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11/01/2005: "Awful"

Today Gabe and I had a meeting that started at Juice for Life at Crawford and Queen. Then it went a little mobile and we walked west to find a coffee shop. After Dovercourt, Queen got strangely quiet. No streetcar moving along, traffic slow. Overcast sky. We found The Beaver, between the Drake and the Gladstone. We could see that the Gladstone/Queen intersection was yellow-taped off. The Toronto Police Services "Commercial Vehicle Unit" was there. Other squad cars. Cops in their work-to-rule baseball caps. A cop at a surveyor tripod. It seemed serious the the whole street was closed. A big cop was yelling at some European old man on the street where the Addis Ababa restaurant is. He wanted to go west on Queen.

The Beaver is nice, but was too hot. The Americano I had was good. We took a break at some point and stood outside. We thought we'd go down the few storefronts to the corner to see what was up. Just past the Gladstone's Art Bar I could tell it was a big truck (not an 18-wheeler but the biggest kind that have the cabs still attached as one big unit, maybe the largest version of a Cube Van) that had stopped as it went north. Then I saw a bike U-Lock on the pavement. Then there was the crumpled 10-speed stuck underneath the rear axel. There was a 2 foot skid behind the rear tires. 3 feet away, there was a police camera on a tripod focused on the bike. A woman in a satin embroidered jacket walked by and said "how the hell am I going to get through here".

Things in the city often make me angry, but it's rare that I actually feel ill, but this was one of those times. Gabe said he felt sick. We stood and looked for a few minutes. Queen and Gladstone has never been as silent. Technical recreations led by methodical, slow moving cops were taking place. The guy with the surveyor tripod did some calculations. More people were walking by. Lots of people on bikes. Everybody looked at that terrible bike. Everybody went silent.

We retreated back to the Beaver. Then we walked back to our bikes that were locked up at Juice For Life. Then I rode to Brant Street to pick up a receipt, then home up Huron. A guy in a Lexus two-door made an angry businessman face at one point and pretended he was going to run me over (Huron, just south of Dundas) by reving his engine and turning his wheel towards me. I waved my arm at the car as it passed in a "come back here motherfucker" sort of way but he did not.

Biking around the city seems normal and good and as safe as houses most of the time traffic moves slow downtown, I think, nothing can happen but not today. It was all fragile and tenuous.

Tonight I left home at Dupont and Spadina and rode down Davenport then Church then Bloor and then the Prince Edward Viaduct, all the time following a woman who was on the same trajectory as I was. As she rode along with traffic, she seemed so tiny with her yellow slicker and red blinky-light. As cars went past her it seemed like she was going to slide under the wheels evertime. Then we parted when I went south on Broadview. In front of the Loblaws a man with a black moustache in a Buick threw open his door in my path but I was able to avoid and yell "thank you so much for looking". Just south of there is the best view of Downtown, rising crystal-like above Cabbagetown and the thick black nature of the Don Valley, the modern towers lit up on a crisp Halloween night. Beams of Hollywood-style search lights lit up one part.

Over the past few months, as all these shootings and murders have taken place around Toronto, and people like Royson James at the Toronto Star have written articles dressing-down city officials and their slow or sluggish response to them. Yet, when there's a reaction against the SOS group who stopped the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way, the James's of Toronto called them anti-car zealots.Why won't James get outraged about cars too, and the amount of people they kill? Even as they kill more people than do guns? Why are cars the sacred cows of North America? Mother Theresa on Firestones. He, and people like him with positions of responsibility and influence could help push things like Toronto's much neglected official bike plan if they exhibited a little outrage instead of falsely painting "us" as anti-car, which we're not. Being anti-car would be counter-productive. We just don't want to get sucked under trucks as we go about our regular days in Toronto but it will take more than writing about it on some blog to do anything about that.


Replies: 29 Comments

on Tuesday, November 1st, Tanya said

I'm very sad too that people can't just go about our regular days without getting run over by cars. Nothing about a cyclist dying by truck in the media, only people dying from guns.

