Drivers are the problem. And Rob Ford, Toronto Mayor, is their knight in shining armour.
Although most of my time travelling around Toronto has been via The TTC (British: public transport) or on foot, I really enjoy driving. If I ever rent a car, I snatch the keys with a sense of freedom because I know I can go wherever I want. Even north of Steeles! Or Major Mack! Imagine that!
I started learning to drive when I was 17 years old and still living in England. I have driven in London, something many North Americans find terrifying to even imagine. Let me tell you right now, Toronto is a worse city to drive in – most notably, parts of Scarborough. You can’t accuse me by saying “oh, you’re just more used to driving in London than you are in Toronto” because I’ve driven in Toronto a lot more than I have in London.
Toronto is not just a worse city to drive in. It can be terrifying to walk in and it can be terrifying to cycle in.
- Drivers turning across traffic, turning right on red, or pulling into a parking lot or driveway regularly forget to check if pedestrians are crossing. They go right ahead and commit themselves to the maneuver forcing themselves to either drive through/around pedestrians or to block the on-coming traffic they thought they could beat.
- Drivers turning right on red that are following another vehicle regularly fail to ensure that there are no pedestrians. They assume that because the vehicle before them can pass, they can too, despite the fact that… you know.. the vehicle ahead of them is blocking their view of advancing pedestrians.
- Drivers who are second in line to turn right on a red light will often blast their horn in impatience at the vehicle ahead of them that is waiting for a pedestrian to cross, just because the driver in the second vehicle cannot see the pedestrian.
- Drivers turning left at an intersection with a green signal (British: Green filter arrow) that has gone out (British: turned red) will just hammer it through the junction up to five seconds after the light has gone out (and thus pedestrians have begun crossing). If you’re lucky, you’ll get a sheepish wave of apology. More often, a lungful of carbon monoxide.
In Scarborough, during the past two weeks, I have had cars forced to stop suddenly on three occasions because the drivers did not bother to note that I was crossing. Today, just walking home from work, I saw three near misses between cars. Further on, a driver was crossing three lanes of Eglinton Ave. East in order to pull into a Walmart parking lot. She saw a gap in traffic and just hammered it without looking to see if anyone was walking along the sidewalk. Unfortunatly, I was. I had to stop walking and wave her through, lest I leave her stranded in the road against advancing traffic. I should be able to walk along the sidewalk without being on my toes constantly.
And so, onto Rob Ford and his ridiculous crusade against cyclists. What a prick.
Now. Cyclists can be very annoying to pedestrians. They should not be on the sidewalk (unless their wheels are 61cm/24 inches or less – i.e. Children), simple as that. It doesn’t matter that the cycle has peddles and not a motor, it is still a vehicle. They are even more annoying when they yell at you to move or ring their stupid bell. They are outright dangerous when they charge you down in an apparent game of chicken until you are forced to move aside, or else risk being hit.
And yet… it takes some balls to ride a cycle in Toronto. When you can’t even walk down the fucking street without waving cars through or suffer near-misses on crossings, imagine sharing the damn road with them as you are legally entitled to.
I can almost understand why cyclists end up on the sidewalk. Car drivers are fucking arrogant and selfish in Toronto like nowhere else I have seen. Drivers are far too concerned with shaving 30 seconds off their journey to care that they are hurtling along at 40-60km/h alongside cyclists. They intimidate pedestrians and cyclists with their vehicles like they are weapons. To make matters worse, Rob Ford wants to get rid of bike lanes (which probably won’t happen because Rob Ford is an oversized mouth lacking a pair of oversized trousers) and is generally derisive of anyone who doesn’t have a car in place of their dick.
Cycles are perfectly able to use the road too, with decent planning and decent drivers. Other cities manage just fine, some admirably. Are roads “designed” for motorbikes, Rob? If a motorbike is involved in an accident, is it their own fault too? Or is your vitriol reserved only for cyclists?
Poor drivers are a bigger pain in the ass and a massive danger to EVERYONE.
Until drivers become less selfish, transportation is sorted out and congestions is relieved, cycling on the sidewalk will remain too tempting. And while that might get Rob Ford home a few seconds faster every night at the expense of driver, cyclist and pedestrian deaths, it is not safe or sustainable.
Ironically, policies of Rob Ford, such as:
- Proposed removal of some cycle lanes
- Opposition to road tolls that could relieve suburban congestion (where congestion is a bigger problem
- Opposition to streetcars (British: Trams)
He opposes them because half a dozen cars waiting directly behind the streetcar can be delayed when passengers are alighting. even though overall congestion would be eased.
Will actually intimidate cyclists to travel on the sidewalk more and more and make getting around Toronto more and more risky.
Cyclists aren’t going away. And nor are gays, another section of society that Rob Ford apparently dislikes. Rob Ford’s backward, reactionary, right-wing rhetoric out-look isn’t going anywhere, either. Except out of the mayoral office, I hope.