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Google Maps Bike Route Mapping Feature

Joe T. broke the story, Google Maps are up for Toronto’s Cyclists.

Good work Joe, I was looking yesterday but couldn’t see it. Joe says you have to be at (not .ca) and you have to input a place, then choose “Get Directions” a Bicycle Icon is now there that wasn’t there last week. So this morning I put it to the test and Google passed with flying colours!

I’ve been writing here recently about the way in which the ‘Big Box Store’ development at Lake Shore Boulevard and Leslie Street – and the freeway like streets that feed it – create a barrier to The Martin Goodman Trail and the south east Toronto Park Lands. So I know the area well – does Google Maps?

My first test was “Ashbridge’s Bay Park to the Jones Avenue Bike Lane”.

Google Bike Maps: Jones Avenue Bike Lane to Ashbridge's Bay Park

Amazingly for a feature in ‘Beta’ the mappers have already input data that indicates Lake Shore and Leslie is extremely dangerous for bicycles! The maps shows the route following the cross-walk at Lake Shore.

Google suggests you get off your bike at Lake Shore and use the cross walks to get to The Martin Goodman Trail. Good idea. Amazing for an 'in-beta' application!

Google is Great! They know everything!

How do they know everything?

Through networking I’ll bet.


Here’s a close up of the Google Bike Route Mapping feature that shows how to report problems, circled is the report problems button…

When you click “here” – a pop-up window appears:

Investigations continue.

I’m wondering if we can add bicycle routes that You or I create – user generated content.

Right now it appears that the data base is closed. For now you can contribute through the ‘report problems’ feature; the mappers at Google will consider your idea and may use your suggestion.

You and I can create a data base of unofficial routes by creating maps with-in the “MY Maps” feature – and open it up to the public – which will be a disaster, nihilists will destroy the content, I expect. We need an echelon of people who care to act as editors – like Google is doing with the official Bike Lane/Path Data.


Posted: November 30th, 2010
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Lock’s Link to ‘Tips for cyclists (long version)’

Over at the BikingToronto Group ‘Cycling’, Lock said,

“This Youtube vid is funny as heck but AFAIK only Admins here can imbed videos, so just click on this:

So I thought I’d embed it here, to keep it in-house for just one, more, link.

You can embed videos too! To start your own blog here at BikingToronto, just click on “Blogs” in this link path:  Home / Site Guide / Blogs, and see instructions.

This video is great, I laughed from the first frame to the last. The treadmill bike is hilarious!

Go to Youtube Channel CS156 for more hilarious bicycle oriented productions.

This a new one for me,

AFAIKAcronym for: “as far as I know”


Posted: November 27th, 2010
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Lake Shore and Leslie Redevelopment: wide, freeway-like streets, lots of parking – and No Bike Lanes!!

Concerns about pedestrian and cyclist safety have been raised by residents of Leslieville and The Beaches in the south east of the city around the redevelopment of Leslie Street that will see Street Car tracks added to the street starting next year.

Paul Young Community Health Promoter

Tomorrow, Saturday, November 20, 2010 Paul Young, Health Promoter at South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC SET-BUG), cycling advocate and consultant to The Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition will accompany Ward 32 Councillor elect Mary-Margaret McMahon and Ward 30 Councillor Paula Fletcher on a walk-about of Leslie Street, Lake Shore to Gerrard.

You can go too, have your say! Contact Paul Young at pyoung[at]srchc[dot]com.

A new TTC yard going in at Lake Shore Boulevard and Leslie Street – and the requisite major construction along Leslie – provides an opportunity to re-imagine the street towards better accessibility for things other than cars and street cars; like cyclists and pedestrians.

As the design process on the redevelopment of Leslie Street moves forward at City Hall, cycling advocates are formulating a response to planners who have stated that Leslie Street is too narrow to accommodate bike lanes.

Wide freeway-like streets, like Eastern Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard are extremely dangerous if you’re not in a car. The intersections at Eastern, and at Lake Shore and Leslie are extremely busy and getting more so every day. Leslie Street is one of only three roads between The Don Valley and Ashbridges Bay that cross the barrier-like Lake Shore Boulevard – making Leslie a crucial access point for all Torontonians to access the new green spaces being developed along the water front – like the Leslie Spit – not to mention the Great Lake Ontario itself. It’s another example of how the culture of the car touches every aspect of our lives.

