Monday Morning, Shifting Gears

In these pages the impacts of the pandemic have not been a regular feature, but since early on it was clear we would be feeling the impact for a long time. Each passing week has given us reason to think about how we can adjust what we do. Click the image to the right for a conversation with an illustrator who captures that spirit of adjustment in his own context. At the end of the conversation you can see past cover illustrations that have themes related to bicycles. Not a bad way to start a new week:

As covid-19 infection rates have risen in New York, and the city braces for winter, it can be hard to see a reason for optimism. For his latest New Yorker cover, R. Kikuo Johnson finds one: the welcome surge of cycling across the boroughs. We recently talked to Johnson about biking, working from home, and one of his favorite views in the city.

This is such a lovely image amid dark times. Was there a moment when inspiration struck?

When I think of New York City, the first image that comes to mind is the view from the Williamsburg Bridge. From the top, you see the whole city at once: skyscrapers, graffiti, at least four bridges, the Statue of Liberty, sweating crowds in a rush. Continue reading

The New Commute

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Jim Wilson/The New York Times

If they displace congesting and polluting four-wheel alternatives, they are worth a look:

E-Bikes Are Having Their Moment. They Deserve It.

The benefits of owning a battery-powered two-wheeler far outweigh the downsides, especially in a pandemic.

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Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Many of us are entering a new stage of pandemic grief: adaptation. We are asking ourselves: How do we live with this new reality?

For many Americans, part of the solution has been to buy an electric bike. The battery-powered two-wheelers have become a compelling alternative for commuters who are being discouraged from taking public transportation and Ubers. For others, the bikes provide much-needed fresh air after months of confinement. Continue reading

Vacation Choices Make A Difference

We did not link out to Annie Lowrey’s article earlier this year, so thanks to her and the Atlantic for this brief summary statement; and with it, a recommendation to read the whole article Too Many People Want to Travel:

Mass Tourism Is Destroying the Planet

Last year, 1.4 billion people traveled the world. That’s up from just 25 million in 1950. In China alone, overseas trips have risen from 10 million to 150 million in less than two decades.

This dramatic surge in mass tourism can be attributed to the emergence of the global middle class, and in some ways, it’s a good thing. Continue reading

250 Miles Of Protected Bike Lanes, At Long Last

Today, good news from New York City resulting from some extended bad news. Instead of putting the headline and the photo from the news story (tragedy), we have placed the video above to digest before reading the news below:

Riding a bicycle in New York City is often a harrowing journey across a patchwork of bike lanes that leave cyclists vulnerable to cars. The dangers came into focus this year after 25 cyclists were killed on city streets — the highest toll in two decades.

Now Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council have agreed on a $1.7 billion plan that would sharply expand the number of protected bike lanes as part of a sweeping effort to transform the city’s streetscape and make it less perilous for bikers.

Its chief proponent, Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, calls it nothing less than an effort to “break the car culture.’’

Such ambitions show how far New York has come since around 2007 when the city, under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, started aggressively taking away space for cars by rolling out bike lanes and pedestrian plazas. Continue reading

Cycling In The Land Of Cyclists

The eighteen million residents of Holland own, in total, more than twenty-two million bicycles. Photograph by Martin Parr / Magnum

Whether or not you are a cyclist (as I am), whether or not you have cyclist friends in Holland (as I do), you may appreciate the experience of this writer as much as one of my Dutch cycling friends did (he read it yesterday while on a cycling vacation in Russia and gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up):

How I Learned to Cycle Like a Dutchman

In the bike-friendly Netherlands, cyclists speed down the road without fearing cars. For an American, the prospect is thrilling—and terrifying.

Where are our helmets?” my daughter Harper asked. We were standing outside a cycle shop in the Dutch city of Delft, along with Harper’s older sister, Lyra, and my wife, Alia.

