Archive for November, 2007

Jack Lakey, smasher of dreams, takes on Toronto’s Dundas St. E. bikelanes

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Jack Lakey, typist at the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, has a reputation for “getting things fixed.”

We wish to clarify his activities.

What Lakey does is work toward the elimination of uneven or unusual situations in cities.

In Japan, they say, “the nail that sticks out gets pounded flat.”

Jack Lakey would like Japan.

It’s the things that “stick out,” the things that don’t fit the norm, the things that make one puzzled or put a smile on one’s face, that more often than not are attacked by Lakey. He takes complaints from the small-minded bureaucratic-types of the city, the ones who’ve never wondered or been charmed by anything in their lives, the ones who hate the thought of danger or of mischief, the ones who drive Volvos because it’s safer (at least for them), and he “fixes” them. He hammers them flat. The places Lakey touches turn dull, unnoticeable, and regular. Jack Lakey is the Ex-Lax(tm) of the newspaper world.

The things that Lakey’s lackeys notice tend to be the things of dreams: they are triggers for the unconscious mind: teasing us with potential, with maybe, with mysterious possibility and unknowable beauty.

For Lakey and his ilk, they are dreck.

What Lakey boasts about makes us cringe. He destroys dreams. He’s no fixer. He’s a wrecker.

What are some of the things Lakey has gotten “fixed?” Take a look at the list (link above, at Lakey’s name) and think about what he would eliminate: “There’s something in the air outside Gino’s Pizza Bar and Grill to take your breath away, and it has nothing to do with the fiery chicken wings.” Or: “Walking through a long tunnel at night is scary enough, without having to do it in virtual darkness.” Or: “Here’s an unlikely recipe for danger and neighbourhood discord: People playing baseball in a city park.

We’ll tell you about two of them that hit us personally.

Case one:

Once upon a time, there was a damaged safe, of the type a jewelry store might have on the premises to keep valuables overnight. It was large and heavy–perhaps two feet high, two feet wide and two feet deep. The damage done to it was specifically that the door had been removed. Perhaps it had been blown off in a robbery? Perhaps it had been removed by the new owner of a building who had discovered it and hoped to find valuables within, but lacked the secret of its lock? In any case, the door was gone and the safe, made of solid steel and weighing many hundreds of pounds, had been abandoned on the sidewalk at the corner of Pape and Danforth avenues. It sat there for years, sometimes with some scraps of litter inside, unmoving and unknowable. Out of the way, at the edge of the city’s conciousness: a wonderful, harmless mystery. Except someone wrote to Lakey about it, and Lakey wrote about it in the paper, and a week later it was gone forever, probably sold for scrap to be turned into a car part made in China.

Case 2:

Once upon a time, there was a fence beside a railway track at the edge of a laneway connecting the back of Gerrard Square shopping mall and the ugliest street in Toronto, Jones Avenue. The fence was of wood, and several staves had been knocked out allowing a view through into the track: its wild scruffyness, its burdock and thistle, its creosote-besotted gravel. The hole in the fence also allowed passage for teenagers to make a shortcut from the mall to the highschool over at Coxwell and back, and there was always something junked there–a piece of someone’s stereo equipment, a bag of old clothes, a pair of underwear. The hole was one of many places that provide access to the forbidden tracks. It’s impossible to keep people off train tracks, especially when they make for great shortcuts, or places to hide, or places to hang out. This particular fence, just six feet wide, would be repaired occasionally with a new fence stave, but it would never stay repaired for long. Until someone complained to Jack Lakey about it. Lakey wrote about it in his column, and a week later we saw a truck backed up to the piece of fence, engine running, arc-welder in place. The wood fence was replaced with a steel one. Perhaps it was made from the re-smelting of the Pape Ave. safe. It’s been there ever since–no more hole, no more illicit access to forbidden territory.

Lakey is a danger to dreamers everywhere.

So it was with some consternation that we heard he had turned his hooded eyes to the Dundas Street bridge: “For people who rely on Dundas St. E. to get into and out of the downtown core, the interminable work on the bridge cannot end soon enough.