Even though it is currently City of Toronto policy to create better infrastructure for cycling when redevelopments happen, like this Leslie Street redevelopment, ‘Big Box Store’ developments forces a car centric metric on the surrounding space. Add to that 60 years of urban car centric design in the street grid and one can see how, with out pressure from cycling advocates, the same old same old tends to remain. But room must be made for a bike lane to connect the existing bicycle infrastructure in the area: The Martin Goodman Trail and the Greenwood and Jones Avenue Bike Lanes.

I’m not one of those cycling advocates that say every street should be shared – but I also don’t want to see prohibitions of cars, or bikes from any street. That doesn’t make me ‘soft on cyclists rights’; I just think that main arterial roads should be avoided when choosing bike lane routes — as long as another direct, parallel route is available, and is ‘Enabled’.

The idea behind ‘enabling a bike route’ is to tailor a roadway to suit the nature of cycling. One of the key elements of cycling is the importance of maintaining the momentum cyclists work hard to create. Doing this with-in an existing grid designed with a very low priority placed on ‘things maintaining their momentum’ – is not easy.

Bike route ‘Enabling’ would include signage changes, small changes in traffic law, and mostly minor changes to the roadway.

- ‘Idaho Stops’ allowed for bicycles at intersections with 4 way stops – meaning “Yield to Cyclists” signs posted beneath stop signs on roads that intersect an enabled bike route, or ‘Bikeway’.

- Where a Bikeway crosses an arterial, stop lights should be installed – and timed for the average cyclists rate of speed wherever possible.

- two way sharrows are painted on streets that have one-way designations put in place for ‘traffic calming’.

- speed bumps removed from the bike lane proper.

I have more bike route enabler ideas many of which are sprinkled through-out the “Toronto/GTA Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki” – and there are undoubtedly many great ideas out there in the cycling community.

(I think this  idea of “Bikeway Enablers” is worth a whole article – watch for it here.)

This enabling is essential to the Bikeway concept. To encourage cyclists to abandon arterial roads – which are almost always the shortest route through the grid, and thus call for the least expenditure of energy by the cyclist – the Bikeway must offer something else the cyclist covets as prize.  Encouraging cyclists to go a couple of blocks out of their way to get to a long stretch of street that has, bike right-of-way through all 4-way stop intersections, very low volume of car traffic, and bicycle timed lights through major intersections will not be difficult I believe.  After all, safety and the physical challenge of cycling are the top two reasons why citizens who are looking for a better way to commute, don’t choose to cycle.

After experiencing the incredibly stressful working conditions of the cycle courier (which I did for three years, full-time, winter and summer), I discovered that finding and perfecting off-arterial routes through-out the city actually reduces journey times, and, very importantly lessens stress. Thus one gets the benefits of better physical conditioning (which is essential in this post agrarian society), but also the benefit of commute-stress reduction.

So the upshot of my thinking here is that Leslie Street doesn’t have to be the bike lane, but because the intersection of Lake Shore and Leslie is the only route south of Lake Shore between Carlaw and Coxwell Avenues – and one of only three roads in the entire east end that do – the intersection does need to be a part of the cities cycling route network.

If those Big Box Stores don’t want us cyclists coming near for fear of injury or death – then we won’t! How about this for a solution: We’ll go through them in order to avaoid Leslie Street almost entirely!

The image below is a Google Map I made to demonstrate a possible solution (click on the title to go to the interactive Google map). I used the Drive-Thru of the Burger King, and an odd, larger-than-two-lanes-wide egress way at Price Choppers as a route for a Bike Lane.

Here in Ontario corporations pay the lowest taxes of any jurisdiction in the developed world – so they should step up and do their part on this one. We really need a good solution here and the streets are so permanent… . Perhaps the property owners and the leasers could help with some land and some flexibility on this. Strip Mall buildings are fairly easy to move, (I’ve built a couple of them) they have no basements and shallow foundations. If Burger King really needs their drive-thru (which I expect they do), then perhaps the property owner could receive lower property taxes for a time in exchange for the inconvenience that a disruption to this one lease might cause to their business plan in moving the Burger King building 4 metres to the east.

