Archive for the ‘Victims of the Automobile’ Category

Did Car Ad Kill? redux

Friday, June 1st, 2007

Wheels of Justice Dept.

Remember when we posed this question?:

Allderblob readers want answers: Does car pornography in the daily papers link to the daily abuse wrought by cars? If car ads were stopped, would people stop killing with cars?

It was January 2006, and our question was far from hypothetical. In fact, it was in a post entitled “Did Car Ad Kill,” and it was in response to the Toronto Sun and Car Advertiser’s front page story (note the car ad at the bottom of the front page: can you say “cognitive dissonance?”):

DID CAR AD KILL (Toronto Sun cover, Jan 26 06)

You may remember that day: a shocking story, as these stories go: it featured two high school students, Wing-Piao Dumani Ross and Alexander Ryazanov, kids whose parents happened to have made the lapse of judgement of handing over the keys to the family Merde-cedes Benzes that day. The two chums, driving their parents’ cars up Mt. Pleasant Rd. in Toronto, felt the need to “hurry home.” Milk and cookies anyone? Or no, perhaps not. Perhaps it was to play the car-racing video game, “Need for Speed,” that was later found in the front passenger seat of the one of the cars.

Lucky for them, Mt. Pleasant is one of those suburban-style arterials that 1950s planners carved through Toronto, and allowed plenty of room to reach speeds, they say, of 140 km/hour (that’s the equivalent of 7 million pounds per square foot, for our American readers).

Of course speed was not the issue, in itself [it never is –ed.]. The issue was the fact that some poor schlemiel driving a cab, guy by the name of Tahir Khan, happened to be on some mission of his own at the time–not least, en route to what would have been his Canadian citizenship ceremony the next day–and got in the way of the speeding teens.

Boys will be boys, of course. At least that’s how the judge saw it: Khan is dead, but why dwell on the past? Khan won’t be driving anymore, but does that mean no one should?

Ross and Ryazanov, both now 20, who pleaded guilty to “dangerous driving causing death,” were released to the care of their dear old mums. Now, “dangerous driving causing death” is a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. But as for Ross and Ryazanoff, well, they had pretty good lawyers. Perhaps being out of their tony prep school ($35 grand/year) for the trial freed up some cash. In any case, their punishment is they’re not to leave mom and dad’s for twelve months. Except to work and attend university, that is. Ouch! What a bore!

Oh, and after that there’s a year of curfew. “Garsh, Mary-Lou, I’d like to go to the hop with you, I really would. But there’s the small matter of how I killed this guy–it don’t mean nothin’, really, ceptin’ as how I gotta be home by ‘leven. But we’ll still have Facebook! Give me a dingle, promise?”

What they’ll still have is the “Need for Speed” (the video game that is). They’re prohibited from driving their parents’ real cars (or any others) for four years, but they say video graphics are getting better all the time–they say most folks imagine they’re in a video game as they drive anyway. Practice makes perfect!

In a just world, the two youngsters would have been sentenced to visit Pakistan, where they could have paid condolences to the family of Mr. Khan. The judge would have seen the connection between the driving and the death, and sentenced the youth to not four years of driving abstinence, but a lifetime of it [You say that like it’s a bad thing –ed.].

Of course, the media is all over this one. Not the Sun and Car Advertiser, bless them, they learned from their last mistake and haven’t covered the story at all. But the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser? Lordy.

Get a load of the editorial they wrote today: “Shocking leniency for street racers,” they cry. They go on:

Society has a strong interest in deterring drivers from recklessly endangering the lives of others on the road.

We would have liked to have read on, we really would, but you know, there was a car advertisement [isn’t there always? –ed.] that kept falling out of the paper and distracting us. At four full pages, it was awkward to keep pushing it back in place, and its capital letters shouted at us in a disturbing way: “ARE YOU READY TO MAKE WAY FOR A WHOLE NEW DRIVING EXPERIENCE TORONTO?”

Four pages, all saying the same thing: “Make way.”

Kind of bad timing, all things considered. And the irony was, it was an ad for Ford, not Merdecedes Benz! Hey, who’s gotta make way for whom around here?

