By Ben Bull
Published April 19, 2010
It seems like it's all bikes, all cars, and all transit all the time in the Toronto Star these days. True to the paper's fabricated 'War on the Car' muckraking mantra, there's a lot of angst in the air:
"When I'm the mayor of the City," gloated Mayoral candidate Giorgio Mammoliti in response to a bike lane question last week, "I will take them down (all the new bikes lanes) - and that will be the first thing that I do."
Thanks Giorgio. Well, at least he's honest.
This recent proposal to insert a couple of bike lanes along University Ave for the summer months appears to have ignited the ire of most of our municipal candidates.
When asked, "Are you in favour of bike lanes on major city roads, such as Jarvis St and University Ave?" only one candidate answered an unequivocal "yes" (Thanks, Joe Pantalone).
Never one to duck a controversy, the Star's Rosie D-Manno stepped into the cowpat with a typical stir-up-the-pot-for-the-sake-of-it contribution:
Personally, I find myself at endless war with both cars and bicycles since each clearly believes they own the road over pedestrians. Gas pedal, kinetic pedal - same difference when it comes to bullying the public space. And note I said pedestrians, which implies those who go about at a pedestrian pace. That does not include runners, be they even those middle-age stiffs who fancy themselves athletes, panting purposely and virtuously towards a place they have no hope of reaching: youth retrieved and physical decrepitude thwarted.
Wow. Who ever thought this 'war' would set its' gun sights onto the poor pedestrians!
DiManno's piece was, in fact, more of a diatribe against unruly (and unsightly...) cyclists:
I've got road rage issues with cars and bikes. While the former pretend they can't see pedestrians, especially when making a left-hand turn on a green light, those of us trying to negotiate an intersection - or a sidewalk - are apparently completely invisible to the latter.
We take our life in our hands stepping off a curb with a cyclist barrelling down the macadam. In my experience, pedal-pushers don't think traffic lights and crosswalks apply to them.
This is self-evidently true of bike couriers, a kamikaze breed who should, frankly, be segregated from the rest of society. But even otherwise mild-mannered individuals - tricked out with their stupid aerodynamic helmets, as if they were participating in Olympic pursuit races, and their exhibitionist crotch-hugging Gore-Tex pants - discover their inner demon while mounted.
I cannot count the times I've nearly been spoked to death by geeks who would never consider so much as, say, butting into a queue were their feet solidly on the ground.
Of course, regular Star readers have learned over the years that DiManno likes to pick a fight with, well - anyone, and facts or common sense be damned.
I have to agree with her on those Gore-Tex pants though. They really do look stupid...
Today's Star offers up some more rational discourse. Ajax's new plans to open up more of their asphalt to people powered modes of transportation are explored in the GTA section:
One fine day last August, two groups of politicians, planners and officials laced up their walking shoes, hopped on bicycles and hit the streets of Ajax.
"It was one of the biggest eye openers for us," says the town's senior transportation planner Angela Gibson. "We began to experience what our residents were experiencing daily."
That tour by cyclists and pedestrians, punctuated by pit stops to discuss observations and ideas, was the ideal starting point for an ambitious new master plan called Walkable + Bikeable Ajax.
Just approved by council, the $28 million, four-year plan - the first of its kind in Durham Region - aims to turn Ajax into a vibrant and accessible community where cars take a back seat to people."
And stranded-at-the-airport Urban Affairs columnist Christopher Hume weighs in from Berlin:
Although volcanic ash from Iceland has paralyzed air traffic across Europe, it hasn't paralyzed Europe. If this city is any indication, life goes on much as always.
But what if the jet stream flowed west, not east, and the smoke was blowing across Canada? The results would be beyond disastrous, they'd be catastrophic.
Why? Because in North America, we have no other serious forms of transportation. Take aviation out of the picture and what's left? The answer, sad to say, is precious little. Other than cars and trucks, we would have few alternatives.
Europe, by contrast, is connected by a formidable network of trains - high-speed intercontinental lines, intercity service and local commuter lines - that is never more than steps away no matter where you live.
As for high-speed rail, now so fast it takes barely more than two hours to go from London to Paris, it simply doesn't exist in Canada, not even in the densely populated Toronto-Montreal corridor. By the way, when you can get a seat and trains aren't delayed by the seemingly daily derailments, travelling between those two cities is an almost five-hour epic.
This conversation has been going on in the Star for weeks now. It's curious then, why mass transit, pedestrian safety and bike lanes don't appear to be on any of the municipal candidates' radars.
It's not in print for nothing, folks. Read the paper - take the hint.
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