Political bicycle riding in Toronto.

Growing up in Toronto during World War II, we explored our world on a bicycle. Sure, mother used to take us kids on tram rides to the end of the streetcar lines but she was a war worker with only Sunday’s free. The rest of the time, we used our hand-me-down bikes to explore. And it is that experience that leaves us laughing at the bicycle enthusiasts on Toronto City Council.

It also brings back memories of a City Controller years ago who was an early promoter of bike lanes. He told us proudly that he had ridden a bicycle to work at city hall that day. Knowing he lived in Deer Park, we asked how he was going to get home. He explained that his chauffeur would put the bike in the trunk of his limo. After all, it was all down hill to city hall but getting home on the bike would have been hard slugging.

City councillors have to face the fact that Toronto is not a bicycle-friendly city. For at least the four extreme winter months each year, you hang up your bike—unless you are dirt poor or have a death wish. When the road conditions are such that you cannot steer the bike and automobiles cannot stop, what are you doing on a bicycle?

You might as well include rainy days in that. When it is raining so hard that drivers cannot see ahead and parked drivers cannot see behind before opening their car door, there is not much hope for the person on the bike.

But the real challenge to cyclists is the topography of the city. Yes, it is fairly level riding east and west of downtown where most of the left-wing councillors live. The right-wing councillors in areas from North Rosedale up to Hogg’s Hollow might go along with having bike lanes but they are hardly going to be using them. And if you live in the suburbs, bicycles are for kids to ride within their neighbourhoods. (If the kid takes it to the mall, it is guaranteed to be stolen.)

The last street anywhere in the city that should have bike lanes is Jarvis Street. It is a downgrade all the way from Bloor Street to the lake. It is a wonderful ride south and is a tough pedal on the return.

It has often occurred to us that municipal politicians should first pass some sort of course on understanding their city. They would probably say that such a course would be discriminatory and they would prefer to remain ignorant.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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