Archive for the ‘Victims of the Automobile’ Category

Disabled drivers–define your terms

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Ignored by the ALLDERBLOB for too long, our readers agree, is the hoopla about so-called “disabled” permits being abused by car-owners.

Fact is, it’s always vaguely satisfying, from a non-driver’s perspective, to see the division in the driver’s world. Schadenfreude is overused these days, but the English word “epicharikaky” means the same thing and deserves reviving: happiness derived from the futile flailings, if not the outright suffering, of others (epicharikaky is also spelled with the suffix -cacy, but we prefer the -kaky suffix, for obvious reasons [see the comments at this link –ed.]).

Here’s the story, in case you’re a spammer from somewhere outside the GTA and haven’t heard the latest news: folks with “disabled” permits on their car dashboard are permitted to park closer to the entrances of the malls and beer stores, to park for free on city streets, to park closer to the door to the parking garage at the airport.

You get the picture. park wherever you like with one of these

Thing is, there are lots of fake permits floating around. David Bruser at the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser reported the other day that while Census Canada knows of about 1,700 Ontarians over the age of 100, the provincial transportation ministry has issued 4,400 permits to centenarian drivers.

The discrepancy underscores yet another problem with the permit program that the Star found is abused by able-bodied drivers: The ministry does not know if all of the nearly 470,000 permits in circulation are being properly used by people with qualifying disabilities.

This damning report followed a lavishly photographed story in the Saturday Star and Car Advertiser in which a photographer stationed himself along a street in Yorkville (a place with lots of expensive boutiques and galleries) and snapped photos of seemingly healthy non-disabled folks
does \"blonde\" constitute a legal disability? (Steve Russell photo)
jumping in and out of their “disabled permit” cars.

Hoopla.

Fact is, all drivers deserve disabled parking permits
, in the ALLDERBLOB world. Why make special dispensation for some, like the guy with the “back problem” that “flares up from time to time,” or the lady with arthritis that makes walking “nearly impossible” on certain days (depending on the weather).

Give them all disabled permits, we say. They deserve the very best their money can buy. Why discriminate. For many of them, the need for an “assisted mobility device” is all in their head. And as Margaret Wente has made clear, Morbidly obese people deserve our help, not our scorn“Just because I’m obese doesn’t mean I’m not disabled, too.”

Anyone who drives a car is by definition “disabled.” Why discriminate among them?

Would this create a lawless mayhem on the roads? Here’s another idea.

Create a disabled permit lottery.
Instead of 470,000 permits issued at a whim, issue, let’s say, 362 permits, and set up a waiting list, which people would pay to register for on a yearly basis. Cap the waiting list at 500 names itself, and hold a yearly lottery for the places that come available on the list if people die or drop off of their own accord. You wouldn’t have to charge too much money to be on the waiting list–maybe $100 for the first year, and $30 a year thenceforth. This would generate enough to pay for the bureaucracy required to administer the thing.

What? Can’t be done? Wouldn’t be fair?

Well it’s the exact same approach that’s been taken to get a place on the car-free Toronto Islands residential community.

Question: why are drivers pandered to, regardless of their infirmity, while non-drivers are treated like shite, regardless of their state of good health?

Schadenfreude? Epicharikaky? Who’s laughing now?

GM Suicide Watch

Friday, February 9th, 2007

What’s up with GM, that genetically-modified car company, these days?

ALLDERBLOB readers want to know.

Sadly, it continues its decline. Described recently in the major news media and car advertisers as being “close to bankruptcy” and “about to be overtaken by Toyota” as the world’s largest assisted mobility machine maker (a.k.a. the automobile), GM just gave astute watchers of the industry a warning sign: it’s contemplating suicide.

Suicide prevention group cries foul over GM Super Bowl ad

AP

A Super Bowl ad showing a quality-obsessed General Motors Corp. robot jumping off a bridge in a dream sequence after screwing up on the job is drawing criticism from a suicide prevention group.

But the world’s largest auto maker is defending the ad and says it has no plans to change the spot, which is making the rounds online and is featured on GM’s website after making its broadcast debut during Sunday’s big game.

