Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Highlights from other sources

Here are several items of interest that I recently came across at EcoVelo and BikePortland:

Is Happiness Still That New Car Smell?—New York Times article about the increasing number of young people who are going car-free, using bicycles, public transit, and car sharing. While it would be a challenge to do so here in Fairfax County, it's possible.
"There's a cultural change taking place," said John Casesa, a veteran auto industry analyst and partner in the Casesa Shapiro Group. "It's partly because of the severe economic contraction. But younger consumers are viewing an automobile with a jaundiced eye. They don't view the car the way their parents did, and they don’t have the money that their parents did."

Jessica Gitner, a California native, inherited her parents' used 1987 Nissan Maxima station wagon when she turned 16 and drove it 44 miles a day round-trip to high school. But when she moved to Washington, D.C., Ms. Gitner, a music intern at National Public Radio, vowed to get along without a car. She now rides her bike as well as the Metro.
♦ Lester Brown's Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save CivilizationLester Brown is a renouned American environmentalist, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, and founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute. His latest book is a roadmap for overcoming "global environmental trends such as deforestation, soil erosion, falling water tables, and rising temperature."
The thinking that got us into this mess is not likely to get us out. We need a new mindset. Let me paraphrase a comment by environmentalist Paul Hawken in a 2009 college commencement address. In recognizing the enormity of the challenge facing us, he said: First we need to decide what needs to be done. Then we do it. And then we ask if it is possible.
One of the solutions, on page 151, is the bicycle:
The Return of Bicycles—The bicycle has many attractions as a form of personal transportation. It alleviates congestion, lowers air pollution, reduces obesity, increases physical fitness, does not emit climate-disrupting carbon dioxide, and is priced within the reach of billions of people who cannot afford a car. Bicycles increase mobility while reducing congestion and the area of land paved over. Six bicycles can typically fit into the road space used by one car. For parking, the advantage is even greater, with 20 bicycles occupying the space required to park a car.
America's top bike minds ask for (and receive) advice from Europe—Jonathan Maus of BikePortand summarizes a panel discussion in which bike advocates from around the U.S. ask European bike experts how to increase bicycling in the U.S.
Also regarding your national guidelines [referring to AASHTO and the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which is the bible for roadway design standards developed by highway builders that has become a thorn in the side of innovative bikeway planners]. Were these guidelines a means or an end? I think you consider them an end to the conversation but they should be a means to get more people cycling.

In the Netherlands there are of course guidelines but all engineers are challenged every day to find solutions… There is a lot of freedom for trying out things and I think that's important. For things that are common already, you should use the consistency. But if you've got problems you should try out a new policy. In the Netherlands, the politician says "I want to promote cycling" so the engineers and policy makers come up with the plan.

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