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Cycling in Toronto: Why Can't We Get it Right?

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A big truck screams by me and I can't help thinking of the poor woman who got crunched by a truck while riding on her bicycle on Spadina Avenue yesterday. Having ridden up that poorly designed strip many times and been scraped by large SUVs, almost mowed down by TTC buses, driving like they owned the road, I relive the scene -- those final moments when a healthy person, a life, a family goes from one state to another. I picture the terrible scene over and over -- there but for the grace of god go I.

Last week I was in New York and the astounding thing is that it is much, much safer to ride a bike in Manhattan than it is to ride in Toronto -- hard to imagine! I remember the New York in the '70s and '80s and my crazy friend was one of the few bike riders in the city -- you could count them on one hand. New Yorkers were bragging about their new bike-sharing program. It is essentially Bixi with different colours.They did it right. First they built bike lanes and then launched bike sharing. We launched bike sharing and have no real bike lanes. We should have put up signs advertising "assisted suicide -- only $5 a day."

The amazing thing is that we have a pent up, unsatisfied demand for cycling. And what a good thing that is -- less pollution, less noise, healthier population, less congestion, less carbon and happier people. So why can't we get it right? Where is our Janette Sadik-Kahn, New York's spectacular Commissioner of Transportation? Where is the amazing group of managers that Mayor Bloomberg put together to transform his city?

While we rip up, at great cost, the one real bike lane that was created and sit and debate whether to build a subway or LRT for the 47th time, bikers are getting killed and congestion becomes unbearable. We should hire Janette and take our councillors to Copenhagen on a bike tour where 40 per cent of commuters use bikes.

So, as I buckle up my helmet and get on my bike, forever optimistic, I can't wait for the day, here in Toronto, when I meet the granny who rode to Copenhagen's Airport on a cold snowy day so that she could help delegates to the UN Climate Change talks with their transportation.

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