Archive for October, 2008


Oct 14, 2008

Golf sexier than gridlock


et-street_lowres

A future-facing report released at the Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh earlier today paints a picture of carbon-rationing and enforced vegetarianism by 2050 but the media has preferred to focus on the submersion threat to the Old Course at St Andrews.

The Press Association headline was Golf course ‘could be gone by 2050′. The BBC also liked the golf angle and it turns out both stories were based on a press release from the University of St Andrews. The press department clearly thought the drowning of a golf course would get more column inches than any other part of ‘Reducing Carbon Emissions from 2050′, a report commissioned by the Edinburgh-based David Hume Institute.

The report is a series of essays by Scottish academics, business leaders and thinkers. All had to imagine they were writing in the year 2050 and had to report on the climate change reduction stategies that were put in place at the start of the 21st Century and how they panned out fifty years later.

On the whole, the experts foresee a great future for electric cars. These wonder vehicles will be lauded on that great TV programme ‘Top Volt’ and somehow congestion will be a distant memory. The fact that an electric car - or hydrogen-cell car - will get as choked in congestion as a car powered by an infernal combustion engine doesn’t overly trouble most of the experts. They believe car-clubs will become the norm and that vehicle availability will be beamed to the iPhones of 2050. Only one of the experts predicted a big future for bicycles.

“More carbon friendly cars which developed very quickly from 2010 did have a big impact and due to the ever increasing cost of petrol and diesel these were adopted quickly….Hydrogen power and fuel cells meant that by the 2020’s the car had changed out of all recognition, and was effectively not using carbon as it was used. New design and different materials even lessened the impact of its construction and assembly, whilst manufacturers developed a major offsetting programme for the residue – effectively resulting in a carbon neutral car! Public transport was also expanded…[but] our carbon neutral car remains the transport mechanism of choice.”
David C Watt, Director, Institute of Directors, Scotland

“Today, in 2050, people have not relinquished the huge personal mobility that the motor car still provides, by comparison with inflexible public transport. They have not needed to, because shared electric cars powered by our renewable energy sources are now the norm. Based on technology developments reaching the mainstream during the 2020’s, these provided us with the mobility we needed within better-functioning local communities –using the local grid and renewable energy for plug-in functionality.”
Richard Wakeford, Director General, Environment, The Scottish Government

“But for most, the fleets of self-drive vehicles scattered across our towns and cities answer their travel needs. With real-time information about the location of vehicles flashed to our communicators, everyone has access to a vehicle meeting their needs for the trip they want to make – a small van for a trip to the store, a small car for running round town or a more spacious vehicle for a day out in the country. And for purely local trips, walking, cycling or the excellent public transport system available in most towns is an adequate solution.”
Jim Skea, Research Director, UK Energy Research Centre

“The central concept is that we can base the system on choice and incentives – a carrot/carrot approach rather than the traditional carrot/stock; this is delivered through the “personal mobility planner”, a device developed from the PDAs of the early 21st century, and its links to databases containing details of every form of available transport in every corner of the planet. So, if today, we want to travel from Edinburgh city centre to Novosibirsk or North Berwick, our PMP will tell us what trains, planes, airships, buses, bicycles, electric cars, etc we can use to get there and how much the journey will cost by each means both in money and carbon units. We know that if we use a low carbon output route, we will get mobility points on our mobility smartcard wchih we can use for other travel purposes.”
Professor George Hazel OBE and Dr Steve Cassidy of McLean Hazel Ltd

“It is doubtful Scotland would have been able to meet its Kyoto 3 commitment to reduce its carbon dependency by 90 per cent by 2050 if it had not been for peak oil. As experts had long predicted oil production began to decline after 2012 because there was not enough readily available oil left in the ground. The price of oil rose from $300 to $900 a barrel between 2012 and 2025 and for most people driving and flying became too expensive. The streets got quieter and less polluted as electric buses and delivery vehicles increasingly replaced cars and trucks…Many people gave up owning cars as urban car clubs, begun in 2002, spread to rural areas. As the streets emptied of ‘private’ cars people also took to cycling and in the major cities 40 per cent of all journeys were made by bike by 2030.[Emphasis mine] To aid in the transition local councils put in physical separation for on-road cycle paths, reducing fear of accidents among novice cyclists.

