Pig in a Poke

Cars are deleterious in so many ways that it is imperitive that as a society we curb their use. Providing adequate cycling infrastructure is only one small way in which such a positive change can be brought about. Improvements in the pedestrian realm, and regional and inter-regional transit improvements are also important.

It is clear that, while these measures would have a positive impact, more needs to be done to curb automobile use. Cars remain a cheap and convenient way of travelling. Financial disincentives should be applied to motorists, and the resulting funds should be diverted to fund further projects. Usage fees like per mile insurance or road tolls seem attractive to those interested in restructuring the transportation system.

However, there is never the political will to "do the right thing," and there is a reason for this. Any pressure from the government to get people out of cars is met with stiff resistance from the automotive and oil sectors. Large corporations operate within a financial system that sees a shrinking business as a poor investment. Even a modest 1 or 2 percent reduction in car use translates to a 1 or 2 percent reduction in sales, which would be disastrous for car manufacturers and their suppliers. These companies hold considerable political power, both in management, through lobbying, and through labour representatives who speak for large voting blocks.

Crass as it may sound, the current financial crisis provides an opportunity for change. The automotive industry is in a state of flux, and will require significant investment and grants from the government to stay in business (to the tune of billions). Because the government holds more sway than it usually does in this situation, the time to curb automotive use is now.

This could be as simple as allowing one of the big three automakers to fail. If this were to happen, there would be a large production shortfall, accompanied by a weakening of the labour and lobbyist voices. Rather than insure the car companies the government could insure the workers benefits and pensions, and put that money into factories producing environmentally friendly replacements for cars (e.g. trains). Cars companies that stay in business could be given bail-out money on the basis of producing more ecologically sound products (e.g. plug-in hybrids). Doing so would provide employment for the laid off workers.

In the long term, such a plan is definitely worth the short term unpleasantness. To curb aoutomobile use, letting a major automotive manufacturer fail is a small concession. The suffering from this could be minimized with the proper government funding. In the face of peak oil and global warming, there should be no doubt that the ends justify the means.


Email to Mario Silva and Joe Flaherty

I've just sent this to my MP and cc'ed the finance minister, in response to and article regarding the potential sale of government assets:

Hello, Mario Silva,

I am a constituent of your riding and I do not support the privatization of crown corporations. There is a long history showing that this course of action generally benefits a rich minority in the long term, and benefits the public only in the short term.

Minister Flaherty should remember a similar situation when the 407 was sold under the Harris Government. This was not advantageous for the people of Toronto, who have seen increased tolls, while they amount paid for the highway is many times what is estimated to be worth.

Similar case studies of selling government assets can be seen if you look at the reform of the Chilean government in the 1970s or the reform of the Russian government in the 1990s. In both of these cases, there was a "shot in the arm" for the government coffers after selling government assets, but in the long term the people ended up paying more for the services which were privatized (and sold for much less than they were worth).

The privatization of the CBC is a particularly ghastly notion. This Conservative government seems hell-bent on depleting Canadian culture.

Please do not support these actions.


Human River

The Human River (2008):
  1. Hillcrest Park is nice. I'd never been there before.
  2. Some houses on Shaw are built on top of the filled in Garrison Creek (pictured). The fill that was used is still compacting, so many of these houses are askew.
  3. Kids aren't great at riding in groups. Hopefully they had an educational good time. When I was a kid, I would have hated it.
  4. In terms of cycling, St. Clair is worse than Bloor - Yorkville, both in terms of road repair and the amount of courtesy you are afforded by motorists.
  5. Listening to the LEAF person describe what it would have been like here four or five hundred years ago was cool. He obviously cared a lot about the issue and was an evocative speaker.


Car Falls Into The Harbour

Redacted: It turns out that my joke about the van falling into the harbour was in bad taste, since both people died. The article I read originally said that the person in the van got away. :-(


Vintage Compliment

From wikipedia's preamble about Toronto, Ohio:

Toronto is a 2nd largest city in Jefferson County, Ohio, United States, along the Ohio River. The population was 5,676 at the 2000 census.

The area was first settled in the 19th century, when it was known as Newburg's Landing. When the railway was built, however, the area's name was changed to Sloanes Station. In 1881, after a vote, the town was incorporated under its present name. This was taken from the much larger Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which civic leader Thomas M. Daniels felt was a place worth emulating.

Thanks, Thomas M. Daniels.


Car Free Day 2008

Video from today's incredible car free day parade on Queen West. The critical mass ride was smaller than usual, but still a lot of fun. There were lots of newbies.


Funny Quote About The New Pedestrian Scramble

From City News:
It's that kind of pronouncement that angers drivers, who will now be forced to wait a lot longer at the lights, increasing their already simmering impatience and their feeling that City Hall is at war with the car.

"You've got to keep traffic moving somehow, and to hold up traffic just so a few pedestrians can cross wherever they want doesn't make sense," moans motorist Bryan Lawrence about the four way stop.
I love their choice of words, particularly "moans" and "simmering impatience." The hyperbolic words clash with the triviality of the situation and make the motorist's concerns seem entirely inconsequential.



Last night was the 5th anniversary of the blackout. I was not living in Toronto when the original blackout occurred. The event wasn't a celebration of the lack of electricity in the city; it was a celebration of a day that people were in general nicer to each other. The fact that it coincided with a day of greatly decreased energy usage is just a bonus.

Check out everyone's friend Martino's photostream Blackout Anniversary Party.


Notch One Up For VC

I just biked home from an office barbq north of Sheppard. I took the right lane for almost the whole way home and "biked vehicularly." (Note to VC advocates: your jargon is awkward.) I had a very smooth ride home with surprisingly few interactions with asshole motorists.

I am still an advocate for bike lanes, of course. VC is great if you are comfortable doing it, but n00bs and couriers alike prefer bike lanes. VC extremists hate bike lanes, but extremists are always wrong.

I also broke a personal speed record on the way home, clocking 59 Km/h. If only I could go so fast on an even grade...


Antidote for Igorosis

I'm in agreement with TorontoCranks that something fishy was going on with Igor. Theories are abounding. For my money, the most convincing arguments are
  1. He was involved with organized crime, and
  2. He was selling bikes at a loss to attract junkies to buy his drugs
In any case, renting a series of garages to store stolen bikes in perpetuity is a money losing proposition unless there is something else going on.

There is definitely more going on than has been reported so far, and it is a bit unsettling.
photo lifted from eyeteeth

I read a nice story on the opposite side of the coin, where some law enforcement officials (presuming that security guards count) replaced a kids bike that was stolen on their watch. Maybe the Toronto Police should be doing this! Read on:
But then on Saturday, we got a call from the library: "We've got Seven's bike." A quick drive, all high-fives and woo-hoos, and we were at the Central Library to fetch the prodigal bike.

Only it wasn't the one that had been taken: it was a new Schwinn BMX bike, just his height   and paid for out-of-pocket by several of the guards.


Haranguing NOW

I just sent this letter to NOW Magazine, in response to their recent article on bike lanes.
Your recent article "Whose lane is it anyway?" which paints an unfavourable view of electric bikes using bike lanes raised some good points. I couldn't help thinking, as I sat in Sneaky Dee's watching your paper being delivered by a truck parked in the bike lane, what you really think bike lanes are for.


This is rich

Here's the reply from UPS:
Dear Ben,

Thank you for your e-mail.

It is never okay to be parking in bike lanes and I can certainly understand your point of view on this matter. I cannot respond on behalf of the driver or why the driver did this, however, I can tell you that this is not normal UPS practice to do such a thing. It is important to address these concerns to the Management Department for further investigation.

If you would like to further discuss this with the Management Department, please provide your phone number. Your phone number is kept confidential, it is used only for Management to follow up with you on this matter.

I apologize for the inappropriate conduct you observed from one of our employees.

Please contact us if you need any additional assistance.

Karen Pellerin
UPS Customer Service

So I guess we can all expect to see no more UPS trucks parked in bike lanes.


