Sunday October 22, 2017

Michael's essay — Carnage on the streets of Toronto

Gridlock and congestion are common complaints among drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Gridlock and congestion are common complaints among drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. (John Rieti/CBC)

Listen 3:22

​The woman in the wheelchair looked to be in her early fifties. She was navigating her way across a busy mid-town intersection, going with the green light.

Suddenly a man in a late model BMW moved out to make a quick right hand turn, barely missing her as he rounded the corner.

In any other city or town in Canada, a motorist bearing down on and almost colliding with a woman in a wheelchair would be worthy of some serious comment.

In Canada's largest city, it's merely another day on the roadways.

Bay and Cumberland

2016 was Toronto’s deadliest year for pedestrians in at least a decade, according to a seniors’ advocacy group. (John Hanley/CBC)

Toronto drivers, the worst in the country, as this corner has repeatedly pointed out, continue to gun down pedestrians at an alarming rate.

Over one eight-day period recently, seven pedestrians were struck and killed. In the last five years, more than 150 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed.

As the body count continues to rise, police say the deaths are caused by speed and by distracted drivers.

Traffic officials are talking about lowering speed limits, especially around schools and increased enforcement of traffic bylaws.

Toronto Bloor Street Bike Lane ROM

More cyclists are using Bloor Street thanks to the installation of the bike lanes, but some businesses and motorists have voiced concerns. (John Rieti/CBC)

What is needed, and harder to come by, is a change in attitude in drivers themselves.

Something happens to men when they get behind the wheel of a car. They drive as if they are still in high school.

As authorities crack down on bad drivers, more and more citizens are taking to an increasing number of bike paths. More bike paths mean more attentive drivers and lower accident rates.

All of which is good — except for a disconcerting side-effect.

bike.lanes.donnelly

Cyclists on Toronto's Sherbourne Street (David Donnelly/CBC)

A growing number of cyclists are beginning to take on the mindless aggression of motorists.

Not all, mind you, perhaps not even the majority, but a good number seem quite comfortable riding recklessly, not giving a thought to pedestrians or other cyclists.

They run red lights. They ignore stop signs. They turn without signalling. They travel at ferocious speeds along crowded bike lanes. They cut in and out of moving lines of traffic.

The worst seem to be middle-aged men, many wearing racing colours on expensive bikes, and Uber food delivery maniacs.

And of course the ongoing absurdity of cyclists, again usually middle-aged men, riding on the sidewalk. They even have their own acronym MAMIL, middle-aged men in Lycra.

One morning last spring, a friend was riding her bicycle to work when two little boys suddenly stepped into the bike path.

Her only action was to swerve out of the kids' way. But an oncoming cyclist travelling at terrific speed was blocking her way. My friend fell to the ground, landing on a knee.

Naturally the cyclist didn't stop, slow down or apologize. He kept on riding.

Getting around Canada's largest city is a challenge whether you ride, drive or walk.

Cowboy cyclists add to the challenge. And the danger.

Note: When this article was initially published, it was accompanied by a photo of an accident in which a cyclist died. The cyclist was not at fault. The accident was caused by a collision between a truck and a streetcar. We apologise for the error.