Municipal Election 2010

Rob Ford 'Vague' on Bike Lane Policy

By RTH Staff
Published August 27, 2010

We had a chuckle reading this short piece in The Star on an email from Toronto Mayoral candidate Rob Ford to a voter inquiring about his policy on bicycle lanes.

The second paragraph of his email read: "Insert vague response on policy." Oops.

There was nothing "vague" about Ford's comments on bike lanes just a few years ago, when he said:

I can't support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day.

Yes, folks, this is the front-runner to lead Canada's largest city in a couple of months.

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By Jason (registered) | Posted August 27, 2010 at 17:44:24

I haven't been following this at all, but is there nobody else running for mayor there??

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By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted August 27, 2010 at 19:17:13

Funny, when I think of Mr. Ford's opposition to bike lanes, Menthol Moose's efforts on behalf of Laramie cigarettes come to mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKOhswXTQ...

It's in Italian, but the imagery speaks volumes. Can't Toronto find someone healthier looking to oppose calorie-burning modes of transportation?

Comment edited by geoff's two cents on 2010-08-27 18:20:37

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By cd (anonymous) | Posted August 27, 2010 at 20:33:42

The man is an affront to human decency and the notion of participatory democracy.

I'd like to give the topic of 'bike lanes' top priority in Hamilton. I applaud the Toronto cyclists for their courageous activism.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted August 27, 2010 at 23:14:33

I used to live in his riding, & as a City Council member, he is/was absolutely helpful, & a real go-getter for his constituents. It didn't matter if he had never heard of you, he still went that extra mile to actually be of assistance.

When I moved here, it was a rude awakening. The 'Who's yer Daddy' method of dealing or not dealing with constituents was a new one on me. Back in TO., ever satisfied customer aka constituent is another potential vote come election day. Nobody was keeping tabs on what happened last election, or who you voted for. They were looking forward -to the next election to see if they could keep you happy or swing your votes in their direction.

(Hamilton could ABSOLUTELY learn a few things about that!)

That being said, I don't think that Rob Ford would make a good mayor. He just may be the next Mel (Laughing Stock) Lastman. :( His arch conservative ideas will not work in the mayor's chair.
The Liberals don't want to see a 'Conservative' as mayor of a major City, so they just keep digging up dirt on him.)

I don't want to see George Smitherman as mayor either! He is running 2nd. behind Ford. 'Had enough Liberal deception, trickery, & nit picking. Smitherman was Liberal Health Minister for long enough to break the piggy bank. No! No! No!

If David Miller can not be convinced to come back, even with a write-in ballot option, I'd have to pick 'Joe Pants'. Joe Pantalone has served in council for many years, is respected by those around him. & is open to new ideas. He is the best hope for Toronto to move forward, not backward or sideways.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted August 28, 2010 at 00:15:43

I can't support highways. Roads are built for buses, bikes and pedestrians. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but at the end of the day, it's the fault of a much larger system.

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By kevin (registered) | Posted August 28, 2010 at 12:19:24

Evolution has stalled and we're going backwards.

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By I support Rob Ford (anonymous) | Posted August 28, 2010 at 14:19:44

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By TD (registered) | Posted August 28, 2010 at 16:21:37

God help the cyclists you don't see, who probably know you on sight and dive for the nearest side street when your oblivious hunk of metal trundles cluelessly toward them.

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By I support Rob Ford (anonymous) | Posted August 28, 2010 at 16:28:39

TD, what colour is the sky in your world? You don't know me yet you insinuate that I would run over cyclists? The fact is there are so relatively few cyclists compared to motorists yet in your world you think the opposite is true and that anyone who drives a car is a homicidal troglodyte.

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By Be T (anonymous) | Posted August 28, 2010 at 19:10:54

kevin your right! If Ford wins they should do like the unions do and throw out the result and tell 'em to keep voting until they get it right! ;)

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By cd (anonymous) | Posted August 28, 2010 at 20:12:42

If you don't see many cyclists on the roads, it's because they're on the sidewalks, with pedestrians, joggers, mothers with strollers and the disabled in scooters.

There is a need for them.

