Monthly Archives: January 2010

Why drivers will love more bike lanes and better transit

Rocco Rossi’s speech to the Empire Club yesterday [PDF] has generated a lot of discussion, especially his pledge to end “the war on the car” by opposing bike lanes on arterial roads and halting planned transit construction. Underscoring that discussion is the news that another pedestrian was killed on our streets this morning, a tragedy that also brings pedestrian safety and infrastructure to mind.

A Copenhagen bike lane. PHOTO: bmevans80 on Flickr
A Copenhagen bike lane. PHOTO: bmevans80 on Flickr

I am reminded of a conversation I had while in Copenhagen last month. One of the first things you notice about Copenhagen is their extensive cycling infrastructure and how well it’s used. The climate in Denmark is similar to ours (while I was there it was cold and snowing) but because bike lanes are wide, separated, part of a large network and receive good snow clearance, they’re used year-round by large numbers of commuters and families. When I told a local woman named Anna Sophia how impressive that was, her first reaction was to lament that it wasn’t nearly good enough. “Amsterdam has a great cycling culture,” she said. “Ours is OK.”

Then I told her how many bike lanes are available to Torontonians, what they’re like, and the fact that efforts to expand our bike lane network are met by some with the “war on the car” accusation. She laughed, and said two things. First, “that’s such a Canadian/American thing to say.” (I don’t think she was trying to be hurtful.)

The second thing is what really stuck with me, though. She said, “I can’t imagine what this city would be like without our bike lanes. Everyone would have to drive. It would be so congested and impossible to get around.” The realization hit me like a tonne of bricks: she’s describing Toronto.

As Hamutal Dotan wrote for Torontoist earlier today, “what we need—urgently, and very badly—is to measure the success of our roadways by how well they move people, not cars, and privilege the modes of transportation which are most efficient at moving the largest numbers of people.” Rossi was absolutely right when he said that “cars are simply a necessity for many people,” and planners need to recognize that. However, his contention that this city suffers from too much traffic congestion due to a “war on the car” is backwards: the fact that we have so many cars on the road causing congestion is a direct result of urban design that has disproportionately favoured cars over other methods of transportation. The idea that we can somehow accommodate more cars on downtown roads while improving traffic conditions is fantasy. The best way to improve driving conditions is to offer better alternatives to driving.

All of our best research shows that when people have a transit system that works and treats them with dignity and a cycling infrastructure that doesn’t make them fear for their safety, they take advantage of it and drive less. That means fewer cars on the road, which means less congestion for those who choose or need to continue to drive. Drivers (a group that, as an Autoshare member, I include myself in, along with being a cyclist, pedestrian, and transit user) who want less congested streets should favour “complete streets” that do a better job of balancing different transportation options.

Campaign principles

When we launched this campaign yesterday I shared a letter outlining why I’m running and some of the policy issues I intend to focus on in this election. Today I want to take a step back and talk about principles.

Policies are specific ideas meant to address specific problems. When we go to the polls on October 25th, many people will likely vote based on which candidate has, in that voter’s assessment, the best set of policies. Also important, however, are a campaign’s principles. Principles are more broad and foundational and less fickle than policies. They’re what one uses (or should use) to make decisions and form policy positions. (In other words, instead of asking “what will get us the most votes? what can we get away with?” and so on, campaigns should ask “how do we stay true to our principles?”)

This afternoon we’ve added a new permanent page to this website that outlines and explains our principles. This campaign will be:

Open. We will use both web-based tools and in-person meetings of all kinds to engage with people and make this election about ideas rather than personalities. We will also interface with and draw inspiration from initiatives like ChangeCamp, Better Ballots, #VoteTO and others which seek to engage a broad spectrum of people in civic idea generation and decision-making.

Uniting. It’s tempting for politicians of all stripes to attempt to score points by applying labels to different groups of residents and then pitting those groups against each other (drivers vs. cyclists, union members vs. non-union members, TTC operators vs. TTC riders). When we do that, however, we fail to move forward together. Only by building an inclusive movement that respects all Torontonians can we create the city we want.

Future-oriented. We will make decisions that address the needs of the present generation without sacrificing the rights and prosperity of future ones. We will build a city that we’re proud of today that will also serve us well tomorrow.

Again, these are not meant to be specific policy commitments, but they are declarations of how you can expect the members of this campaign to behave and on what we will base our platform. And, in keeping with the first principle, we’ll do all that together.

Media release: Seasoned candidate enters race for councillor of Ward 27

Tindal receives early support from prominent members of major parties


TORONTO – Chris Tindal, a former candidate for federal parliament, today registered to run for city councillor in Toronto’s Ward 27.

Tindal highlighted city finances, transit, and smart development as three areas in need of special focus. In a letter posted to, Tindal said he would “focus on expanding the tax base, not the tax burden,” called on the transit debate “to move from making excuses to finding solutions,” and said he would be “mindful not only of our ward’s current needs, but also the kind of city we’ll be proud to have created further down the road.”

