Tag Archives: driving

I Don’t Hate Bicyclists!

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Okay, I have to revisit this topic, as my bicycling friends think I’m out to get them. Let me reiterate. Bikes are a good thing. Bicyclists are a good thing. Bike lanes are a good thing. But… there are major transportation issues in Vancouver and I firmly believe the way they’re being handled is not the best answer and is causing antagonism.

Listening to my biking, driving and walking friends, there are several factors at play. Vancouver wants to cut down on people driving to the downtown core. Not a bad thing but as the mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, said, he believes in the dangling-the-carrot approach. Right now, it feels as if Vancouver is punishing anyone who drives. First, we have the highest gas prices in the country. This is partly because of the province’s supposedly green policy, which again punishes drivers, doesn’t tax gas companies and doesn’t offer a cheap and efficient alternative.

Coupled with a downtown core that you can only reach from North and West Vancouver by two bridges (Lions Gate and Iron Workers Memorial), or from the south side of Vancouver by three bridges (Burrard, Cambie, Granville), this adds to a crush for people commuting to work.  From the east  there are several roads and only one pseudo bridge, the Georgia Viaduct. It looks like a bridge and acts like a bridge but other major streets going into Vancouver are Powell, E. Cordova, Hastings and Expo Blvd. via Prior St. (which is also the street that leads to the viaduct).

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Now I believe bicyclists have a lane over the Lions Gate Bridge and there is one over the Burrard St. Bridge. These are fine, and Burrard used to have a shared pedestrian/bicyclist sidewalk. I used to walk it and learned that this was the safest thing because bicyclists on the road were very much in danger of being smunched and on the sidewalk they smunched pedestrians. It wasn’t the best solution so making a lane was the better choice and when you have bridges you have to choose one of them. Lions Gate Bridge is closer to downtown and Cambie and Granville have too many feeder routes. There is no “from the west side” to get to downtown Vancouver unless you take a boat. But from the east, the most popular car routes are the viaduct and probably Hastings. Hastings is two way but the viaduct feeds onto a one-way street downtown or a one-way street out of downtown. Unfortunately in this case, the city chose the worst possible street that conflicts greatly with drivers coming in and limiting ways to turn. One or two of the other streets would have worked better.

You can no longer turn right for blocks and blocks. As well, no one knows for sure who has the right of way. There are some signs. Cars yield to bikes coming up on their right side. Big barricades limit delivery vehicles from offloading supplies. If a bicyclist wants to turn left from the right side bike lane, how do they do that, especially with concrete barricades limiting them? I should also say, that the city says 1800 people a day use the bike lanes but the one that goes along the Georgia Viaduct onto Dunsmuir St. doesn’t look that busy. My walking friend who works downtown says he’s never seen more than four people on it at once, nor have I until the other night, out of rush hour, when I saw five. But either way, they could have put this bike lane on a different street where it wouldn’t have inconvenienced drivers and still given bicyclists a free lane.

Now, how do you keep bike lanes and not punish drivers because, yes, there are many drivers as well and many reasons why a person can’t just bike into the city. Let’s not even mention winter weather. Try this. Don’t punish people for living farther out and having to commute into work. Charge the same price, make the bus/train really cheap and more people will take it. Don’t stop the SkyTrain at 12:30 am when clubs are open till 3 am. Don’t blame drivers for all the faults. Do encourage people with better education for cyclists and motorists. Don’t do things like critical mass, which only raises the antagonism level. Do think about the structure of a city ringed by estuaries, rivers and the ocean. Make taking the bus in the downtown core completely free, as Calgary does. Think about dangling the carrot.

I’ll end with that we do need a better solution and if I could afford an electric/hybrid car I would have changed long ago. I also stay as far away from downtown as I possibly can, except when I go to my doctor. I don’t go for drinks, dinner or movies downtown because parking is expensive, roads are blocked and I feel like I’m bad just because I have a car. I’m an environmental advocate but I also can’t afford to buy an $800 bike and I can’t sell my car. So before we blame another group the best solution is to work together, which means listening reasonably to all sides, not believing one way is the only and right way.

