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“The Fixer” Not Fixing Anything 29

TheFixer

Photo of a cyclist passing the photographer who was probably blocking the right lane. Photo by Jack Lakey / Toronto Star

Below is an open letter from me to a Toronto Star writer Jack Lakey, who calls himself “The Fixer” because he fixes things that are “broken in your neighbourhood”.

The Fixer recently wrote an article about how bad cycling habits can be deadly in the aftermath of a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian which left the pedestrian critically injured (thankfully she is expected to recover).

Dear Mr. Fixer,

Your recent “Fixer” article about how bad cycling habits can be deadly does not “fix” anything, and quite frankly, your rant that reveals your utter disdain towards cyclists only contributes to animosity on our streets, making the situation even worse for everyone (including courteous cyclists like myself).

It isn’t acceptable for adult cyclists to ride on the sidewalk, but why do you think some people do it? Maybe they do it because they were brushed by an automobile passing at a dangerous speed by an inconsiderate motorist who has a hate-on for cyclists that results from the same animosity you are perpetuating in your very article.

If you really wanted to fix something, you would offer solutions, not just rants. Sure, rants are more catchy and get more attention, but you have a reputation as “The Fixer” to live up to. That should take precedence over cheap media ratings.

A solution that would help address the situation you are ranting about is better infrastructure for bicycles in Toronto to make it safer for cyclists so they aren’t tempted to skirt the law to keep themselves safe. I avoid “legal” left turns, because they simply aren’t safe on busy streets. If we had better infrastructure to allow safe left turns, we wouldn’t need to break the law to safely turn left.

Education is also important. We need to train drivers how to co-exist with cyclists on our streets, and we need to teach cyclists riding skills at a young age.

I also question the disproportional attention you are giving to chastising cyclists. Did you know that in the same time frame that one pedestrian was killed by a cyclist, more than 200 were killed by motorists? Why not rant about motorists every time a pedestrian is killed by a car? I guess that wouldn’t make much of a story because it happens so often.

Wouldn’t a good “Fixer” solution be to lower the speed limits for automobiles in the city to help prevent the killing of 30-40 pedestrians each year in Toronto? Is it really necessary to allow cars to drive 50km/h on our downtown streets? Our streets have a mix of transit users, cyclists, motorists and pedestrians sharing the same space.

A pedestrian who is hit at 40mph (64km/h) is expected to die 85% of the time, while a pedestrian hit at 20mph (32km/h) dies 5% of the time. Why not propose the reduction of all inner-city speed limits to 30km/h?

PedestrianImpact1

UK DOT statistics on vehicle/pedestrian collisions (via Streetsblog SF)

In addition to the 30-40 pedestrians who are killed each year by cars, there are 440 premature deaths each year that result from exhaust fumes. Why not propose solutions to give Torontonians better options other than driving a car in our city to help minimize those 440 deaths?

I also have a beef to pick with you about the tagline you put on the photo in your little rant. You stated in your tagline “A cyclist rides between two lanes of traffic on eastbound Queen St. E., west of Woodbine Ave”.

Clearly this tagline is deceptive and lacks the journalistic integrity that I would expect from a large publication like the Toronto Star. It is clearly designed to further propagate animosity towards cyclists and to “prove” your point that cyclists are selfish and entitled to the point that they take 2 car lanes away from motorists.

In reality, the cyclist in this photo is most likely approaching a parked car, which would explain why they would move to the left of the lane. We cyclists often need to go into the left lane to avoid the “door zone” in our city that lacks proper bike infrastructure.

In fact, it could very well be the photographer that the cyclist is approaching (that’s you!), and you may very well be standing behind a parked car (perhaps it’s your car too!). Please have more respect for your readers and not try to deceive them like this.

One thing we can agree on is that the cyclist that critically injured that woman screwed up. He broke the law, and an innocent woman is paying the price. The cyclist is now being punished in the same way a driver would be punished in the same situation (minus the demerit points).

But instead of making our streets more dangerous for cyclists who ride courteously, please use your influence to make thing better for everyone.

Help us push for real solutions. I’m just trying to get to my destination like everyone else, and I don’t need drivers to be unnecessarily pissed off at me and put my life in danger because of your angry rant.

