Cyclists & Streetcars

Interesting column in today's Metro by Ed Drass, who is their transit columnist. Today he was discussing cyclists who ride past streetcars that are unloading, ignoring the traffic bylaw that says you must stop in this situation. Understandably, there has been an increase in tension between cyclists and transit riders.

In his column, he said "To reduce conflicts between these two groups I propose that those exiting or boarding streetcars tell approaching cyclists to “Please wait” while raising an open hand. No yelling, cursing or presenting single digits — even if you are ignored or worse. This is a polite reminder, although it’s not risk-free."

The following is the letter I wrote in response:

"I'd like to preface this by saying, I live in the city and am therefore VERY pro-cycling. Our city can't afford to continue with the pro-car culture of previous generations. The quality of living in Toronto is declining, and part of this can be attributed to the health and overcrowding that automobiles contribute to.

That having been said, and in regards to your article, do we really have to treat everyone like children? Is this the result of the ever increasing reluctance to mature that the last couple of generations have exhibited(and I am a member of these generations, so I know of what I speak hahaha)?

WHY do streetcar riders have to ask cyclists to "Please, stop"? Is common courtesy that rare a commodity? If I am getting off a streetcar and a cyclist barrels through, I would treat them the same way I would treat any car that did the same thing: kick them. They are selfishly and unthinkingly risking my life! Of course, kicking them would be wrong as well, but one can understand the knee jerk reaction when one's safety is endangered. One cannot understand or forgive the actions of said cyclist.

Perhaps the answer is two-fold:

1) Require cyclists to license their vehicles, with the license plate clearly visible. Thus, scofflaws can be reported, just like motorists. I do see the pro's and con's inherent in this; licensing fee's could add to city coffers, but could also disincline an increase in cycling. It might also incite current cycling advocates, who already seem to have a chip on their shoulder. To this I would submit that it be mandatory for all licensing fees to be used to increase or improve cycling lanes. Perhaps later, the city could even offer rebates, with the purchase of a license, for new bicycles or cycling equipment, thereby increasing incentive to ride, and also increasing business for our local cycling shops. While I'm tempted to suggest that one must be licensed to ride a bike, just like any other user of the road, requiring the same sort of testing and enforcement, I think that would be going a little too far.

2) This is probably the most likely suggestion to actually be implemented: A police blitz. The police occasionally have weekends, or even months, when they concentrate on speeders, or cars that run red lights, etc. Why can't they do the same for cyclists that don't obey the rules of the road? A constable could ride each streetcar, paying special attention at each stop. The same penalties that apply to motor vehicles breaking this law should apply to any cyclist. The only way cyclists attitudes are going to be changed is when they are forced to change. People that exhibit this kind of behaviour obviously have delusions of granduer, and are not going to change their behaviour just because someone asked them too. Hitting them in the pocketbook is much more likely to get a response.

On a completely different note, my personal dream is to see the entire downtown core be made car free. Bloor to Front, Bathurst to Jarvis. Street car ROW's on all major streets, including streets that don't currently have streetcars(ie. Jarvis or Mccaul), and cyclists to the road, expanding the sidewalks for the increased pedestrian traffic. Increase subway underneath it. Delivery vans/trucks by permit only, permits being expensive. Increase rickshaw use heavily, or allow some livery vehicles, but again expensive permits required.

A pipedream, I know."

Your thoughts/comments?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Interesting proposals - I was in Montreal yesterday and was impressed with the bike lanes they have that are curbed apart as separate and distinct lanes. Not sure what it would take for us to do that, or whether the bike license fee could go towards paying for these improvements or for other necessities like bike lockers at transit stations.