Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category


In small towns like ours, the passionate drive for change is more noticeable than in the Big City. Bigtown change is often lost among the millions of people and the multitude of dubious projects planned by equally dubious politicians.

Smalltown change stands out, and is generally initiated by new arrivals. Seems strange, doesn’t it? They come here to escape the negatives of the City and gain the positives of the small town … and the first thing they do is petition for sweeping changes to that which exists, often the very fabric of the town, aspects that have spanned the generations.

German, high speed. Attractive design.*

There’s people from the City settle here.

The years of corp’rate cares have worn them down;

Bucolic peace they suddenly hold dear,

And think to find it here, in our small town.

But City folk seek change. Since they’ve come down,

Uptown, downtown, change is always sought—

Yes, change, their well-belovèd verb and noun—

To alter, but not always what they ought.

So what’s to change? Well, trains are not so hot.

Their whistles drive the urban mind insane;

At night they wake; by day they banish thought.

Thence came the City’s change: The silent train.

So every level crossing in the town

Must now lie silent ’neath the City’s frown.


But not everyone agrees. We bow to change, to make “reasonable accommodation,” to please the recent arrivals, but in our hearts we experience a sense of loss.

Japanese, high speed. Just standing still, looks like its doing 150 kmh.**

But some of us from another smaller town,

And another age where different things meant peace,

Would hear the whistle’s voice without a frown;

We’d smile, remembering, not call police.

But City folk were firm: The noise must cease.

No more must whistles with the trains combine.

But to the boy I was they brought release!

The blue jays of the rails, their wings were mine!

In bed at night I’d hear them down the line,

And in my young boy’s mind I’d board each train.

I’m older now, yet every train seems mine;

The distant whistle’s song a sweet refrain.

It called me then, and now, and always will;

Each night I hear its voice: It calls me still.

*  photo: S. Terfloth
* *  photo: N. Coutts


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One of the big problems for pedestrians — and there are a lot of big problems for pedestrians in our car-oriented society, but one of the most serious in Ontario is the traffic law that allows motorists to turn right at a traffic light even while the light is red. Red usually means stop — surprising news for many motorists! — but in Ontario, the driver of a vehicle, after judicious consideration of  traffic flow, pedestrian movement, time of day, and the driver’s own homicidal inclination (or rather pedicidal), the driver is permitted to turn right against the light and continue on his way, thus speeding up traffic in general. But …

Motorists here are the same as elsewhere:

Run down pedestrians without a care;

run down pedestrians, that’s why they’re there,

but you’ll lose extra points if they have grey hair!

… because elderly people are easier to run down.

But the real problem is seen in the motorist’s definition of “judicious consideration.” The driver naturally looks left, to escape being hit by oncoming vehicles. Smart move. But while looking left — no traffic coming? — he is at the same time turning right, in effect driving with his eyes closed, virtually. And turning right is precisely where you are (or rather were …).

Reversing is another deadly problem. Always pass in front of a car whose motor is running and is occupied by a driver who is looking at you. Do not pass behind the car. Otherwise … well, just remember what motorists do:

They press the gas pedal, that’s what they do,

before they check the side mirror’s view.

Fine for the motorist, but not for you

(but posthumously your lawyer can sue …)

But a fat lot of good that’ll do for you,

you innocent stroller without a clue.

Above all other considerations, it’s imperative that you remember this:

If you, as a pedestrian, observe only two traffic safety measures in your possibly short life, make it these two: (1) right turns, and (2) reversing. It doesn’t matter how many other precautions you take, without these two, you’re toast.

Illustrations ©www.ClipProject.info

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Small Cars

I notice there are a lot of the new microscopic cars on the roads these days. They look like a child’s toy. They’re so small you have trouble finding them in a full-page ad. They only have room for one coat of paint.

Looking at it reminded me of the time, half a century ago, when I visited Italy. It was back in the summer of 1955. I got off the train in Milano, and my Italian friends picked me up in their car, a small Fiat 500 called a “Topolino” (little mouse), and never was a car more aptly named. It was considered the smallest car in the world in the years it was produced (1936-1955). There was room in the car for one person, provided he exhaled before he got in, and didn’t breathe till he got out. There were three of us in the car, the softer parts of us bulging out the windows.

Fiat "Topolino" 500 B, 1948

Fiat "Topolino" 500 C, 1949

And I get the same impression looking at the new micro cars. I doubt if my wife could do her grocery shopping in one of them. She’d need two. I saw one yesterday, parked with the motor running. The engine sounded like a budget model of her sewing machine. Though I think the sewing machine analogy is a bit passé. There doesn’t seem to be a “budget” sewing machine anymore. The prices are bigger than the machine; big fat aggressive prices to cover the cost of the electronics. No more pushing the treadle with your foot.

Fiat 500 C, 2010

But these new small cars: I guess we should call them nano-cars (or has some imaginative ad man already come up with that?) Are they the new wave? The super ecology-centric, money-saving electronic machine? I could pick it up with one hand, so it must get a thousand kilometres to a litre of gas. Now that’s my kind of car …

… I think.

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