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Pedestrians and Cars: A Two-Way Street

I cannot imagine what our ancestors of long ago would have thought of our casual disregard for motor vehicles. Tons of metal hurtle towards us and we will blithely walk in front of them with presumptions of our safety. And we, as drivers, hold these leviathans at our fingertips, feeling invincible as we do so.

But the truth is that hundreds of people are injured and killed everyday, the world over, because of cars, trucks, buses. Here in Vancouver, and most of Canada, pedestrians have the right of way. That’s most to protect the flesh and bone as they’re more vulnerable that people in cars. However, should a person run into traffic or jaywalk I believe they still have the right of way, even if they are breaking the law. But it’s great way to get yourself made into road pizza.

In Vancouver, the areas that have a lot of shops tend to be the ones that will bring out the jaywalking. I will never ever jaywalk if a car is coming because I don’t believe in inconveniencing people who truly have the right of way, just because I want to skip an extra minute by walking to the corner. I have watched people and been in my car having people step out into the middle of traffic or saunter across, or end up stopping the flow because in laziness they can’t wait.

This gets back to my pet peeve of the me-me-me world where everyone only thinks of themselves. The selfish pedestrians inconvenience the drivers and other folks because they pretend they own the world. Conversely, the selfishness of drivers can be even more deadly than the accidents that law-disregarding pedestrians cause.

Too many people pay no attention but to the road in front of them. A good driver and a law-abiding one is supposed to be reading signs and watching what goes on around. Without reading you won’t know if you’re in a construction zone, if the speed limit changes, or if there is a merge lane. And without observing what’s going on around you (in a non-rubbernecking way) you won’t know that traffic flow will change, that a person is crossing a street or someone has signalled and is backing up to parallel park.

It is every driver’s responsibility to pay attention and observe. That doesn’t mean pulling out into oncoming traffic just because your signal is on (if it’s on) but do so when it’s safe. The same goes for changing lanes. And should you see someone standing at a crosswalk, you are supposed to stop and let them cross, not zoom through because they can cross after. I have almost been smeared because I was more than halfway through the crosswalk when someone decided to just keep going. People get clipped when cars turn corners.

Of course car manufacturers can be blamed for some of this. My Saturn has a huge blind spot and when I’m turning a corner I have to look behind and in front of this blind spot. However, I almost hit someone when turning one night, not because I wasn’t looking but because it was dark and raining and this guy decided to run across the street. I only saw legs flashing by as I hit the brake. It behooves every person to keep a healthy ounce of self-preservation and realize that it is sometimes hard for drivers to see in rain, fog, snow and dark.

And yesterday I almost hit a bicyclist. I signalled, stopped and looked both ways, then pulled out to turn from an alley. But this guy sailed in front of me at a fast speed and there had been a parked van to my left. Every person on the street, whether driver, bicyclist, pedestrian (and god forbid, skateboarders) needs to consider what their actions will cause, and think about if a driver/pedestrian can see them. Crossing the street that has no lighting and wearing all black at night makes you hard to see. Consider that and make sure the driver has seen you before you step in front of them.

Pedestrians, use the corners and crosswalks and don’t dash in front of cars. Drivers, consider the road, the signs and the people along the walks. Follow the rules and laws of the road and consider that you’re not the only one on it. If more people just did this; pay more attention, be aware and conduct themselves safely, we could probably cut down on accidents by 30%.

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Penticton and Wayward Travels

I drove up with friends yesterday (this was July 1 but there have been internet issues) to Penticton. This is an extended Canada Day that will go until the weekend. The drive started out fine and one car took the Hope-Princeton route and they other, my car, the Coquihalla route. It’s been about four years since I was last out this way, I think, so how much could it change?

I have never wanted to drive through the Interior during the winter, especially on the Coquihalla Highway, which is a top of the world sort of place and has high snow. In fact, they insist you have chains and/or snow tires. The road seemed a little rougher than it had been in the past, but then it’s probably graded or plowed in the winter, which can scrape and damage pavement. As well, the temperatures go from freezing to hot, which will give it wear. But it makes me wonder where all those tolls went over the years–perhaps not to highway maintenance.

