Monday, October 29, 2007

Age is no barrier to cycling, part 2

Juat as old(er) age is no barrier to cycling, this post from Cycleiciousness shows that kids can get in on the act as well.

West Park Four X Track Opening

The Cycling Campaign was at the official opening of the West Park 4 X Track on Saturday.

Ivan Illich on bicycles

A century ago, the ball-bearing was invented. It reduced the coefficient of friction by a factor of a thousand. By applying a well-calibrated ball-bearing between two Neolithic millstones, a man could now grind in a day what took his ancestors a week. The ball-bearing also made possible the bicycle, allowing the wheel -- probably the last of the great Neolithic inventions -- finally to become useful for self-powered mobility.

Man, unaided by any tool, gets around quite efficiently. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer in ten minutes by expending 0.75 calories. Man on his feet is thermodynamically more efficient than any motorized vehicle and most animals. For his weight, he performs more work in locomotion than rats or oxen, less than horses or sturgeon. At this rate of efficiency man settled the world and made its history. At this rate peasant societies spend less than 5 per cent and nomads less than 8 per cent of their respective social time budgets outside the home or the encampment.

Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.

The ball-bearing signaled a true crisis, a true political choice. It created an option between more freedom in equity and more speed. The bearing is an equally fundamental ingredient of two new types of locomotion, respectively symbolized by the bicycle and the car. The bicycle lifted man's auto-mobility into a new order, beyond which progress is theoretically not possible. In contrast, the accelerating individual capsule enabled societies to engage in a ritual of progressively paralyzing speed.

Bicycles are not only thermodynamically efficient, they are also cheap. With his much lower salary, the Chinese acquires his durable bicycle in a fraction of the working hours an American devotes to the purchase of his obsolescent car. The cost of public utilities needed to facilitate bicycle traffic versus the price of an infrastructure tailored to high speeds is proportionately even less than the price differential of the vehicles used in the two systems. In the bicycle system, engineered roads are necessary only at certain points of dense traffic, and people who live far from the surfaced path are not thereby automatically isolated as they would be if they depended on cars or trains. The bicycle has extended man's radius without shunting him onto roads he cannot walk. Where he cannot ride his bike, he can usually push it.

The bicycle also uses little space. Eighteen bikes can be parked in the place of one car, thirty of them can move along in the space devoured by a single automobile. It takes three lanes of a given size to move 40,000 people across a bridge in one hour by using automated trains, four to move them on buses, twelve to move them in their cars, and only two lanes for them to pedal across on bicycles. Of all these vehicles, only the bicycle really allows people to go from door to door without walking. The cyclist can reach new destinations of his choice without his tool creating new locations from which he is barred.

Bicycles let people move with greater speed without taking up significant amounts of scarce space, energy, or time. They can spend fewer hours on each mile and still travel more miles in a year. They can get the benefit of technological breakthroughs without putting undue claims on the schedules, energy, or space of others. They become masters of their own movements without blocking those of their fellows. Their new tool creates only those demands which it can also satisfy. Every increase in motorized speed creates new demands on space and time. The use of the bicycle is self-limiting. It allows people to create a new relationship between their life-space and their life-time, between their territory and the pulse of their being, without destroying their inherited balance. The advantages of modern self-powered traffic are obvious, and ignored. That better traffic runs faster is asserted, but never proved. Before they ask people to pay for it, those who propose acceleration should try to display the evidence for their claim.

So says Ivan Illich.

Found on Kent's Bike blog, which has all the relevant links.

Age is no barrier to cycling

At a recent meeting at the Town Hall, some older ladies were protesting at 60 year olds being encouraged to cycle. The chair of the meeting pointed out that he had recently started cycling again, and was older than them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Darlington Cycling Campaign Meeting 2nd November 7pm

A meeting of Darlington Cycling Campaign will take place on Friday 2nd November, starting at 7pm, in The Britannia pub (on the inner ring road, just round the corner from Bondgate (map)). All members are welcome!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Today's Obesity Report and Yesterday's Transport Report

Listening to the news headlines this morning, leading on a government-backed study on obesity, reminded me of the hit and miss nature of our understanding of where society is going - and how it has already shaped our thinking.

