Thursday, February 21, 2008

Being eaten by the wolf

I have an idea to write a series of articles on Active Transportation for the local newspaper here in Orillia. If they think it's a good idea, I'm proposing to do the following:
a) How we got here - a quick history of why North American cities ended up becoming dependent upon the automobile.
b) What's the problem? - a survey of the various problems associated with cities and automobiles, i.e. the diabetes and obesity problems stemming from inactivity, the loss of farmland due to suburban sprawl, air pollution and climate change, and rising gas prices making automobile dependence risky anyway.
c) What's the solution? - A statement about active transportation providing a sustainable way forward for urban planning.

To this end, I'm going through a bunch of material on these issues, and I'm currently taking a look at a book called Auto Mania. And guess what I found!

I more or less consider automobile dependence to be a con job pulled by Henry Ford and GM and Standard Oil etc on North Americans, and isn't it awesome that after successfully selling everyone in North America a car, they started a campaign like the one above to convince people that one car isn't enough - you need TWO CARS to be a real North American family?

What you see above is an ad by the J. Walter Thompson advertising company, patting themselves on the back for the way THEY CREATED the idea that a family needs two cars. If you can't read the text in the poster, it uses phrases like "housewives are left virtually prisoners in their own homes" to describe women at home after their husbands have driven off in the car.

[Housewives] stand and watch Dad go, taking with him their link with the outside world - the family car. In millions of other households, however, Mother is not cut off from civilization when Dad departs. For the family has a second car in the garage.

Wow. Would I ever like to punch the guy who wrote that gibberish in the nose.

If any high level advertising dudes stumble upon my blog, my wish is that you'd turn your efforts to groups like this and try to rectify the damage you've done to the world with the automobile hoax.

The modern Little Red Riding Hood, reared on singing commercials, has no objection to being eaten by the wolf.

- Marshall McLuhan, Canadian communications theorist.
quote found on this page.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Duke's Cycle

Picture and story from the Torontoist.

There has long been a bicycle shop in Toronto called Duke's Cycles. I don't know if I ever bought anything from them, but whenever I was walking along Queen West I'd stop in and drool over their cross bikes.

A massive fire struck Queen Street West in Toronto this morning, and might still be blazing while I type. It would appear that Duke's, along with many other shops, is now gone.

Be well, Duke's - may the road rise up to meet you.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Too much silence can be misleading

It's February in Orillia, which means snow up to your waist, and I've finally done a bit of work on my Cannondale. As you may or may not remember, my Cannondale has had an interesting life since I bought it off my friend Duncan. When I bought it, it was a fairly zippy bike, set up with Shimano 105 components, and it used downtube shifters.
I used it the summer I was biking from downtown Toronto to my job in Oshawa, and promptly put over 4000 kilometers on it. Then I had a crash, ended up snapping off the derailleur hanger, and it became a single-speed. Finally sick of the grimy looking hoods, and the black bar tape, I decided to beautify a little bit.

I bought some Shimano brake levers from Nashbar, and some Specialized Gel Tape from my new hometown bike shop, and set to work redoing the levers and the tape. By the way, if you want to learn how to wrap handlebar tape, you can do yourself a favour and watch this video.
Anyway, above you can see the old look of the hoods (although I'd already replaced the right lever by the time I took that photo). And then to the left here, you can see the new tape job.
I think it looks great, but I guess I won't really know how good a job I did until the summer when I put some wear and tear on the bike, and see how the tape job lasts. To get even more cushion on the bar, I taped a strip of the old tape along the top of the bar, and then taped the new stuff over top.

I'm finding myself absolutely burnt out with cycling these days. I don't bike for transportation in Orillia, because the city is small enough that I just walk everywhere, and I simply cannot bear to be on my bike on my trainer in the basement these days. So I've more or less given myself the winter off.
Hoping to keep in some sort of shape, I bought some snowshoes yesterday.
Velocity sells snowshoes as well as bikes, and they had a "test some snowshoes" hiking day yesterday. Annalise and I romped around on some Tubbs Odysseys for a while, and decided to buy them, especially because they were last year's model and were going for about $60.00 off.

After we'd tried them, I asked the guy what sort of level snowshoes the Odysseys were, and he said "Well, they're about two down from the top model, and two or three levels up from the bottom."
"So these are the Shimano 105s of Tubbs snowshoes?"
"Yeah! They're like buying 105, for $60.00 off."
"Okeydoke," I said. "Sold."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

such beautiful sunsets

I've been skimming through a book called Lives Per Gallon by Terry Tamminen. Tamminen is a long time environmental activist in California, and was Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, working with Governor Arnold.

The book is handy because he's collected every piece of "smog will kill you" research ever done, and you can use the book as a bibliography on this topic area.

Here are some other neat notes from the book:

On Military Spending to Protect the Oil Supply

He's studied how much the U.S. devotes to military spending to place troops and technology in oil producing areas, to protect the oil supply. His number, EXCLUDING IRAQ, is between $55 to $100 billion each year. According to one report, the American military is spending $98 million to protect one single pipeline down in Colombia and Venezuela (page 59).

On How to design a planet

He ponders how you would design cities etc if you had the chance to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. Would you....
"build residences in the middle of the most fragile natural resources and then build the workplaces 50 km away? Would you connect the two with costly ribbons of steel and concrete? To get from one point to another, would you put people in 3-ton steel and plastic containers, propelled by a highly flammable substance that could only be found in sufficient quantity on the opposite side of the globe? A substance that could only be made useful by drilling thousands of meters into the planet and then filtering the stuff in factories built on vast, industrial wastelands?" (page 165).

On another way to react to 9/11

"What if the United States had responded to the September 11, 2001, attacks by directing the $100 billion that was spent during the FIRST YEAR of war in Iraq on a crash program to build alternative fuel vehicles and fueling stations, launching a new economy, phasing out our use of oil, and underwriting well-paying U.S. jobs and exports in alternative energy production for decades to come?" (page 159).

Anyway - there are some interesting points in the book, but it's definitely not something you can read straight through. And even for a dude like me, Tamminen is a bit too over the top sometimes with his agenda.