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Donald Trump Orders Murder?

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Iran has bothered the powers that be in the United States for several decades now.

Yesterday, American President Donald Trump effectively acknowledged that he ordered the murder of a senior Iranian official (General Qassim Soleimani) in order to provoke the Middle Eastern nation into retaliation.

Why are the UN and other international bodies not intervening in this madness?

And why does the world tolerate nothing more htan a mob boss calling a ‘hit’ on his competing interests?

Congratulations Donald Trump: you will likely bring about WW III, distracting us all from more pressing matters like your impeachment and the doom and gloom associated with global warming.

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Electric Cars: Let’s Resolve to Have Them Now

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Happy 2020 everyone. I wish you all the bestof 2020 as the fun of 2019 draws to a close.

During the year, I intend to pivot my focus to green(er) issues. They’re of interest and yes, they’re topical. The more voices that join the chorus, the stronger the choir, right?

Anyways, this past weekend, the CBC posted an article casting doubt on the future of electric cars, despite the fact that countries all over the world are ‘doubling down’ on their future. (The CBC also continues to bury us with mush about the oil patch and how we can ‘save’ it in 2020 – frankly, the sycophantic approach to Alberta is making me a little batty. It’s not the only economy in Canada).

Getting back on track …

Other countries are investing in a green future. For example, Turkey just invested $3.7 billion to create its own electric car manufacturing company.

With GM shutting down in Ontario (and Ford and Chrysler likely to follow suit), we need to consider doing the same thing.

As an aside, I tried hard to find an article from Wired Magazine about 20 years ago where they proposed a TRILLION dollar investment in the US alone that would pretty much completely overturn the carbon-based economy in favour of an renewable electricity-based economy.

It’s time we stopped the dance and made an effort to – as Nike says – just do it.

Let’s stop fucking around.

I say we buy out the old-school auto manufacturers (OK, expropriate if needed) and develop a strategy for farming out production and facilities to the dozens of companies that are now focusing on electric cars.

Here’s a list of just a few of the NEWER companies that have started up over the last few years:

  1. Coda Automotive
  2. Wheego Electric Cars
  3. Tesla Motors
  4. Think
  5. FIsker Automotive
  6. Tango Commuter Cars
  7. BYD
  8. GEM
  9. SABA Motors
  10. Venturi

We need to parcel out manufacturing space much like how office space gets rented out to new ventures in other businesses. Create a just-in-time platform that helps diversify our investment as opposed to putting all the power (and leverage) into the hands of just one company.

Once we have an undestanding of interest from new companies (and maybe a handful of some of the old ones), we put public funds into a commitment to have high-powered charging stations every 100 km across the country and multiple locations within urban cores. Yes, it would be tedious and a pretty severe challenge, but everyone’s excuse seems to be that there are no charging stations anywhere … so we might as well build them, own them and profit from them.

Once we start to generate revenue, we start building the appropriate public transportation infrastructure that we desparately need.

It’s time.

Oil belongs to dinosaurs.

Let 2020 be the rebirth of renewable electricity.

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Universal PharmaScare vs PharmaCare

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PharmaSCARE not Pharmacare.

Canadian politicians have been promising some mode of publicly-delivered pharmacare for some time.

Even since the dawn of universal medicine in the 1960s.

I’m a conceptual level, I’m in.

However, when it comes to the practical economic considerations behind it, I’m not too sure. I just don’t trust the implementation.

Pharmaceuticals have become vastly overpriced and the leaders of various for-profit companies have been paying themselves ENORMOUS bonuses, salaries and other perks just for simply checking in.

I’m not really keen on funneling vast sums of public money into the pockets of these folks until we have a VERY clear understanding of the costing behind the components of pharmacare and the resulting pharmaceuticals.

My hunch is that the politicians – most of whom spend more time meeting high-paid pharmaceutical lobbyists than they do meeting the average voter – will not insist on some kind of ‘audit’ or investigation of the true costs associated with public pharmacare.

Instead, this will be the one last massive cash grab / bonus handout to ageing Baby Boomers, the generation of people for whom ‘universal’ is synonymous.

Hands out. From cradle to grave.

Yes, politicians will just plow ahead with this sense of blissful ignorance, pretending that pharma companies have the best intentions when it comes to the public good.

(please note my *hint* of sarcasm).

