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Beep beep: Tucson’s car addiction explained

A major perk of my pal’s new job is the location; she’s thrilled she can bike or even walk the three miles to work. She says the jaunt has done wonders for her mood—not to mention her thighs—and she’s ecstatic to leave her car back home.

Too bad more Tucsonans don’t share her glee.

A goodly number of folks seem tied to their vehicles so tightly that you know they won’t dare leave home without them. Their ties bind strong, perhaps even leading into the realm of an obsession or, worse yet, a veritable addiction.

This addiction runs so deep in their octane veins that some get downright cranky when the mere thought of not being able to drive arises. This was firmly evidenced by several reactions to the idea of making Congress Street through downtown a pedestrian-only zone.

Some would simply not have it, tossing reasons about like confetti. But there may be deeper, underlying issues at work as to why some would feel naked without their cars.

Continue reading Beep beep: Tucson’s car addiction explained

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COLUMN: Getting a read on bad drivers

Sometimes you just know when a fellow motorist is going to be a real jerk.

Tip-offs can include a bobble-head doll in the rear window giving other drivers the finger, mud flaps featuring naked women or bumper stickers that read: “Hit me and my owner hits back.”

While this stuff may seem like common sense, a Ph.D. student in Colorado took the observations several miles further with an extensive study.

Colorado State University’s William Szlemko found that people with any type of car adornment are more prone to driving aggressively, obnoxiously and induced with road rage.

Even if their bumper stickers say “Peace on Earth” or “Good will to men.” And even if the doll in their rear window is graced with a smiling bobble head.

“Both number of territory markers (e.g. bumper stickers, decals) and attachment to the vehicle were significant predictors of aggressive driving, ” says the abstract of his findings, published in the June issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

It’s all about territory. “The road” becomes “their road.”

A previous study by Szlemko found that those who personify their vehicles exhibit the same type of behavior.

That means we’re in real trouble if a person not only adorns his vehicle with territorial stickers, bobble dolls and decals, but also has named his auto Maude and refers to it as “she.”

To test the theory in Tucson, I wanted to find someone with a smiling bobble doll who named his car Maude, but it just wasn’t happening.

As a backup, I planned to see what kind of reaction I’d get from different folks if I drove around honking, swearing and tailgating, but I kind of do that anyway.

I’m kidding.

But seriously, I was going to engage in annoying driving behavior to see if people with adorned cars reacted differently than those with plain Jane vehicles.

But I like my car. And I like my life.

So instead I simply observed. A drive down East 22nd Street produced:

• A champagne Accord speeding, cutting off at least two cars and ending up at a red light at a very strange angle. The Accord’s bumper was graced with a circular sticker that said “Life is Good” and a yellow sticker that said something about a motorcycle.

A cruise up South Columbus Boulevard resulted in:

• A gray Volkswagen that kept inching up to ram my passenger door when I ended up blocking the side street it was on. The VW finally gunned behind me into the neighboring lane, narrowly missing my back fender. The VW had no stickers.

• A gargantuan white van that kept, for no apparent reason, making sudden stops. This one we should have known had a sticker. We also should have known the sticker would say: “Caution: makes sudden stops.”

Turning onto South Palo Verde Road meant encountering:

• A silver something-or-other car I had watched weave in and out of traffic for about five miles, including a somewhat insane move around a tanker truck full of fuel.

When he tried to cut me off and I beeped, he gave me an honestly bewildered look, as if to question why traffic, or the world, would not stop to let him in. He had no stickers.

These examples, coupled with several others over the past week, have led me to a conclusion about Tucson drivers and their car adornments.

It doesn’t matter if they have bumper stickers or not. Many Tucson motorists are crappy drivers.

Even if the bobble doll is smiling and their bumper sticker is telling us to “Have a nice day.”

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who has a single bumper sticker but no bobble-head dolls.


This column originally appeared in the June 29, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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El Tour de Tucson bicycle ride gears up for Nov. 20: Route map, safety tips, and $3.5 million brain injury lawsuit settlement – UPDATE with more info

Bicycles in the annual El Tour de Tucson will be streaming through the streets Nov. 20 – hopefully this year without any life-threatening brain injuries or a $3.5 million lawsuit.

Gary Stuebe, of Surprise, was the recipient of both the 2008 brain injury and the recent lawsuit settlement, according to Fox11AZ.

Crash damage to car in 2008 El Tour/Tucson Citizen file photo

The latter came from suing Pima County and the El Tour organizers. The former came from a 91-year-old driver who turned in front of a stream of about 60 bicyclists on West Ina Road during El Tour two years ago, causing 10 of them to smash into his vehicle and tumble from their cycles, notes a past Tucson Citizen article.

Stuebe, 41 at the time, was the most seriously injured of the pack. He was taken to a Phoenix hospital’s neurological institute in critical condition and spent three months in a coma.

Kind of puts a damper on the ride.