Next, on the west side of Leslie, right opposite the Burger King/Loblaws parking lot egress point, there’s an odd street, that is in fact private property, I believe; it acts as a street to funnel cars out of the Price Choppers and Wendy’s/Tim Hortons parking areas – and it connects Leslie Street and Mosley Street! This looks like an excellent route for a bike lane. Perhaps the property owner could be convinced to give up part of this quite wide, under developed egress point to a Bikeway. It would enable a Bikeway over to Mosley, across Eastern to Rushbrooke Ave which connects perfectly at Queen to the existing Jones Ave Bike Lane.

(The crossing at Eastern is extremely dangerous here; the road is an ‘S’ shape cutting sight lines to nothing at 45 kph, plus, traffic typically moves at highway speeds through this area at rush hour. At dusk it is especially deadly. For this Bikeway alternative to Leslie Street to work, this crossing has to be made safe somehow. I don’t have the solution – this is the ‘pickle’ in this proposal.)

Google Map: Proposed new Bike Lanes to connect the Martin Goodman Trail to the Jones and Greenwood Bike Lanes:

My proposed route from the Martin Goodman Trail at Lake Shore and Leslie to the Jones and Greenwood Avenue bike lanes

City planners say there is no room for bicycle lanes along Leslie. I looked at it today, and I guess if you want four lanes of car traffic funneling into acres and acres of parking lots at the new Big Box Store shopping extravaganza – then yes – there is no room for bicycle lanes. My point being, the road is wide enough for bike lanes as long as you don’t build a freeway like grid of streets feeding a Big Box Store parking lot along both sides of the middle of Leslie Street.

One of the lessons of 60 years of freeway construction: build it and more cars will come. There’s no north-south way in and out of this Box Store vision from hell, so traffic will flow from the DVP in the west which empties into Lake Shore, Eastern and Queen. From the east – via the Main, Coxwell, Greenwood, routes – which flow into Kingston Road and then onto Eastern Avenue – and Woodbine, which turns into Lake Shore Boulevard.

Getting down to the lake is going to be just as difficult and dangerous as it was before we tore down the Gardiner Expressway! The Cities gonna have to put in a freeway again because Queen, Eastern and Lake Shore are going to become grid-locked!

Will we ever learn?

Because it’s parking lot car centric, there’s no room for bike paths! Its suburban sprawl come to the core.

Lets have a look at the ‘planning’ so far:
(click all pictures for a Much larger view)

Lakeshore and Leslie, North West:

Anchor Stores: Price Chopper, Wendy’s/Tim Hortons

Good Parking! On Leslie just North of Lakeshore, looking West

Lakeshore and Leslie, North East:

Anchor Stores: Loblaws, Bulk Barn, Burger King

Good Parking! On Leslie, looking North-East from Lakeshore and Leslie (Bulk Barn is just out of the pic to the left, Burger King to the right).

Lakeshore and Leslie, South West:

Anchor Stores – Canadian Tire and The Brick, plus  Marks Work Warehouse, Shoppers Drug Mart,  TD Canada Trust, Rogers Cable.

Good parking! View from on Lakeshore looking East towards Leslie

Lakeshore and Leslie, South East:

TTC Yard, Martin Goodman Trail


TTC Yard (planned) as viewed looking South-East at Leslie and Lakeshore. Martin Goodman Trail is to the left of the sidewalk, then turns East (to the left in the pic), towards Ashbridges Bay

Jeez, good thing Wal Mart was stopped eh? We stopped the Box Store freeway parking lot culture anchored by an American company who’s business model banks on the end of the middle class. Now we’ve got a Box Store freeway parking lot culture anchored by Canadian Companies who’s business models bank on the end of the middle class.

In this writers humble opinion this on-going development at Leslie and Lake Shore is going to kill the small business culture along Queen Street East and turn it into a freeway like Eastern Ave..

So now with all this draw for cars, and all the four lane wide roads to get them there — slowly, with grid lock, and road rage, and idling motors spewing carbon monoxide gas (and about 1,000 other chemicals) into the air of the Leslieville neighbourhood — there is no way to get existing bike lanes connected through the area?

Jones Avenue bike lane gets cyclists safely from Danforth to Queen and then this car centric Medusa, this tangle of streets, parking lots, and Box Stores makes it impossible to design a way for cyclists and pedestrians to get to the Martin Goodman Trail?

