Archive for the ‘Victims of the Automobile’ Category

The Angry Ones

Monday, October 18th, 2010

It’s not you who’s angry. Oh, no, you’re the mild-mannered sort. But you see them, the angry ones, out there. You see them, and you know they know who they are, because if they catch you looking at them they stare back, or they gesture rudely, or they lunge at you. You don’t want to aggravate them further, so you keep your eyes down. You look past them, at a distant bird, or a tree branch waving. You wait until they look the other way, then you watch them. The angry ones. You look at them and try to understand what drives them.

And they are drivers, usually. Most of them are in cars, at least part of the day. If they live in cities, they spend hours looking for parking spots near home. If they live in the country, their trucks kick up clouds of dirt on back roads they rush along to reach town for supplies or to get to work. They drive above the speed limit on residential roads, and they sit bumper-to-bumper on high-speed freeways. Either way, they’re damn angry about it. People on bikes, they better stay out of the way. People on foot, you’ve had fair warning.

But you don’t own a car. You chose your home well–a short walk for groceries, a cafe nearby. You ride a bike here and there, or if you have a long way to go, you take a combination of streetcar, subway and bus. Your commute to work is an hour and a half each way, but you use the time wisely. You study for the exams you have to take, or you read a novel, something you can hold tight to your chest in a crowded vehicle. If there’s a seat free, you study your exam material, or you sharpen your brain against a cryptic crossword or the sudoku puzzle.

If you drove, you’d be there sooner, it’s true. You’d have an extra hour every day to decompress and spend time with your family, or maybe that hour would be set aside to study for your important exams. But you’ve done the drive. You’ve sat beside a friend in a carpool for the hour it takes to get home from work. You’ve put your foot on the imaginary brake on your side of the car, you’ve clutched the seat-rest on a sharp corner. You’ve dealt with the glare from the setting sun, if not from your friend, or the people in cars around you. You saved a half-hour on your commute that day, it’s true, but all you could think about when you got home was having a drink–more than one. The word “decompress” never felt more apt.

Your friend does the drive every day. She’s used to it. But you, no thanks. You don’t mind the extra half hour in transit, if it means you get home unfrazzled. You’ll put the time to good use. After that one time, you find a reason to stay late when she’s ready to leave. After a while she doesn’t offer any more.

No, it’s not you who’s angry. You’re easy-going. You ride a bike across town. It takes you twenty-two minutes, door-to-door, not breaking a sweat, to get to your class. It’s true, in a car you could do it in 17 minutes. Maybe 16. But then there’s parking to find, and a walk to the door. Eight minutes parking, four minutes walking…meanwhile, your bike’s locked to the fence by the door and you’re inside. Never mind the days when the car-drive takes longer. If a main road is under repair, or if there’s a crash, in a car they grit their teeth and wait in line. Sixteen minutes becomes a half-hour, no sweat (and that’s the day they had an important presentation to make, damn it!). On a bike you’d step onto the sidewalk and walk past the obstruction, carrying the machine that carries you. On a bike your 22 minutes is sometimes off by thirty seconds, but you’ll get there when you planned. And you’re still not sweating.

If the city’s shut down for one of its annual marathons, car-drivers freak out. The city’s daily papers fulminate. One mayoral candidate’s entire transportation platform is based on the plan to put runners and bike-riders in city parks, taking them off the street. Bikelanes and residential street-calming strategies get branded the “War on the Car.” It’s all about the driver, and what might slow him or her down.

Drivers are angry, but you’re not. You’re the one they’re angry about. You walk on a green, but that means the drivers have a red. They gun the engine. You slip past them on your bike, in the gutter, but the driver ahead stops only inches from the curb. No biggie. You just pass on the other side. They gun the engine. You better keep your head down. They seem to think if you weren’t there, their day would go faster. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair. Doesn’t that piss you off?

In fact, you should be the angry one. Those car-drivers are using up the world’s resources at an unsustainable rate, and for what? They’re doing the same thing you are, only you’re on foot, or you’ve taken transit, or you’re on your bike. What gives them the right? What about the future? You’re doing your part to reduce climate change. You’re doing your part to preserve non-replaceable resources for future use. You’re doing your part to lower demand, which lowers costs for those other people, the angry ones, the ones in cars. Your small footprint leaves extra room for their super-sized one. What do they have to be angry about?

But maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s you. Maybe your conservation masks intransigence. Maybe you’re just stubborn. Maybe you really are in the way, pressing the button and holding out your hand at the crosswalk. Maybe you could move a little faster if you were in a car, too, even if it just took you to the next red light a little sooner. Maybe your “thoughtfulness” is a mask for inaction. Maybe it’s not that you believe in a “slow” movement, but that you’ve got your back up at being bullied, even if you daren’t say as much. No, you won’t look at the “angry” ones, but you won’t rush out of their way, either. Maybe you secretly like the thought that you’ve slowed them down, even by a second or two. Maybe it pleases you that the person who’s stupid enough to drive, when they could bike or walk just as easily, gets caught in traffic on the day of the marathon and takes an hour just to cross an intersection. The same intersection you slip across on foot, or sail under on the subway. Are you laughing? Are you enjoying their misery? You’re smug, that’s clear. But are you also angry, and taking it out on those idiots?

Maybe it’s time you got a car of your own, and joined the human race.

More than words spilt on Bloor St

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

On Monday night we were at a party celebrating the launch of issue number three of Dandyhorse magazine. As our loyal readers will know, we share in the glory of our former Urban Design Expert (sorry about calling you a cascade of detritus in a previous post, Jake. You know we don’t mean it and we wish you every success), who has a short piece (cribbed from these pages) in the issue on the subject of bikelanes along Bloor Danforth. In a nutshell Allderdice claims bikelanes are in order on the street, but that whatever happens it’s imperative the city not destroy the part of the highway that already works well for all road users: the stretch of Danforth from Pape Ave to Broadview. In fact he advocates (and we at the ALLDERBLOB back him on this) an extension of the road-striping east of Pape all the way to Victoria Park Ave, a simple move that would turn all the Danforth into a safe and pleasant “mall” for all: cyclists, drivers and shoppers on foot.

Huzzah. Hooray for Jake. Hooray for the ALLDERBLOB. Hooray for Dandyhorse. Great party, Tammy and Arlene.

Meanwhile that same night, another cyclist was murdered in Toronto. On Bloor Street.

So much for words. Fuck words.

At around 9:45 pm, on Monday August 31, Darcy Allan Sheppard, age 33, father of four, a bike messenger, was killed in a most brutal way in front of many witnesses. The murder has claimed the attention of the nation. You can read stories about it in the Toronto Globe and Mail and Car Advertiser, in the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, in the National Post and Car Advertiser, as well as in the New York Times and Car Advertiser, as well as most other papers in Canada. It’s front page stuff around the world in fact: try The Times and Car Advertiser of India, for example.

What makes the story shocking is the cold-blooded ruthlessness of the murder, as well as the fact that now under arrest and charged with “criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death” is Michael Bryant, the Harvard-educated former Attorney General of Ontario, former Member of Provincial Parliament, father of two and a stalwart foe of “stunt driving.” He is quoted in the New York Times article saying:

Among his targets were street-racing motorists. In 2007 he gave the police the power to seize and destroy cars modified for racing even if no charges were lodged against their owners.

After describing such cars as being as dangerous as explosives, he said, “We will crush your car, we will crush the parts.”

Later that year the province passed a bill to deem any vehicle traveling more than 50 kilometers an hour, or 31 miles an hour, faster than the speed limit to be racing. The legislation, under which more than 10,000 charges have been brought, allows the police to immediately seize vehicles and suspend licenses.

Note that the “explosive” in this case [our emphasis] was not a souped up street racing machine, but a normal old luxury vehicle, a Saab convertable.

A couple weeks ago we published an ARC press release on the murder of cyclist Tevane Sean Lennon, which said, in part:

We speak of “gunning the engine,” and the cowardice implicit in the gunning down of this man is a demonstration of a power relationship, just as much as if he had been driven into and run over.

How much more clear can this power relationship be than when the former attorney general of Ontario, in his Saab convertable, drives over an off-duty bike messenger?

Okay, it’s a sad day for Bryant too. It’s likely a career-killer. Regardless of the results of the impending trial and regardless of the valient efforts already underway to smear the dead cyclist (read here how Sheppard had outstanding warrants from Alberta for writing cheques to himself, and watch this to learn that according to one witness, Sheppard escalated the violence), Bryant will forever have this death on his hands, his own personal Chappaquiddick.

He’s trying. He’ll have the best legal council money can buy, and it does not take a cynic to imagine a future where he walks free, acquitted of all charges. If convicted, Bryant could receive a sentence of about two years. In the meantime he’s issued a self-serving statement, in a few terse words, expressing “sincere condolences” for the family of his victim.