Hmm, we found ourselves thinking. What a dilemma. More lipservice from the editorial board? Or more “anything goes to sell a car” from the inner reality of the newspaper?

Luckily, we found the comics page instead [Seems there’s always a third way, with you –ed.].

“I feel lucky:” Driven to Quit campaign rebranded: Quittin’ to Drive

Friday, May 4th, 2007

Phrase discovered May 4, 2007:

Earlier this year, the Canadian Cancer Society brought back its nutbar “Driven to Quit” campaign, which offered smokers who quit for the month of March the chance to win a new car. We blobbed about it with our usual aplomb. Result? If it’s “driven to quit” smoking that describes you, it’s “Quitten’ to Drive” that the Cancer Society would make you. Good luck!

Globe and Mail and Car Advertiser, page A-1: “World has fifteen year window to curb emissions.”

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Toronto Globe and Mail and Car Advertiser, page A-1: “World has 15-year window to curb emissions, experts say”

A respected panel of scientists organized by the UN says the world probably has only 15 years left to stabilize the growth in greenhouse-gas emissions and, at that point, will have to cut releases in half by 2050 to avoid extremely damaging warming of the planet.

Next column over, under an image of an old beater with the top down, read how you can skip to the thirty-page “Globe Auto” section for Jeremy Cato’s in-depth story on a different window that’s now closed: “Fifty years after the Ford Skyliner convertible flopped, retractable hardtops are headed back on the road.

This summer, with climate change coming on strong, cool it: flip your lid! The convertible is back–and it’s not your grandad’s ragtop. Concerned about crash safety? Relax–in “weird” weather or for the daily commute, just drive one of your two other cars.

Or is it the story about schizophrenia, just below these two, that you really should be reading? There, Glob science reporter Andre Picard writes about the groundbreaking research of Toronto neuroscience researcher Dr. John Roder:

The article, “Behavioral phenotypes of Disc1 missense mutations in mice,” demonstrates for the first time that a malfunctioning gene can cause the disorder. Further, it offers a tantalizing clue that the big three psychiatric disorders – depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia General Motors, Ford and Chrysler – may have the same underlying genetic cause.

[Hey–what about Toyota? –ed.].

Toronto Star and Car Advertiser says: “No relief for high gas prices”

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

The headline reads: “No relief” but to the polar bears (and the human race) it’s small relief only. Fact is, gas prices, which purchase the equivalent of many hundreds of man-hours per Canadian dollar, are much too low.

Can you say “Slave labour?” Sure you can.

We live in a false paradise and we are burning up our capital. When will we learn to live within our means, and see our situation for what it is? My guess is: never. How selfish. How hypocritical. And the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser is among the worst, with its pathetic grovelling to the automobile industry. Only when ban car ads outright will we have a semblance of accurate reporting of the crisis we face as a species.

Cranston Thurwell III

[Editor’s note: Introducing Cranston Thurwell III, a well-connected Toronto citizen, who has agreed to bare all (except his true identity) as a replacement for our former urban design consultant. You will have seen Thurwell’s work previously here, and perhaps elsewhere. We look forward to your comments, provided they are favourable, etc.].

Lancet medical journal: cars worse than heroin?

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Breaking news dept:

The Toronto Star and Car Advertiser today reported on a new study out of Great Britain. Originally published in the Lancet medical journal (free registration required), the study analyzes a variety of drugs (legal and illegal) and suggests:

…a new system for assessing the potential harms of individual drugs on the basis of fact and scientific knowledge. This system is able to respond to evolving evidence about the potential harm of current drugs and to rank the threat presented by any new street drug.

There are three main factors that together determine the harm associated with any drug of potential abuse: the physical harm to the individual user caused by the drug; the tendency of the drug to induce dependence; and the effect of drug use on families, communities, and society.