Best,

James Schwartz / The Urban Country

PS: If you look at some of the articles on this website, you will find lots of solutions. Not just rants, but real solutions.

* Update July 10, 2011 at 11:30PM: The caption in the photo accompanying The Fixer article has now been updated to read “The Star’s Jack Lakey says tragedy can be avoided if more cyclists believe the road rules apply to them.” Thanks Jack for correcting this, and thanks to Andrew Smith for pointing this out.

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/kevin.giant Kevin Love

    Since you posted the link on safe left turns with Mark’s excellent video, he has come out with a superb two-video series on Dutch infrastructure for superior intersection design. See:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA&feature=player_embedded

    It is my opinion that the Dutch CROW standards are the world-class benchmark standards for superior engineering design to build safe streets and cities. Safe for all their people.

    If only we could get these standards used in Toronto. Needless to say, they don’t allow the typical Toronto 1.5 M wide door zone bike lane. Where the most dangerous place on the entire road to ride a bicycle is in the bike lane. Because it is in the door zone.

    If Jack Lakey wants to fix something, I would suggest our crappy cycle infrastructure would be a good place to start. But I’m not holding my breath waiting. After all, his job is to sell newspapers, not help fix the city so that it is liveable and safe for all its people.

    • http://twitter.com/di0nysys Andrew Smith

      This youtuber is amazing, I’m already losing sleep because of it haha (11:33pm)

      • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

        Agreed Andrew. Gives us Toronto cyclists fodder for dreams of a better future :)

  • http://profiles.google.com/kevin.giant Kevin Love

    Since you posted the link on safe left turns with Mark’s excellent video, he has come out with a superb two-video series on Dutch infrastructure for superior intersection design. See:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA&feature=player_embedded

    It is my opinion that the Dutch CROW standards are the world-class benchmark standards for superior engineering design to build safe streets and cities. Safe for all their people.

    If only we could get these standards used in Toronto. Needless to say, the don’t allow the typical Toronto 1.5 M wide door zone bike lane. Where the most dangerous place on the entire road to ride a bicycle is in the bike lane. Because it is in the door zone.

    If Jack Lakey wants to fix something, I would suggest our crappy cycle infrastructure would be a good place to start. But I’m not holding my breath waiting. After all, his job is to sell newspapers, not help fix the city so that it is liveable and safe for all its people.

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com Mr.S.

    This is excellent. Keep it up as long as you have the heart for it. I am afraid that I have given up on Ontario drivers… maybe all North American Anglophone provinces and states. I am visiting home (Toronto) from Tokyo, and I decided to show my wife how bad the driving is here, compared to Tokyo. I drove our rented car along the 401 in the city, and I pointed out every reckless error that I would not see often in Japan: about two a minute in Toronto. Why so much less in Japan? Two things we don’t do anymore: enforcement and severe liability. Maybe that’s one thing: accountability.

  • http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/ Mr.S.

    This is excellent. Keep it up as long as you have the heart for it. I am afraid that I have given up on Ontario drivers… maybe all North American Anglophone provinces and states. I am visiting home (Toronto) from Tokyo, and I decided to show my wife how bad the driving is here, compared to Tokyo. I drove our rented car along the 401 in the city, and I pointed out every reckless error that I would not see often in Japan: about two a minute in Toronto. Why so much less in Japan? Two things we don’t do anymore: enforcement and severe liability. Maybe that’s one thing: accountability.

  • http://twitter.com/di0nysys Andrew Smith

    It appears Jack has updated the caption under the photo.

  • http://twitter.com/di0nysys Andrew Smith

    It appears Jack has updated the caption under the photo.

