Dear Councillor Ford,
This morning, I read an article in the Globe and Mail (Private toll tunnel under Gardiner appeals to Doug Ford) about some ideas you have for reducing traffic congestion that would not involve mandatory road tolls.
I have a number of issues with your arguments; for example, this layer-cake vision of the Gardiner would likely further isolate the city from Lake Ontario, and probably would probably require a massive reconstruction of the entire Gardiner given that it already seems to be falling apart. This could be chalked up to ideological differences, and I am willing to accept that we will likely always have differences in opinion, so this isn’t much of a problem. There is the other nagging problem of where one might expect all the extra cars that are taking your proposed tunnel downtown might actually go once they exit the tunnel, seeing as gridlock doesn’t just affect the inner-city highways. This is probably less of an ideological issue, since space will not change regardless of one’s political viewpoint. Since I am not a traffic engineer, I will not speak more to this, as perhaps there is some way we could change the flow of traffic downtown to remedy this; certainly, proper traffic light synchronisation might serve to speed things up, at least on certain roads I commute on.
However, there is one statement you have made I feel compelled to take real issue with, and your quote is: “If you’re asking would I pay five dollars to get downtown quicker and not knock off 14 bicycle riders on the way down Queen Street, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”
In one short statement, you have implied that cyclists in the city are not only casually disposable members of society, but that the mowing down of cyclists in a manner that, if it so happened in real life (and similar incidents have happened), it would be considered anywhere along the spectrum of careless driving to mass murder.
I am a confident cyclist, and attitudes like these aren’t going to keep me off the road. But they will keep others off the road. More importantly, it is reprehensible that there are elected leaders of our city promoting the concept that bicycles on the road are asking to be run down by cars. If you ask any cyclist, even the most rabid anti-car ones out there, I would be shocked if you could find one that is actively looking to be hit by a car just to prove a point. Most people on bicycles simply want the same thing as drivers, which is to reach their destination in a reasonable amount of time and not die in the process. I doubt you would find this too much to ask for.
If you think this response is perhaps too strong, I would like to point out that the idea of the bicycle as a self-imposed death trap is prevalent in North America. You can see this in the way drivers that injure or kill cyclists are treated in the legal system (and, indeed, in the laws designed to punish these infractions). Bicycle collisions are likely to be underreported since the authorities do not seem to care about taking reports for infractions such as doorings and right-hooks, which are all too common, even for statistical purposes. And with recent Toronto bike planning, such as the spur-of-the-moment proposal to remove the Jarvis bike lanes and the underreported bike counts on John Street, it would seem the city is out to eliminate bikes from the road that vehicles haven’t managed to knock off yet, as you so eloquently put it.
Perhaps the Globe has written this out of context, and if so, I welcome you to clarify your comments. But if not, I would ask that even if you do not feel that cyclists have a place on city streets, an opinion you are certainly entitled to, that you at least speak of cyclists as citizens of Toronto and not as obstacles to be avoided when it is convenient. Cyclists are people too, and we deserve to at least be treated as though we should remain alive.