Taking back the streets: On bike lanes, speed cameras and what happens to buildings and trees without hi-viz

© Clarence Eckerson Jr.

One of the reasons there are so many stories on TreeHugger complaining about “do the bright thing” and anti-texting campaigns is that they are such a diversion from the real issue, which is that nobody is safe anywhere from being hit by cars no matter what you are doing or wearing. Ed Keenan writes in the Toronto Star about recent collisions and deaths in the city:

It’s hard to know, for instance, what kind of “protect yourself” advice would have helped the woman who was unlocking her bike near a tree Tuesday in the cobblestone pedestrian zone of the Distillery District when a car jumped the curb, plowed her and the tree over, and came to a stop with her pinned beneath it.

It seems pretty clear that no amount of reflective clothing would have saved the woman killed last week when an SUV crashed through the wall of a dance studio in the Beaches and mowed her down while she was taking a class. That was one of at least seven incidents — I stopped counting — in the past month where cars plowed into buildings.

But it seems that anything that is proposed to make the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists meets with opposition from those who believe that roads belong for cars and cars alone. Reductions in speed limits are fought even though the evidence is clear that they reduce injuries and deaths dramatically.


In New York City, Clarence Eckerson Jr. describes the battles going on over speed cameras in school districts.

One topic nationwide that always generates that usual friction is speed cameras. Often going by the same playbook wherever you live, you'll hear common refrains that the tickets are a "cash grab" to "hardworking taxpayers" that are "unfair speed traps" which "infringe on our personal liberties" and "don't save lives." Some of these groups are even referred to as heroes and even destroy (yes, destroy!) hardware meant to keep people safe. You'll rarely find any of these stories take time to interview pro-camera community leaders or talk with someone who lost a loved one to speeding.

speedcams© Clarence Eckerson Jr.

He normally produces StreetFilms, but has taken to doing what we call StreetComics, written by Clarence and drawn by Gary Eckerson, discussing the stupidity of this all. (click here to see a larger version)

Bike Lane Creeps

bike lane© City of Toronto

Back in Toronto, a pilot project for a bike lane on Bloor Street, a major cross-town artery, was approved with only three objections, from suburban councillors from far corners of the City who worry that “this blocks the people from the west end from getting in and out.” The East End councillor who objected worries about “Bike lane creep”- that they might even spread across the city. Horrors!

I recently spent some time picking my way along the Bloor Street sidewalk, wondering why I could barely move among the planters and the tent signs and the stuff everywhere, while the drivists got four lanes in rush hour and two lanes of parking the rest of the time.

Because as the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) demonstrates in their latest publication, Transit Street Design Guide, there are different ways of getting people in and out of town. They write:

While street performance is conventionally measured based on vehicle traffic throughput and speed, measuring the number of people moved on a street—its person throughput and capacity—presents a more complete picture of how a city’s residents and visitors get around.


Looked at this way, it is clear that dedicating ten foot lanes to private cars is just about the worst use of the limited real estate. Yet that is the default mode, and cyclists and pedestrians have to fight for inches.

Traditional volume measures fail to account for the entirety of functions taking place on urban streets, as well as the social, cultural, and economic activities served by transit, walking, and bicycling. Shifting trips to more efficient travel modes is essential to upgrading the performance of limited street space.

Tell that to the bike lane creeps.

Taking back the streets: On bike lanes, speed cameras and what happens to buildings and trees without hi-viz
A roundup of stories about streets.

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