  • http://twitter.com/di0nysys Andrew Smith

    This youtuber is amazing, I’m already losing sleep because of it haha (11:33pm)

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Agreed Andrew. Gives us Toronto cyclists fodder for dreams of a better future :)

  • Gogoyiburababy

    You know what? You are bloody incredible. I ride every day, 365 days of the year and on four different bikes and I can’t stand assholes like you. Why, I’ve seen the worst of cyclists riding every day. Come to my neighborhood, at the four way stop and see every bloody day how many cyclists just keep on riding through the stop signs. The majority do. Brushed by a car? you’re an idiot. The cyclist screwed up? you’re an idiot again. Screwed up? if that was your mother or wife, you would think that the cyclist screwed up only? Brushed by a car my ass. I’ve also driven for 25 years, does that make me chumy with other drivers even if they are assholes? absolutely not. I’ve called the cops on drunk drivers, I’ve told off enough drivers that do ridiculous things on the roads. The same way that I don’t support all cyclists just because they’re on bikes. I have a wife and kids, do you think I want them hurt because of self righteous idiots like you and others who feel they are better than the cars or others out there? You’re saying that the “fixer” isn’t really fixing anything? well then, why don’t you? why don’t you get out there and do something about all the asshole cyclists?

  • Guest

    @ Gogoyiburababy

    Drop the mask already… You’re no cyclist and we all know it, so please stop trolling this blog.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Thanks guest. I deleted the comment though simply because it contained personal attacks and wasn’t contributing constructively to the conversation. I’d be happy to allow the comment if the person made their point without calling people idiots and assholes.

  • Guest

    @ Gogoyiburababy

    Drop the mask already… You’re no cyclist and we all know it, so please stop trolling this blog.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Thanks guest. I deleted the comment though simply because it contained personal attacks and wasn’t contributing constructively to the conversation. I’d be happy to allow the comment if the person made their point without calling people idiots and assholes.

  • http://www.joyofbicyclecommuting.com Micheal Blue

    Yeah, James, go get them :-)

  • http://www.joyofbicyclecommuting.com/ Micheal Blue

    Yeah, James, go get them :-)

  • http://www.416cyclestyle.com ‘Xander

    I’m up for more 40km/h and 30km/hr zones in the city, not having posted speed limits allows for people to drive at 50km/h and tempts them to drive up to 60 km/h+ if the space permits it. Not a very good scenario for those wishing to share the road with the expectations that the speed limit should be at least 50 km/hr higher Speed and stupidity kills. Slower speeds and stupidity may still injure, but death can be avoidable.

  • http://www.416cyclestyle.com/ ‘Xander

    I’m up for more 40km/h and 30km/hr zones in the city, not having posted speed limits allows for people to drive at 50km/h and tempts them to drive up to 60 km/h+ if the space permits it. Not a very good scenario for those wishing to share the road with the expectations that the speed limit should be at least 50 km/hr higher Speed and stupidity kills. Slower speeds and stupidity may still injure, but death can be avoidable.

  • http://bicyclestc.blogspot.com/ Ryan

    I got a kick out of the picture…assuming he is trying to show a ‘bad cyclist’, it looks as if he is giving plenty of space to pass the photographer and/or parked vehicles.

    It makes you wonder though when one incident where a cyclist hits a pedestrian and it’s news for almost an entire week, yet a bicycle cop in Kitchener is struck by a car, cyclist in St. Catharines is hit by a car, cyclist in Niagara Falls is killed by a truck all after this incident and it hardly makes any news.

    This cyclist-pedestrian crash has shown just how amateur Canadian media really is.

  • http://thecitycyclist.blogspot.com/ Ryan

    I got a kick out of the picture…assuming he is trying to show a ‘bad cyclist’, it looks as if he is giving plenty of space to pass the photographer and/or parked vehicles.

    It makes you wonder though when one incident where a cyclist hits a pedestrian and it’s news for almost an entire week, yet a bicycle cop in Kitchener is struck by a car, cyclist in St. Catharines is hit by a car, cyclist in Niagara Falls is killed by a truck all after this incident and it hardly makes any news.

    This cyclist-pedestrian crash has shown just how amateur Canadian media really is.

  • davehamel

    Nicely written response, but clearly the solution is to remove all bike lanes AND sidewalks providing amply room for more vehicles. I bet if we took all the sidewalks out we could squeeze another lane of traffic in!

  • davehamel

    Nicely written response, but clearly the solution is to remove all bike lanes AND sidewalks providing amply room for more vehicles. I bet if we took all the sidewalks out we could squeeze another lane of traffic in!

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