Based on these three factors, the study suggests a reassessment of commonly-held beliefs about the dangers posed by different drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, heroin, ecstacy and LSD. In particular, whereas the latter three drugs are usually lumped together at the top of any list of “most dangerous substances” by enforcement officials, this study says when all is considered, yes, heroin is the most damaging. But given “the physical harm to the individual user caused by the drug; the tendency of the drug to induce dependence; and the effect of drug use on families, communities, and society,” booze is far more dangerous than LSD, and tobacco far more dangerous than marijuana. Ecstasy barely makes the cut, coming in just ahead of the drug khat.

Immediately, a critical question arises. No, not about peyote, although it’s not on the list. And no, not magic mushrooms, which are legal in many parts of the world. Coffee? Please don’t talk to us about coffee.

No, dear reader, there is one substance that should be analyzed with this new lens, a substance so common in “polite society” it often goes unnoticed and unconsidered. A substance upon which a significant minority of “upstanding citizens” of most industrial countries are completely dependent and which kills and hospitalizes hundreds of thousands around the world every year. A substance which has torn apart countless families and destroyed communities throughout both the developed and the developing world (in the name of the “Modern Project“): a substance, moreover, which is allowed free play in our media through advertising (much of it aimed at children) to earn money for its manufacturers and “pushers.”

The question is, where does the automobile fit in? Where does the automobile fall on the chart of dangerous substances?

We know where we would place it. In reality, it forms the fabric upon which all the other dangerous substances play their hand. The chart itself is “auto-space.” Heroin, sit down.

The Lancet chart: we take it the “white area” represents the danger presented by the automobile?

click image for full view

Sleep-driving again? This explains a lot.

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Here at the ALLDERBLOB we keep an eye out for news of the impending autocalypse Down, Fido! Down! at all times. It is perhaps no coincidence that our lobsight is constantly muddied by the crap spun up from the wheels in front of us. Especially lately, with spring in Toronto and a lot of melting on the roads, we have been inundated with spam messages offering access to a cornucopia of delights. Tramadol? Get it here. Tranny doll? Get it here. Etcetera.

Not surprisingly, we have recently upgraded our spam filter (Hello, Akismet!). We will miss those uninvited offers of cheap Ambien. Not.

But Ambien will not miss us, we are sure. After all, it’s this little sleeping pill, along with 12 other “prescription sedative-hypnotic medications approved to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders” that has been in the news lately. Apparently they are to blame for a rash of incidents where folks go to bed after taking the medication, only to find themselves behind the wheel of their car, jolted awake after some terrible crash. How many of them don’t wake up? And how many of them manage a “round trip,” after who knows what dastardly “hit and run” event?

Fact is, we can’t escape the tyranny of “Auto-space” [no, not that auto-space. This auto-space. –ed.]. To exist in the world is to struggle with the car at every turn.

In our very first post here at the ALLDERBLOB, we reported on the significance of the 20% of drivers who “admit” falling asleep at the wheel. Now it seems we need to worry about drivers who fall asleep in bed, too.

What’s the solution? Outlaw sleeping? We don’t think so. Outlaw driving? You’re getting warmer. Sue the bastids? Hot indeed.

We at the ALLDERBLOB say only that it’s past time to expand the car-free zones of the city.
We have appeased the non-smokers. What about the non-drivers? Andy Singer CARtoon

And of course, it’s past time to ban car advertising in all its forms.

We were alerted to the issue by our own local paper, the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, which issued this dry little note on the business pages shortly before ALLDERBOB day this year. We leave you with the full text of the article, to ponder at your leisure:

U.S. sounds alarm on sleeping pills

Mar 15, 2007
Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON–Popular sleep drugs such as Ambien and Lunesta can cause odd and potentially dangerous behaviours such as driving while asleep as well as severe allergic reactions that warrant stronger warnings, U.S. health officials said yesterday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for the new cautions on 13 prescription sedative-hypnotic medications approved to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders, but said its concerns were not serious enough to withdraw the drugs.

Many of the drugs can be used safely, said Dr. Steven Galson, head of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, but data collected since their approval raised concerns.

“After reviewing the available post-marketing adverse event information for these products, FDA concluded that labelling changes are necessary to inform health-care providers and consumers about risks,” he said.