On a happier note, I also love the view heading south on Broadview in the crisp evening air :)

on Tuesday, November 1st, Jeff Thomson said

hi there, I have to say, as a car driver, there are few things I hate more than cyclists, they shouldn't be on the road, there should be cycle lanes sure, but they shouldn't be on the road. They often ride 2 abreast, or waver a good metre out into the lane causing cars to have to slow down to wait for them, they cause the driver to feel unsafe because they have to account for an erratic slow moving hazard that they shouldn't have to, and most of the time they are hideously self-righteous as though the lanes are meant for them as much as cars! they're not! they were built for motor vehicles! not slow moving hazards with thin wheels, either get cycle lanes or ban them, at the moment they are nothing more than a nuisance.

Jeff

on Wednesday, November 2nd, Lee said

To Jeff Thomson -
While do agree that cyclists who are doing things that are stupid and unsafe, such as riding abreast or riding erratically, are hazards (both to themselves and others) I'll make some points:

1) Bicycles *are* vehicles (legally, see the Highway Traffic Act) and do belong on the road
2) 1 Metre is the reasonable distance (an the suggested one by the government of Ontario) from the curb/parked vehicles.
3) Roads aren't 'built for motor vehicles', except for actual highways, where bikes are banned
3) Like any other vehicle on the road, it's *your* responsibility to avoid collisions.

on Wednesday, November 2nd, Tanya said

Jeff, actually paved roads were brought about by the bicycle. A metre is the safe distance for a cyclist to be out from the curb, otherwise ignorant drivers such as yourself try to buzz them. (and there's debris near the curb) While riding two abreast is not allowed, it certainly feels safer to a cyclist to occupy more space on the roadway to avoid drivers making unsafe passes. Personally I think we should ban people like you from driving on the road - fast-moving vehicles with angry drivers are orders of magnitude more dangerous than a lightweight pedal-powered vehicle.

on Wednesday, November 2nd, Shawn Micallef said

Jeff> Part of me thinks you're trolling, because while it's fine to be a sensible car driver (I drive one occasionally too because they can be useful at times) -- the other part wants to respond regardless of your motivations. Your logic is weird and completely ideological though, so the only way to combat it is by saying something that I figure your "roads were meant for cars and nothing else" assumption will understand, and that is to say"bikes came first".

As an occasional car driver, I haven't had a problem sharing the road with bikes. Bad drivers, with bad driving skills and bad time management, have problems with bikes. And everytime you see a cyclist riding in the right of the lane, allowing you to pass with a minimum of fuss, you should thank them, because it's their right to take the entire lane if they want, and they're being nice.

on Wednesday, November 2nd, Martino said

Well put Shawn. Cars are King of the road and they know it. Our society and media often prefers
to blame the victom rather than face the unbelievable death and destruction perpetuated by car
culture. There will be a public memorial for Ryan next week. Details will be posted on Bike Lane Diary. As for drivers who hate cyclists, I can get a Hummer and ride slowly in front of you all day if your prefer.

on Thursday, November 3rd, Jeff Thomson said

ok, you have some fair points, and some inaccurate ones, whether the bike came first is neither here nor there, multi-lane roads and standard roads are paid by and designed for cars (fullstop) If cyclists wish to contribute to their maintenance by paying registration fees and an equivalent of petrol tax, then ok we might have to reconsider, at this point of time it is motor-vehicles and their users paying for the roads, the lights, the painting, the installation etc they are designed with speed limits, lights, roundabouts etc for cars, bikes are plain and simple a slow moving hazard, I can't see why this is difficult to understand. As I said, by all means, build cycle lanes (and register cycles to pay for them) give them part of the pavement to ride on, I'm happy for people to ride cycles, just not on the roads where they are a hazard to themselves and others, I don't think this is an outrageous point of view, yours Jeff.

on Thursday, November 3rd, Shawn Micallef said

Jeff,

Do you actually believe that entire automobile infrastructure is paid for by petrol tax and registration fees? Who told you that, CAA? Roads are one of the most important and expensive parts of our civic/national infrastucture.

Why your point is difficult to understand is because you're wrong, and your conception of public space is quite different than it is for the rest of us. speed limits and etc. were "installed" after cars came about. they are a reaction to cars in public space. roads and automobile speed limits weren't invented at the same time. there were roads, then pedestrians, then horses, then etc etc etc.

As well, bikes have their own regulations (I have to have a bell, and a light on it at night). So a> I pay taxes b> There are legal statutes governing aspects of my bike riding, therefore it is a sanctioned activity.

