Wednesday, August 6, 2014


So a couple of traveling-companion, Euro tourists from Denmark, Holly Chabowski, 30, and Nanna Sorensen, 23, visited Toronto and Ottawa, Canada. During their experience, Ms. Chabowski fired off a letter of complaint, sending copies of said letter to party-hardy Toronto mayor Rob Ford, Jim Watson, mayor of Ottawa, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen, a newspaper published in the capital.

Of her trip with Ms. Sorensen, Ms. Chabowski wrote, “We just had this impression of Canada being quite different, a bit more European.” According to Ottawa Citizen Marie-Danielle Smith, Ms. Chabowski and Ms. Sorensen slummed it by bumming places to sleep in the houses of strangers, which many rhetorical call "couch-surfing."

Chabowski and Sorensen lamented over “great oceans of car parks,” the "sea of Tim Hortons," and "12 lane high ways, rammed packed with huge SUVs, with people going no where." Chabowski and Sorensen screamed horror over Halifaxians driving their SUVs alone.

And in her disappointment with Canadians, in typical meddling-minded European fashion, Ms. Chabowski wrote, “I write this letter to appeal to you to take radical steps to transform Canada into the healthy, happy and sustainable country we were expecting.”

Rød grød med fløde to those Danish cranks!

Alas, Chabowski and Sorensen suffer from the European disease, meddling European bureaucrat central planning syndrome. According to Ms. Smith, Chabowsk said that urban planning could convert Canadians into Europeans. Chabowski and Sorensen failed to see how meddlesome government planners are the ones who approved zoning, designing the Canada, which Canadians have today.

Suffering years of hyper-indoctrination beginning in childhood, Euros expect everyone on earth to live their diminished lifestyles. And of course, being European, they call for radical action imposed by the heavy hand of dictatorial government.

Noticeably absent from Chabowski and Sorensen were any calls for the removal of politician-fueled subsidies and letting an organic, free-market driven transportation design arise. Ironically, Chabowski acknowledges that European cities arose organically during medieval times of pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages.

It seems Chabowski and Sorensen hope for Canadians to have the same graffiti-sprayed trains as they have in Copenhaven.

Canada is huge. If Chabowski and Sorensen wanted a dinky footprint, why didn't they restrict themselves to Victoria or Vancouver. Better yet, why didn't Chabowski and Sorensen stay in Europe and visit Lichtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Andorra or Luxembourg?

It amuses always at how profoundly ignorant Lilliputian Europeans are about the size of Canada as well as the United States, especially west of the Mississippi.

According to Google Maps, someone could pedal the 400 km from Krusa, Denmark on the border with Deutschers of nearby Flensburg, Germany, to Skagen, Denmark, in the farthest north of Jutland in 21 hours. As well, someone could pedal from Blåvand, Denmark in the far west, through the islands of Funen, Langeland, Lolland, Falster and Zealand, coming to Copenhaven in 22 hours and 36 minutes.

To make the ride straight through, that someone likely would need to be a world-class Tour De France caliber cyclist. Oh, and that someone would need to ride a ferry as well as pedal through the town of Middlefart.

If a Canadian yearned to pedal from Toronto, which sits on the southern border with Americans who share Lake Erie to Alert, Nunavut, Canada, which sits 4,366.6 km (2713.25 miles) away on the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island, a mere 817 km (508 mi) from the North Pole, well that one couldn't do it. There aren't any roads that go that far north into Canada as well as traverse the many islands between Canadian mainland and Ellesmere.

However, assuming someone could, based on the Google Maps pedal rate of 19.05 km an hour, it would take someone 228 hours or 9.5 days! Of course, that assumes, the cyclist would enjoy friction-free, clear-skies weather.

Now, someone could pedal across Canada. According to Google Maps, someone could pedal 6,026 km from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia, in 313 hours. Oh and that would would need a ferry ride out to Victoria as well.

So someone could pedal across Denmark in under a day. However, someone would need a bit more than 13 days, of 24-hour a day pedalling to power oneself across Canada.

Here is the letter from Ms. Chabowski:

My girlfriend and I (Danish) were tourists in your country for 5 weeks this summer. We had the most incredible adventure and met the most wonderful Canadians, who welcomed us warmly into their homes.
Apart from these people, who sincerely do your nation credit, our overwhelming memory of Canada is one of cars, traffic, parking and the related obesity and unfulfilled communities. It is an impression that we have since shared with other tourists who have visited Canada.
Before arriving in Canada we had a genuine impression of a clean, healthy and sustainable first world country. Upon arrival in Toronto we were horrified to see great oceans of car parks deserting the landscape and 12 lane high ways, rammed packed with huge SUVs, with people going no where. A greater shock came when we discovered that this kind of infrastructure is not reserved just for the sprawl surrounding towns and cities but that highways actually run through city centres too. As humans trying to enjoy Canada’s major cities (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Halifax) we were treated like second class citizens compared to cars. The air was dirty, and the constant noise from horns and engines was unpleasant.
An observation that was especially noticeable in Halifax was the sheer amount of land in the city centre given to parking. Ginormous swaths of prime locations for living (parks, shops, cafés, market squares, theatres, playing fields etc – human activities which are key to quality of life) concreted over as homes for an ever increasing number of SUVs (most trucks and SUVs we saw contained only one person. The most SUVs we saw in a row were full of singular people driving through Tim Hortens). We asked the Canadians that we met how they felt living in such a car culture, here are a few of their responses:
‘Trying to solve traffic problems by building more roads is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger trousers.’ Ottawa
‘It’s only 10km to my work place. I would love to cycle, it would only take 30 minutes but it is simply not possible. I don’t feel safe. Instead I park and sweat, meaning after 25 minutes stuck in traffic I drive my car to the gym and waste another 25 minutes of time I could spend with my family.’ Quebec City
‘I hate cars in the city so much that I actually find myself slowing down as I cross the road, in a tiny effort to exert my authority as a human being over all that metal.’ Toronto
‘It seems to me that birds fly, fish swim and humans walk. Except in North America where you are expected to drive-everywhere. You wouldn’t put a fish in a submarine!’ Montreal
‘I am obese. My children are overweight and most of the people who live around here. I am surrounded by fast food chains, car parks and highways. I would love to ditch the car. My neighbourhood doesn’t even have sidewalks.’ Levis
As we explored more of the country we tried to console ourselves that at least a few cities were making an effort to make life liveable for humans – small local businesses, cycle infrastructure and pedestrianised streets. However, it felt like a token gesture rather than a genuine effort to make Canada a healthy, happy and sustainable country. Pedestrians were squeezed onto narrow pavements and forced to stop every 100m to cross the road, bike lanes were little more than paint on the ground for the cyclists to help protect the parked cars lining every street. We heard that the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, is actually tearing up bicycle lanes to make way for more cars!
Walking and cycling are human activities that bring great life, health and economy to communities. Streets that prioritise cars over humans are bad for business, bad for health (mental, social and physical), unsafe and break down communities.
I write this letter to appeal to you to take radical steps to transform Canada into the healthy, happy and sustainable country we were expecting. You are a nation of the most fantastic people, we know because we met them everywhere! As citizens they deserve much, much better.
Come on Canada! When tourists visit Canada make sure they remember it for for its parks rather than parking.
Sincerely yours,
Holly Chabowski

No comments:

Post a Comment