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Video Responds to Star Article About Toronto’s “Selfish and Rude” Cyclists

James D. Schwartz, writer of The Urban Country and a self-proclaimed “bicycle pragmatist,” ends the above video with a clear message: “Don’t let the media distract you from the real problem on our streets: dangerous and distracted driving.”
Beginning at Crawford Street, the video records cyclists travelling eastbound on College through Little Italy, past Bathurst and Spadina and finally turning onto Beverley Street, near U of T, and heading south. Notable is the fact that the route follows two of the downtown core’s elusive bike lanes, and, not surprising, the video pointedly shows those lanes blocked by vehicles.
Schwartz’s video joins an ongoing and not always polite conversation about the behaviour of cyclists and drivers in the city. The Toronto Star article Schwartz refers to, published on June 5, quotes an angry south Etobicoke resident who observes haughtily that “95% of cyclists don’t stop at red lights.” Recently, an open letter by Emma Woolley, a cyclist herself, asking bad-apple cyclists to stop giving the considerate ones a bad name was met with both applause and criticism—which should come as no surprise. In this debate, one that crops up unfailingly each spring and summer, consensus is stubbornly rare.


  • Michael Clifford

    I've had this conversation with many of my friends, and this argument is never going to end. I'm a cyclist, a runner, a pedestrian, and a motorist, and there are idiots among all of them. As a cyclist I've had pedestrians walk out in front of me without looking, as a driver I've had cyclists swerving non-stop or making turns through red lights.

    People should realize that it still comes down to the people. Put yourself in someone else's shoes and think about what they go through.

    But also, and I've said this to other cyclists I know, it doesn't matter if you're right if you're dead.

  • Roy Murray

    Nice video – I hope the Cintas driver is suitably embarrassed. To add insult to injury he almost caused an accident returning to his vehicle. This video illustrates why separated bike lanes are essential in the downtown core.

  • Todd Taylor

    If we all sent an email to Cintas asking if this is company policy, perhaps it'll embarrass the driver even more.  I already have.

  • Corbin Smith

    I feel that if someone set up a camera at a traffic light for a few hours and left it running, we'd see heaps of cyclists going through red lights. I'm, both a cyclist and a motorist (though as much cycling in the summer as possible) and I feel that the very large majority of cyclists with go through red lights if there is no traffic coming though the intersection. It really makes all cyclists look bad to see people thinking that it is okay to break the law just because it is convenient.

  • Paul Kishimoto

    Does it illustrate how they are feasible?

  • Paul Kishimoto

    The absence of video evidence doesn't seem to influence your feelings about the very large majority, so maybe it's not worth the expense of collecting it.

    Maybe it's more productive to think of reasonable ways cyclists might be convinced not to run reds. My favourite is to just say, loudly and while stopped myself, “That's a red light,” or “That's a stop sign.”

  • Corbin Smith

    I used to do that too. I was tired of the verbal abuse I was subjected to in response. You know the “Who the fuck do you think you are?!” type of stuff.
    I wonder if cyclists are unaware that they are subject to the same laws as automobiles, or if the ones running reds think they can get away with it and are above the law.

    I really wouldn't mind more ticketing blitzes from Toronto police looking for cyclists disregarding the laws of the road.

  • James Schwartz

    I wonder if motorists are unaware that they are subject to the HTA, or if the ones that drive over the maximum posted speed limit think they can get away with it and are above the law.

    I really wouldn't mind more ticketing blitzes from Toronto police looking for motorists disregarding the laws of the road.

    Why waste precious policing resources to blitz people who are generally causing no harm to anybody else? When motorists start driving safely, then I'd be happy if the police spent their time ticketing cyclists.

  • James Schwartz

    In Copenhagen, the major bike routes have timed traffic signals so cyclists always get a green light if they maintain about 20km/h. That's a great way to encourage people to ride a bike, and to encourage people not to run red lights at empty intersections.

    In the suburbs in the Netherlands, bicyclists can trigger a traffic signal change by simply pushing a button and waiting only seconds for a green signal. Yet another great way to encourage people to ride a bicycle and not run red lights.