“Electric bikes and cars were the other crucial innovation. Those who could still afford to run their own cars increasingly moved to electric cars though many others went over to electric tricycles which came with canopies and wind screens to protect their occupants from the weather. A Scottish entrepreneur went into a business partnership with the largest Chinese electric bike producer and set up a manufacturing plant in Port Glasgow which brought much needed jobs into an area that had formerly been a major producer of car tyres and car parts. The factory turned out tandems, tricycles and bike trailers as well as bikes.”
Michael Northcott, Professor of Ethics, University of Edinburgh

‘Reducing Carbon Emissions from 2050? makes the same basic mistakes as ‘Emission Impossible, a vision for a low carbon lifestyle by 2050? from the Energy Saving Trust, released earlier this year and from which the pic at the top of the page was culled. It, too, predicted a big future for electric cars but didn’t say how we’re going to fit them all into our finite amount of road-space.

As I said here, traffic and transport psychologist Dr Ian ‘long blonde wig’ Walker, a lecturer at the University of Bath, has got it spot on as usual:

“Cars are fundamentally badly designed in various ways (e.g., their need for huge slurpy soft tyres to stop them flying off the road), and one of their basic design faults is that they take up the same amount of valuable road-space to convey one person as five.

“The car is so amazingly dominant in our collective psyche that their use is totally habitual and alternatives, despite being plentiful, much cheaper and logically more appropriate, simply never occur to people. So everybody carries on using completely, wildly, infuriatingly inappropriate vehicles to get around and our cities get less and less pleasant and accessible.

“People are going to have to realise that if they travel alone 95% of the time, it is better for everyone - including them - if they get a one-person vehicle and hire something bigger on the odd occasion they need more space. It’s such a shame that we’re going to have to go through masses of congestion and heavy-handed legislation to make people act rationally. Bah.”

In the Department of Trade and Industry’s Foresight report of 2006 (PDF here), transport was seen as having to go green and bikes would lead the way:

“Even before nationwide road pricing was introduced in 2015, charges and tax penalties were imposed on motorists’ benefits such as ‘free’ parking. The initial outcry was damped when the Government, following the lead of New Zealand, ran an expensive advertising campaign on the back of research which showed convincingly that – quite apart from the impact of vehicles on climate change – the revenues it received from road taxes and fuel duty represented only about
half of the cost of driving in the UK, especially once health costs were taken into account.

“Changes in infrastructure have had a significant part to play as cities have invested in public transport and cycle paths, and more people are getting out of their cars as the overall image of public transport improves. Transport innovation came at the local level rather than the national.

“Cities are changing, driven by the twin pressures of competition and the Government’s continued push to make it safer and easier to access jobs, shopping, leisure facilities and services by public transport, walking, and cycling.

“Vehicles need to be controlled to ensure equity between drivers and vulnerable road users, to reduce noise, and to encourage community cohesion. One policy test is whether children can play on
the streets in residential areas.

“Cycling is now a way of life.

Cars are lighter, smaller and more efficient, and more and more people are cycling, even for long distances.”

All of this too far-fetched? A pessimistic part of the Foresight report said the UK banking system collapsed in 2026 and that oil reached $200 a barrel in 2015. Hmm, perhaps we’re closer to the future than we think?



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Oct 11, 2008

Britain’s new Transport Secretary is a petrol-head


In an interview in The Telegraph, Geoff Hoon said:

“I drove 3,500 miles this summer on our family holiday, we drove across 10 countries. I have driven across the United States four times. I love cars, I love being in cars, I think so do most people.

“I want to help and support those people who have that same kind of enthusiasm for driving that I have.”

Now, he might have been pulling the politician’s trick of saying what he thought the audience wanted to hear, or he might have meant it. If the latter, expect more predict-and-provide transport bung-ups.

Predict and provide thinking was thought to have been relegated to dustbin of history. Not even the Tories talk about it much any more. It was very much a Thatcherism.

Here’s how it works:

1. A traffic study is conducted, basing future traffic predictions on past trends and travel habits (themselves the result of catering to predicted traffic demand).

2. These traffic predictions show that in 20 years the present road system will be unable to handle the volume of traffic predicted.

3. Road space for the predicted traffic is provided for in the present. These roads, by their very design, are expected to have spare capacity to take traffic for the next 20 years.

4. Road expansion projects encourage cities to spread out as car travel times are reduced, allowing for access to more affordable suburban housing.

5. Ridership on public transport declines as trip time for the car is reduced. Sprawling communities make it impossible for transit to be efficient or economical. As ridership decreases, transit service further deteriorates, pushing more people into cars.

6. The increase in automobile use leads to the clogging of the expanded road system within a couple of years of its completion. Transportation planners attend conferences and write articles in professional journals congratulating themselves on their foresight in predicting the need for the expanded road system.