--

I'm going to stop now, but since you place a lot of weight on relationships between say, what you think you pay to drive and what your rights to drive are....I wonder how it works the other way.

your car pollutes, and i breath it in. what are you responsibilities there?

on Thursday, November 3rd, Jeff Thomson said

Well Shawn, the price you pay for living in a technologically accomplished society is that you have to live with such things as vehicle pollution and radio waves, for that is what the majority of your fellow citizens prefer over not having them, you do however have the choice of living far from the vast technologically constructed cities where the prevalence of such things is far lower, but you knew that. As to roads being 'public space' I will admit that is quite a novel idea, I'd always considered them as basically freeways, put barriers up between them and the sidewalks and up the speed limit to 'unlimited' has always been my view, but I will give your comments due consideration, yours Jeff.

on Thursday, November 3rd, Elizabeth Pagliacolo said

Jeff,

I'm neither a cyclist nor a car-owner. Should I move to a part of the world where people walk everywhere or hang onto the sides of buses -- "somewhere far from the vast technologically constructed cities where the prevalence of car pollution and radio waves is far lower" -- because arrogant drivers like yourself think you not only own the road (since you paid for it, of course) but the moral and intellectual right to pursue the argument that the rest of us should just accept that cars keep polluting and hitting people (not only on bikes but also on foot)? Are you serious? Bikes do belong on the road, as do pedestrians, as do cars. What I think most of us are saying is that cars are hulking pieces of machinery and need to be extra cautious around those of us who actually do want to live in technically advanced cities but love our technically advanced cities enough to prevent ourselves from further polluting them.

on Thursday, November 3rd, Elizabeth Pagliacolo said

Jeff,

I'm neither a cyclist nor a car-owner. Should I move to a part of the world where people walk everywhere or hang onto the sides of buses -- "somewhere far from the vast technologically constructed cities where the prevalence of car pollution and radio waves is far lower" -- because arrogant drivers like yourself think you not only own the road (since you paid for it, of course) but the moral and intellectual right to pursue the argument that the rest of us should just accept that cars keep polluting and hitting people (not only on bikes but also on foot)? Are you serious? Bikes do belong on the road, as do pedestrians, as do cars. What I think most of us are saying is that cars are hulking pieces of machinery and need to be extra cautious around those of us who actually do want to live in technically advanced cities but love our technically advanced cities enough to prevent ourselves from further polluting them.

on Thursday, November 3rd, Sarah Greene said

I can't believe someone is on an anti-bicycle rant right now after someone has died.

This is a small point, but I think that bicycles are actually faster moving vehicles than cars downtown at peak hours due to traffic congestion. My roomate owns a car but usually bikes downtown because of this.

on Thursday, November 3rd, jason said

jeff,
if we actually lived in a "technologically acomplished society" all cars would run on things like hydrogen, and their exhaust would only consist of water. and we can do it we just can't be bothered. because in reality, we live in a "technologically 'vaguely competent' society" that makes it's way through sheer brute force, and doesn't have the willingness to try to think through to the results of their actions.

on Thursday, November 3rd, Jeff Thomson said

Dear Elizabeth, as your argument was such a poor one I'm surprised you sent it in twice, do you really wish to live in a society where I do not have the 'moral and intellectual right' to pursue a view that 'roads are meant for cars'? You may disagree with me, even vehemently, but that you wish to deny me the right to hold this view sounds far more dangerous than what I've been proposing. Secondly, yes, compare our society to any of the last 50 000 yrs we are incredibly 'technologically accomplished' the small point of whether our engines run on petrol or hydrogen is in this sense irrelevant, it's the fact we have them at all that carries the technological argument. Also it is not that we live in a 'vaguely competent' technological society, it is that capitalist considerations prevail over humanist ones, big business is concerned with making money off it's neighbour, it is not concerned with the well-being of it's neighbour, you will need a complete revolution in the structure of society to change this. One where businesses work for people, not people for businesses, may I suggest the marxist model?
Also: it is both unfair and distasteful to bring a local 'personal death' into this discussion,- 'I can't believe someone is on an anti-bicycle rant right now after someone has died.' You are trying to emotionally blackmail the proposition. yours Jeff

on Thursday, November 3rd, Shawn Micallef said

Thank you for your thoughts Jeff, I think I've got everything I need to about you and your position.