There’s only one way this most powerful individual will ever be able truly redeem himself–that is if he abandons his car-worship and joins with ARC and others in the call for better bicycle infrastructure across all of Toronto. He could start by pushing his fellow Harvard crony at City Hall, Mayor David Miller, to demand a bikelane be built across the spine of Toronto, along the very street where Darcy Allan Sheppard was killed: Bloor-Danforth.

We will wait to hear if Michael Bryant ever utters the words “Take the Tooker” to judge the “sincerity” of his “condolences” to Darcy Allan Sheppard’s family.

UPDATE: ARC calls for police to be removed from the Bryant case: See TorontoCranks for more.

UPDATE 2: Dave Meslin, founder of Toronto Cyclist Union, agrees with Toronto Police Sheppard was not a cyclist but a pedestrian. See Mez dispenser for more.

NOW magazine to cycling community: We think you’re cute, we really do. Now get out of the way!

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Here at the ALLDERBLOB we admire the chutzpah of those who praise our culture from behind the windshields of their automobiles. We really do. To us, they’re like the liberal-minded plantation owners of yore, who held high the banner of freedom for all as long as it didn’t impinge on their freedom to own slaves.

Of course with cars, the usual sick Freudian reversal is closer than ever to the surface: just as the sadist is a masochist and vice-versa, the car-owner is in servitude to their “chosen” means of transport, to the tune of many thousands of dollars a year.

The latest example is this week’s NOW Magazine and Car Advertiser, which labels itself “the Bike Issue.” With two full-page ads for cars though, it’s business as usual for NOW this week. No one misses who calls the shots when that kind of money’s changing hands. The long arm of a traffic cop-lovin’ editor can be seen in every story, no matter how seemingly “cyclist friendly.”

Take Paul Terefenko, for example, who writes in the cover story on how to become a commuter cyclist: “I’ll be wearing a helmet. You should, too.” Nevermind the evidence that suggests cars pass closer to cyclists wearing helmets, actually increasing the risk of a collision. Terefenko also writes: “It’s tough not going through a red light when nobody is around, but Officer Hardass will eventually nab you.” Nevermind research that suggests cyclists that run reds and generally ride more aggressively are less likely to be involved in collisions with cars. Maybe Terefenko should be devoting some ink to the suggestion that the laws around cycling should be changed. We wish his editors had encouraged him to write about what’s laughingly known as The Toronto Coroner’s Rule, or to question why the government refuses to mandate sideguards on large trucks. Nevermind the call to ban car advertisements, which like the ban on cigarette commercials once did might actually have the (ostensibly) desired effect of reducing automobile dependency.

But for really cringe-worthy stuff, take a look at Susan G. Cole’s piece. She writes “Hey bike riders, let’s be friends.” Okay, Susan, I’ll be your friend when you chop your leaky engine down to a more sane capacity for city use. As Ivan Illich once suggested,

If the world reduced the speed of all motorized transportation to 32 kph, that is, refused to produce vehicles that could not go any faster than this, ever, the following benefits would result:

* 1. The amount of energy required to supply everyone with a vehicle like this for life would be the same as what America uses in 1 year to keep its cars on the road.
* 2. There would be far less pollution, far less degradation of natural resources.
* 3. There would be far less deadly accidents
* 4.There would be no road rage.
* 5. People who choose to walk would not be in danger.

But Illich wrote in 1970, and that’s just not “NOW” enough for car dependent folks like Susan G. Cole, who after all may have to “drive to transport small children, large objects or elderly parents.” To which we say, Well, an addict will always be able to rationalize her addiction.

Of course, hardly a paragraph or two into her screed, Susan G. Cole brings out the old saw, “We have some things in common, ya know, like we all have to to obey traffic rules.” Nevermind the fact that traffic rules are written with the eye to controlling the horror she takes as a god-given right as a means of personal transportation.

Hey, it’s okay to hate cars. Everybody does. That’s what traffic laws are all about. People on bikes don’t kill people. They don’t run over small animals. They don’t cause wars, pollution or food shortages in their claim for fuel. So back off when you see us coming the “wrong way” on a one-way street. We’re there because it’s the sane place to be, under the circumstance. We’re not going to kill you. But you might kill us. SLOW DOWN.