We passed a semi, upside down in the ditch, obviously there for a day or so but waiting to be removed. We also passed a guy with his car in the center ditch, facing sideways to the road, with the tow truck there to remove it. The Coquihalla may look deceptively smooth, with gentle curves but this says it can be treacherous still when absolutely bone dry (and when speeding too much).

One of Gordon Campbell’s election ploys was to remove the tolls suddenly (without even telling the workers–that went over well) so no tolls anymore. I was still expecting the toll booths. And because there weren’t any and I was talking with my friend, we missed the connector turnoff and ended up in Kamloops going, what? When did this build up so much? And then, “I thought we went through Merritt.”

So, we ended up taking the long route through Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna. One thing I noticed all through the Coquihalla and Kamloops was the number of dead pine trees. The Coquihalla is so high up that the trees are sparsely spaced. But in spots 50% were brown. I think this must be the mountain pine beetle, unless it had been some sort of selective fire, but the trees did not look like they had been burned. Shocking to see so many dead trees.

Penticton really hasn’t changed in some ways and yet has changed in others. I dropped my friend at the campground within the city limits, South Beach. How many cities can boast of a campground in the city limits? And as I drive into the campground, almost knowing where it is, I recognize it. My mother used to drag me and my younger brother to the Okanagan to pick fruit and collect rocks.

Okay, so it wasn’t quite all that but we were teenagers and wanted to hang out on the beach. So I recognized the campground, and the canal in the campground (but not the lovely lily pads, nor the trailer park, very nice trailer park, on the opposite bank), and the registration office, and the bathrooms. Yes, we used to stay at that campground, and I remember it quite well. I’m not sure how many years I went there, as a kid, but there are weeping willows, running water and electricity, which makes it a pretty good campground.

Today, we also went boating on Skaha Lake, the beach right outside South Beach campgrounds. My friends zipped about with an inner tube off the back of the boat so you can bounce along in the wake. Good fun and unfortunately I’m glowing a bit. When we returned the boat I noticed a swallow flying about,  a barn swallow I think. It came in under the roof of the boat rental place and duck into a nest made of mud and feathers and spit. And there were five little swallow babies with their wide mouths gaping. They only squawked when the parent appeared (there was a mom and dad) but were awfully cute and tiny.

And on the canal in the campground, there were ducks and ducklings, every age from the wee ones to the teenagers, making me wonder about the gestation and breeding periods of ducks (Mallards).  I also saw minnows, something larger (trout?, catfish?), red winged blackbirds, but I missed the beavers that my friends saw in the canal. It’s been relaxing so far and I’m feeling it’s too short. But at least I know where I’m going. Tomorrow, Peachland.

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Dublin and Keating’s Bar

This is the last day in Ireland, before we flew back to Glasgow, in October 2007.

Sunday October 14, nearing the end of our trip and our last night in Ireland. We had come back to Dublin a day earlier hoping to have some time to see a few more sights but what with getting lost over and over again, we really had time only to pack, drop off the car and get something to eat. Driving into Dublin after two weeks of driving, you think would be easier. But there were multiple lanes, the signs were unclear and once we got off the highway, we proceeded to meander with the streets.

I think we stopped twice to ask for directions and finally found the same B&B where we had stayed before, the Charleville. Whereas this place had very nice rooms when we arrived we were given one in the basement this time. It smelled moldy in the corridor, the light didn’t work right, the door knob was loose and the water cool. It wasn’t as impressive but we were only there for the one night. (So if you’re planning on staying there, don’t let them put you in the basement.)

So after wasting part of the day getting into Dublin we decided it was wise to drop of the car first, knowing how signage just doesn’t match reality. We got lost, typical by now, went the wrong direction, finally got directions that took us to the Liffey (river) where the dropoff for the car was. The guy who gave us the best directions said, take the last road before the Liffey and turn left, then go one block and turn up. Not only were the names of the streets wrong but we couldn’t turn left on the street he said we could, nor go up the street that was next (because it was one way the other direction). It seems even the Irish don’t know their city that well.

After driving in large circles for about an hour, we finally found the entrance, not marked in any discernible way to say it was the right place. And then we were hungry. We were downtown on a Sunday and couldn’t find much. Many things were closed, or looked very cheesy. So we ate at a diner with unremarkable food.