--

Torontoist has some background about the accident:

http://www.torontoist.com/archives/2005/11/ryan_carriere.php

on Thursday, November 3rd, jason said

jeff,
you seem to use 'Marxist' like a dirty word. frankly, i think a truly Marxist society would be a vast improvement over what we've currently devolved into. the only problem is that there has never actually been a 'truly Marxist' society. just gangs of corrupt dictators feigning communism.
but if you're quite comfortable with the 'lack of concern over the well-being of your neighbours', then perhaps i might suggest the model of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei.
they were the best at it.

on Thursday, November 3rd, Shawn Micallef said

Ok, no more talk about Marx or technology. Points have been made, anything more is a gratuitous use of theory. When blogs go theory, it's time to stop. Like a brown banana...only good for baking.

on Thursday, November 3rd, Jeff Thomson said

I agree, my condolences for your friend, and as an aside, out of vocalising my somewhat red-neck views (I've always driven fast) and getting your responses to them, I have learnt quite a bit, I might not even be so impatient next time I am stuck behind a cyclist. Yours Jeff.

on Friday, November 4th, max said

Jeff, your such a driver.

Just for the record, the basic rules for operating a bicycle on roadways:

You may occupy any part of a lane when your safety warrants it. Never compromise your safety for the convenience of a motorist behind you (HTA 147).
You must stop for red lights (HTA 144) and stop signs (HTA 136) and comply with all other signs.
Ride only in the designated direction on one way streets unless cycling exceptions are noted (HTA 153).
Any vehicle moving slower than the normal traffic speed shall drive in the right-hand lane, or "as close as practicable to the right" edge of the road, except when preparing to turn left or when passing another vehicle (HTA 147).
Before you turn, shoulder check and signal to indicate your turns. Cyclists have the option of extending their right arm to signal a right turn (HTA 142).
Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks (HTA 140), and when using a crosswalk, walk your bike across the street (HTA 144(29)).
Stop for stopped school buses when the upper alternating red lights are flashing and the stop arm is out (HTA 175(12)).
Bicycles may not be ridden on the sidewalk.

One meter from the park cars IS my safe zone; its the width of a door. Because when Im closer this kind of thing can happen.
http://spiltink.dreamhost.com/blogs/2005/09/doored.html
so you loose 3 seconds steering around me and have to look around a bit to make sure your safe and they are too, this is bad? Does anyone really need to get somewhere that fast?

Some links for reading up on this

http://act.mcmaster.ca/cycling/rulesandregs.htm
http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cycling/cyclingskills.htm
http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/index.html

on Friday, November 4th, Jeff Thomson said

Well seeing as how we are making points for the record max, I do not drive quickly because I'm in a hurry, I drive quickly because it's ENJOYABLE. The same reason I smoke pot whilst driving, it makes me feel good, what makes me feel REALLY bad, is two cyclists riding abreast slowing up the lane and showing no regard for my BIG FAST CAR. So WATCH OUT MAX, you'd better be aware that there's PEOPLE LIKE ME on the road. Jeff.

on Friday, November 4th, hamish said

Thanks for the comments all. At least Jeff has had the guts to keep his name on his opinions and keep going. Our society is "carrupt" and the attidues of many drivers, media, police and politicians is "carist". The "cartillery" can be fatal, though some cyclists bring things on to themselves. We need more and safer bike lanes, especially on the major east-west "carterials": Bloor St. is the simplest and easiest (see takethetooker.ca), but other streets like Queen need a safer route. One fix: instead of the Front St. Extension at $255M or more, let's ban the cars and trucks on Queen St. and just let the transit and bikes use the street. After all, if we didn't build the Queen St. subway from a 1949 plan, why should we wait for another few decades to get around to it with the multiple crises?

on Friday, November 4th, pete said

Earlier Jason implied that Jeff was a nazi ('but if you're quite comfortable with the 'lack of concern over the well-being of your neighbours', then perhaps i might suggest the model of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei'). Isn't there some sort of internet rule that automatically ends any argument once nazis or the holocaust are invoked?

on Friday, November 4th, Elizabeth said

Jeff,

I didn't say that you should not express your "moral and intellectual right' to pursue a view that 'roads are meant for cars", nor did I say that we don't live in a technologically advanced society. In fact, I said that your argument basically states that drivers have the right to drive however they want regardless the consequences, but even then I didn't say you should be censored. I'm not begrudging you your right to have your point of view, I'm just saying you're wrong. Also, I actually agreed with you that we live in a technologically advanced society, relatively speaking. (I even stated it twice!) Finally, I didn't send the email in twice -- our technologically advanced society comes with its technical glitches.

