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4 entries from February 2016

Sporty, Sleek and Super Cool: Critics' Top Picks from the 2016 NAIAS

Last year on PumpTalk, we wrote about how disappointed we were that flying cars had yet to appear at the big international auto shows.

This year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit was similarly disappointing on the flying car front, but there were some pretty sweet vehicles on display. This year’s trends seem to be centered around sleek and sporty coupes but there were some interesting truck designs as well. Here’s a great round-up from the good folks at AutoGuide of the their top five most exciting vehicle reveals at the big show this year.

Are any of these 2016 vehicles – concept cars or production models - on your wishlist? Which would you most like to drive? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

Getting a Boost – There’s an App for That

Getting a boost

Our neighbour Jay dropped by the other morning. His car needed a boost and he didn't have any cables. Did we? And could we give him a boost?

Of course, we told him we were happy to give him a boost but hmmm .. DID we have any cables? Turned out that no, we didn't. This was kind of surprising - we have a car emergency kit – but then we remembered that our car was broken into a few months ago and the thieves made off with our booster cables (among other things). Mental note: restock the emergency kit! Since we were basically useless, Jay then called a cab. He had to wait about 15 minutes and they charged him $25 for the boost.

It certainly is the time of year when it’s nice to have easy access to a boost – no one wants to wait too long in cold weather to get their car going. A couple of years ago, we wrote a detailed post about reviving your car battery. And while the causes, mechanics and cautions around boosting your battery are still as true today as they were then, there is a bit of a new development on the “how to get a boost” front.

Last month, a startup called BoostMi launched in Montreal. They have a mobile app (on iOS and Android) which, if you're in need of a boost, will put you in contact with the closest person who will perform that service. They are partnering with taxi drivers as well as signing up ordinary people who are willing to give a boost to a fellow driver in need. The cost is $25 with $20 going to the Booster and $5 going to BoostMi. 

The app includes a rating component where Boostees can rate the service they receive from Boosters. Boosters who accumulate a poor reputation will be banned from the service. BoostMi is also considering expanding to flat tire and "out of fuel" services.

What do you think? Would you use a service like BoostMi? Are companies like BoostMi the natural progression after services like Uber (a highly contentious service in several communities across Canada). Share your thoughts in the comments!

- Rose R.

Monthly Poll: Would you let someone else drive your car?

Driving your car

Valentine's Day is coming up, but instead of talking about how much we love our cars, I thought it might be fun to have a poll about how much we love other people - i.e. do we love other people enough to let them drive our cars??

Some people don't mind sharing their vehicle with others, while some people don't like others messing with their seat, mirror and radio settings - and, of course, there can be insurance concerns when it comes to letting other folks drive your car.

I've witnessed many pros and cons of car generosity. On the pro side, for example, back when she was in college, my wife suddenly found herself without a car to use for her upcoming driver's test. Her very kind roommate let her use her Corvette to take the test (which she passed! Without scratching the Corvette!). #Winning!

My favourite "con of car generosity" story comes from my brother. Back when he was in grad school, my brother's friend said he could borrow her car while she was away if he dropped her at the airport. Since they were leaving early, my brother was still groggy and his friend drove herself to the airport while he snoozed in the passenger seat. It wasn't until after he helped her unload her bags at passenger drop-off and said goodbye that my brother got back in the car and realized for the first time that his friend's car was a manual transmission - and he did not know how to drive stick. A comedy of errors ensued and he eventually got the right combo of friends and transmissions to get out of that loading zone without getting towed, but it was a bit dicey.

This brings me to our poll this month: do you let other people drive your car?


Any car generosity stories you want to share? Leave 'em in the comments!

New Pedestrian Crosswalk Law – and Safety Tips for Pedestrians

Pedestrians Crossing

Back in September, we wrote about recently enacted traffic laws in Canada. One of the newly minted laws taking effect this month is the “Pedestrian Crossover and School Crossings” section of the Making Ontario Roads Safer Act in Ontario: requiring cars to wait until pedestrians have completely crossed the road at pedestrian crossovers and school crossings before proceeding through the intersection.

The reason for this new law is, obviously, to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities. And while this law is coming into effect currently only in Ontario, other Canadian municipalities are considering similar laws. This sounds great in principle - but knowing how some of the crosswalks in Vancouver are (pedestrians often start to cross at the last possible second, especially in my East Van neighbourhood), I wondered how anyone would ever be able to turn left - or right -again.

Apparently, I was not alone in my confusion. This Globe and Mail article (written by Globe columnist and (full disclosure) my friend, Jason Tchir) answers a similarly confused reader’s question about the law. Basically, it comes down to the difference between a “pedestrian crossover” and a “crosswalk”:

"So what’s a pedestrian crossover? ... (I)t’s a painted crosswalk with overhead lights that flash when the pedestrian pushes a button. “A pedestrian crossover is a pedestrian crossing facility identified by specific signs, pavement markings and overhead lights in combination with pedestrian-activated flashing beacons,” the MTO said. “A school crossing is any pedestrian crossing facility where a school crossing guard is present and is displaying a school crossing stop sign.”

So drivers do not have to wait for pedestrians to fully cross at EVERY intersection with a crosswalk – just at those defined as pedestrian crossovers and at school crossings. Whew!

That makes much more sense. Now, before my expressed relief makes me sound like a Cannonball Rally participant, I want to mention that I am also a frequent pedestrian. A frequent pedestrian who is out at all hours with the most unpredictable of creatures - a wiggly young puppy. And whether I’m using a crosswalk or crossover, I always appreciate it when drivers wait until the dog and I reach the far sidewalk before continuing on their way.

I also know that pedestrians and drivers need to share the road – that’s why when our little Effie needs a nighttime potty break, I try to make sure that we are both visible to drivers. I have reflective strips on my raincoat (Vancouver!) and Effie has a reflective leash as well as a glowing light on her collar.

The Insurance Bureau of British Columbia (ICBC) ran a campaign promoting pedestrian safety called “Look, listen and be seen”. Their top tips for being a safe pedestrian:

  • Look. Always make eye contact with drivers. Never assume that a driver has seen you.
  • Listen. Focus your full attention on what's happening around you. Remove your headphones don't use electronic devices while crossing.
  • Be seen. Wear reflective clothing or use reflective gear to make it easier for drivers to see you.

The ICBC also has tips for drivers and for transit users

I find that using both gas power and foot power on a regular basis makes me have an appreciation for who’s on the other side of the windshield. Do you make a point of being both a pedestrian and a driver? What precautions do you take as a pedestrian to make sure that you’re seen? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.