Cars don't rule here. photo Shawn Micallef
22 years ago, Peter Ustinov described Toronto as " New York run by the Swiss." I wonder what he would say now if he watched the battles over putting in trees and bike lanes on a formerly grand avenue that had been turned into a five lane highway. Or the endless battles over bikes all over town, as the drivers call every one of them a "war on cars."
For New York and Toronto have completely reversed their roles. Last week I called New York City a Cyclist's Paradise; Shawn Micallef says pretty much the same thing in Spacing Toronto, noting that it is not cyclists at war with cars, but the cars at war with themselves.
Toronto's Jarvis Street before the cars won
Then there is something that the car folks don’t - and possibly can’t — admit to: cars have always been in a perpetual state of war with themselves. It’s a dirty and nasty civil war that nobody wants to talk about but anybody that has driven a car knows exists (and has existed for a long time). Cars are always battling each other for space and there is not, and never will be, enough roads in most urban centres to declare a truce in that war.
Proposed change to Jarvis Street from five lanes to four. Big deal.
In New York, they just do it. The Mayor and his powerful transportation commissioner have been putting them in at an astonishing pace. Micallef says "It's not a war, it's progress."
In London, the Mayor almost gets himself killed looking for routes for "bicycle superhighways." He learns from it, though, according to the Guardian:
An aide to the mayor said: "It was pretty awful. They were shaken up and Boris was shocked. But it makes the case even more for his super highways."
London and New York get it, but in Toronto they are still fighting the wars of the last century. They are stuck in 1987; if only Peter Ustinov were around to do an update.