When I first immigrated to Canada I was blown away by many things – not least of which was its free press. I had spent more than three decades living under a regime that tolerated no press freedom whatsoever, so I was extremely impressed by what seemed to be an unfettered press.
After watching Global TV this morning my illusions of a free press in Canada are shattered (sadly, not for the first time).
Here’s what did it: last night Global reported that a study has concluded that the new bike lanes in downtown Vancouver have had a moderate impact on business. This morning I saw what should have been the same story. However, it had changed so much overnight that it made me wonder:
“Who the heck got to Global?”
Reporter Aaron McArthur started off by reminding us that the bike lanes were controversial even before they were installed, and then went on to say that:
“many business owners, impacted by the bike lanes, say the project has been a DISASTER. And a new study by city staff seems to support their opinion.”
Can anyone at Global explain how a study that concludes the impact has been “moderate” can be seen as supporting the opinion that the project has been a disaster?
Here’s a comparison of the terms “moderate” and “disaster”:
“Moderate”: “within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme.”
“Disaster”: “a state of extreme (usually irremediable) ruin and misfortune.”
Quite a difference in meaning, wouldn’t you say?
In a quick nod to freedom of the press, Counsellor Geoff Meggs was given a chance to speak, pointing out that only four of 150 businesses that were approached by researchers actually sent in detailed responses, and also that there are still just as many cars as ever on the affected streets. The latter indicates that the feared lack of shoppers in cars has not occurred. At the same time, bicycle traffic has also increased – there were 55,000 bike trips this June. To me, this would indicate that there are even more potential shoppers downtown than before.
Next we were (again) reminded that “critics point out there was next to no consultation” – to which I always reply, when was the last time you were consulted about a major highway going in?
The final insult was having to listen to Suzanne Anton yet again. Has Suzanne got a cousin working at Global? Somebody there clearly loves her. With complete disdain for logic, Suzanne told us (again): “I’m a cyclist; I want safe biking facilities.” What I want to know is how continually speaking out against Vancouver’s separated bike lanes is consistent with wanting bike lanes?
And what I want to know even more is: what does Suzanne mean when she keeps claiming to be a cyclist? Does she mean she occasionally throws a leg over a stationary bike at the gym? Certainly, I’ve never seen a photo of her arriving at work on a bike. And I googled images of “Suzanne Anton on a bicycle” and came up with zip.
Of course, I stand to be corrected: if anyone has a photo of Suzanne on a bike I’ll happily post it – and grant her some respect for at least being honest, if not logical … (stationary bikes at gyms don’t count).
Update: Suzanne Anton really is a cyclist – as I have heard from a couple of readers. I am delighted to hear it. Maybe one day she will find herself able to look past partisan politics and start standing up for her fellow cyclists – cycling really is a bigger issue than petty political squabbling: sustainability, health, quality of life, quality of our downtown core …
I have the impression she enjoys bicycle touring. I don’t know how she commutes though. From the Vancouver Observer:
Average Joe Cyclist says
Thanks for the link, Jo – and that was ALMOST a photo of her on a bike, too – at least wearing cycling gear! 🙂
Arno Schortinghuis says
Suzanne is an avid cyclist. She once accompanied us on a VACC-Vancouver/UBC advocacy inspection ride. She has cycled across Canada with her husband, though she did it in 4 or 5 segments with one segement completed each year. Last summer she did a long cycle tour in Europe with her husband. Unfortunately, she seems to feel it necessary to distiguish herself from Vision and Cope, so if Vision says cycling good, she says yes – but bad process, bad implementation, etc.
Average Joe Cyclist says
Thanks Arno, that’s good to know. I love it when politicians are truthful. Now all we need is compulsory courses in logic for all those charged with running our world … but then as you say, it’s often just a simple matter of us vs. them. Which does not allow for any actual intelligent thought.
