Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another Day in Insane Toronto Traffic

Traffic -- car, bicycle, pedestrian, motorized scooters -- in Toronto is insane.

The sky was chucking it down yesterday; even after it stopped, twas awhile before the pavement dried. So, of course, car drivers like to pretend it’s just another sunny day with excellent braking conditions. Luckily, no pedestrian was nearby when the SUV zipped through a deep puddle and fountained the sidewalk.

The day began with us following the driver in her (his?) gleaming white Pickering Mitsubishi SUV who thought Bloor Street traffic was just too slow, as if the shopping mecca part of that street ever goes faster than stop and go. So she changed lanes from left to right to cosy up behind a cab. When we were about to pass her, back she squeezed into the left lane. But that didn’t last long, back to the right lane for her. And again into the left lane. The cop on the bicycle couldn’t care less. We finally passed the impatient-idiot-gunning-for-a-crash when she got stuck behind a delivery truck (why are delivery trucks allowed to stop on Bloor during the day?).

But Toronto drivers were not done. To up the frustration factor, a black SUV/van stopped right in front of a parking lot entrance, blocking anyone from entering it. A woman gets out the passenger side; a man in his flip flops and stretched white T-shirt lumbers out the driver’s side; they swap. Well, she does, but he has a hard time getting round the front of the vehicle. He finally manages it, they take off, the queue enters the parking garage.

Toronto drivers routinely ignore speed limits if they can, including the cop car in front of us on a 40-kph stretch of Spadina, no lights, no sirens, just flying along in harmony with the cars in front of him.

But the insanity was not over. Driving down a one-way street with a bike lane, I see a bicyclist pedalling the wrong way on the sidewalk. Did I make it sound like she was being careful? Uh, no. The street curves, so any unsuspecting pedestrian would not see her till quite close. She didn’t care. She was beetling up the middle of the sidewalk like hell was on her back, no helmet on, golden hair streaming behind her. No, hell wasn’t on her back -- she was bringing it to an innocent, and only luck would prevent it.

Like her, many bicyclists pedal along Toronto streets with no helmets on. Real smart, especially the guy who swerved precipitately out of the bike lane in front of a fast-moving car, not checking behind him first, wearing no helmet. Nice red-striped shirt though.

And then there are the scooters. Toronto City Council once portentously declared Segways dangerous because they can go too fast. Clearly, they’ve never shared a sidewalk with a man on a scooter or a woman in a motorized wheelchair. Get out of the way or be run over! is their silent cry.

Pedestrians jaywalk all over the place and sacrifice their lives for it. Apparently, it didn’t used to be a crime, and before car companies convinced governments to outlaw it so their products could zip along streets faster, hordes of people crossed wherever they felt like it. You see it in old black-and-white street films. Today, men in flip flops do it, bellies extending into heavy traffic flowing the opposite way. So do women pushing strollers with babies in front of them. So do people and slow-walking dogs. So do old people with poor balance. And they rarely wait for a break in traffic. Instead they dodge cars -- really, how can the mobility- and balance-challenged think they can dodge cars? -- or stand on the midline, feet sticking into the line of oncoming tires. And the funniest are the ones who do that a metre from the traffic lights or a crosswalk. What? Crossing the road safely is beneath them?

Until we return to early-20th century equality of cars and people, jaywalking in heavy but moving traffic is just stupid. But then traffic in Toronto is stupid.

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