Finally, since when are capitalism and innovation mutually exclusive? As soon as the big businesses find it profitable to engineer hydrogen cars, which most likely won't happen until we've sucked the last drop of oil out of the Arctic or there's a critical mass demanding hydrogen cars (most likely both will happen at the same time), they'll do so. It has nothing to do with Marxism.

on Friday, November 4th, Jill said

Thank you Shawn for your blog about the accident. Ryan (the man who was killed in the accident) was a friend of mine and I have been devastated by his death...but I have been more devastated by the lack of attention to his tragic death in the mainstream media. I appreciate your account of the accident and how touched you and your friend were by what you saw. The arguments with Jeff here are ridiculous...cyclists are allowed on the road and Ryan was doing nothing wrong. He did not deserve to die and I think that all drivers, pedestrians and cyclists in Toronto need to get it together and realize that lives are at stake on the roads of this big city. I can only hope that the attention brought to his death through the alternative media will make at least one person reconsider their choices when driving. Please consider going to the candlelight vigil on Monday at the intersection where the accident occurred (more info at the link provided by Shawn above). This tragedy deserves our attention!

on Friday, November 4th, JC said

My thoughts are with Ryan's family and friends. Queen and Dufferin is a treacherous mess on any day. The Gomery Report really preempted the media that monday in Toronto-- but not for those of us who live and work and bike in the neighbourhood. What an unspeakable loss and may we all remember Ryan.

on Saturday, November 5th, unutterable said

I drive and bike and take the TTC -- all in downtown TO. Biking is by far the best form of transport in the city. Jeff is an asshole. There ARE bad bike riders just as there are bad drivers. The TTC is quite expensive for what you get.

on Saturday, November 5th, max said

Picking my jaw up off of the floor now. Thanks for completely discrediting yourself for us Jeff, we all know now just how seriously to take your point of view.
Unbelievable

My best wishes to Ryans family, Id heard about his work, wish Id had a chance to meet him at one of the jams sometime. Thanks for your thoughtful observations Shawn.

on Saturday, November 5th, Tanya said

It saddens me so much that a cyclist has died doing something as simple as trying to bike home to be with his family - on a street that's quite bike friendly. (I've seen 15% quoted as the percent of vehicles on Queen that are bikes)

It concerns me immensely that we have to share the road with motorists like Jeff that are ignorant about cyclists rights to the road, and so likely to be angry or aggressive, and drive in ways that endanger us.

PS Jeff city streets (the ones cyclists are allowed to use) are paid for by municipal taxes not gas taxes, and cars cause magnitudes greater wear and tear ($$$) on them. So where's my rebate for not driving?

on Tuesday, November 8th, James said

Though informative discussion can be healthy, how I wish the forum could have stopped at the word "hate". A cyclist is a human being, who might be a father of two, as I am and sadly as Ryan was. Is any person deserving of scorn merely because of a chosen mode of transport? How about people in slower moving cars, streetcars, and buses, or equestrian cops, little old ladies who can't push their buggies across the street fast enough before the light changes? From what I've learned, and I could be wrong, it was a fateful green light at Queen and Gladstone. As a pedestrian with two daughters at my side, my path has often been crossed by right-turning cars which legally do not have the right of way. For what reason do these drivers "hate" my children?
What is it about me that I should prejudicially be a subject of hatred, without any witness first of my willingness to share the road with those who move both slower and faster than I do on a bike? Am I not entitled to respect until proven otherwise? Whether I'm on foot, in a car, or cycling, do I not also have the right-of-way or the right to exist?
I don't hate all drivers, but I do wish those with "anti-social" tendencies off the road. This would include cyclists and pedestrians at times too. More prevalent in my experience, however, are drivers who seem to believe that every man is an island who bears no responsibility for the use of BIG FAST technology, who has the god-given perogative to ENJOY all it yields at any cost, to FEEL GOOD at the detriment of others. Is there something about the metal enclosure which closes the mind as well to other human beings around them?
That attitude is a traffic hazard which dehumanizes all of us, cyclists or otherwise. No one deserves to be hated because of it. Or to die from it.

All that can be found anywhere can be found in Toronto.
-Victor Hugo, with some liberty and paraphrase.

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