Housekeeping note: The social media Bluesky has emerged from invite-only testing mode to become wide open to everyone. I’m here, come say hi.
Not too much happened in print this week because I was up to my eyeballs in another big project that won't be out for some time. But if you're interested in the resolutions adopted by the Canadian Bar Association at the annual general meeting that was held yesterday, I've got you covered.
My main concern in the Ottawa Citizen this week is people who can't drive worth shit. I offer a back-to-basics driver's ed course that may be a touch heavy on the sarcasm. But first, a bit of a set-up, because this column didn't just come out of nowhere.
You can talk about pedestrian safety until you go blue in the face, as I often do, and still be shocked by the frequency with which pedestrians and cyclists get hurt. And the close calls, my goodness the close calls. I jog, walk and cycle an awful lot in Ottawa (and now Quebec City as well) and every single time I’m out somewhere I wind up yelling at a doofus of a driver not looking both ways before making a right turn. Sometimes I even have to tap the car to make them realize there’s a human in their way who has the right of way no less. They always react like I'm some sort of space alien.
Do you know what we need? A spoof of the I’m Just Ken song but made for vulnerable road users. What will it take for her to see the human behind the windshield… Hit me up if you want to help with the lyrics — clearly I need some. I’ll handle the faux mink and the drama-singing.
Sometimes, the hits come way too close for comfort. On a Tuesday morning in early January I left Ottawa early to go to a spot just outside Orillia, on the lovely shores of Lake Simcoe, to pick up my eldest teenager who’d been there for a week. It was 400 km there, and 400 km back, all in one day, fueled mostly by Starbucks coffee and McD grease. The things we do for our children, right?
After more than 653 hours on the road I was looking forward to enjoying a glass of wine at home and doing laundry because that thing never ends. I came off the Queensway at Kirkwood aiming for Richmond when I had to pull over for a fire truck just before Byron. I decided, given where the emergency vehicle was going (towards Richmond), to take a right on Byron but what do you know, the fire truck had come back up Island Park and stopped at the intersection of Byron.
And then I saw. I let out a heartfelt fuuuuuck. There was, right there on the pavement, a person lying down. Fuck fuck fuck, I repeated, banging my steering wheel as I manoeuvred my car so I could get away from the scene and out of the way of first responders. I was shaking with rage and fear for this person.
The corner of Island Park and Byron is one I navigate on a daily basis. It’s not 300 metres from where I live and I cross that intersection most days on my jog. It’s near two elementary schools and one middle school — there’s kids everywhere walking and biking. It's a nice neighbourhood, but that doesn't mean people drive any better. I never cross assuming motorists will be generous enough to grant me my right of way. That — and a daily sip of red wine — is one reason I'm still alive.
As I say in the column, it's almost as though people who get behind a steering wheel no longer care what the rules of the road are. I wish I were kidding when I say we need to get back to basics.
I never found out what happened to the person I saw lying down across the road that early January night. There was no mention in the news, so I assume that means they were not badly hurt. I'm glad of that, of course. But they should never have been hit.
Maybe you think you don’t need a refresher course. Take it anyway.