Committee votes to prohibit locking bikes to anything but official bike posts...of which there are far too few.
On Thursday, Mike Layton tweeted that, as part of the new comprehensive streets bylaw [PDF] being proposed by the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, the City would basically make it illegal for anyone to lock their bike to anything other than an official bike post. This was quickly followed by some self-appointed sensible people pointing out that nobody would do anything unless said bike was locked up for more than 24 hours, so it didn’t really affect anybody, did it?
The answer to this question is “yes and no.” On a practical level, no: no bike will be towed for a day following it being locked to a non-bike post, so it doesn’t matter for the vast majority of cyclists, and most of those few cyclists who do need to lock up for more than 24 hours can find a bike post. So, yes, this law as written will not affect cyclists too much, and indeed seems to be related to City Hall’s newfound fear of abandoned bikes.
But on a more serious level, the answer is “yes.”
It is true that the only enforcement of the bylaw is the 24-hour seizure rule, but that doesn’t change the fact that the law renders the act of locking a bike to a fence or a street sign—or anything that isn’t an Official City of Toronto Municipal Bicycle Security Structure ™—illegal. It seems entirely possible that a police officer can, upon seeing you locking your bike to a stop sign, order you to cease and desist.
It’s also wildly impractical. Every cyclist in Toronto knows perfectly well that the city doesn’t have enough official bike posts. Outside of the downtown core they’re few and far between; what are suburban cyclists supposed to do when there’s no bike post literally for kilometres in any direction? And of course, downtown cyclists are used to the experience of not being able to find an empty bike post for blocks. Cyclists want to use the bike posts. They even are willing to use those bike posts that haven’t been reinforced yet and which are potentially unsecure. (Any downtown cyclist with a reasonable amount of riding experience can think of half a dozen bike posts where the ring is hanging loosely from the pole—and even these posts are routinely filled with bikes.) People use fences and street signs because there simply aren’t bike posts to satisfy the demand for locking points. A law that penalizes people for not using bike posts will not solve this problem.
But it’s more than the law itself. It’s the fact that, when presented with the problem of there simply not being enough bike posts to handle bike traffic, Team Ford’s solution was to propose laws which can only serve to discourage cycling. Rob Ford campaigned on ending the “war on the car.” Between this bike lock provision and the removal of three new bike lanes in the past months, it’s quite clear now that Rob Ford and his ideological allies at City Hall want to make up for that phony, imaginary war by conducting a very real war on the bike. This is obvious, and it is long past time to stop giving Rob Ford the benefit of the doubt on this issue. He doesn’t care about good public policy. He doesn’t care about what’s best for Toronto. He just doesn’t like bikes.
Proposed amendment to bylaw concerning Streets and Sidewalks, Use Of; 2.C (P):
No person shall, without prior authorization from the General Manager, chain, lock or otherwise attach any article or thing to a waste receptacle, streetlight, parking meter, utility pole, transit shelter, fence, tree or any other municipal property or authorized encroachment that is located in a street, and any article or thing that remains attached for more than 24 consecutive hours may be removed by the General Manager and disposed of pursuant to Article XVIII.
The new harmonized streets bylaw will come before a meeting of full city council for a final debate and vote November 29–30.