Archive for October, 2007

Irony alert: Toronto Star and Car Advertiser on the city’s unsafe cycling conditions

Monday, October 29th, 2007

UPDATED: see link to cyclist collision map below

Today in the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, Tess Kalinowski weaves a compelling tale of the city’s moves of late: the passage of provisions by council to study the creation of a bikelane on Bloor/Danforth and elsewhere, and other progressive initiatives such as the painting of separate bike staging areas at red lights, ahead of the waiting cars, to increase cyclist visibility at intersections.

Hooray, we say.

The article in question occupies a full page in the front section of the paper, page A3. The page is labeled “Cyclists involved in collisions in 2005.” Intriguingly, the top third of the page comprises a map of the whole GTA (note to self: fix scanner see pdf of map here) with sites of the thousand or so crashes reported to police two years ago, arranged by type of injury. The middle third of the page is the article itself, which of course makes for worthwhile reading and which we append below in full. But what is remarkable in our opinion is the Star and Car Advertiser’s choice to position the photographs of several aggressively posed GM automobiles, complete with cartoon-style “BAM!” and “WHAM!” impact stars.

Batman impact statement

Now we know GM [that genetically-modified car company –ed.] is likely responsible for many, perhaps even a majority, of crashes and injuries to cyclists in the city. However to imply, as the Star and Car Advertiser does, that it is to blame for all such crashes, is surely a slander against the fine, albeit troubled, genetically modified car company. While our legal experts have yet to report back on this one, we anticipate an apology and retraction to follow in the paper, and/or news of a lawsuit.

Full text of story follows:

Cyclists chart a revolutionary path

Map: Bike accidents
City decision to look into Bloor-Danforth lanes could lead to fewer accidents, biking advocates say
Oct 29, 2007 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

As a law student, Kristen Courtney has enough to do without constant pain, a continual round of chiropractic and acupuncture appointments and a steady stream of insurance forms to fill out.

After seven biking accidents in Toronto, none of which she considers her fault, Courtney, 25, said, “I wake up in the morning and feel like I imagine my 56-year-old mother feels.”

Like thousands of cycling-accident victims, the University of Toronto student says the bike provisions passed by council last week, as part of a sustainable transportation plan, are as much about safety as they are about protecting the environment.

While fatalities are rare, a group of cycling advocates, including Bells on Bloor and Bikes on Bloor, say about 1,000 people each year report bike accident injuries to Toronto police. And they believe up to 90 per cent of injuries go unreported.

The best way to prevent cycling accidents is to build more bike lanes, say the activists, who complain that at the rate Toronto is moving, it will be 2070 before it meets its 2011 target to build 500 kilometres of such lanes.

But they acknowledge that the new transportation plan addresses one of the most pressing concerns. For the first time, Toronto has said it’s willing to look at an east-west bike route along Bloor-Danforth, from Victoria Park Ave. to Royal York Rd.

It’s only a study so far, but if it gets built it would be a significant victory for Toronto cyclists.

In a similarly supportive move, council directed city staff to investigate so-called “bike boxes” like those in Vancouver –designated areas at intersections that take cyclists out of a motorist’s blind spot and give them an advance position from which to make a left turn.

Research shows doing more to accommodate bikes on streets significantly reduces injuries.

Courtney’s worst accident, which messed up her neck, upper back and chest, happened last October and typifies one of the most common hazards to cyclists.

Riding along Queen St., she was “doored” by a woman who didn’t look before exiting her car. Courtney ran into the door, flew over it and landed on the streetcar tracks.

Major east-west routes like Queen St. and Bloor-Danforth are among the most dangerous routes for city cyclists; they’re busy and often dangerously narrow.

Even cycling advocate and city Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker had hesitated to endorse bike lanes on these routes, a reluctance compounded by that of merchants and motorists who worry about traffic congestion and the loss of on-street parking to bike lanes.

But De Baeremaeker said he changed his mind about Bloor-Danforth. After travelling it on his bike and in a car, he concluded the cycling traffic is already significant on the route.

“Despite my own initial fears as a cyclist, that is a main entranceway into the city. The best way is to formalize what people are already doing,” he said. The second-term councillor is among those who believe last week’s passage of the plan sounds the death knell for opposition to cycling at city hall.

