Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for October 5th, 2008

We need a coalition for climate change

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Please sign a new website petition on climate change at


Dear friends,

I am involved with a website petition that is urging the four federal opposition parties to form a political coalition on climate change.

In the upcoming federal election, the majority of Canadians will vote for a party that supports much stronger climate change policies than those that are being proposed by the governing Conservative party. Yet the Conservative government is likely to set the policy agenda on this issue for ALL Canadians in the coming years despite being supported by only a minority of voters.

We are a small group of people across Canada (not affiliated with any political party or organization) who are frustrated by the the inadequate measures being proposed by the federal Conservative government to combat climate change and we are disappointed by the lack of cooperation among the four federal opposition parties who are all advocating aggressive action.

We want to collect as many signatures as possible before the election to urge the opposition parties to work together on this issue so as to ensure that the will of the majority of Canadians is honoured and a much stronger set of climate change policies is implemented in Canada.

You will find our new petition online at It only takes a few seconds to sign.

Thank you for your support. Please distribute this email to every Canadian in your address book!!

Best wishes,

Mark Brooks

Written by Stephen Rees

October 5, 2008 at 5:03 pm

The spectral memorials that haunt our roads

with 7 comments



The Observer

They started in San Francisco, spread throughout the States and are now appearing in cities worldwide ghostly white bikes adorned with fresh flowers that mark the spot where a cyclist has been killed. As they begin to appear across Britain, Geraldine Bedell talks to the creators of these poetic shrines and the victims families.

I have yet to see a bike painted white used here as a memorial – but perhaps you have?

At first blush this seems likes a good idea especially if it is true that ” the effect [this] seemed to have on drivers: they were slowing down, taking notice”. But while not bikes, informal roadside shrines at collision sites seem to be commonplace. Most seem simply to be sheaths of flowers taped to hydro poles, and most do not last long. They also seem to be so ubiquitous that I doubt that anyone these days, apart from those who knew the victim, pays much attention.

There are other more permanent markers. At the bridge where I work, a cross was put up by the family of the person who missed the bridge and drove at speed into the water. At one time it was quite elaborate, and had a Scots flag hung from the cross as well as flowers. Over the last couple of years the flag grew tattered and has not been replaced. Two small potted plants remain. While there is a 30km/hr limit on the bridge, it is observed only intermittently.

The sad thing is that somehow we accept the casualties on our roads as being somehow inevitable. The use of the word “accident” and the phrase “the vehicle lost control” seems safely neutral. The simple facts that people drive when they are impaired, distracted, drive too fast, are impatient and also unaware of the own limitations as much as those of the vehicle they are driving do not seem to be under anyone’s control. Collisions involving other forms of transport are much more carefully examined, and steps taken to try to prevent similar collisions. In the case of roads we often know what should be done – better speed infraction enforcement being the most obvious, but also better junction design – but take no action for fear of political unpopularity.

The point about the British campaign is that there needs to be more and safer cycling facilities. And if that happens, even if it does seem to create the impression that cycling is more dangerous than it is, that to my mind is worthwhile. We certainly need to strike hard at the complacency of traffic engineers and their political masters who still do far too much to speed up traffic in general and not nearly enough to make walking and cycling safer and more attractive.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 5, 2008 at 8:36 am

Posted in Road safety