7. A new traffic study is then conducted, based on the higher-than-expected road usage. This of course leads to the conclusion that the road will be hopelessly inadequate before 20 years is up, thus requiring further expansion programs.

8. Back to #1 (above).

(Adapted from Citizens Advocating Responsible Transportation, 1993)



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Oct 10, 2008

London cycle chic: with added lorries


Lorry doesn't faze her

I was in London yesterday, visiting the Cycle show at Earl’s Court. I had a bike to deliver, a Cannondale Bad Boy single speed, the one with the new Lefty fork. It was a great day to cycle in London, the sun was out and so were the cyclists.

I had an hour to kill before being allowed in the show so I took my time getting from Kings Cross to the other side of Kensington High Street. In the best furtive style of Mikael Colville-Anderson over at the utterly brilliant CopenhagenCycleChic.com, I slung a camera around my neck and captured as many non-Lycra cyclists as I could.

Leather jacket Ridgeback rider

It was easy pickings. The place was awash with what Colville-Anderson flags as “Normal people in normal clothes on normal bikes.”

This made a visit to the Cycle show a bit like flipping over into a different universe. There was a token town bike on many stands - and stand-out urban brands such as Brompton, Pashley and Velorbis were there - but, as to be expected really, much of the rest of the show was dripping with high-end road and mountain bikes. Personally, I drool over these kind of machines but I do wonder what a ‘credit crunch commuter’ would make of all the carbon on offer.

Don’t get me wrong, aspirational bikes are good and a show stuffed with stealth black hybrids and Dutch roadsters would turn off the techies, but if Joe Breeze is right, ‘transportation bikes’ will become a bigger category than the mountain bike was in the ’80s and ’90s. If so, the bike trade is in the pre-MTB phase of largely ignoring what’s staring them in the face.

In another post I’ll talk about the show, and what was on offer for the urban commuter. I was especially taken by the Bspoke clothing range, which has been designed by rag trade specialists but has the added benefit of subtle, you-don’t-know-they’re-there cycle-specific design features. Simon Mottram of Rapha told me there’s huge scope for cycling-to-work togs to become a major category. It’s in its infancy at the moment.

Right-o, back to the pix, more of which can be seen on this Flickr set. I didn’t deliberately take pix of folks without helmets, most people just weren’t wearing them. And this is why I’m a strident opponent of cycle helmet compulsion: it would force many of these kind of cyclists to ditch their bikes.

Driving while distracted with cellphone

Bastard motorist. Has he even seen the cyclist?

Suit, nearly riding with heel

Top marks for cycling in a suit, sir, but you might want to modify that pedal position. Cannondale has sponsored a bunch of Bike to Work Book video quickies which will identify and fix these little cycling errors.

London Cycle Chic 2

Ancient bike, short shorts



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Oct 08, 2008

Pork, politics and Negative Equity Vehicles




Cycling used to be socialism on two wheels. But the waters have been muddied of late by Boris Johnson, David Cameron and even George Bush, who won’t travel anywhere without his mountain bike. Thank the Lord, then, for Rush Limbaugh.

America’s most listened to right-wing shock-jock has mocked those who choose to cycle to work. In a radio show last week he poked fun at the ‘pork’ added to the $700bn bailout package pushed through Congress. This pork - political sweeteners to be paid for by US taxpayers - included the tagging on of the Bicycle Commuter Act, a piece of legislation that has been pedalling nowhere for seven years.

The Act will reward employees who cycle to work. It will get cars off the road, making more room for those motorists who choose to stay in their tin cans, but Limbaugh laughed at the notion of Americans doing anything else but drive to work:

“It’s a tax break for employers who reimburse their employees for buying a bicycle to ride to work and for bicycle improvements and repair and bicycle storage while at work.

“It’s worth $300 per employee to the business who reimburses them. Well, thank God. Now that this is in here, we are ensured that commerce will continue.

“Had this tax break not been included in this emergency crisis-right-now bailout bill, work would have stopped across the country by Monday, but not now because the bicycle commuters are going to come to the rescue.”

He said the Act was probably tacked to the bailout bill by a “wacko environmentalist lobbyist.”

And then came the riposte to send a chill down the spine of every God-fearing, gas-guzzling American patriot: “The real purpose is to get people out of their cars down the road.”

To his 13.5m listeners - who like to chew the pork fat while driving to work in their NEVs (negative equity vehicles) - this is bike Bolshevism. Reds under the bed have been replaced by greens. Many Americans are secretly looking forward to a Mad Max future: the souped-cars look cool, but if the future looks likely to be pedal-powered instead expect a lot more wailing and gnashing of teeth from Limbaugh and his ilk. Good.



