Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Numbers

A few interesting numbers came up in our local newspaper, The Toronto Star, yesterday.

A. Every 5.5 days someone is killed in a "car crash" on Toronto streets. That's more than one per week.
B. There is a collision every 9.3 minutes!
C. 1200 people showed up for the funeral of a horse killed in one of these collisions.

The first two are unfortunate to see, and what's more unfortunate is that so many people take these collisions for granted.

The third item gives me hope. I know many of the people who went to the horse funeral may have been there because they are animal or horse (or police officer) lovers, but I imagine there might not have been so many there if people didn't see it as such a senseless death. A horse may seem out of place on Kingston Road in Scarborough, but that doesn't mean a car driver shouldn't be able to avoid hitting it (and avoid driving away after hitting it, but that's a separate anti-social act).

I was reading parts of the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario after Vic brought it up in a comment on BikingToronto, and I was surprised to see how prominent a role equestrians play in the law. That doesn't mean that I would want it changed. Keeping in mind the varied use of our highways (streets, roads) is important and should be advertised so we can encourage people in cars to drive with a totally different level of caution from what we're seeing out there today.

And now for my little personal anecdote related to this topic. This morning, a friendly woman was driving her car behind me on a slow residential street. The street was not slow for me since I was booting along at 30 km/h (only 10 km/h below the speed limit), but it was clearly too slow for the genius behind her in the Ford Explorer (or Ford Exsomething). When she felt the oncoming traffic was too close to pull around me and pass, he honked his horn at her, then pulled around her into the oncoming traffic lane, drove past her, past me (and past my middle finger; sorry mom) and pulled in front of me just before the oncoming cars arrived. He didn't gain much, but he had a busy morning planned since I am pretty sure I saw him 1 km later parked in front of a school dropping off a child. The part that frustrates me is that nothing will come of this antisocial act, and this driver will never face any repercussions for the risk he created for the oncoming cars, simply because no one was hurt. The level of risk driving, biking and walking on that street was undoubtedly increased many times over because of the decision that driver made.

Back to the news items. The first article in the Star was focused on new technology to help advise drivers that they are driving on a wet road, and to be careful. And it will help them choose another street if the one they're on is slow. I've seen this used in Europe, and the dynamic mapping part of it is pretty nifty, but really it's only going to benefit people in cars, and those people must be in high end cars or else the option isn't available.

Les Kelman, Toronto's traffic management director, brings some sense back to the discussion when asked about future infrastructure projects:

"Clearly the focus will be on transit, pedestrian movement and cyclist movement. This is showing how this all fits together."

I'm not exactly sure how that is related to the technology under discussion, but I hope he's right about 'the focus'.

By the way, I made it to the Bicycle Show on the weekend, and I'm planning on writing down a few of the interesting booths I checked out while there.

Darren J 3/07/2006 05:46:00 PM

4 Comments:

The thing that worries me even more about the guy in the Ford Exhauster is that if he realized that he was going to hit something in the oncoming lane, he would probably choose to swerve back to the right hitting YOU...saving his own neck and precious SUV.

Always gotta watch for those kinds of actions too, not just your own.

That was a very appropriate use of The Finger too.
I agree with Steeker re: the finger. I'm sure your Mom would too. :) Sometimes it's a necessary communication method.
I don't think drivers even understand what conditons they create. Distractions abound in any car/truck and drivers feel insulated by the steel/glass around them. I think it makes them feel like they can 'get away' with antisocial behaviour. Cars are armour.
Ya I'm with Vic here, I worry about these impatient folks that use oncoming traffic as a gun around, what they would do if faced with an oncoming car. Without question they would swerve into the bike. But not sure what the best way to discourage this madness is.

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