Frank Touby —
Motor vehicle licence tags are instituted for two reasons. First it is to identify each vehicle in case a liability issue arises. Events such as an accident or damage to property or violations of traffic law need identification in order to attribute liability. Of equal importance, licence tags are also required to provide revenue to pay for the roads and their maintenance, traffic signals, traffic cops and traffic courts and to enforce parking bylaws.
Roads are a major infrastructure feature in all cities, taking up a huge chunk of the land. It’s only right that those who use the roads pay the costs of providing and maintaining the roads. Transit riders pay for their road use when they insert their fares into a fare box or use other payment methods. Pedestrians don’t use the roads except to cross them.
So “shank’s mare” or “leg transit” rightly isn’t taxable. True, we do provide at city expense the sidewalks to separate them from the road traffic. But that’s a basic expense all residents contribute to in their municipal taxes. There is large category of road users who get an absolutely free ride. And there is an aggressive component of those free riders who lord it over other road users and some even lord it over pedestrians.
A minority contingent of anarchic cyclists seemingly thinks of their pedalling proclivity as a moral pinnacle from which they are rightly able to look down upon pedestrians—and especially on motor vehicles—and cast aspersions or insults or even physical assaults.
How often have you been walking near a bike path and heard the tinkle of a bell and then an impatient command to move? If you’re among those in motor vehicle traffic, which bike-superiority moralizers scorn, you’re an object to revile and many enjoy letting you hear about it.
It starts with a tinkle of the bell and an outraged voice. Maybe a slap or a kick on your detested vehicle. Toronto has for a long time been schizophrenic about motorized traffic. Cars and trucks are an absolute necessity, of course, but the city sets about to make the driving experience as miserable as taking public transit.
For one thing, there is a mysterious reluctance to coordinate traffic signals so that motor traffic can run smoothly at lawful speeds without the stop-and-go of uncoordinated signals. It seems the city has always been at war with the car, ensuring the driving experience is as uncomfortable as riding a jam-packed subway or streetcar.
Streetcars are a ridiculous feature that has been with the city since 1861. Back then they made more sense than they do now since vehicular traffic was not a problem. Nowadays cars and trucks are seriously slowed by them because they’re right in the middle of each side of the street and when a streetcar stops, everything behind it also must stop. And streetcars stop a lot.
To add to the misery for drivers, the city has been creating expensive wide bicycle lanes for a relatively few cyclists. If you’re stuck in traffic during Toronto’s several daily rush hours, you’ll notice the lightly travelled bike lanes aren’t congested at all. It’s a lot of expensive traffic-disrupting infrastructure for not much use.
Shouldn’t cyclists contribute to the funding and maintenance of this facility? Otherwise it’s a free ride for them at the expense of all city taxpayers. One solution to make things fairer for those of us who don’t use bicycles as our main transportation is to require securely fitted licence plates on all adult-size bicycles and 3-wheelers; just like those on motor vehicles, only smaller.
The revenue would help pay for the cycling infrastructure and maintenance. It would also make a renegade minority of cyclists more accountable for their behaviour.