Originally appeared in the North Shore News – October 15, 2010
There are two things that can never be made as safe as their dizzier zealots demand: Cycling and prostitution.
Which doesn’t stop them from trying.
The mad mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, and his leftist councillors have contributed to the expansion of shamocracy (as second-thoughts NPA councillor Suzanne Anton put it, “No one who spoke to council . . . expected to be a part of a kangaroo council”) by imposing a $3.2 million, concrete-separated bicycle lane on Hornby Street that was opposed by more than 90 per cent of respondents in two polls.
Surprise — Vancouver city hall’s own poll of “visitors” (who are they?) drew 56 per cent support, demonstrating once again that polls can be worded, manipulated and targeted to prove anything. But accident figures can’t be fudged, and since the Burrard Bridge became bicycle-friendly at the expense of sane traffic engineering, motorized vehicle collisions at the north end have soared from 50 per cent more to 600 per cent more in various comparative periods.
(You’ve heard many derisive bike-countings, so in fairness here’s an impressive one: Crossing Burrard on a sunny Saturday last month we witnessed 19 cyclists heading downtown. More than we’d ever counted. But in the opposite direction — zero.)
And expect all kinds of confusion and controversy over police enforcement, insurance, licensing, and compliance from the many law-scoffing two-wheelers. Or are the Critical Mass demos that routinely sabotage traffic — and apparently don’t trouble His Effing Worship — unrepresentative of the cycling republic?
I recently came within an arm’s length of becoming a statistic myself along “bicyclized” Dunsmuir Street. A skateboarder abruptly turned to the sidewalk in front of a cyclist, who swerved and braked, and went on as if the incident whistled through his ears non-stop without encountering a brain. A hair’s difference and I could have had boarder, bicyclist and bicycle in my lap, standing.
The undersigned isn’t anti-bicycle. I guarantee that in cycling days I rode further than Robertson, his sidekick Geoff Meggs (recovering from a bike accident), and cabinet minister Kevin Falcon are ever likely to match, maybe combined. By coincidence, on this very day in 1950, as my diary precisely notes, I pedalled 97.2 miles (156 kilometres) from beautiful Hamilton to Queenston, near Niagara Falls, not an unusual single-day trip in my mid-teens. The bike, a Humber with unbreakable three-speed Sturmey-Archer gears, would be considered primitive today.
So I know this issue intimately. Big enthusiast Peter Ladner fatuously asserts in Business in Vancouver that Vancouver’s downtown bike lanes are inclusive “for the 80-year-old grandmother and the eight-year-old child.” Steady on, Peter. The list of those who can’t or won’t travel on two wheels, no matter how “safe” the lanes, is too long to repeat.
As chronicled in this space, on West Van’s new Park Royal-13th Street link, cyclists, dog-walkers and pedestrians are as likely to choose the separated motorist lane as their own — because they trust drivers who are used to them more than they trust one another.
Y’all hear that, West Van council?
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And then there’s that other activity (see first para) that, for all the tears, lobbying and public guilt, especially in the endless wake of the Robert Pickton murders, can’t be made safe. Or respectable. Yet a former Victoria newspaper columnist seems to be devoting her life to those goals.
Prostitution’s face can never be cleaned up and its body clothed expensively enough to disguise what it is — a loathsome, demeaning activity.
For years Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham has taken what ought not to be, but perhaps is, a courageous tack on prostitution. Why courageous? Because it divides women, especially feminists who otherwise are on the same side of their general cause.
Daphne — I’m allowed to call her Daphne, because she is a former boss and colleague — wrote last week: “Selling sex is dehumanizing and soul-destroying to most of the people who do it. That’s not a moral judgment. It’s fact.
“Yet . . . an Ontario judge (Susan Himel) struck down key sections of Canada’s prostitution laws and effectively legalized brothels, living off the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of prostitution.”
Daphne hits the ball squarely with the barrel of the bat (little seasonal baseball figure of speech there): “Moving prostitutes indoors is no solution. Far from emancipating them from the yoke of a bad law and the heavy hands of pimps and madams, it turns organized criminals into business people.” Dead right.
The race has been gnawing its knuckles for millennia over what to do about prostitution.
Daphne notes one innovation, the so-called Nordic model, begun in Sweden, which criminalizes only buyers of any sexual services.
Note — not the sellers, the buyers. Meaning, whether the sex is straight or gay, almost 100-per-cent male.
That’s feminist sexism for you: The prostitutes — oops, “sex-trade workers”– are helpless victims (uniformly reported in the media as having been sweet, happy little kids, fond aunts, etc.). The pimps and johns are exploitative men, so scorch them.
Note that this turns the illicit drug model upside down — the top operators are ruthless criminals relentlessly chased, while the users deserve sympathy, free injection sites and police who look the other way. The moral confusion explains and sustains the Downtown Eastside, which, according to one recent estimate, costs taxpayers (those boring squares with their unfilmable lives) a fantastic $3 million a day, $1 billion a year.
Which doesn’t engage the interest of Vancouver’s socialist council nearly as much as chickens and bicycle lanes.
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West Vancouver’s Cathy Duthie Legate must have felt painful twinges when she attended a friend’s opening of a bookstore in the former premises of her family’s Duthie Books 4th Avenue, which closed in January.
Duthie Books was a cherished Vancouver institution for 53 years, the Robson Street store especially a downtown treasure. Duthie took books seriously, and stocked serious books. But the book business became, and remains, brutal — oligopolistic big-box stores and online retailers savagely discounting books, not to ignore library sales of discarded books at giveaway prices.
Harken to these blithely insensitive online remarks that speak, you might say, volumes: “While my favourite place to purchase books is Book Warehouse, my favourite place to browse for them is Duthie Books.”
Another: “This (Duthie) is one of my favourite places to spend a rainy afternoon, scooched up in one of the store’s quiet reading nooks, my nose stuck between the pages of something brilliant.”
With “customers” like that. . . .
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And there’s one supermarket item customers are allowed to steal quite literally without a thought — the “information” in the lurid magazines at the checkout that aren’t even respectable enough to print genuine gossip. There they stand, vacantly take a bit of a flip-through, then return them sloppily to the rack as they move up the line. What’s most contemptible — their thievery, cheapness, or taste?
The recent Word on the Street celebration of books at Library Square attracted a multitude, but I didn’t see a lot of sales. Charles Campbell stood out among the excerpt-readers, for a vivacious account of The Maquinna Line, an old novel he edited with an intriguing B.C. real-life theatrical background. I have it but, guiltily, just haven’t found time to read it. Too much staring into screens myself these days.
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Tomorrow at 7 p.m. at St. Francis-in-the-Wood Church, rector Rev. Angus Stuart will give a recitation, Testament of a Naked Man: Good News According to Mark.
The title alone may attract me.
© Trevor Lautens, 2010