The ad, called “Robot,” opens with the machine in question dropping a screw while working on a GM assembly line. It’s kicked out of the plant and finds work waving a “Condos for Sale” sign and holding up a speaker at a fast-food joint, all the while appearing saddened by watching shiny, new GM vehicles drive by.

As the Eric Carmen song All By Myself plays in the background, the despondent robot leaps off a bridge into the water below, only to wake up inside the darkened factory — waking up from its dream.

The New York-based American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says it started getting complaints the day after the ad aired and as of yesterday had fielded more than 250 e-mails or calls. It wants GM to pull the ad from its website, try to get it off video-sharing websites such as YouTube, and apologize.

“It was inappropriate to use depression and suicide as a way to sell cars,” said Robert Gebbia, the foundation’s executive director.

GM says the robot ad was designed to show the company’s obsession with quality. GM (NYSE) rose 10 cents (U.S.) to $33.80.

Sadly, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has missed the boat on this one. What it ought to be concerned with is making sure all the employees at GM have good access to psychiatric care. It ought to be calling GM Chair Rick Wagoner’s family and friends and asking them about suspicious signs: has Rick been acting out of character lately? Has Kirk Kerkorian recently sold all his stock in the ailing company?

GM’s antisocial joke about a suicidal robot is a symptom for a sickness at the heart of the giant corporation. It’s only a matter of time….

“Quickly, quickly!” (welcome to Shanghai)

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

The words that greeted the road-weary Canadians as we sluffed from our sleeper car and pulled our bags with us into the corridor at Shanghai station were urgent: they meant get a move on! and from that point to this it’s been the same.

We notice cabs (invariably VW jettas, by the way, in case anyone feels a Pong coming on) drive through intersections with an elbow on the horn button. Does that help pedestrians and cyclists to get out of the way? We doubt it. They drift along at their own pace regardless. The surprising thing is no one has been hurt–at least not by our drivers.

Advertising is everywhere. What is Communism? The hall where the Chinese Communist Party was formed is now a KFC.

Our colleague and mentor, the well-known urban designer Simon Yue, took us to see the lights, night after night. Thirty floors up is his office, with a night view that would make your Superman comic look outdated. Jar-el, Sit down!

From here we have a 25-hr train ride to Hong Kong. No doubt it will seem like a trip to the country after this place.

Gil Penalosa: “Ready, Shoot, Aim!”

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

Readers of the ALLDERBLOB will remember Guillermo Penalosa from our description of the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation launch in the weeks before the recent municipal election.

Gil (as he is known to his friends) stumbled through a doughy Powerpoint presentation on that day, but in his response to questions that followed showed himself to be equal to his more famous brother in the “shoot from the hip” rhetoric department. We were impressed.

We were also impressed with Gil’s response this past fall to a Sept. 30 editorial in the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser. This editorial, itself a response to a study analyzing the elevated highway that moves motorized vehicles past the downtown lakefront, panned the option that would call for tearing down the Gardiner: “Keep the Gardiner until transit better,” it opined.

Now, the Star and Car Advertiser has never been one for subtlety. Its editorial position is always in line with the urgings of its main advertisers, the automobile industry. Bikelanes are bad, Case Ootes is good. That about sums up the “ad”itorial stance of the nation’s largest newspaper and car advertiser.

Not for nothing does the newspaper offer its readers two whole sections devoted to “Wheels” every week [by which it means “motors,” because you’ll never see an ad for anything without one in those pages –ed.]. If the ALLDERBLOB paid for two whole sections every weekend, you can be sure the editorial stance of the paper would fall in line pretty durn quick. You can be sure the current foolishness, the “ASK WHY” exhortations that replace actual thought in the newspaper, would be ditched in a hurry too (not just that the whole campaign was lifted from a crooked U.S. corporation, although that’s bad enough; what’s worse is the hypocrisy of it: the lipservice paid to “the importance of asking questions” against the cynical fact of “same-old, same-old” that replaces real thought at the newspaper) [but we digress –ed.].