  • Corbin Smith

    Motorists are not the problem. Cyclists are not the problem. Both parties frequently disregard the rules of the road. 
    I don't think that likening driving (let's say 90 km/h in a 80 km/h zone) to running a red light on a bicycle is an apt analogy. Yes, there are laws that even police will be accommodating if broken. In Canada, travelling over the speed limit by 10 km/h will almost never get you a speeding ticket. Bicycles yielding instead of stopping at a stop sign in a residential area will likely get a pass as well.
    It's aggressive people on roads, cyclists and motorists alike, which make a bad name for their respective parties and make the roads a more dangerous place for everyone.

  • James Schwartz

    Are you kidding me? A cyclist who on a 50lbs bicycle who rolls through a red light at an *empty* intersection is more dangerous than someone speeding in a 4,000 pound motor vehicle? Here's an article on how much of a difference 10mph makes:

  • Corbin Smith

    Didn't say anything about “dangerous.”

    Our cycle culture has grown used to getting away with disregarding road laws just as motorist culture has. If police started frequently and consistently ticketing motorists for speeding like the do in other countries (say, Australia) were 8-10 km/h warrants a speeding ticket, I suspect that culture of law breaking would eventually change. The same goes for enforcing other laws which people have become accustomed to breaking without consequence (cyclists running red lights.)

    We can agree that both are illegal, right? I'm not going to touch trying to quantify what laws are more dangerous when broken, and to how severe a degree.

  • James Schwartz

    You did say that jumping a red at an empty intersection on the bike is not comparable to driving 10km/h over the speed limit. So I'm trying to figure out why it's acceptable to drive 10km/h over the speed limit but not acceptable for a cyclist to jump a red light at an empty intersection.

    They are both illegal, and yes more enforcement could help reduce both of them. But since the police can only do so much enforcement with their limited staff, they should enforce the infractions that cause the most harm. Automobiles do much more harm than bicycles, so if there are both motorists and cyclists being dangerous, then it would make sense to me to start enforcing the motorists first.

  • Corbin Smith

    I didn't say either were acceptable.

    I'm sure if Toronto police started ticketing all motorist and cyclist traffic law infractions we could afford plenty of more officers.
    The cyclist culture of disregarding road laws isn't going to change unless there are consequences, and the same goes for motorists.

  • James Schwartz

    Well, there already are consequences. The fine for jumping a red light on a bicycle is in fact the exact same for a cyclist as it is for a motorist ($315), and I do see cyclists getting tickets periodically. But the police can't be on every block in the city at all times. Drivers will continue doing 10-20km/h over the speed limit too as long as they think they can get away with it.

    Having said all that, I don't think enforcement is the only way to change people's behaviour. Better bike infrastructure and better laws that accommodate cyclists will change behaviour. A carrot instead of a stick you might say.

    I gave a couple examples in my other comment (timed traffic signals, quick-changing lights for cyclists). Some other ideas too: physically separated bike lanes, bike boxes, contra flow bike lanes on one-way residential streets, legal indirect left turns for cyclists, advance green signals for bicycles, scramble intersections for pedestrians, etc, etc, etc)

  • Corbin Smith

    Absolutely agree re: infastructure. But until there is actually a carrot to offer, a stick is better than nothing.

  • joshuahind

    I'll say here what I said on the Spacing blog…

    Perhaps the laws do need to be examined. But they can only be rationally judged if cyclists and motorists are willing to take themselves and their egos out of the discussion. We can neither create one set of rules for all vehicles nor a specific set of rules governing specifics types of vehicles if we have to keep entertaining arguments like “Well, I'm smart so I don't have to obey all the rules.”

    If you want to change the rules, you'll have to create a new argument where the talents of a specific driver or cyclist are entirely immaterial. 

    Regardless of the vehicle they regulate, the rules of the road exist to moderate interactions between vehicles based on the understanding that all vehicle operators are not created equal. If all drivers were highly skilled and attentive, we could certainly raise speed limits, reduce the number of stop signs and lights and generally allow people to interact based predominantly on their experience and good judgement. But even the most idealistic person would agree that we do not live in such a driving utopia and as such, rules are required. All the same logic applies to cyclists.

