March/April 1994, p.2

Provocateur 

by Anne Hansen

Toronto was in the middle of a snowstorm when Auto-Free Press asked me to write this. We've been bombarded with images of cars snowed in, piled up, being boosted, towed, shoveled out, scraped, stranded, and hemmed into snowbanks. Motorists are warned not to venture out, and country roads are closed. As if all the car images are not enough, there are articles about cars. About the two hundred accidents in one morning rush hour. About cars taking one half hour to warm up. About newer cars, with their electronic gadgetry, not being as reliable as the older models. Police are kept "hopping with fender benders." At our expense.

Cars ad nauseum. Cars schmars. All weather reporting relates to cars. Why not just call the news "Cars" since that's all they ever talk about? The whole human condition is being defined by cars, more so in winter.

With all the chaos and havoc reported, why hasn't the media made the simple observation that cars are impractical in winter, let alone the rest of the year?

Canadians complain incessantly about winter, but what they are really complaining about is their cars. Most of the bellyaching about the cold and snow shoveling takes place in service of the automobile. The staff at the Canadian Automobile Association is reportedly getting a lot of abuse from unhappy snowbound car drivers.

Meanwhile, a ridiculous Toronto law requires property-owners to clear sidewalks, as the city shirks its responsibility to make the streets passable for pedestrians. Why not require homeowners and businesses to clear the streets for cars? There's a great idea for traffic calming.

Sidewalk snow removal, which costs a fraction of road clearing, should unquestionably be considered a basic municipal service. Walking should be encouraged. It enhances the city's livability and lowers public health costs. More obstacles like snow need to be imposed on the modes of transportation that pollute the most not piled on the sidewalk.

The writer is founder of Bikes Not Cars, a Toronto activist group.

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