If you go to Germany, you'll see the whole country crisscrossed with bike and pedestrian lanes, some even running next to highways, separated by concrete barriers.

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By I support Rob Ford (anonymous) | Posted August 28, 2010 at 20:30:40

CD, if the bike lanes are there for them why are they on the sidewalks? My point is, we have bike lanes in this city that are not (or are barely) used. Building more does not mean suddenly more people will be getting to and fro via bikes?

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By cd (anonymous) | Posted August 28, 2010 at 22:36:01

Good question.

In Stoney Creek there aren't many of them and, as you say, they're scarcely being used.I think cyclists feel unsafe on the roads (there have been fatalities here), & there hasn't been the same media attention to the issue you get in Toronto.

People have to become used to the idea of cycling as an alternative to cars (wherever that is feasible). As much as I'm annoyed at cyclists on sidewalks I can also understand their reluctance to share the roads with drivers who still see them as a nuisance.

We need to encourage cycling activism such as the kind, perhaps, you see in San Francisico where cyclists, from time to time, purposely take possession of the roads, subjecting motorists to the same levels of frustration & anger they normally cause cyclists. But short of that we can ask local politicians to become more aware themselves and help make bicycle lanes mandatory along every major city road.

Under these conditions if you build them, they will come.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted August 29, 2010 at 00:11:28

Cycling on the sidewalk just isn't safe. It actually increases your chances of getting hit by a car.

I'm generally an advocate of shared roads, but see the need for bike lanes on key arteries like the York/Plains bridges. What's important, though, is that they're well thought out and not put there as political tokens.

They can't just be painted, pyloned and forgotten about. They must be cleared of snow in the winter (when slushy bike ruts freeze it's BAD news), and can't be used for parking or yard waste dumping. If we're going to build roads for bikes, then we must treat them as such.

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By TD (registered) | Posted August 29, 2010 at 01:11:16

I support Rob Ford: I'm not suggesting you'd intentionally run over a cyclist. However, in Toronto, over 200 000 trips a day are made by cyclists (Decima Research, 2000). If you only see five, you must be driving with your eyes closed.

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By I support Rob Ford (anonymous) | Posted August 29, 2010 at 08:37:23

TD, I'm glad to see you support Rob Ford.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted August 29, 2010 at 08:57:32

From my experience, there's two kinds of cyclists on the roads.

The first would be the road warriors. These make up maybe .5% of the population - those who are confident enough to ride on the road in all kinds of traffic. Bike lanes would likely do nothing for these folks...they ride despite the lack of them. These folks are generally male, and often are viewed as risk-takers.

The second are the enthused - they enjoy riding bikes, but prefer to do so away from traffic. These make up perhaps 1.5% of the population. There would be more of the people in this category cycling, but if bike facilities are not complete and connected, these people would choose to either use the sidewalks or not cycle altogether.

The reason we don't see that many cyclists is the fact that in general, our society considers cycling to be a dangerous activity. That, and the perception of cycling as labour intensive - many would-be cyclists are turned off because they have to expend extra calories and time to get from place to place.

While I know Rob Ford is catering to the "suburban car vote" with his anti-cycling stance, it is precisely those voters who stand to benefit most from getting more cars off the road, and more cyclists on it. The Greater Toronto Area is going to grow by a million people in the next 20 years, which includes some 500,000 more workers. Somewhere around 68 percent of daily commuters in the region drive cars. If we keep going the same way we have over the last 30 years, we will need to either spend in the hundreds of billions of dollars on new road capacity, or hundreds of billions on transit.

There is little will to make those expenditures on the part of the public. Which means, these commuters will face increasing amounts of gridlock above what is already one of the most congested city-regions on the planet, where the average daily commuter spends 84 minutes each day travelling to and from work.

Shifting the mix towards more walking and cycling (and a lower percentage of car use) is the most fiscally conservative way of dealing with the gridlock issues we face as a region. One year's road maintenance budget can fund ALL of the bike lanes that are needed over the next 20 years. Yet blowhards like Rob Ford continue to focus on the .5%, without grasping the fact that to grow the economy, we need to grow transportation networks, and the only way to do that while keeping capital costs low is to grow a complete and comprehensive cycling network.