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Oct 07, 2008

Ford to release car with inbuilt ‘teen speed limiter’ (and stereo silencer)


Great news for parents of speeding, txting teens. But it also means the technology could be included on all cars, limiting the speeds of all to, let’s be radical, below posted speed limits. And check out the base of the release, Ford is stressing that slower speeds is a cash plus, something I’ve said I’d like promoted by more car companies and Governments.

Ford Motor Company is introducing an innovative new technology – called MyKey – designed to help parents encourage their teen-agers to drive safer and more fuel efficiently, and increase safety-belt usage.

Ford’s MyKey feature – which debuts next year as standard equipment on the 2010 Focus coupe and will quickly become standard on many other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models – allows owners to program a key that can limit the vehicle’s top speed and audio volume.

More than half of parents surveyed worry that their teen-age children are driving at unsafe speeds, talking on hand-held cell phones or texting while driving, or otherwise driving distracted.

Jim Buczkowski, director, Electrical and Electronic Systems Engineering, said: “We also developed MyKey’s functions in such a way to quickly spread it across multiple vehicle lines, giving us the ability to go mass market…”

Using MyKey to teach teens to avoid speeding can provide an added benefit – improved fuel economy. Ford research shows that driving 55 mph instead of 65 mph consumes 15 percent less fuel, and mastering other eco-driving habits such as avoiding jackrabbit starts and excessive idling can help improve fuel economy by more than 50 percent.

Such ‘eco-driving habits’ are good for drivers (they save cash) and good for vulnerable road users (we get knocked down at slower speeds and might therefore survive more impacts).



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Oct 07, 2008

Non-cyclists need wider crematorium ovens


Cyclists, on the whole, tend to be slimmer that average citizens. Cycling ought to be available on the NHS. Don’t pop a pill, get on yer bike.

This is one conclusion from the warning from the Department of Health that obesity is going to cost the nation £6.3billion by by 2015.

Kiddies are at risk. Not from paedos, but from fat parents. Council leaders represented by the Local Government Association have warned that social services will increasingly have to step in to deal with cases where the welfare of dangerously overweight children is put at risk.

The LGA, which represents over 400 councils in England and Wales, is calling for a national debate about the extent to which dangerous childhood obesity could be considered as a factor contributing to parental neglect.

The LGA says rotund residents cost councils a lot of extra money. Councils services having to cough for:

Wider school desks: Furniture in school classes, gyms and canteens are having to be made wider for larger children.

Wider crem furnaces: Town halls are widening crematoria furnaces to cater for spiralling numbers of “stouter clients.”

Bigger ambulances: Ambulances being re-equipped with extra-wide stretchers and winches for obese people.

Cllr David Rogers, LGA spokesperson on public health, said:

“The nation’s expanding waistline threatens to have a devastating impact on our public services. It’s a massive issue for public health but it also risks placing an unprecedented amount of pressure on council services.

“Councils are increasingly having to consider taking action where parents are putting children’s health in real danger. As the obesity epidemic grows these tricky cases will keep on cropping up.

“Councils would step in to deal with an under-nourished and neglected child so should a case with a morbidly obese child be different? If parents consistently place their children at risk through bad diet and lack of exercise is it right that a council should step in to keep the child’s health under review?

COFFIN STATS
Standard coffins range from 16 to 20 inches. However, increasingly coffins anywhere up to 40 inches are being ordered to fit larger bodies. Lewisham Council has ordered a special cremator from America, measuring 44ins in width. Lewisham’s crematorium has taken coffins from as far away as the West Midlands and Gloucester. A new furnace at Mintlyn Crematorium in Bawsey was recently installed by King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Council to accommodate coffins a metre wide. Blackburn with Darwen Council takes bodies from all over East Lancashire. Plans have been put in place to install a 42-inch cremator in the next few years to deal with wider coffins. Bodies have been taken to Manchester in the past.



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Oct 07, 2008

Kerb-crawl cyclists are cash-strapped pervs


What follows is a rant on an embargoed press release. It was sent out this morning by PR agency Ideas Generation of London. The Evening Standard is the first to breach the embargo*. The release should have hit the news-stands tomorrow. I won’t print it here, but the Evening Standard - Crunch ‘forcing car drivers to use bicycle’ (what, the same one?) - spills enough of the beans anyway.

