Road Rage

I know most of you reading these digital pages on a regular basis imagine that I always write angry. To be sure, I do often write angry. elevenOften but not always.

Today, indeed, I am angry, really angry, like white fucking hot angry. Pissed was a spot way back there on the angry spectrum, just passed annoyed and miffed. I am 11 on the angry dial.

I live just a block or so from the intersection of Bathurst and College which is currently undergoing streetcar track and stop reconstruction. Since being closed to vehicular traffic a couple weeks ago, our side street has seen a stream of detoured car traffic making its way around the road work. When they’re not speeding crazily through the residential neighbourhood, they’re backed up at times for almost the entire block, annoyed, honking at garbage trucks that are in their way and whatever else they perceive to be blocking their forward motion. Walking down the line of cars, it’s always interesting to note just how many of them are on their hand-held devices. Hey. We’re stopped, aren’t we? Where’s the harm?

The alleys running between streets and behind the houses in the neighbourhood have also seen an uptick in traffic trying to find alternative ways around the slow down. carseverywhereThis has led to standoffs were cars meet, heading in opposite directions on what is decidedly a one lane right of way. You back up. No, you back up. No, you. Cue blaring of horns.

Traffic further south along Dundas Street, a big block south of the construction, heavy under normal driving conditions, is pretty much snarled now especially during what constitutes rush hours. On my regular runs… OK, not so much runs as grinds, like a first time marathoner slogging out those last couple miles… traversing Dundas at a couple points, I regularly encounter bad, egregiously bad, driving behaviour. Rolling stops, throwing out the anchors up on sidewalks and in bike lanes, reckless speeding past parks and schoolyards, the requisite reading phone while driving.

You know, your everyday, run of the mill driver entitlement. As a matter of fact, I do own the road, and the alley, and the sidewalks. caronsidewalkInconvenienced in any way whatsoever, and this sense of sole proprietorship grows even stronger.

Why wouldn’t it, though?

Private vehicle use enjoys the favourite child status in our transportation family. We build our networks around it. We subsidize it to a degree only dreamed of if you take a bus, ride a bike or even walk to get to where you’re going. We tremble in fear of getting car drivers mad at us.

The results of such coddling are predictable.

That’s about 5 weeks. 58 cyclists and 67 pedestrians struck by car drivers. Nearly 12 cyclists a week. More than 13 pedestrians a week. 1 dead pedestrian a week.

And the fallout from that?

What’s even less than sweet fuck all?diein

Unless you’re driving drunk and wipe out an entire family or, maybe, behind the wheel going race course speed or take off from the scene after mowing somebody down, chances are there will be no consequences to bad driving causing death or injury. A few demerit points, perhaps. Insurance rate hike. Occasionally, jail time spent over the course of a few months’ weekends because nobody wants to disrupt your life too, too much. Certainly, sometimes, a ban on driving, for sure. A year or two. Lifetime? Are you kidding me?

All extreme examples. Rarely do we see such penalties imposed even if the driver is at fault, and the driver is usually at fault, 67% of the time in collisions between pedestrians and drivers, according to a Toronto Public Health report, pedestrians have the right of way when they’re struck by a driver in a car. Yeah but… were they wearing bright enough clothes? Were the walking distractedly, looking at their phone? Did they signal their intentions to cross the street?

In an overwhelming majority of these situations, where car meets pedestrian, car meets cyclist, car hits pedestrian, car hits cyclist, the presumed assumption is what did the pedestrian do wrong, what law did the cyclist break? Idistracteddrivingn yesterday’s cyclist death (not registered in the above list), it was initially reported that the cyclist had been cut off and slammed into a parked car and the driver left the scene. Then came news that maybe a 2nd car hadn’t been involved. Then stated outright that the cyclist was at fault, and shouldn’t have been riding in between moving and parked cars. Oops. Correction. Cyclist had right of way after all. Investigation still ongoing.

Many jurisdictions have looked at what’s going on in their streets, examining the data and evidence, and come to the only conclusion they possibly could. The private automobile is anathema to 21st-century cities. It is the most expensive, least efficient way to move people around a region. Cars contribute mightily to greenhouse gas emissions and thus climate change, not to mention a sedentary lifestyle. The faster drivers are allowed to go, the more dangerous their cars become.

The spoiled child has grown out of control and has become a certifiable threat to everybody’s well-being. It’s time to roll back its privileges. crashstatisticsTeach it some lessons in sharing and responsibility.

