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”
(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.