Let’s all grab a shovel and make a neighbor – Part 1

Yesterday, Toronto had a chance to wake up to something that it hasn’t seen for quite a while…an actually substantial amount of the most fun stuff in the world: snow.  It made it a great day to spend time outside, to prioritize what it is one needs to do, and to simplify and slow down to the point where life is just made up of:

“Let’s smile and say hi to everyone who looks back with a smile”

The best thing about yesterday was that as I walked and played outside, I ran into many other people who wanted to do the same thing.  I started chats and overheard conversations about all kinds of things, most of the louder ones being of the happier sort.  (another way you know it’s a good kind of day).  I saw a potential new apartment, dealt gracefully with streetcar delays, and walked all across the lower east side and thought back on my blog posting about “It’s Harder to be Kind Than Clever – watch the video“.

I saw new conversations happening where it was clear that two new friends – having been living next door to each other for who knows how long – were finally speaking after multiple near misses, enabled by their shared plight of having to shovel.  I overheard snips of conversations along Yonge St about…well…Banjo mostly, as people just talk about him alot.  There seems to be plenty of unrequited dog adoration happening in Toronto.  But the other thing that people were discussing everywhere was the network of separated bicycle lanes  (Toronto Star Article) that there is an excellent opportunity, right now, to make happen.

While this is going to end up being a long blog post, I hope you’ll remember first and foremost to please email your councillor, info@bikeunion.to, and pwic@toronto.ca and support these bike lanes, so that less people need to be hurt trying simply earning a living and moving themselves throughout Toronto.

Cyclists, and any driver who has ever had a nervous moment on the road, and all pedestrians know that these lanes will make the roads safer.  Anyone who has had the extreme privilege of exploring Copenhagen or Amsterdam knows that traffic will flow more freely around central Toronto if these lanes are installed.  As shown in New York (Read about my visit to NY ) it is possible to install entire vast systems of infrastructure.  Poetically,  Mayor Ford’s office announced the day prior to our snowfall that it had no objections to the separated bike lanes plan supported by Councillor Minan Wong (new chair of the public works and infrastructure committee).

Mayor Ford’s office should support separated bike lanes.   The Globe and Mail‘s reporting that “it is not a priority” does not say they are against them and is extremely irresponsible by the Globe and Mail.  I never look to them for news anyways and will not link to that paper on this blog. Reporting direct quotes on indirect responses to things helps no one. If they would like to ask Ford’s staff, in addition, whether they would be against bike lanes if and when it comes up, i will feel better about their directing my readers to consider them unbiased.

Every councillor in this city has an opportunity- in supporting this plan – to show solidarity on an issue that is an actual, legitimate improvement for everyone who uses Toronto’s streets.  It enables more people to get around the city without being at risk while they simply move about.  Cars collide more with other cars than anything else, and insurance is set up to take care of these situations.  We call them accidents.  They also collide with other things, but only when a pedestrian or a cyclist is involved is there a high risk for injury no matter what the situation.  Few are mad about the costs and inherent risks of making cars a normal part of our transportation system because the genius of cars also allows me to travel great distances and see places that I simply cannot take the time to bike or walk to in today’s society.  That’s also why I love trains (I find them awesome in an almost uncomfortable way) and planes as well.  It’s the same reason I like spaceships.  I’m ok they blow up once in awhile because we as a society have weighed the risks and rewards and said yes they are useful and we can deal with a crash or a failed mission in search of greater growth.  After accepting these risks, we’ve built a good system for making sure that cars hit cyclists and pedestrians far less than each other.  I’m fairly certain that the risks of being either a storefront, a lightpost, or a cyclist hit by a car are pretty much the same.  Cars hit each other, despite our great system for preventing them from doing so, because they are driven by humans.

And lets face it, we all sort of just suck at being perfect at anything.

Sometimes i try to touch my nose and I touch my ear…or the side of my head, or someone’s side mirror instead.  I’m not perfect.  When me, or say 99.9% of the “friends I haven’t met yet” are driving around the city, and we feel less-than perfect, we don’t drive.  But then once in awhile,we have things occur like what happened in this story.  Did you click it?  I’m spoon-feeding you here…the thinking is still ahead.  All I’m asking is click the link…I know you got  a computer virus like this once…but do it.  It’s why the internet is cool.  Note the effect on the driver’s health.  Note the effect on the storefront’s health.  Whether the storefront is a storefront or a 60 year old woman didn’t matter in the state less-than-perfect that this driver was in. Now note the last line.  The one most memorable to those who think this story matters:

“Police are still trying to determine the cause of the accident.”

