A Critical Mass ride in Toronto, May 2008. Photo: Martin Reis

In the year 2009 several political leaders in Toronto alleged that alternative transportation initiatives pushed by city hall constituted an undeclared War on the Car. “It is a guerrilla war,” said one councillor.” The allegation was denied, but the following letter reveals the truth. The global war against humans by the road machines had started many years earlier. Now the clandestine Resistance was starting to show its face … and to fight back.

Estimado Comandante,

Report from central Canada — Field Command Post

The War on The Car drags on. The Resistance continues to suffer heavy casualties. Our foot soldiers, mounted forces, and transit brigade have launched numerous offensives this past year, but made only minor advances. The strength of our foe is daunting, but our fighters are brave, nimble, and fit. As the battles of 2009 fade into history I feel strangely optimistic, despite The Car’s continuing domination.

In the region of central Canada, vast territories remain occupied by The Car and related road machines. In the major city of Toronto, a quarter of the land (170 sq. km.) is under occupation. Similar portions of other cities suffer a similar fate. Vast tracts of fertile land are paved over to store the idle machines. Virtually impenetrable multi-lane highways cut through wetlands, wild lands, and farm lands. The Resistance manages incursions into enemy territory, but at great risk. Civilians that cross occupied zones on foot, even at designated points, are often killed or maimed.

We are no match for the power, armour, and speed of The Car. In direct confrontations between cyclists or pedestrians and The Car, we rarely inflict more than superficial wounds, while our bodies and vehicles are often crushed or incapacitated. Across Canada, The Car does sustain billions of dollars of damage each year but largely in friendly-fire incidents, the cost of which is foisted on a civilian population that struggles under the burden but is as yet unwilling to rise up.

Civilian deaths in Canada this past year, as in previous years, numbered almost 3,000. Globally, The Car continued to be an effective killing machine, snuffing out 1.2 million lives and injuring up to 50 million more. Our young are The Car’s preferred prey in an annual slaughter of innocents. Civilians who seek refuge in the machines become victims just the same. The crashes are called “accidents,” although the deadly power, weight, and speed of The Car are no accident. Civilians have become numb to the horror — reduced to curious gawkers at bloody highway scenes or to passive viewers of TV news shows.

The blood sacrifice goes beyond the crashes. Humans are forced into brutal petroleum wars where lives, ecosystems, and principles are sacrificed to secure the millions of barrels of oil needed each day to feed The Car. The depths of the earth are probed and scoured for the minerals needed to build these machines. Our reward for this quest is the poisonous discharges of The Car, which contribute heavily to a toxic soup called smog that kills millions worldwide every year.

The Car’s successful gas warfare campaigns of the past using poisons like lead, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur dioxide are being re-invigorated with carbon dioxide (CO2) that threatens to wipe out entire human communities. CO2 is released directly in huge quantities by The Car and also from the extraction and refining of oil, manufacturing, and road paving. When scientists first raised the alarm about the peril of CO2 to global climate, The Car-makers responded with round-the-clock production of bigger, more polluting machines. The occupation was thereafter effectively enforced with military-style machines like the SUV and the Hummer.

The biggest failure of the Resistance is that we did not stop The Car before its assault on developing countries began. The Car’s voracious appetite for land and fuel now competes with the hungry bellies of the poor. This year, for the first time, China produced and sold more than 10 million units of The Car. The former Bicycle Kingdom now bans bicycles in certain areas for the benefit of The Car. There is no one-car policy in China. In India, super highways slash through fertile land and displace farmers. The poor now know The Car, and the death that accompanies it. Only The Car is sacred.

But there are cracks in the dominance of our foe.

The propaganda machine of The Car is strained. Tens of billions of dollars must be spent each year to convince civilians they are getting precisely what they are giving up: their liberty.

The average citizen toils more than a day each week just to pay the direct costs of “owning” a machine – far more in taxes to pay for the massive infrastructure and services the machines demand. Humans must also be convinced they are freely choosing The Car, when The Car-makers and their Collaborators have methodically eliminated alternatives while ensuring vast sums of money are devoted to highways that are virtually the exclusive domain of The Car.

In an unprecedented act of defiance this past year, many civilians simply refused to do what they had been doing for decades: buy a Car. As civilian governments wavered many of the oldest Car-making conglomerates teetered on the brink. Globally, sales of The Car declined. As hope spread that we were at the dawn of a new era governments capitulated and created one of history’s biggest make-work projects: Car-makers were given massive amounts of money to build The Car, and civilians massive amounts of money to buy it.

Civilians need work, but by working for a master who is making their planet uninhabitable they find themselves in a vicious dilemma. They believe they cannot survive without The Car. It is clear they cannot live with it.

The Car-makers now offer a new panacea: less poisonous products. But reductions in emissions from a single machine are overwhelmed by an ever-increasing number of machines. Globally we face an enemy that is already almost one billion strong, and again increasing rapidly.

The picture I have painted for you of our revolutionary war is bleak — and yet we reject the violence of our enemy and of the past. Real change will only come with peaceful means: walking, cycling, and using mass transit. As Gandhi said: “I cannot teach you violence as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before anyone, even at the cost of your life.”

Already we see the first fragile signs of success. In our region, officials in civilian government are taking a few brave steps to make way for more buses, electric streetcars, and trains — vehicles that serve humans and provide sustainable jobs. A light rail line was recently completed and another commenced in Toronto. A new condominium building was approved even though it does not pay the traditional homage to The Car: bitumen-covered storage space. On a few short stretches of road bicycle lanes were even created. Surprisingly, these minor victories are shaking the confidence of The Car’s Collaborators in government and they lash out against us with bizarre claims about the threat we pose to communities!

Our brothers and sisters overseas tell us of greater victories. In some German and Danish cities central zones have been liberated from The Car to the jubilation of citizens. More bike lanes have been created on occupied roadways. And in daring attacks on The Car, civilian authorities in London, Milan, and Stockholm continue to enforce a toll on the machines.

And so the War on The Car will go on, despite the odds. Even in the days when victory seems impossible and our fight futile, we need only close our eyes to see the world that inspires our struggle — a world where our children are safe, the air is clean, and the climate secure; where humans walk and cycle without fear; where mass transit is everywhere available; and where fertile land serves and feeds humans. It is the hope for such a world that continues to motivate our courageous fighters, and for this reason that we do not waver in our defiant cry to all civilians to: “Join the Resistance!”

May you always walk or ride with the wind at your back and greet the arrival of a bus or streetcar with the sun on your face,

Alberto ‘Che’ Koehl

Albert Koehl is a cycling member of the Resistance. When not fighting in the War on The Car, he practices environmental law.


Cathryn Atkinson

Cathryn Atkinson is the former News and Features Editor for rabble.ca. Her career spans more than 25 years in Canada and Britain, where she lived from 1988 to 2003. Cathryn has won five awards...