My 12-year-old dog has a less reliable bladder than when he was younger, so I thought I might put some newspaper down for him while I’m at work during the day. So, I bought a hard copy of the Saturday Globe and Mail, which I would normally read online or scan over coffee at Dark Horse.
I realize that this isn’t the kind of reader endorsement that publisher, Philip Crawley, might wish for. Still, today’s paper seemed in some ways as if it was written especially for me.
First, there was John Barber’s article about the city’s insane tolerance of injury and death among cyclists and pedestrians. Finally, there is another grown-up willing to ignore received wisdom and admit that he doesn’t wear a helmet. I don’t wear one either. It is simplistic and unfair to tell the victims in a collision that they should have armoured themselves. If harm reduction were sufficient to impose safety measures like bicycle helmets, we’d all be wearing helmets in cars too, where heads injuries are among the most common injuries. Our children would wear helmets all the time. As a safety measure, it’s punitive, and misdirected. If we’re serious about not killing people on bicycles, we’ll take more effective measures, like segregating lanes and enforcing the existing rules.
Second, there was news about the value of the Zoo for research into animal and habitat conservation. Of course, it isn’t really news. It only seems like news now that the Zoo is up for sale. Ten years ago, in anticipation of this day, NetGain advised the Zoo to trade on its higher purpose instead of marketing itself like an amusement park, at great public expense. The Board adopted the recommendation but permitted staff to take the opposite direction, building a jeep simulation ride and a water park instead. Somewhere along the way, they saw fit to dismiss it’s non-profit fund-raising wing as well. Julia Dow blogged scathingly about this when she was with NetGain a few years ago, but nothing has changed except the organization’s degree of desperation. Now that it’s too late, the Zoo is finally making news about its good works.
Third, Marcus Gee writes about how much Canadians dislike Toronto. When I first returned from Vancouver after postgraduate studies at UBC, I often told the astonishing story of being called a “G.U.,” by a woman at a neighbourhood bar in Kitsilano. I didn’t understand at first. When after hearing it a couple of times I asked about it, I learned that it was an acronym for, “geographic undesirable.” However, I stopped telling the story because friends thought I was exaggerating. Maybe it seemed incredible because it’s hard to imagine a Torontonian inventing such an elaborate insult. After all these years, Gee corroborates the phenomenon. Unless of course these were isolated instances and both Gee and I were despicable representatives of Toronto.
Finally, I thought of a friend who suffered a neck injury in a cycling accident (he was wearing a helmet and obeying the law) and is now confined to a wheelchair. I don’t know if this is news either, but the Globe reports that our health system isn’t doing enough for people with spinal cord injuries after the initial trauma has been treated. My friend was considered statistically unlikely to recover much function, so he received more occupational therapy than actual rehabilitation, despite evident progress during his allotted time in a rehabilitation centre. The challenge of finding adequate treatment and therapy was exacerbated by his return to a northern Ontario city where the blanket coverage of OHIP services is very, very thin.
All this news made me feel curiously relevant, but because it was all bad news, it’s hard to enjoy that feeling. Too bad the papers missed my good news last Wednesday when I encountered Margaret Atwood walking through China Town and later returned to my Regent Park apartment to discover that a fleet of Bixis had been installed adjacent to the building.
Maybe we need to write our own good news before the bad news catches up with us. Of course, that kind of thinking is what makes it possible to ignore things like carnage on the roads, and zoos on the chopping block, until it’s too late. Thank my old dog’s bladder for keeping me up to date.