Something’s wrong with this picture.

Leslie Street is the ONLY road that goes south of Lake Shore Boulevard from this neighbourhood and all the neighbourhoods north of here. It is essential that planners find a way to include safe cycling infrastructure for this redevelopment. If nothing changes from where we are now in the planning – cyclists will find themselves having to get off their bikes at Eastern and Leslie and walking it down to the Martin Goodman Trail because the intervening intersections, Eastern and Lake Shore are death traps.

Join Paul Young and your ward councillors tomorrow – or write them, tweet them, phone them – and suggest your ‘better way’.


Ward 32 Councillor elect Mary-Margaret McMahon:

Ward 30 Councillor Paula Fletcher:

City of Toronto Website (click on the map of wards and contact your councillor)

Update: November 26th, 2010
Making Leslie St. Safer for Cyclists and Pedestrians
November 25, 2010 By Joe T. at BikingToronto’s Infrastructure Label


Posted: November 19th, 2010
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Toronto cyclists win strong Cycling Advocate in Mary-Margaret McMahon, councillor elect, ward 32 Beaches

Update!  Friday, November 19th, 2010 (see below)

I talked to Toronto City Councilor Elect in Ward 32, Mary-Margaret McMahon as she toured The Beaches Interfaith Lunch Program, today at “The Synagogue” in the West Beaches. McMahon unseated long time Beaches councillor Sandra Bussin in a landslide  (15,951- 5,998) at the civic election last month – part of a popular disillusion with ‘politics as usual’ that swept in Mayor Elect Rob Ford, the maverick come statesman.

Mary-Margaret was wearing a green and white gingham waist coat with sharp cut lapels adorned with a green and white porcelain bicycle broach as she sat and talked with a mainly older crowd of about thirty lunchers. Seeing the councilor elect at this  lunch for the hungry after the election and then noticing the bicycle broach I had to quickly re-evaluate a first impression I had gleaned through a quick scan of her election web site while I did research for a story I wrote here at BikingToronto earlier this month,  “An Anti-Cycling Mayor Rob Ford does not a Council make“.

In the piece I mistakenly labeled Mary-Margaret McMahon a Green-conservative which I intoned in the piece meant a shift to the right, which for simplicities sake I was asking readers to interpret as a reactionary shift, a shift away from flexible thinking and progressive ideas.

So, after introducing myself as a cycling advocate and a blogger at BikingToronto, I asked Mary-Margaret McMahon what she thought of my Green-conservative label.

She said she was “fiscally conservative” but that she was “not affiliated with any political colour”. I brought up the idea of independent and she jumped on the term, “Yes!” she said, “Independent, I’m not a member of any political party.”

Councillor Elect Mary-Margaret McMahon Getting ready to Bike downtown for Bike Month Kick-Off Breakfast at City Hall

So I told her I would change her colours in my table. Right then, she was changing colours in my mind.

Next  I asked her what her position was on expanding bicycling infrastructure in the city.

“I want to do what works,” she said. “I want to make sure the bike paths and lanes connect so people can get from one side of the city to the other.”

“Like it was originally intended to do”, I interjected,

Councillor Elect Mary-Margaret McMahon at DECA Bikes Tune-Up Workshop

“Yes,  right now it’s a hodgepodge of lanes that don’t go anywhere. I’m especially interested in bicycle lanes that are separated from traffic by a physical barrier …  I don’t feel safe when I’m out with my kids, just like everyone else.”

And then she remembered a date from her busy schedule,

“Oh, on Saturday I’m going on a cycling tour of the neighbourhood with Paul Young. You know, of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre?” (SRCHC)

“I know Paul,” I said, “Maybe I’ll see you there!”

With that I turned to go and she went back to sit with the lunchers. A spirit was in the air, I could feel it.  City Councilor elect Mary-Margaret McMahon was making the whole room feel good with her energy and enthusiasm.

When I got home I went back to McMahon’s election website to have another look. Turns out my original research was woefully inadequate!

