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Distracted driving fines are about to go up

$1,000
—The new maximum fine for distracted driving, under a proposed law expected to be introduced at Queen’s Park sometime after October 20, according to the Star. (Offenders would also get demerit points.) This is the provincial government’s second attempt at introducing these changes, after a first try stalled in the legislature earlier this year. Current fines for texting at the wheel go as high as $500.

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A mesmerizing GIF that sums up one all-important way that the TTC trumps cars

Transit versus Cars

Everyone knows that taking public transit helps reduce congestion, but knowing and seeing are two different things. This incredible GIF shows the amount of road space saved when a few dozen people leave their cars at home and ride the TTC instead. The Better Way, indeed. [Peter From Texas via The Atlantic]

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Dear Urban Diplomat: How do we tell our otherwise perfect babysitter that drinking on the job isn’t cool?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Parental Guidance Needed

(Image: Johan A)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
My wife and I discovered the parenting Holy Grail: a babysitter who’s punctual, affordable and amazing with our kids. Last time she sat, we told her to help herself to anything in the fridge. When we got home, she was a bit chattier than usual. We paid her and she drove home. Then we discovered a bottle of wine sitting empty on the counter—it had been three quarters full when we left. Was she drinking while playing with the kids? Was she driving drunk? We want to keep using her, but we don’t know how to broach the drinking issue. Help!
—Parental Guidance Needed, High Park

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Features

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Philip Preville: The case for making bike helmets mandatory

Driving without a seat belt is considered absurdly reckless. Why isn’t cycling without a helmet?

Heads Will Roll

Any cyclist who’s ever been in an accident knows the feeling of being thrown upon the mercy of the grid. There is no way of predicting how the vectors will play out, nor any providence that can harness them, even for the most trifling mishap. All you can do is gird yourself.

Back in August, 47-year-old Joseph Mavec was cycling along quiet west end Wychwood Avenue when his bike’s front wheel got snagged in an old, unused streetcar track. My wife did the same thing eight years ago in the very same location and walked away with a scrape. Mavec struck his head on the pavement and quickly died. He was not wearing a helmet.

Fate was both crueler and kinder to Wendy Trusler. On July 19, 2000, Trusler was cycling north on Spadina toward College Street, back in the days when metal posts, not concrete curbs, separated the tracks from other traffic. She made a snap decision to cut across the tracks mid-block—and unwittingly into the path of a northbound 510 silently approaching at 50 kilometres an hour. “It was maybe 10 feet away from me when I saw it,” she says. “I only had time to turn my back to it.” The streetcar hit Trusler, and she bounced back and forth between it and the bollards for roughly five metres, the red rocket cracking the ribs on her left side, the posts snapping her right femur. By the time all moving bodies came to rest she had 17 broken bones, including her clavicle, shoulder blade, cheekbone and jaw. But she was wearing a helmet, and she suffered no cranial or brain trauma.

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Politics

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QUOTED: Doug Ford reveals which Ford brother is really in charge

I tried my hardest. Now that’s proof in the pudding about who actually makes decisions: it’s Rob, no mistake about it.

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Politics

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QUOTED: Toronto Police beg Rob Ford to hire a chauffeur

(Image: Twitter)

On behalf of all the citizens of Toronto that value road safety, Mr Mayor… please get a driver.

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Politics

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QUOTED: Rob Ford’s response to being caught reading while driving on the Gardiner

(Image: Twitter)

Yeah, probably. I try to catch up on my work and, you know, I keep my eyes on the road, but I’m a busy man.

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Jan Wong: the simmering class war over basement apartments in Brampton

The Urbanization of the Burbs

(Image: Getty Images)

I once moved into an illegal basement apartment in Toronto for a newspaper series about working undercover as a maid. At $750 a month, it was the most affordable roach-free dwelling I could find. What’s more, it helped my landlord, himself a cleaner at the Four Seasons, pay his mortgage. Secondary suites are mutually beneficial for renters and homeowners. So I applaud the controversial new legislation that has finally legalized the subterranean world of basement apartments. The province-wide law, which took effect in January, overrides any municipal bylaws prohibiting them—bylaws that were typically passed due to residents’ complaints about traffic congestion, overcrowded schools and, though less often vocalized, there-goes-the-neighbourhood fears.