What’s been going on at the Dundas bridge? In short, the entire Dundas streetcar line has been replaced over the past year or so. Much of the street, from east to west across Toronto, has been shut down sporadically. The bridge over the Don, which we hopefully wrote about in a lob called “DeBaeremaeker takes action: ALLDERBLOB takes credit”, was carved open and all its steel parts replaced. For months the only access over the Don at Dundas has been on the sidewalk, and a prominent sign at each side begs: “Cyclists, dismount” (as if). From the sidewalk it’s been interesting to see the crumbled bits of plate steel that once supported the loads of streetcar, car and truck traffic. Some of the infrastructure looks like it’s well past time it was replaced.

Some small-minded person wrote Lakey and complained about the time it’s taken to repair the bridge. Lakey looked into the matter and wrote about it in his column. And now, only a month later, the bridge is ready to re-open.

Was it Lakey’s attention that sped the plow on Dundas? We doubt it. But it was his words about the Dundas Bikelanes, a route that is dear to our hearts and to that of anyone who lives along the former speedway, that raised our dander. He wrote: “Dundas is a key route for east-end drivers and has become more congested during peak traffic periods since one lane in each direction was closed a few years ago to accommodate a bicycle lane and on-street parking.”

Lakey’s ignorance is outstanding. Dundas more congested? This simply is not borne out by the facts. All the bikelanes did to car traffic was to streamline it and prevent the dangerous weaving that characterized drivers there before the lanes were striped. There’s been no significant reduction in the carrying capacity of the road. The time required to traverse Dundas at rush hour was increased in one direction, but lowered in the other, effectively eliminating any real effect. In the meantime, Lakey in his bureaucratic way refers to the street as a key route for “drivers.”

The fact is, Dundas is a key route for cyclists, just as much, if not more so than for drivers. Dundas is a key route for Streetcars, which have literally only three places to cross the Don River. Dundas is a key route for pedestrians, for whom the sidewalk remaining open during the reconstruction has been a vital lifeline: children cross the bridge to get to school; old folks use it for shopping. It’s busy 24 hours a day. Lakey’s sucking on the exhaust pipe of his car has limited his ability to see these road users, which is typical of his view of the city.

And now the bridge is to be re-opened.

What Lakey had no clue about when he wrote his column was the plans the city’s transportation dept. had for the repaired bridge. Now the asphalt is down and the fence is to come down in a day or two, we can see the what of it: the missing link, between Broadview and River, in the bikelane that reaches from the Beaches in the East to the Eaton Centre at Yonge street, has been addressed.

“Sharrows” have been painted on Dundas.

Sharrows on Dundas East (not exactly as illustrated) click for larger image

If Lakey really wanted to fix something on Dundas, he would have fixed it so half-way measures would not have been all we got on Dundas. He would have fixed it so the stretch of road, which has been closed to cars since the spring, would remain closed to cars: streetcars would be welcomed back, bikes welcomed back, but cars left to deal with things just as they have done for months now. He would have fixed it so that the city’s transportation engineers would have made accurate traffic counts and we would know the truth: you can shut down a major roadway to cars and yet survive; and we would have actual numbers to tell us exactly how it happens. The pseudo-science of traffic engineering would have come a step closer to useful, real science.

But Lakey’s been too busy ripping up people’s dreams to do anything really useful like that.

Let’s call him what he is: not a fixer, but a smasher.

Stealing our fire, if not our moral bar

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

We came across the following in Toronto’s entertainment weekly Eye and Car Advertiser today.

Interesting coincidence. We used to know a Jacob Allderdice. We’ve been wondering what he’s gotten himself up to lately.

Advertising morality
Christopher Hutsul speaks of a “lofty moral bar” supposedly set by the advertising department of the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser (“Turn off the red light?” Letters, Nov. 15). What, exactly are those morals? The Star spreads its pages willingly to any automobile advertiser that flashes enough dough. Meanwhile on its editorial pages we read nothing but the usual bumph about diabetes epidemics caused by automobile dependency, deaths caused by automobile pollution, loss of farmland caused by automobile-induced sprawl, and financial ruin coming to Toronto “driven” by automobile-based suburban tax–base drainage (or something like that).

