Tag Archives: bikes

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

Peak Oil and Transportation Alternatives

I’m a bike commuter.  I’ve said it and I’m proud.  Earthstonstation has a new post about why single-occupancy cars are such a bad idea for the future, with some important updates about Peak Oil and the folly of putting hope in new sources like tar sands:

The era of cheap oil is over. Are you making any preperation for your future transportation needs? The  International Energy Association claims crude oil output peaked in 2006. “All the easy oil and gas in the world has pretty much been found. Now comes the harder work in finding and producing oil from more challenging environments and work areas” according to William J. Cummings, Exxon-Mobil’s official spokesman.  Lord Ron Oxburgh, former CEO of Shell Oil says, ” It is pretty clear that there is not much chance of finding any significant quantity of new cheap oil. Any new or unconventional oil is going to be expensive”.

Some would have you believe that peak oil was a myth and is no longer a concern now that new types of oil are available in the Athabasca Oil Sands of western Canada, the Green River Shale Formation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming plus the Orinoco Belt of Venezuela. Joe Carroll wrote this headline for the Bloomberg news service on Feb. 6th 2012 ” Peak Oil Scare Fades as Shale, Deepwater Wells Gush Crude“. He goes on to say “Two decades and four energy crises later, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that more than 2 trillion barrels of untouched crude is still locked in the ground, enough to last more than 70 years at current rates of consumption”. Whoopie! problem solved, 70 years worth of oil. Tell that to your grandchildren. Oh by the way what is the projected rate of consumption when considering the developing economies of China, India and others?

Earthstonstation has nailed some of the critical questions, but leaves out the social and environmental costs of accessing this remaining oil and continuing to release it’s fossil carbon into the atmosphere.  I also just watched the superb  2007 film A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash (reviewed here and here).   We can’t keep this up much longer; we are already living in the “Age of Consequences,”  and the ride is likely to get much bumpier from here.

I disagree a little with Earthstonestation’s suggestion to get one of those infernal-combustion kit bikes.  Why burn gas, when electric motors can be so much more efficient, and oh-so-much quieter?  My electric bike has the advantage of being a very smooth ride, and VERY quiet. I got it 8 years ago (almost to the day), and it’s still my commute ride about 90% of the time. True, I’m fortunate enough to live in Santa Cruz county, which has a lovely California costal climate and a relatively bike-aware populace, but I am LAZY, and I still haven’t given it up.

Mine’s a Synergy Cycle from Electric Sierra, and the heavy old clunker of a thing can still do 12 miles between charges.  I think it cost me $800, minus a couple hundred because of an incentive the wonderful folks at Ecology Action were offering at the time. It probably costs less than $0.04 per mile to charge it, and when I have a place where I can install solar and/or wind, it won’t even have that electricity as a carbon footprint.  Newer models are lighter and go much longer on a charge, and many cost far less than a high-end non-motorized street bicycle.  Pedal when you can (it’s good for you), electrify when you don’t wanna sweat!

Honestly, I think a much bigger hurdle than the pedaling is the fear. Riding is scary – worse in some towns than others – because of all those big four-wheeled things.   I’m used to feeling like my life is in jeopardy once or twice a day.  It’s kind of like living with grizzly bears might have been.  Sometimes I think I should adopt the nickname “Dances With Busses,” since they move at about the same pace as me while we weave in and out of bike lanes should I happen to coincide with one.

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!)