Thursday, December 22, 2011

Canadian car thieves armed with dangerously bad taste

Last week, when the Insurance Bureau of Canada released its list of the top ten stolen vehicles in Canada for 2010, one thing was clear – Canadian car thieves plied their ruinous trade armed with dangerously bad taste and a clear disdain for the environment.

Take the car at the top of the list – the 2009 Toyota Venza. At first glance, its main appeal would be the freakishly oversize 19” wheels. This is not a pretty car. It is not a sexy car. It is just plain fugly. But according to an anonymous automotive locksmith, in its first year of production, the security system had a loophole. And so anyone can break into it in only 24 seconds. Another reason not to buy a car in its first production year.

Moving down to #2 and #3, we have the more predictable 1999 and 2000 Honda Civic SiR. Not only are these popular with the young tuner crowd, but they can apparently be broken into with a simple butter knife.

Next, #4, #5, #6 and #7 – the 06 Ford 350 pickup 4WD, 02 Cadillac Escalade EXT 4-door AWD , 06 Chevy Trailblazer SS 4-door 4WD, and the 07 Ford 350 pickup 4WD. It’s unlikely any of these will haul anything grittier than Gucci luggage. They will, however, spend a lot of time at the gas station, where the cashier may or may not be impressed. That’s about the best reason for having one. Those poor cashiers get bored.

But it’s #8 on this list that is truly mystifying – the 2001 Pontiac Aztek. Although it can fold out into a handy dandy tent, the hideous Aztek (nicknamed Asstek) demonstrates that Detroit does ugly like no one else. I even emailed an Aztek owners’ association to ask them what they thought of this dubious achievement, and no one got back to me. Perhaps they were all out celebrating? Or thinking of ways to entice car thieves, like leaving the engine running and a six-pack of brewsky on the front seat.

Finally, #9 and #10, the dependable 98 and 99 Acura Integra.These cars are hot in many ways, unfortunately. And the butter knife that breaks into a Civic SiR? It will apparently break into these as well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

All I want for Chrismakah

If you look closely at the photo on the left, you’ll see it’s a Christmas tree – but decorated with photos of a young Barbra Streisand. The handiwork of Rhonda Lieberman, a “Barbra Bush” may just be the perfect way to celebrate Chrismakah . (That’s Christmas and Hanukah for those who may be wondering.)

Naturally, there are a few things on my Chrismakah list that are a little futuristic and perhaps downright fantastical. For example: I’d like a car where every surface is heated. Not just heated seats and a heated steering wheel, but a heated dashboard, floormat, gearshift, etc. I don’t want to touch anything cold. Ever.

This would extend to the outside. If all the body panels were heated, why, the snow would just mellllt away.

While we’re at it, how about the car colour changing at the touch of a button? That’s because sometimes, I’d like to have a pink car. That’s when I ‘m parking in a dubious neighbourhood. Nobody steals pink cars, right?Then it could switch back to silver when I’m ready to leave.

And wouldn’t it be great if my car shrank so it could fit into really tiny parking spaces? That way I wouldn’t have to bash the cars around me like this idiot.

Then there’s the question of fuel. You can go ahead and run your car on hydrogen or electricity, but me, I’d like my car to run on my favourite beverage – like hot chocolate or green tea. I know I’d never run out!

How about some additional lanes on the roadways? Not just for bicycles, but for those drivers who simply must attend to their text messages. That’s because all cars would be equipped with motion detecting software that lights up a big LED rooftop sign “CAUTION DRIVER TEXTING” as soon as they reach for their Crackberry.

Finally, I’d like my car to turn into a streetcar like the King 504. That way, I really could use transit as much as I want to. And … I’d be on time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Walk this way

Before anyone learns to drive or even ride a bicycle, first – they walk. And for many of us, that’s still our primary mode of transportation. Especially if you live in an urban area.

Frankly, I love walking. It’s a healthy and social way of getting around. And often much more efficient than waiting for the streetcar. During the week, I almost always walk or take transit. Driving is reserved for weekends, for shopping, schlepping or visiting far-flung family and friends.

And so I’ve always found it ironic that in Ontario, pedestrian rights are lovingly detailed in our Highway Traffic Act, which includes a definition for a “pedestrian crossover” but not the term “pedestrian.”

It is encouraging that the official MTO (Ministry of Transportation Ontario) driver’s handbook for student drivers includes a couple of pages about sharing the road with pedestrians. There’s even a diagram of pedestrians of all shapes, sizes and abilities using a crosswalk – complete with cars neatly stopped at the white lines. If only real life reflected the MTO driver’s handbook!

Despite the fact that the word pedestrian is defined by as “lacking in vitality, imagination, distinction, etc.”, walking is making a great comeback. There are sites like that will rank your neighbourhood’s walkability, or walking access to main streets or public spaces, parks, flourishing business, public transit, affordable housing and more. In the U.S., one point of Walk Score is worth up to $3,000 towards the value of your home!

One of the most vociferous advocates of walking is spacing magazine, which in 2005 dedicated an entire issue to the joys of pedestrianism. The cover declared “Everyone is a pedestrian – it took us millions of years to learn how to walk and only 100 to forget.”

Yet, walking has never gone out of fashion for some of us – observant jews have always lived close to their synagogue, so they could walk to Shabbat services. Anything else was strictly forbidden. In pockets of Toronto and elsewhere around the world, observant jews still live close to their synagogue for the same reason – and they don’t drive or take public transit on Shabbat.

You could say, it’s in their religion to walk. Not a bad example.