We then caught a taxi to Keating’s Bar because my friend Will in Glasgow had said check it out. We could have walked as it was only a few blocks away but we didn’t know that after our long adventures in Dublin. It turns out to be an old church that fell into disrepair. Eventually it was bought by a local restaurateur and restored, keeping both the history of the place preserved. Part of the deal was to keep in in good repair and it has more parishioners of food than anything else. The crypt in the basement (with tombs in the floor) is the wine bar, which was closed that night. The large open-space bathrooms are on that level, where you walk in and go right if you’re a man and left if you’re a woman. When you’re at the sinks you can see men and women equally. Very Euro trendy.

The main floor has a long oval bar down the middle, and the top floor, overlooking the main floor is the dining area. If we had known there’d be food we would have eaten there and had a better meal. There are plaques and tombs in the walls to different personages. I wonder if people from two hundred years ago would roll in their graves to know a church had been turned into a bar, but then I thought, it’s the Irish. They tend to be more relaxed about drinking as part of life and religion.

We had an early flight the next day so we caught a taxi back to the B&B (not risking getting lost again) and that was that. Although there were a few things I didn’t see in Dublin I would probably skip it the next time. At the least I wouldn’t rent a car in the city and would the very least take a bus to a neighboring town and rent there to save on the confusion.

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Dungarvin, Lismore & the Benedictine Abbey, Ireland

Ireland 2007–Dungarvin, Lismore & the Benedictine Abbey

After Cashel, we went on to Dungarvin, a cute little coastal town in the south of Ireland. It was warm here and the accents on some people, like one fisherman, were very thick. We drove up to Bridie Dees (gaelic=Brighd ni Dige), with its colourful front of black and red and had a drink. There was a little fireplace at the back with a pot of coal and a shovel to take the chill off. I don’t even know if this place had any other type of heat but it was pleasant at this time of year. I believe we were on to Friday night by now, though I’ve lost track in this journey.

We asked the bartender if there were any B&Bs and he suggested a place two doors down. We called around a few places but they seemed to be a little more expensive and 40 Euros each was about our top limit. I couldn’t find the place (because he’d given me the name of another one) so when I went back in and asked he said he’d show me. As we exited the pub he held out his elbow for me to take and said he would be in trouble with his wife. It was very cute as all the bartender did was walk me down two doors to the next pub, which had rooms upstairs. There were many many stairs as this was more like a small hotel above a pub. I found that any place that has a pub underneath with a hotel above is less personal and more hotelly overall.

I carted my sister’s suitcase up the many stairs of the Tudor Arms so that it would minimize how many times her now sore knee would have to deal with them. I think we went back to Bridies and had another drink. I don’t remember at all where we ate but we went to another pub for a drink. There was this older farmer fellow (tweed jacket and cap, baggy worn corduroy trousers and wellies), pretty much the classic image of an Irish farmer. He  was barely decipherable because his accent was so thick and rolling. He bought us a drink and talked about Irish hospitality, which was about all we could understand. His name was Dan so we labelled him Dungarvin Dan.

We then went to another pub that had live music and listened to a group called the Rogues. They were rather good and played some fast paced music, so that I couldn’t stand it anymore and just got up and danced, by myself. They smiled and probably thought, look at the kooky foreign woman. I enjoyed it. Unfortunately they were out of CDs or I would have bought one. I toasted my friend in the US whose birthday it was by having a shot of Jamesons, which took they ciders I’d had and multiplied the alcohol content by three. I was a bit tipsy but still coherent.

The next day, Saturday we scooted out of Dungarvin, then went to Lismore but the castle is still occupied (and very spiff, overlooking the river) so we couldn’t go in. I walked up to the gates and peered in the keyhole where I saw this surreal image of four children. It was almost as if they were posed, at least one in a uniform, an old-fashioned pram, sitting or standing in tableau. That and the view from the river was all we saw since we were there in the off-season.

There was supposed to be an ancient abbey but either the lads thought it closed or they thought we meant the Benedictine abbey which was down a winding road but not in Lismore. It was all right but not particularly old but had the most amazing wizened monk who told us about St. Benedict and a few jokes besides. The little winding roads can take a long while at times and we meandered up and down the roads.

It was a pleasant and warm drive. Our next stop, Waterford.

