File Photo Courtesy of Oldmaison
At Mayor Ford’s inaugural council meeting today, Ford’s “special guest” – legendary “pit bull” Hockey Night in Canada commentator Don Cherry – dropped his gloves and called on “pinko” bicyclists (listen to the audio of Don Cherry’s speech here).
“Well I’m wearing pinko (sic) for all the pinkos out there who ride bicycles and everything”
At the end of his speech, Cherry stated:
“Rob Ford is going to be the greatest mayor this city has ever ever seen as far as I’m concerned. And put that in your pipe, you left wing kooks”
Normally I wouldn’t get worked up about Don Cherry’s controversial comments. But when he goes out of his way to alienate and demonize people who choose to use bicycles for transportation, I am deeply offended.
For someone who claims to be standing up for the “little guy” – the blue collar crowd – Cherry seems to have it backwards.
Dave Meslin – the founder of the Toronto Cyclists Union – made some great points in his “open letter to Don Cherry” on Facebook. I wanted to post it here in its entirety for those of you who aren’t on Facebook, and because Mez did an amazing job of taking the higher road – instead of resorting to childish insults like Cherry has done:
Congratulations on being chosen to introduce Mayor Ford on his first day at City Council. It’s quite an honour.
I think it’s unfortunate that you used the opportunity to be divisive and fan the flames of partisan politics at City Hall. What our city needs, and wants, is a collaborative approach to decision making that attempts to take into account different perspectives and opinions.
Today’s meeting was not just the first meeting for our new Mayor, but also the first meeting for our new City Council – all 44 members who represent the City just as much as Mayor Ford. Those 44 Councillors represent a wide variety of opinions, reflecting the political diversity of Toronto. Your comments, at their meeting, with their friends and families present in the room, was incredibly rude. Or, since you you like to talk like a “straight shooter”, let me just say that you behaved like an asshole.
Usually, I wouldn’t waste my time writing a letter to an asshole. But you specifically singled out cyclists in your speech. And that’s a really important issue to me, and I just wanted to share a few thoughts.
1) Many thousands of people ride bikes in Toronto. They ride them in the downtown area, and in the suburbs. They ride bikes in parks, on side streets, in ravines and oin arterial streets.
2) People of all ages ride bikes. Families ride bikes. Business owners, lawyers and doctors ride bikes. Hockey players ride bikes. We have bike stores in all corners of our city to serve the growing number of people who enjoy riding.
3) As someone who comes from a sports background, I would have thought that you’d encourage cycling. You may have heard that there is a severe lack of exercise amongst our youngest generation and a growing obesity problem.
4) Cycling in Toronto right now is dangerous. Hundreds of people get injured every year, simply because we haven’t created enough safe spaces to ride in the City.
5) Hundreds of miles of bike lanes have been painted in the last few years, in Manhattan. Painted by a conservative right-wing mayor who believes in safety for families. Safety isn’t a left-wing or right-wing issue. It’s common sense. Only a fool cannot see this.
6) Mayor Ford himself has proposed over 100km of new bike lanes across the City. Good for him. This is exactly what Toronto needs and cyclists are eager to start working with his policy team to make this happen.
Maybe you think that politics should be played like a hockey game. Two sides, one winner, lots of fighting. What about compromise? What about listening to each other? What about actually thinking about what might be good for the city, rather than just spewing negative immature insults about people who ride bicycles?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen friends injured on the streets of Toronto. I’ve visited them in hospitals, I’ve rushed to emergency rooms and I’ve attended memorials for those who have been killed – simply because our City Council didn’t have the guts to paint a line on the road. And you think it’s funny to mock the politicians who are simply trying to make safer streets for the taxpayers who you claim to ‘respect’?
All cyclists have ever asked for is safety and respect. They pay taxes, and deserve safe roads just like anyone else. I hope you never have to experience the loss of a loved one in a bicycle collision. It would be a horrible way to find out how ignorant your comments were today.
~ dave meslin
Thanks for writing this letter Mez. I hope Mr. Cherry has the opportunity to read it.
James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at email@example.com.
- Barriers to Cycling: Debunking the Myths (Nov 2009)
- Bicycling in the Winter (Nov 2010)
- Toronto’s New Anti-Bike Mayor (Oct 2010)
- Beautiful Morning in Toronto (June 2010)
What an articulate and comprehensive letter. I really do hope Don Cherry has someone read it to him.
lol, are you implying that Don Cherry can’t read?? 😉
I really really hope Mr. Cherry sees this letter too.
Brilliant. Wouldn’t change one word of that letter. Articulate and thoughtful.
Perhaps we can petition Ron Maclean to read this letter to Don on Saturday night’s Coach’s Corner. There will be lots of Torontonians watching – Leafs vs. Habs.
I actually believe Cherry can’t read. A TO Star columnist had to come on the radio yesterday to point out what Cherry was claiming had nothing to do with what he wrote.
Personally I’ve always hated the guy. Maybe it’s the Habs fan in me, seeing as his two loves are the leafs & bruins.
His “knowledge” of hockey I always thought should be put into question.
Cherry always goes on about his hatred for Europeans (& French CDN’s), yet in the same breathe goes on about his love for the Irish…I wonder if he knows Ireland is part of Europe?…Probably not.
Well cherry: you said it well.
He said it as well as any uneducated, socially irresponsible, politically retarded idiot could put something. Cycling is, and always has been, a more noble sport than hockey could every attempt to be.
Furthermore, the only reason people put up with you is because you say stupid shit that stupid people respnd to… many leaders have done this in the past… hitler, stalin, Mussolini… oh wait…
A very thoughtful letter. Trying to convince Cherry is not worth the effort, as the expression goes “You can’t fix stupid”. Our collective efforts must be focused on defending what little bike lanes there are, expanding the bike network, and making the road safer for cyclists.
Well said Dave,
Unfortunaltely, whem you talk to someone that has to dress like an asshole to attract some listenner to HN in Canada, I am not sure he will get the point!
One point the letter left out is that many people choose to ride a bike because they don’t own a car. My husband and I moved from the midwest to the very expensive southwest of the U.S. We simply could not afford to maintain two cars. We decided to try bike commuting to economize. People choose to use a bicycle for all kinds of reasons but it was one I never considered until my back was up against a wall. I feel no shame in this and to be quite honest, bike commuting is often the best part of my day. In a time when people are working for less money and cities and towns are asked to do more with less, the strongest argument for bike commuting is the economic benefits for both the individual and the community at large. The public dollars spent building and maintaining bike infrastructure are miniscule compared with those spent building and maintaining city streets and roads. Any pundit or political commentator arguing for an end to waste in government spending should be able to appreciate this, liberal or conservative.
Good point She Rides a Bike. There are few things in life that are fiscally prudent *and* enjoyable/efficient. That’s the beauty of the bicycle. That’s why I’m perplexed that more fiscally conservative politicians aren’t pushing for more people on bicycles. It just makes sense (as you have pointed out).
Though I have to say that conservative Mayor Bloomberg has done some amazing work in transforming New York City in the past 4 years.
It’s a petty to have a Canadian icon being such close minded, ignorant and unprofessional. May be it’s time for Mr Cherry to retire from public media and appearance before he tarnishes even more our nation.
Haven’t you guys learned anything about Right Wing Authoritarians? They don’t care what you have to say, if you’re not one of them and you don’t fit the mold, no amount of evidence, empiricism, argument, philosophy, contradiction, logic, is going to change their hypocritical beliefs.
Right wing authoritarians must be dealt with in the same way they deal with others: unfairly.
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