Nonetheless, progressive thinking and reporting occasionally slips through the cracks at the Star and Car Advertiser and at the other big “news and car advertisers” that keep us informed.

Such was the case with Gil Penalosa’s letter to the editor that followed the Sept. 30 editorial. He wrote:

A way to create a better city
Oct. 2, 2006. 01:00 AM

“Keep the Gardiner until transit better” Editorial, Sept. 30.

What is “better?” How much “better” does it have to get? Taking down the Gardiner is not just about traffic, it is about developing a great waterfront. It is about eliminating man-made barriers to link the city and, most importantly, it is about making a bold statement that the government and the people of Toronto are willing to take the necessary steps to create a world-class city. It is about the Toronto that we want to have in 50 or 100 years.

As for the traffic, well, congestion is transit’s best friend. The more congestion there is, the more pressure that will be put on governments to invest substantially more resources in improving transit systems. Congestion is also the best “driving force” to get people out of their cars and use other modes of transportation. As an example, in the last 30 years, Vancouver has not allowed any highway to be built through its city and is recognized for having the best
quality of life amongst big Canadian cities. It all goes together.

If we were to wait “until transit is better,” a one-dimensional approach to the issue, nothing will ever happen. It will never be “better enough.” Actually, taking down the Gardiner might be the best pretext to unite forces around the common goal to develop the best possible transit system along with proper facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

It’s not about the Gardiner; it is about a healthier and happier way of life. It’s not about better transit; it’s about creating a better city.

Gil Penalosa, President,
Walk & Bike for Life, Oakville

As we said, we like Gil Penalosa. What we don’t get is how he manages to reconcile his day job, working in the “Planning the City of the 21st Century” department in the city of Mississauga, with his clear and forceful ideals about cities designed with the happiness of children in mind.

Because from what we can see, Mississauga is designed for the “happiness” of a crotchety old woman first and foremost: Mayor-for-life Hazel McCallion. You say you want bikelanes, Gil? You think taking down a highway is the first step in forcing change in our transportation habits? We wonder what file the boss is going to reserve for your brilliant ideas.

Hazel McCallion, who was just re-elected to mayor in Mississauga by a plurality the envy of any Soviet totalitarian, has made as her first public statement a proclamation against bikelanes: ”When the roads were established in Mississauga, they were not established on the basis of bicycle lanes. The roads were built for cars and trucks,” she is quoted as saying in a National Post and Car Advertiser article.

Cars and trucks, that is, and also dinosaurs like McCallion.

The Mississauga mayor was responding to a 400-name petition asking for new bikelanes on existing streets in the city. According to the article, “Ms. McCallion said the petition to add bicycle lanes will be given its due consideration, but no traffic lanes will be lost to include cycling commuters.

”It’s a pretty expensive thing to do just to find out if it works or not,” she said.

Gil, any thoughts?

Wednesday’s Globe and Mail and Car Advertiser had an article about Penalosa. By Anthony Reinhart, it examines Gil’s background as commissioner of parks, sports and recreation for Bogota Colombia (pop. 7 million) and describes his modus operandi as “Ready, shoot, aim!”

Let’s revisit McCallion’s comment above: describing the replacement of a lane of motorized traffic with two bikelanes on either side of a main road, she says ‘It’s a pretty expensive thing to do just to find out if it works or not.”

Reinhart’s Globe and Car Advertiser story on Penalosa hints at the conflicts faced by anyone not prepared to toe the McCallion line.

It also hints at a threat to the “tiny totalitarian mayor:”

For now, all he can do is advise, but Mr. Penalosa knows what he would do if he were in charge.

“It has to be ready, shoot, aim,” he says. “Too many keep aiming and they never take shots, and you have to be willing to take the shots.”

We expect to hear more of Gil Penalosa. We just don’t expect it to be in the context of a planning job in Mississauga.

When a cyclist is killed in Jane Pitfield’s ward, does it make a sound?

