The Publicly-Funded Convenience of Cars

Like most issues, people engage with transportation mainly in an individualistic way. Hence most “debate” about transportation infrastructure, as in this most unoriginal and unthoughtful piece, merely amounts to recounting a set of personal anecdotes such as seeing cyclists riding on sidewalks, without extrapolating any broader insights beyond expressing one’s peevishness. Maybe this is just systemic – people are “inherently” selfish (or encouraged to be so), and have great difficulty considering some issue beyond their immediately personal wants and experiences – say on a societal or structural level. Whatever the case may be, what’s frequently missing from the constant stream of indignant rants about transportation (and even transportation debates by our finest politicians) is a discussion about what the relative societal benefits (and costs) are of differing transportation schemes. What kinds of transportation systems and urban planning are most efficient, affordable, safe, and least damaging to human and environmental health? Continue reading “The Publicly-Funded Convenience of Cars”

Why I Don’t Trust (Some) Police, Or, Some Cops are Bullies and Liars

One night two summers ago, I was walking with my friends Dave and Nick when we encountered a group of about five or six men and one woman. The woman approached us and we chatted amicably for a bit, when one of the men became confrontational and cornered Nick, demanding his wallet. Nick replied that he didn’t have his wallet on him (which was true) to which the man scoffed and asked about the visibly outlined object in his front pocket. The man then reached towards Nick’s pocket, but Nick stepped back and replied it was just a (crappy) cellphone and reached into his pocket to show the man. The man then grabbed his arm unexpectedly and violently. Nick recoiled and the man went to grab him again, this time more aggressively. He then yelled out something to the effect of, “Whoa, what are you doing? Relax!” and put his arms up in the air in a surrendering manner. By this time the man, who was bigger than Nick, had fully placed him in an arm lock. Nick yelled something like, “Ok! Ok! Ok! You got me! Relax!”
Continue reading “Why I Don’t Trust (Some) Police, Or, Some Cops are Bullies and Liars”

Do Cyclists Pay for Drivers’ Use of Toronto Roads?

Last week I  happened upon this story about Washington State representative Ed Orcutt who, in a defence of a proposed flat $25 tax on all new bike sales, questioned the environmental benefits of bicycles on the grounds that cyclists produce extra CO2 while riding their bikes, and thus “are actually polluting when they ride.” When contacted for clarification, he replied, “You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car,” though he humbly acknowledged he hadn’t done a formal analysis. Due to our love of hearing politicians say preposterous things, this story swiftly made the rounds and appeared on major news outlets. Equally swiftly, Orcutt apologized for his obviously preposterous statement, and acknowledged that bicycles do not emit more CO2 than cars (for those wondering, the European Cyclists Federation conducted a study on the relative CO2 emissions of bicycles and cars, including the emissions associated with the entire lifecycle, from production, operation, and maintenance, and found that cars emit over 10 times the amount of CO2 as bicycles). Continue reading “Do Cyclists Pay for Drivers’ Use of Toronto Roads?”

Jack Layton, Hope, and Cynicism

Now that the outpouring of public emotion and sympathy towards Jack Layton’s passing has now calmed, I thought I would take the chance to offer some (hopefully non-knee-jerk) reflections on a now notorious op-ed piece written by Christie Blatchford which ostensibly took issue with the “spectacle” surrounding Jack Layton’s death.

I can’t say much about how this piece fits into Blatchford’s corpus and whether or not it is a lapse or typical of Blatchford’s attitudes. Though I try to pay heed to media sources lying across the “left-right” spectrum (lest I be flippantly denounced as an uncritical product of the liberal media) after many attempts, I have found myself unable to take serious the National Post where Blatchford does much of her writing (and where the piece in question appears). Blatchford also writes for the Globe, but since I pretty much exclusively read it online, and to read most of Blatchford’s columns require paying a fee for “Globeplus,” I am again at a loss (though I did get access to a piece in which Blatchford carelessly repeats the tired falsehood that Layton and Chow were living a subsidized community housing was both making MP salaries). In any case, I don’t really think one needs to understand the piece in question with reference to a broader body of work – I simply make this admission as a disclaimer to pre-empt any argument that either Blatchford had an off-day, or that the piece somehow makes sense with reference to a larger set of interrelated ideas expounded elsewhere. Continue reading “Jack Layton, Hope, and Cynicism”