* UPDATE: The Evening Standard didn’t breach an embargo, it was given the release one day in advance as a sweetener. Idea Generation’s Paul Drury told me: “The story was done as an exclusive for the London Lite/Evening Standard, we added the embargo to protect their exclusive. The alert was written to provoke debate in the mainstream press, and it should do so, among the London papers in particular.” Debate? Give me strength!

Amazingly, the disparaging terms dreamt up by the PR agency are to promote a bicycle show. Cycle starts this Friday at Earls Court in London. (Thursday is the trade and press day).

Newbie cycle commuters are tagged as ‘Credit Crunch Crawlers’, magically fixing in people’s mind that cycling is (a) poor man’s transport and (b) best left to perverts (ie kerb crawlers) and (c) is a slow way of getting around town.

It was the gutter press that came up with Lycra Lout years ago, yet here we are baiting the wolves with Ratner-style disparaging terms of our own making. Words fail me…but I’ll bravely soldier on.

While MTBers are now a tribe tagged as - get this - the rather anodyne ‘Off Road Enthusiasts’, fixie riders are ‘Trendy Treaders.’ I am not making this stuff up. Really, somebody at Ideas Generation has been paid a fee to come up with this guff.

I fired off an email to the show organisers, hoping against hope the release had been sent to cycle media first and it could be scrapped before going mainstream. And then the Evening Standard piece came in. Oh, crap.

But should I climb down off my high horse? Is every little bit of publicity worth it, even if the image portrayed isn’t what we’d like? Is ‘Credit Crunch Crawler’ OK in your book? Tell me what you think. And can you come up with better or worse ‘tribal tags’?



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Oct 04, 2008

What is it with trees and bicycles?




This is a Hallow’een stunt pulled by somebody who hates French people or pirates (get the stripey top) or a bicycle-hater (the Real Dan Lyons says the figure is Steve Jobs, you know, the Apple guy *not* rushed to hospital yesterday) but it kind of reminds me of the tree-that-ate-a-bicycle.



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Oct 04, 2008

A film tribute to the father of mountain biking


Film-maker Billy Savage - creator of Klunkerz, the film history of mountain biking - has emailed some news regarding a tribute to J.F. Scott, the cycle-mad professor who made a ‘Woodsie’ bike in 1953, long before the mountain bikes of Marin County in the late 1970s.

Savage writes:

“I made a little tribute film for U.C. Davis Professor J.F. Scott’s induction into the MTB Hall of Fame. He was in KLUNKERZ and was murdered by a crazed madman shortly after I interviewed him. He was the inspiration for most of the guys recognized as the pioneers of the sport like Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey, Mike Sinyard, etc.

“Finley, as he was known to his friends, made the first cool multi-gear off-road bike (The Woodsie Bike) in 1953. He also designed a lightweight ‘Fibre-glass’ cross country bike in that same year. He was also the investor in a little company, cleverly named MountainBikes, run by a kid by the name of Gary Fisher. While working as a Professor at U.C. Davis, he was the Chairman of the Davis Double Century race. He owned one of the coolest bike shops in the S.F. Bay Area: The Cupertino Bike Shop. In the 1970s he even co-drafted legislation in California for bicycles to be recognized as vehicles on public roads (vehicular cycling). This legislation helped set the standard for bicycles as vehicles across the US. We all really owe Professor Scott some thanks for all those bike lanes across America.

“I was very fortunate to have interviewed him for my film, KLUNKERZ.

“I never imagined I’d be using out takes of the footage for a tribute film for a homicide victim. But then again, I never thought I’d be writing a judge letters of ’sentence recommendation’ in a murder trial, either. I guess we never know where the trail really leads until we get there. Professor Scott’s death had a profound effect on a great many people, including most of the pioneers of our sport, and even people who barely knew him, like myself. I’m very pleased he was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. It’s been a long time coming.”

Here are two clips from the tribute:





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Oct 02, 2008

INTERBIKE TV: Meet Ellen and Josh


Check out this video of an urban cycling chat show recorded in Interbike’s Media Center, powered by the broadcast boffins of Cycling.tv.:



The 30-minute video features Ellen Hall of Cateye.com and Josh Hon of Dahon. Ellen talked about Cateye’s social media networking site, Worldcommute.com. Josh talked about how Dahon has been in the business of urban commuting for 25 years. He said the market is still in its infancy and there’s a lot of growth ahead.

I hosted the show so it’s a BikeBiz.com, Quickrelease.tv and Bike to Work Book co-production. An audio-only podcast of the show is on iTunes or here’s an MP3 page.

With thanks to Rich Kelly, marketing manager of Interbike and editor of Interbike Times.



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