Say what you will about Toronto Mayors Rob and Doug Ford, their latest proposal really has a lot going for it. "The Happy Car: A Five-point Plan to Keep City Vehicles Safe from Pedestrians" really nails it, as far as I'm concerned.
The Fords understand that happy cars and happy drivers make for a happy city. And while there are any number of things that can contribute to the unhappiness of a car and its driver -- high gas prices, tree sap, bicycles -- the pedestrian is right there at the top of the list.
Paying a buck and a half for a litre of unleaded is only annoying when you're at the pump. Tree sap's only a problem if you've parked on a tree-lined street. And bicycles, well, okay, they are a frequent pain in the butt, but they're still distant second to pedestrians.
Yes, actual human beings wandering around Toronto wherever the hell they want claim the top spot because you ALWAYS having to keep your eye out for them. I don't know how many times, while nipping around the city, I've been unable to tap in the last word of a text message because someone was sticking his hand out at a crosswalk.
The other day, in fact, I was unable to complete the last step in my car's new multi-dimensional-multi-function-multi-interface feature that allows me to change radio stations not by just pressing a single different, but by turning the console knob to media, then pressing the knob, then selecting audio, then pressing the knob, then selecting radio, then pressing the knob, then selecting FM, then pressing the knob, and then selecting the station I want, and pressing the knob, because some nitwit pedestrian believed a "walk" signal conferred upon him some God-given right to step in front of me.
Anyway, the Fords plan is essentially an education campaign aimed at people who don't appreciate that if there weren't cars, movies like Bullitt and The French Connection and Ronin wouldn't have been nearly as interesting.
Here are the key points the Fords want to drive home:
-- Cars are hard to keep clean so keep your mucky hands off them. Sometimes, when pedestrians are forced to walk around cars that couldn't quite make it through the light, they find themselves rubbing up against the car, or running their hands along the hood or fender. This thoughtless behaviour can leave fingerprints and smudges. Knock it off.
-- Give the right of way when a car needs the sidewalk. During peak hours, when cars are stuck in traffic, there's still often more than enough space on a sidewalk to allow a car to pass (and it's a particularly easy maneuver for SUVs, which have no trouble mounting curbs). Pedestrians, whether they like to admit it or not, can scatter at a relatively high speed and with little notice. So there's no reason they can't withdraw under a store awning, or simply lay flat and allow the vehicle to pass over.
-- If you're an old person, for the love of God, have someone drive you across the street. If pedestrians are at the top of the list of things that annoy cars and their drivers, we need find a spot above them for elderly pedestrians. You could do 10 laps at Mosport in the time it takes some of these oldsters to cross in front of your car at Bloor and Spadina.
-- Enough with the fundraising walks. Cars and drivers have had it with Yonge and University and the Don Valley being shut down to allow human beings to walk or run to raise money for this or that disease. From now on, the city will only support drive-a-thons. Let's face it. If you're trying to fund a cure for prickly heat, and all you have to do is drive the parkway from Lakeshore up to the 401 and back again, that's going to leave a hell of a lot more time for research.
-- Make PATH accessible to cars. Pedestrians have been hogging Toronto's underground network of store-lined tunnels for years. Wouldn't you love it if you could drive your Dodge Ram down the escalator at the Royal Bank building and toodle up the tunnel, maybe steer into the food court to pick up some New York Fries? If you do most of your driving in the downtown core, this will also eliminate the need for snow tires.
Next week: The Fords come up with a way to kill all birds so they won't poop on your hood.
Linwood Barclay latest novel is The Accident, and his memoir Last Resort is now available as an ebook.