In response to John Humphrys' assertion that obesity has grown as supermarkets have grown, Sir David King, the government's chief scientific advisor and head of the Foresight Programme which drew up the report, cited driving to a supermarket as part of the problem.

But one hour earlier, Betty McBride of the British Heart Foundation, taking on the mantle of government basher, doggedly stuck to changes in food labelling, food advertising and cookery classes in schools as the key weapons in the fight against obesity. And of course the food labelling will help us all "when we shop at Tesco's".

Good as it goes, but interesting how the thinking of even the British Heart Foundation has been shaped and limited by the very social forces with which it is trying to deal. Listening to that interview, Ms McBride assumed that the better food regime would be developed in and around our supermarkets.

In the town that recently rejected a Tesco development, in the only town that is both a Cycling and a Sustainable Travel Demonstration Town, we could do with following Sir David King's lead, and examining the transport policy - and health - implications of supermarket culture. Yesterday's post, reporting on a transport safety report, suggested that urban planning is making it too easy for cars, and too difficult for walkers and cyclists. Today's study describes our society as "obesogenic", because of its endemic gearing towards a sedentary lifestyle.

Might it be possible that a healthy lifestyle involves seeking out healthier foods on foot and on a bike, rather than (only) "on supermarket shelves"?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What's your carbon footprint?

According to the Government CO2 Calculator, mine is 1.06 tonnes per year (compared to a national average of 4.48 tonnes per year).

Govt. Advisers Back 20MPH Limit

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety has come out in favour of our campaign for a 20mph speed limit in urban areas. And new speed cameras, which measure a driver's speed over a certain distance, should be a priority for the Home Office, say its authors.

The executive director of the parliamentary committee told the BBC this morning, "People want to walk and cycle, or want their children to walk and cycle, but are often afraid of traffic going too fast down their road".

More details about the report, called Beyond 2010 - a holistic approach to road safety in Great Britain, can be found here.

Towards a New Culture for Urban Mobility

"Towards a new culture for urban mobility" is the title of the European Commission's new Green Paper on urban transport. It was adopted on 25 September 2007 and opens a debate on the key issues of urban mobility: free-flowing and greener towns and cities, smarter urban mobility and an urban transport which is accessible, safe and secure for all European citizens.

With this Green Paper the Commission wants to set a new European agenda for urban mobility, while respecting the responsibilities of local, regional and national authorities in this field. The Commission intends to facilitate the search for solutions by, for example, sharing best practices and optimising financial means.

- Cycleliciousness - Towards a New Culture for Urban Mobility

Friday, October 12, 2007

Yuba Mundo cargo bike

The Yuba Mundo cargo bike now has a UK distributer; This Is Loads Better (who also sell loads of other cool bikes).

The Yuba Mundo offers "environmentally friendly transportation, economic viability, unsurpassed cargo capacity, the ability to carry passengers, healthier commuting and affordable mobility". The Yuba is based on the Xtracycle long bike system.

If you order before the end of the month, you can get the 6-speed version for £380, instead of the usual £425. Ten percent of every order goes to the Re-Cycle charity.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Blogging for the Environment

October 15 is Blog Action Day, and the theme this year is the environment. If you have a blog and want to join in, all you have to do is use that day to post something related to the environment, in whatever way, shape, or form you prefer. You can pick an environmental issue that has meaning for you and let us know why it's important. Organize a beach or neighborhood cleanup and tell us about it. If you're into fiction writing, give us a story with an environmental theme. Have a podcast, videoblog, or photoblog? Join the fun! The idea here is to have a mass effect on public awareness by sharing as many ideas in as many ways as possible.

If you're game for participating, go register your blog with the 7,000+ other blogs (with 5 million readers!) that are already signed up. Also, see the Blog Action Day blog for more on how bloggers can change the world.

- Blog Action Day

That's next Monday. I'll try to post something here. If you have a Darlington- or bike-based blog and are going to take part, leave a link in the comments and I'll compile a list in a later post.

Green Wave - green lights for cyclists

Copenhagen has, on certain stretches of bike lanes featuring heavy traffic (15,000 + bikes per day), started coordinating the traffic lights to give cyclists a 'green wave' all the way along the route.

This means that if you ride 20 km per hour you'll hit green lights the whole way.

- cycleliciousness: Green Wave

How long until we have this in the UK?