City life is seductive, full of vitality, productivity and joy. Yet, at its worst, it can leave a person feeling trapped, isolated, used and simply plain bums.
Toronto, Canada’s largest city, reached the stage of significant urban unrest in May when a public transportation worker’s strike swept the metropolis leaving large parts of the city under water.
Subway stations were flooded, roads flooded, and bridges were clogged by a deluge of vehicles. Some were jostled and stranded on the bridges and overpasses. This chaos was caused by transit workers going on strike. For commuters, it was an inconvenience akin to being stranded on a deserted island without services.
But it didn’t end there.
Bike thefts, robberies and attacks against their use have become increasingly prevalent in Toronto.
Archie Michael Schaefer Jr., a member of RideShare Toronto, was mugged in February by a man who grabbed him, stole his bike and ran off.
Steven Rovinsky was riding his bike to work in June when he was confronted by two young men who were waiting for a bus. One of them grabbed the handlebar and rode off on his bike. Rovinsky picked up his bike and rode after the two, beating one of them with a pipe.
Now, in June, his wife received a message on Facebook from the Toronto Police about an arrest that had been made in connection with a July 4 bike robbery. The victim, a woman, said she was in her own driveway when a group of five men, at knife point, approached her. One of them grabbed her bicycle and asked, “Who wants it?” She provided a name and number. A young man answered, “Where’s the bicycle?” and the victim turned over her bike. The suspect got into a car and took off. The victim drove to her parents’ house. She was afraid to leave the house.
Later, her bike was found in the vicinity of Yonge and Sheppard subway station, after the person who had stolen it had been identified.
There are also almost daily reports of stolen bikes in the media. One of the most serious was published in the Toronto Star on Sept. 5.
It said that since June, almost 30 bikes were stolen from a single day last week. Its author, Joe Ashton, interviewed people from different parts of the city to see how their experience with theft or threat was different from other parts of the city.
He said, for example, that although many people in the bike-parking area near Yonge and Bloor felt safe, those who sell bicycles in the same area are “really brazen,” and take them around the city.
A few years ago, council member Paula Fletcher also wrote a column titled, “Toronto, I want you to make your bike safe,” in which she also talked about how residents were becoming increasingly concerned about bike theft.
Mr. Spencer, who manages bike racks and bike lanes in the city, told the Star that at first the thefts were rare. Then, he said, thieves began to work the city bike racks: instead of grabbing bikes from them, they would take the seats.
That “wasn’t something we could stop,” Mr. Spencer said. “We were only left with a couple of options. We could ring all of our hundreds of bike racks to make sure that they all had the same fixture and wiring and all of those things. Or, we could consider a different vision of providing racks that did not have those basic things in them.”
That vision, in Mr. Spencer’s view, would prevent the theft of bicycle seats.