The typical car owner sees cyclists as a small of the population, so why spend money to benefit them. These expenditures actually don't benefit the small segment that currently rides, they benefit those who can choose the option of riding. Voters need to grasp the fact that if they are to going to remain mobile, we need to grow the cyclist ranks to 10% or more, taking thousands of cars off the roads. This will require a much more balanced transportation network to bring about, but it is absolutely necessary for our quality of life and for our economic livelihood.

Being anti-cyclist goes completely against the principles of conservatism that so many, including all of Rob Ford's supporters, claim to believe in.

Comment edited by arienc on 2010-08-29 08:03:11

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted August 29, 2010 at 08:58:41

@ISRF - there are many bike lanes in the city and I am one of the cyclists who uses them. One main problem is that there are not many continuous, reasonable routes. For example: the King Street bridge over the 403 is great, but to use it, you have to ride on a road with no bike lanes. If you are coming from Dundurn, there's no bike lane once you cross Main Street, so you ride cautiously on the road and hope people are paying attention.

That's not encouraging, even though I've found that most motorists are very considerate. There's no bike lane on King and it doesn't start until past the next little street, just before the bridge. It doesn't make sense to encourage cyclists and then leave then scrambling without a lane.

I see your point that given the number of miles of bike lanes this city has, we don't have many cyclists. But if you knew how disjointed the routes are, you'd have some idea why we need more bike lanes - not new routes, just more lanes to connect the existing ones together. And I'm glad to see this is happening.

As for cyclists riding the sidewalk when there is a bike lane right beside them, they deserve a ticket, just like a motorist who violates any other traffic code.

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By cd (anonymous) | Posted August 29, 2010 at 10:01:12

Outstanding article, arienc!

Thank you.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted August 29, 2010 at 12:10:46

There is yet another type of cyclist who I see around Hamilton: The riding a bike because he has obviously lost his license. You will see him/her paddling along perhaps wearing cowboy boots and also smoking.

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By Militant pedestrian (anonymous) | Posted August 29, 2010 at 13:58:15

Quoting Undustrial: "Posted August 28, 2010 23:11:28

"Cycling on the sidewalk just isn't safe. It actually increases your chances of getting hit by a car."

Unsafe would be right, cuz it sure increases the cyclist's chances of hurting a pedestrian. People have died from head injuries sustained after being knocked over by cyclists. I've been hit twice by a bike while walking on the sidewalk , & it HURTS!

The last time this happened, I applied the bike 1st to the curbcut, & then to the upper body of the nincompoop who was riding it. (He had 20 feet of pavement to safely ride around me.)

It is illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk.

All those who get upset about cars & trucks impinging on their bike lanes, should understand why pedestrians don't want to share the sidewalk with bikes.

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By Be T (anonymous) | Posted August 29, 2010 at 17:42:58

Two points down for Militant pedestrian for pointing out bikes on sidewalks is illegal! We don't want the truth here buddy!

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted August 29, 2010 at 20:40:07

The real problem is the 1% of drivers who don't think bikes should ever be on the road, or that they can ever possibly be at fault if they endanger one. They make death threats, try to start fights, or even swerve, break, and ram with their vehicles to make their point. When they hit people, they flee the scene.

I see people getting tickets for more than their bikes are worth downtown all the time for riding on the sidewalk. I've had multiple people get out of their vehicles to fight me at King & Walnut (thanks to the "traffic calming, taking a lane there means obstructing half of King, but there's no safe way to do it otherwise), IN VIEW OF THE POLICE STATION. And I never see anything happen in a legal sense.

Wanna know why people are scared to bike on the roads?

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By Mongo56 (anonymous) | Posted October 05, 2010 at 16:37:33

I agree with most points on this page. Well done everyone.

I'd like to add that we need general (re)education of road rules for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike. Seems like a lot of people forget to look both ways, for instance. And most cyclists don't do regular shoulder checks (are they crazy!?).

I'm one of the 0.5% cyclists... young, strong, male... cycling in traffic, all conditions, all year, every day. I feel perfectly fine only because I can keep pace and I communicate with traffic. They communicate with me and we both give courtesies back and forth. IMHO, for me personally I try to stay away from bike lanes because other cyclists are too dangerous.

