Open Letter to Councillor Del Grande
Submitted by heather on 30 January, 2011 - 23:37
Dear Councillor Del Grande
As the President of the Toronto Cyclists Union, I'd like to respond to your recent comments about cyclists.
Members of the Public Works Committee focused their discussion on the need to provide cyclists with greater safety options in addressing sidewalk cycling. We believe this is a first step in the right direction on this matter, and commend members of the Public Works Committee for taking this step!
Every workday I cycle along Queen Street West from my home to my work at St. Michael's Hospital. Cycling is efficient, affordable and I arrive at work alert and ready for my day. I am cautious and rule abiding. After all, as a cyclist I know that any collision in which I should be involved I would likely find myself in worse condition than the driver of a car. More often than not my ride is a pleasant experience, though there have been several times where I've been jeered, heckled, called nasty names and told to "get in the bike lane". I would gladly get into a bike lane should there be any such facility on Queen street or any adjacent street. Alas, there is no alternative and I am forced to put up with my vulnerable position on Queen.
Your recent comments about cyclists on the sidewalk only serves to fuel rhetoric and the harassment I potentially face on my daily trip to work.
Your statement that cyclists "rule the roost" is strange. If this were the case our road space would be allocated much differently. Instead, less than 2% of roads currently have bike lanes or dedicated space for cyclists. The Heart and Stroke Foundation states that “to improve the heart health of Canadians and reduce the risks of heart disease and stroke, ...community planning and development should consider the extent to which a community has mixed land use, a variety of housing options and affordability, encourages walking, biking and other forms of active transportation and has sufficient density to provide frequent public transit service to residents.”
I implore everyone to be respectful of pedestrians and we are working on strategies to help educate cyclists on the rules of the road. However, cycling on the sidewalk is not the problem it is made out to be. The 2010 City of Toronto Bicycle Count Report found that a negligible number of cyclists ride on the sidewalk, and even fewer cyclists rode on the sidewalk when there was a bike lane available.
A sad reality in Toronto is that on average 30 people die each year in Toronto while walking. Rather than placing blame - it's time to recognise that cyclists can be part of the solution. A recent study in New York found a 40% reduction in all collisions after the implementation of a bike lane. That means drivers, cyclists and pedestrians were safer when politicians made a decision to put in a bike lane.
The Toronto Cyclists Union is working actively to help encourage people of all ages to have the ability get around safely by bicycle. We have developed a handbook published in 17 languages to help people understand and follow the rules of the road; we offer roadside service; education and outreach to newcomers. We are working with people across the City to collaborate with neighbours and councillors to create safe passages for cyclists.
I think there is at least one thing on which we could agree. People of all ages need safe ways to travel across the City. Promoting active transportation serves many goals for our community health and wellbeing. It's time to cease the rhetoric and move on to offering solutions that provide options for active transportation, whether it be walking, cycling or transit. I urge you and your fellow council members to resolve to set aside name calling and unnecessarily negative sentiments about cycling.
It would be my pleasure to meet with you to talk more about this issue or have you join me on my ride to work to gain a perspective on the experience. As two people who love this City, let's work constructively to find more ways to make our City a safe, enjoyable, and vibrant place to live.
President and Chair of the Board, Toronto Cyclists Union