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Driving Me Crazy: Driver Etiquette

I really think that there are way too many people on the road these days who shouldn’t be there, who don’t know how to drive or who have forgotten or who have become just plain dangerous. What’s the solution? Have them do a driver’s test every year? Well, that would raise the cost of our licenses and everyone would study up (which would help) but it doesn’t mean they would drive better the rest of the time. So, I’m not sure what the solution is. Spy drivers? Increase fines for when you’re caught? But fines, like death, are something that people think will never happen to them.

Our cities are too congested, our roadways inadequate for the commuting, our public transit inefficient or too expensive for many commuters, our homes too expensive and so people buy further and further out. This all leads to people going long distances, speeding, feeling pressured, working too much and getting angry. Governments need to take a far ranging approach but also every person has to take responsibility for their own actions.

Here are some of the purely insane or stupid things I’ve seen drivers do. If you’re reading this, I hope you won’t/don’t do these or will consider not continuing to do them.

  • Changing lanes into a turning lane and then signal. Duh, it’s obvious once you’re in the turning lane that you’re going to turn. Let’s look at the word “signal.” What does it mean? If you signal someone or something you are attracting attention and letting someone know you’re going to do something. A turning signal lets people know you’re going to turn or change lanes. You use it before you move into another lane, not after. And as the bumper stickers say, it is not an option. It’s the law. If you signal that you’re changing lanes it lets the drivers around you know that you may be changing speed and merging. The signal should blink at least three times (not a half-blip) before you do any lane change or turn, giving everyone enough time to react properly. It’s done for safety and to avoid accidents. 
  • Speeding up to not let people in. I watched a guy in rush-hour traffic yesterday as all of us crept along. He would leave a big space in front of his car, but when a car signalled properly that it was going to change lanes and then merged into the empty spot, the guy sped up and honked his horn at the car, then of course veered into the HOV lane without signalling (and a single driver). Remember this, folks. No one is ever first on the road. It’s a long asphalt snake with no beginning and no ending (more or less) and there is always someone ahead of you and behind you. Try some courtesy and it might be returned. It’s give and take; if someone signals and gives enough time, let them in, and if you are the one signalling don’t cut off a car coming up quickly. Oh, and if someone does let you in, do signal them with a wave of thanks. It’s the polite thing to do.
  • Sideswiping and crowding. I’ve been nearly pushed into the retaining wall on the highway when I was already on the exit ramp and a truck came over from the next lane into me. I honked and he just kept coming, pushing me onto the shoulder. I’ve had some insane woman nearly crush me because I was coming from a merging lane, signalling, and she wouldn’t let me in, willing to risk damage. Another guy one night, when the highway was empty, came into my lane and pushed me toward the retaining wall. Why? I don’t get this at all. Where do you think people should go? We can’t disapparate.
  • Insane road rage. But perhaps the above is just another sign of road rage. Like the time I was in the curb lane with cars parked beside me. A car stopped in front of me, a taxi I think, to let someone out. The car behind me blared his horn. Then after the car in front of me turned off, that car followed me with his lights on high. I’m still not sure how I was supposed to do anything else.
  • Street racing: we can blame car companies partly for the increase in this. Ads always declare the cars fast and sexy. And yeah, young guys have to prove they’re cool by racing but it’s absolutely unsafe and enough people have already been killed in Vancouver because of it. Drag racing was the old style problem and again could be an issue for safety of other drivers and pedesterians. But the amount of souped up and super fast cars makes this even more of an issue. Speeds of 150 km in the city are not acceptable and you certainly can’t react fast enough at that speed.

Sideswiping, speeding, tailgating, rudeness, all are extremely dangerous and do lead to accidents and death. It is the worst type of bullying, and criminal. I still think of those poor guys, on the way to the airport, who were first pushed off the road and then the guy came back, insane with anger, and ran over one young man, killing him.  Why? Did they do something first? Who knows but this sort of escalation is completely crazy. Driving isn’t a game or a competition. Not on our city streets. It’s thousands of people, each one unique and important in their way, and they all have a myriad things going on. They’re busy, sick, preoccupied, worried, happy, rushed, relaxing, whatever. It’s about people getting safely from one destination to the next. You, the driver cannot possibly know why someone does something. People sometimes make stupid mistakes. But if we try to be kinder, calmer, not presume the worst and be more aware, perhaps we can save just a few more lives, or a lot more, on the roads.

