I took some flack recently for my statement that Joe Pantalone was a poor choice for cyclist voters, because he never learned to ride a bicycle.
Perhaps it was unfair of me to call Pantalone out on this. After all, he’s been David Miller’s right-hand man on a council that has been more bike-friendly than others in the past. Miller’s administration has installed painted lanes on several streets in the core, forming a decent network from Harbord south, and generally favouring the area between Spadina and the Don valley. Miller’s also responsible for the incomplete West Toronto Railpath, and for moving the western Martin Goodman Trail to a dangerous spot along Lakeshore Boulevard West. The only break in the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail is in eastern Toronto, there is still no plan to install bike lanes on Bloor Street, there are no physically separated lanes anywhere except in the city’s ravines (and some of these are in severe disrepair), and if you want to cycle north of Bloor Street, the safest place to ride is still the sidewalk. Bike lanes on Jarvis were dismissed by council (see page 9), they were only added to the plan later due to community pressure. There’s been an official Bike Plan on the books for several years, but it has been underfunded for years and is largely incomplete, and even if it was on track, Toronto would still lag very far behind other major cities in Canada and elsewhere for cycling infrastructure.
Pantalone’s plan? Keep on doing what we’re doing. Bike lanes get a mention on his campaign website, where he expresses support for a pilot program to test dedicated bicycle lanes, but doesn’t go into specifics like where these pilots should be installed. I’m hoping that he’s not referring to the pilot test on University Avenue which was defeated when nearly half of council didn’t show up for the vote. Beyond his vague and short campaign webpage on cycling, he’s shown up at a few cycling events, including being towed in a rickshaw for the Toronto Cyclists Union candidates’ ride, but photo-ops are not policy. Pants has been largely silent on the issue, and I find that appalling considering he’s touted as the progressive choice. Therefore I stand by my statement that someone who doesn’t ride doesn’t understand cycling issues. Pantalone may have good intentions, but as a non-cyclist he is ill-suited to promote cycling issues on a potentially hostile council.My other significant beef with Pantalone is his stance on the Toronto G20. Over that weekend, police lost control of themselves and of the city. Hundreds of innocent people were illegally arrested and imprisoned in unconstitutional conditions, while packs of criminals openly roamed our streets, even in front of police at times, and it cost the country more than a billion dollars in direct costs, plus more in insurance losses. Days later, Pantalone stood up in City Hall to congratulate the police on a job well done. Stunningly to me and many others, Pantalone continues to defend the police and the money lost, by refusing to call for a full & transparent public inquiry. Pantalone has repeatedly encouraged the “civilian oversight” process via the Toronto Police Services Board, but that process is very limited in scope and offers no hope of discovering who is responsible for the wasted money and breakdown of procedure that weekend. I’m not surprised that other politicians have taken this stance, but from a man like Pantalone who is supposed to be a leftist and a progressive, I just don’t get this sort of pandering. The G20 aside, would I vote Pantalone based on people believing that he’ll probably do something positive for cycling in Toronto, even though he hasn’t made clear exactly what that is? Of course not. Even Rob Ford has directly addressed cycling infrastructure – he wants all bicycles off all roads, but at least we know what his plan is. Toronto’s Bike Plan could have been completed on schedule and within budget if there was political will behind it, and that has been seriously lacking from this council.
Himy Syed came out a long time ago with a feasible plan to open up the entire city to cycling, and Syed’s BikeCity is a key point in his vision for the city, not just a sound bite like the other campaigns. Sarah Thomson released a very similar plan before dropping out to join George Smitherman’s campaign (another with no cycling plan) while Syed is still in the race, promoting his cycling and mobility message to anyone who will listen. Plus, Syed was the first mayoral candidate to call for a public G20 inquiry, as he himself watched the chaos unfolding at Queen & Spadina as riot police swarmed and surrounded a group of innocent people roughly a mile away from the site of the summit and far from any protest, held them in the rain for several hours, and then imprisoned most of them for no reason, with no charges, and with no explanation. And to this date, nobody has been held responsible.
To summarize, I really wanted to support Pantalone in this race, as he was the centre-left media choice after Adam Giambrone salted his own campaign. I waited for months for Pantalone to say something I could get behind, but have heard only silence on the issues that matter to me. This is why I can’t support Pantalone for mayor of Toronto.