Toronto car and bike wars, have an answer?

The recent death of Toronto bike courier Darcy Allan Sheppard, in a road rage incident with former provincial attorney general Michael Bryant, is the ultimate ugly outcome so many of us, both in cars and on bikes, have likely found ourselves just seconds away from being in.

Sheppard was having a bad night  even before he crossed paths with Bryant and his SAAB. The details of their first collision are minimal at the moment but the end result, after Sheppard clung to the windshield of Bryant’s moving car as he sped away, trying to shake off the courier, is there for all of us to know. For more details, click here for the Toronto star piece, I will not recite every detail, there is some good reporting being done on it.

I won’t go off ranting that all cyclists and drivers are good or bad, each faction has bad users, in fact, very bad users.

This incident makes me think of how many close calls I have had with cyclists, whether while in my car or as a pedestrian. I won’t go off ranting that all cyclists and drivers are good or bad, each faction has bad users, in fact, very bad users.

There needs to be more respect on our crammed roads. However, I can comfortably say, that in most of my inner city driving I see more cyclists breaking traffic laws, let alone just common sense ones, than I do drivers. You can argue I’m crazy but I know what I see, among the irritating occurrences are:

  • more cyclists without helmets than drivers without seat belts
  • more cyclists blowing through stop signs than cars
  • more cyclists almost mowing down pedestrians in crosswalks than cars
  • more cyclists making a right turn from the far left lane than cars as well

Among the things that just astound me when  I see them occur on a bike are cyclists who text on their cellphones while cycling or just talking on their cells while rolling along. Yes, drivers do these things too, to an irritating degree, but the sense of impending danger which appears when you see a cyclists doing it is frightening.

I mean…texting while riding a bike? Good lord, one misjudged sewer grate and it is ass over tea kettle time.

The two modes of transportation are vastly different and they each serve their purpose but there is a militant almost arrogant sense of entitlement I see with cyclists which astounds me.

You want to pick at drivers, fine, but when cyclists are endangering pedestrians, that is when I draw the line. As a pedestrian who almost got run over by three different cyclists, in one morning alone, my last morsel of respect and understanding for them went down the drain.

Driving is tough enough already thanks to cellphones, people trying to understand a GPS, blindspots never checked and just bad drivers, lump in bad and arrogant cyclists, it is a blood bath waiting to happen.

We need to find some respect again, I agree. How we begin to get to get there is the question.

When in doubt…around the horn we go!

When in doubt, go around the horn, throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. Yes, also use the lamest cliches you can to justify the fact you are not inspired by solely one thing enough to write about it.

Proposed New Driving Restrictions for Ontario Teens

Though teenagers think recent proposed restriction are fascist and unfair, they are designed to protect them and the rest of us. Of late, there have been both serious and fatal accidents thanks to irresponsible and inexperienced teens behind the wheel. Accidents which involved young adults I am sure have some root in bad driving habits formed while people were in their teens.

The proposed restrictions would see teens with G2-class licences banned from carrying more than one passenger aged 19 and under at all times during the first year of their licensing period. The restriction is now limited to between midnight and 5 a.m. Teenaged family members, however, are exempt. There is nothing wrong with this, says here.

The restrictions also forbid teens from having even one drink before driving if they are 21 or younger – a zero blood-alcohol level is required. Longer licence suspensions, or cancellations of licences could also happen in serious cases.

The recent Throne Speech

Tough times usually call for tough measures. There was nothing groundbreaking in the recent Conservative plan but it is typically Canadian in these eyes. It is steady and progressive but not flashy. If the Conservatives can indeed reduce interprovincial trade and labour barriers, expand Canada’s international gateways and increase support to manufacturing and aerospace sectors, as a nation, we might be able to stem the tide of panic and chaos in this economic downturn.

A Short-Term Deficit

We have been enjoying some cushy surpluses since 1997 when Paul Martin balanced our books for the first time in years, we ran 27 straight deficits, thanks to Liberals and Tories, from 1970 to 1997. However, there has never been a global crisis and meltdown like that in the United States. To avoid a deficit Harper will have to deliver some serious program cuts and that could to make things worse for Canadians.

The rebound will be a long one in the U.S. and Canada will be going along for the ride, the life preserver provided by our commodity markets just won’t be enough. We have run a surplus for 10 years straight while nations such as the United States, France, Germany, Japan and England have been running deficits. A short-term deficit for long-term gain is in order.

Batman rocks, Leafs suck and cojones at City Hall

Well, it has been a long time coming but here it is, a fresh new post. However, this post is not a rant or a thoughtful analysis like previous posts. I cannot help it, it is summer time, so let’s be happy I have energy to post anything at all.

So, since my last legitimate post, here are 10 things I have realized as I live in the ebb and flow of big city life in Toronto.

1. There are way too many young teenagers acting like punks and thugs here in Toronto, the key word there is “acting”. When you actually start to shave or finish puberty, then proceed to consider acting “hard” and intimidating, until then, just keep riding along on your tricycle.

