Updated: To watch this program, please go to the TVO website. The tab “Fred Hansen” contains the interview with Portland’s Transportation Manager, while the tab “Sharing The Road” contains the discussion between Steve Paikin and the five guests.
Tonight (May 7), TVO’s The Agenda presents a discussion of the use of road space. Is there a war on cars? Are cyclists and pedestrians asking for more than they deserve? What should streets be for?
The program begins with an interview with Fred Hansen, Portland’s Transportation Manager, on what Toronto should be doing, and continues with a panel discussion between:
- Yvonne Bambrick of the Toronto Cyclists’ Union
- David Booth who writes for the weekly Driving section of the National Post
- Jeff Casello, an assistant professor in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo
- Dylan Reid of Spacing magazine and co-chair of the Toronto Pedestrian Committee
- A certain bearded transit activist you all know and many love
The program airs at 8 pm with a repeat broadcast at 11 pm. When an online version is available, I will post a link here.
James Bow, your host on the Transit Toronto website, has blogged some of his own comments for TVO.
I don’t have any problem with the idea to take away roadspace in the core… so long as alternatives are provided.
I’ve run the numbers myself. Currently, about a third of people in the core drive to work. I said “what if we applied that to the rest of the city?” In the core it is easy to walk to work, outside the core, not so much. I therefore assumed transit ridership would have to raise to around 2/3rds of total trips to and from work (pretty darn radical, I know) What I ended up with was shocking. Finch East would need a headway of 20 seconds, and Steeles east, 40. Routes like Kipling, Vic Park, Warden, Wilson, York Mills, Lawrence west and east, Royal York South, and others would have headways of around 1 minute 20 seconds. Now of course, a network that runs more often is more efficient and these are very very rough calculations, but the fact remains thusly:
If we are to prevent people from driving into the core, what are they to do? The yonge subway south of eglinton is already packed, and it would only take a fairly minor uptick in ridership to fill the bloor line. If you want to make it harder to drive in this city, you have to “put your money where your mouth is” so to speak and increase, significantly, the amount of public transit.
Steve: And yet, the support we get from Queen’s Park is good, but not enough, and Ottawa is just about a lost cause. Meanwhile the City of Toronto is painted as being uncooperative in the GTA because we actually expect to have capacity on our own system even after we extend the subway system into neighbouring municipalities.
I posted this per James post on TVO: great summary of where we’ve been and where we are now. McGuinty is a typical politician in that he wants to announce mega-projects but not help fund the day to day stuff. Toronto and the GTA do need more support on buying transit vehicles, and will need support certainly as these new lines come on stream. I’ve often wondered how Toronto will be able to afford to operate Transit City once its built as every new rider requires a public subsidy – it would be the same as building a bunch of new hospitals but not increasing OHIP funding. Even if this required adding a few pennies on to the gas tax in the GTA, Mcguinty should show leadership and do this – it has the potential to transform transit ridership in the GTA and is a no-brainer to me.
Tom, I like your analogy, that what we are doing with Move Ontario 2020 is building hospitals but not providing any doctors.
Nick: When London’s congestion charge for cars entering the central area was introduced, the money was put into buses that would handle the additional demand for public transport. The problem is that the congestion charge was so successful at reducing the number of cars travelling into the city centre, that within a few years they weren’t collecting nearly as much money as expected.
I would have loved to see you go 3 rounds with Bill Carroll (of CFRB fame), but it would have been past his bedtime.
HERE IS THE LINK TO THE VIDEO: http://www.tvo.org/cfmx/tvoorg/theagenda/index.cfm?page_id=401&action=viewthread&forum_Thread_id=8396&forum_id=43
Good to see the economic inbalance as it pertains to the car was recognized. Free infrastructure (i.e. the highway network from the 1930s to the end of the 1960s, toll-free) has had substantial impacts on the evolution of our society. Railways wouldn’t have quit the passenger business to the same extent that they did, and the TTC might have still even been turning a profit today (not guaranteed, of course).
