Saturday, July 28, 2001


Transportation for Liveable Communities (Hamilton) REPORT


Combining the motto "live as though the revolution has already occurred" with Emma Goldman's "If I can't dance, it's not my revolution" members of the Climate Change Caravan and Hamilton's Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) ate, played and danced in the parking lot in front of Westdale businesses for several hours Saturday (July 28, 2001.)

Children are twirling, running and playing, chalking the bare asphalt with images of beauty or hopscotch squares; music is playing through loudspeakers, people are talking and dancing, handing out leaflets, writing in journals, hanging out.

The Climate Change Caravan (CCC), a group of 30 cyclists on a cross Canada mission to educate and activate citizens to take responsibility for global climate change, has arrived in Hamilton and a parking lot in Westdale has been transformed into a pedestrian play zone.

Car drivers stare blankly, trying to figure out why people are not moving out of their way: they want to park where they are accustomed but bicycles and moving bodies are in the way.

Cars reverse, and look elsewhere for a place to deposit their cumbersome metal shells.  About 60 people are reversing expectations by holding a parking meter party in celebration of the potential for Canadians to change: rather than continue to change the climate with unparalleled levels of fossil fuel combustion, the Climate Change Caravan is betting on the actions of citizens to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are heating the planet.

At around 3:30 pm, TLC scouts Christine and Andrew started laying down orange traffic cones to reserve five parking spaces for the CCC support bus. They managed to stave off the parking commissionaire who approached them and gruffly inquired as to whether or not they had a permit. Since the spaces were paid for (with quarters in the meters) and the dilemma of finding a location for leaving the ticket was too much of a quandary, (neither Christine or Andrew where wearing wiper-blades at the time) he left them to attend to the more usual routine of ticketing automobiles.

Then around 4:00 the bus pulled in, just as other cyclists from TLC arrived to claim other empty parking spaces for the party.

In all, about 15 spaces were made temporary pollution-free zones.

Onlookers could be seen staring, dumbfounded; cyclists cruising through the area changed their course to stop and check out the inviting scene which included soap bubbles; children with faces painted with flowers, buses and bicycles; a table laden with food; parking spaces filled with bicycles and lawn chairs; people dancing, playing hacky-sack; and the rather impressive deep-red Climate Change school bus replete with solar panels, wind turbine and a store of vegetable oil (used to fuel the bus.)

People from as far away as the Yukon happened upon the party and joined in the fun.

The sight of children liberated and able to play without fear of being run down by automobiles was inspiring. Children are too often the victims of North America's obsession with cars, either as fatalities, or as prisoners in neighbourhoods over-run with motor vehicles and roads.

Children are also going to bear the brunt of global warming. As Canada's top climate change expert says, "we can expect temperatures in the Toronto-Hamilton area to top 30 C -- often 35 C -- more than 50 days each summer by 2050, unless we cut global greenhouse gas emissions. That's up from the present 15 or 16 days each summer."(Hamilton Spectator)

Increased temperatures will result in more smog (the heat from the sun "cooks" pollutants from motor vehicles, industry and power plants to create smog) which means more people dying from bad air. The Ontario Medical Association estimates that 1900 Ontarians die prematurely each year due to poor air quality.

As this article is being written, yet another smog advisory has been issued by the Ministry of the Environment, making this the worse year on record for smog alerts.

Are we going to be hostages to our hyper-consumption lifestyles, or are we going to learn to tread lightly on the earth?

Cyclists in the CCC began their journey in Tofino, B.C. and have been raising awareness in cities and towns along the way about personal consumption habits which drive the damage of climate change. Check out their web site at

Thursday, July 19, 2001

parking meter noise

Car culture killing us, activists say

By MIRA OBERMAN, The Hamilton Spectator
A12, Thursday, July 19, 2001

Trying to convince Hamiltonians to leave their cars at home is about as easy as convincing them to skip Tim Hortons in the morning.

It just goes against the grain.

Kind of like playing chess on a blanket of sod spread out over a King Street East parking spot.

About 30 people created a "car-free space" in front of Jackson Square Monday afternoon in an attempt to raise awareness about the destructive side of a North American obsession.

Beatrice Ekwa-Ekoko, 32, can't fit everything she dislikes about cars into one breath.

Cars harm the environment, kill children, isolate people from their community, gobble up half of the city with parking lots and roads, and frighten cyclists off the streets.