Susan G. Cole has an easy, breezy, insouciant style. “Oh yeah,” she writes, “and you can’t have it all ways. You don’t get to be cyclist and a pedestrian. Stay off the freakin’ sidewalk.” Okey-dokey, Susie. You stay off the sidewalk too though. That means don’t mount the curb when you’re stopping to drop something off at a friend’s house and can’t find a parkplatz just out front. Actually, given two evils, a pimply-faced kid who’s mammy tol’ him to stay off the roads on his bike so he rides too fast through the crowded sidewalk along the Danforth, and the smilin’ Susan G. Cole who just hauled up on the sidewalk on Church Street in order not to impede the flow of (car) traffic while she drops off a book review at NOW magazine and Car Advertiser, but who is very much in the way of us pushing our kid in a stroller, we’re not sure which one is worse. The kid on the sidewalk seems marginally less boorish to us. At least with him there’s the chance he’ll pay heed to the call to “ride on the sidewalk as if you’re riding in your living room”

photo by Darren Stehr: he rides in his kitchen the way he rides on the sidewalk(or your kitchen, as the case may be).

We remember Susan G. Cole. We remember her as the car-driver in NOW magazine and Car Advertiser’s “commuter challenge” of a year ago. Remember that one? The driver beat the transit rider (who took a pretty screwy route) but finished a whole ice cream cone’s worth behind the cyclist. She would have been even farther behind but

“5:28 Can’t get parking near our destination, La Paloma; commit a moving violation to get to a south-side parking spot. Promise to add two minutes to my time.”

Hey Susan, About that “moving violation” you committed in order to find a parking space on St Clair. What does that make you in light of what you’ve written here (“we all have to to obey traffic rules”)? Maybe you meant to say: “except when they don’t make sense?” The fact is, for cyclists, most of the time traffic rules don’t make sense.

But for NOW magazine and its Car Advertisers, that wouldn’t make “cents” to admit: bikes aren’t filling full page advertisements. We’re not holding our breath for anything other than business as usual from the aging hippies who call the shots on its pages.

ALLDERBLOB day short story contest winner!

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

In the annual tradition that has come to be known as ALLDERBLOB day, there are always winners and losers. Each year, we hold a short story contest on the theme of “Car of the Future” and each year we have been shocked and disappointed at the turnout. In short, no one has picked up our challenge in the past.

This year, we changed tactics. We sought out writers we know well and asked them to submit. We upped the prize, too: instead of our usual 12 cents (in pennies), which to us seemed a reasonable reward (they’re just words after all: words are cheap, right?) we offered a first prize of brunch at the Only Cafe.

Results! we landed a real doozy. Please put down your coffee, turn off the telephone, and draw the blinds. You will brook no interruptions as you read:

The Story of Future Cars, by Jasper Allderdice (age 10)

jasper’s future car

IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF THE FUTURE, there is nothing but war. The only tribe that is not in the great war is a tribe called the Biomorphs. They are a rapidly evolving race. Their goal is to stop the great war and bring peace to the earth once again. Their great technology is their advantage, along with their unique fighting style. The reason they are so advanced is because they’re from the planet Mars. They have a fast technology. their vehicle is nothing like a car. Their vehicles are called Vortextrons. Let me tell you about them: their treads; their hoverflaps; their spider-like legs and their vast variety of weapons.

THE TREADS ARE POWERFUL. They have five wheels giving them extra pull. They have a massive hard-drive main computer. One hundred titanium spikes line the two sides, to that the Vortextron can almost climb a vertical slope. The treads are caterpillar style, the most common type of power treads. Their length is 50 feet. Twenty power ventilations give them up to 1000 horsepower.

THE HOVERFLAPS ARE NOTHING but the treads flipped up. The average push-power is one thousand thousand. Bio-magnetic cords attached give extra push velocity. The hoverflap is the second most powerful part of the Vortextron. Most people will tell you it’s their favourite part.

AS FOR THE LEGS, if you’ve ever seen the movie “The Wild, Wild West,” you will recognize them from that huge tarantula machine. The legs are the most helpful part on the whole Vortextrong. The legs are 60 feet tall. Bicycle chains [at last, he gets to the good part! –ed.] pull the legs in a smooth operation. Self-operating oil machines make the Vortextron ultimately noiseless. The spider legs can pierce the hardest rock.

AS FOR THE VORTEXTRON’S DEFENCES, it has many weapons. It has a missile launcher implanted into the back hatch. It also has some laser semi-cannons on Both sides. It has a plasma cannon on the rear stabilizer. Finally it has a plasma fire cannon under the treads.

I HOPE YOU ENJOYED the explanation.

[Thank you. I hope you enjoy your waffle. –ed.]