I watched the interview segment via the link on your site. I am no huge fan of driving or of cars for that matter, but do realise that they have a role to play in our society. I also do not think of myself (or my fellow thinkers) as being so important that I can tell other people how to live their lives. Other Canadians have every right to think that they are entitled to use a car if they pay for it and no one has the authority to tell them they do not. However, the most important point made during the panel discussion is that cars do not currently pay the “full price” for their existence. As a society we do have the right to price various forms of transportation based on their true costs and also their overall impact (environmental and otherwise) and if that were to be the case the popularity of cars would be diminished.
I thought the panel generally was too soft on cyclists. While there are a large number of car drivers who do not follow the rules of the road – as a percentage of the total they are far less prevalent than cyclists who do the same. The vast majority of cyclists for example, do not meet the obligation to stop when a streetcar opens its doors. At the busy corner of Spadina and Dundas, I have actually been hit (hit and run for that matter) by a cyclist who “mingled” with the pedestrians at the crosswalk to get around the cars in the intersection. Unfortunately that “mingling” was done at a high speed.
As an occasional car driver I recognise that the cyclist has all the rights and obligations due to a vehicle governed by the highway traffic act. Unfortunately, while most cyclists want to take their rightful privileges – and a few more besides – very few accept the obligations. It is not just a few bicycle couriers who got into bad habits because of the poor behaviour of drivers.
Steve: The problem with badly behaved cyclists is that they foul the reputation of the much larger number who obey the rules. If a car driver behaved the way a bad cyclist does, the results would be catastrophic — pedestrian deaths — and they would be held to account for it. The badly behaved cyclists get away with their behaviour because the consequences are almost always much less dire. Having said that, I think that there are some intersections where someone could reel in bad cyclists like fish. Notably these are “T” junctions where the cyclists on the top of the “T” ignore red lights to the peril of pedestrians.
I think the underlying problem is that at times some cyclists behave like pedestrians — if there is nothing superficially “in the way”, then they can “safely” ignore the signs.
Now after saying all that, I should say that the problem of motorists ignoring pedestrians’ rights is getting worse as part of the generally aggressive driving behaviour, and dare I say it, the likely effect of having proportionately more motorists in the GTA who are not used to dealing with “city” pedestrian behaviour on their suburban streets.
I am a cyclist, so let me comment on the section where we are given a bad rap.
The issue of good versus bad cyclists, is as you say, a few bad apples have ruined it for everyone else. I divide them up differently though:
Cyclist, a person who is experienced in the operation of a bicycle as a vehicle, they stop at stop signs, they wait for traffic lights, and they spend a good amount of their time, directing cars on what to do, because most drivers are clueless. Yeah they wait dutifully behind the streetcar.
Person on Bicycle, an often inexperienced person on a bicycle, they don’t stop at stop signs, loop around stop lights if they don’t blow the light, and 75% of the time, can be found on the sidewalk.
The way a rider is dressed or the fanciness of the bicycle are no indications as to the skill level of the rider.
Another issue, official bicycle routes, are often placed on side streets, those wonderful side streets where there is a politically oriented all way stop every freaking block. These routes are often placed in areas where there are very steep hills, with a stop sign either at the bottom or half way up, if you don’t blow those stop signs, you’re walking up the rest of that hill. A good cyclist can often stop, assess an intersection and get going again in well under a second, partly because the assessment is largely completed by the time they get there. A motor vehicle operator cannot do this, and it takes much longer, closer to 10 seconds to stop, assess and go. If I can, as a cyclist assess the safety of an intersection, before even stopping, and the energy cost for a stop is much greater then it is for a car driver, then the practicality of a full legal stop is much lower.
The Toronto Police Service is oblivious to bicycle lanes, therefore the few places they do occur, you often have to deal with cars parked in the bike lane, I’ve even found police cars parked in bicycle lanes. The north end of the bicycle lane on St George has an RCMP car parked there on an almost permanent basis, along with a trailer full of blockade fencing. Many drivers think that if a bike lane is there, that cyclists have no right to any other lane, even when the bicycle lane is blocked. Where separate parking is provided, bicycle lanes are strategically placed so that when a car opens its door (people never seem to look), it blocks the bicycle lane, and another cyclist gets doored.