If this is going to happen, I would stick to a basic requirement that should happen when any level of government recruit the services of a private company: they are forced to open the books, if only if it’s to a group of bureaucrats that can evaluate the costs and benefits, at which point the public can identify if we’re getting screwed or not.

And as I write, this, I know that the answer to such a demand would be puffed up indignation with a pretense that their ‘competition’ might be able to see or assess their background numbers.

As a ‘younger’ voter (I’m in my 50s now), I would much rather we make the investment in permanent infrastructure that all future generations can enjoy: facilities, hospitals, buildings that tend to the care and kindness of our seniors.

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We Need Bike Paths, Not Bike Lanes

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63% of Canadians believe there is a need for further investment in cycling infrastructure in their community.

(I just don’t think the ‘sharrow’ concept will work to anyone’s benefit … see my thoughts below …)

I got into a brief chat with a relative this weekend about cycling in urban areas and was greatfully relieved to find that we agreed nearly 100% on our ideas about how things should be done when it comes to cycling in urban areas.

The thought process about how to make things happen from a cycling standpoint is pretty much … wrong.

Right now, cyclists get maybe a metre of lane, or about 10% of a VERY busy set of roads, packed with vehicles that are substantially heavier, faster and prone to blind spots than us measly cyclists.

Planners and builders everywhere say ‘look … here’s a small tract of land … make goods things grow from it … us it … and maybe you won’t lose it …’. Or something to that respect.

It’s a little like throwing lambs in with the lion’s cages. As cyclists, we really don’t stand a chance.

Despite best efforts, pedestrian and cyclist-related accidents and deaths continue to rise. ‘Serious’ cycling-related accidents are estimated to be roughly 7,500 per year, resulting in about 1% of these accidents (roughly 75) causing death. Unfortunately, these are likely to be substantial underestimates because cities like Toronto don’t even track cycling-related accidents.

Add in the number of pedestrian accidents and deaths (in Montreal, for example, the number of injuries has been pretty constant over the last 8 years, at about 1,000-1,200 per year).

The only good news is that fatalities per 1,000,000 people seems to be on the decline, although it’s not clear if this is because people are giving up on their bikes or because they’re choosing other modes of transportation.

This compilation of stats also pointed out a number of important truths about cyclists:

  • 1-in-3 deaths: rules of the road were not followed by the cyclist
  • 56% of deaths were in an urban setting
  • 6 out of 7 deaths were male
  • Only 13% of fatalities were with cyclists that were actually wearing a helmet

Clearly, there’s an opportunity for cyclists to improve their attitude about cycling and about the potential death that literally lurks at every corner of any given road they might travel on.

The Cyclist Perspective

I am an avid cyclist.

I do my best to respect the rules of the road. I wear highly visible and reflective clothing. I’ve stopped trying to battle and engage drivers. I let them pass. I step aside. I stop at red lights and stop signs. I try to avoid ‘gutter runs’ (the act of speeding down the right-hand column between cars and curbs – it’s stupid and begging for issues).

That said, I fear one day I will be hit by a car or a door. I just hope it won’t cause any long-term damage or death.

I think there are other cyclists out there and then there are those that are chronically pissed about cars and, per the point of this article, bike ‘lanes’ because they are typically clogged with delivery trucks, parked cars, emergency vehicles, people out for a walk or, in the winter, snow and ice.

Bike lanes sometimes seem to create rather than mitigate animosity and tension between cyclists and drivers.

So what do we do?

We need 100% commitment.

We need a NATIONAL directive that basically says ‘we’ll support your public transit and your new roads, but you (as city planners and builders) have to commit to eliminating road traffic with 5% of your routes and committing those roads to non-car traffic ONLY’.

Let’s give an example: College Street in Toronto is jam-packed with people trying to avoid parking spots, street cars, delivery trucks and other vehicles all the while trying to commit to cyclists and pedestrians as well.

What would happen if the entire length of College Street, say from almost High Park all the way through to Riverdale Farm and the Don Valley Parkway (essentially the entire length of east-west Toronto) were converted to only cyclists, pedestrians and street cars / public transit?

Mayhem would likely be the immediate response, but what if, as part of this process, we REMOVED bike lanes that were created on other busy streets, effectively freeing up space for car-related traffic on those streets?

Another example might be Earl Street in Kingston. Just get rid of ALL public traffic. Because there are a number of residences there, of course, you’d have to allow some parking and some through traffic, but you could get away with shutting this street down to mostly bikes and pedestrians.