On the other hand, this is also true of EYE WEEKLY.

The good news is, in your rebuttal to Hutsul, you admit that advertising policy and editorial stance are linked. Now how about a policy banning car ads in EYE WEEKLY? JACOB ALLDERDICE

Good luck, Mr. Allderdice. We sure aren’t holding our breath for this one.

[editor’s note: after an extensive search in our archives, we found the original Hutsul letter that provoked Sr. Allderdice’s wrath, and print it in all its glory below. Note Mr. Hutsul, a former cartooner at Eye Weekly and Car Advertiser, has his own website, located here. –ed.]

Turn off the red light?
Looks like New York magazine has dropped its escort ad section. At some point, EYE WEEKLY should probably adopt this policy. At the very least, it would help align EYE WEEKLY with the lofty moral bar set by its older sibling, the Toronto Star. CHRISTOPHER HUTSUL

The Editors respond: Mr. Hutsul would have us turn our back on the women and men who work in a legal industry that is so marginalized that it makes basic workplace safety difficult to ensure. Doing so would further marginalize them and drive more of their commerce into the shadows of the black market. Perhaps in some parallel universe that constitutes raising the “moral bar.” Back in this universe, however, we’ll continue to recognize the legitimacy of sex work and continue supporting calls to have the courts and legislatures recognize the need of those who do it to be treated like workers and businesspeople entitled legal protection and basic human dignity.

Feist/Gonzales, Massey Hall Toronto 2007

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

This post has been moved to the “page” category–see sidebar or click here.

States of Emergency: notes from around the world, and Toronto too

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Occasionally here at the ALLDERBLOB we like to wax philosophical.

We like to turn our sights outward, as it were, on the wide world outside our parochial “anti-car ad” blinders.. With our colleague Michael Dudley at citystates, we wonder about the effects of depleted uranium currently being used in everyday warfare wherever the U.S. fires a gun. With our colleague James Kunstler at the Clusterfuck Chronicle we wonder at how an entire people can ignore the little freight train of horrors that’s rushing at it from just down the track, and still refuse to get out of harm’s way.

Far away, Tbilisi, Islamabad, and Nochiya are stumbling along in their own railbeds. Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, a former state in the USSR, has imposed a state of emergency after a reported coup attempt. Islamabad, similarly, has suspended the constitution, placed its ex-president under house arrest, and has the military clubbing people in the streets.

And what about Nochiya? Well Nochiya is another matter. With Nochiya the emergency comes home. With Nochiya we have would-be cyclists stabbing at motorists with a hex wrench in the streets of Toronto.

Wikipedia [Motto: if it ain’t true what’s it doing in print? –ed.] tells us: “The Nochiya Region lies in 3 different countries: western Iran, northeastern Iraq and southeast Turkey.”
Valley of the PKK
Wikipedia tells us the Nochiya region is considered home to the earliest recognized tribe in the world, “the Nairi Tribal Confederation that was defeated by the Assyrian King Tiglathpileser I in 1,100 BC.” It continues: “Today, the area has declined in importance and is probably best known for the Kurdish PKK resistance movement and its fine tobacco plants.”

The PKK? The plot thickens. The PKK of course is the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, a group fighting for independence from Iraq and the group that today puts Iran under threat of invasion from Turkey. And to go a few years back, it was reports of a certain Iraqi President for Life gassing the Kurds of his own country that provided the heartbeat of moral outrage that lent credence to the U.S. push for war against Irag in 2003. Today the wind blows the other way and the U.S. describes the PKK as a “terrorist organization.”

But the Nochiya people, or Nochiyaye, are not necessarily Kurds. They are Assyrians. The Nochiyaye consist of a relatively few families. A little like the clans of Scotland, perhaps, certain names resonate through the ages. One of these is the family name Younan, or Yonan. Another is the family name Inwia, or Inwiya.

