Carfree

 

It’s taken me a few months, but I finally have a Carfree app that I’m ready to share with everyone.

What is Carfree?

Whether you’re trying to go “car light”, or remove your dependency on a car altogether, this app should help you decide the best way to get to where you want to go, without using a car. It has a few features that I hope you’ll find neat.

The Blue Circle

When the map first loads, you’ll see a blue circle located where you are, as best the app can tell. Any place in the circle is within a 7km ride, or about 30 minutes. Most of the time, you can cycle to these locations faster than taking transit. The map itself also colour codes bike-friendly infrastructure, and roads labelled as highway or arterial, to help you choose the route you want to take.

Your Preference of Cycling or Transit

Whether you prefer to take your bike or take your local transit, the app will give you the ideal route to take to where you’re going. When you search for destinations, the ones closest to you are favoured.

Categorized Locations

Looking for places to visit? The app can show you places nearby and give you the best route to get there. Step-by-step instructions are available for both cycling and transit options.

 

Whether you’re trying to go car light, or car free altogether, give this app a try. Your feedback is welcome!

 

Carfree

 

Carfree lives on Github. You can also send comments to me on Twitter.


Road Taxes: Where The Rubber Has A Blowout

I recently read a report published by The Conference Board of Canada, titled “Where The Rubber Meets The Road: How Much Motorists Pay For Road Infrastructure”. While I recall seeing this report in October 2013, for whatever reason it failed to adequately capture my attention until 3 months later. The synopsis of the document is that motorists largely already pay a sufficient amount back towards the cost of maintaining the road network in Ontario, and do not receive significant subsidization. By the calculations presented in this report, if you add the taxes and fees people pay to drive, and compare them to the estimated costs of maintaining the road network in Ontario, drivers pay something like 70-90% of recovery costs.

While drafting this post, I discovered an article that refuted these points. Written 3 months earlier in July 2013, the article called “News flash for drivers: Cyclists are helping subsidize your ride” includes examples of how taxes actually work, and is worth a read. The post I’ve written largely mirrors these points: Fuel taxes and fees that motorists pay are not direct sources of revenue for road infrastructure. For people who drive to say that they (alone) pay for the roads is a fallacy.

The Determination of Revenue and Expenses

The detailed calculations carefully put together in The Conference Board of Canada report do not seem to show how revenue is actually collected, used, and how transportation expenses are paid for, in the service of our Ontario roadways. It is true that drivers pay taxes that are unique to them for the privilege to drive, such as Fuel and Gasoline taxes. The error lies in suggesting that they in any way supply direct revenue for the building and maintenance of the roads that cars drive on. The coffers that fund all provincial programs, including health and education, also fund highway expenditures. Calculating a ratio against the fuel taxes is no more relevant than comparing to revenue generated by cigarette, or LCBO tax collection. In Brampton, where I live, The provincial “Gas Tax” revenue is used as a grant to the municipality. Instead of paying for roads, it helps to subsidize Brampton Transit. The federal gas tax on the other hand,  which must spent on capital expenses, gets split between road resurfacing and transit bus replacements.

The publication includes costs of municipal roads and associated policing into the overall provincial cost. This is also erroneus: Municipal roads are paid for by property taxes in that municipality. If you drive in any municipality in which you do not live, then you are not paying for those roads. Unless you are evaluating the budget for the municipality you live in, the cost of maintaining and policing roads is irrelevant to Ontarians. The publication notes that the “estimate does not allow for any allocation of costs to non-users. Moreover, the results mask the issue of the imbalance of revenues and expenditures by level of government. The federal government collects a significant portion of the revenues but owns and maintains a relatively small portion of the road network, whereas local governments find themselves in the opposite situation.”

So, what does this all mean? Are road users subsidized? Or do they mostly pay their own way? Municipal property owners, inclusive of those who prefer to take transit or bicycle, pay for their municipal road networks—everyone who drives into a municipality they do not live in, are driving on roads they did not pay for. Every highway in Ontario is paid for by Ontarians through taxation, whether they drive or not. When you consider how many Ontarians outside the GTA are not using the highways within the GTA, you have to ask yourself: Who’s subsiding who?

Inherent Bias

This section is more of an aside, but something that I nonetheless found annoying interesting.