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

The Toronto Star had this dry little note the other day:

Cyclist killed by collision with cement truck

Sep. 12, 2006. 02:04 AM
LINDA NGUYEN
STAFF REPORTER

A 47-year-old male cyclist is dead after being hit by a cement truck in the city’s north-end Monday afternoon.

The man, whose identity is not being released, was riding his bicycle west in the curb lane of Eglinton Ave. E. near Leslie St. when he was hit by the cement truck going in the same direction around 4:30 p.m., Toronto police said.

The man was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries where he later died, police said.

Toronto Traffic Services is investigating the scene and no other details have been released at this time.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-1900 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS

We find ourselves wondering, what is it to “collide” with a cement mixer? It must be a little like colliding with the earth itself, after a long fall. We can only hope that for the cyclist, who for the time being remains nameless except to the investigating officers and to his family, it was as brief a moment of pain as possible. The story says he “succumbed to his injuries” in the hospital; it is to be hoped that in the meantime he never regained consciousness, or if he did, the shock of his experience prevented his feeling any pain.

Sadly, the pain of those who remain behind is not so easy to erase, much as it is to be wished away. We are reminded of the driver of the garbage truck who, carrying about his appointed rounds in the west end of the city a little over a year ago, drove westward into the sun and into the path of a child riding home after visiting a friend’s house.

They say he had to be literally dragged from the site at 11 pm the next night by his family. They say he was in the hospital on a suicide watch. The plot thickens with the fact that he’s a new father, with an infant son.

It cannot be easy to forget when one’s actions are directly responsible for the death of another human being. It is not for no reason we have a crime called “manslaughter.”

We hope the driver on Eglinton Ave. has resources for the help he or she will need.

We hope the family of the cyclist has resources for the help they will need.

But we know one thing. We know that cyclists have resources for the help they need. If we work together we can see to it that the dangerous conditions we experience every single time we take to the streets are ameliorated. We know that, as surely as we know the location of this crash, on Eglinton at Leslie, is within the boundaries of Toronto City Councillor Jane Pitfield‘s ward. We know this as surely as we know that Pitfield is the lone aspirant for the office of mayor in this fall’s election given any hope of victory against incumbent Mayor David Miller.

We have seen and heard both these two candidates pay lipservice to the needs of bicycle safety. We have seen them on their own steeds, participating in the annual “ride for pancakes” that that converges at city hall at the start of bikeweek.

Now is the chance for them to show they can bike the bike, not just talk the talk.

For this death, like the two cyclist deaths that happened on the same day earlier this year, ought not to have happened. It was, in the words of our man Blobby, “Eminently preventable.”

We gather from the information available that the collision happened when the cement mixer engulfed the cyclist in its undercarriage, from the side. We gather that once again (this is the third cyclist killed in Toronto this year, the third by large truck, the third in which a side swipe and swallowing by the void under the truck’s wheels was death’s delivery method), once again the cyclist in question would be alive still if the trucking industry had been brought into line by legislation mandating “sideguards on large trucks,” as “recommended” so many god damned years ago by the Toronto regional coroner, Dr W.J. Lucas.

Our friends in the cycling community will gather to mourn the loss of a fellow cyclist for the third time this year. Please turn to the webpage of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists for specific information, but the memorial is to take place at the place the cyclist was killed, seven days after the crash that took his life.

Bring flowers. Bring anger. Bring resolve.

ALLDERB ROBBED!

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

The sickening cry “I wuz robbed!” never rang to hollow to our ears as yesterday, when we returned home shortly after the delivery of the day’s junk mail by a guy with a backpack bulging, they say, with a set of bolt-cutters and a junk habit that’s increasingly hard to provide for, to discover the missing link: ours, that is; to the job; the supermarche [oy! the sophisticate strikes again! –ed.]; the weekend’s fatherly duties; the Only cafe; and miles and miles of just plain fun.

Pause. Drum roll.

The folding vehicle was stolen from where it had been cable-locked, out front chez Allderblob.

stolen bike alert--1

What a crashing bore.

We call the police to report the crime, we do the usual duties including a visit to the Cycling Cob’s vehicle theft report centre.

