in every single past political responsibility (even his decision to quit his political office on the off chance that he has enough notoriety to be picked for mayor) just because he’s “openly” gay. Or that Italians might vote for somebody with an Italian-sounding name regardless of whether on one hand, their record bespeaks not being open to or able to accommodate public sentiment while in office, or whether on the other, they want to establish casinos and red light districts as a means of paying off the city’s deficits and think that everything in the city is just fine the way it is.
The very thought that people would vote based strictly on a commonality of background is ridiculous. Toronto’s voters always look for the best person for the job and can see through the flim-flam, can’t we? Don’t we?
But I Digress....
Perhaps if bicyclists want more safety benefits like real bike traffic lanes, they should try for more media attention. What has become obvious is that mere highlighting of the facts and the need hasn’t worked; and in fact has instead made them the foils of self-aggrandizing politicians whose platforms bespeak succor and deliver sucker.
I think the nicest thing about sharrows is their name. How creative! And they DO add to the streetscape. Just look at all that nice white paint. No wonder people don't put more flowers in front of their homes in those pictures. They don't need to.