It sounds wonky, but the mother of three has a lot of solid facts to back her up. According to Statistics Canada, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of hospitalization among Canadians aged 15-35.
More than 40 pedestrians have died in traffic accidents in Hamilton in the past six years while 470 more were hit by cars last year.

And motor vehicles are the leading cause of smog pollutants in North America.

"We're in an environmental crisis -- we've had more smog days this year than ever before," Ekwa-Ekoko said as dozens of cars sped past the parking spot filled with lawn chairs, bikes and protesters sitting on green grass.

"People actually cannot breath the air it's so bad."

As a solution, Ekwa-Ekoko would like to see city hall do more to encourage alternative forms of transportation.

She'd like to see big improvement for the HSR and GO transit, She'd like to see more bike lanes so cyclists can get downtown safely. She'd like to see a city-wide educational campaign that would include closing downtown streets to cars on World Car Free Day, "It's about quality of life --slow down and take a breath of clean air," she said.

Ward 2 councillor Andrea Horwath stopped by the parking meter party yesterday and said Ekwa-Ekoko might be able to get some of what she wants.

"Out city will be totally connected with trails in the next couple of years," she said. "Bike racks (on HSR buses) are a great idea since we're also having issues around strollers and walkers."

But major changes, like reworking traffic flows to make Hamilton feel less like an expressway, are going to take a lot more time. If they happen at all, Horwath said.



For a few short hours, last week, the uniform grey of downtown Hamilton's concrete was disrupted by a splash of vibrant green. Members of Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) held a "parking metre party". They reclaimed a parking space on King Street, in front of Jackson Square, putting a layer of sod on top of the asphalt, blasting out music, dancing, playing chess, and placing phone calls to their municipal councillors.

"Cars kill community," says TLC spokesperson Beatrice Ekwa-Ekoko. "We're claiming a piece of public space that's usually destined for the car...where community can be encouraged."

The group was demanding that city hall increase funding for new bike lanes and public transit service, put bike racks on HSR buses, and lobby for expanded GO service to Toronto. In addition, they were asking that city council close downtown Hamilton to cars on September 20, 2001, which is World Car Free Day.

Ekwa-Ekoko points to countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, where 20% and 33%, respectively, of all trips are made by bike, not car. Some Latin American cities, most notably Bogota, Colombia, have taken steps to restrict automobile use in their downtown areas, and Bogota's mayor hopes for a complete ban on cars in urban core areas by 2015. Bordeaux, France, will soon have 50% of its streets reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.

For TLC member Seth Sazant, the imagery of the plot of grass in the parking space was a "representation of how crazy things are...My mode of transportation is bicycle. I feel angry as well as threatened a lot of the time by cars." This action was important, he says, becasuse it is "bordering on useless to be writing to my councillor, when the city has not done much to make streets safer for bikes, for example. I'm pretty frustrated."

The reaction from passers-by was mixed. William Davy, aged 13, stopped as he was biking past the party, and after brief discussion, joined in the fun. He says, "I'm really hoping that they'll make it so bikes can go on buses."

Ralph Ellis was more skeptical. "Getting rid of cars is a lost cause. It's a good idea, but it's a lost cause." Even intermediate measures, like a significant increase in bike lanes, he sees as unlikely. "You'd have to take up a certain amount of road space...[and] then you'd have drivers getting mad."

City councillor Andrea Horwath, who represents the downtown ward, paid the party a visit. She described the event as "great", and herself as "frustrated" with the speed of progress in the city on sustainable transportation measures. "The focus of our transportation department and the focus of our council is asphalt expansion programs." She wants to see "equal investment in other modes of transportation."

Marvin Caplan, who represents Ward 1, also dropped by. He expressed general support for TLC's demands, and said everyone should "act locally by reducing the use of single occupancy vehicles." However, he said the demand for a ban on autos downtown during World Car Free Day "would be a problem," and he was skeptical of the direct action methods chosen by TLC. "Not that I have a problem with them. They just won't work."

One of the participants in the action was Euan Gibb, an auto worker. Though it might appear that he would have a lot to lose if there was a cultural shift to more sustainable means of transportation, he doesn't agree. "I don't accept the premise that we need to perpetuate a huge auto market." He believes that auto workers would "not necessarily be adversely affected." He advocates changes like reducing opportunities for overtime, and having a shorter standard work week, to allow more people to benefit from a given demand for labour. He points to the success of France's recent reduction of the length of its work week.

