Thursday, October 13, 2005

Does not Meet Safety Standards

It's serendipity when you tune to a radio station you rarely listen to and there's Bill Carroll on CFRB spouting off on a pet peeve! With Bill Saundercook, Toronto councillor, no less, who spoke about Toronto's works committee preferring to defer to the lawyers on this one and defeating a one-year trial proposal.

It seems we are asking for the sun, the moon, and the stars. They "do not meet Ontario's equipment safety standards for on-road usage," so say City of Toronto lawyers. So too said the British parliament when they enacted legislation to protect pedestrians and other users of the road from the new-fangled vehicles, stipulating the number of operators, a warning system to let one know one was coming, and speed limits. Many felt this law happened because company barons wanted to eliminate the competition. Here too the powerful want to do the same, as one theory goes: the TTC would have fewer users, automobile companies would lose market share to the other side (for short trips), the leftists want to help the environment only through human power -- power assistance undercuts their mantra and is a no-no. On the other hand, there are the frightened constituents, who take the classic stance of the compassionate NIMBY -- "I'm thinking of the seniors and small children" -- to hide their fear of the unknown. Take your pick. But whatever the reason we stand in unison with the British parliamentarians of July 5, 1865, who passed the Red Flag Law, formally known as the infamous Locomotives and Highways Act, to restrict the use of the motor car.

"This was clearly logical. Cars were clearly dangerous and the week after Parliament removed this requirement Britain had its first fatal road traffic accident." Chairman, Select Committee on Trade and Industry, Hansard UK.

So what imperils our safety, even our very lives that we must restrict this menace even in our parks, to the point that city lawyers warn adherents that "they can't use certain public roadways and they aren't likely to get the permit needed to be driven outside of roadways or parking lots" (John Spears' article in today's Toronto Star)?

Segways.

Yes, those 2-wheeled, quiet, small innovative transports. Those vehicles that will allow people who can't use bikes or can't walk long distances, or those who prefer cars to the TTC, to move easily from A to B and carry stuff to boot without polluting the city air that we all breathe. Carroll noted that police and postal workers around the world are using Segways, just like their counterparts a century ago took to using new-fangled bicycles, also deemed a menace by indignant pedestrians.
"Robyn Reisler, president of Segway Ontario, said in an interview he was shocked that the city is unwilling to allow even a trial period, adding a report on an extensive Segway pilot project in Quebec is due out soon.

Segways are allowed on sidewalks in most U.S. states, he said." John Spears, buried in the GTA section of The Toronto Star, 13 October 2005.
That reminds me, how do we characterize Americans, those people who refused to sign the Kyoto Accord, while we loudly proclaimed our much better commitment to the environment?

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Update: "Between 1995 and 2002, Canada cut its air pollution by 1.8 per cent while the U.S. achieved a cut of 45 per cent, says the report by Environmental Defence and the Canadian Environmental Law Association....The Ontario Medical Association has estimated pollution causes 5,800 premature deaths in the province every year." Canadian Press piece in The Toronto Star.

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