RIP Dennis Morgan, victim of the automobile

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

RIP Dennis Morgan, 63, of illness related to car dependency

Every Saturday morning around 4:45 we awaken to the “thump” on our front porch of the delivery of that day’s Toronto Star and Get Fuzzy paper. Then we go back to sleep for a couple hours. We know that downstairs on our weatherbeaten porch the outer layers of the paper are soaking in moisture, gradually expanding. It used to be the outer layers of the paper were just one section thick, but as the expansion has taken place over the years, it’s gone to two, three and even (to our groggy and unbelieving eyes) four sections. Yes, we’re talking about the so-called “Wheels” section [should be called “motors” because you’ll never read about anything without one there–ed.] of the Saturday paper.

We always thought it was because of the wet front porch, and the absorptive qualities of the newsprint, that the “Wheels” section expanded in this way. We often vowed to rouse ourselves earlier, to see if we couldn’t get down there before the section got started in its expansion. We hoped one day to get there just as the paper was sent flying toward our wet boards, to intercept its trajectory and save ourselves from some of that “Wheels” gunk.

But we learned today we would’ve been wasting our time trying. Fact is, the Wheels section has expanded by design. We read today it’s all because of the evil predations of one man: Dennis Morgan, founding “editor” of the Wheels and Car Advertiser section of the Star. You can read the story above (link at Morgan’s photo), if you are as much of a masochist as we imagine you to be. The gist is as follows: it appears Dennis Morgan, a self-described “car nut,” joined the Star and Car Advertiser in 1976 as a young Turk from Wales. His earliest days, in the paperclip department, are lost to the shrouds of time, however within ten years the noted machiavel found the opportunity he’d been waiting for. The Star decided to create a new section of the paper, to contain classified car ads and relocate the so-called “car journalism” in one place. In Jim Kenzie [who he?–ed.]’s words:

Morgan, well-known for his enthusiasm of all things automotive, was afforded the opportunity to co-ordinate this effort, which was to include moving the technical “My car goes clunk – why?” column, then written by the late Ray Stapley, from the Sunday paper, and my road test column from beneath the rutabaga recipes in the Monday Life section, and creating an automotive section in the Saturday Star, the week’s largest-circulation edition.

Morgan saw well beyond this production scheduling convenience and envisioned a proper automotive section along the lines of what he had known growing up in England. It has far surpassed that, to the point where Wheels is by far the largest newspaper automotive section in North America.

Got that? “Wheels is by far the largest newspaper automotive section in North America.” And it’s all because of one man, Dennis Morgan.

Pure evil? Or just a minion of the evil around us. You decide.

The reason any of this is news, of course, is because Mr. Morgan died the other day, a victim of the automobile: at 63, the car-dependent fellow was felled by heart attack.

Here’s to the “health” of rest of the Wheels editors! Warm up your engines, it’s time for a drive to the gym!

I’m a loser, baby

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

WTF department.

Beck, a pop star big in the past century, had a number one hit with the lyrics: “I’m a loser, baby/so why don’t you kill me?”

It’s catchier than it sounds, in fact.

“I’m a loser baby…so why don’t you kill me?” La, la, la.

Hum along.

Riding a bicycle in Toronto we often find this song on our lips. La, la la. “Loser, baby…” La la.

Our route between home and work takes us past the site of a recent altercation between a loser and a “winner” that saw a gun drawn and a shot fired.

Did you read about it on the front pages? No? That’s because it only made page 14 of the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser. We never even saw it in the Globe and Mail and Car Advertiser. Not the National Post and Car Advertiser either.

Perhaps it’s because, unlike the case that made the front pages of all the papers a couple weeks ago, where a loser hexed a winner with a wrench, in this case it was the loser who was shot with a bullet, apparently for no reason, by a winner. The winner was in a car. The location was near Regent park, a famous Toronto “slum clearance” project from the 1960s 2000s.

Sorry, what was that? Did we say no reason?

The loser was riding a bike.

ALLDERBLOB readers will want to know, and with the cops we ask: was he wearing a helmet? Was he riding a “chopper?” Had he just purchased a “nickel bag?” Had he run the red light at River and Shuter streets? Had he spit at the car, or otherwise acted to rain hellfire upon himself? What was he doing, in the ghetto?

We know he deserved to be shot. He was riding a bicycle. He’s a loser, baby. We just want to know what in particular provoked this event.

But the cops aren’t telling. The event was reported in the Star on Dec. 2, but there’s no news release about it to be found on their website from around that date.