I have to say I find it disingenuous that Suzanne keeps harping back on that “lack of consultation” thing. In all the time I have paid taxes in my entire life, I don’t remember anyone EVER asking me what I wanted it to be spent on. I’ve lived in several major cities on two continents, and NEVER been consulted about whether I want that new road that’s going in, or that new high-rise building downtown. I don’t understand why a couple of simple bike lanes were somehow more momentous than anything ever built, and had to be the subject of massive consultation.
It’s such a drag being the media’s easy controversy fodder. Remember when it was gay people? When it was Chinese? When it was punk rockers?
This tends to be how the media works, at least some media. They pick a group and then frame things to make them seem bad. People I know a few years ago were predicting that it would be transgendered people that they would pick on next but nobody expected it to be people who cycle.
There’s been a clever slight of hand as well that they’ve done where they’ve turned a mode of transport, that potentially almost anyone could use at times, and turned it into a class of person that they then demonize. Then they do their usual trick of presenting what is not typical and making it seem typical. For example, the bulk of cyclists who obey laws, etc are ignored and the ones that don’t are highlighted and presented as if it’s typical. One person on a bike spits at someone and it isn’t just an individual who did something, it’s implied that all cyclists spit on people. It’s not really lying in the true sense but it is deception. Now that I think of it I remember in the ’80s newspapers using this very thing about punkrockers, that they were spitting on people.
I also suspect that they don’t like a bunch of things about the people who elected the current progressive mayor. He represents the East Van point of view and not Point Grey or West Van. They don’t like that. Remember that the corporate media wants us all to be blind consumers so anything that threatens that is bad to them. They don’t just use cycling infrastructure to make this mayor seem unreasonable or out of touch, they use the chicken thing and something he said once when angry.
The bright side of all this is that there’s a chance for discussion and debate about cycling and that can make people think about it. Transportation is considered an “emotional” issue that people often don’t think logically about. It’s easy to get folks riled up about something more than with other topics. They want to sell papers and having a story about something working out fine just won’t do it. They need to find conflict everywhere and if there is none they’ll frame things to make it look like there is.
I once worked in news and it really opened my eyes to it. I was appalled so much of the time when I worked in it. Don’t get me started…
Average Joe Cyclist says
I’d love to hear your stories of working in news, Clark. I know when I was about 20, I spent ONE DAY in a news room (in my previous country), and gave up on my plan to be a journalist … It was just so depressing to see how it worked. In the morning, all the journalists met with the news chief. The journalists all had ideas for stories. If it fit in with the right-wing bias of the paper, they were allowed to do it. Only one guy had the guts to bring up a story that did not fit – he wanted to do a story about a few thousand union workers on strike. The chief vetoed that, based on “We don’t want to depress people.” So it was really not about informing people at all … it was about creating a view of reality that fit in with what the country’s rulers wanted to portray.
Unfortunately the study had such vague findings that it provided fodder for supporters and detractors of the Hornby separated bike lane, and media organizations were free to put their own spin on it. And some of them love to spin.
The reasons why the study should be taken with a grain of salt are detailed in this comment on Gordon Price’s Blog.
Average Joe Cyclist says
Thanks for the link Chris – I like Price Tags.
I actually wonder if there is such a thing as “reporting the news”.
Everything now feels like an opinion piece or someone trying to push their own agenda (whether it’s left of right, liberal or conservative).
During the whole fiasco with regards to Toronto’s removal of the bike lanes, most news outlets only gave voice to one side…The anti-bike crowd.
Radio media I find to be the worst.
Ottawa had a new segregated bike lane installed a couple of weeks ago. So what does the media show? All the people against it. But at least they showed one cyclist…Yep, and aggressive cyclist who through a pilon out of the way that was blocking the bike lane.
As for businesses complaining?
1. Although the Canadian economy isn’t in terrible shape, many people have cut back on services and purchases. Household debt is through the roof in this country.
2. If a bike lane is preventing people from going to your business, it probably was never worth going to in the first place.