Mayor, mayor new this fall: Who is the bikiest of them all?

Who's the sketchier mayoral candidate, Doug Ford or Sketchy the Clown?

Toronto 2014 mayoral race:

Who likes bikes the most? 

Hint, it's the mayoral candidate who says, "It is not acceptable in this day and age to ignore the needs of cyclists."

by dandyhorse staff

Sketchy the Clown would make a terrible mayor, especially for those of us you who have an unnatural fear of clowns. But the candidate does support Toronto's cyclists. Doug Ford would also make a terrible mayor, and that is partly because he doesn't really like bikes. Ford, the elder brother of our current ailing mayor, recently stunned the audience at his first mayoral debate when he said he would support separated bike lanes. But he also famously made homophobic comments last spring about how showers at the new cycling station at City Hall (which he opposes) would become a "bathhouse" with "towel boys." At least, he didn't say if cyclists are killed in the streets it's their own fault, as his brother did in 2010. Both men say they like sports (like football) but somehow can't grasp the beauty of the bicycle for it's excellent health benefits, as well as its potential as a cost-effective solution to ease our gridlock woes. But the Fords wouldn't know a cost-effective solution even if it came in a little dime-sized baggy. So, what's a city in search of a serious mayor to do?

Send in the clowns? Wait, no...
 Sketchy the Clown said cyclist safety in the city is no joke. Photo courtesy of the candidate 

Sketchy the Clown has been biking in Toronto for over 10 years (but not always dressed as a clown) and said it's time to get the city moving, and that means improving cycling infrastructure.

So, what would Sketchy do as mayor to ease congestion and how would bikes play a role?

"Definitely encouraging people to ride bikes, because that takes more cars off the road. Definitely improve public transit... because right now we're at capacity," he said. "So here's the big thing I'm going to do. I am going to raise taxes to pay for a bunch of infrastructure. So, yes, I'd have separated bike lanes and... invest more in public transit and that's going to eliminate some cars off the road and make things a little bit better for everyone."

What about safety for cyclists?

"Here is what I recommend: everyone should wear really bright clothing like maybe a clown would wear and that way, you're going to show up a little bit better, you can have those horns that go [makes a "Err err eeEERRrr err" sound] and that would really help people. Oh, and big red hair that sticks out at the sides, maybe even rainbow coloured, yeah, you're going to be noticed... no one messes with me, when Sketchy is on a bike. Actually, I am over six feet tall and about 250 pounds, so no one messes with me period."

Why should people vote for Sketchy?

"I tell people not to vote for me. That's the important thing. It's very important they go out to vote, but just don't go vote for me."

How come?

"Oh because I'm a clown. Don't elect the clown for mayor, that's just a stupid idea. I'm running because I want people to be more aware of municipal politics, what the city does for them, all the services, and the agencies that provide those services, and so I say; don't vote for me. And then you might ask, "Well, who should I vote for?" Take a little time, we have this thing called the internet, and you can find out, based on the issues that you're most interested in, the candidate that matches what your concerns are and vote for them. Just don't vote for me.

"There's no one candidate that fits everyone. So I think it's good for people to try to find the candidate who supports what they believe."

You can read our full interview with Sketchy here.

So let's find out which mayoral candidates might actually improve conditions for cyclists — other than the these two clowns above.

The Contenders: John Tory and Olivia Chow

Jared Kolb from Cycle Toronto taking Tory on a bike ride in Toronto. Photo courtesy of the candidate.

Tory is regularly touted as the frontrunner, yet he has zero experience in political office and has publicly stated he would cancel part of the Eglinton Connects project that includes a protected bike lane and wider sidewalks (where the bus lane is now, where the LRT will go underground.) Here's a beautiful rendering of what the pedestrian-friendly portion of Eglinton could look like. Tory's bike 'plan' states he will install separated bike lanes only in locations that are "practical" or "sensible" - yet he has also said bikes can play a role in easing congestion. (Well, duh, yeah, of course bikes can help ease congestion, but only if you, like, you know, build a bunch of bike lanes so lots and lots of people can do it.)

So, how many times has Tory ridden a bike in downtown Toronto?

One time. He took a ride with Cycle Toronto executive director, Jared Kolb, earlier in the campaign because, as his spokesperson said, "He's the kind of guy who wants to see things for himself." (This is also the only photo his office has of him with a bike. We wonder if he liked it, and where they rode, but that information was not available.)