Some in the International Bicycle Conspiracy have wondered, “Where is the outrage?” Where is the call to CAA to defend car drivers everywhere from the aspersion cast by the lone looney in the car by Regent Park. Where is the front page story, and the interview on Metro Morning with Anti-Bikey, asking automobile activists whether all motorists pack guns. Is society in a state of collapse?

Not the Allderblob.

We ride a bike too, and we know.

Cyclists are losers. On a dare, we just checked the lyrics of Beck’s song and found this gem hidden in the dross:
(I’m a driver, I’m a winner… things are gonna
change, I can feel it)

What’s the difference if we’re killed by a gunshot, by breathing the crap churned from the guts of the gas guzzlers, or from being crushed against the curb by a rolling furnace while crossing the newly re-opened Dundas bridge?

La, la la. La la. Baby…

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?”

East end Toronto: unsafe for cyclists?

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

The east end: home to councillors De Baeremaeker, Heaps, Fletcher, Bussin et al, and no longer home to the latest two cyclists killed in this city of 2.5 million.

A few days ago it was a little girl, run down and killed while pedaling in front of a stopped car in a crosswalk near Warden and Sheppard avenues. And now yesterday, a cyclist was killed on Pharmacy Ave, the victim of a truck traveling south in the northbound lanes.

People will blather about helmets, but perhaps the critical question is about blinders:
cyclist with blinders click for larger image
those on the heads of our so-called “cycling champions” at city hall. We’re talking about Councillor Heaps, the erstwhile leader of the city cycling committee, who has yet to call a meeting since his appointment after last October’s election. We’re talking about Councillor De Baeremaeker, profiled in the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser as a hero for cycling to work at city hall although terrified of taking Eglinton Ave E. in his ward (where there’s a “diamond lane” reserved for carpoolers, buses and cyclists, and just beyond where a cyclist was killed during last year’s election campaign). And we’re talking about Councillor Fletcher, a “big supporter” of the environment and of cyclist issues, who together with her ward neighbour Councillor Bussin, deputy mayor, has yet to define just why a critical two-block stretch of Leslie street in her ward (which links residential neighbourhoods to the north to the Leslie Street Spit, one of the most-used car-free infrastructures in the city) is not on the table for immediate creation of bikelanes. This part of Leslie street, of course, was the site of another cyclist fatality, where a truck hit cyclist Isaac Morkel head-on as Morkel was riding through a green light south to do some shopping at the Loblaw’s and PriceChopper grocery stores. It carries fewer cars at rush hour than many other four-lane streets in Toronto where two car lanes have been removed to provide bikelanes.

Two cyclists in the space of less than a week, dead by motor traffic in Toronto’s East End. Who’s looking out for us? Councillor Case Odious with your twenty-vote margin of victory, there’s a vacuum to be filled.

Little girl dead in crosswalk; driver “well within speed limit”

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Our colleague Joe Hendry caught this one, pulled it to earth and wrestled with it for a minute. It’s a report from CITY TV’s news website about the seven-year-old girl who was killed by a construction van while crossing the street on her bike in front of her house. In a crosswalk. Just behind her brother on his bike, who crossed first and whom the driver had managed not to hit and kill.

Victoria Jones died after riding into the path of an oncoming vehicle in front of her house at Warden and Sheppard Ave. Initial reports suggested the driver may have been distracted and talking on a cell phone, but police now say that wasn’t the case. They also add that he was driving well within the speed limit.

As Joe puts it, “Perhaps CITY-TV could tell the family what exactly is the speed limit for driving through a pedestrain crosswalk with a 7 year-old girl in the middle of it. I thought it was zero.”

Members of Toronto’s Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists have planned a memorial ride to the site of the collision, scheduled for Tuesday, September 4th. Details are below:

What: Cyclist Memorial When: Tuesday September 4th 8pm. Meet: Spadina and Bloor 6pm. or 630pm if you are taking the subway. Re-group at Warden Station (outside west entrance) at appx. 7pm., departing 715pm Memorial site. Bay Mills Blvd near Warden appx. 8pm

Please bring candles and/flowers. It will be dark for our return ride home.

For more info Darren Stehr 416-707-4744 or Derek Chadbourne 416-828-0370

Collision: Toronto Transportation Services, Toronto Police: Cyclist Killed

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Plus ca change department:

pink bike on bloor–star and car advertiser photo

This comes along a bit late in the chain of events. However.

