One commonly used tactic in political discourse is to become more shrill if you think your argument is weak.
We’ve seen a good case of this during the last two weeks as some councillors say council is waging a “war on cars.”
Excuse me? I thought we were simply watching the subtle readjusting of interests that city council is always in the process of doing. But no, some call it a war on cars because it’s a bunch of small changes that wouldn’t be noticed unless extreme language was used.
First came the idea of putting a few more bike lanes on streets. As bike riding in Toronto has increased, bikers have asked for more space and sometimes have negotiated it. There’s no war going on here, just a new balance on how people get around.
Then they talked of banning right turns on red lights at some intersections heavily used by pedestrians.
This idea has been in place for four or five years at Dundas and Spadina and the world hasn’t collapsed. No war here.
Third was the radical idea that wider sidewalks (with trees) and bike lanes made sense on Jarvis Street even if one had to get rid of one of the five lanes for cars.
This proposal caused a massive escalation in rhetoric. One expected the war to break out for real on the street or in city hall. It didn’t.
City council approved the idea and the war notion subsided, although some councillors have suggested it will be revived once the municipal election is underway in 16 months’ time.