Several weeks ago, I revisited a subject I first wrote about last July: bike lanes.
I complained that the first time I wrote a column calling for them to be installed on every street in the city, making things safer for everybody, I got next to no reaction. The cyclists didn’t write to say “bravo,” and the motorists didn’t write to ask if I was on crack.
I suggested the reason was because I wrote the column in the middle of the summer and the weather was too good for people to be inside and so nobody saw it.
So, I essentially rewrote that column and put it in the paper in the middle of winter and many more people reacted. Here, then, is a selection of letters I received.
Before I get going, however, I want to say that this is just one of a number of issues facing motorists in Toronto. I might write about this subject again, but I don’t plan — as some have suggested — to turn this column into one that’s exclusively about cycling. So, as Jackie Gleason used to say, “Away we go!”
Also Read: Bike lanes in Toronto — we could do a lot better !
Writes Wade Grocott of Toronto:
“I must say you are very kind, patient and tolerant of the cycling cult that has overtaken the city. We live at King and Spadina, and it is an absolute war zone out there, largely because of cyclists. We are more fearful of being hit by a bike racing along Adelaide than we are of a car.
“Bike lanes have only exacerbated the problem, as the majority (not all) of cyclists treat bike lanes as if they are in the Tour de France! The majority of cyclists we observe have a blatant disregard for the rules of the road.
“Car drivers are taught to wait out a red light, even if the coast is clear. Cyclists do not respect this way of thinking. Imagine if car drivers had such disregard for signs/lights! And yet, the city does nothing.
“The roads in Toronto were designed and built for cars — not for cyclists. Cyclists need to realize that they are ‘guests’ on the roads — guests who do not pay insurance, take a driver’s test or have licences, yet continue to expect special treatment.”
Now, this is from Steve Cosman:
“Drivers have to recognize that cyclists have a right to the road. Separation of bikes and cars is great in theory, but even with dedicated cycle tracks, our paths cross every few metres at intersections and driveways.
“Last month, I was hit by a car while riding in the Sherbourne cycle track, the most separated piece of cycling infrastructure in the core. The driver made a sudden turn into a driveway; he didn’t signal and crossed through the cycle track. I walked with a limp for weeks; he got a minor infraction ticket.
“Every day, I’m forced out of a bike lane into traffic multiple times by cars parked in them. Without respect from drivers, no amount of bike lanes will make the roads safe. Please publish a simple message: ‘Sharing the road with bikes may be frustrating at times, but it’s legal, and it’s our responsibly to know the rules. Drive safely.’ ”
OK, Steve. There you go.
Now, this from Tom Flaherty:
“I want to thank you for your article on Feb. 4 regarding bike lanes in Toronto. Your pragmatic and civil tone was a welcome change to the discussions being held about transportation in Toronto. It is a fact that cycling is on the increase, and there are reasonable steps we can take to make it safe.
“I was absolutely delighted to hear that you have taken the initiative to recognize cycling as an indispensable form of getting around our busy city; and perhaps a little surprised to be hearing that from a writer for the Wheels section!
“I commute to and from work by bike year-round, so I can easily relate to the need for more cycling infrastructure. Thanks again for providing a balanced and responsible injection into what is too often a forum of self-centred frustration.
Many thanks for that, Tom.
Now, not all cycling problems are confined to Toronto.
This one comes from a gentleman in Oakville named Bob Miller, who’s — wait for it — 89 years old (my kind of guy):
“Your article on bike lanes is Right On! I ride my bicycle every day, if weather permits. That includes winter riding, too, if streets are not clogged with snow.
“I try to be courteous and careful but have had some close calls on my bike, due to some of the antics by automobile drivers that you mentioned. The two worst ones were by drivers making right turns in front of my bike, although I had the right-of-way. Another was the 180-degree turn, where the driver was concerned only about oncoming vehicles other than bikes.
“Cyclists themselves are treated as second-class citizens by drivers, pedestrians and politicians. I have lost track of the number of jaywalkers who wait for cars to pass, then dash across the street in front of my bike. Since many streets in any municipality have no designated bike lanes, cyclists must always keep checking their rear-view mirrors to be sure that overtaking vehicles give enough room for safe passing.
“The Star has published several articles about the safety of cyclists in other countries. Why is it that not just Toronto, but much of Canada, is so far behind?”
Thank you, Bob. Now, Michael Sharpe weighs in:
“I work in the financial district, so you could say I’m a Bay Street broker. I live in the Beaches, and for years, because of poor public transit, I drove to work. Then, a few years ago, I discovered the Main and Danforth GO train — 11 minutes to Union. You can’t beat that, even in a Porsche. So I ride the GO in the winter.
“One day in summer six years ago, I decided to ride my bike. Fortunately for me, there are bike lanes almost the whole way from my house, so I only have to ride from the Distillery District to Brookfield Place (Yonge and Front). However, that short ride can be very busy and dangerous. The worst is people texting. I have knocked on a few windows to ask people to stop. Drivers rarely pay any attention to cyclists.
“I think the first thing people/drivers don’t realize is how great it feels to ride a bike. When I get on my bike, I feel like I’m 10 years old again, not in my mid-forties. I’m able to separate work stress from my family life as opposed to continuing to be stressed on my drive home.
“When riding on bike lanes like the ones I ride on (along Lake Shore, which are completely separate from the road), you never worry. I think the lanes are a huge selling point of living in the Beaches. Most of my friends live north of Bloor, and the ride can be very dangerous. I agree that bike lanes make sense, but the city needs to be smart.
“For example, there is a bike lane on Eastern Ave., two blocks north of Lake Shore’s dedicated bike lane. I never see anyone use it, and the traffic is now terrible. A number of years back, it went from two car lanes to one car lane and one bike lane. Most riders just make their way down to the Lake Shore bike lanes.
“As a driver and cyclist, I also see the issues drivers have with cyclists. There are those idiots that ride their bikes the wrong way on one-way streets, ride across crosswalks and have no flashing lights or reflective clothing. I think the police need to do something; a few rotten apples can spoil the barrel.”
Good stuff, Michael. But John Marshall has a different take:
“I agree with you that bike lanes would make everyone safer, but the real problem is the lack of car lanes. Most major east-west roads such as Dundas, Queen and King have a streetcar lane, half a lane for bikes and a lane for parked cars. All major cities except Toronto have several one-way streets like Adelaide and Richmond. If King and Queen were one way in opposite directions, there would be safe room for all.”
I find that suggestion very interesting. Here’s a good one from Dinsmore Roach:
“I am a cyclist, driver and pedestrian in that order. I came to Toronto from Montreal in 2001, and the first thing I did was to obtain the Toronto cycling route map to plot my route. Unfortunately, many cyclists I meet are not aware of the bike map. I carry a supply with me.
“If I may make two suggestions for a future column. Firstly, mention the Toronto bicycle map to plot one’s route, there is a Google map online also. Secondly, publish your Wheels cycle column in January, February or March to maximize it exposure. Why? We cyclists are hungry for any mention of our sport when we are starved during the winter months stuck indoors.”
I just might do that, Dinsmore. And we’ll close with this one:
“My name is Joe Arruda. I am co-ordinator of The International Ride Of Silence
, a silent bike ride that travels slowly in respect of the thousands of cyclists killed each year on the roads, where they have a legal right to be and where motorists have a legal obligation to share.
This year’s ride will be held on May 17 at 7 p.m., worldwide.”
Thank you, Joe. I wish you and your fellow riders nothing but the best.