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Don’t Fence Me In: Somebody will have to convince me that bike lane barriers will make sense

May 30, 2011

By: Joan Tintor

People may be surprised to learn that an arch conservative with strong libertarian tendencies (or vice versa, I’m never sure) has become quite wedded to riding her beat up old mountain bike not just for pleasure and exercise, but for basic transportation around Toronto.

But it shouldn’t be that surprising. After all, libertarians and conservatives are big on freedom. What’s freer than riding your bike wherever you please, on your own schedule, and parking practically at the door to whichever establishment you are patronizing? (At this point I should point out that my freedom does not extend to ignoring the laws of the road or terrorizing pedestrians: I obey all the rules of the road, including signalling all my stops and turns. Totally dorky, I know. But motorists appreciate it. Not that they know what the signals mean, though. I wear a helmet and don’t wear earphones. And I never ride on the sidewalk.) 

Secondly, conservative-libertarians are suspicious of big government. For me, that extends to Toronto’s indifferent transit monopoly, the Toronto Transit Commission, which over the last 30-40 years seems more concerned with protecting its workers (including a bloated management) than moving customers. To be fair, over that time the TTC has been pushed and pulled by the infrastructure and funding whims of four different provincial governments, and a few federal ones, but that is for another column. So as a long-time TTC hater, I am more than a little tickled every time I can deny them $2.50 by getting where I need to go on my bike.

Now, as a good conservative, of course I voted for Rob Ford, whose campaign was initially labelled by Adam Vaughan as “not a serious candidacy.” (Vaughan’s “Dewey defeats Truman” prediction is not particularly germane to this post: I just like repeating it every chance I get.) So I voted for Rob Ford, and am generally in favour of his policy that new bike lanes should only be implemented if the local community wants them.

Now, in what seems to be an attempt to get cyclists out of sight and out of mind for angry Ford-voting motorists, who are afraid of hitting them and/or resentful of having to share the road with them, Toronto seems poised to implement bike lanes with physical barriers along several downtown streets.

Well, my knee-jerk reaction (conservatives are big on those too) is that I don’t want to be relegated to a concrete maze. It strikes me as the road equivalent of the back of the bus. Furthermore, it seems dangerous and inconvenient. Right now, on streets where there is a bike lane or not, I can move left when going around obstacles such as parked cars, slow-moving cyclists, or reckless pedestrians about to walk into the street without looking. And when I do move left, it is always carefully, signalling and waiting if necessary to accommodate vehicle traffic on my left.

I dread being stuck in these narrow alleys created by raised barriers, behind some twerp towing his toddlers in one of those ridiculous trailers, or a dreadlocked hippie lugging a week’s worth of organic produce from the St. Lawrence Market, or that fat guy today whose butt crack I did NOT enjoy looking at for what seemed like an eternity. And there are other questions: How will pedestrians navigate them (they’ll probably be standing smack in the middle of them a lot of the time waiting to cross the street mid-block – won’t that be great)? How will these alleyways be cleared of snow?

But bike lane barriers must be a good idea, because Toronto’s official, self-appointed cycling spokespeople (a.k.a. bike-riding pinkos) say so. Perhaps some Sisyphus readers could enlighten me as to the benefits of these barriers, because right now I don’t see them. To me, they seem like a ghetto teeming with broken glass, garbage and water.

And butt cracks.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sherwood Hinze permalink*
    May 31, 2011 4:57 pm

    While I agree that concrete barriers would be the least imaginative response to dedicated bike lanes in Toronto (and therefore most likely) I am more interested in Joan’s idea of being a libertarian.

    It seems to suit her quite well but when some other libertarian wants to pull his/her kids around on a bike tote, or someone wants to use a bike trailer to do a grocery shop, she sneers at these hippy-pinkos and their socialist values.

    I have always felt that there is a certain “me only” (“me first”) self-satisfaction (“everyone is free to do as I say”)to such ideas of libertarianism – and I hope Joan helps clear this up for me.

  2. Joan Tintor permalink
    June 4, 2011 12:46 pm

    If Toronto doesn’t built these stupid barriers, faster-moving non-libertarian cyclists won’t get stuck behind me either.

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