The Jarvis bike lane is gone. Well, most of it…some brave people (including Ben for a little while) sat down in it and blocked the eraser truck yesterday, and today the truck actually broke down during the protest, so a few stretches remain…but most of it is gone, and soon it will all be gone.
I’m not going to go through the numbers on this, because this should be obvious – this was a dumb move. Bike lanes are win-win, not only for cyclists but for drivers. Safer cycling=more cyclists=less traffic. Honestly. I’m not even going there with the whole “we just built this damn thing and now you’re spending a few mil to remove it to shave maybe 2 minutes off of Karen Stintz’s commute? What?” thing.
But this was never a logical decision. It was an emotional one.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned Nixonland before. If you haven’t read it I recommend the audiobook – sign up for a free trial at Audible and get it as your free book. It’s a million hours long, so it’ll feel worth it – as the meatspace book is a weighty 1400-page doorstop that will cramp your style when you’re reading it on the subway/at the beach/in the dentist’s waiting room. Anyway, to make a very long story short, Nixonland covers not only the life and very interesting times of Richard Nixon, but explores his political genius: viz, taking the sense of outrage and oppression that arose from the women’s and civil rights movements and making it available to your ordinary middle-class schlub.
That is what Rob Ford has done for the drivers of Toronto: tapped into their (I’m sorry, but wholly unearned) feeling of oppression. It’s not hard to do – driving may be the ordinary, assumed form of transport, it might be subsidized by every level of government, and bad drivers may take lives with impunity, but it is still boring, expensive, frustrating, and dangerous. I can totally see how, taking car culture for granted, your average middle-class schlub would be livid at the implication that he should drive less, or she should pay more for the upkeep of the roads, or they should pay more attention to cyclists and pedestrians and take more responsibility for the safety of our roads.
So when a Richard Nixon or a Rob Ford comes along and says “These elitist downtown hipsters are taking away your right to a marginally faster commute!” it sounds good, it feels right. Never mind that it is actually wrong. Never mind that it is fiscally irresponsible and undemocratic and will without a doubt cause a few deaths. It allows the poor oppressed driver to strike a vicarious blow to that irritating cyclist who, undeservedly and with willful arrogance, takes up space on the road by having the nerve to want to get from point A to point B under his own power.
And this is why I kind of fear for our time. Never, ever, ever forget, we are monkeys who have convinced ourselves that we are gods. We like to think of ourselves as creatures of pure reason when we are ruled by the basest manifestations of our id, spitefully taking from others not because we need to but because it makes us feel good. Interesting times, yo.