This was Toronto’s downtown at 10:30 a.m. yesterday, as seen from Lakeshore Boulevard near the Canadian Exhibition Grounds. Air Quality Ontario’s Air Quality Index measured a daytime high of 54, which put Toronto’s air well into the “Poor” category. The day before, the AQI hit 59.
What to do? I ran errands on my bike yesterday, passing bumper-to-bumper car traffic everywhere I cycled. When I started cycling Toronto’s streets fifteen years ago, I didn’t see as many cars as I do today, and I certainly didn’t see as many Sport Utility Vehicles. Why are SUVs necessary within a city? For what off-roading purposes? Some parents might rationalize that they require extra space for children, or that they feel safer—but with their high emissions, they could be making their kids’ futures more dangerous than we might ever imagine. For an opposing view, check out The National Post’s “Education or indoctrination?,” which reminds me of Al Gore’s statistic from An Inconvenient Truth, about 53% of articles in the popular press doubting the cause of global warming, while 0% of those in peer-reviewed scientific journals had the same conundrum.
If we’re already having smog alerts in May, and 14% of Canadians are obese and therefore more likely to stress the healthcare system, why not ride a bicycle? Replacing your car with a bike is one of the happiest ways to drop a few pounds (believe me on this: I once weighed in at 210!). SUVs only belong in their proper environment—rural settings.
Scientists are also discovering that caring for the planet and other people raises our own levels of joy, and that happy people are healthiest. Environmentalism isn’t just all sustainable seriousness. To experience urban life without cars—to dance, play, and make music with your neighbours in the streets—visit tomorrow’s Pedestrian Sunday in Kensington Market. It’s fun, and it feels good!