Bike Lanes in Toronto

Here I am. Driven by desperation to actually blog about something.

In this case, it is the "controversy" over removing a lane from Jarvis St. (See here, here, and here.) I don't care to argue about that specific decision. I think it would take careful analysis to establish what the best decision is there. I believe the bureaucrats involved have done the leg work. I'm also an interested party who benefits from bike lanes. So whatever.

Instead, let's talk about the hyped up conflict between cars and bikes.

I think the wisest approach is to acknowledge that we're all sharing the same space and that we need to get along. We are, after all, in a crowded city. Getting along is important.

But never let it be said that I am a wise man. I can't let it drop. We cyclists are being painted as spoiled assholes and that's simply inaccurate. We are not spoiled.

Let's review this paragraph from the Star's article:

The city's plans call for a $70 million investment in cycling infrastructure over 10 years even though only about 2 per cent of commuters travel by bike, raising questions about whether cyclists should pay to use the road through licensing fees.

So. $70 million over 10 years. So much, right? But the city spent about $196.358 million last year on overall transportation(1). The city will probably end up spending more on transportation next year, but that year's share of the $70 million will still be more than 2%. But I think the 98% are being better served by current road infrastructure than the 2% are by current bike infrastructure. There's some catching up to be done. And hell, maybe we'll break 3% next year.

That quote also mentions "licensing fees". I actually pay these fees because I have an Ontario driver's license. I think it cost me about $60 to renew it a couple months ago (ouch.) This is the thing.

If you check out page 5 of the official 2009 Operating Budget for Transportation Services document you'll see a neat table. You can see that about $289,314,100 was spent on transportation while only $92,955,700 came in as revenue (presumably this is from parking lots, but maybe some of it is these mighty license fees.) Where did the difference ($196,358,400) come from? From other revenue. From money that the city didn't specifically collect from motorists. It costs a lot to maintain the infrastructure that cars need, and the car drivers aren't the only ones paying for it. And of course they aren't the only ones who will pay the environmental costs later down the line.

Most of the people in my neighbourhood don't drive. Many don't even have a license. We cycle and ride transit. We walk. We ride crowded subways and negotiate unfriendly roads (and when I do, at least, I do so by the rules of the road.) We all pay the taxes that help maintain the 401, the Gardiner and every other piece of car-only infrastructure. None of us expect a thank you for that, or for not jamming up the roads with even more cars and ruining the air with even more pollution, but I'd appreciate it if the car driving majority at least had enough sense to keep their mouths shut.

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