On Thursday, September 17 at 5:40 PM, Scott Thompson of AM900 CHML conducted a live telephone interview with me on the subject of bike lanes. Here is a transcript of the interview.
Scott Thompson, AM900 CHML (ST): If you missed yesterday's column in the Hamilton Spectator, it is there for you at 900chml.com. Simply click on the Scott Thompson show page and you will find it. It talks about cycling and cars and how we all just need to get along. You can also read in Raise the Hammer, raisethehammer.org, Ryan McGreal is the editor of raisethehammer.org, and the headline is "Talk Radio Ran No Way to Debate Policy". He says, "Yes I'm talking about Scott Thompson's steaming load of codsawallop on the subject of cycling and bike lanes. Maybe streams of ignorant, self-important riffing are standard fare for talk radio, but we should expect a higher standard from the paper's opinion pages. Uninformed rationalizing from a set of prejudices might make for entertaining rants on the long route home, but makes for a lousy public policy debate." Hello, Ryan, how you doing?
Ryan McGreal, Raise the Hammer (RM): Not bad, how about you?
ST: I'm doing very well, but I'm hurt.
RM: I know, I'm not usually that grumpy.
ST: You know, I'm thinking, first of all, Ryan, that if we spend enough time with our heads together, trying to come up with a constructive plan as you have trying to insult me, maybe we'd have a solution to this!
RM: But you know, we already have a solution, that's the beauty of it. We already know what works. All we have to do is look at cities all around the world that have built continuous bike networks. And they don't have these conflicts, they have lots more cyclists, they have cleaner air, they have fewer casualties. I mean, we don't have to guess about what works. All we have do do is look at what's already working.
ST: I don't think that anybody - as I said in the article, I don't think anybody in Hamilton is against bike lanes, or networks, or hooking them all together, all of that sort of thing. My point in the article was, is that, Obviously in Southern Ontario, we have a congestion problem that isn't going to go away just by announcing that tomorrow, everybody has to ride a bicycle. Removing a car lane, and again, I'm all for figuring out ways to make it work, and I think there's lots of different ways. I just, I question whether we should be removing a lane of traffic in order to make a bicycle lane. Would that not increase congestion?
RM: Well, I don't think so. If you think about it, you can fit a lot of bicycles in the same area as one car. You know, if you have - I mean, you don't need a full lane to ride a bike. All you need is a few feet.
ST: I'm well aware of that, Ryan, but at the end of the day, way more people are driving their cars than are riding bicycles.
RM: Well, sure they are.
ST: When it gets to the point where this is obviously, the other way around, then I can see your point. So again, how can we come up with a way of integrating the bicycles and the cars together but not necessarily sacrificing one or the other? Neither one's going away.
RM: Well, see, the thing is, people respond to incentives. If you make it very easy to do something-
RM: -People will do more of it.
RM: If you make it harder, people will do less of it.
RM: Right now, most people drive most of the time because there aren't any other choices-
ST: Absolutely, Ryan, but, but don't you think this is a much more complex problem than erasing the lines on a road and painting new ones? I mean, this is a transit issue, this is a cycling issue, it's a sidewalk, it's a pathway issue, it's a very complex onion. And to just all of a sudden say, "Alright, no more cars allowed in here", and hopefully-
RM: Hold on-
ST: Hang on a sec, and hoping that everybody-
RM: Hold on, Scott-
ST: Hoping that everybody jumps on their bike and all of a sudden starts riding is unrealistic.
RM: You're attacking a straw man. Nobody's saying no more cars.
ST: I'm not attacking a straw man! Come on, Ryan! Don't give me that crap about a straw man!
RM: If you look at how much space a bike lane takes up, it's a tiny fraction of the amount of space that a car lane takes up, and it can actually carry more people more efficiently in less space-
ST: It can-
RM: It's a more efficient use of the road.
ST: It can, but it's not right now. That's the point.
RM: It's not because the bike lanes aren't there. How can bike lanes carry people more efficiently if there aren't any bike lanes?
ST: Look at any of the bike lanes that are around the city right now. They're not jammed.
RM: They're not continuous, Scott. If I built a road that started nowhere, and it continued and went to nowhere, and it wasn't attached to any other roads, would people take it?