    I'm very happy that you (Yes, you.) are so smart and that you can coast through an intersection without worry. But not only is it not about you; it's not about you at all. It's about treating all people equally, smart and stupid alike. That's why the rules are what they are and why your specific talents don't matter one little, teeny, tiny bit.

  • Mark Jull

    Yeah, I saw this comment on Spacing and it's still not helpful. It's not about 'being so smart' to break some rules while others can't. Look deeper into this issue and the simple actions other jurisdictions have done to change the rules for ALL cyclists (rolling stops, one-way streets, etc.). And your so-called 'logic' that applies to motor-vehicles has little affinity with bicycles. Telling a cyclist to obey the same laws as cars is like telling a person in a canoe to obey the same laws as a speed-boat. 

    And it would be a total nightmare if people took their egos out of things. I think you mean that people need to take their ids out of the discussion. Super-ego is excessive/oppressive social demands; id is base instinct. The ego is a balance between the two and the seat of rationality.

  • joshuahind

    First off…people in canoes do have to obey many of the same laws as people in speed boats.

    (They include, life jackets for all passengers, maximum passenger capacities, alcohol regs., minimum safety equipment, nighttime signalling equipment, etc) So while your rebuttal was pretty clever, it demonstrates the same ignorance of the law on display in many of the cycling related posts on this blog and on Spacing. 

    On the other hand, your lesson about the Freudian psychic apparatus is also…well…kinda boring when I'm fairly certain you knew what I meant. But ok, you got to show off a bit. And it's late, so that probably felt good.

    As to the issue at hand; you (like everyone) fail to address the core issue which is this “Does disagreement with the law (however logical and/or socially progressive) constitute a valid reason for disobeying or disregarding the law?” 

    You say that my “logic” has little affinity with cyclists, but you offer nothing to support that statement. I say “Traffic law exist to governs interactions between moving vehicles, regardless of their method of propulsion.” You say “No it doesn't.” Great argument. 

    Let me continue it by saying “Yes it does”.

    Next you'll tell me it's like expecting fighter pilots and kite flyers to obey the same laws. Oh wait…that's not half bad.

  • Anonymous416

    Vancouver also has curbside push-buttons for bicycles crossing main streets.  The traffic lights respond in a few seconds.

    Toronto, on the other hand, has in-pavement car sensors that don't work on aluminum bikes, and pedestrian crossing signals that count down on their own to troll you into thinking you've activated them, then reset and take 5 minutes to activate.

  • Mark Jull

    “Does disagreement with the law (however logical and/or socially progressive) constitute a valid reason for disobeying or disregarding the law?” -Yes (think historically).

  • joshuahind

    Think historically? Why don't you think historically and then tell me how that history applies to your position. 'Cause I like my position and don't feel a pressing need to argue with myself about it. 

    This is turning into a Monty Python sketch.

  • Corbin Smith

    If this is some kind of Rosa Parks reference, you should be banished from the internet.

  • John Kiggins

    I'm (again) one of the pedestrian/cyclist/motorists, and I try to be conscientious, but I know I'm not perfect. I live at the corner of Royal York and Lakeshore – south of Lakeshore, which if you know it, is a pretty short section of street. This is a pretty major route for cyclists, especially on the weekend, and I have (numerous times) nearly hit a cyclist flying East along Lakeshore through the red light.

    That being said, I've also nearly hit what's probably an equal number of cars (and once or twice, a city bus!) turning left from the North lanes of Royal York onto Lakeshore, who don't think that I get a green light too.

  • Michelle Smith

    As a cyclist in this city for over 20 years, I for one am sick of seeing cyclists break/not follow/remain ignorant of traffic rules. Yes, the same rules apply to everyone folks…them's the breaks. Using the 'in Copenhagen' argument doesn't do much for credibility, seeing as Toronto isn't at that point yet. And until it does get to be that cycle friendly, I'm afraid we'll all have to behave like responsible members of society, and follow the rules. How do we convince the lawmakers that we deserve the change otherwise??? And for everyone who goes through an 'empty red light', I say this: if there is just one car waiting at a red light, and the driver of that one car just happens to be on the fence of the whole 'cars hate cyclists' debate….well, you just pushed them over the edge. Thanks! – from the rest of us who are trying to earn respect on the roads, now we have to try even harder.