Those risks include doing various activities such as driving while asleep – so-called “sleep driving” – without any recollection afterward, the FDA said. Patients taking the drugs were also found to make phone calls, have sex, eat and cook while asleep.

Severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis and severe facial swelling called angioedema can also occur, even with the first dose.

The warnings target Sepracor Inc.’s Lunesta and Sanofi-Aventis’s Ambien as well as drugs made by Abbott Laboratories, Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. and Tyco International Ltd.’s Tyco Healthcare, the agency said.

Both Lunesta and Ambien are available in Canada.

Health Canada’s website has only posted one advisory or warning for a sleep drug in the past two years. That advisory, posted Feb. 23, was for Sleepees, a herbal sleeping pill, which Health Canada warned can be habit-forming and cause confusion and memory loss. Sleepees isn’t legally sold in Canada.

Dr. Russell Katz, of FDA’s neurology division, told reporters he could not say how many cases of sleep-driving and other side effects had been reported but said they were rare. He added it was likely such incidents were underreported by consumers and doctors.

Researchers say they have noted dozens of dangerous cases of sleepwalking and other behaviour in patients taking such drugs.

Most manufacturers have agreed to place the stronger warnings on their product labels except for one, which Katz declined to identify. The FDA also recommended manufacturers of sleep drugs conduct trials to see how often the risks affect patients taking their particular product.

With files from Josh Wingrove

Toronto Star and Car Advertiser pays lipservice to Ontario obesity crisis

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Breaking News Dept:

Ontario has a diabetes problem. A recent study published in the Lancet, a British medical journal of some note, pointed out that even taking into account the province’s population growth, incidences of diabetes have increased by 70% in ten years.

The Toronto Star and Car Advertiser is outraged. It put out a strongly-worded editorial calling for a jihad against diabetes–and against its co-conspirator, obesity. “Much the way it attacked smoking, Ontario needs to focus public attention on the danger posed by obesity.”

We agree strongly with the Star‘s position, and are glad to hear they will be starting the fight right in their own newspaper–by banning all car ads. After all, it’s cars that cause car dependency, and it’s car dependency that leads to inactivity, drive-thru junk-food stands, obesity and diabetes.

Gardiner closed to traffic: falling ice hazard

Monday, March 5th, 2007

Ice falling from the CNN tower in Toronto has led to the closure of the elevated Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto. This highway, It’s said, carries some 200,000 cars per day.

In times like these one has to wonder: is Mother Nature trying to tell us something?

Manhattan’s elevated West Side highway fell down in 1973.
80,000 cars disappeared!

It carried 80,000 cars per day. The city studied where those cars went and found the city absorbed the loss of infrastructure without significant changes to the rest of the grid. In other words, 80,000 trips a day disappeared (the link is to an interview with “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz, who undertook the studies on behalf of the New York Department of Transportation. Our colleagues over at “Stayfree” e-magazine have transcribed an interview that New York’s Streetsblob put up on its website).

Hope someone’s paying attention to the situation at the gardiner.

Schwartz: One of my first assignments was racing out to the West Side Highway [formerly Miller Highway] when it collapsed; this was an elevated platform that fell to the ground. We were hired to measure the impact on traffic. I put traffic counters all across the avenues and traced the diversion; it went to the FDR Drive and to the West Side avenues. But over time, we didn’t see any increase in traffic: the other avenues absorbed it and we weren’t able to trace it.

Q: So a big highway disappears and the traffic increase on other streets was barely measurable?

Schwartz: Yes, a highway carrying 80,000 vehicles a day collapsed and… nothing. We couldn’t even measure a change in speeds!

Tooker Taken Today in 2004

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

The ALLDERBLOB has learned that our resident Urban Designer, Jacob Allderdice, has been working for the competition. Just when you thought you knew someone…

Following is an unpublished letter to the editor of the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, in response to a slew of lipservice-paying screeds voicing “concern” over the climate-change crisis.

to the Editor:

Much ink has been spilled at your newspaper regarding the climate crisis.

