Saturday, 1 August 2015

Bikes vs Cars

I went to see this interesting documentary last night.  Bikes VS Cars is a documentary that looks at what seems to be the war on cars but really is more of a war for freedom of choice to drive or bike in large cities.

Directed by Fredrik Gertten he compares how bikes and cars co-exist in major large cities mostly from the cyclist point of view but it also shows a taxi cab drivers perspective in Denmark where bikes rule the roads and make his cab driving very difficult.

Even Toronto's own former Mayor Rob Ford appears in the documentary as one of the opponents of bike lanes and a major factor in Toronto's waste of money and moving backwards in the move to give Toronto riders safe bike lanes to get them around downtown.

The documentary follows a bike rider in Los Angeles where it used to be a bikng mecca but has since turned into one large traffic jam of people just sitting in their cars for hours going nowhere.

Sao Paulo is also focused in the film with their high number of cyclist deaths because of their poor city planning.  The Mayor instigates a radical decision to secretly pave bike lanes overnight without warning to prevent interference from local businesses and removes 400,00 parking spots in one fowl swoop.  

Urban planners need to start thinking about how to design cities that can co-exist with both cars and bikes because cars aren't going away anytime soon and bike riders will never be safe unless they figure out a way for them to both be an option for commuting in busy cities.

I had a car for most of my life and I love to drive but because of financial reasons I recently sold my car.  I don't have a bike because it isn't practical for where I live and I am too out of shape to be able to ride one very far anyway.  My new normal is to take transit most of the time,  walk when I can and get a rental car when I need to go somewhere that is difficult to get to by transit or if I need to haul things.  I think the car share service is a good alternative to everyone owning their own cars.  If you don't drive everyday it makes sense to share/rent a car when you need it.  
In Toronto the city is increasing the bike share share service available downtown so that people have the option to get around on bikes if they don't have one.   With the high number of bikes that are stolen each year this is also a good option for that.  I don't know what happens when a bike share bike goes missing but I am sure it would prevent a lot of actual thefts of bikes that are then re sold.

I like to drive but in the past 5 years in Toronto it has become impossible to get anywhere between the condo construction and the increased amount of cars on the road and accidents and other delays it is just crazy trying to get somewhere in a reasonable amount of time anymore.
I am not a huge fan of the TTC for the fact that it isn't as reliable as it should be but it's the only way to move a lot of people around a congested city that isn't bike friendly.

i remember when I was a kid my mom worked from home and my dad who had a car took the subway to work downtown anyway because of parking.  I think his commute must have taken about 40 minutes.   Now the average commute can be 1-3 hours for some people.  If you add up all that time just trying to get somewhere it's time lost that could be used to spend with friends and family or more productive ways.   No wonder everyone is stressed out.  With commuting sucking a big chunk of your time there is less time to do what you actually need or want to do with your life.

I don't know if the mess large city planners have created can be reversed but small growing cities need to plan more carefully to create cities where there is space for people to live, people to work, people to drive, walk and bike to get around.  Options are the only way.   If I could find a job within walking distance of my house I would.  But it seems like there is nothing but condos for miles where I live so unless I want to clean condos or work for minimum wage in a restaurant there isn't much work available for me in my area.  All of the office jobs are all centred downtown so if I get a job downtown it's an average of about 2 hours a day in commute time.  That's 10 hrs a week just to go to a job and there are so many people that come from the 905 area to downtown and spend a lot more commute time.  It really doesn't make much sense in the long run.  People have to work downtown for the jobs but then they live on the outskirts to be able to afford a decent place to live.  If urban planners planned communities where a certain percentage was housing and a certain percentage was mixed commercial use and another percentage was recreation we might all have a choice to live a much healthier and more productive life.

It makes perfect sense but urban planners don't always operate from the place of common sense but more often because of political agenda unfortunately.  Maybe we need to change the face of politics and how it runs to be able to change our world.

BIKES VS CARS is playing at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto until Aug. 6.   Go see it.