apology not accepted

I love it when well-meaning folks explain why it is they need a car.

The other day in the Toronto Globe and Mail, for example, Jeff Gray printed in his regular column some reader feedback on “why I need an SUV.” The one Gray liked the best was “because it’s my right to own one. To hell with the environment. That’s someone else’s problem.” There were other excuses, but at base, they all amount to the above.

And not too long ago, Roy McGregor in the same paper wrote in his column apologetically about how nice it is to go for a long drive in the fresh spring air; that it’s the only way to really appreciate nature or something.

My favourite of all time is the guy I know who helped organize the city of Toronto’s CarFree day a couple years back. At the time he was driving a fusty old SUV, “because I need to tote my kid’s hockey equipment around.” This is the guy who wants to tell other people to not drive their cars?

Speaking of CarFree day, here’s another example: the guy who’s been working (with the Sierra Club) on the Toronto Carfree day this year, Mike Noble, is a member of the Canadian Automobile Association (according to Jeff Gray again).

The latest example of people making excuses for having cars is Antonia Zerbisias, in her new “blog.” I put the word in quotes because it’s my impression that the nature of blogging is that one is free to express oneself, but in her case, as she acknowledges, she’s still a writer for the Toronto Star. Her pieces are edited, “if only minimally,” and as she puts it “the suits are watching nervously.”

This, for her, explains why she needs a car.

Or, more specifically, two trucks: they appear in the banner advertisement above her head on page one. As she puts it, “But as it says at the bottom of this page, the Star has the copyright. I am but a wage slave and therefore must put up with those trucks above my head.”

Yeah, right.

I’ll be interested to see if Zerbisias is ever able to write objectively about car culture in her blog.

PS: attached below is a letter to the editor of NOW magazine that pertains to this discussion:

NOW magazine

February 7, 2005

To the Editor:

Re: “Car-free crash” by Mike Smith (Feb. 3-9, 2005)

Smith’s analogy of the car driver’s split personality was expressed
most forcefully by the Australian street reclaiming “king” David
Engicht, who rolled his throne through Kensington Market and a city
hall presentation back in 1999. As I recall, Engwicht saw a potential
“road hog” in everyone, coupled just as surely with a potential
car-hater. His theory was this split is as old as the split between
our nomadic, hunting ancestor and our agrarian, seed-hoarding one.

Smith does a good job identifying the locus of this split in
councillor Jane Pitfield, and even the Canadian Automobile Association
(CAA) (you have to love their concern that a car free event could
“increase pollution.” Is it a coincidence this line finds itself in
Councillor Case Ootes’s book of lies about bike lanes?).

But the split I want to talk about is the double-life of Sierra Club’s
Michael Noble and Toronto Environmental Alliance’s Gord Perks.

Noble, the Sierra Club car free day coordinator, was fingered in Jeff
Gray’s “Dr Gridlock” column (Globe and Mail, Jan 31 2005), as a CAA
member. In the same column, Perks ‘fessed up about his wife’s

Could it be that membership in such a rabidly pro-car group as the CAA
compromises, to say the least, a person’s attempt to fight the
hegemony of car culture? How can you be pro-car-free one day when the
next you’re writing a cheque for your CAA membership? How can you deny
it when CAA spokesperson Faye Lyons claims she’s speaking for you? You
just paid her, after all.

I’m not calling for an inquisition, but CAA members with a conscience
need to find a less noxious group to guarantee them cheap hotels and
towing services.

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