Good follow-up coverage from CBC TV on the "Red Light Robertson" story
Who would have thought that sitting in my office and shooting a bit of video of countless cyclists breaking the rules of the road could translate into such a hot debate? But it did. Dozens of people weighed in yesterday on both sides of the debate and it made for very interesting reading. For their part, the cyclist lobby were trying to divert attention away from the video and onto other more salient issues such as the driving habits of bad car drivers. The other camp piled on and suggested there needs to be more enforcement to reduce the number of bad cyclists on the road. But somewhat lost in all this banter was the man who actually got the whole debate started – Mayor Gregor Robertson.
Last evening both CTV and CBC television (see above) ran great stories and interviewed Michele MacDonald, a very well-spoken transit driver who recounted her version of events regarding her altercation with the Mayor. By all accounts, it was a rather frightening experience for both her and the passengers. Needless to say, as the story went to air I thought we'd also get the Mayor’s version of events which would include a mea culpa. Well, it never happened.
In what some might perceive as a tad arrogant, Robertson chose not to do any television interviews yesterday. He opted to send the media a written statement from his 3rd floor "bunker" at City Hall instead. Here is what he told CTV:
"It was a good lesson for me and I hope it serves as a reminder to everyone to use caution and follow the rules when out on the road..."
I’m told by a good source that his communication spin doctors realized putting him out there on the heels of his infamous “effing NPA hacks” statement was probably not a good idea. After all, who knows what the Mayor could say or do next?
The public was left with a reasonable sounding transit driver who provided a very public scolding of a Mayor that normally jumps at every opportunity to do a bicycle story. In the end, the Mayor looked like he was hiding – yet again. However, if he and his crafty spin meisters were a little cleverer, they could have used this as an opportunity to gain a few points with the public who are increasingly growing weary of Robertson’s lack openness and transparency.
Robertson clearly should have come out in front of the cameras and admitted his mistake, then committed himself to working on a public information campaign about the need for cycling safety. How about Vision buying a few billboards with the Mayor’s mug shot exclaiming “Run a Red, Risk Your Life”? Or better yet “Only losers don’t wear helmets.” Okay, I’ll leave it to the pros in Vision's massive communications department to come up with the right marketing spin to make their boss look good.
For better or worse, Gregor Robertson is Vancouver's most famous (or is it infamous) cyclist. If this were the Tour de France, following closely on his heels would be Vision councillor Geoff Meggs. A few months ago he was seriously injured after he failed to halt at a stop sign. Here is an excerpt from Megg's interview with Mike Howell at the Vancouver Courier:
Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs’s memory of his bike crash March 9 is foggy but he’s got a theory on how it happened. Meggs was riding south on Angus Drive and approaching the intersection at 43rd Avenue when the collision occurred. There’s a stop sign on Angus Drive.
“Although I don’t remember it, and I don’t make a practice of ignoring any traffic signs, the only way I could have wound up where I was is if I had missed that stop sign,” Meggs recalled Wednesday.
The Mayor's profile provides him with a great opportunity to set a high standard for Vancouver's youth when it comes to the importance of bike safety. As Chair of the Police Board, he is also in a good position to influence a whole lot of adults who think regularly breaking transportation laws is a perfectly acceptable thing to do.
I’m told by people close to the Mayor and his advisors that he’s just laughing this one off as a middle-of-the-summer story that will fade away quickly. Their hope is everyone is simply too busy on the BBQ circuit to be paying much attention to the Mayor’s foibles in the hot and hazy days of late July. They’re probably right on that score.
However, given all the bad press the Mayor’s had lately, a trip to his exclusive resort property on Cortes Island is still looking mighty appealing right about now. And the good thing is the Island doesn’t have a daily newspaper and the Mayor is still considered by some locals as a bit of a folk hero.
So Mr. Mayor, why don't you sit back, relax and enjoy the current summer recess of council. That's because by this time next year every politico in town will be gunning for your job (and that may include some within your own Vision party...more to come on that soon) and gearing up for a very crucial 2011 municipal election. As a self-described died-in-the-wool civic watcher, this should all make for great television.
- Post by Daniel