Asked why you would need to bike on Bloor St., Courtney responded, “Why would you ever drive on Bloor when there’s a subway?”

Planners know bike lanes can be a difficult sell for merchants and residents. Whereas Dundas St. – which has a bike lane – has lots of residential property, Bloor is mostly commercial, said Daniel Egan, Toronto manager of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

He said the city will consider lots of options on Bloor St., including rush-hour bike lanes or a bikeway, which could be a wide curb lane with “sharrows,” street markings placed on shared lanes (typically two chevrons and a bike symbol) that show where cyclists should be situated on the road.

“We won’t know until we take a look at it, and council will say at the end of the day what they want to support,” Egan said.

As for the city’s latest move, “It’s a step forward but in the grand scheme of things this is still only a report,” said environmental lawyer Albert Koehl. “Is the pace of government response equal to the urgency of the problem? The answer is clearly no.”

Lovelock: We must destroy Gaia before she destroys us!

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Ooh, that wacky fun-loving magazine “Rolling Stone and Car Advertiser” is at it again.

Now they’ve gone too far though. In a revealing interview with James Lovelock (who knew he was a Quaker who spent WWII “shagging nurses” in English air raid shelters?), the man who named the Gaia hypothesis (the notion that our ecosystem is a living entity in which everything is interconnected) Rolling Stone has stepped on one too many toes.

Optimist? Pessimist? It doesn’t matter: most of us are going to die. It’s truly time to put an end to this Gaia creature
the scary face of Gaia–or is it her backside? click to check for pimples
before she destroys us all!

U.S. use of depleted uranium in Iraq: “equivalent to 250,000 Nagasaki Hydrogen bombs”

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Required reading from the hands of Michael Dudley in Winnipeg:

“Most American weapons (missiles, smart bombs, dumb bombs, bullets, tank shells, cruise missiles, etc.) contain high amounts of radioactive uranium. Depleted or non-depleted, these types of weapons, on detonation, release a radioactive dust which, when inhaled, goes into the body and stays there. It has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Basically, it’s a permanently available contaminant, distributed in the environment, where dust storms or any water nearby can disperse it. Once ingested, it releases subatomic particles that slice through DNA.

Iraq meets Nagasaki click for higher resolution

“At the Uranium Weapons Conference held October 2003 in Hamburg, Germany, independent scientists from around the world testified to a huge increase in birth deformities and cancers wherever NDU and DU had been used. Professor Katsuma Yagasaki, a scientist at the Ryukyus University, Okinawa calculated that the 800 tons of DU used in Afghanistan is the radioactive equivalent of 83,000 Nagasaki bombs. The amount of DU used in Iraq is equivalent to 250,000 Nagasaki bombs.”

Who says we can’t build a “hydrogen economy?”

Bicycle Bump, a.k.a. The “Cyclists Union:” Dave Meslin’s work comes to fruition

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Breaking News Dept.

King Mez‘s been busy lately.

Today we saw his letter to the editor published in the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser.

Mez wrote about the vote for MMP, or Mixed member proportional representation, that was defeated in the Ontario provincial election the other day. The proposal would have seen the creation of a system to elect a legislature more closely aligned with the actual vote: in other words, when the Greens get 9% of the vote, it might work out that closer to 9% of parliament would be members of the Green Party. Instead, what we have today (and continuing since the defeat of the proposal) is a scheme where a party can be elected to majority status by a minority of voters, provided the opposition is spread thinly enough.

We like Mez. We happen to agree with him about MMP.

He’s sure been busy lately. What else has he been up to? Oh yeah, he impregnated Toronto with a Cyclist’s Union “Cyclists Union” [note: when referring to the cyclists union, do not say “cyclist’s union,” “cyclist union,” or any other variant, on order of king mez himself: it’s a brand thing. –ed.]

Bicycle Bump, aka The Cyclist’s Union click for close-up

We alluded to this here and Herb over at IBikeTO recently blobbed about it. Actually, the glorious event occured last month, on Sept. 30.

