Flying down the Avenue Rd. hill, going arse-over-teakettle into the boot of a parked car and breaking my ankle was enough to dissuade me from ever riding a bicycle in the city again.
(Same ankle I’d broken a few years previously stepping off a TTC bus, so I’m an all-mobility klutz.)
Tens of thousands of pedal-pushers are apparently braver than moi. Or more foolish. This is the demographic that continues to fight the innate elements of a congested metropolis that was never built to accommodate two-wheels good, four-wheels bad, and perambulators mostly invisible to both.
To be clear: I don’t drive. No car, no license. (But, pointlessly, a parking space.)
I am surrounded, however, by designated bicycle lanes, thus subjected every day to the trench warfare between motorists and cyclists.
It is, of course, an asymmetrical war.
You might think a 3,500-pound vehicle would have the upper hand against a foot-powered two-wheeler with a narrow frame. Not necessarily. Distilled to political skirmishing, the bicycult enjoys whopping disproportionate flex as a lobby group.
They always want more. Because, like, they just do.
Because, despite the chaos caused by ongoing construction on more than 600 city roads — $100 million being spent on resurfacing major roads, $70 million on local roads, to say nothing of the of the endless condo building boom that obstructs movement everywhere — it’s always all about them:
Their demands for a cycling Shangri-La superimposed on the Toronto grid.
And how very much in sync that is with the Cycling Network Plan at city hall.
The “war on cars” is a silly rallying cry, adopted by people who seemingly can’t walk a block to the corner store. It’s true, however, that accommodation for cyclists has made a mess of getting around the city for the vast majority of us, as vehicle lanes are constricted or outright removed, dumping traffic into side streets and clogging arterial roads into chronic gridlock.
While a Jarvis St. bike lane was rejected, city hall earlier this summer voted in favour of extending the Bloor St. bike lane to High Park, testing bike lanes on the Danforth and perchance, some day, University Ave.
Advocates wrap themselves in a mantle of urban health, that this is all to do with making Toronto more livable and environmentally conscious.
Puh-leeze. At core, it’s about promoting convenience for cyclists versus some 1.1 million cars, as estimated by a 2011 survey.
By the numbers, there are some 388,000 “utilitarian cyclists” in the city — meaning those who bike to school, work and for errands, not sport or leisure. As per figures cited in a study released this week by University of Toronto researchers, to be published in the Journal of Transport Geography, riders (cyclists) have access to fewer than 5,000 jobs within a 30-minute ride on “low-stress” routes. Reduce the stress and the job catchment would rise to 60,000 within a half-hour distance.
Most of us are nowhere near 30 minutes from where we need to go on a daily basis.
That’s why we take public transit, for all its ills and discomfort.
But cycling devotees would rather we turn the city upside down — more bike lanes, less stress — to fulfill their wishes.
I can just imagine this cycling nirvana, where perambulators continue to fall to the bottom of the pile.
Get more of today’s top stories in your inbox
Sign up for the Star’s Morning Headlines newsletter for a briefing of the day’s big news.
Sign Up Now
You know, the most frightened I’ve ever been trying to navigate a big city by foot was Beijing, pre-Chinese economic colossi (and pre-toxic smog from car fumes). Literally millions of bikes hurtling around pedestrians. This is the cultural revolution some pine for, with carved-out bike lanes (whether painted or physically separated) far, far beyond what exists now, including (as of last summer) 28.5 km of bike lanes and tracks installed under the city’s bike plans, and a “cycling-mode-share for daily commuting to work of 2.7 per cent,” according to the study.
The city’s 10-year cycling megaplan originally recommended 41 lane-kilometres of additional cycling — ratcheted up to “at least” 120 kilometres of bike lanes over the next three years, with infrastructure “interconnectivity” to link isolated islands of low-stress routes.
Because heaven forbid cyclists should be inconvenienced.
As described in the U of T study, which assigned every Toronto street and bike lane a stress value of one to four, “most people find cycling near fast vehicular routes or attempting to hold the right of way on busy roads stressful and uncomfortable.”
I’m not blind to the safety risks of biking in Toronto, which last year hit a record high of five cycling deaths. But 41 pedestrian lives were lost in 2018. And we have no idea about collisions between pedestrians and cyclists as neither police nor the Ministry of Transportation collates that data. We have only anecdotal experience — and who hasn’t been there — of cyclists who imperil life and limb by riding on sidewalks or full-throttle streaking through stoplights and crosswalks.
More from the U of T study: “Cyclists are highly sensitive to travel distance, express reluctance to adopt longer routes and want to minimize the number of detours on their travel path.”
Again, cry me a river!
This is urban living, with its countless advantages and rewards. Stress is part of the package. I’m stressed to the gills trying to negotiate the Gardiner underpass every day, humping by foot. I’m stressed trying to hail a cab on Sherbourne St., because taxis can’t invade the bicycle path to pull up on the curb. I’m stressed by short-turning streetcars and strap-hanging on sardine-packed subways.
But the wheels on the bicycle lobby go round and round ….
Hey biped, get outta the way!