War on the Car, redux | #BikeTO #TOpoli

It’s the meme that just won’t die.

After Toronto Council voted yesterday to kill the Jarvis bike lanes, I suggested that it’s time for cyclists to look to their own safety first, and if that means not being so accommodating to motorist traffic, so be it.

For years the Fords of the world and their married-to-their-cars supporters have been complaining about a War on the Car.  It’s a simple idiotic catchphrase which substitutes for engaged and critical thinking.

Well, as yesterday’s results ought to show, it’s anything but. As Justin Beach has argued, what we’ve got is a war by cars on everyone else. It boils down to a simple, unreasoning “get the fuck out of my way”  hatred for Anything That Slows Us Down – bike, transit, whatever.

Never mind that the biggest source of congestion is … other cars.  Anyone who isn’t in a car isn’t part of the problem.

But it goes beyond mere tribal resentment.  We are past the point where we have to deal with peak oil. Suburbs were designed around the car and the availability of cheap gas. That’s not the world we live in any more. We can either meet that challenge or pretend it isn’t happening. 

The world we’re living in now requires a fundamental realignment of priorities and design philosophies; we have no choice but to plan both urban form and modes of transportation in a way that recognizes that private automobiles are no longer paramount. That means making cities and roads more bike-friendly and more pedestrian-friendly. That means making public transit affordable, sustainable and comprehensive. That means road tolls for people who insist on driving.

And that means approaching these issues in a spirit of honesty, realism and maturity.  Fat chance with this lot.

The fact is, a sane, sustainable transportation policy has to recognize that there’s more than one way to get around, and be designed accordingly. But that idea’s apparently too complex for Team Ford and its supporters, so everything gets reduced to four one-syllable words. Hence the War on the Car.

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