A former Green Party of Canada candidate who has have lived in Ward 27 for more than a decade, Tindal is endorsed by respected individuals from across the political spectrum, including Chrétien-appointed Senator Lois Wilson, former local Progressive Conservative MP David MadDonald, and past Toronto NDP candidate Liam McHugh-Russell, who called Tindal “open-minded, passionate, articulate and thoughtful” and said he “represents the future we need for our city.”

MacDonald added, “Chris Tindal represents the best of what our neighbourhood is all about. He is committed to a community which is diverse, healthy and prepared to meet the challenges of living in an urban environment. We will all benefit from having him represent us on the new City Council.”

Tindal also has the support of high-profile members of Ward 27’s various communities, including Laurie Arron, who worked with Egale Canada to help legalize equal marriage.

“I intend, especially in these early months of the campaign, to do more listening than talking,” Tindal said. “We, as a campaign, will fully engage with residents to listen to their priorities and concerns.”

“As Torontonians we interact with municipal government services more than those of any other government,” he said. “And yet, we tend to pay very little attention to municipal politics, and I doubt there are even many city councillors who would argue we have the kind of governance we can be proud of, the kind of vision we should aspire to, the kind of representation we deserve.”

In a March 2008 by-election in Toronto Centre, the federal riding that includes Toronto’s Ward 27, Tindal achieved what media reports referred to as a “virtual tie” for second. Journalist Susan Delacourt wrote that Tindal’s “significant” result helped to “[seal his party’s] standing as a political force to watch” and moved it closer to becoming a “major player.”

Tindal’s campaign began this morning with a series of messages posted to his website,, and an invitation to residents to become active participants in defining the next city council.

Chris Tindal has served as a Vice President of the Ontario Recreational Canoeing association and as a board member for a boys and girls residential summer camp north of Toronto. Having produced some of Canada’s largest web properties including (for Astral Television Networks) and (Corus Entertainment), Tindal now does strategy and business development for a national newspaper chain’s interactive properties.

For more information

Matthew Ross


Announcing my candidacy for Toronto City Council, Ward 27


As of this morning I am a candidate for city councillor in Toronto’s Ward 27. After months of consultation and contemplation, I’ve come to the conclusion that this municipal election represents an exciting and unique opportunity for us as residents to, in one small but significant way, seize control of our own democracy and build the kind of community we want.

In one sense, city governance is about a set of very practical things like roads, garbage collection, sewers, and so on. It’s important that these areas are addressed properly and with sound judgment. In addition, however, city governance defines the kind of world we live in. We interact with municipal government services more than those of any other government, and in many ways those services have the largest immediate impact on our quality of life. When we talk about city building and when we elect a city council, we’re deciding what kind of neighbourhood we live in, what our commute to work is like, what kinds of activities we can easily enjoy on the evenings and weekends, what kind of education our children receive, and what it means to exist as a diverse community of equals.

And yet, we tend to pay very little attention to municipal politics, and I doubt there are even many city councillors who would argue we have the kind of governance we can be proud of, the kind of vision we should aspire to, the kind of representation we deserve.

I’m running to be Ward 27’s next councillor because I’ve lived here for a decade, I attended and graduated from university here, and I think we deserve better.

Recognizing that there will be a lot of time to discuss specific policy positions throughout the campaign, in these early days there are three areas I would like to lift up.

First, anyone elected to city council will need to address the very serious and imminent financial crisis. The city must get its house in order and Torontonians expect to see better value for their tax dollars. That will mean finding new creative sources of revenue as well as targeted cost containment. The unrelenting wave of perpetual property tax increases we’ve become used to is not only bad policy, it’s unimaginative. In short, through smart development and planning I will focus on expanding the tax base, not the tax burden.

Second, we expect more from our transit system. Too many of us know the frustration of waiting for a bus that never comes, or watching a full streetcar pass us by as we stand with our Metropass or transfer in hand. While it is true that the TTC is underfunded by provincial and federal levels of government, we need to move from making excuses to finding solutions. We don’t do that by blaming others or creating divisions, we do it by articulating the kind of system we want and a plan to get there together.

Finally, much of what a city councillor does is concerned with building the kind of city we want, whether that means working with developers and residents on a new residential or commercial building or negotiating how our streets are equitably shared among pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and drivers. I will approach these conversations in a way that is open and inclusive, seeking to build common ground. And I will be mindful not only of our ward’s current needs, but also the kind of city we’ll be proud to have created further down the road.

In addition to these larger areas, I’ll enter into dialogue with residents and stakeholders from each of our neighbourhoods about what specific issues we should work on together over the next four years. For example, a conversation about Church Street’s accidental evolution is long overdue, and as a community we need to address what kind of Church Street we want. (Update: conversation about this in the comments.)

Let’s be clear: we can win this campaign, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to those of you who have already offered your support. It’s a long time until election day on October 25th, and there’s much to be done. Let’s get to work.