Welcome to this week’s edition of The Jumpstack! And this week, I’m pretty fed up. Let’s jump in!
Armbands and airpods
This weekend, the pedestrian fatality count in Toronto reached a milestone. At 37 for the year, it’s now nearly matched the number of deaths by gun violence.
In both instances, the police are more than happy to blame the victims of crime than protect and serve them: last week, the police handed out reflective arm bands to seniors as a proactive pedestrian-safety measure.
What a patronizing, repugnant insult.
By their own admission, the police have contributed to the swell of injury and death on Toronto’s streets.
They ended a program focused on traffic law enforcement and watched accidents and the death count climb, while refusing to acknowledge the change, and blamed cyclists and pedestrians instead.
We were told we were looking at our phones, listening to music, jaywalking, not taking our own mortality seriously enough.
Recently, the police chief rolled out a new talking point: airpods.
I’ve got an idea for Toronto Police: I want each officer to spend a month out of uniform, working as a school crossing guard. I want them to experience what the crossing guard on a residential side-street experiences each day.
I want them to put on the reflective vest, grab the stop sign, and work a lighted crosswalk and see for themselves how many people blow through active crosswalks with a crossing guard, putting everyone in danger.
I want the police to see that when you don’t have the symbols of police authority on you, and even when you wear the reflective clothing and follow all the rules, you are nevertheless treated as a meat obstacle for drivers, and not as human beings.
I want them to see and experience the danger they have gaslighted us for years about, and continue to do so. I want them to experience the way we do the dangerous city that they cultivated through apathy.
But I don’t think they will.
All attempts to address this issue has been met with petulance. Until there is an organized, city-wide rebuttal and demand for change, the police will continue to blame pedestrians and cyclists. Grandparents and grandchildren will continue to be sacrificed. And the police service will continue to be paid handsomely for it.
Best laid plans
I admired this image when I saw it a few weeks back, but Now Magazine’s Lia Grainger uncovers the much needed context for the intersections in this interesting article on their history, and surprising nature:
Toronto historian Richard White, author of Planning Toronto: The Planners, Their Plans, Their Legacies 1940-80, explains that throughout the city’s history, planners were repeatedly forced to make a choice: demolish an inelegant intersection and rebuild it to increase efficiency, or work around the awkwardness with new regulations, signage and moderate construction. Most chose the latter, resulting in slower, safer and decidedly weirder intersections.
That’s right: despite those intersections being confusing and counterintuitive, they prove to be safer than our most dangerous intersections, which follow the standard design.
While the image of our rejected pretzel intersections may be visually interesting, perhaps a companion image of our perfectly normal deadly intersections and crossings would have an impact on how we perceive where danger might lay.
Something I hadn’t really thought about until recently was just how much of our infrastructure and modern culture was built in service to the automobile:
In this fascinating longread by Peter Aspden, he chronicles how the car first captured our imaginations, and in turn became an ever-present reality:
The car pandered to our competitive instincts—formal races were organised almost immediately following Benz’s inaugural trip—as well as indulging the tastes of the privileged classes for luxury. It catered for a desire for uniformity—any colour as long as it was black, Ford decreed — but could be customised in highly individual styles. In 1900, the first Michelin guide appeared, with a print run of 35,000. Only 3,000 cars were registered in France at the time. Marketeers were learning how to target aspiration.
That passage reminded me of the AOL discs that accumulated in my mailbox in the mid-’90s—and how the influence of the internet, and later social media, spread and accumulated power over people without accountability.
As we attempt to acknowledge and address the global consequences we created through our century of acquiescence to the car, what mistakes are we repeating?
Say what you mean
I really enjoyed this deep dive on what we talk (and don’t talk) about when we talk about populism—including how we define the term:
Jason Frank explores how we use it for shorthand without considering its true nature, and in doing so obscure the underlying issues that encourage populism to germinate:
Designating populism as the term that best encapsulates the political dangers authoritarianism poses to democratic politics in so many parts of the world today has the additional and unfortunate consequence of suggesting that widespread resistance to these movements should not itself be populist, should not claim the mantle of “we the people” and engage in an antagonistic politics of who we are and what kind of collective power we should wield. This political movement need not recover and rally around the term populism—democratic socialism is also enjoying a new day in the sun—but it should openly recognize that a return to “politics as usual” may be insufficient to confront the full extent of the dangers democracies currently face.
And that’s it for The Jumpstack this week! Thanks for letting me rant, I needed to get it out of my system. If you enjoyed this post, how about hitting that heart down there? I love validation.
Also: this is the first of the last three Jumpstacks of 2019—I’m aligning my holiday break with the school board’s, and taking more time offline to (hopefully) recharge and explore. Also, do you really expect me to churn this out on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve? That’s madness.
The Jumpstack’s last issue of the year will be December 17, and it will resume on January 7, 2020. Next week: CHRISTMAS.