Tag Archives: Evan Osnos

Bicycles and the city

Many cities are investing in bicycle infrastructure such as expanded bike lanes or subsidized bicycle sharing programs, and this is increasing bicycle traffic. InfraNet Lab blog writes that in Montreal and New York City ridership has increase about 30% since 2008. London has more than doubled since 2000. London’s new large capacity bike lanes have lead to a 70% increase in cycle traffic into the city reports UK’s Bikehub in one year.

This big city provides a list of a few example cities, and Streetfilms, which is a NGO that creates short films on how transportation policy can improve city life,  has a number of films on urban bicycling and bicycle infrastructure.  For example,

Cycling Copenhagen, Through North American Eyes

There is lots of discussion over how to do incorporate bicycles in cities is intense and diverse. For example,

1) James Schwartz argues that it is good for urban businesses.

2) Canadian sustainability write Chris Turner on bike lanes (parts 1, 2, and 3)

3) Evan Osnos in his New York blog post Bicycle lanes of Beijing compares the history of bike lines in Beijing with recent debates over bike lanes in new york

But an article on Sustainable Cities Collective by Kasey Klimes The Real Reason Why Bicycles are the Key to Better Cities argues that urban cycling is important, not just because it’s healthier, uses less energy and pollutes less than other transport, but that they provide a means for becoming engaged in city life. Klimes writes:

Invite a motorist for a bike ride through your city and you’ll be cycling with an urbanist by the end of the day. Even the most eloquent of lectures about livable cities and sustainable design can’t compete with the experience from atop a bicycle saddle.

“These cars are going way too fast,” they may mutter beneath their breath.

“How are we supposed to get across the highway?”

“Wow, look at that cathedral! I didn’t know that was there.”

“I didn’t realize there were so many vacant lots in this part of town.”

“Hey, let’s stop at this cafe for a drink.”

Suddenly livability isn’t an abstract concept, it’s an experience. Human scale, connectivity, land use efficiency, urban fabric, complete streets… all the codewords, catchphrases, and academic jargon can be tossed out the window because now they are one synthesized moment of appreciation. Bicycles matter because they are a catalyst of understanding – become hooked on the thrill of cycling, and everything else follows. Now a new freeway isn’t a convenience but an impediment. Mixed-use development isn’t a threat to privacy but an opportunity for community. And maybe, just maybe, car-free living will eventually be seen not as restrictive, but as a door to newfound freedom.

The real reason why bicycles are the key to better cities?

Some might call it enlightenment.

And BBC reports on research that suggests that cyclists are happier people.

Hopefully the indirect consequences of this regrowth of urban cycling will be positive. I know I’ll be looking at the city differently on my bike to work.

Japan’s cascading disaster

It is too early for a resilience analysis of Japan’s cascading disaster, but here are some links.  First on the fast variables, and then on the slow.

1) International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is posting their continuously updated report on situation at Update on the Japan Earthquake web page.

2) Christian Science Monitor Reports: Lax oversight, ‘greed’ preceded Japan nuclear crisis

3) In his New Yorker blog, Evan Osnos reflects on China’s Nuclear Binge.  Rapid building combined with poor monitoring and corruption is not a good recipe for nuclear safety.  He writes about the a recent corruption case of Kang Rixin:

His was a $260 million corruption case connected to rigged bids in the construction of nuclear power plants. Keith Bradsher, in the Times, wrote, “While none of Mr. Kang’s decisions publicly documented would have created hazardous conditions at nuclear plants, the case is a worrisome sign that nuclear executives in China may not always put safety first in their decision-making.”

4)  Miller-Mcune writes Nuclear Disasters: Do Plans Trump Actions? about a new report from Union of Concerned Scientists which says that U.S. nuclear regulators are way too complacent about the possibility of a catastrophe.

5) On the STEPS centre‘s blog  Andy Stirling writes about Japan’s neglected nuclear lessons:

So the most serious lesson already emerging outside Japan is about the pressures, driven by established nuclear commitments, to obscure information; compromise objectivity; and suppress political choice about energy futures. We may live in hope that there will come a time when more comprehensive and dispassionate attention will be given to the full global potential of viable alternatives to nuclear power. Many of these are manifestly more resilient in the face of technical mishap, natural disaster or deliberate acts of violence. Distributed renewable energy infrastructures, for instance, offer a way to avoid huge regulation-enforced losses of electricity-generating capacity when a series of similar plants have to be closed due to safety failings in any one. They minimise the compounding economic impacts of the knock-on self-destruction of massively expensive capital equipment, some time after an initial shock. They do not threaten to exacerbate natural disaster with forced precautionary evacuations of large tracts of urban industrial areas. And there is no scenario at all – unlikely or otherwise – under which they can render significant areas of land effectively uninhabitable for decades, let alone commit large populations to the potential long-term (and untraceable) harm of elevated low doses of ionising radiation.