In case you missed it, Mez pulled together some 70 folks to present an idea for a new member-funded cycling group that would have as its central mandate the lobbying that TCAT does, and the advocacy and “fun” that ARC is known for, as well as a model of insurance/roadside assistance similar to what CAA does for motorists. It would include a new magazine, to be funded by advertising and provided free to all paid-up members.

He showed his research into similar organizations in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, SF, Chicago and NYC, with evidence that .07 % of the population as members (like in New York) would give Toronto 1,800 members, and .87 % (like in Vancouver/Seattle) would give Toronto 21,000 members.

Much oohing and ahing followed, along with a secret vote: 65 out of 67 votes cast said the people there that night would happily join and work toward the success of the group. Only one person said Mez is a nutbar and should “go away.”

The intention is to roll out the group in June 2008, with Mez to run it for the first year and for for a new board of governors to meet and elect/appoint a new director following that.

Surprisingly, less has been written about it on the web than we would’ve thought by now. What’s up with that? It may be that “King Mez” has the reins a little close to his chest with this one. We ran into him a couple days after the event and he gave instructions not to refer to the “Toronto Cyclists Union” as the “TCU.”

Suitably chastised, we walked away muttering. TCU sounds dopey, it’s true, but sometimes that’s life. Fact is, you don’t get to pick your nicknames. It may be that the “Cyclist’sCyclists Union” will stick, but if you feel the need to instruct and correct, chances are the thing will take a nickname you don’t like. Us, we prefer UBU (for “Urban Bicycle Union”).

You can email Mez (see below) for announcements about the group, and there is a facebook site (see also below) for folks to keep abreast.

October 1st, 2007

Toronto’s Cycling Community is Pregnant

On a beautiful evening in late September, under a full moon, the Toronto Cyclists Union was fertilised. Over seventy bicycle advocates and organisers from over twenty organisations came together under one roof and offered their overwhelming support for this new creature.

Nine months later, in June 2008, we are expecting the arrival of a vigorous young organisation: Toronto’s first membership-driven bicycle advocacy group.

The Toronto Cyclists Union will provide a loud voice for all bicycle riders. It’s time to stand up and demand the attention, respect, funding and facilities that we deserve.

The City of Toronto has a great Bike Plan, but implementation has been as slow as a bike with a flat tire…and no pedals. It is unacceptable the extent to which our roads give priority to cars at the expense of cyclists’ safety. Exclusive bike lanes are rare and are often filled with potholes and/or parked cars.

Working with other groups such as the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation (TCAT), Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC), IBikeTO, Toronto Bicycle Network and many others, the Cyclists Union will build our community into a strong, diverse, fun and effective network of thousands of bike riders fighting for change.

To get updates on the development of the Cyclists Union over these nine months and to find out how to get involved you can:

1) Subscribe to monthly updates by sending an e-mail to: “ultrasound at”
2) Join our facebook group

Dave Meslin: you will want to pay attention to this guy.

Crash kills two on Ontario Highway, Time to ban car ads?

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

“Leaders vow to combat racing after fatal crash” Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, October 8 2007

To the Editor:

According to your story, “McGuinty says ‘Find and punish racers;’ Tory says ‘No more plea bargains’ and Hampton says ‘Bring back photo radar.’ ”

But not one of our so-called leaders addresses the real problem: like cigarettes not so long ago, cars are still considered “okay” in mixed company. In fact, they’re celebrated. Look at the multi-page advertising features that flesh out your Saturday paper each week. Advertising cars for their potential speed, for their power, for their ability to attract sexual conquests is considered a reasonable way to make a living.

Norway recently banned all ads that implied a car could be eco-friendly
, but that doesn’t go far enough. Cars kill. They are killing the planet, and they are killing the people who would live on the planet. Like alcohol, tobacco and firearms, cars may have a role to play in society. But it’s ludicrous to advertise them as if they were harmless. It’s past time to ban car ads.

Where’s the leader who will say this? Until then, McGuinty, Tory and Hampton are just blowing smoke.

traffic psychology: pseudoscience or mere quackery?

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

Naked Streets are in the news, and ALLDERBLOB readers demand satisfaction. They demand comment: what is it, to be a “Naked Street?”

Evidence for the effect of the Naked Streets comes to us from the mouth of Dutch traffic engineer [traffic engineer? pseudoscience or mere quackery?–ed.] Hans Monderman, whom we met the other day at Toronto’s Walk 21 conference. We sent our ill-reputed correspondent, Jacob Allderdice, who had official capacity as presentor of a “Walkshop” called “Life at the speed of a Bicycle,” in which he took conference delegates to experience Toronto’s mysterious Danforth Peninsula. We have examined Allderdice’s theories on the Danforth elsewhere, and will return to his claims at a later point [no doubt; now, let’s get to the naked part already! –ed.].

Naked Streets are the talk of the town these days. In fact, we described the German town of Bohmte in a previous entry, and noted the existence of a couple “naked” intersections we know of here in Toronto. But coupled with the delight Toronto feels when the eyes of the world turn to it (“Toronto: The Bilbao of Canada,” as the PR flacks would have it) (rejected slogan: “You like me, you really like me!” was felt to be too obscure), the presence of Hans Monderman in Toronto these past few days has brought the notion of naked streets to front pages of the local papers.

Monderman was quoted today in “A radical road map: no signs, no lights, no rules,” a lengthy feature article in Toronto’s Globe and Mail and Car Advertiser.

Drachten, Netherlands, after getting naked with Hans Monderman
Drachten, Netherland, population 55,000: Stripped naked by Hans Monderman click image for higher resolution

Naked streets, a.k.a. “shared space,” are streets stripped of legalistic information like speed limits, stop signs and stoplights, and even delineation between sidewalk and roadway.
Same intersection before stripping click image for higher resolution

They leave cars, bikes and pedestrians to stew in ethical and moral choice at every turn of the wheel, and every footfall. The intent is that each street, each intersection, each vista, present to the participant a question, not an answer. The effect is a substantial reduction: in speed of traffic; number of collisions; severity of injuries from collisions; and, most surprisingly, a reduction in overall time spent in transit from A to B.

From the Globe story:

It used to take cars roughly half an hour to travel across the city. Now, although traffic moves more slowly, the trip takes about 10 minutes. This means cars don’t idle in traffic jams as often – steady engines are quieter and use less gas.

Yes, under conditions of Naked Streets, it appears the time spent crossing town is lowered, even while the average speed of a typical motor vehicle is also lowered. In other words, flow is improved; stoppages eliminated. Cars spend less time idling, as well as less time speeding.

But what got us in the story was not the concept of Naked Streets. We can deal with that. What got us was this paragraph:

Leon James, a University of Hawaii researcher and one of the world’s most prominent traffic psychologists, doubts that Mr. Monderman’s designs would work on most North American roads.

Traffic Psychology? We don’t need no stinkin’ traffic psychologists.

Here’s all you need to know about traffic psychology (see also the ALLDERBLOB of August 24, 2005): “Motorists are egotistical. Hence, the ego manifestation boxes (“cars”) in which they propel themselves about the planetary landscape. A car is always physically larger than the motorist’s own (human) body, as it is the physical manifestation of the ego that has inflated beyond the physical space the body occupies. Motorists will not always be aware of their ego problem, subconsciously inventing the “need” for a car, such as the placement of their habitat (“home”) far away from the place where they must forage (“work”).”

Also: “Motorists are antisocial” and “Motorists are subconsciously homicidal.” See the link above for the substantiation to these claims.

But what about pedestrians and bikes? Aren’t they “traffic” too? Yes, and we’ve got them pegged:

The pedestrian leads generally a more positive existence than that of the motorist. The pedestrian is, after all, out in society interacting with other human beings, without the distancing effect of metal armour. But pedestrians are seriously psychologically dysfunctional, and these dysfunctions stem from their self-loathing.


Unlike the motorist, however, the pedestrian is not homicidal. Rather, the pedestrian prefers to enact beatings and maimings, and does not require the need for the certainty of killing power (unless, of course, the pedestrian goes on to become a motorist). The archetype of the pedestrian is the street thug. Pedestrians, if they are not already in a street gang, are sad, frustrated people itching to join one.

As for cyclists, here we have the pinnacle of human perfection: “cyclists represent the “norm” in terms of healthy human psychology, and they exist in a dysfunctional society, sandwiched in between two frighteningly dysfunctional groups, motorists and pedestrians.