This is from her “Community Involvement & Activism” page:

Car-Free Day Street Party:

I’ve organized this much-loved, fun neighbourhood festival for the past six years on Cedarvale Avenue, closing the street from 10 am to 10 pm. The street’s beloved 85-year-old Italian Lucy, who barely speaks English, comes out with her piping hot homemade pizza; neighbours give impromptu tours of their home renovations and gardens; kids wreak havoc on the street, rollerblading, biking and skipping; parents join in on dodge ball games, road hockey and basketball; and teenagers run craft activities, face painting and origami. We enjoy a waste-free potluck in the middle of the street for dinner, followed by a talent show using a neighbour’s porch as a stage. I measure the street, design the layout for the permit, apply, obtain and collect the necessary money for a permit, get insurance coverage from the Sierra Club, organize, set up and remove barricades and make the poster for advertising.


Bike Racks:

I saw lots of bikes locked up to the fence at Woodbine station, so I contacted the city and asked for more bike racks. It took me three years of hounding ,but this spring we finally got 10 more racks! They look dynamite covered in bicycles, and we could even use more!

DECA Bikes:

At our community cocktail party, I met three guys who were interested in starting a cycling club. I organized and advertised a meeting shortly afterward. We decided we would promote bike rallies at the local schools and give the teachers and parents a bike rally template. We hosted another meeting with several other cycling clubs in the east end to discuss advocacy, policies and bike-lane planning. We plan to keep connected and form an umbrella group East End Bikes. DECA Bikes has hosted a pay-what-you-can bike tune-up workshop at a local church. It was so successful that we had a queue at 11:30 am and had to give people numbers and send them down to the local café for a coffee. We offered free juice and bicycle-shaped cookies. We had music playing and cyclists were receiving personal lessons on how to tune up their bikes. Councillor Janet Davis came to the event with her bike, as well as many reporters. We will run it one more time in the church and then start running the workshops regularly at the East Lynn Park Farmers’ Market when it opens in June.

So there you have it cycling fans, the shift in Ward 32 has definitely not been in a reactionary direction – in fact cyclists should be happy to know that the new city council now includes a great cycling advocate who rides and, well before this election, has worked for better and safer bicycling infrastructure!

Hey isn't that Joe T - editor of BikingToronto? Yes it is!

Councillor Elect Mary-Margaret McMahon Discussing Bike Tune Up Workshops with DECA Bikes

Hey!! Isn’t that BikingToronto founder, editor and man about town, Joe T?!? Yes it is!

On the Saturday Bicycle Tour of the waterfront…

I need my chain repaired again, (looks like a new chain is in order) so I’ll see Paul Young at the South Riverdale Bicycle Repair Clinic tomorrow, and I’ll report back here on the Bicycle Tour councilor elect McMahon mentioned.

Paul Young is a Member of BikingToronto and contributes periodically at the BikingToronto Group “South East Toronto Bicycle User Group (SET BUG)“.

[Note: I didn't have my note pad with me at the lunch today, so this conversation is from memory, about 2 hours after it happened. I hope I got it correct-ish. :) (michaelholloway111[at]gmail[dot]com)]

Update!  Friday, November 19th, 2010

I talked to Paul Young about the Saturday Tour with Councillor elect for ward 32, Mary-Margaret McMahon.

Turns out this is not a bicycling tour but a walk-about, a reconnoiter of Leslie Street between Lake Shore Blvd. and Queen Street East to see if it’s possible to add Bike Lanes and pedestrian allowances during the redevelopment that is coming as part of the new TTC Yard at Lakeshore. Cycling advocates are lobbying for bicycling infrastructure that will make this Big Box Store Avenue safe for things other than Cars. The Cities planners are saying, at this point, there’s no room for bike lanes.

We beg to differ.

For more details, contact Paul Youg via the South East Toronto Bicycle User Group (SET BUG) page, at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre’s website.

Also, check out this article I’ve just posted: “Lakeshore and Leslie Redevelopment: wide freeway like streets, lots of parking – and No Bikelanes!!


Posted: November 17th, 2010
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I (and you) subsidize Road Raging ‘cycle killers’

Qu’est Que C’est?
(Talking Heads, Psycho Killer)

Joe T published “The Star: Car Drivers on the “Gravy Train” a link piece to a Toronto Star article by City Columnist Joe Fiorito: “Fiorito: Cyclists doing good for all of us“.