We have held back from making comment on the latest fatality of a Toronto cyclist until now. Not that we haven’t thought about it a lot. We’ve paid careful attention to the news on this one, from the moment we first heard of it. But we’ve been holding our tongue, waiting for act five of the tragedy.

We’re tired of waiting.

Bring on the Deus Ex Machina!

Here’s how the city of Toronto described the crash that killed the cyclist in their own press release:

Cyclist killed in collision with City vehicle

TORONTO, June 8 /CNW/ – A City of Toronto Transportation Services vehicle was involved in a fatal collision with a cyclist this morning on Bayview Ave. at approximately 8:15 a.m.

The Transportation vehicle, a small dump truck pulling a trailer, was traveling southbound on Bayview Ave., south of Highway 401, when a collision occurred between a cyclist and the vehicle at the intersection of Bayview Ave. and Fifeshire Rd./Truman Rd.

“We are cooperating fully with the police in their investigation of this very serious and tragic matter,” said Gary Welsh, General Manager, Transportation Services.

For further information: Media contact: Steve Johnston, Sr.
Communications Coordinator, (416) 392-4391

Here’s how the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser described it:

Cyclist killed by garbage truck
June 08, 2007
Rachel De Lazzer
Staff Reporter

A cyclist was killed this morning when his bicycle collided with a garbage truck in the city’s north end.

The City of Toronto truck and the cyclist were both travelling southbound on Bayview Ave. just south of Highway 401 when they collided where the road narrows at Fife Rd., said Toronto police Staff Sgt. Keith Haines.

The truck was towing a trailer with a Bobcat industrial machine on it, he said.

The southbound lanes of Bayview were closed for the morning, but reopened at midday.

The victim was believed to be about 35, but police could not immediately identify him.

He was taken to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he died from his injuries.

Here’s the police press release:

Traffic fatality #21/2007
Broadcast time: 22:50
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Traffic Services
On Friday June 8, 2007, at about 8:09 a.m., a 48−year−old man was cycling in the southbound curb lane of Bayview Avenue, south of Fifeshire Road.

It is alleged that:
− a City of Toronto work truck, with trailer, was also travelling in the southbound curb lane,
− for unknown reasons, the truck and cyclist came into contact, knocking the cyclist to the roadway,
− the truck came to a sudden stop and was rear−ended by a 1993 SUV.

The cyclist was taken to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416−808−1900, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477), or online at

Constable George Schuurman, Public Information, for Sergeant Steve O’Donovan, Traffic Services.

You know the drill, by now: a dedicated and careful all-season cyclist, fit and trim (hey–at age 48 he was estimated by first responders to be only 35) on a busy road near Canada’s busiest highway is struck by a city of Toronto truck towing a trailer carrying a small excavator. It happens on a beautiful, warm spring day. He dies at the scene, or shortly thereafter. The incident happens on a street where the width shrinks by a lane, in broad daylight. Was he struck from the rear? Was he clipped by the trailer? Was it a case where truck sideguards would have protected the cyclist? All this is up for debate. Would it have helped if the city didn’t have those bus lay-bys, which effectively widen the road and then shrink it again in an unpredictable manner? It’s not clear.

What’s clear is the man is dead.

The family has requested his anonymity be protected, but what we know is he was a father of four, married to a Toronto Police Sargent.

Some friends of ours, and friends of the cyclist, held a memorial a week after the crash. About 22 people made the long haul up to Bayview and Fifeshire, just south of the 401, for the sad event.

When a cyclist is killed, sides are often drawn.
“The driver was inexperienced,” we hear. “The cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet,” we hear. As if there could be an excuse.

Often, there’s a feeling that some “authority” or other has hegemony.

In this case, where the Toronto Police Service is involved as a victim, we hope the City of Toronto can be called to task for its intransigence on the (nearly) 10-year-old Toronto Coroner’s investigation into cyclist fatalities, which recommended (number fifteen) sideguards on large trucks and (number twelve) respect for cyclists: “law of the sea” brought to land: not “Steam gives way to sail,” but “motor gives way to muscle.”

Or, in the dry language of the coroner’s report:

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.

Meanwhile, ICES BUG, a city of Toronto-recognized “Bicycle Users Group” based at Sunnybrook Hospital’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, has been struggling to make cycling along Bayview Avenue (Sunnybrook iis on Bayview, just south of the collision site) safer for a while. They had a meeting with Ward 25 Councillor Cliff Jenkins scheduled for last week.

Their request? A bikelane on Bayview.

