Homeless in Vancouver: Breathing is more a luxury in China than this Maserati

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      Here’s a Maserati Gran Turismo I saw last night on Alder Street. It’s the first time I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a car done up Tron-style with retroreflective pin-striping. Very eye-catching.

      Tron is always cool but the original Tron film was released back in 1982 and the “sequel,” Tron: Legacy came out four years ago in 2010. Was this just some Tron fan’s tribute to geek cool?

      Nope. Turns out that so-called Tron cars are quite a fad in China right now. Other kinds of superficial auto bling are popular but not as popular as reflective pin-striping.

      I couldn’t see the reason for that.

      How to be seen in the obscene haze of a Chinese city

      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      And just maybe the people of China can’t see the reason either—literally.

      No press reports are linking the fad of reflective striping on expensive cars in China to that country’s notoriously thick pollution but, um…duh!

      Reflective, glow-in-the-dark, pin-striping is a small price to pay so someone can see your expensive car through the haze of success China is currently enjoying.

      As one Chinese mechanic specializing in such mods put it:

      “These glow-in-the-dark stripes only cost ¥4,500 [US$730]. A very low price considering this car cost ¥1 million [US$162,780].”

      The Chinese cities where drivers are reportedly pimping their rides for maximum visibility, like Beijing and Shenzhen, are experiencing both high prosperity and pollution.

      Back in 2012, for example, Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood recorded a 24-hour rolling average PM2.5 density of 22—surprisingly high—second highest of all recorded areas in Metro Vancouver, according to a 2012 air quality report for the region. Kitsilano’s annual average PM2.5 density was only 4.1.

      In 2013, according to data collated by Greenpeace, Beijing recorded an average annual PM2.5 density of just over 90, with a peak of 646.

      The Chinese capital was only 13th on the list. The city of Xingtai, the coal capital of China, topped the list with an annual average density of 155.2, peaking at 688.

      PM2.5 refers to concentrations per million of particles at or smaller than 2.5 micrometres (microns) in size. Not only do these small particles travel deeper into the lungs but they are made up of more toxic things like heavy metals and cancer-causing organic compounds.

      Forget stripes on the outside of the cars. Those might be cool but what about self-contained life-support systems inside the vehicles?

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer.


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      May 12, 2014 at 10:00am

      Quite ironic, like here in North America that the rise of the flaunting Asian & Southeast Asian consumer market will ultimately be the downfall of their health & environment. It would be nice is the next rising consumer continent can show the rest of the world to flaunt green.


      May 12, 2014 at 1:10pm

      so this guy is so stinking rich he can bring his car with him from China? wow. Guess he has his own blinged out 747 cargo plane parked at the airport too!

      Stanley Q Woodvine

      May 12, 2014 at 3:48pm


      An interesting question. Maybe the car was bought and modded locally.

      With Metro Vancouver's large Chinese-Canadian population having real-time, immersive, access to media from China, mainland China's fads may now be the Lower Mainland's fads.