For some of you this is beginning to sound familiar. Yonan Inwia, of course, is the name of the man who the Torontoist recently described thusly: “Yonan Inwia fell roughly to the ground, his hands reaching out in a Christ-like fashion to break the heavy fall. Little did Yonan know, today he would be the messiah of cyclist rage, wielding the cuspidated tool of justice.”

The Nochiyaye, meanwhile, have on their flag a tool of justice much cuspidated: a lumpen cross.
cuspidated tool at centre

Christlike? This isn’t how the Toronto Police described Inwia. To them, he is the alleged attacker of a motorist on College Street near La Plante Ave, 34 years old (although originally described as “in his 20s” by witnesses [more sad evidence of the anti-aging effects of bicycle riding–or something more sinister?–ed.]). A colleague in the International Bicycle Conspiracy pointed out that there is no “LaPlante Ave” in Toronto according to Google maps–and while this is true (check for yourself) it does not mean the suspect is a police “plant(e)” necessarily. Check again with “La Plante” spelled correctly.

As to the episode itself, the hexing of the motorist: If Inwia is indeed found to be the culprit, we have evidence of something much stranger than just a possible police plant(e). For in Inwia we are witness to an acronym little known except among the more rabid followers of a certain alleged messiah: It’s Not Words, It’s Actions.

James 1:22—”Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive
yourselves. Do what it says.” In other words – It’s Not Words. It’s
Actions! (INWIA)

Here’s another one: “My philosophy of ministry to children is very simple. Children need to learn about Jesus and have fun. INWIA – It’s Not Words, It’s Actions.

Meanwhile, back in Nochiya, we hear (see the PKK “terrorist organization” link above) “Turks demand action, not words” against the PKK.

Cuspidated? You tell me.

Questions raised by pollution study

Monday, November 5th, 2007

By now you will have heard about the study (pdf here) released today suggesting Toronto cars and trucks kill some 440 people per year. Authored by Toronto Medical Officer of Health David McKeown, the study got front page treatment in the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser on Saturday–well before its release–as well as coverage in Eye Daily Car Advertiser today.

What gives the story “legs” is the contention that the deaths are not from collisions but from illnesses stemming from air pollution. The solution, according to McKeown, is a 30 percent reduction in car traffic, coupled with improved public transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Everyone is going on about what a radical shock this would be to the city: but note the study cites a 75% increase in the city’s car traffic since 1985.

Questions come to mind:

1. What car does McKeown drive?
2. What would a 30% reduction in car traffic take down first? The existing transit system? The police dept budget? City hall as we know and love it? (Thanks to Toronto Cranks)

Man bites dog; allen key sought

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

In a story that briefly displaced world events for readers on the city’s news and car advertiser websites–world events like the suspension of Pakistan’s constitution or the half-million people flooded from their homes in Mexico–it appears a person on a bicycle retaliated for being cut off by a motorist in Toronto. According to rumour, in Monday’s Globe and Mail and Car Advertiser you will read how he “stabbed” the motorist with an allen key. Alleged Allen Key (not exactly as illustrated) click for actual size

The previous version of the story (see link above) stated the motorist was in hospital with serious injuries. Stay tuned.

UPDATE Monday Nov. 5 2007 as reported in the Globe and Mail and Car Advertiser:

Bike rage ‘going to happen’


November 5, 2007

The stabbing of a motorist last week by a Toronto bicyclist was “a pretty severe action,” but bike rage is an unavoidable consequence of the crowded streets, cycling advocates say.

With “more cyclists and more cars on the roads, it’s going to happen,” Derek Chadbourne, a spokesman for Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC), said yesterday.

Last Friday morning, near the University of Toronto, an SUV driver was struck in the neck by a metal object wielded by a cyclist allegedly upset at being cut off by the driver as the driver attempted a left turn. The cyclist subsequently fled on foot, leaving his bike near the scene.

In September, a cyclist in Milwaukee, Wis., fired a gun three times at a motorist, wounding him in the shoulder, after the motorist caused him to fall.

“Cyclists, on an hourly basis, face people trying to aim their cars at them, swearing at them, swerving at them, taking them off the road,” fellow ARC spokesman Darren Stehr said.