At the opening of the report, it states under Acknowledgements that “The authors thank Teresa Di Felice and Christine Allum of the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario (CAASCO) for initiating and defining the research and research questions…The Conference Board also acknowledges the CAASCO for financially supporting this research. In keeping with Conference Board guidelines for financed research, the design and method of research, as well as the content of this report, were determined solely by the Conference Board. The Conference Board of Canada alone is responsible for the report’s methodology, scope, and findings.” While The Conference Board of Canada claims to be “Objective and non-partisan.” They are “Funded exclusively through the fees we charge for services to the private and public sectors.”

This doesn’t quite pass the sniff test for me. The Conference Board developed “the design and method of research, as well as the content of this report”. But the first thing you have to ask is, what are they designing for? What are the questions? Who’s asking them? The CAASCO is asking the questions, and funding the project.

Actually, perhaps that is not entirely accurate. After all, who or what is the CSSASO? “CAA South Central Ontario has a long-standing history as an innovative leader committed to meeting and exceeding the needs of Canada’s motoring and travelling public” (emphasis added). CAA is funded by many, many people who are light-duty vehicle owners. That the report concludes that “Light-duty vehicle users cover a significant portion of road infrastructure costs” is likely not a coincidence.


Licensing and Insuring Cycling

It does not make sense to license and insure cycling.

 

Using licensing and insuring cycling as an argument for somehow holding cycling accountable is a fallacy. It holds no basis in fact, it’s a distraction from bad driving habits. Being licensed does nothing to stop motorists from rolling stops, rolling right turns or blocking crosswalks at red lights, and of course, driving at speeds over the posted limit. These kinds of actions in an automobile kill people, and cause costly accidents.

 

Why does driving a car require a license? Why are drivers required to be insured? Is the government out to punish people who choose to drive a car?

 

Hardly.

 

Cars are expensive, and dangerous. People take out loans to pay for them, and at times put maintenance on credit. The debt a car leaves behind if it’s destroyed can take people’s lives down with it. That’s why they’re insured. Cars driven carelessly kill people. That’s why they’re licensed. Bicycles do not share these problems. That’s why they are not licensed or insured, and why it does not make sense to do so.


My trustworthy sous-chef.

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Let’s cook.

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Tree is up!

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Layers In Different Temperatures

 

This article will serve as future reference for layer combinations in different temperatures. Please send your own ideas!

 

 -15 and below

  • Long johns
  • Pants
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • 2nd layer shirt/sweater
  • Heavy outer jacket
  • Leg covers
  • Balaclava under helmet
  • Something to cover your face
  • Gloves

 

-10 to -15

  • Long johns
  • Pants
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • 2nd layer shirt/sweater and coat
  • Light outer jacket
  • Leg covers
  • Balaclava under helmet
  • Something to cover your face
  • Gloves

 

-10 to -5

  • Pants
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • 2nd layer shirt/sweater and coat
  • Light outer jacket
  • Leg covers
  • Hat under helmet
  • Something to cover your face
  • Gloves

 

-5 to 0

  • Pants
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • 2nd layer shirt/sweater and coat
  • Light outer jacket
  • Leg covers
  • Hat under helmet
  • Something to cover your face
  • Gloves

 

0 to 5

  • Pants
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • 2nd layer shirt or coat
  • Light outer jacket
  • Leg covers
  • Hat under helmet

 

5 to 10

  • Shorts
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Light outer jacket
  • Leg covers

 

10 to 15

  • Shorts
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Leg covers

15 to 20

  • Shorts
  • T-Shirt
  • Light outer jacket.

 

20+

  • Shorts
  • T-Shirt

 


Typeset. A JQuery Plug-In

 

In July 2012, I wrote a blog post on calculating the ideal font size for any viewing device. I’ve since written a JQuery plugin that typesets elements on a page automatically. I call it TypeSet. All settings are applied inline, for now, using relative em units. I still consider it a work in progress, it will probably have bugs, but I encourage you to check it out and give feedback!

 

Check out TypeSet

 

The plug-in queries your monitor resolution and uses it to calculate what your ideal font size should be, and is designed to be future-friendly.

 

You might be wondering: What about mobile devices? Their screens are quite small, wouldn’t that shrink that calculated font size? In this case, TypeSet gets the users default font size, compares it to its calculation, and uses the larger of the two.

 

Enjoy!

 


Response from Ministry of Finance Regarding Tariffs on Bicycles

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Another order from #NutraFarms!

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