And today, when the junk mail delivery guy walks around our front door where we stand, puttying the storm windows (as if we have anything to fear from winter, ever again), we take a closer look at his pockmarked face, his bulging backpack, his shaking, slack-veined arms. He averts his gaze, and skips our house.

Do we feel anger?

Nah.

What we feel is stupid.

Cable lock? Come on.

Yeah, the vehicle cost us a penny or two, and we will be scraping somewhat for its replacement. But the junk mail junkie probably needed it more. Or if not him, someone else. Someone, somewhere, is happy on a deep-blue coloured Venture folder with 20-inch wheels, aluminum fenders and a miniature orange kryptonite U-lock stapled to the back carrier (unless the perp happens to have a bic pen handy…).

stolen folder-2

You know, we have other vehicles. We have two at the front door, and another in Castle Allderblob, and one more down cellar. We are lousy with vehicles around here. And what if we had to buy another vehicle? Hell, we could do it. We could do it a hundred times over and not pay the price of that midrange automobile we saw advertised in EYE weekly today.

Photos are clipped from shots by Vic Gedris

Terror Attacks planned for Toronto? Get Real. breaking news dept.

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006

[NOTE: THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED FOR CLARITY: WE SUPPORT THE INSTALLATION OF BIKELANES ON TORONTO’S WELLESLEY STREET. SEE BELOW FOR THE EVER-HANDY JANE JACOBS QUOTE THAT WILL SWAY EVEN CASE OOTES, AT HIS HOME ON A CAR-FREE RAVINE CUL-DE-SAC, TO OUR SIDE OF THE ARGUMENT –ed.]

Wellesley street in Toronto runs from the University of Toronto at the west, passes Queen’s Park behind the Provincial Parliament, and continues east, crossing Bay Street with its cluster of Ontario government office buildings, the busy commercial Yonge Street, Church Street (home of the “steps,” nexus of Toronto’s Gay village), Sherbourne (with its new Police headquarters/community centre), and on to Parliament Ave. Between Sherbourne and Parliament it passes St Jamestown, a forest of highrise residential buildings that erupted from the plain back in the heyday of heroic modernism. St Jamestown is said to be one of the densest residential developments in Canada.

At Parliament the road withers as it enters the pretty residential neighbourhood of Cabbagetown, but it does continue. It only ends about two blocks farther on, at the entrance to a park on the edge of the Don Valley.

If you’re on a bicycle though, Wellesley street doesn’t stop. It becomes a little sidewalk fronting some houses: a real model for carfree living in the city. You can ride through the park and take a gravel trail that descends to the valley floor. This extension of Wellesley street was historically a main crossing point of the Don Valley; from here you would ford the river and carry on to the other side. Historically, Wellesley Street became “Don Mills Road” at the centre of the river.

Nowadays, of course, on your bike you would hit the Rosedale Valley road and the Bayview extension, two heavily traveled car routes, and would not be invited to cross the river: not by fording, canoeing, wading, or otherwise. [Best to stay out of the Don River in any case, unless you relish the thought of a third arm sprouting from your midsection (genetic mutations, you know) –ed.].

But Wellesley Street is under attack.

What is the target? The university? Queen’s Park? The goverment buildings at Bay? The “Steps” on Church? The new Police station? St Jamestown?

Nah. It’s the road itself. It’s four lanes wide, and is slated for bikelanes each way.

And who is the perpetrator? Religious fundamentalists? Right wing zealots? “Homegrown” terrorists?

Wrong on all counts. The folks who are moving on Wellesley are cyclists, angry about the delay in implementing Toronto’s bike plan.

happy bikelane riders, waving their cheerful little arms

So what are the weapons? Bombs? Chemical fertilizer? Three tons of amonium Nitrate? Grenades?

Actually, none of the above. It’s petitions.

Seems the city councillors responsible for Wellesley Street, Kyle Rae and Pam McConnell, have not been paying attention. The street was repaved from Yonge to Sherbourne last year, and the stretch restriped without bikelanes. Now it’s about to be repaved again, this time between Yonge and Bay.