The lowly bicycle is the city’s best friend, they do not cause air, water or noise pollution, they take up very little road space, and you can park 10 of them in a space that would accommodate a single automobile.
The one point not made in the discussion is that pedestrians are the most vulnerable. While we all need to obey the rules of the road, pedestrians get the worst of it in a collision, no matter who is at fault. As a pedestrian, I have often felt as if I had a target on my back: bicyclists speeding along sidewalks (particularly coming up behind me); car drivers and bicylists going the wrong way on one-way streets – often at speed, because they know they’re going the wrong way (the cars usually are driven in reverse, just to make it really interesting); drivers ignoring red lights – yes, Steve, even the occasional bus driver. It can be pretty scarey for someone who walks downtown.
Car VS Bike VS Person.
The core of the problem really is that while we have highways and roads (for cars) and sidewalks (for people who walk) we do not have any real bicycle infrastructure. If we build any at this state, we have to take away from one of the two above.
Part of the problem that I’ve seen comes not with a difference to the rules but ignorance of them. I’ve never had a problem with cars not stopping. When my light turns green and the little man tells me I can go, I go. Even if that means somebody who wants to do a red-roll-right actually has to stop (as he’s supposed to do). Drivers generally know that they are supposed to fully stop in these situations but they rarely will unless I’m there to walk out in front of them pretending I’m not paying attention (I am, no one has ever tried to run me over) I even begin walking when people keep turning left despite the fact that the left signal is long gone and traffic in the other direction is waiting to go. Drivers know better.
Cyclists, on the other hand, do not seem to be aware. I know one guy who drove his bicycle into a stopped bus, and blamed the bus driver! Saying “I made eye contact” and that he should have ‘known’ where he wanted to go and “moved the bus”. Another guy I know told me that he went out into an intersection from the far side of a right turning car. He was going fast enough that the car had not moved far and even put on its breaks but still clipped his rear tire. In return he threw the bike at the car (a beck taxi… don’t get me started) and broke off it’s right side mirror before carrying on. These are stories from two cyclists who ride very often and who were were PROUD that they were right… when clearly, they were wrong. That does not even begin to address those downtown who breeze though crowds of people waiting to board streetcars and then blame anyone they run over for getting run over. I honestly do NOT think cyclists are getting an unfair rap. The cold hard truth is that enough of them are “bad apples” my experiences are not isolated. The number of “bad cyclists” VS “good cyclists” is far too high.
I ride to work in North York from Queen & Roncesvalles every day, and I have to agree with Nick’s comment above. Badly-behaved cyclists are just as much of a menace to other cyclists as they are to drivers and pedestrians; in fact, most of the annoying things that happen to me to and from work are caused by idiots on bikes, not ignorant motorists. It’s especially annoying when I’m stuck behind someone for a long time, finally get ahead, then have to wait for a few seconds at a streetcar stop or a stop sign – only to have the same person blithely sail through ahead of me, as if he alone is exempt from this rule – and then I have to spend another two blocks trying to get ahead once again.
I’ve argued about this with other people who ride bikes, who don’t get the idea that they should behave themselves on the road. Their only concern is what’s immediately practical for them – so they feel it’s perfectly okay to sail through a red light or a transit stop, or cut off a right-turning car at an intersection (which I really can’t stand – the driver can’t see you coming, and it requires no real effort for you to just go around the car to the left instead of the right), as long as they’re not actually running anyone over. I can’t get across to these people the idea that, if drivers see that cyclists are consistently following the same rules and making a reasonable effort not to get in the way, surely there would be a lot less mutual animosity, making bike riding in the city a lot easier.
