A lot of Torontonian’s would agree to the notion that newly elected Mayor Rob Ford rode a wave of discontent in to office, by stirring up public contempt and dissatisfaction against big easy targets like overspending and waste. Among the many populist positions he took to ride such waves of public opinion was the greatly trumped up “War on Cars”, and the enormous frustrations that most people in Toronto feel about our now infamously long commute times, and notoriously noxious and congested roadways. But aside from the fact that the downtown core was never laid out and designed to carry this much surface, much less subterranean, traffic…Why should we get bogged down in these wars of words and rhetoric, where motorists, and cyclists and perhaps someday even pedestrians get turned against each other…Often to just serve short term political ends.
It might seem obvious to take a more collective approach to solving traffic related issues, but before taking a slide down that slippery slope of self-interests, perhaps we could at least declare a truce in the War on Cars. Not with some egotistical remark from some individual politician or lowly blogger, but with just one more example of how truly ridiculous the entire notion (and election platform pillar) really is.
Well here we are on the first day of December, on the first day of Rob Ford’s mayoral mandate, and already we’re provided with the first examples of the kinds of media events and posturing that will either draw the first jeers of ridicule for the new regime, or the first signs of suburban solidarity from the 50% of Torontonians who brought Ford to power…Depending on which side of the tracks you’re sitting when the Rob Ford’s gravy-less train to municipal prosperity either rolls past, away from, or right over your neighborhood in it’s headlong rush to dismantle everything that doesn’t sit well with the new administration at City Hall.
If first impressions are anything to base our outlook on, then today’s events should be a telling reminder of what we can look forward to during at least one term of reactionary, pandering, and short-sighted politics here in Toronto, and the backlash driven political desires of it’s dispossessed suburbs.
Representatives from The Toronto Police and Traffic Services have had to step up public awareness of basic safety issues after 16 pedestrians have been injured in only 2 days. The most regrettable accidents are the ones that could easily have been avoided, and this particular rash of incidents points to many small factors that are entirely within the control of Pedestrians. So once again, we need to look at a problem from the point of view of personal responsibility, before we can start to fine tune the external factors that would help alleviate traffic and safety issues for everyone…
Let’s take this moment to pause at the end of a hot and incredibly dusty Summer of 2010, and consider the street-level human effects of the much vaunted Economic Recovery Plans on the state of our roads, and the resulting effects on our quality of life, both on and around them. At this point, our roads are clearly showing the ill-effects of being ravaged by all the government infrastructure stimulus projects of the past two years. Yet even under the duress of dealing with snarled traffic, and weaving and bouncing across a riding surface that now looks more like moon-rock than pavement, we’ve still seen some deeply encouraging signs of average People rising above these circumstances, and sharing experiences that provide us all hope for an ever evolving and improving Urban Experience. Even if our urban lives are still currently under the siege from the seemingly endless rounds of construction.
So let’s rundown a categorized list of surprisingly positive side-effects to having our roads torn up from underneath us, and then barely put back together again as road crews and contractors run off to milk their next cash-cow. Let’s starting with a blossoming new trend in Urban Art, and then touching on another paint-related development that has given us a very subtle yet powerful hint…at how the Future is shaping up.
Whether we’re dealing with the results of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, or the U.S. Recovery Plan….Anybody who’s had to use roadways during the hot and dusty Summer of 2010 isn’t about to soon forget the ravaged pavement surfaces and miserable traffic congestion created by all the government sponsored stimulus projects. This is because most of them are are still clogging up our roads in their ongoing efforts to presumably continue stimulating the economy, as well as testing our personal patience with their lengthy reparations.
Ironically, even though these private and public works projects were designed to keep key sectors of the economy well primed with cash, and the economy rolling along, during this time most North-Americans had no idea that the entire Industry almost came to a screeching halt due to a critical shortage in the supply of road and highway paint…A shortage that not only threatened to block the completion of those endless road projects, but which also hinted at some even bigger industrial concerns further up the supply chain. This supply issue tips us off to an even bigger story that goes far beyond the possibility of a cash grab by suppliers and contractors during a public-backed construction boom…and actually points to some fascinating possibilities in the Future.
Most people are pretty good at thinking on their feet, but nobody’s arguing that we couldn’t use better set protocols to fall back on as well…Especially when trying to avoid dangerous urban traffic snags, or at least unsnarling any incidents with an added measure of basic diplomacy. But how do we optimize the flow, and smooth the social bumps, without conceding our freedom and Autonomy to some vision of greater “efficiency”. Some pre-Orwellian version Central Traffic Control that safely auto-pilots us around within rails and fences like well-tempered livestock…
Deep down, most people might prefer being enabled with better social protocols available to them when it comes to negotiating their way through traffic. Systems that don’t dictate, but rather relate conditions (such as who arrived first at an intersection!) in a more universally effective fashion without needing to rely on systems that need to change the world around us first.
Unfortunately, popularised use of public CB Radio never made it past the 70’s, so the only usable ‘public broadcast’ tools that we have on the road are a handful of visual signals, and our crude but effectively alarming horns and bells. Nevertheless, since Cyclists still have the most safety to lose in any traffic mêlées, let’s pause to consider a communications experiment that involves our existing but oddly underused bike bells…Rather than just ringing them willy-nilly without rhythm or good reason.