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Guelph's own car rally!

Web posted on May 29, 2002

Guelph certainly is an exciting city to live in. I can sit at home and watch some of the best rally racers in the world compete on some of the most brutal courses I've ever seen... or I can walk outside and experience the daily running of the Guelph Moron Rally. It's a 24-hour race that just never seems to end.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of watching or experiencing a road rally, let me give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Each rally team consists of a driver, a navigator, and a whole pile of guys who do nothing but wait around to fix the car when it gets broken, or pick it up, or turn it right side up, or help push it out of the hip-deep mud. They drive on paths, roads, streets, gravel and mud - over hills and dales, through populated towns and cities, and basically anywhere that's wide enough to allow the cars to squeeze through. But they do follow the rules of the road.

As I watched an idiot in his bright red Trans-Am zoom up to a red light with truly macho levels of tire-squealing noises, I realized that there are some subtle differences between European rallies and Guelph traffic patterns. For example, in a standard rally, only one car goes through any part of the course at one time. In Guelph, they're all coming at you from every angle. I always look at the spectators during a rally, standing so close to the edge of the road, that I think they must be mad. I mean, these drivers go pretty damn fast, and tend to, shall we say, loosely approximate the curves of the road. In fact, many of the local people end up injured by flying debris of all sorts, and have, on occasion, caused the race to slam to a halt until the roadway is cleared of excited human targets. You couldn't pay me enough to get that close to the action. Anyone on foot knows it's at their own peril when attending a racing event. It shouldn't be that way in Guelph, but ask any local pedestrian how many near-misses they've had this week, and the number would frighten you.

I can speak for many, many people when I say that the visible presence of local law enforcement has an effect on the drivers of Guelph. It makes them behave as long as they're in visible range... and you know what that causes? Relative mayhem. Allow me to explain. I've seen far too many almost-crashes caused by illegal speeders trying to slow down before being noticed by a cop. The Edinburgh Road Drag Strip is a particularly obvious example. It's sad to see someone go cruising down between Stone and College, hit the brakes to get down to the speed limit as they see a cop car ahead of them, and then speed up again to make stopping at the pedestrian cross-walk by the LCBO store impossible. Sorry, guys, but that's no way to get a tip from this taxi rider.

I say bring back photo radar, and hurry up about it! The best way to get people who always speed is to catch them doing it undetected. If we had one week during which each and every vehicle was given a ticket for each and every moving and standing violation, we'd have enough money to fix our historical Guelph train engine. Every rolling stop. Every improper or unsignalled lane change. Every single bit of illegal parking or stopping. Every vehicle travelling even 1-km/h over the posted limit. Any vehicle with even a single tire in a bicycle lane. Every unreported fender-bender. Each and every seat belt violation. Every missing headlight, and any licence plates that are missing or unreadable at 150 metres.

A very important aspect would be that there would be no combining of crimes. If you make a bad lane change, don't signal that lane change, and end up passing in the wrong lane because you're speeding - you get charged for all of those items. No lesser and included offences. No excuses, no exceptions. It's time for all of us to ante up for our wayward acts... all of 'em.

Now, I'm not singling out cars here. The same would apply to buses (sorry, I guess that would really screw up the precision timing of the routes) and trucks and taxis. Yeah, each and every u-turn a taxi makes, every orange light run, every speeding rule broken. I can hear the money flowing, folks!

You may have noticed one class of vehicular crime has been unmentioned thus far. The drunk drivers. We all know that there's a special toasty-warm place waiting for them in the afterlife, but we do have to deal with them now, too. As far as I'm concerned, you get behind the wheel after drinking, and you should lose your licence forever. Just like that. No second chances. Blow over, game over.

You know, it's not entirely the fault of the vehicles on the road. Pedestrians and bicyclists and skateboarders make the place a bit dangerous sometimes, too. Pet peeve time. I think that anybody who pushes a baby buggy out into traffic to get the cars to stop and let their happy family cross the street should be charged with child endangerment. Of course, some would argue that it would be the perfect example of 'survival of the fittest' (i.e. the faster you run, the more likely the offspring is to survive), but I wouldn't comment either way on that one. Too controversial for me, although I do have to agree that SUVs are a particularly fine example of a highly-complex urban natural selection pressure.

I'm the first to admit that the one week of pocket-book carnage on the roadways of Guelph won't happen. Too few police, too many idiots. If this column gives you pause, or reminds you of someone you know who would be financially ruined by such a scheme, good! Awareness of improper behaviour is the first step in correction. If everyone tries just a little bit, perhaps we all can make Guelph a safer city to wander through - regardless of your preferred mode of transportation.

As an aside, I've been watching the city council meetings and have noticed something most interesting. I've been able to hear recorded votes for the first time in several years. One does wonder if someone read my last column (April 3, 2002) and noted my comments about not being able to hear how my duly elected representatives were voting. Thank you, nice Rogers Cable people - now I can hear their shrill and whiny voices in surround sound!


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