TLC's next action will take its struggle on the road, to the corporate headquarters of Ontario Power Generation (OPG) in Toronto, on August 20. OPG operates the Nanticoke coal power electiricity generation plant, the largest single source of air pollution in Canada. The group will be joining people from across the province in a civil disobedience action to demand greater action to improve air quality. Back in Hamilton, the group will be taking part in Gaia-Fest 2001, a radical eco/political gathering and festival, in Gore Park on September 9.

Monday, July 16, 2001



First PMP in Hamilton drew a crowd (King W at MacNab) 

Hamilton. Ontario. Monday, July 16, 2001

More than one motorist did a double take while driving downtown Hamilton during the lunch hour: where they expected the usual grey concrete and asphalt they were treated to some impromptu green space and a parking meter party.

The parking meter party was thrown together by local transportation activists, members of Transportation for Liveable Communities (a working group of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group at McMaster) who hope to make this a frequent event for lovers of clean air, and safe, quiet streets.

Parking meters provide cheap party rental space (50 cents an hour in downtown Hamilton) and are readily available on city streets all over North America. Unroll a bit of sod for texture and some green and crank up the boom box. Pull up a chair, play a game of chess, have a glass of lemonade. Enjoy the streets!

At about 11:00 am a few people started handing out flyers at King and James Streets; by noon, a full blown street party was underway.

As people unrolled fresh sod, others strung banners and colourful flags. Chairs and table were set up and the cassette dropped into the boom box. A quarter was placed into the parking meter, the dial turned and then, nothing could stop the celebration.

As the steady stream of mobile smog producing factories (AKA automobiles) rumbled past, about 40 citizens partied on the grass. People held signs that read "End the Automobile Age" and "Cars Kill Community."

Over the strains of music (the Clash "Car Jam;" Rancid "Avenues and Alleyways;" Patti Smith "Dancing Barefoot") members of TLC encouraged citizens to call their councillors, going so far as to provide a cell phone and a list of council phone numbers; some people invited their councillors to the party; a couple actually made it down to check out the action.

Artists used chalk to enhance the dull sidewalks with artful renderings of flowers, as others blew soap bubbles which gently floated out over the traffic.

A bike repair workshop materialized and lucky cyclists got free tune-ups from Mark and Chris of Spin Cycles.

Eric Ferguson brought down several orange bicycles (modelled on the white bikes of Amsterdam, the bikes are free for anyone to use, as long as they leave it for others when their trip is done) and bicycle couriers stopped by to have a glass of lemonade and chat.

People concentrated on two chess games that were sharing prime real estate while people danced beside them. Some people just laid down and stretched out, enjoying the only green space within sight.
Passer-by gave thumbs up, and some joined in the fun.

One elderly pedestrian promised to quit smoking if we could get rid of the cars downtown, a promise he repeated for the benefit of all through the bullhorn.

TLC demands include a push for long awaited bike lanes on downtown streets, support for municipal public transit and for Hamilton to take part in World Car Free Day by closing streets to cars on September 20.

The celebration was offset by the dark side of life in North American cities: car-nage.

Hamilton drivers have, through years of official encouragement and traffic design aimed at "efficiency", become a serious menace.

Cameras installed to catch red light runners in Hamilton reveal the depth of the problem: compared to Toronto where cameras captured an average of 53 motorists running red lights in May, Hamilton captured an average of 198 motorists for the month.

Recently in Hamilton, 36-year-old Tim Ekelman was killed as a speeding car (racing with another car) slammed into his bicycle from behind. As the Hamilton Spectator reported "A black baseball cap lay half a block away at the point of collision and a man's contorted body lay twisted and bleeding heavily at the intersection." The driver has been charged with criminal negligence causing death. Police are searching for the other car, which left the scene of the "accident".

The man's sister in law works as a parking-meter attendant and happened upon the parking meter party. She instantly understood TLC's message:

It is past time to curb the car.

Between 1990 and 1998 motor vehicle accidents killed 289 people in Hamilton Wentworth and injured 34,220 more. Worldwide cars kill 500,000 people, two thirds of whom are pedestrians, of which one third are children.

According to the Canadian Automobile Association, there are now more than 2.78 million vehicles on highways per day in the Hamilton and Toronto region.