“We didn’t buy any,” I replied. Along the dark green Wijnhaven canal, confident Dutchmen and Dutchwomen whizzed around, their blond heads exposed to the soft northern sun. “In the Netherlands, only tourists wear helmets.” Continue reading

When Andeans Dream Of Electric Buses

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An electric bus in service on the streets of Medellín, Colombia. METRO DE MEDELLÍN

Happy to see our neighbors to the south taking the lead in greening public transportation:

An Increasingly Urbanized Latin America Turns to Electric Buses

From Colombia to Argentina, major cities in Latin America are starting to adopt electric bus fleets. In a region with the highest use of buses per person globally, officials believe the transition will help meet climate targets, cut fuel costs, and improve air quality.

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Medellín will have 65 electric buses in service by the end of the year, making it the second-largest electric bus fleet in Latin America. MARIA GALLUCCI/YALE E360

In Medellín, Colombia, passengers cram aboard a battery-powered bus during the morning commute. Inside, the vehicle is a respite from the crush of cars, taxis, and motorcycles winding through traffic outside. The driver, Robinson López Rivera, steers the bus up a steep ramp, revealing views of hillsides covered with rooftops of tile and tin. The bus dashboard indicates that the batteries are mostly charged, with enough power to last through the evening rush hour.

“It’s a little smoother and more comfortable to drive. And there’s hardly any noise,” López Rivera says from behind the wheel. He gently brakes as a street vendor pushes a fruit cart across the dedicated bus lane. At night, the bus will return to a parking lot by the airport, recharging its 360-kilowatt battery pack while the city sleeps.

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An electric bus charging terminal in Santiago, Chile, which draws power primarily from solar panels. ENEL X

The other 77 buses in the city’s bus rapid transit system, called Metroplús, run on natural gas and move about 251,000 passengers daily. Thousands more privately owned coaches and minibuses burn diesel as they traverse the sprawling metropolitan area of 3.7 million people, with older models leaving a trail of sour-smelling smoke. Faced with chronic air pollution and concerns about climate change, Medellín is now trying to move quickly to electrify its entire mass transit network. Continue reading

Green Is The New Black & Costa Rica Is Evergreen

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Costa Rican wildlife was the theme of reception in February to formally introduce the government’s decarbonization strategy.

Somini Sengupta and her colleague Alexander Villegas published a story yesterday that resonates with the explanations Amie and I gave friends and family about our original decision to live in Costa Rica. It also resonates with the decision we made recently to return. In 2010 when we moved to Kerala it was not clear when, or even if, we would be back here. But our work in India was intertwined with Costa Rica’s evergreen pioneering role in the global conversation about conservation. So we are back. And the evergreen is appreciated, especially in the way Costa Rica’s president and his wife tell the story within a story.

A diesel commuter train in San José. The government plans to replace older trains with electric models.

Despite it’s diminutive size, Costa Rica been at the forefront of the climate change conversation. While the country has only about 0.25% of the world’s landmass, it contains almost 5% of the world’s biodiversity. These statistics give both an added incentive to focus energies on shifting the juggernaut of climate change and the ecological soapbox from which to be heard.

Costa Rica has an infrastructural uphill climb, most specifically with transportation as is illustrated below, but the country has stood its ground successfully in the past. When we think of the country’s road network in the mid-1990s relative to the roads today, it gives one of many reasons to be optimistic:

Tiny Costa Rica Has a Green New Deal, Too. It Matters for the Whole Planet.

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — It’s a green big deal for a tiny sliver of a country. Costa Rica, population 5 million, wants to wean itself from fossil fuels by 2050, and the chief evangelist of the idea is a 38-year-old urban planner named Claudia Dobles who also happens to be the first lady. Continue reading

Europe And The Race To Car Electrification

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Thanks to Adam Vaughan and the Guardian for this update on this race:

Electric cars exceed 1m in Europe as sales soar by more than 40%

Milestone reached nearly a year after China but ahead of the US

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Between January and June around 195,000 plug-in cars were sold across the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Photograph: Miles Willis/Getty Images for Go Ultra Low

There are now more than a million electric cars in Europe after sales soared by more than 40% in the first half of the year, new figures reveal.

Europe hit the milestone nearly a year after China, which has a much larger car market, but ahead of the US, which is expected to reach the landmark later this year driven by the appetite for Tesla’s latest model.

