Editor's note: A sentence in this week's Market Squared column did not make it clear that the mention of an "angry Scottsman" was intended as reference to a specific television character in the British television show 'The Thick Of It,' and not a characterization of Scotsmen in general. GuelphToday apologizes for any offence.
I thought I would use this space today to offer some kind of wrap up to our brief federal election campaign in advance of Monday’s vote, but the hot political story this week was around a drive-thru.
Yes, that drive-thru.
After a couple of weeks of delay, the City of Guelph finally got around to installing some enhanced safety features along the bike lane that goes past a busy fast food drive-thru at the corner of Gordon and Surrey Streets. For a community full of active cyclists this should have prompted a sweet sigh of relief as they were now able to travel on one of the busiest sections of one of Guelph’s busiest roads more safely!
That was the dream, anyway. The reality was shattered just a few days later when people started posting on social media that this was not the case, including a dedicated Twitter page for this drive-thru.
Then the media started paying attention. GuelphToday’s Richard Vivian stood at that corner for just 15 minutes around the lunch hour earlier this week and counted 13 vehicles blocking the bike lane at some point while lining up for the drive-thru, including, oddly enough, a City of Guelph bylaw enforcement vehicle.
CTV News interviewed Mayor Cam Guthrie about the situation with the mayor’s back to the drive-thru. As reporter Krista Sharpe talked to Guthrie, in the background you can see a car stopped over the bike lane, in line for the drive-thru, as Guelph’s mayor emphatically asked his constituents to “be a good driver.”
Even outside the realm of fiction though, it was always a matter of fantasy on the part of the city to think that some concrete barriers and some new signs would have more of an impact on driver attention when the bike lane is already coloured the same shade as green slime.
I remember waiting for a bus across the road from this drive-thru earlier this summer. As I watched, a Guelph Police Services vehicle was in the drive-thru line, and even it stopped across the bike lane and the sidewalk. Behind the police car was a growing line of three or four vehicles, while in the centre turning lane, two north-bound facing vehicles waited for their chance to get in line.
So what’s going on here? Why is this happening?
I’ll tell you, but you’re not going to like it.
Ready? It’s selfishness.
You see, to me the answer to this problem is obvious: If you’re feeling like a Big Mac, or a McCafe, or whatever, and you see a line at that drive-thru window, you either: (a) use one of the other two entrances to park your car and order inside at the counter, or (b) drive somewhere else to get your food at one of the other half-dozen fast food joints with drive-thrus just a few metres up the street.
It’s selfishness that results in more traffic being created whenever roads are added or expanded, because the creation of more roads is only ever meant to relieve current levels of traffic, not to accommodate more.
Selfishness is what makes people think that they’re not part of the problem sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 401 because traffic jams are caused by all the other people in single-occupancy personal automobiles.
Selfishness is driving our parking problems, from the older parts of town in the downtown core, to the newly developed subdivisions in the east and south ends, because no one wants to give up their car, but they definitely want other people to give up theirs.
And selfishness is what drives our members of city council because they want your vote and they don’t want to tell you the bitter truth, and the truth is that the way we live with our overdependence on personal cars is causing us serious issues.
A 2011 analysis of 22 U.S. cities showed that 25 per cent of the land there was being used for parking. As we struggle to find enough affordable housing for people, is it at all responsible that one-quarter of our precious city space is being used for your cars, which, according to a 2016 Vice article, spend 95 per cent of their time staying still in one place?
We don’t want to use more precious land to build bigger roads, we all agree that more of us need to take more trips on public transit, and we all agree that people should be able to navigate the city’s bike lanes safely and without obstruction, but who’s responsible for all this? The government?
Sure, they can set the standards and write the bylaws, but to paraphrase the Bard, the fault lies not in the horseshoe, but with ourselves.
So we’re left with two options for our offending drive-thru, we can either wait for people to make the less selfish choice and not block the bike lane and the sidewalk, or we can move the drive-thru to somewhere less conspicuous.
Gee, I wonder what option has the greater likelihood of becoming reality…