1.20 Tire Wars

TORONTO, ONTARIO: This topic is exhausted, I know. My opinion means about as much as my thoughts on the World Cup. I will weigh in anyways. I am talking, of course, of the rubber tire wars: Bikes vs. cars. I get around the city on a bike in the summer and public transit at other times. Every fall I prepare myself to continue on two tires throughout the winter, but ambition wanes about the time of the first snowfall. There is nothing like speeding past traffic, getting to my destination through the work of my own two feet. Bikers have a synergy when working together; instant unofficial ranks, moving in and out of formation. However, there is always a flip side and this war has been building for a while.

I will speak first to the bikes. We have to relax. We do not rule the road, far from it. There are streetcars, pedestrians, other bikes, motorized bikes and cars. I succumb to road rage just as easily as the next person but when I calm down and have time to think, it was often a stupid risk that lies solely on my shoulders.

When you are riding, say, along Queen, the danger is palpable. The streetcar is going by and you can reach out and touch the parked cars and someone wearing racing gear on a road bike is nipping at your heels – I’m just happy to get out of the situation alive. There are numerous hazards, especially downtown, that getting from one place to another is an obstacle course where the prize at the end is you're still alive.

These hazards are a fact, there is no way around them. Deal with it. But I have seen bikers completely lose their mind and freak out on drivers. Yes, drivers can be frustrating, especially when they do something stupid. But the addition of the freakout just adds to the problem, which is you, me, us. Bikes. I’m saying, we have to stop complaining and realize that we are just as much a part of the problem.

On to cars. Again, not much to report here that hasn’t already been well documented. Cars do idiotic things, I’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. I have a reoccurring nightmare that I am doored (knocks on wood) and am paranoid that it is going to happen every time I hope on The Black Ninja (my bike: It’s black and it’s sneaky). It keeps me aware and my hands on the brakes, ready to stop at a moments notice. I’ve had a few close calls.

Bike lanes are useless, especially on places like College Street where they are between the cars and street parking. It doesn’t make any sense for cars to have to cross the bike lane in order to park. And cars block the bike lane all the time. It is just more road for cars to do something stupid with. I really don’t have anything more to add except to say that if I am hit by a car, it’s not the car that’s going to get hurt. ‘Nuff said.

And so, what is the solution if we are both to blame? Politicians have no answer. Bikers want more lanes, cars want less bikers. We are at gridlock. We are talking about an entire change in general mentally towards the use of the roads.

Cars and bikes seem to co-exist in other places. It is possible. Here are some examples.

When I traveled through Beijing, the traffic was unbelievable. I tried to find some kind of pattern to how it all worked but I could only deem it chaos. However, it did work. And there were bikes everywhere. I’m not talking single file biking. I would be waiting for a stoplight to change and look behind me to see hundreds of bikes. It’s how people get around.

We’ve all read about Munich and other European cities that have created elaborate trails that encourage biking. Montreal seems to get it – they have metal poles separating the bike lanes from the car lanes. As a biker, you even have your own stoplights. In Toronto, we have our own carless area out on the island. I enjoy walking around the residential streets, with the tiny roads, everyone riding around, saying hello to each other. Doesn’t seem to be a problem.

For a city where many residents rely on biking to get around, it is unfortunate we can’t figure out this gridlock. I wish someone would just come along and build the infrastructure that we need – a lot of money seems to be wasted on other things. How much are we really talking (I know, I should do more research when making these statements)? I’m not just saying this because I’m a biker, it’s that this problem is not going to be resolved any time soon.

We are both individually the problem and together the solution. We are splitting the vote and allowing nothing to be accomplished. We need to get over it already in order to get done what needs to get done. Cars and bikes unite!