2. Road rage kills. The duel to the death by two irate drivers near Toronto earlier this month, that cost one man his life, was a sobering event for most motorists. If it was not sobering, give your head a shake. Life is way, way, way too short to jeopardize because you have been cut-off or someone did not signal.

3. Toronto councillors may have cojones. Toronto council’s decision to go ahead with an estimated $11 million environmental assessment, on the proposed removal of a portion of the Gardiner Expressway, was stunning to some of us who have lost faith in our councillors. The fact they have decided to study the proposal seriously shows some vision, well, a little vision anyway, since it is only a portion of the Gardiner which could come down.

4. Canada has no game- basketball game that is. The fact Canada did not qualify for the Olympics is embarrassing. The effort the players put forward was not embarrassing but this program is going no where fast. Get Canadian players playing on quality squads in Europe to develop a better pedigree. Also, hire a real coach, someone with some international credentials and they do not have to be Canadian. The fact Steve Nash and Jamal Magloire will not play for Canada must be a sign to change things up.

5. The Dark Knight is INCREDIBLE. If you do not like the latest chapter in the Batman saga, check yourself into a mental ward. You do not have to be a fan of the comic to like this movie. It stands on its own merits as a gripping movie, not just some action flick.

6. Gas prices go up when the wind changes direction. Gas prices go up whether it is cloudy or sunny. Gas prices are a ripoff, how about some kind of consumer protection here please. I want an electric car or to win the lottery and have my own fleet of personal rickshaws at my disposal.

7. TFC fans provide the best fan experience in all of Toronto. Argo games are fun but a TFC game, especially in the south stands, is unforgettable. Note, it is not the best place for families when fans en masse chant “Dig a Hole – Bury Him”, along with other adjectives, when an opponent is down and hurt on the pitch.

8. The Toronto Maple Leafs organization lacks class, here is why: Leaf greats Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark will have their numbers “honoured” this upcoming season. How about retiring their respective numbers 93 and 17 like other classy squads do for their respective greats? There are plenty of numbers to go around and Dave Keon, Borje Salming and Darryl Sittler should also be recognized with such a distinction as well.

9. J.P. Ricciardi has got to go. The Blue Jays have gone nowhere under his tenure, no matter which philosophy of building a team he employs. All teams deal with injuries but not all teams have an arrogant manager who  makes questionable signings and has not been able to field a steady lineup. This paisan needs to have his act sent elsewhere.

10. Barrack Obama- he is the real deal and an inspiration, whether you are American or not. Please elect this man to help America slowly move back to its spot as one of the greatest nations in the world. You have not fallen that far back and this is the guy to bring you back. If you do not see it, check yourself into that mental ward with Batman nonbelievers.

I figured out why you are slow

After eight months now of being back on Toronto roads and highways daily- I have figured out one tiny portion of the madness on the 401.

 

Drivers in the “collector” lanes must think “collector” means: you are now allowed to go slow, proceed at 80 kilometres an hour. Do not worry about the fact you are still in the left hand lane- THE PASSING LANE. Since it is the left hand lane in the collectors, you are allowed to go slow. In fact, you should just roll up alongside the cars in the middle and far right lanes and all cruise at the same speed, which is below the speed limit, and proceed to create a rolling road block, kind of like the Argos offensive line.

 

Let us also not forget the privileges with getting to drive slow in the collectors. You can catch up on your reading, phone calls and putting on your makeup

 

Express means fast, collectors means slow. Gotchya, thanks for the lesson.

 

On the Drive In: March 10

There I am, sitting in my car, waiting for it to warm up before I brave the roads of Toronto to get to work. I am feeling good. I am feeling relaxed. I am ready to drive after two weeks of West Coast living.

I have not missed the drive into work at all. I mean, not even a bit, not one iota. How bad could the drive be? It is March Break, there will be less cars on the road, less “volume” as the radio traffic hawks say. Don’t psych yourself out even before leaving the driveway, it won’t be that bad, in 30 minutes you will be at work.

 Ok, let’s roll down the driveway and begin:

The challenges immediately but not annoyingly begin heading down my street. I expected the range of snow piles to my right eating up a quarter of the street’s width, I was out there making some of them. The snow piles look like a mountain range,  I call them the Lastmans in honour of former North York mayor Mel Lastman who somehow got the roads plowed when he was at the helm. Anyway..back to the drive.

Cue the first bewildering driver just two blocks into my journey on Caledonia. I guess while I was away for two weeks I missed the new traffic law which allowed anyone over 60 to hog both lanes of northbound traffic. This “law in action” happened not once but twice. I get it, they figured there was nothing wrong with both lanes so why not enjoy them at the same time.

 Next, on to the highway. Today was a “collectors” day and I avoided the express lanes. Ten minutes in, there ahead of me, is “Mobile Office Man”. He is on his ridiculous looking hands-free earpiece unit, looking like a Star Trek Next Generation extras reject, gesticulating with his hands as if conducting the New York Philharmonic, alternating hands to both drive and make his point. 

It is okay, I say to myself. Think Pacific Ocean. Think how powerful and yet serene it looked. Think now of Mobile Office Man driving straight into it. His phone earpiece blinking slowly away as he sinks below the surface. Ah, I feel better already.

Do I mention the idiot while heading north on Victoria Park who came to a full stop when a TTC bus pulled over to the side to pick up passengers? You are supposed to yield to them after they have loaded and want to rejoin traffic, not block for them when they still have not yet even picked up passengers.

The drive in would not have been complete without “SUV Man” crossing my path. It is always great to run into this hero. You know who he is, feeling all righteous, acting like he owns the road and that all signs are merely a suggestion to him. SUV Man almost honoured me by T-boning me after we got to a four-way stop. I arrived first and started to make my left. I guess there was a cappuccino or breakfast bagel somewhere burning that he needed to rescue. He started to going straight as I crossed in front of his grill. Thanks SUV Man, you are my hero and you honked to say hi no less!

Driving in snow like dancing at grade school

“Leave some room and keep your hands up,” this old directive from your grade school principal at school dances should be your guiding mantra as you drive on snow-filled roads.

So Toronto gets at least 50 centimetres of snow over a one-week period and judging by the idiocy of some drivers in this city, I now easily understand why panic sets in at the first few flakes which flutter down.

 I am now a firm believer that in order to get your license you should be required to take driver training in the winter and not just in the city but in the back-country- where the elements are far less forgiving and roads get plowed when the snow plow digs itself out.

We live in C-A-N-A-D-A my dear Toronto-area drivers. You know, “The True North Strong and Free”, the land whose iconic imagery includes polar bears, igloos, Eskimos, outdoor ice hockey, the Rockies and icebergs.  I know Toronto sometimes considers itself a country unto itself but it is not and here is the newsflash- it is February in CANADA and gosh darn-it- it tends to SNOW this time of year.

Keeping that in mind, remember to use your signal when driving in this weather. Some drivers definitely need to be reacquainted with this neat little feature all cars have. You tend to activate it when you hit this lever attached to your steering column. The sound goes “click, click” when you hit it and this causes a light to flash in the direction you flick the lever- incredible- I know.

When you remove snow from your car after a good dusting, just clearing a four inch by four inch square on your windshield- so you can look straight ahead- is not the brightest thing to do. I saw this phenomena, not once, not twice but three times today.

To our sports car enthusiasts, you know who are, you have a sweet ride with a car stereo which rivals the car’s value. The low-profile tires on your vehicle will do you no good in snow and sleet. I saw a dozen cars with low-profile tires struggling up inclines or skidding and bouncing into snow banks today.

If you can afford a sporty car, you can afford a set of all-season or snow tires. Frankly, you do not look too cool spinning in one spot as a 1983 Toyota Corolla calmly drives past you.

Remember to leave plenty of space in front of you just in case you have to brake suddenly or hit a slippery patch. Drive in lower gears, use your signal and keep your eyes on the roads and hands upon the wheel as Jim Morrison crooned.

Whether you like it or not, when bad weather hits, all drivers are in it together, so find some patience and courtesy along the way. If you do, you might just get to kiss that cute girl or boy at the end of your dance.

Toronto drivers…YOU ARE GUILTY!

Toronto drivers, you are guilty. Guilty of finally becoming the road-hogging, rude, obnoxious and selfish city drivers others used to accuse you of being.

After living out of the city for almost five years and now being back for the last six months, I am dumbfounded by not just the volume of traffic on our deteriorating roads but how bad driving has become.

  Toronto drivers, you are guilty of the following: 

         of thinking the person who rolls through a Stop sign the furthest at a four-way stop has the right-of-way

         of making a right-hand turn from the far left lane, then acting indignant when someone honks at you

         for talking on the cell phone, oblivious to others, as you cruise along between 10 to 20 km/h below the speed limit

         for hogging the left hand passing lane and then “braking” hard when someone comes up behind you who is trying- oh my gosh!-trying to pass IN THE PASSING LANE

         for intentionally driving even slower when someone is attempting to drive at the speed limit- the only point you are reinforcing is how dull you are

         suddenly changing lanes by not signaling then acting surprised someone is there…in your blind-spot- which is appropriately called that because you cannot see it if you do not TURN YOUR HEAD to look at it

–    treat the highway as your personal Autobahn, even using the emergency curb lane to pass or ride someone’s bumper

 

I could keep going on and on. All the above happen almost daily- just on my drive TO work. On the days they all happen, I feel like I should buy a lottery ticket because I hit the Keno Idiot Driver Jackpot.

I am not a perfect driver, I will admit, but my driving did get better while I was away from my beloved Toronto. Now, I drive more defensively than ever before in order to survive.

I do actually think there are more competent drivers than bad drivers on our roads because the road carnage would be far worse if it was the other way around. However, Toronto’s driving community is GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY! – of all the above.

Dear readers, weigh in and tell me if I am wrong or on the money!