Just around the corner, March 3, marks the third anniversary of the tragic death of Tooker Gomberg: a prophet of global climate change and a man who worked hard to make things better for the planet.

In what is known as “Tooker’s last column,” a piece he wrote for the University of Waterloo’s “Alternatives” planning journal, Gomberg made this radical proposal:

“Ban car ads. New drivers are seduced through slick, expensive and sophisticated advertising campaigns. Car ads should be prohibited because driving is a dangerous activity, killing around 3000 Canadians annually in crashes alone, not including those who lose their lives or are sickened from air pollution. The federal government estimates that every year 16,000 Canadians die prematurely from dirty air. “

What would Gomberg have said about your recent blandishments on climate change, coming as it did on newsprint sullied by advertisements and celebrations of car culture at every turn?

Hypocrites will try to hide behind pretty words, but their actions always betray them. Will the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser ever acknowledge its role in the ongoing disaster humankind is making of its only home? Will it ever take steps to tell car advertisers to “back off?”

Despite their poaching of our talent, we are willing to put a plug in for the Tooker Memorial Bikelane project: Today, Saturday March 3, you can join the gang in a variety of activities including a group howl at the moon
(which is expected to shroud itself in gloom tonight in sympathy with Tooker’s celebrants). At 10 pm you can ride the route starting at St.George and Bloor, “en masse.”

Fretting and Strutting on the Toronto stage

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Here at the ALLDERBLOB, we are always so thrilled when we receive attention. It really is a kind of illness, this need to be noticed. A psycholojism would no doubt have a field day with the ALLDERBLOB. We think we know what they would say, however, so we save our money.

All this is by way of mentioning we got a response to our last post. Our good friend over at Bricoleurbanism [a word you won’t find in your thesaurus by the way–ed.] wrote an impassioned and logical rejection of our modest proposal to limit the number of handicap driving permits to a number equal to that number of spaces made available on the Toronto Island Residential community.

Our response to his response is to demand of our mentor in all matters of urban design, Jacob Allderdice, to reformat his call for a limited number of handicap parking permits. Now stand back and watch him work!

As a non-driver, I have been watching with some amusement the frettings and struttings about the stage by the big actors in the little drama called Toronto’s “disabled parking abuse crisis.”

I mean no disrespect to folks with disabilities, but I actually think there’s a continuum of disabled-ness. I myself have no disabilities, unless you include chronic psoriasis.

Hmm. To tell the truth, psoriasis can be pretty damn disabling. disabling psoriasis Just ask Dennis Potter or John Updike. Just ask Nicholson Baker: “I’m really sad that I can’t ride a bicycle with my kids.”

I may yet be in a wheelchair over it. I may yet merit a goddamned disabled permit. I can spell epicharikaky. Can I spell “irony?”

So this is when it hit me: since it’s so easy to define yourself as “disabled” give anyone with a car an automatic disabled permit.

Fact is, the car is the ultimate “assisted mobility device,” and folks who’ve become dependent on the car should be treated like any other addict: as someone with a disability. It’s not their fault they can’t do anything without their motorized furnaces–cars are a necessary evil, as the saying goes.

I’d love to see what our streets would look like if each driver only looked out for number one.

Wait a minute, that’s how we got into this muddle.

So I had another take on the subject. I got to thinking about the limited spaces available for carfree living in this city. A majority of people don’t drive. How come no one’s talking about designing places where cars are kept out?

Which is when it hit me: let’s divide cities into “disabled” and “non-driving” areas. Half the households in the downtown don’t own or use cars, after all. Why should the petty problems of car drivers have to infect our lives too?

Just consider: “non-driving sectors” with sidewalk cafes where you can hear the birds sing, versus “disabled sectors” where stepping off the curb may be a death sentence; “non-driving sectors” with windows you can throw open to fresh breezes and sweet smells, versus “disabled sectors” where the roar and clank of cars, and the belching of exhaust keeps your windows shut tight; “non-driving sectors” with children playing and wheelchairs wheeling, versus “disabled sectors” with sidewalks empty and teeth gritted?

Which will you choose?