Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Memorial ride today

A memorial ride will take place to day at 6:30 (1830) to memorialize a cyclist killed on September 10. We will meet at Bloor andSpadina and ride to Trethewey Drive and Tedder Street.

Mourn the dead; fight for the living.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another Annette Bike lane meeting

Monday night, Bill Saundercook, the councillor for Ward 13 meeting to discuss bicycle lanes on Annette Street, and thanks to I Bike TO getting the word out, I and a number of other cyclists attended. City staff had presented three alternatives: bicycle lanes on Annette from Jane to Runnymede, bike routes along Ardagh to the south of Annette and St. John's Road to the north, joining the bicycle lanes at Runnymede and connecting to Annette at the Annette/Runnymede junction, and a bike-friendly curb lane with chevrons encouraging road sharing on Annette from Jane to Runnymede. For maps of what these might mean, see below.

Nobody in the crowd opposed bicycles or lanes in principle, although some clearly wanted to preserve the facilities for automotive traffic, and one or two asked questions about the volume of bicycle traffic on Annette. The meeting appeared to have a pro-cycling majority, with a few business owners concerned about their parking, and one or two people clining to the notion that cars will and must always rule the city.

Option 1: Bicycle lanes on Annette from Jane to Dupont

View Larger Map

Option 2: Bicycle routes diverting around Annette from Jane to Runnymede

View Larger Map

Option 3: Sharrows for Jane to Runnymede; lanes from Runnymede to Dupont

View Larger Map

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Peeking over the Fence: a Dangerous Assumption

On the subject of Sarah Palin's controversial prayer for wisdom in the context of the Iraq war, Julie Ponzi writes:

No fair-minded person could read that as an assertion that our task abroad is certainly "from God." It is, rather, a prayer that the task will be a task from God, i.e., a prayer that we would do as God approves. It is, as she said, an invocation of Abraham Lincoln’s prayer that we might have the wisdom and the fortitude to do as God would have us do and not any kind of claim to special or privileged knowledge of the will of God.

This analysis makes a great deal of sense, but it interests me that many of the "movement conservatives" who explain what Palin's prayer "really meant" have apparently not thought through the implications. Sarah Palin's prayer implies that as an official of the US government she would act, first and foremost, as a humble servant of the Creator. If so, we can expect that many of the arguments made by secular conservatives about national interest and power politics would have no effect on her. Many of the neo-conservatives who have hailed her as the hope for salvaging the McCain campaign appear to assume that if elected, she will shape her faith to conform to their ideological needs and policy prescriptions; that she will claim, as conservatives before her have done, that American power by definition has the blessing of the Creator.

Anyone who assumes they can manipulate or predict Governor Palin's religious convictions would do well to read the history of people like William Wilberforce, John Newton, and the Great Awakening. They might follow up that with a look at trends within the American evangelical community. A clear understanding of that history will reveal something that properly ought to alarm the neo-conservative movement: the arguments of people such Jim Wallis and Ron Sider may well reach her more effectively than theirs.

Neo-conservatives and their allies the "national greatness" or "Jacksonian" conservatives share this essential error with secularist liberals: the delusion that social and political change can only come through a secular argument that both changes individual minds and harnesses the power of the government. But that overlooks the role of faith in all of the great positive paradigm shifts of past centuries, from abolition to civil rights. Those secular conservatives, and especially the conservative political operators, who think they can control the church and make Christian doctrine conform to their idea of the national interest simply haven't paid attention to either history or to current trends.

Link via Jim Henley.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ten kinds of people...

There are ten kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't -- computer programmer's saying.

I have an elegant watch with a black dial, white numbers, silver hour and minute hands and a red second hand. It keeps good time. My parents gave it to me, on the last Christmas our whole family celebrated together. More than anything else, I treasure gifts that say: I know you, because they celebrate connection. We could see each other, each shaped by a lifetime of struggle, always with the world and often with each other. We saw each other, as parts and as a whole. I knew my parents and they knew me. And I carry the proof on my wrist. The dial contains a visual pun: an analog watch dial with binary numerals. It says, clearly, that this watch belongs to a computer geek with a sense of irony, a relish for contradiction, for the complexities of life. As I said, my parents knew me.