ST: You know-
RM: They wouldn't. A bike lane that goes from nowhere to nowhere is no use to anybody. It's the connectivity that-
ST: I agree with everything-
RM: If you build a continuous bike lane, people use it. If you look at Portland, if you look at New York, if you look at London, Paris - all of those cities-
ST: I'm in agreeance [sic] with -
RM: They used to be very hostile to bikes and now they're becoming more and more friendly and more people are riding.
ST: I'm in agreeance with everything that you say. I'm in agreeance with everything you say about bicycles, I'm a cyclist. What I have a problem with, and where I think we need a little bit more consultation and a little bit more ingenuity, is a way to create a network that doesn't necessarily mean taking a lane out of two or three or four lanes of traffic. Because right now, the need just simply isn't there. The demand simply isn't there.
RM: I think the demand is there, but it's latent. If you look, over the last few years, cycling has been increasing steadily even without having proper infrastructure. And if you look at cities where they actually build it, people use it. I mean, if you look at Portland, they've increased their cycling eight times in the past-
ST: I would agree with that. I would agree with everything you're saying, Ryan, but what I'm-
RM: But if you agree that if we build it, people will use it, and the other thing that's really important to remember is that, you know, in the article you talk about "conflict" between cars and cyclists, now I ride a bike every day, have done for years, that's how I commute to work and back, I ride in mixed traffic, I ride on York Blvd, I ride on King, I ride on Main, and I don't feel that it's a war. I'm not in conflict with cars, I get along well, I feel safe, you know, I don't feel that there's this war going on. I think it's a lot of sensationalizing.
ST: Well, you know, the only war that, I don't think the car drivers feel there's a war either, I think it's the cyclists that feel that there's a war. You know, again, I mean, if you look at all the cyclists on the road, and all of the cars that are on the road, and how many cars are obeying the laws, and the traffic laws, and how many bikes are disobeying them, I mean come on, it's, it's, it's-
RM: You know what? I can show you, you go to any intersection that has a four-way stop, and sit there and mark how many cars come to a full stop. Almost zero.
ST: How many bikes don't even slow down? They just go blasting right through, Ryan. Come on!
RM: And some cars do, too. You can't, you can't look at, at, you know, at-
ST: We're getting off track now. We're getting off track. The point is, my point is, is that, you know, I think there's a great need for this, and I think it, it, people want this, but I think, as soon as you start creating and adding congestion to the roads by removing a car lane, a traffic lane, and that's what you're doing, you're adding congestion to the roads by adding -
RM: You're not, because the more people who ride a bike, each person in a bicycle isn't in a car.
ST: I know but the point-
RM: When I ride a bike -
ST: I know that, Ryan.
RM: I'm not in a car.
ST: I know that, Ryan, but-
RM: But you can't ignore that.
ST: I know that, Ryan, but the point is-
RM: It's a dynamic system, it's a dynamic change. You're increasing the number of cyclists, you're reducing the number of drivers. And every bicycle takes up a lot less space on the road than a car with one person in it, and most cars have one person in them most of the time-
ST: The reality is-
RM: Congestion will go down.
ST: So again, what you're demanding everybody to do is stop driving and start riding their bike.
RM: Of course not! People will always drive. I drive sometimes, and I'll continue to drive. What I'm saying is that people should have a choice. If people want to ride a bike, the facilities should exist -
ST: Nobody's disagreeing-
RM: We can build a bike network across the entire city -
ST: Nobody's disagreeing with any of that-
RM: for less than what it costs to manage our roads for one year.
ST: Nobody's disagreeing with any of that-
RM: The cost is very small. It's a very big payoff for a very small cost. The air is cleaner, the roads are safer, congestion goes down, people have more choice-
ST: I don't see how you can be removing a lane of traffic and congestion going down.
RM: Because people who were in cars are now in bicycles.
ST: All we have to do is see the accident on, listen, Ryan, the last time there was an accident on the 403, and everything was closed down, and it all went into the back streets, and ended up, you know, we're going down two lanes of York Blvd. Again, I agree with everything you're saying, I agree with everything you're saying, but I think there's a more, it needs a little bit more ingenuity here and I think we can come up with a better solution than just eliminating a car lane. Anyway, very much appreciative, Ryan, of you joining us, it is called "Talk Radio Ranting No Way to Debate Policy", raisethehammer.org, Ryan McGreal, thanks for joining us.
RM: Thanks a lot for the time. Take care.
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