Between January and June around 195,000 plug-in cars were sold across the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, a 42% increase on the same period a year before. Continue reading

Lyft Is Now Carbon Neutral

Image © Medium

We’ve already expressed our natural preference for Lyft, although Uber is still necessary and useful in certain countries outside the US. But now there is yet another reason to support the underdog, after they announced a few days ago that their rides were from then on (i.e., now) carbon neutral, through the funding of emission mitigation and capture, reforestation projects, and renewable energy programs.

Continue reading

Road Electrification, The Latest Automotive Paradigm Shift

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Take a minute to watch this video, and you may find the article below worth the read:

World’s first electrified road for charging vehicles opens in Sweden

Stretch of road outside Stockholm transfers energy from two tracks of rail in the road, recharging the batteries of electric cars and trucks

ElecCar1.jpgThe world’s first electrified road that recharges the batteries of cars and trucks driving on it has been opened in Sweden.

About 2km (1.2 miles) of electric rail has been embedded in a public road near Stockholm, but the government’s roads agency has already drafted a national map for future expansion.

Sweden’s target of achieving independence from fossil fuel by 2030 requires a 70% reduction in the transport sector. Continue reading

State By State Ranking For USA Bicyclists

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PHOTO COURTESY OF MACHIKO THRELKELD

Thanks to Sierra magazine for bringing this to our attention:

Is Your State Bicycle-Friendly?

A new report ranks the best and worst places to hop on the saddle

Do you live in the safest or the most dangerous state for riding a bike? The 2017 Bicycle Friendly State Report Card has the answer.

Each year, the League of American Bicyclists, an advocacy group founded in 1880 to improve street conditions for bikers, releases a detailed ranking that cyclists can use to track where it’s safe, and not so safe, to hop on wheels. The group also monitors each state’s progress toward increased bicycle safety. The rankings are derived from a variety of factors, including five key bicycle-friendly actions, federal data on bicycling conditions, and summaries with feedback on how each state can improve the safety and mobility of bicyclists. Continue reading

New Vehicle Technology Makes Good Business Sense

Free parking and charging stations for electric cars in Oslo. Norway offers generous incentives that make the vehicles cheaper to buy, and other benefits once they are on the road. Credit Thomas Haugersveen for The New York Times

Norway’s public policy that puts environmentalism front and center stands in stark contrast to the obvious deconstruction of protections in this country.

In Norway, Electric and Hybrid Cars Outsell Conventional Models

Sales of electric and hybrid cars in Norway outpaced those running on fossil fuels last year, cementing the country’s position as a global leader in the push to restrict vehicle emissions.

Norway, a major oil exporter, would seem an unlikely champion of newer, cleaner-running vehicles. But the country offers generous incentives that make electric cars cheaper to buy, and provides additional benefits once the vehicles are on the road.

Countries around the world have ramped up their promotion of hybrid and electric cars. As China tries to improve air quality and dominate new vehicle technology, the government there wants one in five cars sold to run on alternative fuels by 2025France and Britain plan to end the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by 2040.

Norway is ahead of the rest of the world. Continue reading

Sunny-Futured Mass Transit

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An illustration of a solar train in action. Photograph: Esther Griffin

Thanks to Alice Bell and the Guardian for a look into the latest on harnessing the sun to power more of our transportation needs:

In 10 years time trains could be solar powered

A technique has been devised that allows electricity to flow directly from solar panels to electrified train tracks to the trains themselves making solar powered trains more feasible than ever before Continue reading

The Largest Underground Bicycle Parking Garage In The World

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A special section in Utrecht’s new underground bike parking garage is for bigger bikes, which usually have children’s seats attached. Credit Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

If You Build It, the Dutch Will Pedal

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As fast as Utrecht can build underground bike parking garages, most spots are taken. Credit Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

The city recently surpassed Amsterdam in a widely respected ranking of bike-friendly cities and is now second only to Copenhagen, which is more than twice its size. Continue reading

