Monday, January 21, 2008

little bit scared of what comes after

I've never really been into the daily carnage stuff out of New York and Toronto - sure it proves the point that driving is dangerous as hell, but it does so in a fairly morbid way.
Having said that, I'm about to do exactly the same thing! : 0

Some friends from Toronto drove up to Orillia this weekend for our book club meeting. This was incredibly kind of them, and Annalise and I really appreciated that they'd drive up and stay with us overnight in our new city, but then they got caught in the middle of the massive pileup on the 400 on Sunday afternoon.

They were all okay, no major injuries, but Mark's car was totalled, and they basically spent all of Sunday sitting on a Greyhound bus on the 400, and after leaving our place at 11:00 a.m., they didn't get home until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m.

If you've checked this blog often enough, you'll know that I don't like driving and the automobile whatsoever, but I do have to admit that since we've designed our cities the way we have, and because Canada doesn't have the train links that you use in Europe and Japan and elsewhere, the car is often a necessary evil.

But the 400 series highways here in Ontario, those highways where there are four or five or six lanes of traffic with vehicles exiting and merging and all going 100 to 150 km an hour, really freak me out. In fact, I think they are just plain wrong.
These highways, as I've said to Annalise, depend on every single driver having perfect concentration throughout the entire course of his or her drive. If you drive from downtown Toronto, up the DVP, and then east to Oshawa on the 401, and if your attention wavers for a second, then you could kill yourself and possibly dozens of other people.
I just don't think humans possess the ability to concentrate that perfectly, especially not in the age of the fast food meal, the Tim Horton's coffee, the IPOD and the cell phone.
And I think the often overlooked traffic accident statistics bear this out, according to one source, automobile accidents account for over 3000 fatalities a year in Canada, and over 220 000 other injuries.
In the States it is obviously worse, with over 40,000 fatalites, and over 4 millions injuries per year.

So, as I said, I think we're really over-estimating ourselves when we think that the big highways are really a safe way for humans to get themselves from point A to point B.

Maybe this will help: a report has come out of Trent University saying that road tolls in the Greater Toronto Area, and a steeper tax on fuel are necessary to help fund public transit while simultaneously moving people away from using their automobiles. Indeed, let's get as many of those cars off the road as we can.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why can't i draw right up to what I want to say...

After helping organize that petition last year which asked the Canadian federal government to promote cycling as a preferred means of transportation, I'm feeling a bit political again and have a couple things I'm working on:

a) I'm thinking about writing a new petition, this one aimed at the provincial Ontario government, asking the province to pressure all towns/cities over a certain population (maybe 20 000?) to have arterial north/south and east/west bike lanes.
Any thoughts on that? "It's a terrible idea because..." or "It'll never work due to..."

b) If you're on Facebook, feel free to join a new group on there titled the Orillia Coalition for Active Transportation (even if you're not an Orillian). Aside from pressuring local politicians to be aware of active transportation benefits and issues, I hope the group will generally foster some discussion on this topic.

After riding my trainer this morning, I did a quick cleaning of the drive-train, and thought I'd share a few tips. First of all, it is SOOO much easier doing anything with your bike if you have either a bike stand (which I don't have, they're expensive), or a trainer. Whenever you just lean your bike against a wall and try to clean it or work on it, you end up sticking your foot under the back tire trying to keep it from rolling back and forth as you work. It's so much easier to have the bike locked in place, especially so that you can change the gears without having to lift the bike up in the air to allow the chain to move up and down the cogs.
Anyway, my first quick tip? Put your bio-cleaner into an old windex bottle so that you can spray it onto the parts.

Second tip? Rags rock! Old underwear, socks, and some pants, especially jeans, are great for rags. I use every scrap of jeans that I can - even tearing the pockets off. The only trick with rags from old clothing is that when you tear them into pieces, you get stringy threads hanging around, which you need to be careful about not letting get entwined into your cassette or your derailleur.

Here's some quick news:

~ In Canada, where our conservative government continues to embarrass us at things like the Bali talks on Climate Change, and continually tells us that some sort of carbon tax would throw us into recession, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy has said that a carbon tax is exactly what the country needs. The NRTEE is made up of leaders from business, labour, universities, environmental organizations, Aboriginal communities and municipalities.
"Market-based policies that put a price on carbon to send an economy-wide signal on emissions are the most effective way to achieve deep, long-term greenhouse gas emissions reductions of the scale being considered," round table Chairman Glen Murray told a news conference.

"An early and clear price signal is needed to influence the investment decisions by industry in the technology and innovation required to achieve deep reductions."

A carbon tax would penalize the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and gas and could target industry or consumers.

~ One of the largest Canadian banks, CIBC, has come out with a report saying that they expect to see oil at $150 / barrel in about five years, meaning gasoline in Canada soon being $1.50 / litre, and in the states at $4.50 / gallon.

Nowhere is the phrase "peak oil" used, but that is exactly the underlying rationale:

Oil depletion from existing fields is outpacing new supply, argues the chief economist of CIBC World Markets, and what supply the International Energy Agency and other tracking bodies are optimistically counting on involves complex and costly "mega-projects" that are likely to see major delays.

And this, according to a CIBC report released yesterday, doesn't even account for the unpredictable: escalating geopolitical tensions and extreme weather events.

"What we don't appreciate is that the oil-sands delays (we've seen) are not a unique story. It's happening in the very fields where the world is expecting to get its future supply," Rubin told the Toronto Star.

"Don't think of today's prices as a spike. Don't think of them as a temporary aberration. Think of them as the beginning of a new era."

Friday, January 04, 2008

Talkin about the old style

The cool thing about being a librarian is that you basically wade through information all day. Here's something cool I found out leafing through a magazine today.
There is a group called the Sentinelese who - because they have completely resisted contact with modern civilization - are known as the last remaining paleolithic hunter-gatherer group on earth.

They've been in the news most recently when they killed two Indian fishermen who landed on their island, and Indian authorities have so far resisted launching an investigation because they couldn't figure out how to do it.

As well, after the Tsunami in 2004, a few helicopters flew over to see if anyone on the island had survived, and they realized that there were survivors when arrows and spears began being shot at the coptors.

Here is some weird news about the modern world that serves as the introduction to Earth in Mind by David W. Orr.

  • Male sperm counts worldwide have fallen by 50% since 1938, and no one knows exactly why

  • Human breast milk often contains more toxins than are permissible in milk sold by dairies

  • At death, human bodies often contain enough toxins and heavy metals to be classified as hazardous waste

  • Similarly toxic are the bodies of whales and dolphins washed up on the banks of the St. Lawrence River and the Atlantic shore

  • There has been a marked decline in fungi worldwide, and no one knows why

  • There has been a similar decline in populations of amphibians worldwide, even where the pH of rainfall is normal

  • Roughly 80% of European forests have been damaged by acid rain

  • U.S. industry releases some 11.4 billion tons of hazardous wastes to the environment each year

  • Ultraviolet radiation reaching the ground in Toronto is now increasing at 5% per year

For some happier stuff - I am getting such a kick out of this song, and I don't even know who Dawn Landes is!! This song, as with everything I know these days about modern music, I owe to Melissa in Nashville.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Raleigh and how oil kicks off 2008

This summer I wrote about my Dad and his old Raleigh, which he gets quite the kick out of owning just for the novelty value of it. Just before Christmas he was at a garage sale and picked up another old Raleigh, this one for $50.00.

It's a Raleigh Sprite, with a five speed Suntour rear derailleur. I checked the gears and they were working okay, until Dad and I shifted a bit too far and the chain flew off the biggest ring down into the spokes.
Raleigh Sprite

As you can see from this photo, it even has a generator and lamp and an old-school horn!
Raleigh sprite 3

I find it pretty funny that ever since I got into cycling, bikes have woven themselves into my Dad's brain. I like his original blue and white Raleigh a lot more than this one, but I might poke around and see if I can find how much this bike would go for.

Or maybe not! Since oil hit $100.00 / barrel today, and since OPEC is saying that they will not be able to meet their share of oil supply by 2037, maybe I should horde all the bikes i can get my hands on!

I've written about peak oil before, and gloated about how bikes will take over the empty freeways, but maybe I'm about due for my rude awakening to peak oil reality. This morning Michael Hlinka was predicting on CBC that by the end of 2008 we will consider $100.00 to be the normal price for oil. Except for the fact that I'm a cyclist, I'm as reliant on oil as everyone else. My plastic sandwich bags are made out of oil, and the apples I bought at the supermarket tonight made their way to me here in Orillia via oil. In reality, I'll be as screwed as all the SUV drivers if peak oil hits as hard as it could.

Jan. 2, 2008. This could be a big day. OPEC's announcement that they may not be able to maintain their share of oil supply is the equivalent of saying that the 20th century, the oil century, is over.