Bicycles On Sidewalks

Here in Montreal, the weather has finally shown signs that spring may just arrive at long last. Most if not all of the snow has been washed away by rain, sidewalks are being cleaned of the various abrasive substances used for pedestrian safety during the winter i.e. sand and gravel. I saw a few top-down convertibles yesterday and motorcyclists are back on the roads.

Of course, this change in the weather also means the return of bicycles. The city has been busy placing Bixi docking stands all over town, thereby greatly reducing the already small number of parking spots available in the downtown core.

The bike lanes have once again been festooned with the flexible stanchions that are removed to allow for snow clearing during the winter. Montreal has more than 700 kilometres of bike paths, making it a North American leader in this area. Cyclists are out in vast numbers: recreational and those who use their bikes as their main method of transport. Evidently, there are also some who harbour dreams of the Tour de France, getting off their sofas after the long winter and suiting-up in all the latest gear. They seem to assume that looking the part is what it is all about

There exists a love-hate relationship between drivers and cyclists here; drivers love to hate cyclists. Not without reason. While I agree many, perhaps most, bike riders are law-abiding users of the roads. Sure sometimes they roll through stop signs and red lights in an effort to maintain momentum. Lots of drivers do likewise. That does not bother me, as long as it is done safely. But what does get me is bicycles on sidewalks. I rarely, if ever, see a car on the sidewalk dodging heavy traffic.

I figure no one over the age of about seven should be riding a bike on a sidewalk. Yet on a daily basis, I encounter alleged-adults pedaling along the sidewalk in an effort to avoid street traffic. This is dangerous, stupid, selfish and potentially life-threatening. But there they are scooting along among the pedestrians. 

I don’t know if this is a Montreal thing, but on a recent trip to New York City, a much more congested city with evidently few bike lanes, I did not encounter a single sidewalk cyclist. I have a friend who is a bike courier here. He has done the same job in both London and New York. He points out that although much bigger cities, London and New York are safer for bike couriers because drivers are more aware of their presence on the road, and their right to be there.  

Don’t just sit back and watch your “fellow” cyclists giving you all a bad name by riding recklessly. Shout at them! Let them know they are screwing things for all cyclists.

There have been countless letters to editors, op-ed pieces and street side yelling matches over this issue here. What irks me is that the supposed majority of cyclists, the law-abiding ones, don’t seem to understand that they are being disparaged by the scofflaw sidewalk riders. Therefore I think it is high time cyclists started to police themselves. 

Don’t just sit back and watch your “fellow” cyclists giving you all a bad name by riding recklessly. Shout at them! Let them know they are screwing things for all cyclists.

Congestion Fees


If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

George Harrison

London has it. Singapore as well. It’s coming to New York in a couple of years. The concept of congestion fees; additional charges – like a bridge toll – to drive your car in certain designated areas at times of high volume. 

If you want to drive your car within the area shown on the map below from Monday to Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. you will have to pay a fee of £11.50 (about USD$15).

I heard a radio interview with an urban sociologist on this topic recently. The interviewer pointed out that we already pay significant taxes for street maintenance and repair. The sociologist responded that the congestion fees are not for road upkeep, but for road access. It is considered a surcharge, not a tax.

Collection is by bar-code scanning much like bridge tolls. You can pay in advance and get a reduction, or get a bill at the end of the month.

What’s next? A surcharge to sit on the bus or subway – one fee for strap-hangers and an increased fee for seated passengers. 

Perhaps it’s just me, but this seems patently unfair.  Cars are expensive, gas is expensive, insurance is expensive and taxes are high. To impose a surcharge on folks trying to make a living seems counter-productive. 

Even those who use public transit don’t get off free. Unless you are in a standard black London taxi, which are exempt from the fees, you will be hit with an increase. UBER will add a £1 surcharge to clients’ bills if they enter the charge zone.  There are those who blame the various ride sharing companies, chief among them UBER, for causing the increase in congestion and leading to the fees. 

What’s next? A surcharge to sit on the bus or subway – one fee for strap-hangers and an increased fee for seated passengers (and don’t get caught sitting with a standee ticket or the fine could be significant). 

Restaurants could start charging for utensils.

Restaurants could start charging for utensils. Aside form the price of one’s meal, the final bill would include a breakdown of knives, forks, spoons, etc. used and the subsequent surcharge. Smuggling in your own utensils will be easily detected and result in being ousted from the establishment. 

