Answering Neighbours FPQ

I have accumulated a rather large number of unanswered questions as well as pledges to deal with, and since I would never give different policy positions to different candidates (as some do), I am publishing them here, as a clear and open promise to keep if elected. Such questions are often called “Frequently Asked Questions list” but I prefer to call them “Frequently Posed Questions”, for reasons that should be obvious to those who overuse abbreviations.

My previous questionnaires can be found in my Know Your Vote page, where a spreadsheet of all the other answers is linked. I have also given a detailed answer to the Waterfront question.

I would like to remind the reader that as a supporter of direct democracy, my personal views are unimportant. I would not hesitate to support measures that go against my views if I can convince myself that this is what most of my constituents want.

While I have not committed to voting or supporting any particular Mayor, I have asked all candidates (except for incumbent Mayor Tory) a question on direct democracy and published the answers. This is my answer to a question often asked by the voters I meet.

1. jihad on Ford

MJ (Oct 10): I want to know if Mr. Zodian intends to oppose Doug Ford and the provincial PCs to defend my ward and the City of Toronto against his platform and all his policies.

Though I disagree with some, if not most of Doug Ford’s views, I do not believe that direct confrontation is the way to go, especially since our City is so much dependent on the Province. I believe that we need a new Charter, vote reform and a number of other reforms and obtaining those while confronting Premier Ford would be impossible. Opposing Doug Ford on his council reduction decision, against legal advice, was all but a waste of time and resources, and evidence suggests that it was a popular measure (cp24-4725). Since direct opposition (or “waging Jihad” as the incumbent in this Ward is seemingly suggesting) is pointless, a preferable alternative is trying to work with the Province and find areas of agreement, on which to build a better deal for Toronto.

2. rideshare safety

Sally (Oct 14): As a constituent in the riding where you're seeking to be elected, I'd like to understand what your position is on Taxi and Rideshare Safety training in Toronto. Do you believe that it should be reinstated immediately? Will you make the safety of Torontonians your top priority? This is an issue that I feel strongly about. And, while there are many issues facing Toronto, none can be more important than the safety of our citizens. I am appalled that such critical safety measures were removed in the first place, resulting in the death of Nick Cameron, earlier this year. Preventing this from happening is pretty simple - reinstate taxi and ride share safety training immediately.

Having read the petition linked below (cho-safety), my view is that ride share and taxi safety training are issues that should be resolved through the issuance of a driver’s license and enforcement of general traffic laws.

A rideshare driver who is driving dangerously is doing so because he is a bad (or distracted) driver, not because he is a rideshare driver. Additionally, if a bad driver managed to pass the driver’s license exam, what reason is there to believe that he wouldn’t pass a “rideshare safety course” too?!

What we need is choice, not regulation. Personally, I use Uber (and had mixed experiences), I tried Lyft once but had a bad experience, and continue to use Beck Taxi whenever Uber fares are more costly (or the other way around). I enjoy having choices and if a driver is not fulfilling my expectations, I interrupt my journey and get another one, filing a complaint or bad review. So no, I do not believe that “safety training” should be reinstated – that belongs in driving school. A “modernized safety testing program for rideshare and taxi drivers” already exists: it’s the driver licensing exam (and graduated licensing). Road safety can and must be improved through better street design and, if necessary, more stringent driver’s license requirements. However, in the event that I can convince myself that a majority of voters support this measure, I will support it as well.

3. renovations red tape

YC (Oct 18): I just have one question if your are elected as the city council in my ward, what are you planning to do to increase the efficiency of city hall, especially with the building department? How to get rid of all of the unnecessary red tapes to actually save time and money for home owners who want to do renovations?

As a homeowner, I considered at one point adding climbing holds to one of my exterior walls, but gave up when figuring out regulations became too complicated and time consuming. I was not a fan of City Hall red tape and felt that we should let our neighbourhood association handle such issues (including even snow removal or garbage collection), while placing ourselves out of City Hall purview and getting a tax rebate for it. However, not all my neighbours agreed, and then, when somebody wanted to obtain a building permit for a change that most neighbours disapproved of, the processes of the City, as despised and unnecessarily slow as they were, seemed to work to most people’s satisfaction. My answer is that increasing neighbourhood associations’ powers may be an answer to your question, but that only works as long as everybody agrees. That consensus may break as people move in and out. Henceforth, the introduction of direct democracy, which I am advocating, is in my view the best way to increase city hall responsiveness to citizens and decrease corruption and red tape. I suggest you consider starting a neighbourhood association, or join one if it already exists, and work with your neighbours toward a consensus on this matter.