A bike lane on Bayview should be top on our priority list: Here is why:

1. Bayview represents the best available continuous north (up to the 401) to south (Eglinton) bike route in Ward 25. The alternatives are Yonge (more bike unfriendly) and Leslie (too far east)

2. Bayview is
a. a major artery to a University (York, Glendon Campus). Students travel by bicycle more often than non-students
b. a major artery to Sunnybrook Hospital, a major employer and destination point
c. a major artery to major park/recreation area – Sunnybrook and other connecting parks
d. a major artery to designated city bike routes/lanes (south east through park; south to downtown; west through cemeteries and beltline)

3. Bayview already has a bike lane present that connects the Granite Club to Lawrence (wow, like 1/2 KM!)
4. Cars travel dangerously fast between Sheppard and Lawrence because there are no businesses/parking
5. There is room for a bike lane (my perception) almost the entire way
6. Bayview and Sheppard is becoming a high density residential neighbourhood which may increase cycling volume
7. A cyclist died on it today

Now, a bikelane is a special thing. We at the ALLDERBLOB see bikelanes as a light-handed version of Baron Von Haussman‘s excavation and remodeling of Paris: an opportunity to create light where before was only shadow–but without destroying the fine-grained fabric, as Haussman did. Bikelanes make possible unexpected linkages, freedom of movement in places of car-clotted clutter, mysterious openings in the city.

The city of Toronto has a plan for bikelanes, and a department dedicated to installing them.
It’s financed by our taxes to the tune of several million dollars each year.

Does this mean bikelanes get built? Not necessarily. Does it mean they get built where cyclist need or want them? Only occasionally.

This year we’ve seen one councillor propose bikelanes on a street where no cyclist rides, and another councillor create one where a link is absolutely needed, and will benefit all cyclists in ways that are difficult to predict. That neither street is on the bikeway master plan has not escaped notice.

We’ve also seen the proposed gutting of the Toronto Cycling Committee by its new commissar, Ward 35 Councillor Adrian Heaps.

Again, folks have noticed.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

We’ve watched for some time as one group or another struggles with the Bloor/Danforth question. We’ve taken a side, ourselves. A bikelane on Bloor/Danforth, while not on the bike master plan (like Yonge, like Eastern), makes enormous sense. It links cyclists with destinations east and west across the entire city. It sits above a subway line capable of carrying hundreds of thousands of would-be car-drivers. It’s relatively flat for most of its distance. It’s a street that could stand to be “Thickened,” as we described it in a previous posting.

Most recently, the struggle for bikelanes on Bloor/Danforth took the form of guerrilla lane-painting. Apparently, as documented on the pages of the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, there’s a bear-like group out there known as OURS, for the “Other Urban Repair Squad,” which with non-regulation pink spraypaint has decorated the curb lane of Bloor street with bike-like stencils and a continuous pink line: a hopeful gesture, but quickly obliterated by the city’s road-scraping machinery.

Now, in the past, the editors of the Star and Car Advertiser have been unfriendly to cyclists. We still recall our colleague Tim Gleason’s Opinion piece of about 10 years ago, proposing cyclist be treated differently than other road users: given the right to treat stop signs as “yields” (like they do in Idaho) and red lights as stop signs (if the way is clear, you can proceed–again, legal in Idaho). The letters page following Tim’s column was dedicated to folks trashing his position. One or two stopped just short of threatening physical violence upon his person.

On other occasions, we recall the Star fulminating in its editorial against bikelane projects that we saw as logical and necessary–such as the lane on Dundas. They claimed it would destroy the driver’s commute from the east end, if not his life [somehow the driver survives though. –ed.].

So it was with heavy heart that we opened the letters page today to see that the feature of the week was a collection of letters regarding the story about the pink lane painters.

Something is up at the Star and Car Advertiser however.
Maybe it has something to do with the online poll they ran last week, which saw overwhelming support (64.8% in favour) for the proposition that the city should “prioritize” the construction of bikelanes.

And, quel surprise!–five out of six letters selected by the Star applauded the OURS group. Is that 64.8%? More like 83.3%.

The collection included supportive letters from names familiar to us: Joe LaFortune and Michael Polanyi among them; the clincher was this one:

Does the Other Urban Repair Squad take requests? We sure could use a bike lane on Bayview Ave. No rush – any time this summer would be good. Many thanks.

Marjorie Nichol, Toronto

So here’s the question, and we come full circle: if a bikelane can be seen as a lighthanded version of Haussmann’s urban excavation, could a pretty painted pink bike be the lighthanded deus ex machina that’s needed on Bayview?