You know the world is fast coming to an end when angry cyclists start fighting it out with local tree-huggers in Nathan Phillips Square to mark the beginning of another Bike Week.
Normally, these two environmentally enlightened groups are natural allies in the effort to make Toronto a cleaner, greener place. But all thoughts of coalition were tossed to the wind Monday morning, May 30, when Mayor David Miller and about 500 other pedal pushers arrived outside City Hall to launch the 16th annual celebration.
It was supposed to be an especially triumphant event for Adam Giambrone, the rookie councillor for Ward 18 (Davenport), who'd two-wheeled his way to work with Miller and some regular council cyclists like Olivia Chow and Glenn De Baeremaeker.
As chair of the Toronto Cycling Committee, Giambrone spent much of the past 18 months twisting arms at the Toronto Transit Commission (where he's also a member in good standing) to have bike racks installed on the front of buses so cyclists can make an "inter-modal connection" if they so desire.
And as it happened, a pilot project featuring racks on buses running on Bathurst, Dufferin, Lansdowne, Willowdale-Senlac and Rogers Road was approved by the TTC just in time to have a demonstration vehicle at Nathan Phillips for the big Bike Week pancake breakfast kickoff.
But instead of receiving a hero's welcome for a job well done, Giambrone was treated to a protest by several members of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC). They demanded the politician be removed from the cycling committee as punishment for sins against the community he supposedly represents.
To punctuate their point, Giambrone's critics hoisted a large banner featuring a photo of his face with an X drawn through it and the words "City Councillor Adam Giambrone does not speak for cyclists." The protestors actually called him a "sellout."
What did the councillor do to spark such an angry reaction from the disgruntled gear-shifters? It seems that at last month's council meeting he voted to support a motion that reduced the width of bike lanes running along a short stretch of Royal York Road in Etobicoke from 1.5 metres to 1.25 metres.
For those of you who are metrically challenged, that's an adjustment of less than 10 inches, but that can be the difference between life and death out there in the mean streets. The kicker is that not narrowing the lanes would almost certainly have meant chopping down 227 mature trees of various species along the west-end roadway.
"It's setting a precedent in the city of Toronto that's going to be dangerous for cyclists," ARC spokesperson Darren Stehr maintained.
Never mind that cyclists Chow and De Baeremaeker - not to mention Miller - also voted for the 1.25-metre compromise, while managing to spare the trees, whose roots could have suffered lethal damage had the road been widened further. According to Stehr, they're all a bunch of political turncoats.
"What has been compromised is the safety of cyclists and the future of the Bike Plan," he said. And, for that, Giambrone should take a hike.
Needless to say, the man from Davenport was a bit taken aback by the commotion. Had someone mistaken him for Case Ootes, the Ward 29 (Toronto-Danforth) councillor who did his damnedest to rub out bike lanes in East York, not to mention on other councillors' political turf?
Or maybe he'd been confused with one of the other anti-bike troglodytes who were poised to stop the Royal York Road cycling right-of-way dead in its tracks had Chow not crafted the amendment that took 25 centimetres away from the bikes and gave it back to the trees.
"You have 44 councillors who have bought into the belief that trees are important in this city," says Giambrone. He insists cyclists won't be at risk on the narrower lanes, which are still wider than those in backward places like the Netherlands.
In spite of the criticism from ARC, Giambrone's convinced the compromise was the right thing to do and has no intention of resigning from the cycling committee at the behest of a few "extremists."
"I feel it's my coming of age as a municipal politician to finally have the first anti-Adam signs," he says with a laugh.