4. bike licensing

md (Oct 19): What is your position on regulating or even licensing bicycle riders on our streets. How do you see enforcing already existing laws and regulations on them for their safety and others, especially common pedestrians and children, who could be severely harmed if those laws and regulations do not have any incentive to be followed and for the most part are ignored by bicycle riders?

The idea of bicycle licensing is popular and comes up again and again, so much so that the City has a website dedicated to answering this question.

  • City of Toronto: too expensive – money raised would be far less than what the resources to enforce would cost, biking would become prohibitively expensive and cause people to go back to cars, etc. The studies have concluded that licensing is not worth it. Other solutions: blitz enforcement of rules on riding on sidewalks, public awareness campaigns, skills training through CAN-BIKE, and the provision of bicycle-friendly facilities, such as bike lanes, while not perfect, are more effective in meeting the goals of cyclist compliance with traffic laws than the investment in licensing.
  • TorStar (Sep 2016): Councillor Stephen Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre), who authored the bike licensing motion and was the lone vote in favour, said he was surprised the decision was so one-sided. Public opinion polls suggest there is sizable support for compelling cyclists to get a licence for their rides.
  • GN/ts//CR-study (Jul 2017, 506 online): The majority agreed that cyclists should have to take a competency test, require a license and pay for insurance similar to motorists. The bulk of those in favour of licensing are in the 65+ age range with over 77% in that demographic supporting the move. The highest number of Torontonians get around the city by car – at 45%, another 39% take public transit, cyclists only 3%.
  • Torontoist (Jun 2016). Conclusion after history lesson: (..) none of these arguments are new. In fact, most of them were realized around the same time that the bylaw was repealed nearly 60 years ago. Each time the matter is revisited, the same arguments come up on either side, and each time the bylaw is presented at City Council, it is eventually rejected. Perhaps it’s time to drop the idea altogether.
  • Globe and Mail (Sep 2018) – history again + In a 2011 position paper, the Ontario Medical Association recommended changes that could improve cyclist safety, including making bike lane and bike path networks “safe and seamless enough for parents to feel comfortable permitting their children to ride on them,” adding a section on “vehicle-bicycle interactions” to the Ontario driver’s test and making bicycle education mandatory in elementary schools.
  • Citylab (Nov 2016) - It’s pointless and expensive. But that hasn’t stopped a few intrepid cities from trying. (..) The idea of licensing and registering bicycles like motor vehicles gets bandied about frequently in the endless debates over whether cyclists are freeloading on infrastructure the Good Lord (or at least, the tax code) intended for cars and trucks when they ride on public roads. (Here’s a good study on why bicyclists are in fact paying more than their fair share to use roads, in case you feel one of these debates coming on.)
  • CycleTo – regulation scan PDF

Having looked at the experience our City has had in the past as well as other cities, it seems to me that licensing cyclists is a dead-end. Furthermore, as evidenced above, any cyclist with a driver’s license found to be breaking traffic laws can still be charged by police, much like any driver. The police officer only has to ask for the cyclist’s name if the cyclist does not have a license on him, then search on his car computer for the license, then issue the ticket. Lying to the police about your name is an offence with serious consequences.

The only two models that might make sense are Honolulu’s $15 fee and Switzerland. The Swiss have to take RC insurance (responsabilit√© civile, or general third-party insurance coverage, not specific or limited to bicycles).

Honolulu bike registration is held as a success story, but it’s nothing more than a sales tax.

What seems to distinguish Honolulu’s registration/licensing program from other cities is that it’s required to be done at the point of sale: when you buy a bike, you fork over the fee, the store puts you in the system, and the city mails you the license. That part of it works like an excise tax. As a result, there are a lot of registered bicycles: over 300,000 on the island of Oahu, which has a population of just under one million.

Please let me know what are your thoughts on bike registration:

  1. none (i.e., allow existing traffic laws to be applied),
  2. RC insurance (including pedestrians) or
  3. the Honolulu registration sales tax?

I shall now continue with the pledges.

Sources / More info: cp24-4725, rcwall, wiki-cw, cho-safety

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