Like many people, I have deeply ambivalent relationship with time. I do not understand it well, and what I do not understand I make my enemy, struggling hard, sometimes, to resist a flow I will never control or even really understand. And yet, sometimes, my life reveals a hint of what the wonderful phrase "in the fullness of time" tries to convey. Three years ago, I misplaced the watch. I searched and fretted for weeks. Then I settled into a belief that the watch would turn up again at the right time, that I needed to separate myself from the need to keep time for a while. While I never quite freed myself from the fear that I had simply lost the watch, I never gave it up for lost, either. A few weeks ago, I moved my office. When I dismantled my old desk, found my watch underneath it. A new battery, a clean crystal, and a new watchband later, it sits on my wrist. It reminds me of the way time passes, and it also gives me a powerful reminder of what time can never take away.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

End the Impunity

In this country, or at least in this province and city, drivers who kill people can expect a light punishment, unless of course they kill themselves as well. Although the public appears to have no sympathy when reckless or drunk drivers kill themselves or their friends, we appear to have a distinct disinclination to punish the same kind of driving when people engaged in it kill other people.

While this seems inconsistent, it makes sense for people who want the law to overlook driving errors. If a dangerous driver kills himself or herself, showing sympathy would imply the need for a law to encourage people to behave responsibly. If they kill someone else, then we can expect to hear the argument that however egregious the offence, ruining the life of the driver at fault will not bring the victim back. These contradictory positions add up to a single effective demand: impunity for bad or even homicidal drivers. As a rule, you can expect that no matter how egregious the driving behaviour and no matter how many innocent people it endangers, someone will come forward and defend it.

I believe the time has come, for the sake of all road users, and to promote some kind of responsibility within automotive culture, to demand an end to impunity for dangerous and irresponsible drivers. Committing mayhem with a car should draw the same penalties as mayhem with any other lethal instrument, and the penalties should reflect the harm done, not the tool used. That means we should punish dangerous driving pretty much the way we punish dangerous shooting, and dangerous driving causing death the way we punish dangerous shooting causing death. I believe we need to start seeing the wheel of a car as an awesome responsibility, rather than a quick ticket out of the consequences of misbehaviour.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ride blogging, First Day of School

With the first day of school for my young hopeful safely underway and errands to do on the waterfront, I took my bike out. The map below shows my route; click on the placemarks to see pictures and comments about where I went. For best results, click here to enlarge the map first.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

To explode a myth...

From one point of view, Jim Kenzie shoves the viewpoint of the entitled driver in my face so clearly and effectively that he ought to raise my blood pressure. But in the current cycling environment, I mainly feel a sense of relief when I read his most outrageous arguments. Because he clearly shows the real face of Ontario drivers, not the imaginary drivers we see held up as the opposite numbers of cyclists every day.

Which imaginary drivers? The perfect ones. The ones who would never break the law, the ones who react with hurt puzzlement whenever a cyclist fails to come to a full stop at a four-way stop sign, the ones who react with justified outrage whenever a cyclist blows a red light. Where do we find these drivers? If you believe what you read on the web, you can expect to find them just about everywhere.

Read Mr. Kenzie, on the other hand, and you get the reality of drivers in this province and this city. You get a clear picture of those who speed in public, in the city, and then justify their recklessness on the grounds that people don't use the streets for anything but driving, as though the lack of a lively street life had nothing to do with their behavior. You hear the voice of drivers who will accept no limits on the speed they drive. You see the arrogance of the drivers who demand that we take their disrespect for the law as votes for changing it. What you see in columns such as Mr. Kenzie's defence of speeding, we see on the street, up close and uncomfortably personal.

Update: I see I have a fair bit of company here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ride blogging: last day of summer

I have decided to try an experiment in ride blogging. I provide an introduction explaining the purpose of the ride, and a map of my route, with the places I visited or photographed along the way. Click on the waypoints to see the story of my ride. You may find the map much easier to read if you enlarge it before trying to follow the line. Oh, and the ride starts at the bottom and goes to the top. Enjoy!

This first ride celebrated the last day of summer. I rode the Toronto bus and then my bicycle up to Canada's Wonderland in Vaughan Ontario. My family met me there, and together we spent a last lazy afternoon before starting on the fall round of school and more school.

I welcome comments on everything I write, but I would especially like to see any reactions to this way of telling the story of a ride.