Of course it was an accident.  I know that the elderly woman struck by the car wasn’t being attacked, as if by some other weapon.  The reason it’s a weapon is that the last line again…the one the media should end the story with (and, for the record, if someone would please do this just once, I would love it):

“Police are still investigating what turned a previously sane person, no different than readers of this paper, into a driver with skills equal to those of an untrained goldfish to cause this accident”

Drivers do not drive into banks.  Sometimes a stroke or a something or other causes them to do so. The reason the word struck is important is that it’s been decided at some point that CP24, who reports news SO FAST (amazing, really) that they need to use the word struck when the driver is in danger of more than likely being liable for legal, rather than insurance panel, claims.  Again, this all makes sense because that’s the system we’ve all agreed on…and it works.  There are downsides, like the fact that this also drives CP24 to end with the accident line…not the goldfish line, even though its just as true, it is much less defensible in court.  That wouldn’t be fair to the driver.  That too, I know…presuming he wasn’t drunk which doesn’t seem to have been the case in this story.

Turns out, in this story, when picked up mere hours earlier by  a blog on the, National Post, the woman had changed (80 years old) and the mall proper, not the storefront was to blame.  All of this makes me actually think that the last lines of both stories should read, in what I hope is Onionesque fashion for all the good work they do running the world’s longest tongue in cheek joke series without smiling,

“Police are still investigating the death of the Pinko 60 Year Old Woman who was turned into a purple butterfly and is no longer living.  The driver, and the editors of two major news magazines are under investigation in the transmogrification.  The editors of the newspapers are filing class action lawsuits against the universities of the world for their continued unwillingness to teach students how to fact check things that aren’t already on google or in a library.”

The point is that despite this critical flaw in reporting new happenings – probably turns out that everyone was busy trying to save all of the “friends who we haven’t met” lives. Then they can go and have a beer together.  The man in the car could tell the woman how it felt to suddenly have the driving abilities of a goldfish.

And now, to get back to the wider reaching intentions of this tome, here is a main point:  Voting occurs not just in elections, but in communicating with government.  The same goes for communicating with the media.   In both cases, we must first be conscious of the gaps and flaws in the systems we build.

A main one right now is that there are 1000’s of cyclists (CBC Story)   These numbers are awfully low.  Like all stats, it just depends on what the parameters of the survey are and this one is only tracking cyclists that ride across certain boundaries in the city.  It’s not all of the cyclists but its a good start when you understand the data.   Seems like they don’t bike much where I bike, but that’s ok..I guess.  But the important story is that there ARE 19,000 human beings riding bikes to pick up groceries, to get to work at the hospital, to play or practice  for one of the professional sports teams in town, or to help police our streets from the saddle and all of them are in danger to the human condition which is this: we’re all human…and there’s a bunch of us.  The best system in the world only limits injuries and deaths.

This data and commentary suggests that counting just major crossings is a good predictor of cyclist behavior.  Investments have been made in this area to increase cycling, and we find that it is now a dense cycling area.  College St is used as one example.  Cyclists will go wherever the paths of least resistance are through the city.  They’ll go where they feel safest.  Today, those areas are streets like College, Harbord, Shuter, St George, and Greenwood.  Cyclists like me are actually more inclined to take a route with other cyclists rather than just the fastest route.  Its safer.

I hope you’ll at least stick with me here and agree that I’ve given all of these topics a lot of thought and now feel that:

The separated bike lanes system means that Toronto can step up and be among the best transit systems in the world.  It will limit injuries and deaths.

In the case of the bikelanes I feel the challenge we will face is perspective, in this case the ability to be empathetic to a road user that is currently most exposed to injury and death.   Bike lanes are a simple place to be kind.

ALL ROAD USERS: DRIVERS, CYCLISTS, AND PEDESTRIANS BENEFIT FROM A PHILOSOPHICAL SHIFT TOWARDS PROTECTING THOSE AROUND US IN OUR SHARED CITIES.  PLEASE EMAIL pwic@toronto.ca – the Public Infrastructure and Works Commission , info@bikeunion.to, and especially your local councillor and make sure that people are kept safe.

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