By the Side of the Road

By Ben Bull
Published November 27, 2006

As we bemoan the state of Hamilton's downtown freeways and dive headfirst into the two-way street debate here at RTH, let's spare a thought for the people walking by the sides of the road in other countries.

Today's Toronto Star features a driving tour of Ireland by Kevin McGran: "There are no sidewalks, so pedestrians, cyclists, mothers and baby carriages pop up sporadically," he says, of the countries notorious network of windy roads.

McGran goes on to describe the alarming disconnect between drivers and pedestrians: "They (other motorists) ride your tail if you don't go fast enough, despite the hairpin turns around the cliffs and down the mountainside.

There are signs that say 100 km/h is a "suggestion, not a goal."

More disconcerting are the rising death statistics which are now double those of Canada. "On one day while we were there, five people were killed. eighteen more died the next week."

Flipping to the inside pages I find a small piece about gridlock in Russia, and the extremes to which some people are now going to avoid it: "'Police motorcades for sale in Russia,' reads the banner, 'Drivers now ignore emergency vehicles'"

The cause? "Three Million cars now clog up Moscow, up twelvefold since the collapse of communism."

Later in the day, speaking to my wife on the phone from Spain, she tells me she is taking her "life in her hands" every time she leaves her Mum's apartment. "There are no sidewalks out here," she told me. "People are getting killed all the time."

People like her Grandma, who got flattened by a bus on her way to the shops, right outside her house.

As the two-way traffic calming debate rages here at RTH we would do well to remember the single most important reason for our concern.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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