Seems to me these congestion fees are a very slippery slope; one that will no doubt involve a fee to use!

Summer and Out-of-Town Drivers

OntPlate

After a long hot summer with very few posts, I figure it’s time I got back to the keyboard. I’ll start with an observation that I made numerous times over the last few months.

This year with the Canadian dollar measuring up so poorly with the US greenback many Canadians opted to vacation north of the border; moving east and west instead of north and south. With Montreal’s busy festival season that runs from the Formula 1 Grand Prix in early June, through the Jazz Festival and Just For Laughs, I sensed an even greater number of tourists this year. Judging by accents and license plates, I suspect the statistics will show a pretty good year for tourism.

RightRedSpeaking of license plates, my non-scientific observation leads me to believe that cars with Ontario plates seem to carry the worst drivers. They stop anywhere anytime for absolutely no apparent reason, they seem to take little naps at red lights necessitating a polite toot on the horn, and they insist on turning right on red. There are two places in North America where you cannot legally turn right on red: Montreal and Manhattan. Even with several signs indicating that right on red is illegal, Ontario drivers still cause havoc by going through red lights.

A10-Granby

Yet another irksome driving habit. My wife and I went away for a weekend in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. On an average day, our destination would take about 90 minutes to reach. It took us the better part of three hours due to a major accident that closed the highway completely. As the photo above shows, no one was going anywhere fast. 

I understand that covering those ten feet is not going to really affect one’s arrival time, but it is psychologically essential to me that I feel I’m moving.

I’m not a good person in traffic. There comes a point when after inching forward only to stop again causes me to become enraged. My dear wife is quick to pick up on this, perhaps it’s me screaming MOOOVE that tips her off, so she soon slips on some Joe Cocker in an attempt to keep me from blowing a head pipe.

The car that we trailed for what felt like days (I must admit it was a local plate) was driven by a person who, when there was a gap between her car and the one in front, was in no hurry to move up. I understand that covering those ten feet is not going to really affect one’s arrival time, but it is psychologically essential to me that I feel I’m moving.

DRIVE THE CAR FOR CHRISSAKE!!!!

Nope. She’d coast along when she was good and ready. The rest of the weekend was very restful, once I got my blood pressure back to normal.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

A Montreal Fender-Bender

On the Saturday before Christmas my wife and I went to a local shopping mall for some last-minute odds and ends, having finally completed our shopping. The temperature was hovering around the freezing mark which was providing us with that much detested freezing rain. Snow is one thing, rain another, but the two mixed at one time usually results in a skating rink effect.

Snow is one thing, rain another, but the two mixed at one time usually results in a skating rink effect.

While leaving the parking lot, driving ever so slowly as the surface had yet to see any salt or abrasive, I came to a stop at a stop sign. Approaching the same little intersection on my left was another shopper. With the slippery surface, I waited to make certain he stopped before I advanced. That was my mistake, as in his attempt to stop he slid into my right front wheel.

I got out of the car and looked for damage. I found several pieces of plastic that I could not place until he pointed out that they were from his car. He apologized and, once I had confirmed that he was using snow tires, I graciously accepted. He pulled over to the side and prepared a paper with his name and contact information.

Interestingly he was a Francophone, but would only address me in English, while I did my best to communicate with him in French. Call it a typical Montreal fender-bender.

My wife and I had a good look at the car’s body and could not see any damage. So I went over to him, took his coordinates, shook his hand and we wished each other a Merry Christmas. Interestingly he was a Francophone, but would only address me in English, while I did my best to communicate with him in French. Call it a typical Montreal fender-bender.

Alas, it was not the fender that was bent, but a tie-rod. We noticed that the car was pulling to the left and that the steering wheel was not ‘true’ i.e it was off-center when driving straight. The replacement and a wheel alignment cost us $180. Did I contact the other driver? Naw. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and accept that shit happens.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

The More Detours; the More Geniuses on the Roads

BEFORE                                                                                AFTER

On her first day back at school late last August, after meeting with her fellow teachers and going through umpteen administrative chore my wife was driving home when she was involved in one of those chain-reaction accidents. Fortunately the traffic was heavy and therefore not moving too fast. Nonetheless the car behind my wife was unable to stop in time and collided with our car. My wife was shaken, but fine. Others in the multi-car incident were transported to the hospital for treatment. It seems this whole thing was caused by some genius who had decided he or she was not going to wait in the line of slow-moving traffic, but would zip along in the faster lane and then cut in at the last possible moment. This time it caused much damage.

