by Diana Wilson
Leading up to this fall’s mayoral election, we have heard a lot of rhetoric about the “War on Cars.” From the pro-bike pundits, cycling is touted as environmentally sustainable, affordable, politically righteous, and straight-up fun. Car advocates complain that the city council’s lean toward multi-use roadways will create more traffic congestion on already stuffed roads. Drivers and cyclists are pitted against one another in the battle for the street.
Picture this: you’re biking down a narrow one-way street when a car pulls up behind you and honks. The driver glares at you and mouths the words, “get out of the way.” What is the implication here? That you, in your sliver of space are perceived to be taking up more space than the lane-width occupied by the car.
Not all drivers are so inconsiderate. But many have not updated their perceptions of space usage to reflect the reality of Toronto’s downtown streets. Bike down College Street during rush hour and you will find yourself in a bike chain of 20-30 cyclists. If each of those two-wheeled commuters were in a car the line would stretch several blocks.
It is no exaggeration to say that cyclists put themselves at risk of injury or death every time they venture onto the roads. While, for a car, a collision could result in auto body damage, a cyclist worries about actual body damage. What may be a minor incident for one is a major disaster for the other.
In the bike-car relationship there is a power differential: because one party is more vulnerable, the two are not equal. Cyclists have the same rights on the road but not the same power. The point was made best on CBC’s The Sunday Edition: there is no “War on Cars”. The cars have already won.