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road sage

Last week, a pedestrian punched a cyclist while an onlooker caught the incident on video. Apparently, the cyclist had gone through a red light and almost ran the pedestrian over and the gentleman did not appreciate the near-death or at least near-severe physical harm. It's a primal reaction; whether you're on foot, on a bike or in car, a brush with harm triggers fight or flight instinct – well – mostly fight.

The full video was posted on Metro News; in it the pedestrian (whom, may I add, was extremely well-dressed) cold-cocks the cyclist and later yells, "You almost ran me over. Are you kidding me? You ran me over me. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? I live on this street and you're running me over."

As someone who considers himself a connoisseur of irony I found the altercation sublime. Here we had a member of a group often killed by motorists (pedestrians) punching a member of the other group often killed by motorists (cyclists) because he felt his safety was threatened, as the vehicles who actually kill people (cars) rolled peacefully by.

The incident occurred at Toronto's newly revamped Queens Quay. For those unfamiliar with Queens Quay, it's a high-end condo development with a lake adjacent to it. The city spent $128.9-million revitalizing it – building a pedestrian promenade, a separate bike lane and made it public transit friendly. Unfortunately, the multitudes of lanes have proven confusing and, as a result, drivers are veering into lanes where they don't belong and cyclists are blowing through lights. Result: People lose their cool.

I know one way to get rid of the confusion. Get rid of the cars.

Why not? Make it "bike only." What have we to lose? Yet you never hear someone speak the words "bike-only street." If they did, they'd probably be strapped to a Pontiac Sunfire and burned as a witch. All across the nation, people complain about gridlock. I've never understood why some mayor or councillor doesn't just decree bike-only roads or make some streets bike-only during rush hour. It wouldn't cost anything. Just throw up a few signs with an "X" overtop a picture of an SUV.

People wonder why the bike-share program has taken off in Hamilton and not Toronto. Simple: Hamiltonians aren't terrified of being hit by a car while biking. People in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are. Bike-only street would ease their nerves.

Here's how bike-only streets would work:

- Pedestrians would walk on sidewalks.
- Cyclists would ride on roads.
- Roads can be turned back into car-friendly streets during winter, when only the deranged cycle.

Writing about transport issues, it's easy to dislike people on each of the extremes. Cyclists are too easily placated. It's as if they enjoy being an oppressed group. Throw them a bike lane and they're happy. Wee! We've got a whole bike lane! How lucky we are! Thank you giant car colossus for giving us a whole lane!

Meanwhile, drivers resist any form of transportation that doesn't pollute and have four wheels. Heaven forbid they're delayed a few minutes. It's all a show. For many drivers, their commute is the most peaceful part of the day.

They're alone. They're listening to music or a book on tape. If they weren't driving, for most people that's just a bottle of Burgundy or a joint away from the perfect evening.

Yet who am I to judge? I love driving. I love speed. I love cars. Within about six seconds of meeting me, most people from either of these groups would be thinking, "Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?" But, hopefully, they'd refrain from going any further.

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