Enforcing the laws should be priority one. Motorists keep getting the blame in bike and car accidents. A blitz on cyclists will bear fruit in terms of fines. If the majority of cyclists actually adheared to the rules instead of being ignorant we will be in better terms. If the cyclists follow the rules, then only then would I support removing the curbs and putting in a few bike lanes. For the time being the roadspace would be better suited to a bus only, LRT ROW, or 3 person + bus diamond lane for carpoolers.
We still haven’t mastered enforcement of the rules for cars. Diamond lanes are a prime example, largely considered a failure because it is difficult [expensive] to enforce. How can it be expected bikes will be any more successful? Are we going loosen up and go easy on cars for the sake of cracking down on bikes? Or if we’re not going to redistribute existing resources but instead add new resources, maybe to pay for this added enforcement the proponents would support a bicycle registration tax?
I think education is the keystone. I remember being taught rules of the bike way back in 3rd grade or something. Maybe they should have wider-spread equivalent for adults. If you didn’t grow up here, it’s entirely possible that you’ve never been educated about rules for cyclists.
Just to be clear, I’m not advocating for a cyclist’s license, I think that will do far more harm than good. As annoying as people in their motorized mobility devices can be sometimes, zipping along at 30km/h on a crowded sidewalk, I think the answer for them too is education, not a crackdown
(although, to my knowledge, a set of rules governing those motorized mobility devices has yet to be tabled).
There are bad motorists, cyclists (I like Wogster’s distinction between a ‘cyclist’ and ‘person on bicycle’!), and pedestrians, but it seems to me that all the problems more or less boil down to one umbrella issue: people don’t share the space. This culminates in two basic ways: either people act like they are the only one in the universe, or they understand there are others but expect a ‘bubble’ to exist around them of some certain minimum size (varying depending on whether we are talking about a pedestrian, cyclist, or motorist).
Examples of the first culmination has motorists playing slalom on the road like other cars are just moving poles with flags on them, cyclists going the wrong way on a one-way street or switching from being a ‘vehicle on the road’ to a ‘user of a pedestrian crossing’ without dismounting, to a pedestrian darting out in front of a vehicle just because the light has changed (or perhaps hasn’t if they are busy yakking on a cell phone!). Examples of the second culmination has motorists needing to turn waiting when their proper destination lane is free because they want ALL lanes to be free (or perhaps, they are waiting for a red carpet to be rolled out for them!). I’m a little hard-pressed to think of an example of this for cyclists and pedestrians, but I’m sure some will come up with some.
I have travelled to some places where my first reaction about how all three move is that it is a crazy mess, but trying to look objectively it seems to me that compared to here, people are actually sharing the space and recognizing that there are others who sometimes might be just a little more in a hurry. I have driven in Rome, where lines on the pavement designating two lanes is just a suggestion and four actual lanes of vehicles is not unusual, with bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles zig-zagging between other vehicles. I have also been a pedestrian in Bangalore where I swear I could feel vehicles and cyclists brush the hair on my arm as they passed. I’m not suggesting we need what appears to be a new form of chaos on our roads, but a little more, carefully measured, concern about sharing the space is in order.
I will add why I said, “carefully measured.” I all too often see those, often driving cars, who go to extremes to share the space when what they are really doing is trying to maintain that ‘bubble’ I spoke of above. There is one location where I regularly have to cross a main street with a traffic light after getting off a bus. More often than not, there are a couple of cars to my right waiting to turn left onto the main street with the green light I need to cross the road. Rarely does anyone need to drive straight through in the other direction, yet very often the first left turner will wait for me — while I walk across four lanes to get to the island in the middle of the road before crossing the lane they are turning into. In the time it takes for me to get that far across the road, three or four cars can complete the left turn, but bozo up front has to wait. By the time I am actually crossing their lane, the front car has inched out to the point I can feel the air from his radiator fan. I sort of feel I am now holding him and the others up, but I don’t care. After all, if they were in such a hurry, they had all the time in the world to make their turn while I was busy crossing the first four lanes. Let me stop my rant now! 😉
If a car hits a cyclist and the driver is to blame, all of the cycling activists get all fired up. If a TTC driver hits a cyclist and it is the TTC driver’s fault, it is not a big story.