One full transit bus could replace up to 40 single occupant vehicles, thereby saving 70,000 litres of fuel and avoiding nine tonnes of air pollutants a year!

The same day that climate change talks resumed in Bonn, TLC activists reminded people that motor vehicles are the leading cause of smog, and contribute 65% of all carbon monoxide emitted into the environment, a primary element contributing to global warming.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to Hamiltonians, who are experiencing the worst year ever for poisonous smog. Last summer's total of nine smog days were matched as early as June this year. This year also ushered in the earliest smog alert ever issued (April)

Activists vow to keep pressure on politicians at all levels to fund and implement transportation strategies that encourage non-fossil fuel alternatives and support integrated public transit systems.
Canada currently has no sustained federal support for transit and Ontario has made no commitment to transit investments. Ontario has, though, recently announced their intention to build a super "mid peninsula" highway, which will only exacerbate suburban sprawl, highway gridlock, smog and global warming.

A light rain which began just as our two hour limit ran out on the meter signalled the end of the party. As people rolled up the lush green sod to reveal the oil stained pavement beneath, the main question on people's minds was "when is the next parking meter party?"

The answer is: "Soon."

Monday, July 09, 2001


Transportation for Liveable Communities presents a  
Parking Meter Party
Monday July 16, 2001
11:30 am to 1:30 pm

Meet at King Street just west of James Street (across from Jackson Square by the CIBC bank tower)
Bring some grass (the kind you sit on), a lawnchair, food, drums, soap bubbles, boombox ,sidewalk chalk, and your sense of adventure as we reclaim some prime downtown street space in smoggy, noisy, car-infested Hamilton.

We will supply the quarters for parking spaces, which will magically transform into liberated car-free spaces.

There will be a free bike repair clinic, free lemonade and most importantly, some car-free space as we confront out of control auto-culture.

Bring your musical instruments, gas masks (for the smog), banners, signs, bikes, roller blades, wheelchairs, kitchen sinks and help de-pave the way to a car free future.

Contact your city councillor and demand bike lanes on King and Main; ask them to support World Car Free Day by closing streets in Hamilton to cars, September 20, 2001.

Hamilton City Councillors can be reached by phoning (905) 546-2489, or fax (905) 546-2535, or write them at City Hall, 2nd Floor, 71 Main Street West, Hamilton Ontario, L8P 4Y5. Click here to find council contact info on the web

  • Cars are the leading killer of children under 14 years of age in North America.
  • Vehicles are the number one source of smog producing pollutants in North America (Ontario Ministry of Transportation.)
  • There are currently no safe, direct bike routes (marked bike lanes) on downtown Hamilton streets (King and Main)
  • According to the Canadian Automobile Association, there are now more than 2.78 million vehicles on highways per day in the Hamilton and Toronto areas.
  • More than 40 pedestrians have died in traffic accidents in Hamilton in the past six years. Last year alone, 470 people were hit by cars. (Hamilton Spectator, March 15, 2001).
  • Between 1990 and 1998, a total of 289 people were killed in motor-vehicle crashers, 77 of whom were pedestrians or cyclists. (Spectator, March 26th, 2001).
  • Between 1986 and 1998, 6760 pedestrians and cyclists were injured by cars. (Spectator, Jan 30th, 2001).
  • A single bus can take up to 40 vehicles off the road, save as much as 70,000 litres of fuel and keep 9 tonnes of air pollutants out of the air per year (Pollution Probe).
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average person who cycles instead of driving alone saves (per mile) at least 24 pounds of smog-causing pollutants and 1.1 pounds of carbon dioxide.
  • In Denmark, 20% of all trips are by bike. One third of all trips are made by bike in the Netherlands.
  • Buenos Aires has a complete ban on private vehicles in the downtown district on weekdays.
  • Bordeaux, France will shortly have 50% of its streets reserved for pedestrians and cyclists (Steve Nadis and James Mackenzie, "Car Trouble" 1993).
  • Driving downtown in Oslo, Norway, costs $2 per trip (Environment Views p. 12 spring 1993)
To get involved in bringing about a breathable, liveable future of sustainable transportation, contact Transportation for Liveable Communities c/o The Ontario Public Interest Research Group, (OPIRG) McMaster: (905) 525-9140 ext. 27289 or e-mail