An open letter to Don Cherry

The following letter, while visceral reaction to a tasteless political conversation at Toronto City Hall, articulates the importance of Complete Streets policy in Toronto and in every jurisdiction globally. We need to recognize that Bikes are part of the solution for decarboning the economy. We need to consider with humility that the Streets of Yesterday were designed by and for adults with cars, and the Streets of Tomorrow will be designed for maximum efficiency in creating cities that move, where all modes of travel are accessible and safe, including Walking, Cycling and Transit. 
by Dave Meslin on Wednesday, 08 December 2010 at 10:13

Dear Don,

Congratulations on being chosen to introduce Mayor Ford on his first day at City Council.  It's quite an honour.

I think it's unfortunate that you used the opportunity to be divisive and fan the flames of partisan politics at City Hall.  What our city needs, and wants, is a collaborative approach to decision making that attempts to take into account different perspectives and opinions.

Today's meeting was not just the first meeting for our new Mayor, but also the first meeting for our new City Council - all 44 members who represent the City just as much as Mayor Ford.  Those 44 Councillors represent a wide variety of opinions, reflecting the political diversity of Toronto.  Your comments, at their meeting, with their friends and families present in the room, was incredibly rude.  Or, since you like to talk like a "straight shooter", let me just say that you behaved like an asshole.

Usually, I wouldn't waste my time writing a letter to an asshole.  But you specifically singled out cyclists in your speech.  And that's a really important issue to me, and I just wanted to share a few thoughts.

1) Many thousands of people ride bikes in Toronto. They ride them in the downtown area, and in the suburbs. They ride bikes in parks, on side streets, in ravines and on arterial streets.

2) People of all ages ride bikes. Families ride bikes. Business owners, lawyers and doctors ride bikes.  Hockey players ride bikes.  We have bike stores in all corners of our city to serve the growing number of people who enjoy riding.

3) As someone who comes from a sports background, I would have thought that you'd encourage cycling.  You may have heard that there is a severe lack of exercise amongst our youngest generation and a growing obesity problem.

4) Cycling in Toronto right now is dangerous.  Hundreds of people get injured every year, simply because we haven't created enough safe spaces to ride in the City.

5) Hundreds of miles of bike lanes have been painted in the last few years, in Manhattan.  Painted by a conservative right-wing mayor who believes in safety for families.  Safety isn't a left-wing or right-wing issue.  It's common sense. Only a fool cannot see this.

6) Mayor Ford himself has proposed over 100km of new bike lanes across the City. Good for him. This is exactly what Toronto needs and cyclists are eager to start working with his policy team to make this happen.

Maybe you think that politics should be played like a hockey game.  Two sides, one winner, lots of fighting.  What about compromise?  What about listening to each other?  What about actually thinking about what might be good for the city, rather than just spewing negative immature insults about people who ride bicycles?

I can't tell you how many times I've seen friends injured on the streets of Toronto. I've visited them in hospitals, I've rushed to emergency rooms and I've attended memorials for those who have been killed - simply because our City Council didn't have the guts to paint a line on the road. And you think it's funny to mock the politicians who are simply trying to make safer streets for the taxpayers who you claim to 'respect'? 

All cyclists have ever asked for is safety and respect.  They pay taxes, and deserve safe roads just like anyone else.  I hope you never have to experience the loss of a loved one in a bicycle collision.  It would be a horrible way to find out how ignorant your comments were today.