And I have to watch it when these drivers drive me crazy. Therein lies the path to road rage. Right now I shoot them with my finger gun and leave at that, grateful that we do have gun laws. Maybe counselling should be added to every driver’s licence exam. Counselling before you get the license and every couple of years.

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Sidewalk and Stairway Etiquette

This will probably not be read because it doesn’t deal with sex or violence (unless I get really really aggravated), and really, you’d think that it wouldn’t need to be said, but some people are rude, some self-centered and some just stupid. And hey, it’s my blog; I can whine if I want to.

I am really getting tired of the me-me-me attitude that permeates not just the roadways, where drivers without passengers feel entitled to use the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, drive slow in the fast lane with no intention of pulling over, and tailgate everyone who doesn’t want to go 120 km in a 80 km zone. I have complained about this before and how, even in supermarkets, people push and park their buggies the same way that they drive.

It all comes down to a massive lack of consideration, where the only person that matters is that one person and maybe the family members they have with them. Too many people out there think that only they are important or have places to be. Guess what, folks, you don’t own the world, the mall or the highway, so share it with everyone and share nicely. Didn’t your mothers teach you how to share? If not, now is the time to learn.

So sidewalks: remember, as you’re walking along that you don’t have eyes or mirrors in the back of your head. You don’t know who is behind you or what they’re doing. Try not to meander left and right like a demented drunk. Stay to one side of the walk and be aware, if you’re walking down the middle, that someone else may be walking at another pace and would like to pass you. (I mailed a letter yesterday at the street postal box. I turned to move into the flow of the busy sidewalk. I was still not moving and this woman was coming right at me. I had a car beside me and the post box behind me, and people to the right. She almost ran into me. I could only laugh since maybe she thought I was going to levitate.)

If you happen to be walking with several people, then more than two abreast tends to take up the width of most sidewalks. It means that one or more of you will need to walk behind or move over since people use both directions on sidewalks. You’d think it was common sense and courtesy. But many people must believe they own the sidewalk. The more in a pack they are the more likely that they’ll walk at a real slooooooow pace and no one can get by. This goes for people with dogs or strollers as well. You can’t take up the whole sidewalk even in one direction. Be aware, be polite and move over if someone wants past unless you want them to walk on your heels.

And stopping suddenly when you’ve been going at a good pace is a very bad idea, equivalent to braking suddenly on the freeway. Even moreso, people don’t have to worry about giving a car’s length on the sidewalk. If you’ve seen something  or realized you forgot something and have to turn back, slow down gradually, moving to one side of the sidewalk and then turn. That way, anyone behind you will be aware that you’re changing your pace or direction and will be less likely to run into you. This goes for malls too.

Stairwells and escalators work somewhat differently. On an escalator, which goes only in one direction, in North America, it is common to stand on the right and walk on the left. If you’re in a hurry, you walk up the escalator and no one is blocking you. If you’re at a leisure pace, you stay to the right, just like car lanes but people are actually better on escalators than they are on the road. It used to be you would see signs on store escalators explaining this system but I haven’t seen signs for a while now.

For stairs, a person coming down them is more likely to need the hand railing or could possibly trip and fall than if they are going up them. So what does that mean? If you’re walking up the stairs, move away from the railing and let people use it to descend. If you’re old or incapacitated, then yes you might need to pull yourself up the stairs. And if there is a wall that people must walk around, really really try not to hug that corner  in either direction because you’re likely to meet someone nose to nose.

Addendum: I’ve changed my mind about this as I was walking up the middle of the stairs to give room for the people coming down. There were so many and again they were in a cattle like state that I was nearly knocked backwards down the stairs. Now I walk up on the right.

Do I need to even mention how gross and disgusting, uncouth, uncivilized and downright unsexy gobbing and spitting on sidewalks and stairs is? You are not cool and not attractive and not tough. You’re just a pig. Try having some tissue on hand or seeing a doctor if it’s congenital.

Yes, in my perfect world, people would be polite and considerate. They would say sorry if they bumped into you, allow you to pass them on the sidewalk, not hog the whole thing and yes, they would drive politely. The last time I saw multitudes of polite drivers it was in Saskatchewan; not Alberta, not BC, not Washington nor Oregon. Just think, we could have contests to see if people excel in politeness and courtesy. I can dream, can’t I?

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Travel: Ennis, Ireland

Ireland 2007–Ennis

Ennis is in the southwest of Ireland and we stayed the night after our long drive through the Burren. Its Gaelic name is Inis. We found a little B&B a little farther out of the town center. All the Irish towns have the oldest buildings at the center and the newer more moderns ones the farther out you go. The streets were once built for carriages and are narrow. If there is any parking, people usually just drive up over the low curbs and you have to drive around the cars. This was true of Donegal town too. Ennis was set up as a one way, with the sidewalks widened and penant shaped streamers through the streets. There was some sort of game, the local team or something that was winning but I can’t remember what.

Rose Cottage, our B&B, wasn’t a cottage but had a small dining area as well as a wee pub downstairs with quite lovely and clean rooms upstairs. The food seemed kind of Americanized so we went into town and found one of few restaurants open. The food there was extremely good, one of those higher end restaurants. I believe it was called the Town Hall, denoting what it once used to be.

After dinner my sister and I wandered up the street to a cute little pub. There were people playing inside but as opposed to an organized band they were more just jamming. A fiddler or two, I think one on bodhran but it was very low key and background. I don’t even remember much about that pub.

The next day we wandered about the town, which still has many medieval buildings, and did some shopping. I think it was my favourite town for the looks and being just a pretty place. The streets all gently curved and the shops and pubs have an old feel. This town had the most medieval feel of the towns we had been in. There were many interesting shops and I wouldn’t have minded more time there. We found our way to the Ennis Friary by asking the Garda (the police) since we somehow couldn’t find a street that went through and it turns out there is the old friary, the ruins, and the new one, which is still in use. Of course we wanted the ruins.

Ennis Friary was built in 1240 making the town a religious center. It was a Franciscan center until the expulsion of the monks in the 1800s. It’s a fine example of gothic architecture, with remains of the cloister walk and many walls with the skeleton of the windows left. Some windows, side by side, would have a different design from one to the next. The floors were festooned with old tombs, leaving no space to walk that wasn’t over someone’s grave. I found that tombs older than about the 1700s were unreadable. Many were set in the walls and the O’Brians and MacMahons were families of note in the eiarly days of the friary.

The friary has some great sculptural images, with a monk, a skeletally thin Christ, and a virgin Mary as some of the plaques and such embedded in the walls. The Creagh tomb was large and ornate, in better condition but then it was put in, in 1840 and incorporated some elements from the 1500s. Overall, the friary was in good condition, for a ruin. I really wished these old churches still had the stained glass. It’s a bit hard to imagine what they would have looked like in their full glory, with the bright hues of glass, candles, wooden ceilings and floors, rushes perhaps, and walls not yet pitted by age and weather in rebellion.

When I get back to Ireland I want to spend more time in Ennis and exploring around the town.

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Dysert O’Dea, Ireland

We accidentally found Dysert O’Dea (pronounced O’Day) as we left the Burren, in county Clare. Dysert O’Dea was in the guidebook as having this wonderful doorway. But it was at the end of the day and Oct. so as we drove up to this rather small castle, we knew it was closed. There was a guy sitting in a Hummer like truck parked at the front of the castle, built in 1480. He was nice enough to move out of the way so we could take pictures.

Then he told us where the high cross and church were that we might very well have missed if we’d driven out. We drove to a cattle gate and pulled to the side of the road. This was a real farm road so in some ways it was much bigger than the hedge and stone wall encroached main roads.

Ireland 2007–Dysert O’Dea

The castle was newer than the church which was newer than St. Tola’s high cross and the ruins of the tower, which were from the 12th century. The cross holds an carving of Christ and of a bishop (St. Tola) who founded the monastery centuries before, I believe.The doorway was in good shape and very cool with all the faces. Each one was different and some human, others animals. There was a whimsical simplicity to it, and an individuality that made me think some of those faces represent particular people of the time.