Still, Mr. Stehr cautioned, cyclists’ responses are usually tame. “The most I hear cyclists do is spitting at the window or something … because the cyclist is starting from a David position since he’s so much smaller than the car.”

Original reports identified the weapon in Friday’s incident as a screwdriver, with one television station describing the wounds as “life-threatening.”

Yesterday, however, police said the unidentified 30-year-old victim, a male, was released from hospital on the weekend and is recovering at home.

“No major arteries were affected,” Sgt. Craig Lewers of Toronto’s 52 Division said. Also, contrary to one newspaper report, the victim was not struck six to seven times, but no more than three, and the weapon, he said, appears to have been “a bicycle tool, maybe an Allen
key” – a wrench sometimes known as a hex-head.

As of yesterday afternoon, no arrest had been made, nor had the cyclist – described as a white goateed male in his late 20s, wearing jeans, a baseball cap and carrying a black courier bag – turned himself in.

“We’re still looking at leads – and who doesn’t show up for work Monday, courier-wise,” Sgt. Lewers said.

Mr. Stehr said that the only other episode he could recall of a similar nature occurred a few years ago in Scarborough. “A cyclist got cut off, he pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and took out the rear-window of the car.”

Cycling advocates, however, have differing opinions on whether the fugitive cyclist should come clean.

Even if police don’t make an arrest “the [cyclist] should take responsibility … and maybe tell his side of the story,” Mr. Stehr said.

“I think it would just go really badly for him,” Mr. Chadbourne said, adding that the likelihood of the cyclist being caught is minimal. He noted that initial reports of the victim’s injuries appear to have been overblown. “It’s not like the guy’s dead.”

“There’s nothing more scary,” Mr. Chadbourne said, “than having your life threatened by a car.”

Lady, can’t you read?

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Heads will roll dept.

Today in the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, a couple great letters to the editor appeared. That they both found print is a remarkable fact. We predict, as usual, that Heads will roll.

Letter no. 1:

We need to curb our affection for wheels

Nov 03, 2007 04:30 AM

He just got it … they all have it …

are you next?

Special section, Nov. 1

In this enlightening special section, diabetes is described as the “price of a sedentary lifestyle.” Paul Dalby writes that to avoid an increased risk of developing this crippling affliction, we must curb our affections for the car and become more physically fit. Yet the Star is a newspaper that publishes three “Wheels” sections on Saturdays. Perhaps the Star needs to reflect further on the message it sends to its readers through the publication of such material.

Elissa Ross, Toronto

To which we imagine the testy editor replying: “Lady, can’t you read? It’s a car advertiser. That’s what we do. If you don’t like it, get your news somewhere else!”

But the Star and Car Advertiser is taking it from all sides these days.

Letter no. 2: This one is in response to a letter published by the Star and Car Advertiser from some deep thinker, who chose to attack the subject of a previously published article decrying cycling conditions in the city of Toronto (we blobbed about this story here). The attack took the familiar form of “blaming the victim” saying that the fact she’d been hit by cars more than once indicates she must be a “bad cyclist” and should take a CAN-BIKE course. Her response is a must-read:

Leaflets would suffice to help cyclists in T.O.

Nov 03, 2007

Bike lanes not safe enough

Letter, Oct. 31

I figured that at least one person would write a letter suggesting that my accidents are my fault. I thought about that and about the CAN-BIKE suggestion.

CAN-BIKE, organized by the Canadian Cycling Association, is designed for less experienced cyclists. Ironically, one of its suggestions – that cyclists occupy the middle of the lane where the lanes are too narrow for cars to safely pass – is what got me hit once.

When I reflect on what I’ve learned that resulted in reducing the five accidents in my first eight months in Toronto to only two accidents in my next eight months, it’s simply that values are different in this city than they are elsewhere in the country. In fact, I think CAN-BIKE courses could be much shorter and more to the point if they simply handed everyone a leaflet that said: “Welcome to Toronto. Here, motorists value their time and convenience much more highly than they value your life. They will jeopardize your life in order to save themselves time or effort. Happy trails!”

Kristen Courtney, Toronto