And, how many times has he taken transit?

Tory said he rides the subway every day, during a debate on Oct. 8 and used a token as a prop to taunt Ford with. Ford shot back that the only reason Tory took the subway that day was because his chauffeur was on vacation.

Tory's cycling strategy is about 300 words long and is essentially a plug for his fanciful SmartTrack plan that has no funding source and involves expropriating private land and using already-over-burdened GO lines for downtown transit.

That brings us to Olivia Chow.

Photo of Olivia Chow at Bike to Work Day this year. (Not her first time.)

Chow laughed when asked how often she's taken transit. "Tens of thousands of times," she said and later added, "Remember, I'm old." She usually rides her bike to get around, but often combines cycling and riding the TTC to get anywhere in the city.

How many times has Chow ridden a bike in the city?

Again, tens of thousands of times. "I was just on my bike yesterday. I have biked year-round since I was 14."

What would Chow do to improve things for cyclists in this city?

Support the proposal for a 200-kilometre grid of separated bike lanes, designated lanes and bike boulevards. "Tory doesn't know the difference between bike lanes and bike boulevards," she said.

"John Tory isn't committed to anything. It's just a lot of blah blah blah."

Chow pointed out that neither candidate, Ford nor Tory, supports the complete streets portion of Eglinton Connects that includes cyclists.

"They are going to go against it and that is a big step backwards. Neither are committed to targets or a grid. No grid, no system. And no specific proposals on how many kilometres, and how many bike lanes and how many boulevards." She added, "Tory was confused about boulevards and bike lanes [in a recent debate]."

"It is not acceptable in this day and age to ignore the needs of cyclists."

Chow plans to allocate $1 million a year to the cycling capital budget and finance changes to infrastructure through the use of unspent portions of the transportation capital budget. She also has long championed mandating side guards for transport trucks to mitigate risk for vulnerable road users who have to share the road with large vehicles.

Chow has been featured in dandyhorse, of course, and was even chair of the City's cycling committee when she was a city councillor in the 90s, back when the first bike plan was received. She has the experience to lead the charge on the City's new-and-improved bike plan, set to be revealed to council in 2015.

"The mayor needs to know what life is like in the city so that they understand what the priorities are for regular people," Chow said, "which means we need to create better transit and bike options for regular people."

There are some 50 candidates running for mayor in Toronto though, and many of them also ride, and support, bikes in our city.

The characters in the supporting cast whose whips caught our eye include: Richard Underhill, Morgan Baskin, Dewitt Lee and Ari Goldkind.

Richard Underhill has withdrawn from the mayoral race himself, to support Chow — and host "Chowstock" — but he still has opinions on bikes in the city:

"I believe Olivia is the best candidate for mayor because she is the most qualified and experienced person, by far, for this huge job. We need to turn the city around and she's got the realistic, progressive platform to do it. She also believes that bikes belong in our city — and so do I.

"We should have bike lanes on all of the main roads, yes, all of the arterial roads downtown should have space for cyclists of course. And quieter side streets should have slower speed limits and traffic calming measures to create (what is being referred to as) the "minimum grid" of bike lanes.

"Mostly, protected bike lanes need to be on faster, busier streets, especially for our friends in the inner suburbs. Biking up to North York is not fun and I applaud all of the cyclists who currently make those longer commutes, but we need to accommodate them and there is plenty of space next to larger roads that lead out of the core to construct fully protected bike lanes without impacting motorists. Our city is choking on congestion, the chief planner acknowledges this and I believe — and so does Olivia — that bikes are definitely a big part of the solution."

Underhill is popular sax musician who is hosting "Chowstock" at Hugh's Room on Oct. 18.

Morgan Baskin is the youngest candidate in the race. She is also an every day cyclist.

Photos of Chow, Underhill and Baskin by Claire McFarlane.

Baskin said, “We need to give everyone a space to be, whether they’re on transit, on a bike or in a car or even on a longboard. When everyone has a place to be, it helps them get around the city easier.”

The Toronto native and recent high school grad, who supports protected bike lanes, said youth and the environment are her main issues.