I’m not sure if we were in the Burren anymore or just out of it but there was such a distortion of time for us looking at the maps. A map of all of BC and a map of Ireland are the same size on paper. But a one-inch distance on a BC map could be 2 hours of driving, whereas on the Irish map it’s probably 15 minutes.

Which means we managed to go from Carrowmore in the rainy morning, to Dunguaire, Kinvara, Ailwee Caves, Poulnabrone, Burren, Carran Church, Dysert O’Dea castle and church all in one day. We were getting into the very tail of the day. We rarely stopped for lunch. After Dysert O’Dea we drove to the town of Ennis and found a place for the evening.

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Media Creates Paranoia

I was talking with a few people at work today and it came up that one woman has a 12-year-old daughter who is just ready to start walking to school, as opposed to being driven. She said they let you know when they’re ready to walk. I sometimes pass a school in the mornings where there are numerous cars with parents dropping off their children.

When I was a child, at the tender age of six, my mother took me to school the first few times. My next older sibling was six years older and in a different school so she couldn’t take me. After about a week I was on my own, wending my way through blocks and blocks to school. That school was well over ten blocks away.

In the winter, outfitted in multiple layers and big, clunky boots, I would trudge through Calgary snows to get to class and get out of the snow suit, or tights and pants and toque for the classroom. I was late every day for over a week because I just couldn’t make it through the snow faster. My teacher said to tell my mother I was late.

But I still walked to school. My mother didn’t drive. My father often worked out of town and people just did not drive their children to school. It could be argued that people have to go greater distances but we were far enough away that it took a child over a half hour (maybe it took an hour) to get to school. It was at least a mile.

Junior high and high school were all about the same distance as the elementary school and yet we continued to walk it, winter or summer. No one was abducted. I don’t think anyone was even hit by a car. People didn’t drive as fast, roads weren’t as crowded. Perverts didn’t lurk around every corner. I don’t know of anyone who was killed by any means while I was in school.

And speaking of perverts, I bet most parents would quote safety from murderers and abductors as their number one reason for driving their child to school. Probably safety from traffic and then distance would rate as second and third reasons.

Interestingly, we were mature or responsible enough and given the freedom (told to) go to school on our own as children. Parents didn’t watch our every move. We weren’t given cell phones, we weren’t given cars (only a very few kids in high school had cars). The maturity hasn’t dropped in thirty years yet the responsibility level has risen, so what has caused the overprotective nature of parents and the dependence their children now have on them to do everything for them?

Fear. Fear of murder, of sexual abuse, of abduction, of traffic injury, of succumbing to the elements. Overall, the incidence of murder and child abduction hasn’t increased in thirty years. However, driving children to school has. Interestingly, in the US, even the rate of pedestrian-traffic accidents hadn’t increased, but 50% of children injured by cars were hit by parents or other students driving. And school zone speed limits are often exceeded. I see this every time I’m driving through a school or playground zone at 30 km and I’m passed by 90% of the cars.

The increased driving can be partly attributed to the fact that more parents work and fewer stay at home with the kids, there are more cars so that each parent may have one, and media. We now have radio, newspaper, internet and TV. There are more channels and you can get news 24/7 and the same news repeated. And repeated. And repeated. In fact, not only do the news channels repeat and update us several times a day on the same dire crime, they now go into long talk shows and reports and interviews and research on a particular phenomenon.

With the inundation of events, these murders and abductions move to the forefront of our thoughts. Parents hear the details of a horrific child abduction and murder, where the body was found, how the child was murdered, the search and rescue attempts, the hunt for the murderer, the sorrow of the loved ones, and the trial with all the horrific details again. It becomes one never-ending circle, a parent’s worst nightmare and it feels so close.

The media needs to take half the blame here for being too focused on the dark, dire and depressing. When various statistics for most Western countries indicate drops in all sorts of crime including those against children, consider if you’re coddling your child too much. Will the next generation hide in the cocoons of their homes and condos, only interacting through virtual media, too afraid to talk to anyone? I’m worried that it’s already happening, perpetuated not by crime but by the fears of it.

US report on kids walking to school and crime incidences since 1969: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/kidswalk/then_and_now.htm

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