Here in Toronto, though, we’re only grudgingly facing that cold hard truth. Official protestations to the contrary, the last six years we’ve done our upmost to improve the flow of cars not people. Spending on non-driving infrastructure remains infinitesimally low compared to what we shell out for those in cars. In doing so, we’ve only encouraged drivers’ disregard for other road users, inflated their self-importance.

As I write this, 2 more cyclists and a pedestrian have been hit since about 8:30 this morning by somebody driving a vehicle. Just the cost of doing business in a city that places such an emphasis on private automobiles. You want to stay safe on our streets? Get behind the wheel of a car, the bigger the better. Sure, you still might get hurt or killed but at least you’ve giving yourself a fighting chance to emerge from the wreckage alive.

We know the toll this is taking. We know the costs we are incurring. Worse still, we know how to solve this problem. deathrace2000It’s as simple as summoning the political will, screwing on a little courage and showing some leadership.

But I don’t see any of that anywhere in the places it should be. It’s all just steady as she goes, no need to change course now. Sometimes we have to suck it up and live with acceptable losses. Vision Zero? Absolutely. All in good time.

So yeah, I’m fucking angry.

grrrrringly submitted by Cityslikr

Cars Don’t Kill People

Beware Drivers Of Toronto! Crazed Pedestrians Running Amok! Stepping Distractedly Into Streets Like Zombies! Damaging Cars! Killing Them Only Encourages More Erratic Behaviour!

In our ever escalating war on cars, the ranks of foot soldiers grow thin. Reduced to throwing themselves at the enemy like desperate kamikaze, they are not only losing their lives but — even worse — they are losing in the battle of public opinion. No motorists have been killed so far, yet they are being portrayed as the put upon victims. Innocent bystanders subjected to the onslaught of jaywalking pedestrians, darting in and out of traffic like rabid squirrels. All that stands between the valiant road warriors and certain death is a mere 1500-2000 kilograms of motor vehicle.

Has there ever been a worse time to be sitting behind the wheel of a car?

I would expect this type of demagoguery from 3 out of our 4 daily rags but to wake up yesterday morning to hear Metro Morning’s Andy Barrie interviewing a CBC producer about the trauma she’s endured after having accidentally, and through no fault of her own, killed a man with a truck she was driving, well, it was too much. Too, too much. While I’m sure the guilt and second guessing must be painful and long lasting, hey, I’d take that over being dead, I think.

The insufferable index rose alarmingly higher when Ms. Borel talked of how, when the police investigation of the accident was over and she was cleared of any wrong doing, she got right back up on that proverbial horse and drove the truck away, fearing that if she didn’t, she might never drive again. Wouldn’t that have been tragedy! One less driver on the road.

Later on in the same show, Andy talked with the Superintendent of Toronto Police Traffic Services, Earl Witty who advised pedestrians to be more vigilant and obey the rules of the road. Even when pedestrians think they have the right of way in a situation with a car, Witty stressed, they should never assume the driver thinks likewise. You may be in the right but you would be dead right. At which time both he and Andy chuckled mirthlessly along with their listeners. Witty then talked about how the police would be on a safety blitz, ticketing jaywalkers and other pedestrian traffic offenders to get their point across.

With only two drivers apparently charged in the 14 pedestrian deaths in the GTA so far this year, I guess the take away lesson is that in 86% of the fatalities, the victim has been solely to blame; the authors of their own demise. It’s a jungle out there, people. You have to be on your toes at all times. Never let your guard down. Even if you’re absolutely in the clear, keep your eyes peeled (but certainly not your ear to the ground especially if you’re in dark clothes) because drivers can’t always see you or come to a complete stop at a red light before making a right turn or treat that stoplight that’s such a stale yellow that in fact it’s red and not speed up and barrel through it or make an illegal u-turn in the middle of the street or just throw out the anchors and stop up short in a fucking bike lane…

It’s like we’re endorsing the bully principle. Even when the sniveling weakling is blameless, he’s going to get his ass handed to him because, ultimately, might makes right.

But how come if pedestrians are being advised to operate under the assumption that danger lurks around every street corner, a similar onus not placed on drivers? They’re the ones riding around in the killing machines. As Spiderman’s uncle said: With great power comes great responsibility. Drivers should drive as if there’s a child crouching behind every parked car they pass, waiting to bolt out in front of them. Drivers should drive not like they’re kings of the road or cocks of the walk but with the knowledge of the pain and suffering they can inflict due to inattention on anyone’s part. Drivers should drive as if it’s a privilege and not a God given right.

indignantly submitted by Urban Sophisticat