The 91-year-old driver was later identified as William Arthur Wilson, one of the guys who worked on the country’s first atomic bomb that was eventually dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

Wilson’s scientific mind must have been a bit rusty on that particular day, as he reportedly got out of his vehicle, looked at the damage to his car and the cyclists sprawled on the street – then hopped back into his vehicle and drove away.

Awarding the $3.5 million settlement must have been a fairly easy decision.

Stuebe, who amassed at least $1.5 million in medical bills for multiple brain surgeries following the crash, was declared by the court to be mentally incompetent due to his brain injuries, a report on Tucson Bike Lawyer says. His wife acts as his legal guardian.

Atomic-bomb-maker Wilson got a much less severe sentence. He didn’t get any jail time for the crime of leaving the scene of an accident. He was instead sentenced in 2009 to three years probation and loss of his driving privileges. Wilson also must stay in a Georgia assisted living center, far from the heart of Tucson and the El Tour route.

Bicyclists – and motorists – preparing for this year’s ride may want to keep the Stuebe story in mind and note a few other points brought to us by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

El Tour de Tucson 2007 winner Carlos Hernandez of Hermosillo, Mexico/Tucson Citizen file photo

About 9,000 cyclists are expected to show up for this year’s 28th annual event, which begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 at West Church and East Pennington streets.

Expect delays.

The route makes a counterclockwise loop around Pima County, with intersections being shut down by uniformed law enforcement throughout the day as bicyclists pass through.

Expect delays.

Use caution at all intersections that day, the sheriff’s department says, while we say perhaps give your vehicle a rest altogether.

Go for a walk instead. Perhaps it would be a good idea to ban driving on El Tour day, or at least the El Tour route, altogether.

With no motorists on the road, the bicyclists are apt to be safer and less likely to be injured or go through what Stuebe had to suffer.


El Tour de Tucson route map 2010:

El Tour de Tucson route map 2010/Pima County Sheriff's Department CLICK ON MAP for larger image


Gary Stuebe’s lawyer, Stephen Leshner, sent an e-mail noting he has a more comprehensive write-up on the crash and subsequent lawsuit at

Leshner says Stuebe was in a coma for 40 days, not three months, as reported from other sources.

Other interesting info includes:
Settlement with driver was made out of court for undisclosed amount, based on driver’s part in the crash.
The $3.5 million from county and organizers “is to be paid entirely from insurance benefits purchased by the El Tour organizers and Pima County; no taxpayer funds were involved.”
Stuebe’s wife, Angela, happens to be a neurosurgical nurse at the Barrow Neurological Institute, where Stuebe was treated.

The update on Stuebe’s condition is also promising:

“Gary is now living at home with Angela and his children. He is looking forward to returning to work. He has been able to return to the gym and start working out in the hope of regaining the top physical condition he was in at the time of the collision. While Gary has many challenges ahead because of his injuries, due to the settlements, Gary’s financial future is secure. Gary and Angela are truly remarkable people, and faced this tragedy with grace and determination. I’m proud to have been their lawyer, and I will always be their friend.”

What do you think?

Should Mr. Atomic bomb have gotten a harsher sentence?

Should driving be banned altogether for El Tour?

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Buy new car – get free cat: Tucson Jim Click and Hermitage Cat Shelter strange bedfellows indeed

Thinking of buying a new car?

Free cat comes with new car purchase Oct. 9 from Jim Click /Photo illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Don’t delay – the best deal to wheel its way to Tucson is going down Saturday, Oct. 9, with the pairing of Jim Click and the Hermitage Cat Shelter.

Buy a car, get a free cat.

That’s right, head on down to Jim Click KIA at Auto Mall and you can drive away with a fine car and a fine feline.

The Hermitage will be on hand with cats and Jim Click will pay the cat’s adoption fee for anyone buying a car that day.

Never mind zero percent financing or other savvy savings that often come with new vehicles, Jim Click KIA is offering a bargain that’s the cat meow, the cat’s pajamas – and much better than anything the cat drags in.

This has to be one of the most creative bargains we’ve seen yet.

Kudos to both Jim Click and Hermitage Cat Shelter for a deal that definitely stands out from the rest.

We also dig the fact that Jim Click’s Nick Scalpone will donate $250 to the Hermitage with the purchase of a KIA any day of the year.

Creative as it is, however, we’re wondering how effective it will be.

Perhaps die-hard cat lovers will, in fact, find a way to buy a car Oct. 9 just to get the free feline. But we also bet the marketing would be much more effective if it were the other way around – buy a cat, get a free car.

Now don’t take this wrong way. The Hermitage Cat Shelter is one of the finest organizations since the Cat Dancer cat toy. We support them as well as all other groups geared towards helping animals.

We also support new cars, if you can afford them. They at least have the capacity to drive more than 22 mph around Tucson streets, as other cars seem unable to do.

But the pairing of a free cat with a new car seems strange, at best, and hazardous, at worst.

The last time we tried to transport a cat in a vehicle, it panicked and peed all over the interior.

The family van reeked of cat urine every time it rained.