That Thing About Uber

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For what it is worth, a confession. I deleted this app with the intent to never use it again, and then I switched to this one. That felt good. Then last week I was up in the mountains of Escazu, in Costa Rica, and I had to change my mind. At 3:30 a.m. a local taxi driver who was supposed to pick me up to take me to the airport did not show up. After a few minutes I finally relented and downloaded the app I had deleted. And something unexpected, something very good happened. Continue reading

Suddenly, Lyft

Lyft1.jpgWhen I decided to delete that app it was without hesitation. I wanted to avoid sanctimony, but the point of making a show of my resolve was a simple message, i.e. that manners matter. Even though that app had been extremely useful to me over the past year, it was not so useful that I could ignore its founder’s behavior once I finally paid attention.

So now I am paying attention, and need a new app. And where better to start looking? I liked the message of that story, for reasons akin to my boyhood preference for Bjorn Borg over John McEnroe. I believe in disruption and I believe in winning, but if one is going to develop new rules of the game, then they should definitely be better rules that lead to better behavior. Continue reading

Design Worth Reading About

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INGO MECKMANN/PIAGGIO FAST FORWARD

Sometimes it makes more sense to look at a design rather than read about it. This story is in itself interesting (thanks to Wired) and that is because of the combination of the history of Piaggio and the character at the center of the design story:

IN THE SUMMER months of 2015, Jeffrey Schnapp and a few of his colleagues started collecting rideables. The hoverboard craze was in full swing, and OneWheels and Boosteds were showing up on roads and sidewalks. Schnapp and his co-founders rode, drove, and crashed everything they could find. For Schnapp, a Harvard professor and longtime technologist with a shaved head, pointy goatee, and a distinct Ben Kingsley vibe, this was market research. Continue reading

Bikes Starting to be Made in USA Again

This latest post in our common bicycle theme is not about any novel designs or materials being used to make the pedal-powered machines, but rather a feature from The New Yorker website on the new bicycle manufacturing scene in the US, particularly in Detroit, where a crashed automobile industry left a city in dire need of revival. Omar Mouallem writes:

In 1896, the Detroit Wheelmen opened an ornate new clubhouse, complete with an auditorium and a bowling alley. The Detroit Free Press called it “the most modern club house of any cycling organization in the west.” Its forty-thousand-dollar cost (about $1.1 million today) was paid for by the club’s four hundred and fifty members, who included John and Horace Dodge, the co-owners of Evans & Dodge Bicycle Company, one of more than three hundred U.S. manufacturers during the bike boom of the eighteen-nineties.

Continue reading

Getting over “Range Anxiety” and into Electric Cars

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Source: Conservation Magazine

If you have ever considered buying an electric car but haven’t done so in fear of the car battery dying before getting to a charging station – which is known as “range anxiety” – fear no more. A new study shows that most American drivers do not go beyond the distance that today’s electric cars can go in a single battery charge in one day.

87 percent of the vehicles on the road could be replaced by low-cost EVs on the market today even if they were only charged overnight, say the MIT researchers who conducted the study published in Nature Energy.

If this large-scale swap were to happen, it would lead to roughly 30 percent less carbon emissions even—if the electricity were coming from carbon-emitting power plants.

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Car-sharing Greatly Reduces Carbon-Output

Image via car2go.com

I’ve never owned a car myself, because friends and family have always had one. While a student at Cornell, a couple of my friends used the Zipcar service, and that’s something I’d have used if I didn’t have the opportunity to borrow a car or share a ride with housemates for grocery shopping every other week (when I didn’t bike or bus to the store instead). But you don’t need to do any math to realize that a car-sharing service is almost certainly going to result in a reduction of carbon dioxide output, even if it’s not as environmentally friendly as biking or taking public transportation. Conservation Magazine reports on a new study quantifying the use of the Car2go service in five cities over three years:

Car-sharing is quickly gaining popularity in cities around the world. Proponents say that it’s a green way to get around town. In a report published in July, researchers calculated car-sharing’s precise impact by analyzing the car-share service car2go in five North American cities. Each car2go eliminated up to 11 privately-owned vehicles from the roads and prevented 10 to 14 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, they found.

Continue reading