The photo above shows the before and after – the lighting makes the colour look different in the after, but I can assure you it is the same cappuccino as they like to call it at Kia. When I say after I mean after a week in the body shop and over $6000 worth of repairs and replacements. Thank God the insurance company has footed the entire bill, even the deductible, as my wife was not at fault.

My first car, a 1973 Toyota Corona,  cost me $500 in 1978. I once had to nip into a service station, not just a gas emporium like we have today, but a place where they fixed cars as well as pumped gas, to see why billows of thick black smoke were emanating from under the hood of my car. Once the air cleared the mechanic pointed out the problem: a broken hose. He replaced it and charged my the princely sum of $5. Now that may well have been all the money I had, but I was back on my way in about 15 minutes.

How times have changed.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

 

Crosswalks and Speed Bumps; Not Interchangeable

The other day I watched out my apartment window as a woman with three children, all of whom appeared to be under six years old, crossed the street. This alone was not unusual as there is a school just down the street. She made a point of walking to the crosswalk and telling her kids about how to be a smart pedestrian and to cross at the crosswalk. Not that I could hear her, but it seemed to me that was what she was doing.

Off the sidewalk they stepped, all holding hands, and headed across the crosswalk only to have a rude driver sound his horn and shout at the woman. You see she evidently thought she was crossing on a crosswalk but was, in fact, crossing on a speed bump. Well intentioned but dangerously ill-informed.

Speed bump, not a crosswalk.

Traditionally in Montreal crosswalks are usually ignored by drivers with the few exceptions of new crosswalks that are well indicated with signs and flashing lights. One province over, in Ontario, they have instilled in drivers and pedestrians the importance of crosswalks. As is the case in Alberta pedestrians are told to approach the crosswalk, point across the street, check for cars and cross. A driver seeing a pointing pedestrian by a crosswalk must yield the right of way to them, anticipating their desire to cross the street. To try this method in Montreal would lead to a tragedy I fear (although it can be chucklesome to watch out-of-towners trying it only to be honked at).

To try this method in Montreal would lead to a tragedy I fear (although it can be chucklesome to watch out-of-towners trying it only to be honked at). 

In my neighbourhood many of the secondary residential side streets have speed bumps. Not those rubber things sometimes used at stop signs to make sure drivers stop, but mid-block asphalt ridges that are supposed to force drivers to pass over slowly or risk damage to their car. Although these bumps are painted yellow, they are about as far from a crosswalk as can be.

They don’t always have the desired effect however, as is evidenced by the occasional loud scraping sound as a car goes over too fast. Certainly this is no place to cross the street, let alone instruct children to do so.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Roundabouts: Cute in Song, Annoying in Practice

Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout
A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
Penny Lane by Lennon/McCartney

The United Kingdom has been using traffic roundabouts in place of traffic lights for decades. The idea is that by merging with other cars in a circular manner and “getting off” at your street the flow of traffic is uninterrupted. Traffic lights require cars to stop at red lights while the roundabout does not. All fine and dandy.

If you live in a place that has used these things for ages, you get the concept and understand the rules. For instance if you are entering at the 5:00 o’clock point and want to exit not at the 1:00 o’clock point, but over at 11:00 o’clock, you cannot simply coast along in the outside lane. The outside lane is for entering and exiting only. If you get caught passing an exit while in the outside lane you are liable to a fine.

All of this makes some sense in terms of road safety. If you are familiar with the roundabout in question it poses no problem. But if you are new to the area you have to merge, move over to the inner lane, read the sign postings, merge back to the outer lane in time to exit. Sound safe to you? It takes a special kind of courage, pluck even, to use these things correctly.

What’s worse is that here in Montreal we do not have roundabouts, except for one at the airport. But it is an odd beast in that it also has traffic lights affiliated with it.

Give me traffic lights please.

I’ll be the roundabout
The words will make you out ‘n’ out
I spend the day your way
Call it morning driving through the sound and
In and out the valley
– Roundabout  by Yes Jon Anderson & Steve James Howe
DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+