What: Buy a car, get a free cat
When: Sat, Oct. 9, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Jim Click KIA Auto Mall, 775 W. Wetmore Rd.
Why: Because desperate times call for creative measures.


What do you think?

Is that the deal of the century or what?

What other strange marketing and deals have you seen?

Will you be buying a Jim Click car on Saturday?

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Traffic camera scam: Fake support of photo enforcement red light and speed cameras

We hate to say it, but you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet – especially when it comes to comments supporting traffic photo enforcement cameras.

Fewer people dig traffic cameras than we may think/Thinkstock image

Although the red light and speed cameras are despised for a number of reasons, with one of the best likening them to crack cocaine and cities getting addicted to the money they bring in, batches of comments always seem to crop up in support of them.

These supportive comments, seemingly written by real-life citizens with real-life concerns, pop up like buffelgrass on traffic camera articles throughout cyberspace.

Love them or hate them red light cameras work and the more they are debated the more people are aware of them. They should be at every intersection.

“Jane Smith,” who may or may not be related to John Doe, left that particular comment on the article entitled “Two more photo enforcement cameras mean two more Tucson traffic nightmares.”

Her exact belief is shared so exactly by others that they just happen to use her exact wording in their own comments supporting the cameras.

Love them or hate them red light cameras work and the more they are debated the more people are aware of them. They should be at every intersection.

The same comment also appears on traffic camera articles at: in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., comment from “dq1153” (which is part of Jane Smith’s e-mail address, by the way) in Rochester, NY, comment from “giggley”, comment from giggley in Lynnwood, Wash., there goes giggley again

A commenter called “yogilives,” has been as busy as giggley leaving supportive comments about the cameras around cyberspace.

Yogilives’ comment on the Citizen article reads:

What a bunch of baloney, somehow drivers being overly cautious about going through an intersection is more dangerous than some reckless driver blowing through a red light into traffic? I think not. Enforcing our traffic laws deters reckless driving and the more coverage the more deterrence. No number of street cops can match the 24/7 coverage red light cameras provide so let’s use them, the life they save might be your own!

Yogilives’ comment at, on the article “LA’s Arizona Boycott Makes Exception For Red-Light Camera Operator,” reads:

That anyone would be surprised that LA officials hadn’t thought through the implications of their boneheaded political grandstanding is ridiculous. How exactly would the endangering the lives of Californian’s by refusing to properly and fully enforce our traffic laws benefit ANYONE, Arizonans, Californians Mexicans or Martians? Stay in your lane people, you’re barely qualified to represent the people of LA, let’s not have you muddle things up by getting into Arizona’s business.

In an attempt to perhaps keep spam suspicions at bay, yogilives throws in some local references, colloquial language and even personal details. In one of 18 comments left on sites affiliated with, yogilives claims to be the father of two school age girls who, of course, will be kept safe for the rest of their lives if only more photo enforcement cameras would be installed at every single intersection across the nation.

What is this, a conspiracy?

You bet – or at least a movement known as “Astroturf lobbying,” which creates “fake grass roots” campaigns full of phony supporters with an ulterior motive in mind.

Money. Money. Money.

While the traffic camera comments may seem silly at best and annoying at worst, they sometimes morph into larger concerns in areas where traffic cameras are still up for discussion – and persuasion.

A November ballot initiative in Mukilteo, Wash., will let voters weigh in on its local traffic camera issues, a Washington State Wire article says.

The initiative lets folks decide if the city should reverse the City Council’s decision to install traffic cameras around town, have public votes on future traffic camera installations, and limit traffic camera fines to $20.

There goes the money, money, money.

A loud, yet mysterious organization, called the Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government, filed a lawsuit to keep the initiative off the ballot.

“Backers of the initiative say it sure looks like the Arizona company that supplies the town with traffic cameras is behind the whole thing,” the article noted.

In making the charge, the red-light opponents have put Google to work, uncovering a motherlode of websites tailored for every city where a red-light camera initiative has made the ballot, or where automated cameras have come in for serious public scrutiny. In Mukilteo and 17 other cities, each website appears to be sponsored by a citizens’ group; each one uses identical wording on its content pages; each web domain name is owned by the same company, Advarion, Inc., of Houston, TX.

In other states, campaign disclosure documents reveal that Advarion is one of the contractors providing services to pro-camera campaigns financed by American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz. And the main reason these facts must be mentioned in such a roundabout way is that Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government still hasn’t gotten around to filing campaign disclosure documents with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, which presumably would make its backing clear.

Love them or hate them, scammers and spammers are everywhere.


Thanks to reader Sam Jennings, who sent me an e-mail noting,”I found it hard to believe that many people LOVE these cameras so I dug a bit, and that’s what I find happening everywhere. I feel people should know it’s not genuine.”

What do you think?

Have you fallen for any Internet scams?

Would you admit it if you did?

Do you think Jane Smith, yogilives or giggley will comment on this article?

Do you think traffic cameras should be at every intersection?