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The city decides to start maintenance after a third chunk falls from the Gardiner

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Now that another concrete nugget has dropped from the Gardiner Expressway—the third in the last month—the city has made fixing the old highway an urgent priority. Road crews were supposed to start “controlled chipping” (bashing the concrete to remove loose bits) next week, but will instead start the process today, and may even get help from an outside crew to speed it along. For those curious about what causes the crumbling, the Toronto Star ran a scary graphic showing the anatomy of a fracture (hint: blame salt-laced water). [Toronto Star]

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Tension between taxi drivers and other road users grows after longboarder Ralph Bissonette’s death

(Image: Tom Purves)

The battle for space and safety on city streets is making headlines again in light of the death of Ralph Bissonette, the longboarder who was struck and killed by a taxi on May 14. The cab driver involved, Adib Ibraham, has been charged with second-degree murder, and police say road rage may have been a contributing factor—emphasizing once again the acrimonious relations between the motorists, cyclists and skateboarders who share the roads (and who all accuse one another of rampant rule-breaking). Yesterday, the Toronto Sun talked to cab drivers, who attempted to repair the damage to their poor public image. They said that pedestrians, cyclists and boarders ignore traffic laws—making it more difficult than ever to navigate the streets safely. Cabbies also said that skateboarders should stay off the roads (while longboarders are technically supposed to remain on sidewalks, police rarely enforce that rule, and the difficulty of navigating around pedestrians often means longboarders opt to ride on the street instead). Several taxi drivers voiced concern that most Torontonians—including police—are biased against them, rarely siding with drivers during accidents or other incidents. Thomas Tuah, who’s been behind the wheel of a Toronto taxi for 37 years, told the paper, “We go through hell. The police don’t back us, no one does.” Along with their stated complaints, the xenophobic remarks from commentators on the article underscore just how much cabbies are contending with. Read the entire story [Toronto Sun] »

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Concrete keeps falling off the Gardiner Expressway

The scene at the Gardiner Expressway yesterday (Image: Christopher Drost)

Driving downtown in rush hour is already nerve-racking, and now drivers have the added bonus of worrying about concrete falling off the Gardiner Expressway. On Monday, a 46-centimetre chunk of the 60-year-old highway dropped onto Lower Jarvis Street, and just after rush hour on Thursday morning, a second concrete nugget landed directly in front of a vehicle at Parkside Drive. No one was injured and the roadway hasn’t yet attained Montreal levels of decrepitude, but it’s still kind of scary—especially considering this is an ongoing problem. Still, John Bryson, manager of structures and expressways for the city, told the National Post the structure is sound and he’d “drive under the Gardiner in a convertible with the roof down.” Meanwhile, condo developers breathe a sigh of relief since the debris falling from the heavens has nothing to do with them for a change. [National Post]

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Shopping

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The List: 10 things former CIBC insider and doomsday author Jeff Rubin can’t live without

Jeff Rubin1| My ride
It’s a 12-year-old Audi A6 Turbo. I like driving, and I’ve always had a thing for European sport sedans. When they put a stick shift in a hybrid or a Chevy Volt, I’ll buy one.

Jeff Rubin2| My hockey cards
I have thousands of vintage hockey cards. My most prized are a set of ’61–’62 Maple Leafs, which I remember from when I was a kid. They’re as close as I’m going to get to seeing the Leafs win the Cup again.

3| My anti-cottage
I love going to the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve south of Algonquin Park. A German guy bought it from a paper mill in the ’60s, and now his son leases plots for $3,000 a year. I’ve rented one on Lazure Lake for eight years. There are no motor boats, no power—just an empty campsite.

Jeff Rubin4| My water guide
A friend gave me HTO, a book about water in Toronto, in 2009, and I refer to it all the time. People don’t realize how many waterways there are in the city because most are hidden under infrastructure.

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Politics

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Andy Byford writes an icy memo to TTC employees


The TTC has had a few customer service embarrassments over the last few years (workers texting on the road, leaving their routes to pick up snacks and so on) but two within a few days is pretty bad. Last week, a TTC driver was videoed using a cellphone while piloting a subway, then days later, another was caught reading a newspaper while driving a streetcar. TTC chief exec and tough-talking clean freak Andy Byford is not happy about the blunders and released a scathing memo to staff this morning, voicing his displeasure.

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Turns out installing, and then promptly removing, the Jarvis bike lane is wasteful and expensive 

Last week the Toronto Cyclists Union revealed the cost of removing the Jarvis bike lane to be $272,000, significantly more than the $200,000 estimate put forward when council voted to scrap the lane last summer. The debate over the politically motivated decision included much posturing and chest thumping, and it turned out the lane had little effect on driving times on Jarvis anyway. Oh, also, the $272,000 cost of removal can now be added to the $86,000 installation cost. Read the entire story [Toronto Cyclists Union] »

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Politics

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Rob Ford distracts masses from real issues by making more bad life choices 

Yesterday, news broke that police chief Bill Blair could be risking his career—oh, never mind. Rob Fords been caught using his mobile phone while driving again. The Globe and Mail interviewed a woman who said she saw the mayor breaking the law near Dundas West and Spadina. You may recall that the last time was Ford was busted (in the same area) was in the midst of one of his administration’s shakiest months to date. Ford was facing mounting opposition to the core services review, and then, all of a sudden, he’s caught on his cellphone behind the wheel (not to mention allegedly flipping off a mother and daughter). While it’s disappointing that the mayor’s bad habits are (temporarily) deflecting attention away from another rough patch for his administration, we have to wonder if this is all part of some ingenious scheme—you know, the good ol’ go-out-and-do-something-stupid-to-distract-people trick. Of course, it’s also nice to have a friend who can do it for you. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »