Setting policy by imagined consensus

Speaking of Doug Ford, I thought his contribution to an article regarding the Jarvis Street bike lanes by Marcia Chen and Ashleigh Smollet of was kind of interesting:

Not even a year after they were installed, the fate of the contentious Jarvis Street bike lanes is in question.

“We would like to eliminate them,” said councillor Doug Ford. “We have had more complaints about the bike lanes on Jarvis than any other road in Toronto. Hundreds and hundreds of people.”

But ward councillor Karyn Wong-Tam disagreed, noting the revitalization of the downtown’s east side depends on the lanes and other projects on Jarvis.

“Hundreds? No, definitely we haven’t received hundreds,” Wong-Tam said. “I don’t think we’ve had even one hundred.”

via Rob Ford may consider removing Jarvis bike lanes – CityNews.

It’s a neat encapsulation of Ford-brand politics. Both Doug and Rob consistently back up their pet issues with claims that they’ve received hundreds — sometimes thousands — of phone calls supporting them. It’s a tired, easily-mockable refrain. There’s no way to confirm the reality of their claims, nor is there a way to quantify, track and analyze this data. In real terms, their claims are worse than useless.

Even if Doug Ford were accurate, and they — leaving aside for now the issue of who they is, because people really shouldn’t be complaining to the councillor in Ward 2 about an issue with infrastructure in Ward 27 — had received hundreds of calls, is that enough reason to eliminate lanes that are, by the city’s own estimates, used by hundreds of cyclists every day?

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