At the end of this seemingly over edited article is a strange, lonesome addition,

“All I’m saying is we ought to pay a little more attention to bike riders in this city because right now, there are far too many motorists on the gravy train.”

Oddly, it is this ‘after-thought’ that seems to be getting all the attention around here at BikingToronto.

We likes it (my precious).

I assume it’s an ironic reference to one of Rob Fords favourite ‘yelling points’ from the just past election – “Putting an end to the gravy train”.

As an addict of the bicycle as much as the rest of the culture seems to be addicted to pumping gasoline, I couldn’t agree more with Mayor Ford. The subsidies on the price of gasoline I pay through my taxes add up to $2.00 per litre!

From a study by the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) entitled, The Real Price of Gasoline (pdf):

“..costs [...] are passed on to both gasoline users and nonusers by way of higher taxes, insurances costs, and retail prices for items other than gasoline. Effectively, the cost of gasoline is substantially higher than the price consumers pay at the pump, even though the majority of this cost is hidden from the public.”

These gasoline subsidies spin off into other sectors of the economy, thus subsidizing them as well. Big oil, the auto industry, the plastics industry, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, not to mention road construction industry all profit from the subsidies we collectively pay.

Collectively these cornerstone industries institutionalize oil and make it very hard to wean the economy off of. Thus we pursue a reckless coarse substituting plastics because they’re cheaper, because we subsidize them, and more and more replacing plastic where renewable materials have worked fine in the past. So now our homes are filled with polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene and polypropylene (the top three), all of which leach toxins as they cure, and fill our new, tightly sealed homes and condos with toxins – making our very homes toxic places like used to be in just poor neighbourhoods – downwind of industrial areas – like where I always seemed to live (Queen West & Queen East).

(It should be noted that plastics are constantly curing through out their usable life – as they become brittle and break easily when they’re fully cured.)

Next, outside our front doors we use asphalt on top of concrete for our transportation infrastructure. The asphalt seals the underlying concrete structure from water, so that in the winter there is less buckling from freezing and thus less maintenance cost. One has to wonder if we’ve fully considered the price of this.

Asphalt is a bi-product of gasoline distillation. Incredibly, the complete list of the contents of asphalt, is unknown! There are too many different molecules to count, goes one explanation.

I would say,  no one wants to know: the government doesn’t want to know because then they’ll have to re-surface every road, the asphalt producers don’t want to know because they got a great thing going ($$$), and road construction companies don’t want to know because they’d be sued by every worker they’d ever employed (a lot of bankruptcy lawyers to pay and new companies to invent – they’d never pay one single worker one red cent).

This continues because it is dirt cheap – because our government subsidizes it.

For primary industry like big oil it is a good way to get rid of all the toxic bi-products of gasoline distillation. They basically give the stuff away, it’s a lower cost alternative to disposing of it in sealed pits for an eternity, so the toxins don’t leach in the water table.

This idea of spreading highly toxic industrial pollutants across a wide an area as possible is a very recent and really smart bit of evil. It comes from a really invective understanding of the biosphere and how it functions, the fact that it is being used as a way to avoid social responsibility by soulless corporations and their underpaid minions makes this writer particularly chest fallen crestfallen.

Government gasoline subsidies make asphalt a really cheap way to seal concrete roads;  the City of Toronto buy this waste from big oil and spread it all over our streets. This blacktop slowly releases harmful toxins into the immediate vicinity of our homes and into the lake and the ground water.  So instead of super-high smoke stacks belching toxic chemicals across the continent (which can be photographed for the six o’clock news), ‘we’ have chosen to release toxic elements locally by paving the streets with them! We thus spread  the toxic bi-products of gasoline production more thinly and across a much wider area than any smoke stack of any height could ever do. This is the petrochemical industries (and many other industries) solution to the public’s concern about pollution.  It must make executives laugh heartily, every day.

Gasoline subsidies are false economy beyond any doubt. The highest costs in government ledgers is heath care, and as cancer rates continue to explode despite 30 years of cigarette smoking cessation programs, the cost of health care is escalating to the point where the hospitals mandate is on the verge of destroying the viability of the institutions!

This inanity can be traced back to subsidies on gasoline the bi-products of which cause epidemic disease.

And I haven’t even mentioned global warming.


Posted: November 12th, 2010
Filed under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »