Archive for January, 2006


Saturday, January 28th, 2006

It’s not that we at the Allderblob think video games that glorify car chases or car races have anything worthy of praise.

Same goes for video games extolling car violence or car flatulence, car speed or car need, car heists or car shites.

We remember HO-scale racing cars we had as kids. We remember them was fun, but what we really remember was taking the little machines apart with tiny screwdrivers, sniffing the smell of their electric engines and the oil we’d apply so carefully. We remember saving up allowance to buy a new car: we had a Willy’s Gasser and a Firebird, and an Opel GT. These little cars had pick-ups that scraped dust off the track everytime you used it, which got to be less and less frequent so there was more and more dust. They never really held the curve and they’d go flying off into the recesses of the room and the track would get wrecked when you reached for them, so you’d have to prop it back up again. After a while you’d get pretty bored and go out to the driveway and shoot hoops, or hop on your bike to ride to your friend’s house to knock yourself out in a refrigerator box his neighbour had thrown out.

So while we don’t “approve” of kids getting their jollies from video games, still we don’t buy the argument that car racing games influence your choice to get behind a real wheel and drive like an idiot. We actually think that it’s idiots who drive like idiots. If they weren’t driving like idiots, they’d be doing something else like idiots: littering, beating up someone smaller than themselves, or maybe playing the “choking game.”

[Are you saying kids who watch homer simpson choke bart every week will get the idea the choking game is harmless? What are you, a communist? –ed.]

There’s a video game this young feller we know finds appealing, with a gorilla and a plumber in a fire-engine-red roadster that keeps flying out of bounds and wafting back to the race track. Nobody ever gets hurt. You can make the driver and passenger switch places without missing a beat, and banana peels the gorilla throws out back cause other cars to slip and veer out of control [Now that’s funny –ed.], and there’s a map which you can read at the same time you speed through “space” that gives you a sense of the curve or the shortcut just ahead.

The kid finds it kind of fun, but we know for a fact that he gets an even bigger kick out of the “Wave” “Street-surfer” Santa Claus brought him for Xmas (you’ll have to be patient but the video that downloads at this site is pretty remarkable).

In fact, if people were honest with themselves, they’d admit that no one finds the so-called “speed of cars” fun for very long. In contrast to the thrill of skiing down a hill (especially one we’ve just trudged up), bicycling (especially with a strong wind at our backs), hurtling from a high rock into deep, cool water (we should all be so lucky), everyone knows the “speed” that cars give you is a pasty simulacra.

So we really wonder sometimes what kind of drugs our leaders of the free world, a.k.a. the press barons, are huffing in the back rooms. Maybe they’re the ones on speed.

We’re talking, of course, about the car crash the other day that killed this guy who was driving a cab. Two “luxury cars” racing up Mt Pleasant Ave [now there’s an ironic street name!–ed.] in Toronto T-boned a cab that was turning left across their path. Yeah they were speeding. The road was kind of empty, and the taxi driver, who was due to receive his Canadian citizenship the very next day, was killed in a heartbeat.

The drivers of the cars that caused the crash were not hurt. Both were arrested. One of the cars had a copy of a video game on the passenger seat: “Need for Speed.” Ho bloody hum.

Next day, the local shock-and-awe rag ran this front page:

DID CAR AD KILL (Toronto Sun cover, Jan 26 06)

The other papers in town, the “respectable” ones, were right in line. It was the talk of the town: Kids watch street-racing videos, kids race real cars, kids kill cabbie. You make the link.

The missing link however was called to Allderblob’s attention from a fellow member of the international bicycle conspiracy. By now you, our lovely readers, will have found it too: Take a gander at the bottom of the front page. It hits you right between the eyes: a bloody car ad. The “Checkered flag event.” “The excitement starts now.” Blah blah blah.

The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star are at least careful enough to hide their car porn on the centrefolds, but it makes no difference.

Allderblob readers want answers: Does car pornography in the daily papers link to the daily abuse wrought by cars? If car ads were stopped, would people stop killing with cars?

Breaking News Dept: Harper elected Prime Minister Ford Motor Co announces massive layoffs

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

Another 30,000 jobs are lost to the auto industry, the major newspapers tell us today. In unrelated news [or is it?–ed. ] Canada elected a minority conservative government and a new Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

Faced with deepening losses at its North American operations [Ford Motor Company] yesterday announced plans to shut 14 North American plants and cut as many as 30,000 positions in the next four years.

Ford’s boss, William Clay Ford Jr. is excoriated in the Globe and Mail’s business pages for being to lenient with big labour, but what ALLDERBLOB readers will want to know is what does Ford mean by

“My great-grandfather once said of the first car he ever built: ‘If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse,’ ” Mr. Ford told a news conference in Detroit.

“At Ford, we’re going to figure out what people want before they even know it — and then we’re going to give it to them. It’s where we began and it’s where we must go.”

Obviously, what people want is a bigger muscle car or a larger SUV, if the actions of the Ford Motor Company are to be judged.

Let us hope Stephen Harper is better at prognistication.

Vote with your feet

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest polling place. Better yet, ride your bicycle.

Vote for the party which will support alternatives to the automobile, not the one whose transportation policy has road and highway construction as its centrepiece. And not the one Buzz Hargrove, Canadian Auto Workers president, has embraced.

Vote for the candidate who will speak truth to power on the subject of an expanded airport at the heart of Toronto, not the one who shrugs his shoulders and refuses to take a stand if it means political cronies may suffer.

Vote for the candidate who understands how the leg turns the crank, the crank pulls the chain, and the chain turns the wheel, with “one wheel drive” as the optimal form of transportation.

And on your way to vote, here’s a Pong you can hum (and we mean “hum” in the Newfoundland dialect, as in “What a hum”):

I got me a great big stinking automobile
I got me a great big stinking automobile

I got me a car and it’s riding on four wheels
I got me a car and it’s riding on four wheels

I got me a car and I’m ready to make a deal.

Oh I’m a politician
Yes a politician.
I can’t spell or read
but I know what you need
cuz I’m a politician.
Yeah I’m a politician

Thanks and apologies to Afterbirth of the Cool [Which is what you ought to be reading instead of this drivel, whether it’s because you’re looking for insight into Canadian politics, or because you like music. –Ed.]

Big Three Shrivel in Latest News

Saturday, January 14th, 2006

Breaking News Dept: Last October, the “Big Three” automakers sold fewer than 50 percent of all cars sold in Canada that month, down from a high of 75% just 10 years ago. The Toronto Globe and Mail business pages trumpeted the news with a headline reading “End of an Era: Big Three are no more.” The Star, which draws more heavily on said auto-makers’ ad budgets for their salaries, toned it down a bit: “Big Three sales dip below 50%–Foreign-based firms win more than half of deals in October–`That has never happened before,’ industry expert says”

That we at the Allderblob wet ourselves with delight goes without saying [okay, then shut up about it. –ed.], but still we held off comment: on the one hand, cars are boring and we grow weary always thinking about them (that we are always thinking about them is an unfortunate fact. As human beings living in North America we are inevitable subjects of automobile hegemony. You can’t walk down the street without thinking about cars. Try it. Just don’t send us your funeral bill).

On the other hand, the “Shrivelled Three,” as they have come to be known, the “Big 2.5,” were sure to react to the shrinkage. They were sure to reach for the steroids and bulk up.

We anticipated a renewed shockwave of advertising, and figured that’s what we’d write about, when it came.

What we didn’t anticipate was such a literal reaction to October’s emaciation proclamation.

This just in: Dateline, Detroit auto show. Chrysler, Ford and GM are back. With “muscles.”

Muscle cars, that is.

It is to laugh.

At a time when mass media are finally granting exposure to the “Toronto Coroner’s Rule,” which says, in effect, “Motor must give way to Muscle” the way on open water “Steam gives way to Sail,” can it be coincidence that the devious car companies are attempting an end run around this rule by bulking up on “muscle cars?”

How did they put it in the Toronto Star the other day?

In fact, a single change to the Highway Traffic Act, as recommended in the Toronto Regional Coroner’s report of 1998 into 11 years of cyclist crashes and fatalities, might have prevented most of the pedestrian and cyclist deaths of the past six years.

This recommendation (number 12 in a list of 19) would have a “law of the sea” imposed on road users, as opposed to the “law of the jungle” that applies today. The law of the sea simply states that in a question of right-of-way on open water, “steam gives way to sail.” This reflects the reality that a motorized vessel has more power and more control, under most circumstances, than a non-motorized one. On land, an analogous law would have motor give way to muscle in any question of right-of-way. Thus, cars would give way to bicycles, while bicycles would give way to pedestrians.

Advertisers take note: a muscle car by any other name is still a car. It is not a pedestrian, and it is not a bicycle. And remember: in Canada, steroids are still frowned upon.

Violence on the Road

Monday, January 9th, 2006

Round up the usual suspects.

Both the Toronto Star and the Toronto Globe and Mail have been pretty good about covering issues that matter to the ALLDERBLOB this past week [must be a slow news week –ed.]

No, they haven’t picked up our call to ban automobile advertising and run it as an unsigned editorial. And no, they haven’t put the ALLDERBLOB on the “opinion” page.

Okay, it’s also true that they haven’t even let our argument against car ads leak into their “letters to the editor” page.


Some ideas are still too shocking for some to contemplate, we imagine. Something about the source of revenue for those fat cat editor-types, maybe [hey, watch it–ed.].

But the Star had half-decent coverage of the memorial members of the group Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC) held the day after Boxing day here in Toronto, for Isaac Morkel, a 52-year-old cyclist who had been killed a week earlier. Even the Globe gave the memorial some three sentences or so.

Morkel died when a truck turning left at a green light hit him as he rode through. It appears Morkel had the right of way (as determined by the police investigation). Word is the driver is to be charged with a Highway Traffic Act (HTA) offence.

When Morkel was killed it was not clear initially what had happened. News reports varied. However at the memorial, area residents who had witnessed the accident or its aftermath emerged, and described a truck that was so cumbersome it was on the verge of mounting the sidewalk at the corner where it hit Morkel.

The corner in question is a piece of work. Located where Eastern Avenue crosses Leslie Avenue in the east end of Toronto, it’s home to a constant barrage of truck and car traffic. At the same time, it’s a critical link in the bicycle plan to get from bikelanes on Jones Ave. to the popular carfree Martin Goodman Trail and the Leslie Street Spit, a carfree (on weekends) ecological preserve. In other words, cyclists use the street constantly–for shopping, for commuting, and for simple pleasure riding.

But car and truck traffic on Leslie arrives in droves from the Gardiner Expressway in the west, and from Kingston road in the east. In the two blocks that cyclists must use, Leslie is home to two huge box stores (and their parking lots) and is a main route to the industrial uses of Toronto’s port lands.

Where Eastern crosses Leslie westbound, it sweeps to the south making a turning angle from Leslie to Eastern of about 110 degrees.

This is the turn the transport truck was attempting to navigate when it hit Morkel. One witness reports (in a story in the Riverdale/Beach Mirror) having seen “three or four” crashes involving bicycles and cars or trucks at this corner in the past two years.

ARC in its press release about the memorial called for the city to follow through on its own “Coroner’s recommendation” of six years ago, to identify and investigate problem intersections from the point of view of cyclist safety, with an eye to fixing them.

In the coverage in the Toronto Star, the reporter, Pritha Yelaja, picked up this angle with a quote from Toronto lawyer Tim Gleason: “If the city knows it has a dangerous situation for cyclists and chose to do nothing because of political expediency, they could be found liable” As Yelaja notes, “Gleason successfully sued the city of Toronto in 2004 on behalf of a cyclist who was injured near the intersection of Queen and McCaul Sts” (in Toronto).

It is critical that cyclists work together and demand our representatives in government not “do nothing” about known “dangerous situations.”

Of course, we would hold that allowing cars to be advertised in itself perpetuates “a dangerous situation for cyclists.” Political expediency? What else could it be?

Death by automobile: “Just Another Year”

Thursday, January 5th, 2006

Toronto newspapers in their year-end roundups called 2005 “The year of the Gun,” because gun homicides claimed 58 lives in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

But for pedestrian and cyclist activists, 2005 was “Just Another Year:” 229 people were killed in vehicular crashes. Among those were at least 29 pedestrians and at least four cyclists.

Kevin McGran, transportation reporter for the Toronto Star writes in a January 4 2005 story called “In GTA, car is deadlier than gun” that the Toronto Pedestrian Committee plans to look at intersections where there have been car/pedestrian crashes (over 200 per month, with an average of two or three deaths resulting–and it’s not the drivers who are getting killed), with an eye to safety. “City council has empowered [the pedestrian committee] to come up with a pedestrian plan,” he writes.

Huh. We’re impressed.

Don’t take that the wrong way. We support the pedestrian committee, we really do. We hope the study gets results. We believe that the safety of the most vulnerable of road users, the pedestrian, must come first. With safe conditions for pedestrians will come safer conditions for cyclists, bladers, wheelchair users, and even for people in those little cars you see from time to time. We know it’s a jungle out there, and the “Law of the Jungle” is the only law that really matters at this time.

But we’ve been there before.

In 1998, after an exhaustive study of 11 years of cyclist crashes and fatalities in Toronto, the Toronto Regional Coroner, Dr W.J. Lucas, issued a report complete with 19 recommendations. In particular, recommendation number 12 bears on today’s Lob:

Ontario’s Highway Traffic act presently does little to clarify how bicycles interact with other traffic on our roads. The concept of motorized vehicles yielding to non-motorized vehicles, who in turn must yield to pedestrians seems to be a common sense rule which should be accepted by all road users.

In short, the coroner would have the Law of the Jungle replaced with a form of “Law of the Sea.” This law says “Steam gives way to Sail;” on land it would read “Motor gives way to Muscle” in all questions of right of way.

So, why the sneer? Why the condescension? Why the doubt?

Well, it’s been six years. Six years, and not one of the coroner’s recommendations have been acted on. Recommendation number 12, which arguably could have saved 33 lives last year, sits mouldering in its original report. True, it’s hailed as the “Toronto Coroner’s Rule” by folks who admire it from afar, but up close we’re still ruled by the Law of the Jungle in this city: and the car is king of the beasts.