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2006 06 11
Steal This Bike (Lane): An Open Letter to Mayor David Miller

An article in today's Toronto Star quotes Toronto Mayor David Miller saying,
"We need cyclists in neighbourhoods to come forward when pieces of the bike network are proposed in public consultation. ... They need to say, 'This is important. I live in this neighbourhood, I use a bike for transportation, and I need this to get around the city safely."
Alright, fair enough. Dear David Miller. Dear your worship David Miller. I live in this neighbourhood in the west end of the city. It's called the Junction. You know, after the conjunction of a variety of rail lines. There used to be trolley transit lines out here, too, along Annette and Keele and Dundas, but those are long gone. So's prohibition, which our neighbourhood finally voted out in 1998. Perhaps not so long ago. There are other junctions here, I've noticed. Junctions of some major Toronto streets: Dupont, Bloor, Dundas West. Jane, Keele. Major transportation arteries.

But for cars, not bikes.

Why cars, not bikes?

Why not?

You, see, there's a conjunction in the question, too, just like all the other interesting conjunctions in the Junction. It's not just a rhetorical question: it's one just begging for an answer.
Why? You see, I live in this neighbourhood, I use a bike for transportation, and I need bike lanes to get around the city safely. And by "get around the city" I mean needing to travel safely to York University, where I teach; to Kensington Market, to downtown, to points east and west all across this city. Because I commute everywhere by bike between April and November. Even though I work from home during the academic off-season, I log about 100 kilometres every week travelling to meetings and other excursions. Double that in the spring and fall. And although I consider myself a safe cyclist, often those are dangerous kilometres.

You are quoted in today's Toronto Star article as having felt the need to be "exceptionally vigilant" during your photo-op bicycle commute along Bloor Street during Toronto Bike Week. Sure Bloor Street can be dangerous. It has no bike lanes along most of its length. Vehicles -- cars, trucks, and bikes -- travel quickly and erratically in their headlong rush to downtown or away from it. But I'd like to see you try commuting by bike along Keele Street, say all the way between Bloor and Finch. Now that's a dangerous commute.

Most casual cyclists I know who don't commute regularly by bike say they won't do so because it's too dangerous. But it's not cars (or tractor-trailers, along Keele) that are the greatest hazard to cyclists. It's the City itself, foot-dragging on bike lanes, that kills off cyclists long before we even get a chance to hit the pavement.

Build bike lanes and you will encourage an entire population of bike commuters. In my neighbourhood -- the Junction -- it would be nice to add another conjunction, in the form of networked bicycle lanes enabling fast and safe commuting to points across the city. Bloor Street needs bike lanes across its entire length. There is plenty of room for a veritable bike autobahn along the Keele road allowance.

Bike lanes give car drivers a break -- and an alternative. Bike lanes help preserve the sanctity of the sidewalk from cyclists regularly leaping the curb to escape imminent death. Bike lanes encourage ordinary people, not just cycling activists or athletes, to try commuting by bike. People like me, cruising along in high-heeled sandals. People like my 69 year-old mother-in-law, a retired engineer who routinely logs 35 kilometres a day. People like my husband, who carries building materials (and sometimes a saxophone) in his steel panniers. People in my neighbourhood. People in every Toronto neighbourhood.

You see, your Worship, this is important. We live in this neighbourhood, we use bikes for transportation, and we need bike lanes to get around the city safely.

[email this story] Posted by Amy Lavender Harris on 06/11 at 10:24 AM

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