Driving Us Around the Bend

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 20, 2005

This is a belated comment to the editorial that appeared in the December 7 Hamilton Spectator, entitled "Alternatives will drive us".

The editors write:

When councillors years ago invested in the first bike lanes and the trail, they did so at political risk, on faith that if the city built it, people would come.

They did come, and that infrastructure has helped change the mindset of a great many Hamiltonians about getting around the city. It's a culture change of sorts; one that's at least partly generational. Going from "A" to "B" in Hamilton no longer automatically means taking a car.

It's going to take that sort of risk investment, writ large, to change the way people think about moving between Ontario cities. To get cars off congested highways, there is going to have to be better infrastructure for alternatives: Faster and more frequent trains, integrated transit passes, and more convenient parking. And, yes, carpooling.

In European cities, in New York and even in Toronto, people see trains, buses and bicycles as good, sensible alternatives to driving. For us Ontarians to change our habits, we have to see the practical alternatives in place, too.

I read this with growing nausea. Like its recent stand on Kyoto, the Spec is quick to make the right kinds of noises while failing to follow through with an editorial stance that transforms those noises into policies.

The Spec's business model is based on selling the sprawl lifestyle to affluent, suburban drivers, and any discussion of "alternatives" (a term that further normalizes sprawl infrastructure) has little chance of breaking out of the 'nice place to visit' philosophical ghetto.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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