  • James Schwartz

    Drivers are going to “respect” us if we follow every single rule? So when I make a legal left turn on say Eglinton Ave and occupy the entire left lane blocking 30 cars from proceeding, they are going to respect us? When I take the lane in front of a car, come to a complete stop at an empty 4-way intersection, put my foot down, look both ways, then proceed, the driver who is waiting behind me is going to “respect” me?

    There's a reason why some drivers yell at cyclists to get off the road and go ride on the sidewalk. They don't want you on the road. Drivers are not angry because they saw a cyclist run a red light at an empty intersection. That's just an excuse for them to try to justify their anger.

    All of the animosity on our streets is more deeply rooted in our culture. Motorists historically feel they have the first right to the road and cyclists are using “their” space, so they will be angry at cyclists whether cyclists obey the rules or not. Little do most motorists realize that the streets they are using were occupied by bicycles before cars even existed, and much of the space that motorists use today for driving and parking was annexed from pedestrian space during the 50's, 60's & 70's.

    The only way drivers will truly “respect” cyclists is if they can empathize with them (e.g. if they themselves are periodically cyclists too or they have friends/family who ride a bicycle). We can also redesign our streets to minimize the conflict points between motorists and cyclists. That can also help minimize the animosity, but don't kid yourself into thinking that cyclists will “earn” respect from motorists by obeying a set of laws that were designed specifically for motorists.

    Here's a funny video that hammers this point home:

  • Robert Stemmler

    You're lacking a little bit of reading comprehension there. He didn't say that obeying the rules of the road will make drivers automatically respect cyclists. He's saying breaking the rules of the road make drivers *stop* having respect for cyclists. Frankly, as a pedestrian (and one who favours dealing with cyclists over drivers) I quite agree.

  • James Schwartz

    So using your logic, I should disrespect all drivers because I have yet to find a driver who doesn't break the rules of the road. But since my bicycle is too small to allow me to intimidate or threaten motorists, then perhaps I should start kicking cars as I pass them?

  • James Schwartz

    Oh, and you're the one lacking a bit of reading comprehension since you referred to the female commenter as a “he”.

  • Dorian Douma

    Nice video!

    My big complaint, as a cyclist, is that no matter where I am, somebody wants me out of there. I don’t ride next to the parked cars, because I don’t have a death wish, and I believe that to be the parking lane. Cyclists should get ticketed for using it, not shoved into it.

    So, I’m not where drivers think I’m “supposed to be.” So they use their vehicles to intimidate me, by cutting me off, rushing up on me from behind, stuff like that. I even had one well-to-do driver, with his wife in the passenger seat of his gorgeous car, threaten to run me over if I didn’t actually get out of the lane and let him pass. In bumper-to-bumper, nobody’s-going-anywhere traffic.

    Unless there’s a collision, police don’t really respond. They tell you to fill out a badly-designed web form and then they say that they’ll go and talk to the driver.

    I think that vehicular assault probably constitutes rudeness.

    So yeah, you’ll see me on the sidewalk. Because I’d rather get into a collision with a pedestrian than with a driver.

    The city’s bike lanes are misplaced and dangerous… some of them terminate basically nowhere. You’re in a bike lane, you’re crossing an intersection, and… what… there’s no bike lane on the other side. And the car lane is too narrow to share with a car. So you literally have nowhere to go, except to the hospital, or onto the sidewalk.

    My conclusion is that cyclists aren’t welcome in Toronto, but the city wants to make it look like they’re being accommodated. They really do want us all to move to Montreal or Europe or something. But I shouldn’t have to base my choice of city on which is most friendly to the only form of individual transportation that actually works in a city.

    Cars aren’t designed for the city. Our population isn’t going down. Our density isn’t going down. More road space is not going to materialize. Something has to give.

  • fuck you

    THIS VIDEO IS FUCKING BULLSHIT!!! you just got your stupid buddies to ride around with you! AS a pedestrian I hate cyclists, as a driver I hate cyclists! The city should impose laws where you need a license to ride a bike in the city….. GO FUCK YOURSELF