Illustration by Jeremy Kai/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
The nebulous politics of cyclist/motorist affairs are not exactly new to 2010—both the tragic Bryant/Sheppard Incident and the hyperbolic War on the Car made it into last year’s sweep of villains. While the ongoing battle to create safer and more efficient road sharing infrastructure is a hot topic, it’s not nearly as hot as some of the tempers that have been coming to a boil over the issue.
Whether you travel by two wheels or four, moving through the streets of Toronto often feels like being in the middle of a war zone. Our illustrious new mayor has made his stance on the matter perfectly clear, throwing both camps into a fever pitch of entitlement and outrage. Many motorists see Ford’s victory at the polls as a sign that cars have regained their rightful place as sole denizens of the roads, while appalled cyclists have become all the more vehement in fighting for a few inches of asphalt. The streets have become a territorial powder keg, where one can scarcely traverse a city block without hearing the familiar sound of furious palms slapping hoods, elongated horn blasts, or any combination of the colourful bile cyclists and motorists spew back and forth.
And where is this volatile road rage getting us? Absolutely nowhere. Each spat serves only to dig us deeper into entrenched warfare—the matter is already spinning wildly out of control, with our articulate mayor comparing the subject to abortion and some brain-dead pranksters committing acts of dangerous sabotage. It would benefit everyone to remember one important fact: travelling on Toronto streets can be downright scary. There are new drivers being licensed and cyclists doffing training wheels every day, and their introduction to the morning commute needn’t include a litany of noise and insults. That’s not to say there aren’t some reckless idiots flouting the rules of safe conduct, but more often than not an error in judgment is immediately regretted, and needn’t be belaboured with a screaming match.
Ignorance is hardly an excuse, but a dented door or spit profanity does more to infuriate than educate, and simply begins the cycle anew. If you want to help improve Toronto’s vehicular infrastructure, do so through one of the many organizations dedicated to the task, and let cooler heads prevail on our streets.