“We talk a lot about how Toronto used to be a great cycling city and about how Toronto used to be a great for transit and about how it used to be great to drive in Toronto and it used to be cheap to live here and you know, I have never ever lived in that city. I would much prefer to talk about how we can make our city and great transit city tomorrow, in 10 years, in 20 years, how we can make it a great city to live in, to drive in, to eat in, to visit, to cycle in but like, we need to stop talking about this great city that we used to be and start actually acting like we’re great now,” said Baskin.

Dewitt Lee likes bikes too.

Mayoral candidate Dewitt Lee, far right, using Bike Share, is seen here during Bike to Work Day with other politicians who like bikes. Photo courtesy of the candidate.

Lee is a strong advocate for establishing a minimum grid of bike lanes in Toronto. He attends Cycle Toronto ward advocacy meetings and he said "people power" will help achieve the much needed grid for cyclists.

He encourages helmet use to protect cyclists and would like to explore partnering with bike shops and manufacturers on the subject of sponsoring and naming bike lanes and paths. One idea is to utilize this naming partnership to memorialize cyclists who have been killed while riding.

Ari Goldkind has been doing a terrific job of bringing issues to the fore, as an "alternative" candidate, and has been getting a lot of press lately. And, guess what, he really likes bikes!

Photo courtesy of the candidate.

Goldkind described his overall view on biking as “A big ‘yes.'"

A supporter of the minimum grid concept, Goldkind said he wants to “bring cycling into the forefront of city living” by making all bike routes physically separated from traffic, decreasing downtown parking and cracking down on anyone illegally parking in bike lanes. He proposed, “deprioritizing the car,” by building pedestrian malls in places like Yonge Street and in the Toronto Entertainment District.

Goldkind would remove parking lanes on major streets such Bloor, Dundas and College, to put in separated bike lanes. These proposals would work in tandem with an information campaign to encourage cycling and ease the fears of business owners, who are worried about reduced parking.

These proposals, as well as his transit plan, would require significant funding, and sees tax increases as a major source and supports raising the land transfer tax on homes over $1.1 million.

He admitted, he's not a cycling expert and currently doesn’t rely on a bike for transportation, but still wants to encourage year-round biking.

“I recognize that more people — including me — will use bikes when they become easier and safer to use in the city.”

So what's it going to be Toronto? Which mayoral candidate supports your vision for a city where cyclists belong and there are safer streets for all? You decide on Oct. 27, 2014.

Here's the mayoral spread from our current bike plan election issue, published this summer. David Soknacki had a great plan for easing congestion that prominently included plans for better bike infrastructure and removing on-street parking on arterials while cracking down on those who illegally park in the curb and bike lanes, but pulled out due to lack of support, while Karen Stintz, also a cyclist, ended her campaign due in part to lack of finances.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

dandyhorse bike plan election issue is here! (Buy it here.)

Sketchy the Clown: "Don't vote for me."

Pedal power in parliament: Olivia Chow

dandyARCHIVE: Thank you Jack

Bike to Work Day Kicks Off Bike Month 2014

Other cities love bike lanes

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One response to “Mayor, mayor new this fall: Who is the bikiest of them all?”

  1. hamish wilson says:

    This is a helpful marker of positions, and hope – though odds are it could still remain a “Clowncil” if we have less turnover in the ‘burbs. So a vote for Sketchy may not be such a bad thing, given how even the bike things have been less logical/fulfilling, even in the last year and month.
    At least Mr. Tory has been open-minded enough to try riding a bike – and I’d heard from a good source that they rode along Richmond/Adelaide to get a sense of the separated lanes, and then when not in a separated lane, Mr. Tory nearly was doored! – a Good Thing, really.
    Ms. Chow has been a regular rider for decades, yes, and has been helpful in many ways, but yet – with all the years, hmm, not all that much done, including under Mr. Miller. One can often give a core rep a lot of slack for the intensity of the issues that press them daily though, but still, hmm.
    It’s like that tiny bit of Bloor St. E. that is in the Bike Plan for bike lanes. It’d be $20,000 to repaint it for painted bike lanes, (hello – separated ain’t the only way to do things), and yet, it’s not done yet.
    Let’s hope that the new Council and the advocates will heed the crash stats and base their works on where we’re getting hurt and killed and far less on ideologically driven changes that seem to be better at depleting the bike budget than creating that broad network of safer linked bike facilities that reflect where we ride.

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