If bike lanes can work in densified New York City, surely they can work in Toronto
I revel in the frothing and steaming and rage some Toronto City Councillors experience when green initiatives are announced. They like to invoke the faux, manufactured fantasy called “war on the car”.
There’s the possible elimination of the confusing centre lane on Jarvis. The experimental no right turns on reds in a handful of busy intersections. According to the aforementioned Councillors, none of these hare-brained schemes have anything to do with pedestrian safety (in the case of the no right turns on reds: a few fatalities and injuries happen every year because some twit is in a hurry and plows though pedestrians) or beautifying repugnant boulevards. Nay, it’s about hating cars.
Yes, these crazy lefties on City Council want safer streets, less traffic and more people to take public transit. Forward-thinking fools!
For those who are in the trenches waging battles under the car banner, they bemoan these policies aimed at reducing traffic. To which I would say: “that’s the idea”.
Toronto and the GTA is a massive collection of municipalities. More than 5.5 million people live in over seven thousand square kilometers. Many live outside of Toronto and commute downtown, resulting in hours of idling on highways that are little more than morning and early evening parking lots. If I had to endure this life-wasting, pointless existence, I would rage, rage, rage and demand better public transit. I would have no desire to sit in traffic listening to some paleo-con crank on CFRB whine about immigrants and same-sex marriage as being the reasons for the unraveling of the Leave it to Beaver WASP society he grew up in the mid-1950s.
And as someone who lives in Toronto, if I worked downtown, the last thing I would do is take my car to work. I could walk faster to Yonge and Bloor than drive. Better, I can bike to Yonge and Bloor in 10 minutes.
Let me introduce the next “war on cars” initiative: bike lanes. Councillor Adrian Heaps, chair of Toronto’s cycling committee, is heading up a feasibility study that would see bike lanes stretching across Toronto from Victoria Park to Kipling along Bloor/Danforth. While there is a decent, dedicated bike path from Scarlett Road to past East Mall, it runs too far north along Eglinton. Indeed, there is a paucity of east-west bike paths in Toronto.
The worries are already being voiced. What about street parking? What about too much of the road for bikes and not enough for cars? The always narrow-minded and uber-business-friendly Councillor Case Ootes, warns that parking and car traffic would be snarled. Again, missing the point that we need to start thinking about more transportation options and get out of this mid-20th century mindset where every urban planning initiative is sculpted around the automobile.
Building more and more roads and expanding highways does not reduce traffic or improve flow: it encourages more cars to be the on the road. Good for the ailing GM and not-ailing Big Oil, bad for air quality, climate change and health (a few studies find a correlation between obesity, heart disease and long commutes).
I can say, however, that I understand the concerns of some merchants along Bloor-Danforth who fret that less parking will lead to a diminishment in business. I agree that they need to be consulted in the drafting of any plan that alters their neighbourhoods, but proponents of the bike lane should also conduct a study to determine if there is any correlation between fewer parking spots and a reduction in business. Just because I can’t park in front of a store doesn’t mean I won’t go there if it has what I need. After all, I can get anywhere on Bloor/Danforth using the subway or I can just chain up my bike and do some shopping.