July 08, 2016

Open Letter RE Bicycle Licensing Article

Harbord Street on July 5, 2016 during the morning rush hour
During a week which saw the most dangerous day of the year for pedestrians and cyclists, including Toronto's first cycling fatality of 2016, a boneheaded idea which refuses to die - bicycle licensing - has once again been brought up by Councillor Stephen Holyday. Given the poor timing of this article and next week's City Council meeting which will debate the Road Safety Plan, I felt compelled to submit the below letter to the Toronto Star in response.
To The Editor:
RE: Etobicoke councillor wants city to examine bicycle licensing
This recent suggestion by Councillor Stephen Holyday to license bicycles is only the latest in his blatant disregard for cyclists’ safety, along with his opposition to the Bloor pilot project and doubling funding for the new bike plan. With the idea of bicycle licensing rejected several times before, it only amounts to unnecessary waste of staff resources. If that wasn’t insulting enough, these remarks come shortly after the most dangerous day of 2016 where twenty pedestrians and cyclists were struck.
Being someone who gets around Toronto by cycling and driving, I can see first hand everyone loses when roads are designed primarily for cars. Road designs leading to higher automobile speeds (e.g. wider lanes, larger turning radii) increase the probability of death for pedestrians and cyclists, while increased automobile dependency hurts drivers with longer commutes and high operating costs. Not to mention, congestion negatively impacts bus and streetcar service.
With another million residents expected in Toronto over the next 20 years and no more room for automobiles, it is time to bury the bicycle licensing debate and instead, focus on redesigning our roads with vulnerable road users in mind. This includes wider sidewalks, separated bike lanes, and Dutch style protected intersections with traffic islands. Not only would these improvements encourage the over 70% of residents concerned about safety to cycle more, but also free up capacity on overcrowded transit lines (e.g. King streetcar, Yonge subway) and speed up commute times for those drivers who cannot realistically adopt other options.
While this member motion would require two thirds approval to waive deferral to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, this motion needs to either be voted down outright or deferred indefinitely, which also effectively kills the motion. Should Holyday continue to refuse to understand that improving road safety means putting the interests of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users above drivers, I call on the residents of Ward 3 - Etobicoke Centre to organize and remove him from office in 2018. The same is also suggested for Giorgio Mammoliti of Ward 7 - York West, who repeatedly cited a "war on the car" during the two previous city council meetings about the Bloor pilot project and the new bike plan. It is disappointing how even in 2016, there remain some elected officials who continue to reject the idea of improving safety for all road users.

Ride safe!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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