What I see on a daily basis are less-skilled cyclists weaving around and unable to properly use their bike (how to properly manage your momentum, gear changes, braking, etc).

I just wish there was a massive poster and tv ad campaign to tell cyclists to shoulder check more often, and for pedestrians to look both ways multiple times as they cross the street... and to predict their jaywalking window better.

Could something also be said of the people who ride massive beach cruisers that have 4 foot wide handlebars??? Like where's the common sense? Do they feel comfortable in tight spots with those bikes? Can they control their bike in an emergency situation?

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By Cyc (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2010 at 01:02:32

I don't follow the race, so I don't have any clue who Ford is. His position on this sounds reasonable though.

When I see a bicycle on the road:
1) they force every car to switch lanes and pass them. This does wonders for gridlock - effectively reducing the number of usable lanes by one.
and
2) I look over to see the sidewalk, and in anywhere but downtown Toronto, the sidewalks are generally empty.
3) The bicyclist generally ignores the rules of the road they are so eager to be on. If I'm standing at a red light, I don't appreciate them jumping the queue on the right forcing me to pass them shortly afterwards *again*. And don't get me started on how many times I've seen them run red lights.

Bicycle lanes are simply used too infrequently to take space away from an extra lane for traffic. If there's room for both, great, by all means - bike lanes are great. If not, the space should go to the traffic that needs it most - cars. The eutopian metropolis of the future where everyone is forced to pedal and bicycle theft levels are through the roof, may sound fun to some of you, but to other people it sounds like the pits.

As for it being safer or not - on the road, the bicyclist is at risk all the time (sideswiped by mirrors, etc). If they are on the sidewalk, they're generally safe until they reach an intersection (at which point, admittedly, the danger is higher then when on the road at the same intersection). Is it really so hard to dismount and walk there?

There - I said what I wanted. Now neg rep away - opinions like mine will then just magically disappear.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 16, 2010 at 06:52:14

Cyc, your observations are anecdotal and your conclusions are illogical.

You claim that cyclists sharing lanes disrupt traffic but oppose dedicated bike lanes except "where there's room for both" - which amounts to nowhere given that automobile traffic expands to fill the available space.

The clear evidence from real cities all around the world in all climates is that if you build a continuous network of bike lanes, the number of people who choose to ride bikes grows significantly and steadily. At the same time, increasing numbers of cyclists result in falling numbers of casualties as cycling becomes more normalized.

The critical component is that the bike lanes must be continuous, i.e. connected to each other. Just as few motorists would drive on a street that did not connect to any other streets, so few cyclists will ride on a bike lane that does not connect to any other bike lanes.

In cities that build continuous networks of dedicated bike lanes - an investment, by the way, with a very modest price tag compared to the cost of building and maintaining automobile lanes - the number of cyclists quickly grows to meet and even exceed the lane capacity of the bike network.

Clearly a lot of people would like to use bicycles for at least some of their trips and will choose cycling if the infrastructure exists to allow it.

You claim that it's safer to ride on the sidewalk (except at intersections), but in fact the data on cycling crashes and collisions demonstrates that the sidewalk is, for a variety of reasons, the most dangerous place to ride a bicycle.

You attack a strawman concerning a "eutopian [sic] metropolis of the future where everyone is forced to pedal". This is misleading nonsense; dedicating a few feet of space on roads that are overwhelmingly dedicated to automobile lanes is neither Utopian nor authoritarian.

You also trot out the well-worn red herring that cyclists "generally ignore the rules of the road". Most people, most of the time, maintain a casual at best relationship with the rules of the road. Motorists routinely exceed the speed limit, roll through stop signs, change lanes without signaling, etc. Pedestrians routinely jaywalk, cross against lights, and so on.

Most people, most of the time, make movement decisions based on spot risk assessments rather than strict adherence to the law - and cyclists are no different.

In fact, the evidence strongly suggests that as cycling is normalized through investment in continuous bike lanes and increasing rates of cycling, the behaviour of cyclists is normalized as well. Again, if cyclists had dedicated bike lanes, they would be much less likely to do thing you "don't appreciate" as a motorist.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-11-16 05:53:23

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