Warning: car may cause climate change, resource exhaustion, pollution and sprawl

An open letter to the Wheels Section of The Toronto Star by Hamish Wilson:

There is no reason to celebrate the gross waste of resources and environmental destruction of automobility, so aptly pictured on the cover of the Wheels 25th anniversary section.

There's a massive parking lot leaching salt, wiper fluids (perhaps with TeflonTM?), spilt oil and radiator fluids directly into Lake Ontario and our drinking water; energy hog power cars are spewing their exhausts and fine burnt particles from tire-burning starts to sensationalize often-deadly speed; and valuable urban land is covered only with asphalt, not houses.

And while the Star doesn't really notice such anomalies as near-record warmth and rain on this 25th Anniversary, let alone draw dots from billions of particles of fossil fuel combustion to climate change, at least we know of a lot of extreme weather events going on in the world, and some media are less "carrupt" to at least mention that these extreme events are consistent with climate change. But any message of conservation might be less "seasonal" as it could mean buying less, and interfering with profits - and not just yours.

Having mild weather, with saturating rainfall, followed by deep cold, is fabulous for breaking up infrastructure, though there's more "news" in telling us about an infrastructure deficit, as prevention would involve breaking codes for "objectivity" and "truth", though we don't see the cars as that at-times deadly elephant in our living room, and we're entitled to burn irreplaceable oil all the time, forever, and complain about the "insane price of gasoline".

But just as you've got some moral standards against genocides, asbestos and cigarette ads, you must develop some morals with our excessive automobility harming both our future, and the present, one example being Tuvalu, with near-irreversible climate change soon to submerge all of it.

It might be too much to expect that the Star would voluntarily label The Wheels section with sets of graphic, large warnings about all the dangers and harms of cars, like cigarettes now have, and all our governments are also "carrupt". But if you have any pretences at having ethical integrity, including fighting against climate change, and not abetting it, you should put some honesty into your Wheels section, in a consistent clear and BIG way. And in the spirit of honesty, cars can be very useful, they are quite astonishing technically, they are costly to operate, and I occasionally get in one - thanks to those who give me these lifts.

And at least you're not directly targetting pedestrians and cyclists in the Car Wars - that's for our new Mayor Ford.


Hamish Wilson


In fact the Star has been pretty good compared to the Sun. The letter has to be written to the people of Toronto who love their cars.

Good letter, I totally understand how you're feeling. I feel like that a lot of the time, too.


I put Wheels in the same category as the CAA--forces that promote a more responsible car culture, including safe driving techniques, proper maintenance, and just generally making drivers better-informed.

I think the wise thing to do is to use outlets like Wheels to move car culture in the right direction. Don't get me wrong, I'd love if drivers woke up one morning caring deeply about their cars' impact, sold them, and invested in transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, but realistically a positive future in the GTA is going to involve largely an evolution of car culture, including education, infrastructure, changing habits, and better technology. Metro Toronto may truly have the chance to become a great Transit City, but the outer suburbs will be car-dominated for a while, and the inner suburbs will be somewhere in between.

For what it's worth, I believe the answer to long-term progress in the GTA is to rebuild suburban arterials the way Toronto built them: a ground level of solid commercial businesses, with a few storeys of residential on top. All the nice places to walk, ride, catch transit, work, sleep and generally live, are neighbourhoods based around well-built arterials. Let's build more!

One eg. of the Star being better was on July 24/10, when Wheels Editor Mark Richardson's mini-interviews with other cyclists on a 730km bike ride on the Waterfront Trail, a charity ride I think. And it's likely his wife we have to thank for his biking...

With the CAA, Faye Lyons of the CAA is often at City Hall lobbying against cyclists, so I don't see the CAA as being all that good for cyclists. Tom Flaherty became so incensed after one of her deputations that he announced his ripping up of his membership. The CAA has helped put out some watch for bikes window stickers though, they're not all bad.

Tyranny of the majority folks, the Rob Ford types going to take us down with them.

Your letter strikes me as overly sensitive, alarmist and exaggerated, and it's not good advocacy. It's outrageous positions like this, particularly aimed at what most reasonable people would interpret as a harmless bit of fun, that make people think that cyclists are all nuts.

Hamish: Your letter strikes me as sensitive, real and un-exaggerated... and great advocacy. Unfortunately you speak the truth and are mocked because of it. I personally think it's time to create a consumer association to battle the outrageous content allowed in car advertisements. Speed, speed, speed... freedom, comfort... green living... yeah right!

Too bad about the CAA leadership. I remember the Richardson's cycling editorial, surprisingly progressive.

I'd like to see Wheels and the CAA get behind win-win car-bike initiatives, like:
1. Physically separated bike lanes and off-road trails (e.g. completion of the W Toronto Railpath).
2. More environmentally-friendly driving habits (Buy small! Coast to the red light!)
3. More environmentally-friendly car technology.
4. Education.
5. Leave-the-car-at-home days.
6. Creative ways to incorporate public transit into driving culture, e.g. park at Yorkdale Mall and take the train into downtown. (Also works for Don Mills Stn). Also, those TTC day passes are great for families on the weekends, could save a lot of $$$ on parking/gas.

These organizations could really help driving become more ethical, and honestly cheaper and safer for everyone.


  1. Support auto-sharing programs as a reasonable method of dense urban auto use.

You forgot that the automobile can cause obesity and the associating health problems. [insert photo of Rob Ford here]

I ride my bike daily, and also drive; either way, no single group should bear the burden of a climate crisis, nor should a someone be exempt of the same because they ride a bike.

Heating our living space, using electricity, purchasing transported consumer goods, drinking a cup of coffee - We are all part of the problem. lets deal with it accordingly. Best to approach stuff like this from a balanced perspective, or the "crazy cyclists" label simply puts the conversation to rest unresolved and easily ignored.

I do actually agree with the "balanced perspective", and that we are all contributing to this uh, "searious" problem. I'm a coffee addict, and newspaper still: both have considerable energy costs. Cyclists have a lot of imported materials in many bikes, and aluminum especially can have a BIG ghg cost associated with smelting. But the balanced perspective, often two wheeled, or 2-footed, and respectful of both other living things in this world, and future generations, doesn't get into the mainstream consumptive culture and we've passed that 390ppm point to redline our atmosphere. The Star, and the Sun, and most other commercial press offerings, are part of this "carisis", and we need to cherish the net, and blogs like this, and the Momentums and Dandyhorses, and in some ways, somehows, bring others to lower-carbon lives, My high carpin' isn't always the way to open the minds and the carcoons though, and it does truly help to have an appreciation of how other road users eg. drivers have as concerns - there are many careful and considerate ones out there, and the passhole term was inspired by a cyclist.

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