But the street is under attack, by cyclists wielding petitions, determined to get bikelanes included this time. It’s on the bikeplan already. What’s the controversy?

There isn’t anything to argue about. Paint the bikelanes.

Unless you drive a car there. Car drivers on Wellesley are having the usual terror attacks over this one. But they’ll be happier with the smoother flow of traffic that a bikelane always brings with it. In the immortal words of Jane Jacobs, you can have “erosion of cities by automobiles or attrition of cars by cities.” The choice for bikelanes is a choice for overcoming car dependency in Toronto.

A group of us rode the length and breadth of Wellesley yesterday, in an official “Toronto BikeWeek event.” We rang our little chimes, most of us in full religious headgear [bike helmets that is –ed.], and were greeted with cheers from all. We even chalked some slogans and icons: “Bikelane” we wrote, and made drawings of diamonds, bikes, and chalked lines about five feet from the curb. We waved the petition at startled passers-by, and got honks of support from many passing cars.

It really is a no-brainer.

Contact arezosk at toronto.ca, to sign the petition or show your support. Contact Kyle Rae councillor_rae at toronto.ca and Pam McConnell councillor_mcconnel at toronto.ca, to tell them you’re a cyclist and you ride Wellesley.

What kind of monster would drive that car?

Saturday, April 15th, 2006

It’s been suggested to the ALLDERBLOB that we accept cash in exchange for running a small advertisement or two. This does not seem like such a bad idea. We have long envied the incomes of those “artists without anything to say” whose toil is so richly rewarded. Seeing as how it’s coming on Easter, that most holy of times in the car-dealership patch, we’ve been wondering about the ad running in “Canada’s Car Advertiser of Record” that features a Frankenstein-type monster with the keys to his new monster truck.

what kind of car would frankenstein drive?

What kind of monster drives that car, we’ve frequently asked ourselves, and the Globe and Mail would answer that question we guess.

What kind of car did Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka drive when they lured their victims to their ultimate death, for example?

We think it’s worth asking, and have designed an ad to put the question:

what kind of car would the bride of frankenstein drive?

On April 16, 1992, the couple drove into a church parking lot. Homolka stepped out of the car with a map pretending to be lost and asking for help from 15-year-old Kristen French. Bernardo approached her from behind and used a knife to force French into the back seat of the car. A piece of the map, one of French’s shoes and some of her hair were all later found at the crime scene. They brought French to their home where for several days they sexually assaulted, abused, and tortured her. They killed French just before going to Easter Sunday dinner at Homolka’s parents’ home. On April 30, her body was found in a ditch in the city of Burlington, Ontario.

How easy was that? Now, when does the money start rolling in?

MASS MURDER: 8 MEN’S BODIES FOUND IN CARS

Monday, April 10th, 2006

Nobody ever accused the ALLDERBLOB of originality. In fact, like most cyclists, we are lazy. Like most cyclists, we would rather ride to a restaurant than drive to a gym. Like most cyclists, we can’s see the point of working an extra four months each year just to earn enough money to afford a car. We would rather sit in cafes reading the newspaper. We mumble to the point of incoherence. We copy and paste whenever possible.

We read in The Toronto Star on Sunday the headline above. What immediately sprang to mind was a “Victims of the Automobile” post.

Being lazy, it’s taken a day to put up the post.

Being lazy, it’s more than we can bother with to make up our own headline.

Maybe by next week we’ll get around to an update on what’s being called the “worst mass murder in Ontario’s history.” Unless the paper wises up to the daily carnage [pun intended? –ed.] on our roads between then and now, in which case we’ll be all over the news.

Fools, it’s April

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

“Recognizing the tremendous cost of the auto-dependent lifestyle, the author Philip Langdon has proposed a new national holiday, “Automobile Independence Day.” It would take place on that date each year by which we have earned one quarter of our salaries, the amount that it takes to support our cars. How appropriate that it is April Fool’s Day.”

–Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, in Suburban Nation, New York 2001