Ever since I heard the late Peter Cook talk about rigour in Beyond the Fringe, I have had trouble taking the word seriously. He describes how he became a miner:
In Toronto, a new bike lane was opened today on Bloor Street, a major east/west artery, on a trial basis. According to Mayor John Tory, it is not carved in stone:
Yes, I could have been a judge but I never had the Latin, never had the Latin for the judgin', I never had it, so I'd had it, as far as bein' a judge was concerned. I just never had sufficient of it to get through the rigourous judging exams. They're noted for their rigour. People come out staggering and saying "My God, what a rigourous exam!" - and so I became a miner instead. A coal miner. I managed to get through the mining exams--they're not rigourous, they only ask one question, they say, "Who are you", and I got 75 per cent on that.
“I’m going to be certainly wanting to see that it’s measured rigorously,” he told council May 4. “If the measurements show overall, taken overall as a whole, this was bad for neighbourhoods, bad for business . . . then I will be advocating it be taken out.”
And indeed, everyone is staggering from the rigour, saying "My God, what a rigourous exam!" There will be 23 cameras. 5,000 hours of traffic analysis. And not just on Bloor Street; they are going to put cameras on a parallel route to the south, probably so that sneaky cyclists who go on Bloor instead of Harbord Street get subtracted from the counts.
The city has also "contracted a consultant to perform “travel time runs” on the three parallel streets, which will involve using car-mounted GPS trackers to measure how long it takes to drive from one end to the other", Because God forbid, we cannot expect drivers to be slowed down by these changes.
However there will be no measuring of safety issues, because rigourous data: apparently “it usually takes about three years to collect reliable traffic collision data and “it’s difficult over a one-year pilot project to come to conclusions about safety.” But the analysis of changes in retail traffic as people adjust, that's instant.
But other than the less than rigorous safety issue, everyone will be staggered by the rigour. John Tory says he is learning from Mike Bloomberg:
“I won’t compare myself to him because he was obviously a tremendously successful entrepreneur, but we were both business people,” Mr. Tory said of Mr. Bloomberg. “And what you try to do [in business] is make your decisions based on rational sets of facts – and that comes from measurement, in some form or another.”
This is a new phenomenon, because in fact, John Tory is not known for his rigour in looking at facts. When it comes to cars, he is more like the miner than the judge. As Peter Cook notes of mining exams: “-they're not rigourous, they only ask one question, they say, "Who are you", and I got 75 per cent on that.”
John Tory is spending a billion dollars maintaining a bit of expressway that carries 5,200 people per day, 5,200 people who would take three minutes longer to get to work if the highway was removed. But there is no staggering rigour when it comes to cars. But no rigour here, just the equivalent of the miners’ question: “How many suburban driver votes are there in this?”
Then there is that very definition of rigour, of thorough study, that had people staggering. Instead of building a fully funded and approved light rail transportation system with 25 stops that might have generated billions in Transit-oriented development, Mayor Tory rigorously pushed through a $3 billion dollar subway with exactly one stop (down from the 3 in illustration), because the previous crackhead mayor of Toronto believed that LRTs are trolleys running down the middle of the road and blocked cars, and you can’t block cars in Toronto or take away their lanes. But the question that has to be examined so rigorously is once again: “How many suburban driver votes are there in this?”
John Tory is no Mike Bloomberg. He is not even a Rob Ford, who at least believed the things he said. And he is not nearly as funny as Peter Cook. We are not staggered by the rigour, we are just staggered.