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rules of the road

As the days of summer dwindle down to a precious few, let us shed a sympathetic tear or two for the beleaguered drivers in Toronto.

Of course, this request is the equivalent of fingernails scraping across a new fender to most Canadians, considering that a recent poll showed that 58 per cent of those living outside Toronto felt contempt for those who live there, 33 per cent felt pity and 9 per cent felt either murderous rage or were too angry at Torontonians to answer the question.

Despite the rest of the country's feelings about those who live in Toronto, sympathy is definitely in order. Not only because they have to put up with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but residents also have to cope with the worst traffic in North America.

And with fall approaching and things getting back to what Torontonians have come to accept as normal driving patterns, it's only going to get worse. That's because the end of vacation season means that Toronto drivers will once again have to deal with an increase in the biggest contributors to the insanity that prevails on their roads: other Toronto drivers.

Let us count the ways in which Toronto drivers deserve the rest of Canada's sympathy:

The summer of sort-of-contentment: With the Pan Am Games and temporary HOV lanes created on the major expressways, Torontonians fled the city in droves to avoid what they feared would be traffic Armageddon. But things actually improved as Torontonians were replaced by Pan Am drivers and tourists, who apparently weren't schooled in the Toronto way of doing things. For example, they drove in a courteous and civilized manner, rather than forcing others off the road. Softened by this summer of contentment, they will be ill-prepared for what awaits them this fall when the roads fill with the usual mixture of myopics, dyslexics and the cast of Mad Max.

The never-ending sorry: As soon as the Pan Ams ended, Torontonians celebrated in the belief that they could reclaim those temporary HOV lanes on the Gardiner Expressway -- at least until they realized that those lanes would be closed for road maintenance under an obscure Toronto bylaw that mandates at least one major traffic route be closed for repairs at all times.

Back-to-school woes: In most of Canada, the return to school means taking extra care with all those kids now filling crosswalks. This isn't a concern in Toronto, as no child under the age of 16 has been seen walking to school since 1974. Instead, Toronto motorists have to be extra alert to avoid being squeezed out by SUVs taking kids to school -- and also filling crosswalks.

Hot dog, we have a winner: Long-suffering Torontonians finally have something to get excited about other than being mentioned on American television. But with increased interest in the Toronto Blue Jays comes more traffic as fans - who don't know the difference between a groundout and a groundhog - flock to games. Adding to the traffic woes is Torontonians' penchant for staging impromptu parades whenever one of its teams wins -- or comes close to winning -- a playoff game.

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