OK … another example: Ottawa, Ontario has already been very well planned in that there are bike-only paths along the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River and other naturalized areas. The network is quite extensive. Expanding on these networks and keeping them better maintained through the year might result in more usage, again opening the argument that the city could remove the small lane allocations on busier streets.

Let me know if you’ve got an example (from anywhere, not just Canada).

In summary, everyone is trying to please everyone, but it is NOT going to work. 44% of Canadians say they would cycle more if they felt safer when riding. Dedicated bike paths and NOT lanes would make a substantial difference.

The paths will have to cross at certain points, but if cities start planning with at least two specific groups in mind needing separate functionality and services, we might actually be able to chip away at the number of fatalities and casualities we see each year.

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Micro-mobility = Macro Results

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As the West argues about how to keep burning dinosaurs, some folks in the rest of the world are intent on finding solutions to our mobility problems.

I’ve ranted about the suburbs before. We don’t need to repeat that 🙂

I’ve also ranted about how design of these suburbs presents unique opportunities to think differently every time we lay down a new series of 5-lane urban highways that aren’t safe for anything but the biggest, chunkiest cars.

Even if you go electric, you’re still not thinking in terms of micro-mobility.

How are we getting EVERYONE around?

This article from CityLab lays out the history, problems and questions concerning massive road and car-related infrastructure.

in particular, they identify just FOUR key planning points when it comes to cycling and other non-car commuting:

Rethinking the “bike lane:” The name “bike lane” is yet another reason this infrastructure is seen as a special-interest demand. The conversation has started about renaming these lanes, but as of yet, there is no mutually agreed winner. My suggestion would be “micromobility lanes” to include the very diverse set of current and not-yet-imagined little vehicles.

Protected micromobility-lane network: Today protected bike lanes are usually the most ambitious infrastructure component of the twig-based model; here, it will be the least ambitious component: merely a starting point. A bold bike-micromobility vision likely starts with a complete citywide network of protected lanes, providing safe and equitable access to everyone, everywhere.

Priority or high-bandwidth streets: Priority streets would have bus-only lanes, several lanes for micromobility to accommodate increased riders and varied speeds, and large, broad sidewalks. Cars are the slowest, lowest-bandwidth forms of urban transportation. If we aren’t going to ban them outright, we need to at least start putting cars in their proper places.

Such streets would excite transit agencies fighting for bus-only lanes, as well as ADA-advocacy groups and pedestrian-advocacy groups. If communicated well, they could get find support from homeowners who have seen cut-through traffic skyrocket. Priority streets would also create opportunities for package delivery companies like FedEx and UPS that are seeing faster package deliveries with e-cargo bikes. And local business owners should also be on board, since bike-walk street can often increase sales.

And, finally, micromobility elevated freeways: The arrival of battery-powered micromobility modes like electric bikes and e-scooters has radically transformed the capabilities of the humble bicycle. Now, almost anybody can go for miles fairly quickly without breaking a sweat. Often electric micromobility is faster than cars in cities: One study found that e-scooters could reduce trip times in congested U.K. cities by 70 percent.

Recognizing these technological upgrades, shouldn’t our grand plan be to eventually provide a completely new infrastructure to support it? Once it is built, bikes and other micromobility modes could be lifted both literally and metaphorically and fly above cars on elevated freeways.

The only minor grievance I have with these recommendations is that we shouldn’t make allowance for any mass transit that isn’t pedestrian in nature. Making a whole array and network of bus-only lanes only perpetuates carbon-producing vehicles taking up public space. Transit junkies might beg to differ with my opinion, but until we properly track the EFFICIENCY of bus-related public transit, I’d be OK with backing down on this item.

Just as a reminder, here’s why: buses are great, but no city in North America uses them efficiently. We don’t use available technology and data collection to limit the number of empty buses cruising around our cities EMPTY. This poor planning only compounds congestion and road decay.

I also argue that NATIONAL directives have to be put in place that demand cycling and pedestrian advocates be at the table any time roads or transportation infrastructure are in the PLANNING stage. This way, we could red-flag any ‘traditional’ ideas about construction and lobby for better independent networks for non-car commuters.

What are your ideas behind building a stronger, more effective micro-mobility network? Have you seen best practices that are worth sharing?

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