A few days ago the ambassadors of Denmark and Sweden took part in an opening ceremony of a photo exposition showing how cycling became a fundamental part of Danish culture and life. Exactly one day before the event footways in the area were decorated with a few hundred meters of fresh paint in the form of a bike path. The bike path was so useless and obviously done with no planning to speak of that it immediately became a laughing stock, both for the media and citizens: it was so obviously bad that the mayor felt forced to admit it, to say that that the responsible people will be sanctioned and that the city will have to fix it.
A few weeks ago, a cyclist protest took place in front of a police station: the cyclists were there to demand that the city council and police come to some sort of a solution about bike lanes and driving on footways. When the group of about a thousand cyclists got there, to their surprise, they could see a few hundred meters of what looked like freshly painted bike lanes on the footways in front of the police building. The only difference between the new strips of yellow paint and proper bike lanes was Continue reading “In Loving Memory of Potemkin”→
It is probably obvious that any police force has much more work than it could possibly handle: additional officers could write a few more jaywalking tickets, others could be at a radar speed check, one could handle the theft of a few kilograms of flour from the local grocery shop and so on. It is therefore clear that it has to prioritise, evaluate which laws get broken, what kind of impact that has on society and deploy its officers so that it maximises the beneficial effect on society. That is the police’s only purpose.
Now, if the police were to send all its people out into the streets to fine whoever they can catch jaywalking, people would (rightfully) be quite disappointed and frustrated with the way the police force is transforming public money into very little of value. Normally, the police force – including traffic police – is busy with more important work, so they send officers to crash sites, catch speeders on highways and so on, but recently, for reasons only they know, they have decided to regularly, frequently and in large numbers fine cyclists cycling on footways.
There are lots of resources on the web about cycling in winter, but since more often than not, people still (incorrectly) perceive near-zero temperatures as way too cold to cycle around town, here is my take on the subject.
I cycle year-round, roughly 10 to 30 km per day, in an urban environment in a continental European climate. Of the two main obstacles to comfortable cycling – rain and cold – in this article I will address the later: 3-4 months of daily sub-zero temperatures in the morning with minimums of -15 or -20 °C.
Perhaps the most appropriate summary of modern transportation is “the car”. It is an invention only a century old, but it literally and fundamentally changed the way civilization works: this is equally true in the business, social and cultural context. Millions of people drive to work tens of kilometres from where they live, asphalt has in a sense become a criterion for measuring the reach of civilization (one can hardly talk of civilization in any place detached from the global road network), classes of cars have become status symbols and so on. The same way the Vespa liberated a generation of Italian youngsters during the ’50s, the car is seen today as a precondition of a free and comfortable life in the West. People in the rest of the world desire it, but it is still out of their economic reach.
The car has had its problems, too, and we will get to them in a moment, but it is important to notice that the global automotive industry is effectively addressing one issue and one issue only: electrification, the cause of the current hybrid and electric drive hype. What car makers are working on is increasing range and decreasing price of electric cars, mostly because people no longer feel as comfortable as they did burning petrol to move around and because people assume hybrid and electric vehicles do less damage to the environment.
Knowing that for every 100 litres of fuel burned about 2 litres are spent on actually transporting the driver from point A to point B (details below), one has to be grateful that a major efficiency problem is being looked into. However, there are two issues with the effort. Continue reading “Cars? Really? You can’t be serious.”→
There are two questions people usually think about when it comes to air travel: can I free my schedule for the trip and how much is the ticket? The reason this happens is because these are the only two criteria directly impacting the person in question. However, there are a few other….
A British physicist called David MacKay was frustrated by the amount of hand waving and vague assertions of “huge amounts of this” and “gigantic amounts of that” which people frequently mention when discussing energy use. He decided to put an end to it so he prepared a framework for people to intelligibly discuss the issues: it comes in form of a brilliant book called Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air. The reason the book is brilliant is its basic idea which is to list key energy sources and uses, provide simple models to get rough estimates and in doing so, allow people to get a feel for where we are in terms of energy use and what it means to be sustainable. One of the chapters of the book has something to say about air travel considerations other than time and money.
This afternoon a meeting took place in front of the Mimara museum in Zagreb. Everyone riding bicycles – or anything which could be called one, with a moderate stretch of the imagination – was invited. The idea was to show a glimpse of the total cyclist population in Zagreb, i.e. the size of the population which would be happy to see Zagreb turn into a cyclist-friendly city.
As it stands, Zagreb has around 180 km of cycling lanes. Allow me to put this into some kind of sensible perspective:
about 50% larger than the Arena shopping centre
less than one third of one percent of city surfaces dedicated to motorised traffic
less than one tenth of one percent of the total city area (roughly 20×10 km)
When we get the city to invest 0.5% of the city’s surface into cycling, I am quite certain that it will be possible to measure and register a clear improvement in air quality as well as a heart disease and obesity reduction. If it were easy to measure exact happiness levels, it would certainly be on the list as well.