Category Archives: transportation

The Guardian: Rural distrust of urban elites & city bike innovations

Another look at how Americans became polarized between small-town and big-city voters and the creation of the red/blue divide in the USA, this time from The Guardian.

It’s no secret Donald Trump benefited from rural voters. But Democrat or Republican, they usually tell Katherine Cramer – who has spent a decade visiting residents of small-town Wisconsin – the same thing: it’s the cities that get all the breaks, and then have the gall to look down on them, too

Also, don’t miss The Guardian‘s many articles around Velo-City 2017 this week, including:


Biomimicry Design Challenge 2014 Winners

The winners of the 2014 Biomimicry Design Challenge have been announced.  The theme this year was to design something related to transportation.  I worked with a couple of students here at Nanyang Technological University, but we didn’t have a large enough team to really produce anything beyond some intriguing ideas about how to rethink air-conditioning for buses (elephant ears?  gular fluttering? Dimetrodon sails?  honeybee fanning?).  But there were a couple other Singapore groups, and one received a prize for their video on demand-responsive bus systems that work like our demand-responsive digestive systems (there could be a bad pun in here about taking some guts to propose something like that, but that would just be tacky).

I also really like the idea of bike whiskers:

Congratulations to all the teams and their bio-inspired innovations!


Getting sensible about transportation options

In Santa Cruz county, we’re starting to have some conversations about transit and land use.  A few interesting thoughts along those lines:

City-builders across the globe understand the relative cheapness of the bike mobility option, in both cost and space. Dollar for dollar, bike lanes move people more cost effectively from a return-on-investment perspective than any other way of getting around, especially once a tipping point of cyclists is reached — and that doesn’t even factor in the well-documented public health cost savings that come from widespread biking. Global studies have shown investing in cycling infrastructure actually saves society public money per kilometer cycled! The math is enough to make any real fiscal conservative hop on a two-wheeler…

…mobility flows from smart land use choices, and the best transportation plan is a great land-use plan. [Brent Toderian: It’s Not About the Bike or the Car — It’s About Better Cities]

I think we have a chance to improve here.  I hope we really take advantage of it.


Jurassic Avenue « The Imagined Worlds of Michelle Yvonne Merrill. For Josh, Zach, Lucian, the other ghosts, and for all of us still up on two wheels…  June 7, 2012 Jurassic Avenue So small I am on my bicycle as behemoths travel … Continue reading

Green lifestyle choices won’t solve the climate problem | Grist

This article clearly makes the argument that the efforts put into going even greener individually are much less effective than efforts to promote changes at larger systems levels:

Setting an example by doing some simple, logical things to reduce an individual environmental footprint is wonderful. But ultimately, we will not make up, through private spending or lifestyle changes, for the fact that we currently dont invest enough in public goods. Nor will we privately make up for the fact that much of our public spending is directed to the wrong public goods.

via Green lifestyle choices won’t solve the climate problem | Grist.

The one critical argument the author could also have made is the vast imbalance in the purchasing power  and therefore the ability and impact of personal decisions of the 1% compared to the 99%.

Now, I’m not going to start driving or eating corn-fed beef.  I’m still going to try to air dry my clothes whenever the weather and time permits, and tend the worms that eat my food scraps.  Perhaps I should try to get over my guilt when I have to bum a ride, or buy something packaged, but I know the world is still a better place if individuals keep doing the right thing.

Sometimes a little take-out or a plastic tarp gives an activist the personal energy for the big struggle.  The important thing is to continue to support the people who are working for the right things, even if they sometimes can’t maintain every ideal.  So I try to feel good about working with the parents who spend hours in their minivans to drive their kids to a half-dozen activities and lessons every day, because they do also help the more important work at the social level get done.  And I’m not gonna beat myself up for getting a pizza delivered now and again, and I’ll try to keep my guilt-tripping over new electronics purchases to a minimum (after all, we buy and turn over our stuff at a much slower pace than many people I know).  Yes, Gandhi said “be the change you want to see in the world,” but not everyone can be Gandhi all the time (probably not even Gandhi).

The system as it’s currently operating often makes doing the right thing extra difficult, excessively time-consuming, and occasionally dangerous.   It’s the mass movements that can bring about the big shifts we need to transform the culture into something viable for the coming century.

Streets Full of Danger

So you’re walking up one side of a crowded street, running actually, with others running parallel to you, in front and behind, on your right, maybe hundreds in view.  And coming the other way, hundreds more: running fast, wooshing past nearly within arms reach, rarely acknowledging your presence.  And the most disturbing thing of all, you realize, is that each person on this thoroughfare has a gun, pointed roughly in front of them.  The barrels of the guns of those coming the other way seem to look right into you.  And then you register that most of the people passing you or running along on your side seem not to care.  They’re talking on their cell phones, drinking their Grande lattes, fidgeting with their music players, looking to their side or behind them to talk to others, even the kids they’ve got with them, all the while racing ahead with guns pointed toward anyone who happens to be within the wide arc of their forward momentum.

If you mostly walk, or ride a bike like I do, then you might know exactly what I’m talking about.  This is the everyday nightmare, that people have become so desensitized to the lethal power they wield every time they run an errand, drop the kids off at school or commute to work.

According to WolframAlpha, there were about 43,400 deaths due to automobile collisions in 2005 (see also Fatal Car Accident, Crash Statistics).  Compare this to the FBI‘s total of 10,100 murders by firearms that same year.  Now, plenty of gun deaths aren’t murders, so the total number killed by guns is higher than that.  Of course, one could argue that between asthma and other respiratory problems aggravated by smog, cardiovascular disease aggravated by traffic stress (oh, you know it’s true), and the long-term effects of pollution and global climate disruption from using internal combustion engines to push around a couple of tons of steel and plastic… cars are responsible for more than just car crash deaths, too.

And people wonder why I won’t get behind the wheel of one of those things. Nobody asks me why I don’t have a gun.

(Thanks to my sweetie, Erik, for the unsettling visual analogy.  Dude’s a genius!)