Complaining to the Deliverers

I am sending this email to the shipping trio (UPS, Fedex and Purolator), as I am quite sick of seeing them parked in the bike lanes every day on my way to work:
Why do your drivers think it is okay to break the law by parking in bike lanes? It is well documented that they do so:

It is not okay for your drivers to break by-laws so that they can get their deliveries done faster. If they have to break the law to get their job done, there is a problem with the management of the company.
I only sent one URL per email of course. If I hear anything back from anyone I will post the reply.


Bike To Work Day

Nicer shirts this time around. I overheard David Miller himself complementing them on using the organic duds.

Ride for Heart - Aftermath

I raised $330, so the ride was a success. It was great fun too; I'll probably go back next year.

I witnessed a pretty crazy accident along the way. A peloton of 15-20 riders doing at least 30 km/h was traveling down the opposite side of the highway from me. A man somewhere in the middle of the pack fell for some reason and a few bikers behind him fell over him as well. I didn't stop because there were hundreds of people around, and because I had seen many paramedics during the ride. Half an hour later when I made it back the location of the crash, I found that the man was sitting at the side of the road under an emergency blanket with some of his peloton mates. It was pretty disturbing.

Critical Mass May 2008

I wasn't having a good day, so I left early and accidentally missed the craziness.


Ride for Heart

I didn't really 100% sneak in, as my girlfriend was volunteering with the city to take photos of the event for bike week, and I went along to "help." I felt bad about doing that, so this year I am making up for it by being an actual Ride for Hearter.

Thoughts After Bike Union Volunteer Orientation

The newly formed Toronto Cyclists Union had a volunteer orientation meeting last night. It was an informative experience. They are looking for volunteers in two roles:
  1. Outreach
  2. Bike Valet
I signed up to do some valet duties at the upcoming criterium race, as my outreach capabilities would be more of a detriment than a feather in the union's cap. The meeting mostly focused on techniques dealing with (mostly antagonistic or lonely) members of the public. It should be fun, and I hope they are able to influence council enough that their Paint the Plan campaign is a success.

I was a bit concerned that the first campaign of the union was determined non-democratically, before any significant number of members have joined. I agree that it is important to start with a focus, and that the Paint the Plan campaign is a good goal, but it seems strange that a supposedly member driven organization did not let the members decide the first campaign. We'll have to wait and see how the focus of the union changes with time.

Hopefully the cyclists union will be a success and we will see cycling treated as a valid form of transportation by the municipal government.


Moving by Bike

We recently moved, and did 10 - 15 loads bike bike trailer. The pictured load was a smaller one. The two best loads were:
  1. A bookcase and a bunch of small stuff
  2. A lounge chair.
We did use a station wagon and pickup truck for the bigger stuff, but I think the effort was worth it because we saved a few car / truck loads.


Science is great!

A departure from what I normally put on this blog, but I wanted to say that I think science is great!



I just bought a flatbed bike trailer at Urbane. On the ride home, a gentleman driving a pickup trucked stopped me at a light to express his interest in buying one. I gave him the appropriate details. I have several thoughts about this:
  1. Sweet damn! A motorist is interested in biking, utilitarian cycling no less.
  2. I've always thought that a perfect world would have nobody commuting in cars, but that delivery trucks and contracters would still be using trucks as they do now. After todays incident, it dawns on me that some of them could use the old bike trailer instead.
  3. I hope I don't get stopped on every ten minute bike ride to answer questions about the trailer.


Critical March

Wicked turnout eh. I left at around 7:45 because I couldn't feel my toes. I think a lot of people left at the same time, because there was a mini-'Mass heading Westbound on College as I sat and ate my margherita slice at Massimo's.


Death Clock

I've added a widget to the side bar of the blog which I have called Death Clock. People spend a lot of time commuting to and from work, and those hours add up very quickly. You can plug in your own estimates and see how many hours of free time you have in a week, and how many of those are spent commuting.

For the full death clock experience, my favourite is here.